How to Optimize Your TV Using the Internet

Over the past few years, entertainment systems have taken a quantum leap forward. If you’re still channel-surfing, you’re probably missing out on some of the best content the web has to offer, along with a host of smart web-connected apps. The key is to connect fast, stream-friendly internet to your TV. A smart TV isn’t the only option to start using your favorite streaming services in your living room; these simple hacks will help you get the most out of your TV, whether it’s “smart” or not.


The Rise of the Smart TV

Today’s best HD TVs often have built-in Wi-Fi receivers, which are easy to use if you have fast internet. These “smart TVs” come equipped with on-board streaming applications and a host of other useful programs, similar to what you find on a tablet or smartphone. If you already have a smart TV, getting the most out of it is as simple as navigating to the application store and downloading your favorite apps. Streaming apps like Netflix and HBO, weather apps, music apps, and others give your smart TV a lot of extra features over a standard HD TV.

Smart TVs come preloaded with their own operating systems, and the capabilities and available apps vary by manufacturer. Most Sony TVs use an Android operating system, while TVs from Element come preloaded with Amazon Fire TV. Look into the operating system before you buy if you want to take advantage of specific apps, channels, or services.


Benefits of Video Streaming

If you love bingeing shows on Netflix and HBO, smart TVs make a great component in any entertainment system by bringing your favorite internet streaming services directly into your living room. In many cases, smart TV owners can ditch their cable package and save hundreds of dollars a year. If you prefer binge-watching through online apps like Netflix and HBO, upgrading to a smart TV is the perfect cord-cutting strategy.

To make the process simple, has high-speed internet that will support your streams. It’s recommended that you have speeds of at least 5Mbps per simultaneous stream, so make sure to get the package that will work for your situation.


Upgrading Not-So-Smart TVs

If your TV is a few years old and lacks a Wi-Fi receiver, there are still several ways to connect your TV to the internet. You can turn any TV into a smart TV by using a video streaming device, a computer, or a game system. These devices add web streaming capabilities to any TV, along with an operating system and a plethora of useful apps. All you need is an HDMI port, a power outlet, and a Wi-Fi connection.


Video Game Consoles

The newest crop of game consoles aims to replace most of your TV’s multimedia devices. According to Nielsen, game systems represent the vast majority of smart TV streaming devices in use today, which may be surprising given the buzz around devices like Apple TV. PlayStation and Xbox both offer their own in-system entertainment apps that replicate most of the capability of a dedicated streaming device. If you’re an avid gamer, these systems can get you most of the way towards a smart TV by themselves.


Dedicated Streaming Devices

In many ways, a video streaming device can be even better than the preloaded systems on a smart TV since you can choose whichever device best suits your personal preferences (and budget). They can also work in tandem with your cable box, giving you the best of both worlds.


  • Roku TV


The Roku TV uses a wireless connection and a power outlet and plugs directly into your TV. Once it’s set up, you can stream thousands of shows and movies through its paid and subscription channels and utilize several web apps like YouTube. Roku is broadly available and has a budget-friendly version, so it’s a great system for dipping your toes into streaming devices.


  • Amazon Fire TV


Amazon’s Fire TV works similarly to the Roku but with the added benefit of Amazon-specific apps. Fire TV also integrates perfectly with the Amazon Echo’s AI, Alexa, expanding your smart home possibilities. It’s a great pick for the voice activation capabilities, and it comes preloaded on some smart TVs.


  • Apple TV


Apple TV plays well with other Apple products. You can use your iPhone as a remote, or access your music and movie library through iTunes or Apple Play. It’s also easy to switch between your TV, phone, tablet, and computer, so you can pick up your shows right where you left off.


Using a Home Computer as a Streaming Device

If you have a laptop, consider adding “smart TV” to its list of capabilities. You can plug your computer directly into your TV and have full access to the web, including your favorite streaming services. The interface isn’t quite as friendly if you’re sitting across the room, but there are third-party apps aimed at users who want to dedicate a PC to their TV.

Advanced users can create their own “streaming device” using a basic PC as the brain of their smart TV, which offers a lot more flexibility and customization over a set-and-forget device like a Roku. A wireless keyboard and mouse are great options for PC setups, but it’s possible to control them from your smartphone as well.


Wi-Fi Enabled Blu-Ray Players

If you’re holding on to your collection of physical media, a Blu-ray player with a Wi-Fi connection can marry all of your technologies together into the ultimate entertainment system. These work exactly like a regular Blu-ray player but add the capabilities of a streaming device. It’s a practical option if you want to maximize the number of media sources you have access to at any given time.

Once you’ve expanded your entertainment empire, additional upgrades like a surround sound system, game controllers, and advanced universal remotes make for great additions to your new smart TV. Either way, once you upgrade with a smart TV, it’s sure to be the center of your entertainment. And with high-speed internet, you’ll be able to enjoy your streams in great quality no matter which TV set-up you choose.

– Alex Haslam, cord-cutting expert at


3 Things You Need to Know about Cord Cutting

If you’ve considered cord cutting you might have heard that you should just do it. While it’s true that nothing is holding you back, it never hurts to be a little prepared. There are some things that could certainly help you create a smoother experience for yourself. You need to consider things like your Internet speeds, how you’re going to get certain channels, and where you’re going to put the antenna.

The following suggestions should help smooth the transition for any new cord cutter. These ideas are just basic starter points and you may find that other things also have helped you. If that’s the case, we welcome you to share them with our other readers!

1. Using an Antenna Will Give You Broadcast/Local Channels for Free!

There is a lot of talk about what live stream services allow local channels and in what cities. With a digital antenna, these are things you don’t need to worry about because you’ll be able to watch them absolutely free on your TV. This is going to be especially helpful for people who love award shows, special events, and sports because these are often on local channels.

If you like basketball, having a digital antenna means that you can watch all of the local CBS March Madness games at no cost to you. The same can be said for football, as many NFL Games air on local channels throughout the season! An antenna is going to let you watch all of this and more, and it’s all free once you’ve made the initial purchase for the antenna.

2. About 5 mbps per Simultaneous Stream Is Required for Streaming

In order to properly stream audio and video in the best quality possible you need the highest Internet speeds possible. Lower speeds may mean buffering or decreased audio/visual quality. For example, the video might go from HD quality to being fuzzy if it doesn’t buffer. Each streaming service will say a different speed requirement is suggested. A good rule of thumb in general is 5 mbps per stream. This could mean you need faster Internet. Some cord cutters prefer DSL for the faster speeds.

Whether that’s the case for you or not, we recommend you check out your speed and adjust it accordingly. If you find you need faster speeds, if you’re thinking of cutting the cord (or already have) it’s a purchase you should make so that you have reliable streaming options. Otherwise, you may find that streaming leaves a lot to be desired.

3. Your Wi-Fi Setup Matters

More little things about your Wi-Fi setup will matter than you could ever anticipate. For example, you need to be sure you’re placing your Wi-Fi router in the best place. If you tuck it in the back room of your home in the far corner is it going to reach your attic or your basement level office? You want your router placed in a spot where it will cause minimal dead or weak spots in other areas of the home. Sometimes, unfortunately, due to the size of your home, dead spots are a reality. If that’s the case, you might want to consider something like an Eero mesh network.

Using multiple access points, Eero allows Internet access to run smoothly throughout your home removing weak spots and dead spots altogether. Your devices will connect to the point in the network that is closest to them. This ensures a strong, reliable signal every time.

More than anything, having reliable Internet, fast speeds, and an antenna are some of the building blocks for a strong streaming relationship. This will allow you to experience minimal problems, in turn making streaming easier and more enjoyable as you experience your transition from cable to streaming.

Streaming Important Playoff Matchups This April with Your Home Internet Connection

April is known for being a sports month. Some big events start and end in April, filling up the start of Spring with some of the most sporting events you’ll see all year long. Now that March Madness is in the books, it’s time to concentrate on the NHL and NBA playoffs. The cool thing about the playoffs is that they go on for weeks. There won’t be a shortage of games to watch for either sport.

Even better is that you can watch both the NBA playoffs and the Stanley Cup playoffs using an Internet connection without cable! You can use streaming services to watch all of the games in both series of playoffs. That said, it’s important to note that if you don’t want to get stuck buffering or missing parts of the games that you need reliable, fast Internet and a good data package. If you’re uncertain of your speed or need an unlimited data package, Toast has a performance test and data plans with unlimited data at a fair price.

If you’re all set on your Internet package and ready to watch some sports, here at the services that will ensure you don’t miss a thing this playoff season.
Stanley Cup Playoffs

Sling TV – Sling TV has packages that include the NHL playoff channels for $25/month. This package has both USA and NBCSN. It also has NBC in select cities or on-demand access nationwide. You can add the NHL Network in the Sports bundle for a few additional dollars. You can also add CNBC, which is available in another bundle. Sling TV airs on most streaming devices and to get you started they offer a 7-day free trial.

DIRECTV NOW – If you want the complete lineup of channels to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs you’ll need the Go Big package, which is $60/month. This gives you access to 80 channels including the four you need to watch the playoffs. DIRECTV NOW does offer streaming and mobile service, but it is not yet available on the Roku. As with most streaming services, DIRECTV NOW includes a one-week trial.

PlayStation Vue: PlayStation Vue does not include NHL Network, but does have all the other channels you need to watch the playoffs. You’ll pay just $40 if you live in an area with all the locals like NBC live streaming or $30 if it’s only available on-demand. PS Vue does include a cloud-based DVR that will allow you to record shows and watch them for up to 28-days. A 5-day trial is also available.

FuboTV: FuboTV started as a sports streaming network, and it still caters to many sports fans. While the service also offers other channels, it has everything you need to watch the Stanley Cup playoffs except NHL Network. All other channels are available as either a live stream or on-demand channel for just $35/month. FuboTV also includes a free week at the beginning of each membership.

NBA Playoffs

DIRECTV NOW – If you want to watch the NBA playoffs you only need the Live a Little package for $35/month. This gives you access to ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, and TNT. If you also want NBA TV or ESPNews, you can get those in a bigger package. These are all the channels you’ll need to watch every playoff game. The complete set of channels you’ll need comes to $60/month. You’ll also get a free week trial.

Sling TV – Here you just need the $20 Sling TV Orange package and the $5 sports add-on to have access to ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, TNT, ESPNews, and NBA TV. While you don’t have ABC directly, you will have live stream access to any ABC airing games through ESPN3 or the WatchESPN app. You can watch Sling TV on most any device, and you get a free one-week trial.

PlayStation Vue – PlayStation Vue has packages that start at $30 and like with Sling TV you’ll have access to ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3 (which allows you to watch ABC games with the WatchESPN app), and TNT. Larger packages also include NBA TV. Vue includes a 5-day trial.

While FuboTV also includes NBA TV, they do not offer ESPN or other networks that you would need to watch the playoffs online.
That’s all there is to it! Each of these services will allow you to watch the NHL playoffs and the NBA playoffs. Best of all, they all start with trials that will allow you to watch some of the games for free!

How to Make Sure You’re Ready to Stream March Madness

The NCAA Tournament is quickly approaching and so is the excitement for some of the best weeks in all of sports. Both casual and diehard fans tune in every year to follow along with all of the action to watch all the drama unfold.

March Madness is truly one of the most exciting events in all of sports, and thankfully there are multiple ways to stream the NCAA Tournament. Before the games begin, there are a few key things you’ll need to do to make sure you’re ready to stream the entire tournament. Here are some of the most important steps you need to take to get ready.

  1. Ensure a Strong Internet Connection
    When you stream anything, whether it be live TV or any of the popular on-demand streaming services, the most important thing to have is a strong internet connection. Before the tournament starts you should make sure you have a powerful enough internet connection, so it won’t interfere with watching the games live.

    There would be nothing worse than a big game coming down to the last seconds and you miss the final play because your
    internet connection decides this would be the best time for a little buffering. You need at least 5mbps per stream if you want a solid connection, so the solution may be to only stream one thing at a time in your house. You can check your connection speed here to make sure you’re ready.

  2. The March Madness Live App Works for Cable Subscribers
    Anyone who still has a cable subscription can take advantage of the NCAA’s official streaming service for the tournament,
    March Madness Live. You can download the app on a variety of devices and there’s an online website as well for watching on your computer. To get started, you just need to login with your cable subscription credentials.
    You can watch all of the games that come on the channels you already have in your cable subscription. This means if you have TBS, TNT, truTV, and CBS you can stream every game during the entire NCAA Tournament.

  3. No Cable? You’re Covered with Streaming Services
    The growing trend of cable cutting has not surprisingly resulted in a huge growth in services that offer the ability to stream live TV. These services don’t cost nearly as much as a cable subscription and can be incredibly helpful during the tournament.

    Sling TV
    is one example and it has a starting price of either $20 or $25 per month. With this you can watch March Madness games on TBS, TNT, or truTV. Plus, you can watch free for a week with a free trial.

    Another great service that also lets you watch the games on TBS, TNT, and truTV is DIRECTV NOW. This is a newer service from AT&T that has a starting price of $35 per month. For the extra cost you do get a bunch more channels to stream and there’s also a free trial to test out the service for free. Get more details on DIRECTV NOW here.

    The one thing both services is lacking is the ability to watch CBS live. To do this, you can leverage CBS All Access. The service live streams whatever CBS is broadcasting in your area, so you can tune in to every March Madness game CBS broadcasts. Plus, it only costs $5.99 for an entire month, so this is a great add-on service to combine with one of the above.

  4. Get the Right Tools to Watch
    One of the other critical things to do is make sure you’re actual physical setup is ready for the tournament. This means if you want to stream March Madness on your TV, you’ll need a streaming device. These devices let you connect your phone, tablet, or computer to your TV and watch all of your streams on the big screen.

    Some of the most popular devices out there are Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV Sticks. These all are compatible with a majority of the services on the market, except Roku which DIRECTV NOW has not yet added compatibility for. No big deal, because you’ll have plenty of options to pick and choose from.

  5. Don’t Forget About Mobile Data
    Sometimes in the middle of a big game you might forget about some pretty important details, like the fact you’re streaming over mobile data. This is a huge thing to look out for, because before you know it you could be way over your data limit after watching just one game. The cost on data overages are outrageous and unless you’ve got a
    great deal on unlimited data, this is something to certainly keep an eye on.

Hopefully, you take this advice and get yourself completely prepared for March Madness. It can easily be streamed, so just make sure you get set up correctly ahead of time and you’ll be able to enjoy every second of the action! Partners with SmarterTools

We officially announced our partnership with SmarterTools this Saturday. has signed an agreement with SmarterTools Inc. to distribute their software as an authorized lease-reseller. has been using SmarterTools software since 2006, and this agreement officially formalizes the relationship. primarily uses the SmarterMail mail server to deliver a cloud-based email service to a growing list of small and medium businesses throughout the country. The SmarterMail software allows to provide enterprise-level functionality at a price that’s more affordable than similar services such as Office365.

“We’ve found that many small to medium businesses want to move to the cloud, but are scared away by mailboxes costing $6 to $12/month.,” said Kevin David, president of “Our Email for Business starts at $3/mailbox and goes lower with volume.” has moved thousands of mailboxes to SmarterMail. Users can access their email from anywhere using Outlook, their smartphone, or the powerful webmail interface. manages the hardware, software, network connection, security, updates, and backups so the customer can enjoy reliable and worry-free email.

SmarterMail includes many advanced features such as group collaboration, file storage, detailed reporting, email archiving, intrusion detection/prevention, antivirus, and antispam. In addition, makes use of several SmarterMail add-ons including Cyren Premium Antispam and Exchange ActiveSync for synchronization of mail, contacts, calendars, and notes across all devices.

About SmarterTools

Founded in 2003, SmarterTools Inc. is an information technology management software company based in Phoenix, Arizona. SmarterTools builds a Windows mail server, customer service software, and Web log analytics and SEO software that simplify and automate the day-to-day IT operations of businesses and hosting environments in over 100 countries. Additional information about SmarterTools Inc. and the SmarterTools product line is available at the company website:


Started in 1996, provides Internet and cloud services for residential and SMB customers nationwide. Based in Toledo, Ohio, specializes in website design, email hosting, high-speed DSL, and wireless Internet access. Additional information about is available on their web site:

New Year — New Web Site!

  • Is it time to update your web site with a fresh, new look for 2015?
  • How about making it mobile-friendly so it can be viewed on phones and tablets?
  • Are you using the latest software to deter hacking?

The goal of any web site is to inform and attract new customers.  An outdated look and/or incorrect information detracts from these goals. It just might be time to take a good look at your current site and start taking steps toward making improvements.  Reach out to your web designer and discuss design updates. Make sure your employee list is current and you include a comprehensive list of services and products.  Are all of your hyperlinks still working?  Would you like to add powerful features like a shopping cart, blog or photo gallery? If you use a site builder tool like’s Web Presence Builder some of the content changes are easy to make on your own.  If you are really savvy you may even be able to update design elements within your site.  If you don’t feel you are ready to tackle the design … contact your web designer for advice. Remember that your goal is not only to have customers find your site but for them to gain valuable information about your company when they get there.

That brings me to my next point… how are they getting to your site?  Are your customers sitting at a desktop computer?  Are they in their car (in the passenger seat) searching for your store? Your web site needs to be mobile-friendly, easy to traverse while on a mobile device or tablet. Check to see if your web design tool automatically creates a mobile version of your site, or has a responsive theme.  Site design tools can help you quickly build and maintain a beautiful website that is fully functional on all devices.

Once you have published your newly redesigned website it is now time to take a break, right?  Wrong.  Revisit your site at least once a month. Make sure all content is up to date and that your web site design software has been updated to the latest version. Hackers are often able to enter a site through security vulnerabilities that reside in outdated software versions. Although time-consuming, making sure you are using the latest and greatest software is critical for the security of your site. With sites hosted at you can set WordPress, its plugins and themes to automatically update to the latest version.  Our Web Presence Builder automatically updates so that you are always developing in the latest version.

New Year – maybe it’s also time to say – New Website!

The Heartbleed Aftermath

by: Doug Zbikowski

heartbleed[1]It’s been over a month since the Heartbleed bug brought Internet security to the forefront of the news, and according to Errata Security’s Robert Graham, more than 300,000 servers across the globe are still vulnerable. This is a big drop from the 600,000 initially detected when the vulnerability first became public, but it’s still a large number.

After its discovery earlier this year, Heartbleed is still a serious threat because it can potentially release usernames, credit card information, passwords, and other personal data to attackers. It was determined a flaw in OpenSSL, a common tool used to encrypt and secure communication between a user to a server, is the source of this security breach.

Graham’s numbers are concerning, and they might just be the tip of the iceberg.

His testing was done by scanning port 443 (a port is a “channel” used in Internet communication that is reserved for a specific function. Port 443 is typically used for SSL traffic). There may be thousands…even millions…more servers out there using undetected alternate ports that are still unpatched. Read more of this post

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