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How Much Does A Smart Home Cost?

September 18, 2017
One of the questions that always comes up when we meet with a potential smart home client is: How much does a fully integrated smart home cost, for everything? Although this is a very difficult question to answer because there are so many factors to consider, we will try our best to explain some general pricing and best practice guidelines here. An easy way to understand the way pricing works in smart home projects is to use the analogy of building a house. This is a convenient analogy because you are probably in the process of building your house right now so you will find it quite easy to relate to the procedure and the way pricing can change drastically depending on your ultimate goals. As you know, if you are building an architecturally designed 4-bedroom+ house the build price can start at around 3 million, but then quickly jump up to 5 million+ when you start upgrading permanent features such as designer kitchens, specialty roofing, flooring, and luxury tiles etc. On top of this initial jump, you can easily spend another $500k on finishings and fixtures such as feature chandeliers, high-end faucets, and general décor. These jumps in pricing based on preferences also apply to smart homes systems. When you look at a basic system, the start price is around 30-50k, but this can quickly jump up to $100-$200k+ when you start adding lighting control, motorized blinds and climate control to all the rooms. On top of that, you can easily spend an extra $50-250k + on a cinema. Consider your landscaping and joinery costs, these are similar costs to what you can expect to spend on a professionally designed smart home. When allocating budget in a smart home project we give the same advice to our clients that good architects, builders, and interior designers give theirs. Focus your budget on the more ‘permanent’ fixtures and aspects first because they are the most difficult and expensive to change later down the road. The last thing you want is to rip up that wooden floor in the kitchen because you always wanted polished concrete or to realize that you really needed underfloor heating in lounge. Likewise, if you think you need a bigger 4K TV or a better set of speakers all you have to do is buy new ones but when you get the permanent infrastructure wrong, i.e. The wiring, switcher or controller can’t support the highest current, resolution or speeds required; it can be costly to try upgrade that key component. Unaware of this, some people focus on finding the “cheapest” permanent infrastructure then try to layer expensive finished products such as 4K TV’s and high-end stereo equipment on top of it. This approach is penny wise but pound foolish, and sacrifices low-maintenance, quality, warranty, and aesthetics. Cheaper systems almost always compromise on quality components and wiring and will inevitably lead to regret. This is what differentiates the DIY, Common Cowboy and ‘Done by the Electrician’ installations from

VoIP, SIP and Other Common Acronyms Explained

September 18, 2017
Here are the most common acronyms we use on this site – in simple terms:   The IT world is littered with acronyms and tech talk and while on this site we endeavor to eliminate the geeky IT talk as much as possible, sometimes it’s unavoidable. VoIP – Voice Over Internet Protocol VoIP describes the process of using the internet to make and receive calls instead of traditional copper telephone lines.  The main benefit of using the internet instead of copper is that its a lot cheaper and adds more functionality to your phone system. VoIP Phone System  – is the term used to describe the ‘brains’ of the phone system (usually a physical box with inputs and outputs) VoIP Phone – describes the physical desk phone that you make calls on. If you would like to better understand VoIP please see our VoIP page or download our Guide To Picking The Right VoIP Phone System For Your Business. SIP – Session Initiation Protocol  SIP is a signaling protocol, widely used for setting up, connecting and disconnecting communication sessions, typically voice or video calls over the Internet. SIP Trunk –  A SIP Trunk provides the same service you get from a traditional analog phone line. The difference is, instead of being a physical wire, a SIP Trunk is a “virtual” phone line which is provided by a SIP trunk provider (They use your data circuit (T1, Cable Modem, DSL, Ethernet over Copper, etc) to connect your phone system back to their network. Softphone Describes a software phone (smart app) which allows you to use VoIP on your mobile phone to make and receive calls. Read more in our “What is a Softphone?” blog post here. This list is ever expanding, are there any acronyms you would recommend we add to this list?

Ransomware, Are You Ready For An Attack?

August 31, 2017
  Ransomware, the anatomy of an attack.   Ransomware, is everywhere. Even after the infamous file-encrypting ransomware called CryptoLocker was defeated by law enforcement (which knocked out its infrastructure), it still came back, almost immediately and its close cousin CryptoWall are now stronger than ever. The thing is, many types of ransomware and fake-antivirus schemes have been around for years. The cybercriminals behind these attacks use social engineering to trick computer users into paying them to avoid fines from police for supposed crimes, or to clean up “viruses” on their computers that don’t actually exist. You have probably encountered at least one “Your computer has been infected please contact us immediately!” phony warning message in your lifetime. The difference between these methods and CryptoLocker and CryptoWall attacks is that they don’t bother with that sort of trickery. If you are attacked by a cybercriminal using CryptoLocker or CryptoWall then you will be told upfront that all your files have been encrypted and unless you pay for the encryption key held by the attackers, they will destroy the private encryption key and release, delete, or lock all your information making it impossible to ever recover your files. How it works A ransomware attack goes through five stages from the time it installs on your computer to the appearance of the ransom warning on your screen. Here is an info-graphic from Sophos explaining the stages of an attack, with tips on staying safe. Ransomware protection, prevention, and mitigation If you suspect you’ve been compromised by ransomware, you can remove the malware using antivirus or anti malware software. Sadly, there’s not much you can do to get your files back except to pay the ransom – the encryption is too strong to crack. We don’t think paying the ransom is the best idea because there’s no guarantee the criminals won’t up the ante, or that they’ll actually follow through on their promise to send you the keys to decrypt your files. And paying the ransom also supports a cybercriminal enterprise that will ensnare more victims. Recently, a sheriff’s office in Tennessee paid a ransom to CryptoWall cybercrooks, and other police departments and public sector organizations have done the same. Really, the best defense is a proactive one: always back up all your files, use anti-malware and anti-spam protections and work with an IT company to protect your important data. Learn more about our Data Backup and Disaster Recovery here, or chat to one of our IT experts if you need help immediately.

What Stage Does Real IT Get Involved in My Project?

August 31, 2017
At what stage does Real IT get involved in your smart home project?

What is a Softphone?

August 29, 2017
Great news, you no longer need to remain tethered to your desk phone to benefit from all the great features of your VoIP phone system. With a softphone, now you can access VoIP from anywhere, anytime. With VoIP rapidly gaining popularity in New Zealand the term softphone is being thrown around more and more casually. Yet despite its casual use, many people still find the concept confusing and often ask us to explain it. Softphones are incredibly useful and an essential tool for the modern workplace so getting a better understanding of them is a good idea. If you are unsure what a softphone is, how it works or what the real benefits are, keep reading, below we break down the most common questions we get asked and our answers. What is a softphone? A softphone is essentially an application that lets you make calls over the internet from a computer or other smart device. As the name would imply, ‘soft’ refers to the fact that it is a piece of software which you download onto your computer or smart device. Through the software (app) you will be able to dial phone numbers and carry out other phone related functions using your touchscreen, mouse, keypad or keyboard. Conversations usually take place through an inbuilt microphone or a headset and computer speakers. Skype, iChat, and GoogleTalk are all examples of consumer grade softphone (apps). We recommend that businesses use the same company that provides their VoIP phone system, good examples are 3CX with their 3CX Mobile App and Yeastar with the Linkus App. These are business grade apps and will allow you to fully harness the features of your VoIP system within a corporate environment. Is a VoIP softphone right for my business? The softphone is portable – it travels with your laptop, or smart device. It is designed to be intuitive to use and most resemble an actual phone handset. There are usually options to import contacts, place calls on hold, and many of the other business class features you’d expect. This makes softphones a great choice for VoIP beginners, remote workers, call center employees, startup businesses and frequent travelers. softphones would also be an ideal choice if your company employs remote agents, or has a primarily mobile workforce. What are the features of a VoIP Softphone? From a business perspective, it is important to note that most softphones offer the same features that your VoIP phone system offers, including: -Call forwarding -Call conferencing -Hold capabilities -Call transferring -Voicemail -Greeting capabilities -Text, IM, and video capabilities -Echo cancellation to improve sound quality -Contact list/address book How do I use it with my existing VoIP phone system? In most business examples a softphone used in conjunction with VoIP ( Voice over Internet Protocol). VoIP uses the internet instead of traditional fixed line services (copper cable) to make calls. For more information about VoIP, check out this page. To use a softphone with your existing VoIP phone system there are three requirements:

Why Your Business Needs VoIP – 4 Reasons

August 28, 2017
Firstly, what is VoIP exactly? Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is a type of technology that allows its users to make calls using the Internet rather than traditional fixed-line services (copper telephone lines). So, if you are using a VoIP telephone system, you are essentially using the Internet to make phone calls instead of a telephone line. Because VoIP is a method of making calls and not a physical object the fact that the term VoIP is often used to describe many different things can become quite confusing. For simplicity, we use the following terminology: Converted or Upgraded VoIP System: This refers to the process of taking ‘older’ style business phone systems and converting or upgrading them to use the internet to make calls (VoIP) instead of traditional fixed-line services (copper telephone lines). Modern VoIP Phone System: This refers to the more modern business phone systems which have been purpose-designed to use the internet to make calls. When we refer to a VoIP Phone System, we are referring to a Modern VoIP system not a converted or upgraded one. VoIP Desk Phones: These are modern purpose-built desk phones which allow you to harness most of the great features VoIP allows such as, call forwarding, auto-attendant and video conferencing. Analog or Digital Phones: These desk phones were not traditionally designed to use VoIP, they were designed to use traditional fixed-line services, therefore, while their operating system can be converted or upgraded to use VoIP they lack the built-in functionality to make all the features of VoIP, such as those listed above, work correctly. It has become clear that VoIP is rapidly gaining popularity in the business and even residential sector so the question arises… What are the real advantages and why are so many people choosing a VoIP for their business? Well, it turns out that choosing to use the internet to make calls (VoIP) turns out to be a very astute businesses decision. It can save your business a lot of money, make your life more convenient, increase employee productivity and give employees the tools they need for a modern, efficient workplace. Another significant business consideration for choosing VoIP is its future-proofing capabilities. It is important to be aware that currently throughout New Zealand fibre is being rolled out as the preferred standard cable for connectivity. Because of this preference we are seeing the traditional fixed-line (copper services) fast declining with some new developments choosing to only install fibre with no copper connectivity being made available. This means that in the near future it is quite likely that a time will come where copper services are ‘turned off’ or made redundant. The last thing you want is for your business to be left behind with redundant systems. The future is already here and you need to take proactive steps if you want to stay ahead of your competition. While VoIP offers many incredible advantages, we have also started to notice that some sales people have been making very exaggerated claims

The Best Smart Home Scenes for 2017

August 14, 2017
For a moment, think about all the steps you take every night before you go to sleep. You lock the doors, turn off the lights, adjust the climate control and lower the window shades. In fact, you probably have many different routines of basic tasks that you go through every time you have friends over, leave for work, or go on vacation. These routine tasks in and of themselves are not difficult but can become tedious and take longer to accomplish if you are in a rush or live in a large house. When a smart home is set up correctly by a professional integrator, it can do in seconds, what may have taken you several minutes to do manually. All you need to do is touch one button. By touching one button you can activate a sequence of commands sometimes referred to as a scene. These scenes can impact the entire house or one particular room, they can serve a practical purpose or just do something cool that impresses your friends and family. Scenes are probably one of the most revered parts of a smart home system. You can save time and always be ready for any change in environment or mood. The ability to set scenes is not limited and offers the opportunity to tailor your smart home system around each family member’s habits, personal preferences, and daily routines. Professional Integrators will often suggest scenes to incorporate into your smart home system but that doesn’t mean you are stuck with them. With some systems like Crestron Pyng, you can build out your scenes easily without having to call up the smart home company that installed your system. We hope that this list from the book Home Automation: A Complete Guide to Buying, Owning and Enjoying a Home helps inspire the perfect scenes to add to your smart home. GOOD NIGHT: Turns off the lights, but leaves some dimly lit so you can see your way to the bathroom. Also, arms the security system closes the motorized window shades and sets back the thermostats to a comfortable sleeping temperature. GOOD MORNING: Gradually brightens the lights in the bedrooms and bathrooms, opens the shades and readjusts the thermostats. Can also turn on the kitchen lights, activate the coffee pot and turn on any and all TVs to the morning news. MIDNIGHT SNACK: Illuminates a pathway to the kitchen. The lights are kept at a low-intensity level—enough light to see your way down the hall, but still gentle on sleepy eyes. HOME: Readies the house for your return home by activating select lights—like the fixtures that lead from the garage to the kitchen. The security system disarms and your favorite Internet music station streams to the speakers in the main living areas (assuming you have an audio system that supports this function). Unique Home settings can be created for every member of the family. For example, Kids Home could send you a text when they open the door, then keep the

9 Reasons You Need Lighting Control in Your Next Home

August 14, 2017
At Real IT, we love lighting control,  after all,  lighting is a fundamental part of the luxury, convenience, comfort, efficiency, and safety of your home. When it’s integrated with your smart home system the possibilities for increased convenience, efficiency and fun are endless! 1. Enjoy Automatic Pathway & Orientation Lighting: Well-placed orientation and pathway lighting in hallways, bathrooms, and staircases increase safety inside your home, now you can activate the lights through movement sensors in the ceiling so there is no need to stumble in the dark for a switch or have your sleepy eyes blinded by bright lights in the middle of the night. 2. Get Functional With Task lighting: Allow automated focused light to illuminate your work spaces and make the completion of visual tasks easier. As an example in open plan kitchen dining areas, task lighting can ensure your kitchen work surfaces are well illuminated without compromising the soft ambient lighting being enjoyed by your dinner guests. 3. Increase Your Energy Efficiency: You can save money on your utility bills by having a smart home system turn off the lights at certain times of the day. If you forget, the system still remembers. 4. Add Incredible Convenience to Everyday: You can save time and manage your household better by pressing one button on an smart home keypad, touch panel or mobile device to turn multiple lights on and off at once. 5. Get Better at Highlighting Your Homes Best Features: Don’t remind yourself every night to turn on the accent lighting you placed to highlight your decor, artwork or architecture. Your smart home system can be programmed to do this for you, always coming on at the correct brightness based on the lighting levels in the room. 6. Deter Unwanted Guests: Make it appear that you are home when you are off on vacation. Lights can be set to switch on and off in a random pattern to make your house look occupied and discourage intruders. 7. Experience Lighting Scenes: One of the most exciting aspects of having lighting control in the home is creating ‘scenes’. These scenes control some or all of the lighting circuits in the home and create lighting environments to suit every mood at the touch of the button. E.g Relax scene, Home scene, All Off and Party scene. Of course, these scenes can mix in audio, video, HVAC, and other systems to further enhance the one-touch experience. 8. Dont Compromise On Interior Design: The conventional light switch is so 1995. Modern lighting keypads come in a broad array of styles and finishes to suit any need and environment, from discreet keypad options to dazzling touchscreen displays. The Engraved keypads can perform many functions with easy-to-use labeled buttons, replacing various unsightly switches with a single compact solution.   9. Get Expert Automation Assistance: Finally there is a company who takes lighting design seriously. At Real IT  we understand that the difference between a good lighting design and a great one is a process

8 Great Reasons to Automate Your Home

August 14, 2017
Why should I automate my home? What are the advantages of an automated home? And is a automated smart home really worth the investment?? These are some of the most common questions we get asked by first time smart home buyers. Besides increasing your homes resale value and impressing your friends and family, a smart home can provide you and your family with incredible benefits that make it well worth the investment. Here are our 8 Undeniable Reasons to Automate Your New Home! 1. Spend more time doing what you love: The beauty of a smart home system is that it has the ability to control all the different electronics in your house with one touch of a button. Now you can set back the thermostats, turn off the lights and alarm the house in one simple step. Worried you forgot to close the garage again? Save yourself the drive home and check on your smartphone. Add more hours to your day so you can spend more time enjoying precious moments with family and friends. 2. Enjoy anywhere, anytime convenience: Imagine being able to access your whole house at your fingertips, anywhere, anytime. Now you’ll be able to monitor and manage all your lighting, climate, music and shades from your smartphone or tablet. Turn on the heating and lights when you leave work to ensure you have an inviting home when you get back and forget about getting that house sitter to look after your place when you go on vacation, you can check on your home at any time and get real-time notifications if there is any movement on the property. 3. Experience the ultimate luxury and comfort: A smart home actively monitors and manages all the devices in your home to ensure maximum comfort and enjoyment. From automatically turning up or down the lights and thermostats to lowering the shades when lighting sensors notice glare you can bet your smart home will work hard to make sure you are as comfortable as possible. 4. Get peace of mind: A smart home system helps prevent potentially bad things from happening by enabling you to monitor parts of your house conveniently from tablets, smartphones, and other devices. No more worrying if you turned off the lights, locked the door or turned off the television. For people who have a lot on their plates, being able to easily check these items off the to-do list makes a smart home worth the investment. 5. Feel a new level of security: Get alerts when new people enter the home, check on the kids from your smartphone, get notifications telling you which windows or doors you left open and automate your house to turn on and off lights randomly when you are on vacation to make it look like you are home. The options for a better and safer home are endless. 6. Give back to the environment: A smart home can reduce your power consumption and help you monitor and manage power hungry

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