About

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Services

Read more about how I can help you with your IT and website.


Projects

Read more about past projects and customers I've helped.


Contact

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About


Andre Mueller

I've been making customers happy ever since finishing an apprenticeship as IT Systems Technician over 10 years ago.
In that time I've helped field service technicians troubleshoot problems over the phone, remotely managed the IT and subscription departments of a national publication and started my own business providing IT services.

I added web development to my toolbox after graduating from a remote coding school (Bloc.io) in 2017 focusing on JavaScript, Ruby, Rails and React.

Until February 2019, I worked as Lead Apple Service Desk Technician for a local IT consulting company in Portland, Oregon and am now helping small businesses, nonprofits and home users with their IT and website needs remotely and on-site.

Would you like to hire me for your project, get something fixed or serviced - and done right the first time? Read more about how I can help you in the Services section.

Reasonable and affordable rate. No hourly minimum.

Services

How can I help you?

I offer German efficiency, reliability, honesty and speed; and save small businesses, nonprofits and home users money by finding IT and website solutions that are affordable and relevant.

If you need help with one or more of the following, I can be your relief:

On-site and remote troubleshooting in Apple, Windows and Linux environments and any device (desktop, laptop, phone and tablet)Apple and PC repair and upgradeMicrosoft Office 365 management and migrationVirus and malware removalAntivirus and backup solutionsWebsite solutions: Wordpress, Squarespace, Wix, Custom codeNetworking: ethernet (wired), wireless, firewallPassword managementWeb-related services: MailChimp, SurveyMonkey, Cloudflare, SucuriRemote management: SolarWinds RMM, ConnectWise Control, ScreenConnectVirtualization: VirtualBox, VMWare, Parallels

Would you like to hire me for your project, get something fixed or serviced - and done right the first time? Read more about my past Projects.

Reasonable and affordable rate. No hourly minimum.

Projects


Over the years I saved small businesses, nonprofits and home users money by finding IT and website solutions that are affordable and relevant.
Read more about some of my past projects below.

Would you like to hire me for your project, get something fixed or serviced - and done right the first time? Read more about how I can help you in the Services section.

Friends of Tryon Creek: Website redesign with over $4000 in savingsApple: Decommissioning a macOS ServerSubscription Department Migration & Database Cleanup

Case Study - Friends of Tryon Creek Website Redesign

I contacted Friends of Tryon Creek (FOTC) at the end of August 2017 and offered to help with any IT and website related tasks. In our first meeting FOTC mentioned that they're not happy with their current website, especially with the not user-friendly design.


Old Home Page


1. Initial Assessment

After a thorough evaluation of the website I presented the results to FOTC. Here's a summary what I found:

What is the main goal of the website?Who are Friends of Tryon Creek?Information nested too deeply: Visitors have to click multiple times to find informationNo search option to find information quicklyOutdated informationBackground image (Trillium flower) pulls focus away Main navigation dropdown occasionally does not workSidebar menus are not congruent on each sideCalendar sidebarBroken content: Images do not display properly


Old School Field Trip Page

Old School Field Trip Page


Old Volunteer Page

Old Volunteer Page


2. Proposal

I used the input from the first meeting to put together a proposal for the new website:

Main focus
Informational: Finding information fastWho are Friends of Tryon Creek, visit park, nature camp, calendar, volunteer, donate
Interactive
Stories (grid with images) from existing stories (in print publication) on front pageImprove Google search results (SEO)Increase Facebook followers by publishing more storiesUse Friends of Tryon Creek's new brand book (logo, font, favicon)
Header/Navigation (left to right)
Logo (link to /)Visit Tryon CreekCalendar of eventsNature campVolunteer → all volunteering optionsDonate → main donation landing pageAbout → Staff & Board, Jobs, Board Portal, Contact
Home page
Mission and Vision of FOTCStories gridCalendar
Footer
Hours: Nature center & ParkAddress & PhoneSocial media links & contact information
The current WordPress website needed a major overhaul. After looking at the page structure in WordPress's dashboard I noticed a lot of old pages, outdated projects and obsolete media files.
The logical conclusion was to build a new website from the ground up because it would be faster than trying to fix a website that has already been fixed multiple times.

3. Redesigning In Squarespace

As Subscription Manager I had worked with WordPress before and knew about its security issues and problems when updating WordPress or 3rd-party plugins. I asked FOTC what website protection service they were using and was amazed by the amount they were spending. This was definitely more than what I had expected and decided to look at alternative content management systems (CMS). I had worked with Squarespace before and the following reasons convinced FOTC to go with Squarespace:

Easy to add/update contentNo cost for plugins, themes and website firewallNo need for staff or external contractor to update WordPress or 3rd-party pluginsNo need for staff or external contractor to check if website still works after updating WordPress or plugin(s)Competitive pricingHosting, domain registration/renewal and backup includedOne staff member is already experienced with Squarespace
I created a first draft of the new website in Squarespace and shared it with FOTC. I created a Trello board to prioritize tasks and to organize to-do items. FOTC and I agreed on rolling out the new website at the end of October.

4. The Project Is Moving Along

Over the next two months I would meet weekly with FOTC to answer questions, add content and to implement changes. Each department director was tasked with rewriting content for the new website. In some cases internal processes had to be streamlined and simplified. For example, I created a Google form so teachers can register for a school field trip online instead of printing three forms, filling them out by hand and sending them back to the Field Trip Coordinator. All donation forms were updated on FOTC's backend to seamlessly embed them into the new donation page. Now the forms look like they actually belong to Friends of Tryon Creek and not open in a different tab with an unrelated URL.


Redesigned School Field Trip Page


Redesigned Volunteer Page


Added Stories Section


5. Moving The Website

To make things easier for FOTC I also moved the domain registration over to Squarespace. In the future, FOTC can change content, check on the domain and DNS records in one spot instead of having to log into three different websites.

I prepared moving the domain a week before the new page went live. There were a few issues that needed to be fixed first, for example changing the domain admin which was set to an email address that did not exist. The move itself went smooth with almost no down time on a Friday night.
Before the move I also prepared the URLs that would have to be mapped (permanent 301) to a page on the new website. I exported a list with all pages from WordPress and then went through the list to match the old to the new pages.

6. Issues With Local Windows Server And DNS

Staff at FOTC noticed that the old website was still loading on their workstations in the local network three days after the move. I suspected that a router or server that provided DNS for the connected workstations needed to be reset which was partly true. It turned out that the Windows server provided DNS which held the old website's server IP as an A entry. After I changed the IP to one of Squarespace's servers, the new website loaded on each workstation but rather slowly. I also noticed that the Windows server provides a local domain which has the same name as the (outside web) domain. Staff was now able to visit the new website but it was rather slow and eventually the server will need be replaced with a network-attached storage (NAS), so I left it as is and let FOTC know about the problem.

7. Google Search Console

As soon as the new website went live I uploaded the sitemap to Google Search Console (and Bing Webmaster Tools) and also added the Google Analytics ID in Squarespace. Google started crawling the new page immediately and I used the results to optimize URL mappings and search results.

8. Savings

Once the domain successfully moved to Squarespace I contacted Bluehost (old hosting provider), Sitelock (web protection service) and Elegant Themes (WordPress plugin) to cancel these services.

While I was at it I noticed that FOTC spent an incredible amount for Microsoft Office 365's business subscription plan. Because FOTC is a 501(c)(3) organization (nonprofit) they are eligible for a non-profit plan which is 60% cheaper than the plan they were using. It took me a few hours on the phone with Microsoft to get the non-profit rates added to FOTC's Office 365 account. Moving the users over to the new plan was done with a few clicks.

Summary

Staff at FOTC agreed that their website needed an overhaul but - as with almost all small businesses and nonprofits - they simply didn't have the time to do it themselves. That's where I came in, took initiative and evaluated their needs. From there it was easy for staff to collaborate and provide input via email or during our weekly meetings. Working with Friends of Tryon Creek went very smooth and they are happy that I saved them over $4000 annually by redesigning their website and assessing their IT and website expenses.

Decommissioning an Apple macOS Server

I've been providing more and more on-site and remote support to businesses and home users who exclusively use Apple products like iPads, iMacs and Macbooks - and even a few Mac Pros.

One of my clients was using a 2012 Mac mini with an old version of macOS Server being used for:

Providing DHCP and DNS to the internal network,Offering VPN and a file server, andProviding the web server for an app that is being used by the client's customers and staff inside and outside the office.
The client did not upgrade to the most recent macOS Server version because the services above aren't supported in newer versions. Apple is in the process of letting macOS die slowly as you can see in the Service status section.

Discovery

The macOS Server version that was running on the Mac mini was so old that it had many security loopholes (TLS 1.0, outdated Apache version). The mini itself was behaving sluggish and overwhelmed with providing DNS and DHCP for the network, as well as managing a database and doing backup to an external drive and a NAS.

The Plan

After looking at the mini’s specs there was nothing that could be upgraded. It had the max. amount of RAM, a faster SSD (compared to a spinning HDD) and a 2.5 GHz Intel i5 CPU. The jobs that the mini was being tasked with were simply too much for it.
A Mac Pro (with two Intel Xeon CPU) should be able to handle these jobs easily. But they are expensive: A new Mac Pro costs over $3500 so I decided to speed up the mini by:

1. Offloading some of its tasks to other networking devices,
2. Cleaning it to prevent the CPU and memory from being clogged, and
3. Adjusting the backup schedule to prevent parallel backups to itself and external drives.

Solution

After moving DNS, DHCP and VPN to the hardware firewall - which can handle this kind of stuff much better - I was able to disable these services in the macOS Server app.
The next step was to use the NAS as a file server which eliminated the file server service on the mini.
The client agreed on disabling the last service (web server) for multiple reasons:

1. The web server the client was running to provide an app inside and outside the office was no longer needed.
2. The app needed to have a port opened in the firewall which was a potential security issue for being attacked from the outside.
3. With an outdated Apache version and TLS1.0 being configured on the mini it also prevented the client from being PCI-compliant.

After disabling these services there was no need to keep macOS Server so it was removed. I also deleted apps that are being started after boot as well as apps that are no longer being used. The backup schedule was adjusted so backup jobs are not overlapping with each other.

The mini performed much faster now but my initial suspicion that it was overwhelmed with its jobs was still the case – especially after I noticed that the database app that was running on the mini added about 5GB of data to itself each day. Its backup job took 6 hours to complete creating a backup file of over 300GB.

Summary

Overall, the mini needs to be replaced with a Mac Pro. Even though it is more expensive it will handle the database management and backup jobs easily.
And it showed again, that just simply replacing a device is not the solution. Besides trying to fix the issue I evaluated the services and network. The client is now PCI-compliant, the firewall has been hardened and instead of using the mini for VPN (L2TP) the firewall provides SSL-VPN.

Subscription Department Migration & Database Cleanup

Summary

I was solely responsible for bringing the subscription department of a national publication in-house (from a 3rd party provider) and cleaning up the database. Subscribers complained about not receiving any issues, receiving duplicate issues and renewal letters which caused increased call and email volume as well as cancellations. Having never used a subscriber management software before the learning curve was steep, especially because a system and process needed to be in place by February 1, 2015.

Timeframe: December 2014 - March 2015

Goals:
Setting up a subscriber management software,Design a website where subscribers can place an order and find information on how to contact customer service,Setting up a toll-free number and a dedicated support email address for subscribers to contact the publisher.
The final phase included searching for and removing duplicate entries from the database as well as checking for entry accuracy.

Explanation

I decided to use the previous fulfillment agency’s subscriber management system (QuickFill) because the publisher would not have to convert the database (about 16000 entries). I read QuickFill’s manual from front to back and worked my way through the tutorials to get acquainted with the software. After working with the database I realized two things:

I was not the first person who worked with it. The fulfillment company converted the database from a previous fulfillment company that used a completely different system.Because of the complexity of the software previous subscription managers and customer service agents did not enter new orders and renewals properly.
I was working with a database that was not well maintained. Renewal orders were entered as new subscription orders which meant that subscribers received duplicate copies of the magazine. Subscriptions also had several order status (active, suspended, canceled). The result was that subscribers received two or three renewal reminders at the same time for one subscription. This caused the subscriber hotline and customer service email account to be bombarded by inquiries which were both managed by me.

The solution was simple - but time-consuming:

All duplicate entries had to be located and merged into one entry. This was a challenging task because subscribers had been entered under different versions of first or last name as well as street address:
1. For example: Jon Mayer at 11 Markup Lane vs. Jonathan J Mayer at 11 Markup Lane vs. Jon Mayer at 11 Markup Ln

2. I used Microsoft Excel and an online address verification service (MelissaData) to standardize mailing addresses and then use the street address field that I could do a duplicate search on.

While standardizing all subscriber’s mailing addresses I also compared all addresses against the US Postal Service’s moving database (NCOA). I then updated mailing addresses and removed entries for subscribers who moved without leaving a forwarding address or were deceased.I entered all orders by hand to ensure that no new duplicate orders were generated. For example, subscription orders were placed at the publication’s website but had to be transferred manually to the database (copy & paste).
Solution

Finally, the database was clean(er), call and email volume decreased dramatically and the publisher saved postage for not mailing duplicate renewal reminders and magazine copies.

Contact


Would you like to hire me for your project, get something fixed or serviced - and done right the first time?
Contact me using the form below. Read more about how I can help you in the Services section.

Based in Portland, Oregon.
Reasonable and affordable rate.
No hourly minimum.