Blog

June 29th, 2015

Windows_Jun18_BFollowing the let-down that was Windows 8, Microsoft is keen to impress - so much so that it’s skipped number 9 and jumped right to Windows 10. Now the new operating system’s release has been confirmed for July 29, and Windows-based small businesses are clamoring to try out its impressive new features. Here is the rundown of the things you need to know before you spend your summer upping the ante with Windows 10.

You can get it for free

They say the best things in life are free, and that might just be the case with Windows 10. Microsoft has kept its word about making its newest operating system free to access - at least if you’re currently running an authentic version of Windows 7 or 8.1, its two most recent releases. You’ll enjoy a free lifetime upgrade to Windows 10 provided you make the move within the next year and, better still, it’s an automatic upgrade directly from your existing Windows 7 or 8.1 interface. If you’re running an older version of Windows, you’ll need to make a fresh install and you’ll also need to pay - the various available versions of Windows 10 are expected to retail starting at $119.

It’s being launched in phases

Although the official release date is July 29, in reality Microsoft is expected to undertake a phased launch. This means that you might not end up using the brand new Windows 10 on July 29 itself - instead, Microsoft is likely to make the new operating system available to desktop and laptop users first, and only later to mobile and other devices. What’s more, the firm already has its next move in the pipeline. Upgrade and update plans for Windows 10 are anticipated to be on the way in two phases, in June and October 2016. But we are expecting these changes, codenamed Redstone, to come in the form of more minor tweaks to the Windows 10 infrastructure rather than a full overhaul.

It’s the last you’ll see of Windows

Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that it sees Windows 10 as the operating system’s final release. But that’s not quite as ultimate as it sounds - this is not really the end of Windows. Instead, what we’re seeing is the transition of Windows from a product to a service. Microsoft envisions a future where, instead of major new versions of Windows emerging every few years, there are regular improvements and updates - far beyond the WIndows Updates that we know at the moment.

It’s likely that version numbers will come to play far less of a role in system updates in the future - in much the same way as mobile apps operate, we’ll instead settle into enjoying a frequently updated service that incorporates the latest features Microsoft has developed. And while some have expressed fears that this could lead to home and business users being tied into a subscription model in order to stay up to date, Microsoft appears committed to ensuring that ongoing upgrades are free.

Ready to make the leap to Windows 10? Want to find out how best to make the transition with minimal disruption to your business? Give us a call and let us walk you through it.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 29th, 2015

BusinessContinuity_Jun25_BData is essential for running an organization, and it is certainly the central component of any business continuity plan. Without immediate and constant access to data, your business will come to a grinding halt. Worse still, in the event of a disaster you could risk losing valuable data if you don’t have a backup strategy in place. Backing up data should be at the top of your list of priorities, so here are some devices you can use to protect your data.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to data backups. You’ll want to consider the pros and cons of each of the backup devices below before making a purchase.

USB stick

USB flash drives are basically miniature hard drives that you connect to your computer using a USB port. The drives are extremely cheap, with prices depending on their capacity. They’re also portable, and can be used to backup information from several computers to the same drive.

Although USB sticks are highly convenient, they’re still not a complete backup solution, and are best suited for intermediate backups, such as storing file recovery programs or critical business documents.

External hard drive

An external hard drive is perfect when used as backup storage media. It has the lowest cost per gigabyte when compared to the other backup devices out there. External hard drives use the same plug-and-play functionality as USB sticks, so you can plug the drive into your computer and immediately start selecting the files you want to backup. The transfer rate is also very fast, and you can backup a large amount of data within seconds.

One of the evident drawbacks of using an external hard drive is that you’ll need to update your backups on a regular basis, or else new files won’t be included. There’s also the risk of the device being stolen or misused. For instance, a colleague may take your drive when you’re away from your desk, or a disgruntled employee may copy all of your important business files and take it with them when quitting.

Network attached storage

Network attached storage, or NAS for short, is a dedicated device with its own IP address. It can be used as a multimedia server, and can function as an email or lightweight database server. NAS offers data redundancy, meaning it will generate a backup of your backups, so you can ensure your files are fully protected.

The main downside of NAS is its inability to scale beyond the limits of the system; you have to purchase additional hard drive bays when you need more capacity. You also have to take full responsibility for data security if you’re implementing NAS.

Cloud storage

Cloud storage is becoming more and more popular among businesses of all sizes, due to its many benefits such as allowing users to access data anywhere on smartphone devices, as well as enabling you to work with the most current hardware and up-to-date software. It is also affordable, since you’ll only have to pay for what you use. What’s more, cloud computing is very convenient, because your service provider will take care of the installation, management, and maintenance processes.

On the downside, some cloud service providers don’t employ sufficient security measures on their systems, so your data could be exposed to potential cybersecurity threats. This means that it is not always the ideal solution for companies dealing with very sensitive data - medical practices and law firms, for example. Predicting costs can also be hard; if your business is growing rapidly, then you might find you have not adequately planned for incremental costs.

Choosing the best system for backup is a critical decision that will impact your business on a daily basis. There are trade-offs among backup devices, which is why you need to choose the solution - or solutions - best suited to your business. Contact us today and our experts will assess your company’s needs and provide the best backup solutions for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 26th, 2015

GoogleApps_Jun5_BIn the pre-smartphone era, the SMS event notifications provided by Google Calendar were an important part of the service. They allowed you a gentle nudge in advance of your upcoming engagements, even if you weren’t at your desktop or laptop computer. But as technology has advanced, it has become easier for the majority of us to receive notifications about upcoming events, and last-minute changes to them, through our smartphones, even when we’re offline. As a result, Google is switching off SMS alerts - here are the details.

Google says that, in 2015, SMS notifications of upcoming diary engagements are no longer needed. It’s true that you no longer even need an internet connection on your phone or tablet in order to receive alerts.

With Google’s announcement, if you currently use SMS notifications then you’ll instead see pop-up notifications on your mobile or desktop device. These only function on mobile devices if you have a calendar app installed - either Google Calendar or a rival app native to your device - and on desktop devices if you have the web version of Google Calendar running in your browser.

If you’re not already a smartphone user, the transition is less simple - and now might be the time to make the move to a smartphone. The alternative is to manually switch your SMS notifications out for email alerts within the settings for individual events, both recurring ones and those that you create going forward. But bear in mind that, without an internet-connected smartphone, you won’t have access to email notifications of event alterations while you’re on the move.

If you are using a corporate Google account designed for education, government or business, you’re safe - for now, support continues for SMS notifications for users of these services. But if you rely on a personal account to power your Google Calendar scheduling, you’ll need to adapt to the change in time for the June 27 switchover.

Want to learn more about using Calendar and other Google apps to streamline your personal and business lives? Give us a call and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 23rd, 2015

164_browsers_BIt’s time to roll over Google Chrome, Firefox and Opera. There’s a new browser in town, and it’s ready to make some noise. Its name is Edge, and Microsoft’s new wonder child is loaded with features that may just be set to revolutionize the way you browse the web. Excited yet? You should be. Edge may turn into your browser of choice in the not too distant future.

With Windows 10 launching later this year, Microsoft has a new browser packaged with it. Formerly known as Project Spartan, you can test out a beta version of this browser as part of the Windows Insider Program. But if you’re not ready to jump on the bandwagon and try it just yet, here are three reasons why the world is getting excited about Edge.

1. Speedy browsing

A major reason Internet Explorer made surfing the web as slow as a tortoise was the support of legacy technologies such as ActiveX, Browser Helper Objects and others. Now, without the excess baggage, Edge is operating at a speed eons better than its predecessor. What may come as even more of a surprise is the fact that in recent tests it also outperformed both Chrome and Firefox in terms of speed.

2. Features, features, and more features

There are tons of cool features Edge offers that are sure to get anyone excited. From the Reading View function that allows you to view content without any ads, to the Annotation feature that enables you to write notes on a web page and share them with friends or colleagues, Microsoft appears to be set on pushing boundaries and wow-ing users with their focus on the future of internet browsing.

3. There will be extensions

If you love the extensions that Google and Firefox have on offer, you can let out a long sigh of relief. Microsoft Edge will have extension capabilities as well. And even better, you can “steal” extensions from Chrome and Firefox and use them on Edge too. Bear in mind, however, that extensions will not be available right away.

Is Edge the real deal?

While it may have felt like the creators of Internet Explorer were spending more time napping than updating their browser for the 21st century, this appears not to be the case with Edge. In a recent post on the Windows blog, the Microsoft Edge team wrote that “improving performance is a never ending theme” when referring to Windows 10. It seems Microsoft is now committed to staying current, which didn’t really feel true with Internet Explorer.

Want to learn more about Microsoft Edge and other browsers? Curious to discover the best browser for your business? Let’s talk. Call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Browsers
June 22nd, 2015

Hardware_Jun11_BApple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is the technology giant’s opportunity to announce its intentions in the coming months and years. It’s the time when the firm makes public the projects and releases it has in the pipeline, and it’s watched with anticipation by Apple fans across the globe. This year’s event took place in San Francisco earlier this month - here are the biggest takeaways from the all-important keynote speech.

New operating systems

The big news from the WWDC was about operating systems. Apple took the opportunity to unveil three new releases - for mobile devices, Mac desktops and laptops, and the Apple Watch. Access to all three has been given to developers as of now, with public beta testing and full availability expected to follow later in the year.

iOS

On the mobile front, iOS 9 ups the ante on intelligence, with a focus on allowing devices to learn more about our behavior and so tailor the user experience to suit. At the root of these improvements are upgrades to both Siri and search; expect mobile devices running iOS 9 to be better at launching apps before you realize you need them - great for productivity - and reminding you about (and getting you to) upcoming meetings and appointments. Among other changes, upgrades to the iPad will enable enhanced productivity and multitasking, great news for the hurried business user who needs to make the most of the time available.

OS X

The desktop and laptop operating system upgrade to OS X 10.11 is seen as a stepping stone from Yosemite rather than an entirely new approach - but it’s a significant upgrade all the same. Among the most exciting developments are search improvements that will allow you to use natural language when you’re on the hunt for important information and files; likewise, the release is intended to make multitasking across windows even more of a breeze. The productivity and communication apps most commonly used by our business clients - the likes of Mail, Safari and Notes - have also been tuned up both in terms of visible features and behind-the-scenes upgrades to their running speed and overall performance.

watchOS

Finally, though the Apple Watch might not yet be at the stage of being a game-changer on the office productivity scene, the second release of its operating system lays the way for an enhanced user experience. watchOS 2 will, most crucially, lessen the requirement for you to use your iPhone alongside your watch - one of the notable drawbacks when the watch came on sale - and instead allow the device to do more, and run more apps, on its own.

Apple also used WWDC to reveal details of improvements to Apple Maps that will see the service include transit information for cities including San Francisco, New York and London - making it easier for you to get to your meeting on time if you’re taking public transportation. Equally exciting is the news that Apple Pay continues to grow; the mobile payment system is being rolled out to more and more retailers across the US, and is making the jump across the pond to the United Kingdom, where it’s being rolled out in banks, stores and on public transportation.

Want to learn more about the latest Apple technology developments, and how you can put them to use to drive greater efficiency in your business? Talk to our helpful team today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
June 18th, 2015

Office365_Jun4_BHow many emails do you receive a day? And how many are of actual value to you or your business? In an internet-driven business environment, plenty of us feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of email we receive, and the amount of productive work time it takes us to deal with it all. Even if an email is not a spam message, but something related to your job, it won’t always be something that you need to deal with right there and then, in the process distracting you from the task in hand. Despite all the email management hacks out there, the messages keep on coming - but Outlook’s Clutter feature could be about to change that.

Originally announced at Microsoft’s Exchange Conference at the start of 2014, the Clutter add-on for Outlook began rolling out last November to Office 365 business customers who had signed up for the first release. During the initial trial period for Clutter, the function was disabled by default - now that’s been changed, and as of June 15 the tool was due to be turned on by default for all Office 365 users.

At the heart of Clutter is a desire to prioritize email, and move less important messages from your inbox so that you can review and deal with them at your convenience. With only your highest priority emails waiting for you in your main inbox, the idea is that you enjoy fewer distractions and so enhance productivity in your real job - which, for most of us, isn’t email at all. Clutter is an intelligent tool, meaning it picks up hints on which emails are important to you based both on the type of the message and how you are addressed in it. It also uses the Office Graph social feature to track your prior actions both within the Outlook Web App and on Outlook clients for desktop and mobile devices.

Messages identified as lower priority are whisked away to a specific Clutter folder for you to review when you have the chance. Alternatively, you can simply choose to ignore the messages, treating the Clutter folder as another kind of junk filter, and the messages will remain conveniently out of view. In order to ensure that it doesn’t inadvertently start mis-identifying messages as low priority, Microsoft is keen to stress that Clutter won’t do anything until it is confident it has a thorough understanding of your behaviors and your email preferences - for most people this will happen within a matter of days, depending on the volume of email you receive.

You’ll receive daily and weekly notifications so you’re aware which messages Clutter is moving, and don’t miss something important - significantly, these notifications are no longer sent as emails, since replacing an inbox-cluttering message with another one would seem to somewhat detract from Clutter’s purpose. If a message is wrongly picked up as low priority and moved to your Clutter folder, you can move it back to your inbox to be dealt with sooner, and Clutter will learn from the mistake in order to improve its handling of your messages in the future. In the same way, you can choose to proactively teach Clutter about your preferences by marking specific low-priority messages as Clutter.

According to Microsoft, Clutter already shifts more than a million low-priority messages daily, and saves its users almost an hour and a half in productivity each month - figures which are expected to rise as the tool is adopted more widely. If you’ve already enabled Clutter manually, or have enabled it but later switched it off, nothing will change; if you haven’t yet taken any action at all, it will be automatically turned on for you if it hasn’t been already. If you want to disable it, you can do so from the Options page of either Outlook on the Web or the Outlook 2016 Preview, or can simply click the turn it off link at the bottom of notifications.

Clutter gives you a highly personalized email filter that knows which messages are of interest. If you want to learn more about using Office 365 in your business, give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 11th, 2015

164_B_MacIf you’re like most people, you may not have time to search through the bowels of the Internet to find the shortcuts and tips that make it easier to use your Mac. You may think Macs are already so easy to use that you don’t even need shortcuts. But if a shortcut helps you save just five minutes a day - five days a week - that time quickly adds up. In fact, over a course of a year, that equals 21+ hours of extra productivity. These bonus hours can likely help cut the stress of hitting deadlines and attending to other priorities. That’s why we’ve gathered these four tips and tricks that will make using your Mac easier.

Open Programs and Files Faster

Want a quicker way to open files and programs faster? If you’re tired of opening Finder and scrolling through the hundreds of applications and files you have stored, there is a much more efficient solution - Spotlight Search.

To use Spotlight Search, follow these steps:

  1. Press Command and the space bar to launch your search.
  2. Type the first few letters of the file or app you’d like to open.
  3. From the drop down menu that appears, scroll down to the app or file you’re searching for and hit the enter key.

Force Quit Apps

When the pinwheel of death rears its ugly head, your application stalls and your productivity comes to a standstill. There is no better time to make use of the Force Quit shortcut. Here’s how to do it.
  1. Press Command-Option-Esc to display the list of all applications that are running.
  2. From here simply choose the one you’d like to quit.

Take a Screenshot

Pictures speak a thousand words, and sometimes you may need an image of your display to more thoroughly communicate a message. Here are three easy ways to take a screenshot on your Mac OS.
  • Take a snapshot of your entire display - press Command-Shift-3.
  • Take a screenshot of any open window - press Command-Shift-4, followed by the space bar. Then, simply click on the window you’d like an image of.
  • Snap a customized image of your display - press Command-Shift-4. When the crosshairs appear, use them to drag a frame over the portion of the screen you’d like to capture.

Launch frequently used Apps, Files and Server Connections automatically

This trick allows you to save time by automatically launching a program when you log in. Follow these steps to do this:
  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Choose Users & Groups
  3. Select your account
  4. Click on Login Items
  5. Use the plus and minus signs to add or remove programs, files, folders, etc. you’d like to automatically launch upon login
  6. Click Add to save
These are just a few of the dozens of shortcuts and features Mac OS has to offer. If you’d like to learn more or need other IT-related assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
June 8th, 2015

SocialMedia_Jun8_BWhen it comes to using social media advertising to reach out to targeted audiences, Facebook is by far one of the most efficient platforms out there. The numbers speak clearly - advertising on Facebook has grown over 680% since 2010. More and more companies are jumping on the bandwagon, moving their budgets away from traditional advertising methods and increasing their social spending. If Facebook advertising isn’t in your marketing arsenal, you’re missing out on one of the most powerful tools available. Here’s all you need to know about setting up a Facebook ad campaign.

1. Create a Facebook Business Page

First things first: before you can advertise on Facebook, you must have a Facebook Business Page. Log in to your Facebook account and, on the news feed page, click on Create a Page from the left column. Choose the category of your Page that best describes the nature of your business. Then fill out all your business information, including your website, hours of operation, phone number, address, and email. Finally, add creative profile and cover images to attract potential visitors.

2. Define your Facebook ads goals

Facebook offers a variety of advertisement options to choose from, depending on your business’s needs. That’s why it’s important to create goals for your ads, to make sure you’re spending your money wisely while achieving your business goals. Start by asking yourself why you’re utilizing Facebook ads in the first place; defining advertising goals and strategies will help you choose the right type of Facebook ad.

3. Choose an objective for your campaign

Now that you have a Facebook ad goal in mind, it’s time to translate those goals into objectives for your campaign. For instance, if you want to drive more visitors to your business website, your Facebook ad objective is to Send people to your website, but if you want to increase your number of social media followers you would choose the objective Promote your Page. From your Page, click on Create ads and choose an objective to get started.

4. Target your audience

This is the step where most businesses fail at Facebook advertising. You can target your ads based on location, age, gender, language, interests, and behavior. By defining the right audience group, your Facebook ads will be shown to the right people and will give a high conversion rate. After you’ve chosen your target audience, you can decide how much money you want to spend, and choose the time to run your ad.

5. Customize your ad

This process is equally as important as audience targeting. In this step you have the option to choose how your ad will look, by adding up to five images and text that will accompany them. The text is only 90 characters long, so make sure your copy portrays what the content is about, so it will encourage people to click on your ad. Then choose where you want your Facebook ad to show from four options - the news feed, mobile news feed, right column, or audience network.

6. Place your order

The last step is to click on the Place Order button to submit your ad to Facebook for review. You’ll receive an email from Facebook once your ad has been reviewed and approved and is ready to launch.

Facebook advertising requires effective planning, testing, and measuring. You need to experiment in order to find the campaign that works best for your business. If you’re interested in advertising on Facebook or through other social media platforms, drop us a line and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
June 2nd, 2015

Virtualization_May28_BBusinesses today rely on their applications and critical documents more than ever before to stay efficient and competitive. With that in mind, virtual machines are often the go-to platform to ensure precisely that; but things may change with the increasing popularity of containers. What exactly are containers, though? Are they better than virtual machines? Here we take a look at which will best fit your business.

Containers, just like virtual machines, are used for storing files, critical data and applications in an organized manner following specific access rules. So how do they differ from virtual machines, and what are the pros and cons of containers? We’ll take a look below.

Containers can pack a lot more applications into a single cloud or data center than a virtual machine can. And because containers only require little memory from an operating system and its supporting programs and libraries, you can put two to three times as many as applications on a single server with a container than you can with a virtual machine. In addition, containers allow you to create a portable, consistent operating environment for development, testing and deployment.

Still, there's a lot more to containers than how many apps you can put in a box, and not everything about them is sweet. One of the problems with containers that is often overlooked is security. Simply put, containers do not contain. What this means is that if a user or application has superuser privileges within the container, the underlying operating system could be cracked. And while you can secure containers by mounting a /sys filesystem as read-only among other options, it takes a lot of time and effort to do so.

Another container security issue stems from the release of many containerized applications. This is a problem because if you happen to install the first container that comes to hand, you’re likely to have brought a Trojan Horse into your server. You need to inform your staff and employees that they simply can’t download apps from the Internet into a container like they do games for their smartphone. Not only that, but breaking deployments into more functional discrete parts using a container is possible, but means more parts for you to manage. The whole point of a container is to run a single application, so the more functionality you stick into a container, the more likely it is you should actually be using a virtual machine in the first place.

So how do you decide between containers and virtual machines? Ask yourself whether you need to run the highest possible number of instances of a particular application on the fewest possible servers, because if so then containers are the best option for you. But if you want the flexibility of running multiple applications on your servers and you have a variety of operating systems, virtual machines are your safest bet.

Looking to learn more about how virtualization can help your business prosper? Contact us today - we’re sure we can tailor a solution that meets your unique needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 1st, 2015

Security_May27_BData breaches are all too common and, without adequate protection, every business is at risk of external attack. In fact, it’s never been more important to ensure your organization’s policies and procedures are foolproof, and that you have contingency plans in place should something go wrong. Google just made that easier for Drive for Work users, by adding physical Security Keys to its safeguarding toolbox. Here’s what you need to know.

Google already offers security precautions like two-step authentication, which provides additional protection by requiring you to enter not only your password but also a one-time code received by SMS or similar. This is a crucial weapon in the fight against hackers, since weak usernames and passwords are still be the primary reason for accounts being breached. Security Keys now take things one step further, strengthening your Google Drive account’s coat of armor to an even greater extent.

The Security Key is a physical USB device that is plugged into your computer, and which sends an encrypted signature, instead of a password or other code, to verify your identity and permit you access to your Google account. Crucially, Security Keys are inexpensive - starting from around $6 per unit - and require no additional software for deployment, use or management. Administrators have the ability to track when and where each key is used, as well as being able to disable them if lost and issue backup codes to allow staff uninterrupted access even if they do misplace their key.

Simplifying the login process is also a key part of what Google has tried to achieve with Security Keys. To that end, the first time you use your key to access your Google account on a particular computer, you can opt for Google to remember that device. On subsequent occasions you can quickly sign in using only your password, and without requiring either your key or a two-step authentication code. You can still sign in using your key on other machines, and if a hacker tries to access your account without your key they will also be prompted for a two-step verification code (which, unless they have access to your cell phone, they shouldn’t be able to provide).

Security Keys aren’t an entirely perfect solution, though - there are some significant limitations to the technology. For one, you can’t use them on mobile devices, since they require a USB port to work, and they only allow you to access your Google account through the Chrome browser. Windows, Mac OS, ChromeOS and Linux operating systems are all supported, but if you’re working from your phone or on a browser other than Chrome then you’ll need to continue using two-step authentication. Google says you can mix and match different methods of verification, opting to use Security Keys where they are supported and two-step verification otherwise (or if you don’t have your key with you).

What’s more, only Google Drive currently supports Security Keys - it’s not yet possible to use them with Google Apps, for example. But, while the technology is primarily targeted at Google Drive for Work users, it’s possible to link a single key to multiple accounts, meaning you can use it to access both your work and personal Google accounts. Some users have also queried how much of a safeguard the technology really provides in the absence of an additional PIN code or fingerprint authentication being required for activation, suggesting that a stolen Security Key could be used to access a computer that a user has previously asked Google to remember. But Security Keys do appear to offer at least some additional protection, which will be of comfort to businesses handling sensitive data.

Give us a call to find out how to employ Security Keys and other technology solutions to bolster your protection against network intrusion and data breaches.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security