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January 4th, 2016

vipreFor the first half of 2015, almost all of our customers’ devices depended on VIPRE antivirus software to protect them from malware and other cyber security threats. A year later, we now protect the devices we support with Webroot SecureAnywhere.

Why did we make this change?

In late spring, we started receiving support requests from our customers that were identical across all companies. Outlook would get stuck “loading add-in 7/9: VIPRE antivirus object” and never move past that screen, even after a full reboot. The only way to resolve the issue once it had occurred was to disable VIPRE, leaving their mailboxes unprotected.

At the same time, many of our customers were hit by CryptoWall 3.0, a variant of the Cryptolocker ransomware virus, after opening infected email attachments. This occurred on systems that had antivirus software fully enabled, meaning that VIPRE simply wasn’t able to detect the malware. Fortunately, none of our customers lost any data, as we were able to restore their files and systems from our off-site backups, but affected individuals still suffered downtime as we worked to remove the infection from their systems.

We quickly realized that we were using an antivirus software that not only couldn’t protect our customers from the most malicious virus out there, but was also actively causing issues with known, safe programs and seriously disrupting workflow.

WebrootWe immediately began looking for a replacement. After extensive research, we decided to go with Webroot. It’s the smallest antivirus software on the market, using just over 1MB of disk space, and received top ratings from two independent testing labs in 2015. It also received a perfect score in PC Magazine’s hands-on malware blocking test.

More importantly, Webroot doesn’t interfere with universally important applications like the Microsoft Office Suite – and our customers haven’t had a single email-related malware infection since the summer.

November 30th, 2015

This new desktop computer comes with Windows 10.Computers are expensive. If you haven’t budgeted for it, purchasing a new machine means you may need to take a bit of a hit. It’s tempting to just keep trying to repair existing computers for as long as possible, but eventually the cost of replacing parts or otherwise repairing the machine will add up to more than you would have spent on a brand new one—and then, after all that, you’ll still have to purchase a new system when the old one dies. After a certain point, repairs can only delay a purchase, but not prevent it.

With that in mind, here are a few signs that you’ll need to purchase a new computer sooner rather than later:

Your company is growing, and you will soon have more employees than computers.

Although this seems like a bit of a no-brainer, it’s important to plan ahead. If you’re bringing on new employees before you have computers ready for them to use, you’ll just end up wasting their time and your money while they wait. It’s best to speak to your MSP about purchasing new workstations as soon as you know you’ll be bringing more people on board.

This is also a great time to review your existing infrastructure and make sure it can handle your expansion. You’ll want to discuss server capacity with your MSP before all of your new computers are up and running on the network in order to make sure that any upgrades that may need to occur are put in place before they’re needed.

An existing computer’s warranty has expired and it needs repair or new parts.

Sometimes it can be more cost-effective to repair a computer or replace a hardware part than it would be to purchase a new one. However, the amount that this will extend the computer’s lifespan needs to be taken into consideration. Most computers are projected to last anywhere from 3 to 7 years, but if you’re using your computers for more intensive work than just word processing and internet browsing, that number may come down a bit to 3-5 years.

The most clear sign that your computer’s hardware is about to fail is a new or louder noise coming from the system. Something may have come dislodged inside it and is causing damage to itself or to other parts, or the fan is having to work significantly harder to keep up with the work being demanded of it. Any change in the sounds you hear while your computer is running normally is a cause for concern.

If you’ve purchased an extended 3-year warranty for the computer and it experiences major hardware issues after this point, it’s likely time to consider whether you can get more value out of repairing the computer or purchasing a new one. Once it hits the 5-year benchmark, it’s highly unlikely that any repair will extend its life for much more than a year, and possibly even less.

It’s important to keep track of the age of the workstations at your company, because once their warranty expires, it’s time to start budgeting for their replacement.

New software can’t be installed because hardware specs don’t meet the minimum requirement, or you can’t install the latest operating system.

old computerAfter a point, old hardware is no longer compatible with new software. Old operating systems can also be problematic; Microsoft no longer supports Windows XP, for example, which means that they will no longer provide technical assistance or release security patches. It’s usually possible to install a new operating system, but there are hardware requirements for more recent operating systems that older machines may not be able to meet.

Rather than waste time trying to find workarounds for software that can’t be installed on an old operating system, and an operating system that can’t be upgraded due to limited hardware specs, it’s best to just purchase a new computer that won’t have these problems.

The computer is running more slowly than before, and there is nothing your IT team can do to fix it.

Computers run more slowly as they age. You know the signs: you can make a cup of coffee while it boots up, websites take longer to load than it takes you to send a text, and you can type half a sentence before any words start to appear on the screen. Up until a certain point, your IT team usually has quite a few tricks up their sleeve to improve your computer’s performance: rebooting the system to clear temporary files, run scans for malware, check for CPU usage and drive space, etc.

If your IT team has exhausted their options, and the system is still running slowly enough to impact your work, age may be the cause. If this is the case, then the only solution is to purchase a new machine.

In general, if your IT team strongly suggests that you replace a computer, it’s worth taking their advice into serious consideration. They should be tracking the number of issues your computer experiences, as well as the cause of these issues. If that number significantly increases, but it can be lowered by purchasing a new computer, they’ll let you know.

Remember—replacing a device doesn’t mean you have to completely retire it.

It can feel like a waste of money to recycle a computer that may still have a year of life left in it. If it’s functioning poorly, but still functioning, consider keeping it as a spare. Employees may need temporary replacements in case of unexpected hard drive failures, or if situations such as the Cryptolocker virus arise and their computer needs to be physically sent in to your IT team for them to handle. In these situations, a slow but working computer can get an employee through the few days it may take to repair their workstation or set up a new one.

If you’re unsure about whether you need to purchase new computers, it’s best to get in touch with your IT team. They’ll have intimate knowledge of your existing computers, and will be able to answer any questions you may have about their future functionality. They will also be able to advise you on your options for replacement.

Overall, you should err on the side of caution. In order to ensure stable and continuous workplace productivity, too many computers are better than not enough.

November 23rd, 2015

Most people never think about their computer names. Some people affectionately name their machines like they would name a car, but very few actually bother changing the name the computer uses for identification on the network. Your MSP or IT team, however, relies entirely on this system of identification in order to keep track of all the computers they manage, and will likely put their own naming scheme in place for this purpose.

In businesses where the same computer can be used by many people, or one person may be using multiple computers, it’s important to be able to tell your IT team which computer is experiencing the issue you’re reporting. Although your IT team should be able to walk you through finding this information, knowing it in advance will save you time and will enable your MSP to solve the problem more quickly. Once you’re familiar with the process, it will only take you a few seconds to locate the name of any computer.

Here are five different ways you can find your computer’s name:

1. Press and hold the Windows key, then press the Pause/Break key.

Your computer name can be found under the “Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings” section of the window that appears. This window will look almost identical regardless of which operating system you’re running.

Find your computer name under the section titled Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings

If you use a full keyboard with your desktop computer, the Pause/Break key will be located to the right of your function keys in the top row. If you’re using a laptop, your keyboard may not include this key. In this case, you can use the following sequence to find the name of your computer:

2.  Press and hold the Windows key, then press the R key. Type the letters “cmd” into the prompt box that appears. Type the word “hostname” and press enter.

Depending on the permissions your IT team has put in place, you may not be able to open the Command Prompt window. If you run into this issue, you can try one of the following three options, depending on your operating system:

3. Windows 7: Click on the start menu, right-click on Computer, and select Properties.

This will open the same window as option number 1, allowing you to find your computer name under the section titled “Computer name, domain, and workgroup settings.” The information you’re looking for is just the computer name, not the full computer name.

win7


4. Windows 8: Hover your mouse over the top right-hand corner of your screen. In the sidebar that appears on the right, click on the settings icon and select PC Info.

Windows 8.1 is a little different. If you’re running this version, you’ll need to right-click on the Start button and select System. If you aren’t certain which operating system you’re running, simple trial-and-error should tell you pretty quickly.

5. Windows 10: Open the Start menu and click Settings. Select System, then About.

Strangely, the newest version of Windows also requires the most steps to find your computer name. Fortunately, each click is fairly intuitive and shouldn’t be difficult to remember.

If you can’t find the name of your computer using any of these options, it’s worth sending a quick email to your IT team asking them if they know what your computer name is or if they’re able to walk you through finding it. Once you know your computer name, it’s best to memorize it or write it down somewhere so that you’ll have it on hand in case of an issue. After all, if your hard drive crashes or your operating system freezes, none of the above steps will be of much use to you.

December 22nd, 2014

windows_Dec18_CLove it, or hate it, the Windows 8 and 8.1 Start Screen is here to stay. While many business users have selected to boot directly into Desktop mode with Windows 8.1, the Start Screen still has some great features to offer. For those who do decide to use it, actually finding your installed apps can be a bit tricky at first.

How to find all of your installed apps from the Start Screen

When you install a new app on your computer, regardless of whether it is a Metro style app, or a traditional desktop style app, you are going to need to be able to find and open it. Because we often install a large number of programs on our computers, it can be a challenge to actually locate these apps via the file explorer used in Windows.

The easiest way to do find your apps is to:

  1. Switch to the Start Screen if you are currently in Desktop mode. This can be done by tapping on the Windows key.
  2. Hover your mouse at the lower-left of your screen.
  3. Click the arrow that is pointing down.
You can also access the apps screen by hitting: Control + Tab from anywhere in the Start Screen. Once open, you should see a list of all the apps you have installed. Apps that have been recently installed will have a NEW tag beside the name.

If you would like to sort your apps differently, such as by name or date installed, click the drop-down arrow beside APPS at the top of your screen and select the sorting option you prefer. Should you have a large number of apps installed and want to quickly find an app, click on the magnifying glass at the top-right of your screen and enter the name of the app you are looking for.

Adding apps to the Taskbar or the Start Screen

When 8.1 was introduced, Microsoft removed the feature where tiles were automatically created in the Start Screen and apps were automatically pinned to the taskbar. If you would like to either pin an app to the Start Screen or the taskbar you can do so by:
  1. Opening the Apps menu via the Start Screen.
  2. Searching for the app you would like to pin, either by scrolling through the list, or clicking the magnifying glass and entering the name.
  3. Right-clicking on the app.
  4. Selecting either: Pin to Start or Pin to taskbar.
This will subsequently pin the app to the taskbar on the Desktop, or create a new tile on the Start Screen.

If you are looking to learn more about Windows 8.1, and how it can be used in your business effectively, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
September 24th, 2014

Windows_Sep22_CWhile there are many great features included in Windows 8 and 8.1, one of the more useful, but hardly ever thought about, is the taskbar, which displays all of your useful apps and open apps. Any Windows user is familiar with the bar at the bottom of the screen, but did you know that you can change specific properties about it?

1. Add or remove programs from your taskbar

By default, there are usually two icons on your taskbar: Internet Explorer and File Explorer. When you open a program, the icon will pop up to the right of these icons and will remain there as long as the program is open. Close it however, and the icon will usually disappear.

If you use certain programs a lot, you can 'pin' the icon to your taskbar, making it easier to launch in the future. This can be done by first opening the program, then right-clicking on the icon and selecting Pin to Taskbar. You can unpin unused programs by right-clicking on the icon and selecting Unpin from Taskbar.

Alternatively, you can drag a program's icon onto the taskbar to add it. Just drag it from the folder or your desktop to where you would like it to be on the taskbar, and it should be added.

2. Locking the taskbar

If you have added the programs you use most, and would like to ensure that they stay on the taskbar, you can lock the bar to ensure that nothing can be added or deleted without first unlocking it. Locking will also ensure that the taskbar can't be accidentally moved.

Locking the taskbar is done by:

  1. Right-clicking on the taskbar.
  2. Selecting Lock the taskbar from the pop-up menu.
Note: When you install a new program, or would like to add/modify those on the taskbar you will need to unlock it first, which can be done by right-clicking on the taskbar and clicking Unlock Taskbar.

3. Hiding the taskbar

While the taskbar is useful, some users prefer that it isn't always showing at the bottom of the screen. You can actually enable hiding of the taskbar, so it will only show it when you hover your mouse over where it should be.

This can be done by:

  1. Right-clicking on an empty space on the taskbar.
  2. Selecting Properties. Note: Don't right-click on an app's icon, as it will open the properties related to the app, not the taskbar.
  3. Tick Auto-hide taskbar.
  4. Click Ok.

4. Move the location of the taskbar

If you have a large number of apps pinned to the taskbar, or don't like it's location at the bottom of the screen you can easily move it by either:
  1. Left-clicking on an empty area of the taskbar.
  2. Holding the mouse button down and moving the cursor to the side of the screen where you would like to move the bar to.
Or:
  1. Right-clicking on an empty area of the taskbar.
  2. Selecting Properties.
  3. Clicking on the drop-down box beside Taskbar location on screen:.
  4. Selecting the location.
If the bar does not move, be sure that it is not locked.

5. Preview open apps

One interesting feature of the taskbar is that it can offer a preview of your desktop from the tile-based screen. You can enable it by:
  1. Right-clicking on an empty area of the taskbar.
  2. Selecting Properties.
  3. Ticking Use Peek to preview the desktop when you move your mouse to the Show Desktop button at the end of the taskbar.

6. Pin apps to the taskbar from the metro (tile) screen

While the tile-based Start screen isn't the most popular with business users, it can be a good way to easily add programs to your taskbar. You can do so by:
  1. Scrolling through your tiles until you find the app you want to pin to the taskbar.
  2. Right-clicking on the app.
  3. Selecting Pin to taskbar from the menu bar that opens at the bottom of the screen.
If you are looking to learn more about using Windows in your office, contact us today to see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
March 20th, 2013

Windows_March14_CThe operating system (OS) is an integral part of modern computers, phones and a good deal of other technology. The most popular OS is Microsoft's Windows, which has become the mainstay of businesses around the world. Last year, Windows 8 was released and with it came a drastic change to the 'Windows' system. The new interface is more mobile oriented, which could take some getting used to. For example, if you want to find out how big a file is, or how much free hard drive space you have, you now have a few different options.

Here's three ways you can see how much space programs are taking up in Windows 8. Before you check file sizes however, you should be aware whether these are shown in bytes, KB, MB, GB or TB.

  • Bytes are the smallest measurement you will see, and are made up of eight bits (a combination of 8 1s or 0s).
  • A KB is a Kilobyte and is around 1,000 bytes (1,024 to be exact).
  • A MB - Megabyte - is around 1,000KB.
  • A GB - Gigabyte - is around 1,000MB.
  • A TB - Terabyte - is around 1,000GB.
As a reference: Most mid-range laptops will have between 500GB and 750GB.

3 ways to check file size 1. Easy - If you have an individual file or folder that you would like to know the size of, simply right click on it and select Properties. Under the General tab, look for the box that says Size and Size on Disk. The number beside these fields should be in KB, MB or GB. 2. Slightly less easy - First you need to open your PC Settings - move your mouse to the top-right corner of the screen and select Settings followed by Change PC settings. From there click on General and scroll down until you see Available storage. The number is the amount of space you have left, and pressing on View app sizes will bring up a list of all installed apps and the amount of space they take up. 3. Still easy, but harder than the other two - Open the Control Panel - move your cursor to the bottom left of the screen and search for: Control Panel. Click on Programs followed by Programs and Features. Look at the column labeled Size and a program's size should be listed. If you can't see it try maximizing the window. If you click on a program, you should see more information about it, including its size in the bottom right.

If there is no information about size, search by moving your mouse to the bottom left and entering the file's name. From there you can follow step one above.

Windows 8 has many interesting features, but they will take time to figure out. If you are looking to integrate this OS into your business, or would like to learn more about how to use it, effectively please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
September 19th, 2012

Technology is always changing, improving or adapting and companies, especially small businesses, have a hard time keeping up with the changes which can be quite costly. One solution to this is to allow employees the option of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to help with their job. Microsoft has picked up this trend and is set to introduce new features with the impending release of Windows 8.

Here are four features of Windows 8 that will help companies manage or implement a BYOD policy.

DirectAccess. DirectAccess (a feature of windows that allows users to connect to enterprise systems without the need for a Virtual Private Network), first introduced in Windows 7, has had some improvements. The goal of this feature is to allow users on their own devices, or who are out of the office, easier connectivity to the office, without the need for costly networking. Windows 8 Enterprise editions will come with this already installed, and the new version will make it easier to configure and monitor.

Windows To Go. For companies that have no assigned seats, or with consultants/remote workers, the need to use the same system as the office on their devices is important. With Windows To Go users can run their work PC from a USB drive. When a user connects the USB they can boot up an exact copy of their work PC, and continue working. This feature is a perfect match for BYOD, as users have a distinct solution to plug into the office, without needing to install extra software, and IT can manage the work PC without being too invasive.

More secure mobile platform. One of the biggest updates Windows 8 will bring will be closer integration of the OS between desktops and mobile devices. With the new platform, IT can set which mobile devices have access to different apps, encrypt hard drives on phones, and run more efficient security campaigns with the aim of keeping business data on personal devices secure.

One management tool, many systems. One of the hardest tasks IT has in relation to the monitoring of personal devices is managing the different systems employees use. Windows 8 will extend the current device management tools IT uses to monitor systems in the office to all devices using Windows. This means IT has one device management tool, not 3-4, and changes made to one system can, in theory, be applied to all devices.

Built in virus protection. When Windows 8 releases, it will come with built-in security and virus protection. While it can be guaranteed it won’t be perfect, hardly any anti-virus programs are. This is an added layer of protection if your users don’t have an antivirus program on their personal devices.

Windows 8 is still a month or so away from release, and many companies are preparing for an upgrade. If you’re interested in upgrading to Windows 8, or have concerns about BYOD, please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
August 30th, 2012

In the mid 2000s Microsoft was more or less stagnant. Windows, despite numerous releases, still looked more or less the same, and Office hadn’t received a decent upgrade in a long time. Things looked grim, but Microsoft has managed to turn things around. Windows 8 and related products are a drastic departure from the Microsoft look, even Hotmail has had a makeover.

In late July Microsoft quickly announced and released @outlook.com, their new cloud based email service. If a Web based email service from Microsoft sounds familar, it is, as Outlook.com is a reinvented and drastically improved version of Hotmail.

Outlook.com has completely ditched the clunky, outdated layout Microsoft has used for Hotmail for years and released something that looks 100% modern, and maybe even a little spaceage. The general opinion is that it looks fantastic. For Gmail users, it looks instantly familiar, with files and folders on the left-hand side of the window, your emails in the center and addons on the right-hand side of the screen.

Hold on, isn’t that exactly the same as Gmail? Yes, and for a reason: it works really, really well. However, Outlook.com does improve on Gmail with integration of a large number of features including:

  • Integration with Microsoft Office. All documents sent to you can be viewed and edited online.
  • Integration with SkyDrive. When you click the Outlook box at the top of the window, a drop-down menu opens with the ability to shift to your SkyDrive. This makes it easier to switch and share files between the two services. This also allows you to share larger files that don’t have to be sent via email, slowing down delivery. Just share the file on SkyDrive and link to it in the email.
  • Synchronized contacts. You can instantly synchronize your Facebook and LinkedIn contacts and chat with them directly from Outlook.com.
  • Skype. Experts wondered what Microsoft would do with Skype when they bought it last year. The answer is: integrate it with Outlook.com. While it isn’t active yet, Microsoft has noted it should be part of Outlook.com soon. When it’s activated, you’ll be able to call and chat with your Outlook.com contacts via Skype, directly from the Inbox. There will be no need to install Skype on systems.
  • Mobile support. You can access your account on nearly any mobile device that can connect to the Internet.
How do I get an Outlook.com account? If you’re interested in getting an outlook.com account, you can sign up for free at outlook.com. If you have an existing Hotmail account you can log in, select Options followed by Upgrade. All your contacts, emails, password and rules will be transferred over.

Outlook.com looks like a viable competitor to Gmail, and because it’s a Microsoft product, it’s a near certainty that it will be a heavily supported platform that can and will attract many businesses and other organizations. If you’re interested in learning more about Outlook.com, please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
July 18th, 2012

One of the most highly anticipated software releases of 2012 is Windows 8, Microsoft’s new operating system. It promises to bring about a massive change in the way people use computers. Understandably, more than a few companies and users are excited for the release, however, until now, they had no idea how much it would cost to upgrade both the OS and their servers.

Microsoft has finally announced the cost to upgrade from previous versions of the Windows OS - XP and Windows 7 - and the cost of Windows server 2012.

Upgrade to Windows 8 Microsoft has announced that systems running Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 for as low as USD $40. Users will be able to download the upgrade from the Microsoft store at a cost of USD $40, until January 31 2013. The upgrade will also be available on DVD in retail stores at a cost of USD $69.99.

Microsoft also announced that users currently using personal versions of Windows 7 - Starter through Home Premium - will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro and keep their personal settings, files and applications. XP and Vista users can upgrade to both versions of Windows 8, but only personal files will be migrated over. If your business currently uses Windows 7 Professional or Enterprise, you can upgrade to Windows 8 Enterprise, and keep all files, applications and settings.

There are a few things to be aware of with the upgrade. The first is that users who want to upgrade from different architecture versions - 32 bit to 64 bit - will be able to do so, however, none of their files, applications or settings will remain. The second is, if you buy a copy of Windows 7 between June 2, 2012 and July 31, 2012, you can purchase Windows 8 Pro for USD $15.99.

Windows Server 2012 Anytime Microsoft releases a new operating system, they also release a version for servers that’s compatible with the new OS. Windows Server 2012, unofficially dubbed Windows Server 8, is the new server OS, and will be available in four versions.

  1. Datacenter. This version is aimed at companies that operate in “highly virtualized environments and hybrid cloud environments”. It can support an unlimited number of virtual instances and will cost USD $4,809.
  2. Standard. This version is exactly the same as the Datacenter version, only it’s for companies with light or no virtualization and will cost USD $882.
  3. Essentials. Essentials is for small business environments, supports up to 25 users, comes preconfigured to connect to cloud based services and will cost $425 USD.
  4. Foundation. Foundation is the most general version of Windows Server 2012, and will come preinstalled in general servers. At this time, it will only be available for server manufacturers, with no cost being announced.
With the announcement of the different versions of Windows Server 2012, Microsoft also announced that they will no longer be supporting Windows Small Business Server, thus, forcing users to upgrade. If your company is looking to upgrade to a Windows 8 environment, please contact us, we may have a solution for you.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
May 25th, 2012

Cloud computing is not a new thing, many providers like Microsoft’s SkyDrive have been around in one form or another since 2007. It’s taken until this year for cloud storage to really take off however. With increasing competition and major players wading into the game, SkyDrive has been updated to become one of the most solid competitors.

SkyDrive is a free online (cloud) storage service from Microsoft that lets you access your files from multiple locations. It works by downloading a program to your desktop, and allowing you to drag and drop files into it. Files will be uploaded to the cloud and available on mobile phone apps, or on your browser. If you make a change to a document on one of these, it’ll be updated automatically. Beyond that, you can also access files on your PC if it and SkyDrive are both turned on.

SkyDrive is also a collaboration tool, it allows you to create Microsoft Office documents right in the browser, share them with colleagues and collaboratively work on them. You can upload and share files up to 2GB in size from your computer and 300MB in size from SkyDrive.com.

A few weeks ago, Microsoft updated SkyDrive to have better syncing and integration across platforms. They also introduced a new pricing scheme, making it one of the most competitive options available. New users now get 7GB of storage space, with the ability to upgrade to a maximum of 100GB storage for USD 50 per year.

If you have a Hotmail account, or SkyDrive account that was activated before April 22, 2012, you’re eligible for 25GB storage for free. Simply log in to either Hotmail and press SkyDrive, or log in to skydrive.com and select Manage storage. You should have the option to upgrade to 25GB for free. Microsoft has said this is only for a limited time, but hasn’t defined how long “limited time” is.

If you’re interested in setting up SkyDrive in your company, or would like more information, please schedule an appointment with us, we’re ready to help you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows