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February 21st, 2017

2017February21_Virtualization_BData storage may be one of the easiest facets of virtualization to explain, but that doesn’t make it immune to problems arising from confusion. There are a few things that can cause virtualized data storage to underperform, and most of them can be easily fixed by technicians who know their stuff. Read on to find out whether you might have fallen for one of these mistakes.

Poorly structured storage from the get go

Within a virtualized data storage framework, information is grouped into tiers based on how quickly that information needs to be accessible when requested. The fastest drives on the market are still very expensive, and most networks will have to organize data into three different tiers to avoid breaking the bank.

For example, archived or redundant data probably doesn’t need to be on the fastest drive you have, but images on your eCommerce website should get the highest priority if you want customers to have a good experience.

Without a virtualization expert on hand, organizing this data could quickly go off the rails. Ask your IT service provider to see a diagram of where your various data types are stored and how those connect to the software-defined drive at the hub of your solution. If there are too many relays for your server to pass through, it’ll be a slower solution than the non-virtualized alternatives.

Inadequately maintained virtualized storage

How long will your intended design last? Companies evolve and expand in short periods of time, and your infrastructure may look completely different months later. Virtualized data storage requires frequent revisions and updates to perform optimally.

Whoever is in charge of your virtualization solution needs to have intimate knowledge of how data is being accessed. If you’re using virtual machines to access your database and move things around, they need to be precisely arranged to make sure you don’t have 10 workstations trying to access information from the same gateway while five other lanes sit unoccupied.

Incorrect application placement

In addition to watching how your data is accessed as the system shifts and grows, administrators also need to keep a close eye on the non-human components with access to the system. Virtualized applications that access your database may suffer from connectivity problems, but how would you know?

The application won’t alert you, and employees can’t be expected to report every time the network seems slow. Your virtualization expert needs to understand what those applications need to function and how to monitor them closely as time goes on.

Deploying any type of virtualized IT within your business network is a commendable feat. However, the work doesn’t stop there. Without the fine-tuning of an experienced professional, you risk paying for little more than a fancy name. For the best virtualization advice in town, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 17th, 2017

2017February17_Office_BMicrosoft churns out new Office 365 features for users almost every month. Last year, there were several additions to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint that further enhanced user experience. This year, Microsoft will likely introduce new features that can benefit businesses. If you want to stay on top of new Microsoft features and experience these advantages yourself, then the Office Insider program is for you.

Early access Similar to the Windows 10 Insider program, the Office Insider program grants users early access to new features, security updates, and bug fixes months before they are available for the general public. Office Insider is available on two levels: the fast ring, where updates are rolled out more frequently but tend to have more issues, and the slow ring, where features are released slower but have little to no software bugs.

The features you have to look forward to include:

  • Calendar.help - When you sign up for the Office Insider Program you are immediately eligible to beta test Calendar.help, a machine learning feature that uses Cortana to schedule important calls, meetings, and events. When you need to set up an appointment over email, you can simply list your contact, add Cortana to the Cc: line, and state your meeting preferences.
  • Outlook - In January 30, Microsoft has increased Outlook 2016’s collaboration options. Insider subscribers can upload locally saved email attachments to OneDrive and collaborate with other employees.
  • Surface Pen - Surface device users in the Insider program can resize, rotate, and move objects in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint with the Surface Pen.
Competitive advantage Because you’re getting early access to new applications, you’ll have more experience with the features compared to companies who wait for the general availability update. For example, you can test updates like PowerApps -- a feature that allows businesses to create software without knowing how to code -- and decide whether it’s right for your company months before other general users have worked with the product.

In other words, when your business can access and take advantage of Office 365 Insider features early, you’re essentially setting your company ahead of the competition since ‘late’ adopters will need to spend time getting acquainted with the new patch.

Feedback The final benefit of the Office Insider program is that you get to voice your opinion on the upcoming features, raise awareness to certain software issues, and provide ideas on how Microsoft can make things better.

Overall, enrolling in the Office Insider program can open up your company to a wide variety of productivity-boosting features. The only question you have to ask yourself now is: Do I want to be at the bleeding edge of tech innovations?

Contact us today to find out how you can get on the inside and know the latest in Office updates.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic office
February 16th, 2017

Windows-170px-02If your small- or medium-sized business has yet to get a Windows 10 upgrade, fret not! Microsoft has just announced the good news. The tech giant is bringing back free Windows 10 upgrades exclusively for SMBs that passed on the previous offer. If you’re still doubting about getting that upgrade, these additional facts might help you change your mind.

They’re extending the free upgrade to this segment of customers to help them get to Windows 10,” said Wes Miller, an analyst at Direction on Microsoft, specializing in complex licensing rules and practices. Much like the 12-month upgrade deal that ended last August, this offer applies to personal computers running on Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. The only difference is, the offer is exclusive for businesses that have subscribed to one of the Windows Enterprise plans.

According to Nic Fillingham, a small business product manager: "Customers subscribed to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5 as well as Secure Productive Enterprise E3 and E5, can now upgrade their Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs and devices to Windows 10 without the need to purchase separate upgrade licenses."

The Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5 subscriptions are priced at $7 per user per month and $14 per user per month, or $84 and $168 per user annually. Unlike Microsoft's historical licensing -- which permanently licensed the operating system on a per-device basis -- the E3 and E5 subscriptions are per-user licenses, and payments must be maintained to run the OS. This was introduced to target customers that didn’t want to sign a long-term volume licensing agreement.

In order to qualify for a Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5 subscription -- which are delivered through a CSP (cloud service provider) -- devices must already be running on Windows 10 Pro. SMBs could upgrade their devices for free last year if those devices ran older Windows 10 versions, and SMBs can upgrade the devices they newly acquire this year if those devices are already equipped with Windows 10 Pro.

"When the CSP originated, the only qualifying OS was [Windows] 10 Pro Anniversary Update," said Miller. "You had to be on 10 Pro. So, if you missed the consumer upgrade window, you would have to buy the underlying 10 Pro license." It’s this license that Microsoft is giving away to customers subscribing to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5. The acquired license is “perpetual” and will be tied to the specific device. “This means the license will not expire or be revoked if the customer chooses to end their Windows cloud subscription in the CSP program," added Fillingham.

Since the upgrade is considered a subscriber benefit, a PC upgrade might be needed -- from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise -- and if the user isn’t already covered by an E3 or E5 subscription, an additional $7 or $14 monthly is needed to run the system. Miller stated that the likeliest reason Microsoft brought back the free upgrade was to get more people onto the User Subscription License (SL). Providing upgrades from older editions makes more of a customer's PCs eligible for use under the SL model of E3 and E5 (which is licensed per user, not per device). Another motivation could be to promote a partner-centric CSP.

Microsoft has officially confirmed the Windows 7/8.1-to-Windows 10 Pro upgrade offer is a permanent addition to the benefits for subscribers to Windows 10 Enterprise E3 and E5, and not a time-limited pitch. If you’re still hesitating or would like to ask some more questions, feel free to give us a call anytime!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
February 15th, 2017

2017February15_Security_BShopping around for a managed IT services provider is tough. You’re looking for a business to manage extremely complex and delicate technology, so they can’t be expected to get into the nitty gritty details of DNS-layer security, intrusion prevention systems, and encryption in their marketing content. But one thing does need clarification: What exactly are “proactive cyber-security” measures?

Understand the threats you’re facing

Before any small- or medium-sized business can work toward preventing cyber-attacks, everyone involved needs to know exactly what they’re fighting against. Whether you’re working with in-house IT staff or an outsourced provider, you should review what types of attack vectors are most common in your industry. Ideally, your team would do this a few times a year.

Reevaluate what it is you’re protecting

Now that you have a list of the biggest threats to your organization, you need to take stock of how each one threatens the various cogs of your network. Map out every device that connects to the internet, what services are currently protecting those devices, and what type of data they have access to (regulated, mission-critical, low-importance, etc.).

Create a baseline of protection

By reviewing current trends in the cyber-security field, alongside an audit of your current technology framework, you can begin to get a clearer picture of how you want to prioritize your preventative measure versus your reactive measures.

Before you can start improving your cyber-security approach, you need to know where the baseline is. Create a handful of real-life scenarios and simulate them on your network. Network penetration testing from trustworthy IT professionals will help pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in your current framework.

Finalize a plan

All these pieces will complete the puzzle of what your new strategies need to be. With an experienced technology consultant onboard for the entire process, you can easily parse the results of your simulation into a multi-pronged approach to becoming more proactive:
  • Security awareness seminars that coach everyone -- from receptionists to CEOs -- about password management and mobile device usage.
  • “Front-line” defenses like intrusion prevention systems and hardware firewalls that scrutinize everything trying to sneak its way in through the front door or your network.
  • Routine checkups for software updates, licenses, and patches to minimize the chance of leaving a backdoor to your network open.
  • Web-filtering services that blacklist dangerous and inappropriate sites for anyone on your network.
  • Antivirus software that specializes in the threats most common to your industry.
As soon as you focus on preventing downtime events instead of reacting to them, your technology will begin to increase your productivity and efficiency to levels you’ve never dreamed of. Start enhancing your cyber-security by giving us a call for a demonstration.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
February 14th, 2017

Apple-170px-02Support is defined as providing assistance, encouragement, or comfort to help someone achieve a certain goal. For Mac’s version of Microsoft Office, support comes in the form of add-ins that aim to enhance user experience. Although usability testing is currently underway, you can still read about the latest developments here:

Office add-ins are applications running within the suite’s constituent programs that provide features not available by default. In terms of usage, they’re similar to browser extensions, but add-ins are tailored to the tasks users carry out in Office programs such as Word, PowerPoint, and Outlook. For example, one popular add-in allows users to look up words and phrases on Wikipedia without leaving Word. Another introduces additional chart types that can be used in Excel.

Add-ins are usually free, but some require either a one-off payment or a monthly subscription. If Microsoft wants its Office Store to flourish, it makes a lot of sense to provide support for add-ins to the Mac version of the Office Suite. According to a report from MS Power User, to access add-ins, Mac users need to be members of the Insider program and opt into its Fast Ring. From there, you should check that the installation of your Office for Mac is build 170124 or later.

You can find the “Add-ins” option from the Insert menu in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint, and then select the store. Once at the storefront, find an add-in you’re looking for and install it. Currently, there’s no word on when add-ins will be available to all Office users on the Mac platform. But if the functionality is ready for public testing, it’s safe to assume the official release is already on its way.

If you have further questions or would like to be notified of the latest advancements, feel free to get in touch with us!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic apple
February 10th, 2017

2017February10_Business_BWith our busy schedules, we all could use more time to ourselves and loved ones. Getting back home in time for a real meal is now a luxury for many. Thanks to productivity tools like Google’s G Suite and Microsoft’s Office 365, we’re able to regain some of our lost time. But unless money is no obstacle, you need to choose one over the other. So, should you go for G Suite or Office 365? We’ll address all crucial factors below.

Cost and commitment G Suite offers two pricing plans: $5 and $10 per user per month. The $5 plan offers company email addresses, video and voice calls, integrated online calendars, online documents, presentations and spreadsheets and more.

The $10 plan offers all the features of the $5 plan plus unlimited storage or 1TB per user for less than 5 members, advanced admin control panel for Google Drive, and audit and reporting insights for Drive content and sharing, to name a few.

  • Office 365 offers a number of pricing plans, including:
  • Office 365 Business Essentials ($5.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Business ($8.25 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Business Premium ($12.50 per user per month)
  • Office 365 ProPlus ($12.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1 ($8.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3 ($20.00 per user per month)
  • Office 365 Enterprise E5 ($35.00 per user per month)
We’ll compare two plans from Office 365 with the same pricing as G Suite below; you can find more details about Office 365’s other plans here.
  • Office 365 Business Essentials will cost $5 per user per month with annual subscription. Monthly subscription will cost $6 per user per month, meaning you’ll save $1 user per month with G Suite.
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1 will cost $2 less than G Suite’s $10 plan
Applications

Google Apps are designed for cloud-based collaboration. For instance, Google Docs lets you make permanent changes in the file or provide feedback using “suggestion” mode. Other advanced features in G Suite include machine intelligence in Google Calendar (which helps you find a time when invitees are free), Dynamic layout suggestions in Google Slides, and better file management and granular content ownership.

Microsoft apps, on the other hand, are designed based on desktop versions of their products with enhanced cloud capability -- you’ll be able to use cloud versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook and more while still being able to work offline. More advanced integration with Microsoft’s cloud solutions like SharePoint, Dynamic CRM, and Azure are also available.

Security

G Suite leverages machine learning capabilities to detect suspicious logins and block most advanced types of spam. It automatically scans every email attachment before you download it to prevent the spread of viruses.

Office 365 utilizes Exchange Online Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), a new email filtering service that targets specific advanced threats like unknown malware and viruses in real time to protect against malicious URLs.

Email

While both Office 365 and G Suite offer a clean interface, the difference lies in the way emails are organized. Gmail lets you apply multiple labels to an email and offers 30GB of storage space across Gmail and Drive.

Office 365 uses classical folder structure to categorize emails and offers a 50-GB inbox in addition to 1-TB storage space. Unlimited storage is also available in its Enterprise E3 $20 per user per month plan.

Third-party integration

G Suite’s integration with CRM, productivity and customer service software gives you plenty of options. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about Office 365, as Microsoft hasn’t been adopting a developer integration approach when compared with Google.

Support

Both G Suite and Office 365 offer 24/7 phone and email support. However, G Suite also offers live chat support and forums to seek clarification, give feedback and request additional functionality.

To sum up, G Suite is a better solution if you need native integration with third-party apps and support for various operating systems and devices. Despite that, Office 365 makes sense if you prefer a number of options when it comes to your pricing plans or need integration with other Microsoft cloud solutions. No matter the solution, maximizing productivity is imperative to stay ahead of competitors. If you need help finding the right solutions to enhance efficiency, just give us a call; we’re happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Business
February 8th, 2017

2017February8_Hardware_BFrom smart thermostats to wearable devices, the Internet of Things (IoT) has reinvented the ways both businesses and individuals connect. Many IT experts have even labeled IoT as a “game changer,” and while we’re usually skeptical of this term when it comes to new technology, IoT devices can open up your business to a multitude of possibilities. Here are four of them.

Improved logistics With IoT sensors, supply chain management and order fulfillment processes improve markedly to meet customer demand. For example, sensors on delivery containers and trucks in transit give managers real-time status updates, allowing them to track their items and ensure they reach the right location at the right time.

Streamlined inventory IoT also presents automation opportunities for businesses that need to manage and replenish their stock. When data recorded from IoT devices are tied to your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, you can accurately monitor your inventory, analyze purchase and consumption rates of a particular product, and automatically reorder items when IoT sensors detect that supply is running low. This minimizes out-of-stock incidents and prevents excess stock build-up.

Fast payment Given how most payments are done electronically via point-of-sale systems or the internet, IoT has the potential to revolutionize the way businesses process transactions. We’re already seeing a few examples of this today as ApplePay not only allows users to purchase goods and services using smartphone applications, but through wearable technology as well.

Soon enough, IoT devices might even allow restaurants and retailers to register or charge their customers the moment they walk through the door.

Market insight Businesses that can somehow make sense of IoT-collected data will gain a competitive edge. Marketers, for example, can gather valuable insight into how their products are used and which demographic is utilizing them the most. This information can then inform future marketing efforts and give businesses more direction on how to improve their products and services for their customers.

Although businesses will certainly face many challenges in implementing the Internet of Things, those who manage to overcome them will reap all the benefits of this burgeoning technology.

Want to know if an IoT deployment is right for your business? Contact our certified IT consultants today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
February 3rd, 2017

2017February3_Virtualization_BDon’t worry, we’ll keep this one simple. Virtualization is confusing enough, and hyperconvergence is one of the newest solutions within the field, making it even harder to grasp. The quick and easy summary is this: Hypconvergence is about virtualizing the hardware and software components required to deploy and manage databases and virtualized desktop infrastructures. Not simple enough? No problem, all we’re covering today is the great benefits you can achieve with this solution.

Using a hyperconvergence model to structure your network is very representative of the current trends in small- and medium-sized business technology. It’s about making enterprise-level solutions more accessible to those looking for a smaller scale. So although a lot of these benefits sound like the same points we argue for other technologies, let’s take a look at how they are unique to hyperconvergence.

Software-centric computing

It may not sound huge at first, but by packing everything you need into a single box, and wrapping that box with a flexible and adaptable management software, you empower your hardware infrastructure to receive more regular patches and updates. This makes it much easier to add more hardware later, or restructure what you’re currently using.

Unified administration

Hyperconvergence consolidates a number of separate functions and services into one piece of technology. Whoever is managing your virtualization services can tweak storage, cloud, backup, and database settings and workloads from one place.

Streamlined upgrading

Different hyperconvergence “boxes” come in different sizes and capabilities. So all it takes to scale up is buying another unit based on your forecasted needs. If you’re in a place where all you need is a little extra, purchase a smaller upgrade. But when you’re expecting rapid growth, a bigger box will ensure your IT can expand with your business.

Stronger data protections

Complexity is the achilles heel of most networked IT. When a small group of people are trying to stay on top of a mounting pile of account management settings, malware definitions, and data storage settings, it’s hard to keep constantly probing cyber-attackers from finding a security hole. But with a hyperconvergence infrastructure, your virtual machines aren’t built by bridging a series of third-party services together -- it’s all one service.

Keep in mind that while hyperconvergence is simpler than most virtualization solutions, it’s not so simple as to be managed by in-house IT departments at more small- and medium-sized businesses. The benefit of a more unified virtualization solution when you already have a managed services provider is the speed at which your growth and evolution can be managed.

The better your technology, the faster we can make changes. And the faster we can accommodate your needs, the less downtime you experience. Call us today to find out more about a hyperconverged system.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 2nd, 2017

2017February2_Office_BMicrosoft announced that it will no longer offer new features for Office 2013 by the end of the month. So if companies want continued support from Microsoft, they’ll have to upgrade to the new version, and they’ll have to do it soon. Here’s a quick rundown about the tech giant’s announcement and what it could mean for your business.

Effective February 28, Office 2013 client applications and language packs will no longer be available from the Office 365 self-service portal and Admin Center. On top of that, Microsoft will no longer release feature updates for Office 2013 and will focus solely on upgrading the recent 2016 version. And because Office 2016 doesn’t support Microsoft Exchange Servers 2007 or earlier, you’ll need to upgrade your mail server as well.

The end-of-support changes apply to Office 365 Pro Plus, Small Business Premium, Business, Project Pro, and Visio Pro subscriptions. Although critical security updates for 2013 products extend to April 10, 2018, businesses should really consider making the move to Office 2016 to take advantage of the latest productivity features.

With Office 2016 versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, users can look up web information right from the document interface. What’s more, employees have access to advanced, collaborative features like Skype integrations, Office 365 Planner, and Delve.

If your business plans to migrate to Office 2016, don’t forget to consider the minimum system requirements:

  • 1 GHz processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 3 GB of available disk space
  • 1280 x 800 screen resolution
  • Windows 7 OS, or above
To make the transition process smoother, Microsoft is offering FastTrack migration, a service providing organizations with the tools to help them make the move from one Office version to another.

However, if you need more advice on moving to Office 2016, contact us today. We’ll make sure your Office 365 is always up-to-date.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic office
January 31st, 2017

img-window7-170px-op2Kicking off the three-year countdown to end extended user support, Microsoft is bringing an end to the Windows 7 era -- and for good reason. Because it’s so outdated, security patches are no longer able to keep it safe. Without a solid operating system, not only will users work at sluggish speeds, but they’ll also be susceptible to numerous cyber threats that could ruin their business.

Windows 7 was given extended support in 2015. And with that, Microsoft warned its users that this outdated version would drive up operating costs due to remediating software attacks that Windows 10 systems could otherwise avoid. The three-year countdown toward Windows 7’s twilight officially kicks off with a warning to enterprises that they could face hefty fines for sticking with the platform’s outdated security.

According to Markus Nitschke, head of Windows at Microsoft Germany: Windows 7 does not meet the requirements of modern technology, nor the high security requirements of IT departments. How would this make current Windows 7 users feel? Why are users choosing to remain faithful to the platform’s outdated security? Users can delay upgrades until January 13, 2020, after which extended support for the 2009 OS will end and it will no longer receive patches -- unless the customer is paying for a pricey Microsoft Custom Support Agreement.

Markus also added that “As early as in Windows XP, we saw that companies should take early steps to avoid future risks or costs." The message came as Microsoft published studies that showed Windows 10 Anniversary Update’s built-in security managed to neutralize zero-day exploits, even without patches needed to protect earlier versions of Windows.

Failing to upgrade to Windows 10 means that you and your networks will miss out on noteworthy security features such as the Windows Hello biometric login, the AppContainer sandboxing technology, and Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, which will gain new features after upcoming Creators Update.

On top of missing out on all the security features that Windows 10 has to offer, enterprise organizations on Windows 7 soon won’t have the additional zero-day protection that EMET, or the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit, offered since 2009. Last November, EMET’s expiration date was extended from January 2017 to July 31, 2018.

With the help of newer tools, migrating from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is considerably easier when compared with migrations from XP. Microsoft is still urging corporate users to make the shift before Microsoft permanently terminates support for Windows 7, stating that their business could be looking at real trouble if they fail to comply.

Business owners always do their best to ensure the future of their organization. That includes knowing which tech resources to rely on and which ones to avoid. If you still have questions about Windows 7, feel free to give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows