New Features in Office 365

Microsoft’s Office 365 platform isn’t one of the most popular productivity suites in the world by luck. The company’s expertise in creating functional, innovative, and easy-to-use business applications has won over thousands of users for decades even before the cloud. Today, Microsoft strives to remain ahead of the competition by rolling out new upgrades every quarter. So what does Office 365’s update have in store for you this quarter? Read on and find out.

Word

This quarter, Office 365’s upgrade will focus on cloud-powered intelligent services, designed to maximize productivity while saving time. And Office 365’s upgrade wouldn’t be an upgrade if there were nothing new in Word, the business application that put Microsoft on the map. To that end, Word is getting two new features called Researcher and Editor. As you may have guessed, Researcher is designed to help you find reliable sources of information by using Bing’s Knowledge Graph to help search and then cite sources in your Word document. In the future, Researcher’s body of reference materials will also include sources such as national science and health centers, well-known encyclopedias, and more. The feature will be available on mobile devices too.

Now that you have Researcher to help you start your paper, you can count on Editor to help you finish it. This new feature builds on the existing spellchecker and thesaurus, and in addition to the wavy red line under a misspelled word and wavy blue line under bad grammar, Editor uses a gold line for suggestions on how to improve your writing.

PowerPoint

Currently, when making a presentation, you’re forced to use the 1-2-3-4 linear method of showing your slides. The problem is that you can’t change your presentation order as needed without having to exit PowerPoint’s slideshow mode, and let’s face it, sometimes you do make mistakes and need to go back or move to a different slide. But thanks to PowerPoint’s new feature, Zoom, you can now present your slides in any order you want at any time without a hiccup.

Outlook

The time has come for Office 365’s Outlook to get the Focused Inbox which has been available for iOS and Android for some time now. If you’re not familiar with Focused Inbox, the feature separates your inbox into two tabs: Focused tab which includes emails that matter most to you and the “Other” tab for everything else. This makes it easy to identify email that needs your attention so you never miss anything important.

Not only that, but as you move email in or out of the Focused tab, Outlook learns from your behavior and adjusts to your priorities. You can also flag someone by typing the @ symbol in the body of the email and pick whoever you wish to flag. This will automatically highlight that person’s email and their email address will be added to the To: line. If you are mentioned, the @ symbol will show up in Outlook so you can quickly find all email where you are mentioned.

For now, Microsoft hasn’t set a release schedule for these new features, but according to Kirk Koenigsbauer, Corporate Vice President for the Office team, you can expect to use them soon enough! And as always, if you would like to find out how you can make the most out of Office 365 or Microsoft Office, contact us at 800-421-7151 and we’ll be happy to help.

Paper: Dropbox’s Cloud Collaboration Tool

As various aspects of our lives move into the cloud – from photos to what’s in our refrigerator – there’s an ever-increasing number of vendors to choose from. Founded in 2007, Dropbox was one of the earliest companies to popularize the term ‘cloud storage’ and since then they’ve mostly focused on perfecting that business model. That looks like it’s about to change, and Dropbox’s newest service, Paper, aims to break into the cloud document creation and collaboration market. Read for a breakdown of all its advertised features and functions.

First announced one year ago, Paper promised to be an elegant and straightforward tool that focuses on the minute details. The average user hasn’t had much to go on since then as Dropbox kept everything under the shroud of a closed beta, but that’s no longer the case. With the release of iOS and Android apps, the mobile and desktop versions of Paper are moving into the open beta stage.

What sets Dropbox’s service apart is how it liberates users from the constraints of document file types. Whereas other services force you to classify what you’re making, Paper is a completely blank canvas that provides the tools to create a document outside the boundaries of presentations, memos, and spreadsheets. Think of it more along the lines of creating a website, with photos, text, video and even HTML code all working together through an intuitive snap-in user interface.

In addition to fundamentally shifting how we think about document creation, those at Dropbox want us to take a closer look at how we collaborate with each other. Live chats, comments and document notifications bring a depth of communication that Paper’s competitors would be hard- pressed to match. And although they’ve been kept intentionally clean and toned down, all these features are now available as push notifications for mobile devices in an attempt to keep everyone in the loop, 24/7.

Ultimately, what makes Paper a worthwhile consideration is its overarching philosophy and goals. Dropbox doesn’t want a segmented platform where teams need to jump between different windows and services; they want to create a virtual meeting room with a fully functional whiteboard where everyone can create, store, and collaborate on documents simultaneously.

It’s easy to get lost in the echo-chamber of big-name technology solutions. Professional advisors recommend the services and solutions they know customers will recognize and trust, while end users just don’t have the time to research all the available options. Fortunately for you, we believe being on the cutting edge of new technology means thinking outside the box and acting as the authority on oft-neglected third options. When you’re in the market for a new IT solution, call us at 800-421-7151; the team with more suggestions than the first two hits on Google.

2016’s Best CRM Software Options

What are the components of a good CRM software? Must it fit into your budget? Should it be easily navigable? Or must it have a simple interface? All the aforementioned qualities are vital, but none of them are important if they don’t meet all your business’s unique needs.The more pressing question is this: how would you know? The truth is, sometimes you don’t. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of this year’s top-tier CRM software options for your consideration:

Since every business differs in terms of size, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to CRM. Thus, varying corporate sizes require unique CRM software that best addresses requirements. We’ll be taking a look at ideal CRM software options for the following categories: businesses in general, very small businesses, and ones that are free.

Best CRM Software for Small Businesses: Salesforce

Salesforce has long been considered one of the top-tier CRM solutions, mainly due to its cloud-based nature coupled with full-featured capabilities that cater to businesses of every size. Typically, Salesforce is synonymous with larger enterprises, but that doesn’t mean small- and medium-sized businesses are denied the same perks. Enter Salesforce’s small business edition: with it, SMBs can utilize the robust set of CRM tools at an affordable rate.

Salesforce Small Business Solutions offer packages that are tailor-made for small businesses. With it you’ll be able to fully utilize all that Salesforce has to offer. In order for your company to really thrive, your CRM should be equipped with features such as lead generation, contact and opportunity management, sales forecasting, workflow automation, as well as collaborative tools – all of which can be found in Salesforce. Also, the software is cloud-based, meaning that you can access data and files anywhere at anytime via mobile devices.

Best CRM Software for Very Small Businesses: Insightly

Underneath its simple and navigable façade lies a CRM software that is abundant with capabilities, all of which fit the bill for microbusinesses. Aside from the fact that it has the vital components small businesses really look for in CRM software, it’s also highly scalable to accommodate the growth of your company. Furthermore, Insightly is currently one of the more affordable CRM solutions on the market; there’s even a free version if you wish to test the waters. There are also paid plans available at a fraction of the price when compared with other CRM software solutions.

Even with the free version or paid plans that start at $12, Insightly doesn’t compromise utility with affordability. It comes equipped with all the vital CRM capabilities any microbusiness would need. This includes detailed sales reports, opportunity, contact, and project management as well. It’s also scalable to meet the needs of your business as it grows. To top it all off, it’s a cloud-based CRM software allowing you to access data anywhere at anytime via Internet-enabled mobile devices.

Best Free CRM Software: Zoho CRM

Not having to pay for Zoho doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t deliver the necessary capabilities required from CRM software. Zoho CRM provides your business with all the core functions it needs. Moreover, it allows you to onboard up to ten users for free. Courtesy of Zoho CRM’s mobile app, you’ll be able be access data regardless of time or location. Here are some of the other features that the free version of Zoho CRM has to offer:

360-View – all the vital information is stored and displayed, allowing you to make the best business decisions. This includes contacts, sale cycles, pipelines, and discover trends. It also helps you identify opportunities.

Automation – spend less time dealing with mundane tasks by automating tasks such as lead generation, contact management, calendars and even call logs.

Collaboration – Zoho CRM doubles as a social media platform integrating with Twitter and Facebook to link contacts to their social media accounts. This allows you to see their updates as well as the interactions you’ve had on social media right from your dashboard.

Analytics – you can track sales as well as measure both business and employee performance via a range of reporting capabilities.

Security – with Zoho CRM, you are given full control over who can do what with the software. Besides creating individual user profiles, you can assign roles and even restrict access.

Unlike farms, the main component to a company’s growth isn’t fertilizer and sunshine. Instead, it’s competent CRM software that allows your business to reach its full potential. If you have any questions on customer relationship management software, feel free to get in touch with us at 800-421-7151 or via email: alopp@wamsinc.com. We’re more than happy to not only provide answers but also be part of your success.

Citrix’s XenApp Gets a Cloud Boost from Azure

Microsoft’s Azure and Citrix’s XenApp have done a lot to move virtualization services into the mainstream over the years. So, with the announcement that the two companies will work together to combine their platforms into a new cloud-based application delivery system, it’s understandable why there is so much excitement within the industry. Let’s dig deeper into this new service and what it means for your business.

What Citrix’s XenApp already does is deliver applications to users via a variety of methods and pathways other than local installations. The process starts with the creation of server-stored software containers that allow the services an application provides to be delivered to your staff members from a centralized server. XenApp enables you to set rules and procedures for when and how these features can be accessed, and it creates a multitude of versions of the software that can be delivered to different operating systems, devices, and locations.

In a press release back in May, Citrix made a bombshell announcement that it would create cloud-based versions of all its virtualization packages using Microsoft’s Azure as the foundation. While the two companies have been closely aligned for decades, this is an enormous boost to both their reputations. Fast forward to today, and we’re seeing the first rays of sunshine from this new team-up.

And much more than simply lending Citrix the foundation, Microsoft will be directly involved in the development and release of the new cloud-based version of XenApp. The two companies have promised to work together to combine the simplicity and scalability of Azure with the administration and performance improvements of XenApp, thereby creating the most comprehensive software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider on the market.

Because Microsoft’s RemoteApp already acts as an Azure SaaS platform, the potential for conflict means it will be wound down to its eventual sunset in August 2017. But fear not; for faithful users of this service, Microsoft has promised a clear transition plan to reduce the possibility of growing pains.

Cloud-based XenApp is just the first of many improved services to be born out of the partnership between these two titans of tech. Rumors are swirling that XenDesktop will get the same treatment and a release won’t be far behind. Regardless, the tech industry is moving ahead with the virtualization of everything it can get its hands on, and it’s time to jump on the bandwagon. When you’re ready to make the leap, our experts are ready to pull you aboard. Contact us today at (800) 421-7151 for answers to all of your virtualization questions.

Office and OneDrive Get iPhone Updates

When most people think of the iPhone, an Excel spreadsheet isn’t exactly the first thing that springs to mind. Whether it was the smartphone’s form factor or a general aversion to working from a mobile device, most of us had no reason to search out iOS versions of Microsoft’s legendary productivity software. Nowadays, screens have more space, and working outside office hours has become commonplace. Along with these developments, Office apps have been steadily getting better, and the most recent update is another pleasant surprise – let’s take a look.

Create OneDrive Documents from Your iPhone

Previous to the most recent update, iPhone users were forced to create documents in the native Office app, save them, and upload them to OneDrive to enjoy cloud storage. Otherwise, only preexisting documents were visible in the OneDrive app. This scope was extremely limited compared with what the software could accomplish in other mediums, which added several annoying steps.

By updating OneDrive on your iPhone, the simple addition of one button eliminates all those unnecessary steps. Proudly displaying itself in the upper-right-hand corner, tapping the ‘+’ provides you with a list of options for creating a new document. A word of warning – when you select the type of document you want to create, it will still need to open the corresponding application (Word, Excel, or PowerPoint), so make sure those are already installed on your iPhone. But once open, there is no need to upload it manually; the document has already been created and saved in your OneDrive.

Drawing for Office Documents

The updates covered here actually take place in two separate applications, and the second is within the Office for iPhone app itself. Let’s say you’re on the way to a meeting while reviewing a spreadsheet on a mobile device written by a colleague. You want to highlight an oddly shaped dataset and make a note on it for the presentation, but the only way to accomplish this is by changing the colors of the cell and typing the note in an adjacent cell. Sure, it works, but it ain’t pretty.

Similar to the function that already exists on iPad and Windows tablets, the iPhone now comes with a ‘Draw’ tab to add to a document as if you were writing on top of a physical using a pen or highlighter. Start by popping over to the Edit menu, click on Home, and finally Draw. From there, you have the option to select either a pen or a highlighter for the desired effect – and you’re all ready to add a handwritten touch to the document!

The iPhone has proven time and again to be one of the best options for a workplace mobile device. However, appropriating it as such comes with a number of concerns regarding configuration, security, and efficiency. If you’re looking for help with these, or other new and exciting ways to beef up your iPhone productivity, call us today at 800-421-7151 – we’ll have you fixed up faster than you can handwrite ‘Sign me up!’

Office 365’s E-appointment App: Bookings

We all undeniably have hectic schedules, and they’re made even worse with unorganized meetings, impromptu playdates, and unscheduled yoga classes you were forced to attend. In order to move or cancel appointments, you’d generally have to pick up the phone and call someone, which can be a drag. But with Bookings, you can schedule appointments both for work and for play, and effortlessly manage them to ensure that you utilize your time efficiently. In case one isn’t enough, here are four more reasons to give it a go:

Visibility

Bid adieu to the days of scribbling on post-its and frantically going through your schedule to find out where you’re heading for lunch. Microsoft Bookings provides you with a unique webpage that is compatible on both desktops and mobile devices. Here, customers can select times and dates based on current availability — simply enter contact information and then book it! The system fully automates the process of managing your appointments.
No more rain checks

Microsoft believes that “Businesses can avoid last-minute cancellations by controlling how much advanced notice is required to make a cancellation.” That’s why immediately after making the appointment, a confirmation email is sent to the customer along with a reminder email before the appointment time. The web page also offers a rescheduling service;simply click on the link on the confirmation email and pick a time that you’re more comfortable with.

Synchronization

Once completed, the booking is then synced to a centralized calendar where businesses are given the option to reschedule, cancel or re-assign the appointment to other staff members as they see fit. If you do decide to re-assign it to staff members, Bookings offers a nifty feature known as “split view.” This shows which staff members are booked at which times, and you can compare everyone’s schedules side-by-side. The appointments are synced not only to your calendar, but to the staff members’ calendars as well. Moreover, this versatile system accommodates Office 365, Outlook.com, and even Google Calendar, so users can keep whatever calendaring service they prefer.

Double Duty

Appointment-setting might be the primary goal of Bookings, but the system can also be utilized to build a company’s customer list. Once customers input their information into the system, it automatically creates contact entries for those customers. The contact card contains personal information such as name, address, phone number, and email addresses. As companies grow, they can add more staff members as well as create additional booking pages for free. Furthermore, staff members aren’t required to have Office 365 subscriptions to be a part of the service.

Efficient tech resources aren’t enough to maintain a successful business anymore; in order to really stand out from competitors, comprehensive appointment management is required. Feel free to give us a call at 800-421-7151 if you need any questions answered or issues addressed. We’re more than happy to help.

The Keyboard Checklist for 2016

What part of your computer can be more hands-on than the keyboard? No pun intended. A keyboards is like a lover; you spend time with it, you caress it, and you fight with it. After kissing and making up time and again, it still types at a snail’s pace, and executing simple keyboard commands becomes virtually impossible. If the greatest act of loving someone else is to let go, then love yourself by letting go of your old keyboard and factoring in these four considerations when looking for a new one.

Connectivity

If the internet and computer mouse possess wireless capabilities, why should your keyboard be any different? This is debatable, depending on what exactly you use the keyboard for. Keyboards are normally plug-and-play devices that don’t require additional software installation (excluding certain gaming models); wired models draw power from the USB,eliminating the use of batteries altogether. Gamers tend to prefer wired over wireless because they won’t have to deal with lag and interference issues.
Looking to declutter? Wireless is the way to go. With wireless keyboards, data is transmitted to your PC via one of two primary means: either through an RF connection to a USB receiver or via Bluetooth. They might have their pros and cons, but they significantly reduce the number of cables on your desk while allowing you more flexibility to work — lie down on the couch and type from across the room. Also, most wireless keyboards connect to the PC via a 2.4-GHz wireless dongle that are also used for cordless phones and Wi-Fi internet. Providing connectivity to multiple devices at once.

Type of Key Switches

This aspect of keyboard design is widely mentioned in reviews, yet many people overlook the importance of the type of switches used for individual keys. Although the intricate mechanisms that hide beneath the keys might not excite you, the difference you feel from each type will. The three main types of key switches include silicone dome, scissor switches, and mechanical switches. For example, keyboards that come with a new desktop PC generally use silicone-dome switches, whereby two dimpled layers of silicone membrane form a grid of rubber bubbles that acts as the switch for each key. This type also requires you to press the key right to the bottom in order for a letter to be typed, gradually diminishing its springiness and responsiveness over time.

Why have the newer laptops and ultrabooks ditched silicone domes for scissor switches instead? Scissor switches add a mechanical stabilizer that provides uniformity. Moreover, under each keycap is a plunger that allows for shorter key travel. This causes scissor-switch keyboards to have a shallow typing feel with enhanced durability when compared with silicone dome switches.

What keyboard enthusiasts can’t get enough of are the mechanical switch keyboards. Their intricacy lies in the spring-loaded sliding keypost beneath each key. Several variations are available, and each provides slightly different sensations or sounds. Mechanical switches generally provide enhanced tactile feedback, having more of the “clickety-clack” sound. Thanks to the sturdy switch mechanisms and durable springs, they last longer and are also easily repairable. Furthermore, each keystroke registers shorter travel, making them ideal for touch typists.

Ergonomics

In order to keep carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress injury at bay, keyboards are designed to allow your hands to remain in a neutral position while typing. Not only do ergonomic keyboards provide greater comfort, they also reduce joint and tendon stress, sparing you from relentless inflammation as well as pricey surgical procedures. Ergonomic features range from simple padded wrist-rests to elaborate curved and sloped keyboards.
Standard vs. Gaming Usage

Keyboard usage isn’t limited only to typing. That’s why gaming keyboards are designed for competitive usage, which allows for maximum specialization and control. Some are even customized to fit specific styles of game play, considering exact standards of durability as well as responsiveness. Others may also incorporate pulsing backlight and vibrant color schemes that cater to the gamer aesthetic. Certain premium models utilize high-grade mechanical key switches, sculpted keycaps, and numerous customizable features such as programmable macro commands and tweakable backlight intensity. Gaming keyboards are also equipped with the anti-ghosting feature that allows multiple keystrokes to be registered simultaneously — something regular keyboards can’t do. Other goodies range from pass-through USB ports to audio connections on the keyboard. This simplifies the process of connecting peripherals to a desktop PC.

It won’t hurt to take some time to see if your current keyboard is delivering. Do not settle for anything but the best. If you need any help or have questions regarding the intricacies of finding the right keyboard, don’t hesitate to email us at alopp@wamsinc.com or drop us a line at 800-421-7151. We’re more than happy to help.

Network Virtualization: Why You Should Care

As difficult as virtualization may be to understand, it continues to march toward widespread adoption. Up until now, the service was mostly limited to making hardware and software resources better allocated based on needs. However, corporate bigwigs AT&T and Verizon are jumping into the game by adding the option to virtualize network services. We’ve broken down the key elements of this service to help you decide whether your firm could benefit from it.

The overarching theme of virtualization is combining hardware and software resources into one large, communal pool where individual servers and workstations can pull as much as they need, rather than allocating them inefficient individual puddles that either go dry, or unused. In a workstation model, this is realized in the form of minimally equipped endpoints that access much more powerful software and hardware resource pools via web browser.

When it comes to network virtualization, it’s quite similar to virtual private networks, or VPNs. Developments in cloud and software functionalities allow administrators to eliminate time-consuming and micromanaged VPNs while achieving the same swift and secure connections between servers, workstations, and other network-enabled devices residing in physically separate networks. VPNs are like pumps between each of your network ‘puddles,’ individual pieces that require individual maintenance. Network virtualization is like installing one pump with on/off switches on each outbound pipe.

This means that setting up a VPN for the addition of a satellite office is as simple as inputting a few simple pieces of information to gain a world of seemingly local network possibilities. In another example, rather than recabling your office when one department becomes too cumbersome to fit on one switch or hub, connections and protocols can be expanded and redefined by a software client.

With the increasing popularity of any service with the word ‘virtualized’ in it, telecom carriers Verizon and AT&T have begun offering this service to clients. Whether it’s because your business has a growing list of locations, or because your local network needs the flexibility to grow swiftly without waiting for costly hardware and software expansions, these services have you covered.

Both Verizon and AT&T will offer three ways to manage your virtualized network: locally, from the cloud, or a hybrid combination of the two. Once you’ve decided on a framework and deployment strategy, make sure to take time with the transition. Established networks are complex and messy ordeals, and it’s better to start migrating those puddles over time rather than all at once. Instead, move them one-by-one so any problems that arise can also be dealt with one-by-one.

Although consumer-level companies like AT&T and Verizon are offering this service, not just anyone can hop on and start getting the most out of a virtualized network. It takes expert configuration, deployment, and most importantly maintenance. With 24/7 coverage of your network, we eat, sleep, and breathe cutting-edge technology. Call us today at 800-421-7151, and we’ll bring your firm into the age of virtualization.

Six Windows 10 Problems and How to Fix Them

Although Windows 10 comes with many exciting new features, accompanying them are complaints from the users: from shrinking storage space to the absence of the System Restore function. But fret not, we have listed the solutions for the most frequent Windows 10 problems.

1. Decreased Storage Space

You might not be aware that after the upgrade to Windows 10, the old version of Windows isn’t deleted but is kept in the C:/ drive by the name of windows.old, which eats up a huge chunk of your disk space. Microsoft makes it this way just in case you change your mind and want to go back to your previous version. However, if you’re sure you want to permanently delete it, just follow these steps:

Click the Windows Start button and search for the Disk Cleanup app by typing cleanup. The drive selection box will appear, choose the drive your OS is installed on (the default drive is C:/drive), then wait for Windows to scan your system. Afterward, a box will pop up.

At this point, the system might present you with a list of files to delete, but if that’s not visible, select theClean up system files option on the bottom left of the window. Windows will then present you with another box with the option to delete Previous Windows Installation(s). Tick the option and click OK, then click Delete Files to confirm your decision.

2. Updates That Don’t Work

First off, check if you’ve upgraded to the Windows 10 Fall update. If the problems still occur, download and run the Windows Update Troubleshooter, then restart the system and try to update again.

If that still doesn’t work, check that System Restore is configured (see number 3 below) and create a restore point. Type Window+X and select Command Prompt (Admin), type net stop wuauserv and hit Enter, then type net stop bits and Enter. Then open Explorer, go to C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution and delete its contents including any sub-folders. Restart your PC, open Windows Update, and click Check for updates.

3. System Restore Isn’t Enabled

In Windows 10, the System Restore isn’t enabled by default. To turn it on, go to the Start Menu and search for Create a restore point. The System Properties box will appear. From there, choose the system drive and click the Configure button, then select Turn on system protection. Use the slider to set an appropriate amount of maximum disk space (about 5GB should be enough). Note that the update to Windows 10 version 10586 turns this off again so make sure to turn it back on after you update.

4. Privacy Violations

Windows 10 faces a lot of criticism over its data-sharing defaults. We recommend you review them from time to time. To change the privacy settings, go to the Start Menu and go to Settings, open the app and select Privacy. At this point, you’ll see on the left-hand side a list of data such as your computer’s camera, microphone, account information and so on. Turn off the ones that you don’t want Windows to have access to.

If you use Windows Defender, click the back arrow, select Update & Security, then select Windows Defender, see if you’re ok with the default setting that enables Cloud-based detection and Automatic sample submission.

Another privacy issue is Window Wi-Fi Sense, which is initially designed to get you connected to wireless networks more quickly. But if you’re not comfortable with the idea of sharing your network’s wireless credentials among devices you can’t control, you can go to Start > Settings > Network & Internet, then click Manage Wi-Fi settings in the right of the window, tick all of the boxes under For networks I select, share them with my to disable Wi-Fi sense.

5. Windows 10 Uses Up All the 4G Data

Windows 10 uses your internet bandwidth in the background. Follow these steps to stop it from consuming all your cellular data without you knowing: go to Settings and then Network & Internet, select Wi-Fi and then Advanced Options, turn on Set as metered connection. Note that this tip won’t work if your PC connects to the internet via Ethernet.

6. There’s No DVD Player App

Strangely, Windows 10 was launched without a DVD player app, which means you can’t watch films on your PC. However, if you upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, Windows 7 Ultimate, Windows 8 with Windows Media Center or Windows 8.1 with Windows Media Center, you’ll find a late released DVD app from Microsoft in Window Store for free download. But if you’re not one of the lucky users mentioned above, we recommend you to download VLC Media Player instead. It’s free!

We hope these 6 fixes will help smoothen your experience with Windows 10. But while there are some issues you can cover by yourself, others are more complicated and would better be handled by IT experts. Call Our staff is here to eliminate your Windows 10 headaches.

Are You Betting The Farm Your Backups Are Safe?

It’s only natural that when you hear of a disaster you think it couldn’t happen to you.

That’s why, even though we’re told constantly that we should diligently maintain a working backup recovery system because all our company’s data could be lost in an instant, we tend to brush off the advice.

Yet disasters do happen when you least expect them, and they can happen to anyone. So to illustrate the importance of staying on top of your data recovery system, here are three tales of “data gone wrong.” After all, there’s nothing quite like a good horror story to inspire action!

Toy Story 2: Gone!

One morning in 1998, the animators at Pixar Studios working on Toy Story 2 noticed that Woody’s hat started disappearing. Then his boots… Then all of Woody – gone! Other characters started disappearing too.

A rogue command in their system had started wiping out data. No problem, the team thought, as they pulled out the backups. Unfortunately, the backups were bad and only had data from 10 months ago.

Luckily, one of the project leaders who’d just had a baby had recently asked to have a copy of the film installed at her house. So they drove to her house and escorted her computer back to the studios “like an Egyptian Pharoah.” And as we now know, Toy Story 2 was saved.

Moral: It’s not enough to simply run backups. You need to periodically check to make sure the data is actually getting backed up and nothing is corrupted.

46,000 Insurance Customer Records: Lost!

In 2010, Zurich Insurance announced it had lost a backup tape containing confidential data from 46,000 customer records as it was being transferred from one site to another. To make matters worse, it was later revealed that it took a full year for their headquarters to learn that the tape was missing.

While there was no evidence that the data had fallen into the wrong hands, it was not encrypted and therefore easily accessible by anyone in possession of the tape. The company was slapped with a £2.3 million fine from the British Financial Services Authority.

Moral: If your backups are physical, make sure they’re transported and stored securely in a location away from your computer. And regardless of whether your backups are physical or in the cloud or both, make sure they are encrypted with high-level security.

Why MegaPetCo Closed Their Doors

The fast-growing set of chain stores MegaPetCo had refused to upgrade their IT system to one that could handle their needs. One day a systems developer accidentally programmed a query that wiped out their entire database. All of a sudden, operations ground to a halt; from sales to payroll to purchasing and reporting, everything had been tied into that one database. And no backup.

They tried to sue their ISP, but between recommendations to upgrade and failure to do so, the lawsuit was dropped. Three months later, MegaPetCo filed for bankruptcy.

Moral: Backups may seem like a low priority, or even an unnecessary expense. Yet surely there is data that if lost would cost your company dearly. And when you compare the cost of replacement to the relatively minor expense of keeping good backups, the choice is clear.

Two New Tools for Defeating Ransomware

A simple Google search of “ransomware” returns just over 9 million results. So, too, does a search for “Three Mile Island,” the location of the late-70’s Pennsylvania nuclear meltdown. And while we don’t mean to equate the near catastrophe of the latter to having your company’s data hijacked by computer hackers, ransomware can in many cases end in disaster for your business.

The way in which these nefarious operators commandeer your information and deny you access usually involves some fairly sophisticated technology. The ransomware they install on your system is essentially a virus that “locks up” your data, and it can’t be unlocked unless you pay them for the keys.

Some of these data-encrypting viruses are strong, such as the CryptXXX strain. It has been infecting businesses for the past few months, and its latest mutation can’t be quelled by decryption programs found for free on the internet.

Two relatively new types of ransomware aren’t quite as virulent as CryptXXX, but we’d like to bring you up-to-date on them nonetheless. Here’s a look at what they’re called, what they do, and how you can defeat them should your business be impacted.

PowerWare

The first of these recent ransomware varieties is called PowerWare, which also goes by the name PoshCoder. It imitates a more complex ransomware program called Locky, although with less effectiveness.

This spring, PowerWare was discovered attacking healthcare organizations through Windows PowerShell, a scripting application used for systems administration. Fortunately, programmers at hi-tech security firm Palo Alto Researchers were able to quickly create a decryption tool named “powerware_decrypt.py” that unlocks ransomed data with relative ease.

Implementing the fix, however, does call for a bit of technical know-how, so if your IT department is experienced in this area it shouldn’t be a problem. The code that can cure you from PowerWare is published online and is free.

BART

The second new ransomware breed that we should address is called BART. Instead of employing intricate information-encrypting algorithms to take command of your data, BART will stash away your files inside password-protected ZIP folders… and you have to pay for the password.

These infections aren’t hard to identify as the imprisoned files will appear with “.bart.zip” added to their original name (for example, “spreadsheet.xlsx.bart.zip”). Thankfully, not only are they easy to detect, but for antivirus firm AVG, they are easy to decode.

Applying the remedy that AVG has produced requires an unaffected copy of one of the files that’s been locked up. And if you can’t locate one somewhere on your network, a good IT services firm will be able to. The BART decryption tool is also available online at no cost.

The fact is, there are some shady, technologically savvy characters out there who are willing to do us harm. Keeping them at bay takes vigilance. So if your business doesn’t have the resources to stay safe and secure from threats like ransomware – or, in the event that you’ve been hit, you’re not sure how to recover your data without paying the ransom – call us today at 800-421-7151 to talk things over.

Secret Upgraded Functions for Firefox

In today’s modern day and age, the term “upgrade” has become associated with everything from hotel rooms to web browsers. It usually implies “better,” and who wouldn’t want that? After returning from a brief break, the web browser debuted its arsenal of upgraded functions – 8 to be exact – that helps make every browsing session more effortless and efficient. Here they are:

Firefox Hello

Introducing Firefox’s very own chat client complete with video chat functionalities. Access this bad boy by clicking on the smiley face on the top-right corner. Google Hangouts users should get the hang of it in no time – no software download necessary. Technically, you don’t even have to be on Firefox to use Hello; just be sure you’re on WebRTC-supported browsers like Chrome or Opera.

Firefox’s Secret Interface

Catering to the more tech-savvy users, Firefox’s secret interface gives you a peek behind the curtain into the world of coding. This helps you make adjustments to improve browser performance. Don’t have too much fun, though – exercise caution at all times!

Customize your Control Panel

Choose which items you want to see, and maybe even discover new ones you might have never known about! Decorate your control panel all you like! Click on the hamburger in the top-right corner and then click Customize at the bottom. Drag and drop desired items into the “Additional Tools and Features” window, and presto!

Assess Browser Health

Firefox’s Health Reports compiles data on user behavior and overall performance to provide you with comparisons and meaningful tips. Also, the aggregated data reveals various ways to improve your browsing experience. This personalized report consists of figures on browsing data, time spent browsing, and crashes, as well as how long it takes to open a new tab (measured in milliseconds, of course).

The Master Password

‘One can never be too safe’ is the mentality you should have every time you log on. Enter the master password. This acts like a key that unlocks all your vital passwords and information that could be detrimental if left exposed. Create your own by going to the Menu button > Options > Security tab. Then check the box next to “Use a master password” and follow the directions in the pop-up window.

Customize Your Own Shortcuts

If Mozilla’s current shortcuts take too long to master, consider your problem solved. With the help of the Customizable Shortcuts extension, you have the luxury to design your very own shortcut sequences. No more confusion; no more time wasted.

URL Auto-Complete

To spare you the fuss of entering prefixes or suffixes, Firefox lets the new URL auto-complete feature do the work for you. For example, type in “wordpress” in the address bar followed by Ctrl + Enter (Mac: Command + Enter) and voila! Firefox fills in the www and the .com parts. Other variations include “Wordpress” followed by Control + Shift + Enter (Mac: Command + Shift + Enter) for .org sites. For any dot-net sites, you would type the URL followed by Shift + Enter.

Firefox Share

If you haven’t noticed the tiny paper plane icon in the top left corner, then say hello to the new Firefox share button. This enables you to share whatever you want to a multitude of social media accounts. Make sure you’re logged into the accounts you want to send to, and spread the word with a single click. Manage accounts by heading to the Add-ons manager > services.

Improving browser usage is key to acquiring a competitive edge – a vital component to rising above the rest and achieving success. If you have any questions or are uncertain about any Firefox upgrades, feel free to give us a call at 800-421-7151. We are more than happy to help.

What’s All the Buzz About Data?

If an IT consultant told you that backing up data is one of the most important things for your technical team to do well, you’d probably nod in agreement. But what if they suggested that your dirty data requires cleaning prior to utilization? One simple adjective like “dirty” may give you pause, and there’s a handful of other terms about “data” that you may not recognize either.

Data is the lifeblood of the information age. It gets observed, collected, organized, and analyzed, and it allows businesses to compete for profit and prosperity. It takes many forms, each one unique and often vividly-named by the addition of a simple descriptive word.

As such, we thought a short glossary was in order to help keep you current on a handful of new data buzzwords and how they might impact your business.

Small Data

If “big data” is about powerful machines, huge databases, and sophisticated analytics, its little brother “small data” is about people. Small data takes a scaled-down approach to data mining that relies on things like social media to acquire important information. Archiving it is also simpler since a complex central data warehouse isn’t necessary.

Slow Data

The notion of “slow data” may seem a bit counterintuitive since processing ones and zeroes means things are happening fast. Some information, however, is actually acquired more slowly. Take, for example, the polar ice caps, where things literally move at a glacial pace. Since this kind of data doesn’t require frequent analysis it is suitable for back-up in its native format in a secure data lake.

Fast Data

We’re guessing you knew this buzzword was coming next, and it’s probably exactly what you thought it would be. “Fast data” refers to data events that happen fast – as in thousands of times per second – such as financial tickers or electrical sensors. Being able to act on it without delay is critical, so storing it immediately in a stable, easy to access location is a must.

Dark Data

Put simply, “dark data” is nothing more than day-to-day operational data that’s not getting used. It often refers to unanalyzed information in the form of customer call records, competitors’ price fluctuations, or website visitor trends. It can also include data that’s no longer accessible, such as when a storage device becomes obsolete. Your business can bring some of this redundant, out-of-date, or hidden data into the light with software designed to tidy things up.

Dirty Data

Speaking of tidying, here we finally have “dirty data.” While not quite as provocative as, say, dirty dancing or a dirty martini, it does have a tendency to arouse anxiety. But it’s actually not harmful to your data warehouse; it merely refers to a data set prior to its being “cleaned,” such as a leads list that contains duplicates, spelling mistakes, or formatting errors. The key is ensuring it gets spruced up before moving it into production.

If this index of buzzwords has left you wondering about the ways that different types of information affect your specific business, we’ve got answers. Setting up and managing your databases, super-secure backup strategies, and a thorough understanding of information technology are what we provide, so call us at 800-421-7151 or message us today!

Amazon’s New Tool for Swift Data Migrations

Virtualization is as complicated as it is beneficial to firms. The concept alone can take time to fully grasp and making it a reality at your company is even more difficult. However, Amazon Web Services needs to make the service as easy as possible if they expect to retain customers and increase their bottom line. In an effort to make database migrations straightforward and economical, they’ve released a new tool to take care of all the headaches associated with moving your network to a virtualized environment.

As a quick review, virtualization is best imagined by visualizing your server as a house. When a user draws computing power from your server, it’s a lot like opening the front door and just telling anyone to come in and grab whatever they need. The house gets crowded and messy quickly. Virtualization allows you to create doorways into partitioned rooms, with specifications and permissions unique to the user or application that needs them.

Much like the house in our analogy, the hardware and upkeep of servers can become quite expensive. By taking virtualization one step further, Amazon Web Services (AWS) has created the equivalent of a gigantic apartment building, online. When renting these internet-based apartments, your firm is presented with virtualized versions of your server and desktops. You realize huge cost savings by eliminating upfront capital expenditures on hardware, and the rooms and their contents can be modified and adapted with little more than a simple request to AWS.

So you’re ready to migrate your server and clients to a virtualized environment, but after hiring experts you’re informed they will need days — possibly weeks — of server downtime to move your data from on-site storage to AWS. This service interruption has long been a massive speed bump in cloud migration projects. With Amazon’s Data Migration Service (DMS), that server downtime can be reduced to as little as 10-15 minutes.

This significantly reduced downtime is achieved by keeping your database live during the migration process. The final product can be stored in one of AWS’s several regional datacenters, or even copied back to your on-site server for concerns about redundancy and continuity.

Another speed bump along the road to your new virtualized home is moving from one database schema to another. Imagine the front door of your original, one-bedroom house is shaped like a triangle. But your destination, the AWS home, has a front door in the shape of a circle — how will you get your data into its new home? Amazon’s DMS has added a new tool to take care of all of that for you. This means it doesn’t matter if you have an Oracle or MySQL on-site server; Amazon can almost effortlessly convert it to a new schema.

With such a valuable tool, AWS must be charging a fortune to utilize it, right? Wrong. Amazon promises DMS migrations will cost as little as three dollars per terabyte. Even if your business is hosting above average amounts of data on-site, that’s still a price tag any cash-strapped SMB can afford.

Just because there’s a new tool for the migration, doesn’t mean you should attempt buying a new home for your server and driving it across town alone. Think of us as your virtualization real estate agent and movers, all wrapped into one. For an inexpensive, swift migration to a virtualized environment, we’ve got just the place for you. Contact us today.