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December 24th, 2013

Still running Windows XP?

So, you’re still running Windows XP because it works, right? Well, you may be in for a big surprise come next spring. As of April 2014, Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP. After a good run of 13 years, they’re moving on and so should you. It was, no doubt, their most popular operating system. It certainly stuck around after Windows Vista was released but with the subsequent releases of Windows 7 and Windows 8, Microsoft is finally saying farewell and telling everyone that it’s time to upgrade after all these years.

So what does the end of support really mean to me? Well, on the surface, it means that no more patches and/or updates will be released for the platform. You may be thinking “So what? It works great for me”. Don’t fall into that trap because here’s where it may end up costing you by waiting. When Microsoft releases a patch for a security hole or exploit, the nefarious types out there download the patch, try very hard to reverse engineer the fix, and then write new code to attack the very hole the patch is meant to close. Now, if you download the patch, you’re generally safe. But now, as of April 2014, there won’t be a patch for Windows XP. The folks out there will be having a field day working on new software to take advantage of the newly vulnerable systems out there and they should have a field day. Additionally, as the number of users starts to finally decline, software vendors will stop supporting it as well. As of now, the antivirus vendors I checked are still releasing updates that include Windows XP but there’s no guarantee of future support.

So, what should you do? April is a lot closer than you think. It’s just over 100 days away as I write this so you may need a new sense of urgency. The biggest obstacle you may face will be some of the software you are running. If you haven’t updated it in years, it’s time to make that investment. You really need to get yourself moved to Windows 8 – and with Windows 8.1, we can give you the familiar desktop environment you know and love. Most hardware sold in the last few years is capable
of running it and if not, then it’s time for new hardware as well.

Because of this change from Microsoft, if you are currently on a CCaRe Service Plan and are running Windows XP, CCR will no longer be able to patch these systems. We will still provide routine maintenance, antivirus software, remote control, and other aspects of our managed services but there will an additional per machine fee of $25/mo. added for each Windows XP machine still under the plan as of April 1, 2014.

Now, Windows XP will still function after April. It won’t suddenly stop working but do you really want a system that everyone knows will not be patched? Are you willing to risk your business on it? If not, please contact us today to arrange a network assessment so we can work with you to plan your upgrades.

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
October 17th, 2012

Upgrades are fun. Putting new components into an aging computer, or getting a whole new computer brings almost a feeling of Zen: everything is working as it should be. Give it a few years and your once new machine is old, struggling to run new programs. It may seem like time to upgrade. Before you do however, you may be able to make your computer run faster.

Here’s six things you can do to speed up your Windows machine.

Reduce programs that start at startup Any programs added to startup will be opened upon booting up of the computer. Programs that are resource intensive will cause a computer to be sluggish upon startup, and during operation as they will be open in the background. It’s a good idea to keep programs that open at startup to a minimum.

You can check what programs start up when your computer boots by clicking on the Start button and in the search box - the white box just above the start button - type: msconfig. This will open a window that allows you to configure parts of the OS. Click the Startup tab to see what programs open upon startup. Each program has a tick box beside it which you can unselect to stop the program from opening at startup. Unless you know exactly what all the programs on the list do, don’t click Disable all, just disable the programs you know and don’t want to open.

Remove bloatware Bloatware is software that comes installed on the computer, usually with trial licenses, and is non-essential. This software is added by some vendors in an attempt to get a few extra dollars out of customers, and the more of it, the slower the computer will run. You can get rid of it through the Add/Remove or Programs and Features tools in the Control Panel. Again, if you’re not too sure what the program does, don’t uninstall it. Instead, contact your hardware vendor or IT for guidance.

Remove malware Malware is any unwanted program that is of a malicious nature e.g., viruses and spyware. These programs will cause computer performance to drop. It’s important to install anti-virus programs and regularly run scans to find and delete, and keep malicious software off your computer.

Do a memory test A computer’s memory, much like our own, fades over time, and will eventually ‘forget’ things. This is true for both the hard disk and Random Access Memory (RAM) - Both are forms of storage: Hard disks are for long-term storage, RAM is short term. With memory, RAM especially, prolonged use will cause it to be less effective, which means your computer will run programs  more slowly. Sometimes, adding RAM to a slow-running computer will be the ticket to making it run faster.

Upgrade to a solid state Solid State Disks (SSD) are hard disks that don’t have many moving parts. They store data in memory cells that can be accessed faster than traditional hard disk storage methods. Many new laptops have an SSD with Windows installed on it which makes them incredibly fast, often able to boot in under five seconds. Adding an SSD to your machine and using it to store essential programs and data could dramatically increase speed. It does come at a price though and current SSDs are more expensive than their older hard disk counterparts. This is rapidly changing however, and you can probably find a good deal on lower capacity SSDs.

Defrag your system If you don’t have an SSD, you could always defrag your hard disk. A new hard drive will store data in chunks that are located close to each other. As more data is placed on the disk, these chunks will move apart which means the computer has to access data located in different parts of the drive, taking it longer to access and thus slowing down your computer. Running a system defragmentation will push the parts back together for easier access.

You can, and should, run a disk defragmentation at least once a month, just be sure to do so when you won’t need your computer, as it could take a few hours. To schedule or conduct a defrag click on Start followed by Accessories, Systems Tools and Disk Defragmenter.

As computers get older, they will run slower. Luckily on Windows machines, you have options and tools that can help speed it up, or at least keep it at the current speed. If you have any questions about slow computers or would like to speed yours up, please contact us.

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
May 10th, 2012

The most widely used operating system is Microsoft’s Windows. It’s safe to say the OS is dominant in nearly every aspect of business. This year Microsoft is poised to add another system to the lineup with Windows 8. The OS will support a new layout and have many useful features for all users. This April, Microsoft announced which versions of Windows 8 will be available.

There are going to be four editions of Windows 8 available at launch:

  1. Windows 8. This edition offers all the features the majority of Windows users will need. It will be comparable to Windows 7 Home and Home Premium.
  2. Windows 8 Pro. Pro will have Windows 8 components, but also offers more advanced options that businesses and expert users will appreciate. Some of the extras include encryption, virtualization and PC management. Pro will be most useful in a business environment.
  3. Windows RT. This version of Windows 8 will come pre-installed on mobile devices and tablets with an ARM processor, which is used primarily in mobile technology. Many of Windows 8’s features will be available on RT, although some older Windows applications will not be compatible. If your company uses Windows tablets or smartphones, chances are you’ll use this OS.
  4. Windows 8 Enterprise. Enterprise is an enhanced version of Windows 8 Pro that will be specifically for businesses with Software Assurance agreements. Noted features include stronger virtualization tools, PC management and deployment, and advanced security. At this time there’s no further information on this version, but it looks like a good choice for IT companies.
There’s no official release date for Windows 8 at this time, but it’s expected sometime in the last quarter of this year. If you would like to know more about Windows 8, or any other Microsoft programs please contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
April 2nd, 2012

When we hear the word “Windows” many of us don’t think of the pieces of glass separating us from the outside world, we think of the Operating System. Windows has become the main OS for people and business alike, with many adopting or upgrading to Windows 7. As with all programs, there are times when it decides to take a short holiday and stops working, what do you do then?

It can be extremely frustrating when you are working on an important document, Windows 7 stops working and you’re forced to reboot. Before you restart your computer, here are three useful things to try.

Using the Resource Manager If your computer starts to act sluggish or slow, and is taking a long time to open a program or respond, it may be because it’s taking up a large amount of processing power, forcing other programs you have open or running to use less - this is commonly known as a “bottleneck”. To figure out where the bottlenecks are when your computer is slow is relatively easy:

  • Click Start and type: RESMON and select RESMON.exe. A window with all running programs and processes, graphs and tabs will pop up. This is called the Resource Manager.
  • Under the Overview tab, you will see a list of programs. Click Status and the programs will be ordered by their status, an easy way to quickly figure out what is working and what isn’t.
  • Once you have identified the bottlenecks, you can look for solutions using the Internet or contact the people responsible for your IT. It will make their job easier if you can tell them exactly what’s wrong.
If you want to find more information on why a program isn’t working, click the CPU tab, beside Overview. You will be presented with a dialog box similar to the task manager from XP. Select a program which isn’t responding, right-click on it and select Analyze Process. Windows will run an analysis and try to tell you why that program isn’t working. This goes a long way in figuring out what is happening, and also gives you more information if you have to call your IT team.

If you have a program that has completely stopped working:

  • Open the Resource Monitor; click start and type RESMON.
  • Click the CPU tab, and the program should be highlighted in red.
  • Right-click and press Analyze Wait Chain.
  • If there are more than two processes, the lowest one on the bottom is the process that isn’t working.
  • Click the box beside it and select End process. The program should re-open.
A word of warning on the Resource Monitor: don’t go stopping programs or processes just because they take up what looks like a lot of processing power. They could be essential to the operation of Windows, and if stopped you could make the problem worse. If in doubt, make a note of the program, search the Internet for more information, or ask your IT department for help.

Open Program in New Process If you are working on an important project and would prefer not to have it crash when another program does, you could start the program in a new process. This essentially creates another window in the same environment. If one crashes, it won’t affect the other. To open in another process, hold down Shift and right click on the program, and select Open in a new window. The downside to this is that it will consume more system resources, so your computer will run slower.

Record Your Steps One neat and underutilized feature is the Problem Steps Recorder. When activated it will record mouse movements and clicks, key presses, folders opened and even take screenshots. When the problem is solved, it will put them all the recordings into a file and email them to you. This is extremely useful if a problem keeps happening, and you have your IT team come in to help. To turn on the recorder:

  • Press Start and type in PSR, select PSR.exe
  • Press record.
If all else fails, and you can’t fix the problem, then you can try restarting the computer or calling IT. As ever, don’t forget to save your work often, and ensure your data is backed up regularly. If you would like to learn more about Windows 7, or other Microsoft products, please contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
February 29th, 2012

On February 29, 2012 Microsoft will launch a Customer Preview of its new Operating System, Windows 8. The Customer Preview, commonly called a Beta, is a pre-release product aimed to let Windows users test and learn the operating system before the release of the retail version, scheduled for late 2012. The OS has been driving lots of interest and businesses are eager to get their hands it. But the big question is, what features does it have that will help my business?

Windows To Go Windows To Go is a new feature aimed specifically at businesses. It will allow Windows 8 to be placed onto a USB drive and run from the USB on any computer with a USB port. This is great for Small Businesses as they will be able to save costs, and managers and employees will be able to use the OS anywhere.

No need to update your hardware It seems, to many businesses’ dismay, that whenever a new OS is released the hardware to run it needs to be upgraded. This can be costly, especially with the rate that new OSs are released. With Windows 8, users will not need to update their hardware if they have systems that can run Windows 7. This should bring about great cost savings to any business that wants to upgrade.

Cross Platform Integration with Mobile Phones and Tablets Windows 8 will run on tablets and phones, allowing for users to choose and use the system that works best for them. What this means is that Windows 8 on a tablet, phone, computer will look the same and be able to run or share the same programs, making cross platform integration easy.

Sync to the cloud Microsoft recently released their take on cloud integration, SkyDrive, which will work as a single drive for all Windows devices. Users will have all their files in one place and will be able to access them from any Windows device.

These features will be a great help for businesses, but businesses eager to join the Customer Preview should be aware that this Windows 8 will only be a beta and is not the finished product as such, there will be bugs and some software incompatibilities. If you would like to know upgrade, or know more about Windows 8 and other Microsoft programs please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows