Why you should be an Office Insider

February 18th, 2017

2017February17_Office_ATo deliver unparalleled service, Microsoft tests products and features months before they’re released to the public. One of the ways they do this is with the Office Insider program, a voluntary Office 365 subscription that gives participants a sneak peek into future Microsoft developments. It also provides several benefits to business owners willing to take a risk.

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 17th, 2017

Windows-170px-01Microsoft has announced that it will bring back free Windows 10 upgrades, but on one condition: Only small- and medium-sized businesses that have previously passed on the offer are eligible. So if you or someone you know has declined Microsoft’s previous proposition, here are some reasons you might want to reconsider.

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 16th, 2017

2017February15_Security_AThere has been a movement among technology providers to promise “proactive” cyber security consulting. Small- and medium-sized businesses love the idea of preventing cyber-attacks and data breaches before they happen, and service providers would much rather brainstorm safeguards than troubleshoot time-sensitive downtime events. But it’s not always clear what proactive cyber-security means, so let’s take a minute to go over it.

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 11th, 2017

2017February10_Business_AGoogle and Microsoft have both set impressive milestones in the tech industry. These industry giants continually roll out innovative solutions that simplify the lives of users around the world, especially with G Suite and Office 365. This raises a question: Which is a better option for your business?

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 10th, 2017

2017February9_WebandCloud_ABack when Internet Explorer was competing against Netscape, users had far fewer things to consider. Nowadays, some users do nearly all their work inside of a web browser, and they have far more options about which program to use. If you’ve ever questioned whether there might be a better way to browse the web, we’ve got your answers right here.

Google Chrome

By just about any metric, Google Chrome has been the browser of choice for most internet users over the last couple years. It’s easy to use and its graphics interface has a low profile. However, if you want to customize Chrome with extensions and apps, there are more than enough options. The bottom line is: this is the best browser for users who spend a lot of time in G-Suite documents, or want the security benefits of frequent patches and updates.

Apple Safari

We might as well start off with the one, glaring drawback of Safari: It’s available only to Apple users. However, if you are working on a macOS or iOS device, Safari has a lot going for it. Ad blocking is built right into the browser, as well as RSS support for aggregating lots of information in one place. And because tabs can be automatically synced across all your Apple devices, we highly recommend Safari for anyone in a Mac environment.

Microsoft Edge

Note that Edge is a different browser than Internet Explorer. The latter still exists, but we’ve decided to skip it for various reasons. Although Edge works only on Windows 10 systems, it has two things going for it. First, Microsoft has announced a feature that will incorporate virtualization into Edge to quarantine downloads for testing before they’re opened on your computer. Second, the Windows 10 browser comes with some fantastic Office 365 integrations. We highly recommend Edge for users working in a business enterprise environment.

Opera

We’ve saved the most controversial for last. The Opera browser isn’t one of the most popular browsers available, but it does deserve consideration. Although it requires more customization and under-the-hood-work than its competitors, its privacy settings are unmatched. With a built-in virtual private network feature and some of the most robust ad blocking on the market, Opera is a great way to take a break from cookies and targeted advertisements.

Choosing a web browser may seem like such an inconsequential thing, but just think about the rate of cloud adoption. If you plan on utilizing more software-as-a-service solutions in the coming years, one tiny feature in a browser could make all the difference. Contact us today about planning your cloud deployment over the coming years.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web & Cloud
February 9th, 2017

2017February8_Hardware_AIn the near future, the Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to usher in an era of connectivity and efficiency on a global scale. Many small- and medium-sized companies, however, assume IoT has no application to their business. To dispel those false assumptions, we’ve compiled a list of four ways your business can benefit from using IoT devices.

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 8th, 2017

2017February7_Android_AThanks to Google, the apps on your Android phone that you wish you could use on a larger device might finally find their way to a bigger platform. Even though Android apps are designed for a mobile platform, the apps are also available for the Google Chrome OS-powered Chromebooks. Does this mean Android is taking over the more established players in laptop apps? Not necessarily, but they’re taking the first steps in turning that into reality.

Simplicity, functionality, variety

Chromebooks are marketed as no-frills computers that bank on their simplicity, functionality, and security. By giving Chromebooks access to Google Play, the search engine giant’s application store, users can access thousands of apps, including Skype, and manage Office files more seamlessly.

Certain types of Chromebooks are now able to install Android apps, but they are few. The good news is that 2017 Chromebook models from manufacturers such as Acer, Asus, Dell, H&P, and Lenovo are included in the list of Chromebooks that will work well with Android. If this move proves successful, other operating systems, especially Windows, may struggle to find a way to keep up.

Benefits of a Chromebook-Android combination

The most obvious benefit would be the increased number of options for Chromebook users. While Chromebooks have their own set of useful Google apps, having the capability to download Android apps is a substantial enhancement. For instance, users can now download and use Skype on their Chromebook.

As Chromebooks welcome Google Play in its environment, they usher in more capacity without increasing the prices. Manufacturers such as Lenovo and Acer have Chromebook models that are competitively priced at just under $300.

A caveat for those looking to switch to Chromebook

If you’re thinking of switching to Chromebooks to get the most of Google apps, there are a few things you should remember. Since Android apps are designed for touchscreen devices, it might be a bit of a letdown for users of Chromebooks that have no such feature. Android will definitely adjust the specifications of Chromebooks apps, but non-touchscreen Chromebook users won’t enjoy the same benefits that users of the new models have. Moreover, not all Android apps may be fully optimized for laptop (or Chromebooks), although the masterminds behind this merger will certainly make the necessary tweaks soon after the initial verdict comes in.

Is it time to buy a Chromebook?

If you’re a Google apps power user, Chromebooks are a good way to go. They’re sleek, functional, and adaptable. But don’t ditch your current laptops or Macs just yet. The integration is yet to be finalized, so the Android-powered Chromebooks may well be “unfinished products” at this stage.

There’s always a good reason to assess the computers your business uses. Your system’s speed, functionality, and security dwindle over time and upgrades or replacements may be necessary. If you need dependable recommendations on computers that are best for your office, get in touch with us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic android
February 7th, 2017

2017February6_SocialMedia_ASince it’s inception in 2010, Instagram has come a long way from just double-tapping. The photo-sharing application recently announced its plan to experiment with video ads via Instagram Stories. Give your small- or medium-sized business a competitive edge by understanding and utilizing Instagram Stories.

Jim Squares, director of product marketing, said in an interview with Fortune that “a two or three-week test period” will be carried out before releasing it to all its active advertisers. Let’s face it, the similarities between Instagram Stories and Snapchat ads are undeniable. But with Snapchat ads, they work mainly with larger brands and keep ads as unobtrusive as possible. If you want to collaborate with big boys like Netflix or Coca-Cola, you’re looking at a budget bigger than what you might have. By contrast, Instagram ads are self-serving and employ auction-based pricing.

When it comes to setting up and paying for video ads inside Stories, it’s a pretty straightforward process, much like Facebook advertising. Not only do you have the ability to target your audience, but the benefits of working with demographic and Internet-based targeting capabilities definitely give Instagram a competitive advantage. On top of this, users can expect more goodies when the format officially takes off. For the time being, Stories seems to be a simple yet efficient way to test out advertising placement.

Instagram also announced that analytics from Stories will also be included in the Business Tools dashboard, sharing basic insights including reach and impressions -- with a good chance of more analytics to be seen in the future. It’s estimated that up to 71 percent of US businesses will begin to market on Instagram in 2017, and these efforts will not go unnoticed since 75 percent of users initiate some sort of action after seeing a post.

It took Instagram quite a while before it rolled out any type of advertising or introduced any kind of business feature. When it finally did, however, they didn’t beat around the bush in monetizing the platform. Yet, several months after Stories’ initial launch, Instagram is already making plans to leverage its power.

That’s because Stories represents a stellar opportunity at getting back at its biggest rival -- Snapchat -- while simultaneously providing an immersive advertising experience. Because Stories take up the entire mobile screen, so will the ads. Sponsored Stories isn’t exclusive to just images; videos are an optional format for both advertisers and consumers alike. Meaning that full-screen multimedia truly makes it both an interactive and engaging experience. There won’t be a difference in engagement between organic and Sponsored stories; both enable viewers to like, comment and share.

It might not be the traditional once-upon-a-time kind of story, but Instagram’s latest feature is poised to bring happy endings to many -- if utilized properly, of course. If you are still uncertain or would like to ask further questions, feel free to give us a call. Allow us to partner with your business, so you can #succeed that much quicker.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
February 4th, 2017

2017February3_Virtualization_AIf you thought virtualization was confusing, wait until you hear about hyperconvergence. By consolidating a number of virtualization services into a single piece of hardware, that runs a single piece of software, small- and medium-sized businesses can enjoy the simplicity, cost effectiveness, and security of a cloud infrastructure, in one on-site “box.” If you love everything about cloud computing and virtualization, a hyperconverged infrastructure should be the newest tool in your toolbox.

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 3rd, 2017

2017February2_Office_ATo make sure enterprises get the most out of their Office 365 package, Microsoft announced it will no longer support Office 2013 by the end of February. Instead, the tech giant will push enterprises to upgrade to Office 2016. If your business is still using the 2013 version, here are some things you need to know right away.

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