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Upgrading from XP-your choices

Windows_May06_CMicrosoft has seen many important milestones, and back in April the tech giant celebrated yet another with the cessation of support of possibly the most popular operating system ever – Windows XP. If your business is still using systems with XP installed, it might be a good idea to upgrade. A common problem to face then though is selecting which new system you should upgrade too.

Should I actually upgrade?

There have been a number of articles in the news focusing on whether XP is really worth upgrading from, especially since some of the major governments still use XP. Elements of the UK, Dutch, and even US governments still use XP on a large percentage of computers and are not really looking to upgrade. Instead they are looking into paying Microsoft to keep up support.

In fact, one news report noted that the UK government paid Microsoft USD 9.1 million for further support of public sector systems running XP. News like this could give business owners the notion that If the governments are sticking with XP, that means they can too.

However, the vast majority of businesses likely don’t have the money in their budget to warrant continued coverage from Microsoft, if that option were available. The other point is, Microsoft probably won’t agree to this continued support either because they are likely more interested in businesses upgrading instead. What this equates to is the fact that, ignore it or not, your business is going to need to upgrade.

What are my upgrade options?

If your systems are still running Windows XP you have a number of upgrade options available to you. Here are four:

1. Windows 7

Windows 7 is by now the most popular version of Microsoft, and is in fact the closest system to XP. Because of this, it’s the preferred choice for business owners and managers. It is also ideal because the hardware requirements are generally lower, so businesses running older computers will likely be able to run Windows 7 without the need for costly upgrades. Another positive is that Microsoft has said they will continue support until 2020, the knock-on with this is that software developers will also continue to develop programs that support this version.

The issue with Windows 7 is that any new computers purchased from stores will likely come preinstalled with Windows 8, so it will take an extra step or two to downgrade new systems. Luckily, an IT partner, like us, can help with this.

2. Windows 8

Windows 8 is the newest version of Windows and represents a bit of a departure from the traditional layout of Windows XP and 7. With a new, modern tile based layout, it can be tough for some users to get used to the new system. While the more traditional desktop is still there, it’s not the OS of choice for many businesses.

That being said, Microsoft has moved to a more regular update stream, with changes and features being updated and changed on a near yearly basis. This could go a long way in helping employees get more out of the OS and even increase overall productivity.

The biggest advantage of Windows 8 is that it is generally easier to find and implement. This is because almost all new PCs will come with it installed, especially when you buy computers from large retailers.

In order to get the most out of Windows 8 however, you may need to upgrade your hardware because it may not be able to run the OS effectively. If you plan to replace all of your hardware, than Windows 8 may be the most viable solution.

3. Linux

Linux is an open source operating system that has numerous versions, like Ubuntu, that are almost all free. One of the biggest advantages of these systems is that they are more secure than Windows – largely because they don’t support the same file extensions (.exe) as Windows.

Linux is a good option for users whose needs veer toward the simple side, or who would prefer not to upgrade hardware – Linux can be installed on almost any system. If you really only just use email or your browser, these systems could be a viable option. That being said, there are limitations to this system. The first is that there aren’t as many programs available. So, if you have a specific program that was built for your business it may not work with Linux.

The second disadvantage is that the systems are generally harder to operate and maintain than Windows. When using in business, or migrating, you will likely need the help of an IT team or partner who can not only help you navigate the numerous versions of Linux but also carry out the migration and maintenance of your systems.

4. Mac

Another option that is quickly becoming popular with many smaller businesses is to move to Apple’s Mac computers. Macs offer a generally stable and secure platform that is also easy to use.

The main downside of migrating to Macs is that you are going to have to buy new computers, as OS X, the operating system used by Macs, requires specific hardware. Another downside is that while the popular software programs like Microsoft Office are available for Mac, you will need to purchase the Mac version. Other programs may not be available. or supported by this system, so it is advisable to consult with an IT partner like us before migrating.

If you are still using Windows XP, you should look to develop a migration plan as soon as possible. We can help you with this by getting to know your needs, budget, and existing systems and then recommending a new system that will best meet your needs. Contact us today to get started.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
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Working on tasks that you hate

Productivity_Apr28_CIt’s easy to get things done if you love what you’re doing. Sadly, life and business just isn’t always full of tasks you love doing. In any company there are times when, like it or not, you will have to work on jobs that you flat out hate. And few of us are in a position where we can constantly delegate task that are not to our tastes. The best way conquer this situation is to change your mindset to take the tedium out of boring activities.

Alternate what you love and hate doing

Finding motivation when placed in a difficult or dull situation can be tough. But, it’s going to feel even more arduous if lack of motivation leads to a poor result and you’re forced to do the job again.

So what do you do when you’re in this situation? Simple. You incorporate the tasks that you do enjoy doing into the cycle.

This balances good and bad experiences so you are not constantly employed for long periods doing hateful tasks. Compared to a situation where you are repeatedly being pounded with tasks that you don’t like, this is way better.

Create a schedule for unwanted tasks

Goal setting and scheduling will allow you to mentally prepare for unpleasant tasks and see beyond them. If you’ve got a plan to get through your tasks and have something to look forward to, they won’t seem so onerous.

Create a timeline of milestones to be accomplished. Evaluate your performance and accomplishments on a daily basis. Try your best not to procrastinate and always adhere to what you have initially planned. Delay merely means more annoying moments for you in the future. Be half-hearted about it or veer off-plan and you might have to redo a project because the quality of your work failed to meet expected standards.

Look at the bigger picture

Your perception has a great influence on your mindset. Instead of focusing on how tiresome and uninteresting an assignment is, you could try getting inspiration from focusing on the possible positive outcome. This might be recognition at work, monetary gains or increased productivity and business success.

Take baby steps

If you feel you have tried everything and yet stress and boredom keep growing with certain aspects of your time at work then it’s time to take a step back and reinvent. Forcing yourself to do something you dislike will merely increase the pressure that’s already keeping you from obtaining good results.

Break the job into smaller tasks. Set realistic goals every hour. You’ll be surprised at how taking baby steps can help you get things done – even monumental tasks that started out seeming impossible.

Take a break

Working on a job that you don’t enjoy is exhausting. It can be mentally draining and you might feel as if to achieve certain tasks you really are pushing until the last drop of your energy has run out. You might benefit from recharging from time to time. Take a break and listen to your favorite music. Relax and revitalize your nerves and muscles.

Reward yourself

Celebrate little victories. Whenever you accomplish a goal or target, no matter how big or small, reward yourself. Think of ways you could treat yourself, whether it be a grand gesture such as a weekend away or a meal out, or even a night at the movies. Find a reward that’s worth looking forward to.

It’s also worthwhile asking for help from your colleagues and team at work. If you feel that tasks are insurmountable or you know you will struggle to complete them by yourself then reach out to attract the skillsets and interests of those around you. And after you’ve achieved what you set out to do you can reap the benefits of greater productivity.

Another option is to contact us to see how our services can help allow you to focus on running your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
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Ways to improve password security

Security_Apr28_CAs everyone knows, we use passwords to prevent anyone getting access to our personal accounts and gadgets. But, with ever-growing numbers of hackers determined to grab our data, people need to be extra vigilant. These cyber criminals are using sophisticated technology to steal information whenever there is a slight hint of opportunity. So don’t give them a chance. Your passwords are your first defence. Use these tips to stay safer online.

Observe proper web security

With the rapid advancements in technology comes sophistication of methodologies used by hackers to steal data and destroy web security. Cyber crime is continuously evolving as new programs are made to unlock accounts and combine numbers, letters and special characters to determine passwords. The big question for internet users is – how to choose a strong password that can drive hackers away?

Passwords should have at least eight characters. It is highly recommended that you use a combination of uppercase, lowercase and special characters. “P@s$w0Rd45%” is a thousand times better than “Password1”. Veer away from using passwords that are found in dictionaries. Furthermore, avoid using your name, a family member’s name, phone number, birth date, social security number or any public information. Hackers have found a way to crack passwords with the aid of the many databases out there.

To create even more secure passwords, try using a password that is a full sentence, with random words. For example “I am a purple donkey” (with the spaces) will take a long time to crack, which means it’s more secure then even the examples above.

Keep malware off your system

Malware are malicious programs that have been crafted in such a way that they appear authentic and trustworthy. Be careful not to click on pop-ups and links that will redirect you to that place where your security walls are torn down. And do not open email attachments from anonymous users. Mechanisms are often embedded in these programs to gain control of your system.

Get professional help by installing security software from a trusted name in the industry. Build your defences as early as possible. Remember the cliché – better to be be safe than sorry – and nowhere is this more true than in computer system and web security.

Keep your passwords private

While this may seem to be a no-brainer, sadly, a lot of people still tend to share their passwords with their office mates or friends. If you’re one of them, then it’s high time that you change your habits and your password again. Think like James Bond -passwords are for your eyes only.

In the event that you need to give your password to a co-worker to get an important document or presentation, make sure that you change them as soon as possible. Never use the same combination again.

Change password regularly

It also helps if you schedule a regular password change. Within a period of 30 to 60 days, you should update passwords across multiple sites. Moreover, never use the same passwords for different websites. If you use the same passwords, you are putting all of your accounts at a high level risk. Hackers are relentless. Once is never enough for them and they can come back time after time.

It’s an unsafe online world out there. These online troublemakers will never be satisfied. So never let yourself or your organization fall prey to hackers. Take note of these safety measures and strengthen your web security arsenal.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
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Gmail’s Undo Send feature

GoogleApps_May06_CGmail continuously add exciting features that you often can’t find with other email hosts. Have you heard about the Undo Send feature? It gives a short time delay in email delivery which gives you some time to rethink and retrieve less than perfect emails. The steps on how to achieve this are outlined in this article.

In this modern day and age, we all lean towards anything that gets the job done faster; like email as opposed to snail mail. Email is a widely-used form of business correspondence which explains why most email hosts are continuously adding exciting features like chat, theme customization, file sharing, and even the ability to unsend or recall emails. We all hate that moment when the Send button suddenly becomes a magic portal for instantly spotting typos and mistakes we may have overlooked or errors that we never thought were there in the first place.

It is extremely important to practice business email etiquette because these messages represent you and your business, and the recipient can form an opinion of you from a single email. We all want to give the impression of credibility and not send the wrong information or message. Gmail gives users a second chance with the easy to setup Undo Send feature.

The Undo Send feature gives the sender a chance to retrieve or recall an erroneous email at an allotted duration. The default duration is 10 seconds but you may choose to customize it up to 30 seconds. An undo link appears after hitting the Send button so if you forgot to include an attachment, notice an error, or simply change your mind about sending an email, you can click the link and the email won’t be sent until you prompt it to.

How do I set up the Undo Send feature?

Sign in to your Gmail account.
Click the gear icon. The gear icon is the pinwheel-like icon found in the upper right corner of your Inbox.
Select Settings followed by Labs.
Scroll down to the Undo Send feature.
Click the Enable button to activate the feature.
Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Save Changes.
You should now see an Undo link at the top of your Inbox every time you hit the Send button. Clicking the Undo link will reopen the compose window so that you can edit or delete your message.
How do I customize the duration of the Undo Send feature?

Click the gear icon in the upper right corner of your Inbox.
Click on Settings.
Select General from the top row of options.
Look for the Undo Send section.
Click the drop down box, you may select 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds.
Don’t forget to scroll down and click Save Changes.
Now, you’re all set!
It pays to always review any form of correspondence before hitting the Send button. You may find it easier if you get into the habit of reading through your message and also having a checklist in place for every email. Ask yourself what you want to communicate and whether you have included this information. Then:
Check that you have included all the relevant information and no extra details that are not necessary.
Double-check the recipient fields such as whether you have the correct address and whether you need to CC anyone else.
Check the subject line matches the message and,
Finally, check that you have added any attachments.
The ability to compose an error-free, well-worded email is fast-becoming a valuable business asset and the Undo Send feature gives you precious extra seconds to retrieve a potentially disastrous email. Never underestimate the power of a single second as it could save you from messing up a business deal with your suppliers and customers. If you need more than 30 seconds or wish to schedule email delivery at a later date, we may be able to help with a solution, so get in touch to find out more.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Do you audit your security?

Security_Mar17_CAny business that employs technology in any aspect will eventually begin to worry about how secure their systems are. In order to ensure security, many companies implement a security strategy. While these strategies are a great way to ensure the security of your business systems and data, there is one element that many business owners forget: The audit.

Auditing and the security security strategy

Auditing your company’s security is important, the only problem business owners run across is where and what they should be auditing. The easiest way to do this is to first look at the common elements of developing security strategies.

These elements are: assess, assign, audit. When you develop a plan, or work with an IT partner to develop one, you follow the three steps above, and it may be obvious at the end. In truth however, you should be auditing at each stage of the plan. That means you first need to know what goes on in each stage.

During the assessment phase you or your IT partner will need to look at the existing security you have in place. This includes on every computer and server and also focuses on who has access to what, and what programs are being used. Doing an assessment should give you an overview of how secure your business currently is, along with any weak points that need to be improved.

The assignment phase looks at actually carrying out the changes you identified in the assessment phase. This could include adding improved security measures, deleting unused programs or even updating systems for improved security. The main goal in this phase is to ensure that your systems and networks are secure.

Auditing happens after the changes have been made and aims to ensure that your systems are actually secure and have been implemented properly. Throughout the process you will actually need to continually audit and adjust your strategy.

What exactly should be audited?

When conducting an audit, there are three factors you should focus on:

  1. The state of your security - Changing or introducing a security plan usually begins with an audit of sorts. In order to do this however, you need to know about how your security has changed in between audits. Tracking this state and how it changed in between audits allows you to more efficiently audit how your system is working now and to also implement changes easier. If you don’t know how the state of your security has changed in between audits, you could risk implementing ineffective security measures or leaving older solutions open to risk.
  2. The changes made - Auditing the state of your security is important, but you should also be auditing the changes made to your systems. For example, if a new program is installed, or a new firewall is implemented, you will need to audit how well it is working before you can deem your security plan to be fully implemented. Basically, you are looking for any changes made to your system that could influence security while you are implementing a new system. If by auditing at this point, you find that security has been compromised, you will need to go back to the first step and assess why before moving forward.
  3. Who has access to what - There is a good chance that every system you have will not need to be accessed by every employee. It would be a good idea that once a security solution is in place, that you audit who has access to what systems and how often they use them. This stage of the process needs to be proactive and constantly carried out. if you find that access changes or system access needs change, it would be a good idea to adapt your the security strategy; starting with the first stage.

If you are looking for help developing a security strategy for your business, contact us today to see how our managed solutions can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

 

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