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Windows 10 Update – Should you update now?

Recently Microsoft has stepped up its messaging for the free Windows 10 update. Almost every day you will get a Microsoft pop up message inviting you install Windows 10 and suggesting a date for this to commence. So while Microsoft are keen to for you to schedule your Windows 10 download, is it going to be in your best interests to complete the update?

Since the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft has offered a free upgrade to Windows 10 for Windows 7, 8 & 8.1 users, this offer is set to close at the end of July 2016. No indication has yet been made by Microsoft of extending this offer.

First released in July 2015 the Windows 10 operating system is now on over 300 million devices worldwide and by most reports is an improvement on Windows 7 & 8 in both speed & functionality.

So if you choose to do the Windows 10 down what do you expect:

  • The upgrade will take a significant amount of time usually 30 minutes to 1 hour, however this will depend on the internet connection you use.
  • The upgrade will use around 3GB of data so make sure you have sufficient data allowance to download.
  • It is recommended not to use a wireless broadband connection, as quite few have found themselves stuck mid download after losing a connection or racking up huge mobile data bills.
  • Once installed the opening desktop screen will look completely different to the traditional Windows (pre Windows 8) desktop, dominated by icons and tiles, but don’t panic the underlying system logic remains fairly much the same.
  • Within a few days most users are navigating the Windows 10 system as they always have, you just need to be patient.
  • Windows 10 works seamlessly with Office 2016 and Office 365
  • Just remember to take a backup before you embark on the Windows 10 update journey for your own piece of mind.

Are You Currently Using Windows 8 or 8.1?

For many users that are currently on Windows 8 or Windows 8.1, the new Windows 10 has the same look and feel but has improvements that make it faster & more featured. One of the main focuses of Windows 10 was to address the many complaints that were lodged about some of the downfalls of Windows 8. However, there are still issues that you need to consider.

If you are considering upgrading your PC or laptop from Windows 8, you will likely be thrilled with the changes and again should take advantage of the free offer. If you are a business that is considering upgrading from Windows 8, you will want to consult with a technology professional about the impact this type of change will have your business.

Are You Currently Using Windows 7?

Microsoft intends to keep Windows 7 on extended support until at least 2020, so there is no requirement that you change anything at this time. So you have a choice to stay where you are, or take on a free version of the new look operating system. If you are perfectly happy with your system today, then you can wait to move to the new operating system when you naturally upgrade your hardware.

Are You Using an Old Operating System or Software?

If you have a device that is currently using an operating system that was released before Windows 7, like Windows XP or Vista, you will have to pay for the upgrade. However, if you are still using a device with one of these older operating systems you need to consider an immediate upgrade to at least Windows 7, as your system is likely no longer secure. If you are using an older OS such as Windows XP you need to understand this is no longer supported by Microsoft and you are at considerable risk of malware & viruses.

You also need to be aware that older printers and applications may not be compatible with the newer operating systems. Therefore, if you are using older peripheral equipment or an older piece of software that you cannot live without, you will want to do some research on what your options are before you choose to upgrade.

In Summary

The Windows 10 update is now a proven product, though not perfect, & those with Window 8 & 8.1 should take the free Windows 10 upgrade while it is available.

Those with Windows 7 should consider the change in look and feel before they upgrade – thankfully Microsoft has made downgrading back to Windows 7 relatively easy.

Those with older operating systems are confronted with the need to update regardless as XP & Vista become unsupported and over time more vulnerable to attack.

Computer Troubleshooters can provide Windows 10 update help or if you experience an issue with a Windows 10 download we can support you to make it work correctly. Or if you simply are wary of doing the Windows 10 update yourself we can complete the download & setup for you. Call your local Computer Troubleshooters today for Windows 10 support & advice.

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Tech Support:  7 Deadly Signs You Should Never Ignore

We have all done it, we all ignore some very blatant signs that something is wrong with our computers deferring the call for tech support.  We will let it go or find a workaround to push off having to deal with the problem as long as possible. Unfortunately, that often means we put it off until something really bad occurs and we are thrust into a very costly or even devastating situation.

To avoid the risk of a serious emergency for your business, watch for these signs indicating your technology may be in need of professional tech support:

  • Regular pop up messages;
    • This often includes critical issue like renewing your security software or installing important updates for your operating system or applications, if they not being completed you are vulnerable to security attacks.
  • One or more systems are running unusually slow;
    • This can be a sign of hardware starting to fail or software corruption.
  • Your system regularly freezes up and forces a reboot for no apparent reason;
    • You may have a hard drive on the brink of complete failure and the potential for loss of important data if not addressed immediately.
  • You face the “Blue screen of Death” or a blank black screen;
    • This generally happens with older systems, when disk sectors are failing they can often have difficulty loading the operating system, while it may work when you reboot it is a sign that all is not right and a future catastrophic disk failure maybe round the corner.
  • An application closes without warning;
    • When a business application closes without warning it could mean you don’t have the latest version of the application or that your operating system is not compatible with the version you are using.
  • Your system is making noises;
    • Like any electronic device, computers need to be properly maintained and regularly cleaned. Any unusual noise should be looked at right away and can be as simple as a dirty fan or as critical as a failing hard drive.
  • Blinking or flashing screens;
    • If you experience screen resets in the middle of using applications it may mean your video card or graphics chip is failing and is a clear warning sign that it will fail permanently in the future.

Computers and software are likely one of the most expensive and important assets in your office.  Your business cannot run without them.  It is critical that you make sure that they are properly maintained and that problems are addressed quickly by a professional tech support.

If any of the seven deadly situations listed above sound like your business or home, you need to call your local Computer Troubleshooter professional tech support right away.  They will come to your office and work with you to assess the problems and determine the proper course of action that meet your needs and budget.  Remember, even small issues can be a sign of a much bigger problem, so don’t put it off!

 

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Microsoft Internet Explorer Update

Microsoft Internet Explorer has been at the heart of the Windows Operating system as the default browser on most computers since the rise of the internet. With 11 versions since it made its debut on August 16, 1995 it has evolved with the internet.

Microsoft are keen to migrate everyone to the latest version of Internet Explorer 11 and have announced as at mid-January 2016 they will only push security updates and bug fixes to Internet Explorer 11 users currently running Windows 7, 8.1 and 10.

Those utilizing legacy versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (8, 9, & 10) could be exposing themselves to malware and cyber-attacks that not only demolish your computer, but can lead to a slew of other hazards like identity theft.

To ensure security and an agile browsing experience, Microsoft highly recommends that users upgrade to Internet Explorer 11.

 

What’s new with Microsoft Internet Explorer 11?

If you are currently running on a legacy version of the popular web browser and are uncertain as to why you should upgrade, here’s what you can look forward to in Internet Explorer 11.

  • Elite web browsing. Even if network speeds are slow, new support enables Internet Explorer 11 preview to have the fastest browsing ever. It also allows network requests to be formulated so information is received at lightning speeds.

  • Streamlined navigation.
    Updates to how information is gathered helps search results feel instant.
  • 2D and 3D capabilities. For gaming and other interactive content, Internet Explorer 11 is equipped with the latest Web Graphics Library standards. Internet Explorer 11 also maintains superior security, dependability, and performance.
  • Excellent for all screens. No matter the size of the monitor or tablet you have, Internet Explorer 11 supports gyroscope input and display orientation lock. For the extra large screens, Internet Explorer 11 also has side-by-side browsing, multi-monitor support, and high pixels per inch (PPI) scaling.
  • Superior compatibility. Internet Explorer 11 enhances compatibility with web standards, and real-time websites. Support has been fully integrated for popular web standards and improvements that forbid older websites from displaying incorrectly.
  • Impenetrable Security. Internet Explorer 11 raised the bar on security to defend you, and your devices. Previous versions blocked 85% of malware, but IE 11 now has a 99% block rate.

 

What are the alternatives to Microsoft Internet Explorer?

On March 17, 2015, Microsoft announced that Microsoft Edge will replace Internet Explorer as the default browser on its Windows 10 devices and will work in tandem with Office 365 products. This effectively makes Internet Explorer 11 the last release, so maybe you might like to try something new & choose other browser providers as your default browser, here are a few alternative you might consider;

  • Google Chrome is a freeware web browser developed by Google. It is estimated that Google Chrome has a 58% worldwide usage share of web browsers as a desktop browser. It is also the most popular browser for smartphones, and combined across all platforms at about 45%. It can easily be loaded onto Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, IPhone & iPad. Generally, it is believed that if your use Google as your home page that it runs better with Chrome.
  • Mozilla Firefox (or simply Firefox) is a free and open-source web browser. Firefox It can easily be loaded onto Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, IPhone & iPad. It is preferred by many geeks and developers not only due to it open source coding heritage, but it is generally regarded as a low resource hungry alternative.
  • Maxthon is deceptively powerful &, stuffed with lots of little features that you would never discover unless you knew they were there. There’s also an option to put the browser in split-screen mode. The browser comes with AdBlock Plus pre-installed, so you’re unlikely to ever be troubled by bothersome pop-up ads or auto playing videos. Maxthon’s trying to position itself as the “cloud browser”, with the option to share bookmarks, password and history from device to device – it has browsers for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Linux. For those who don’t trust big corporations such as Google and Microsoft with such data, it’s another good option.
  • The Tor Browser has a simple purpose: to prevent others from tracing your internet activity. It reroutes your internet traffic around a host of volunteer relays across the world, making it incredibly difficult – if not impossible – for anyone to trace the sites you visit back to your individual IP address. It is a derivative of the Mozilla Firefox open-source web browser and works on most devices and can be contained on a USB for complete anonymity. Why might you want to hide your location or identity? Of course, there are all manner of reasons, but there are some pretty strong legitimate ones too, such as whistleblowing from inside an organisation, to avoid having your browsing activity traced by an employer, or to post with complete anonymity on a forum or message board.

 

What next?

You should upgrade your version to Internet Explorer 11:

  • How to upgrade to Windows 11. Generally, this upgrade will happen through automatic updates in Windows. However, if automatic updates are turned off, you will need to go to Control panel > Windows update > check for updates.
  • How to know what version of IE you’re on. Open browser > click the Tools icon in the upper right > click on, About IE.

If you decide on a different browser:

  • Simply search for the browser online then Download the software onto your device, generally once it is downloaded it will ask if you wish it to be become your default browser: Tick or click yes. The next time you access a link to the internet it will use the new browser.
  • If this doesn’t happen Open your control panel & check your settings under Internet Options

 

Do you need help with your internet browser?

Computer Troubleshooters can help resolve many issues in accessing the internet and fixing the settings and software on your computers. We can also provide recommendations on internet security & network setups to help you get the best performance to reduce the risk of a security breach.  Call your local Computer Troubleshooters office today for help and advice.

 

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Cryptolocker Removal

The Cryptolocker family of ransomware viruses and look-alikes (CTB Locker, Cryptowall, Torrent Locker, Locker, Locky etc.) are now well known as one of the major causes of data corruption and data loss across the world. Cryptolocker doesn’t discriminate, from the single user to the largest corporate network, it can invade and lock down all data inside the network. Once your data is encrypted you are in big trouble! Data retrieval & Cryptolocker removal is a big deal.

Recently new variants have appeared that are essentially the same Trojan, but are much more effective in preventing Cryptolocker removal & data retrieval. Cryptolocker is propagated via infected email attachments, and via a botnet; when activated, the malware encrypts certain types of files stored on local and mounted network drives using RSA public key cryptography.

The payload hides within an attachment or a link to a website. Once a user opens the attachment or the website link, the virus is activated and promptly goes about encrypting your files (both on the infected machine and on any additional network shares it can find).

Once the encryption process is complete a message, pops up on your screen delivering both the bad news and a ransom demand. Extortion of your hard earned money has begun. Because of the high level of encryption used by the virus, the only way to get your data back is either to pay the ransom or recover your files from last night’s backup. In addition, many extorted business owners have reported that the payment of the ransom does not always get their data back.

How to prevent a Cryptolocker infection?

Prevention – don’t open or click on unsolicited emails

  • Educate everyoneon the risk of opening email attachments that they shouldn’t. They may receive an email that they weren’t expecting or something may look wrong about it. These emails can also come from a spoofed account that may look legitimate or even appear to be from someone you know. The bottom line is to always be careful when opening email attachments.
  • Well known examples include emails from Banks, Police, Postal Services & Government agencies – remember if in doubt don’t open or click

How do you mitigate Cryptolocker risk?

Our Number 1 Tip – Always keep a non-networked copy of a backup of your data by rotating storage media – external hard drives or USB or use a non-synced cloud backup resource.

  • Regularly backup important data. Keep it within unconnected storage & rotate storage media.
  • Always ensure your operating system and security software is fully updated.
  • Consider purchase of a specialist anti cryptolocker tool.
  • Consider moving more of your data into cloud storage (not OneDrive or synced storage)
  • Block all .exe and .zip attachments at your email gateway.

 

What to do if you have Cryptolocker?

If you get a Cryptolocker pop up message on your screen it will generally say that all your files have been locked & encrypted, this means the execute file is in progress or finished the encryption. Before you consider Cryptolocker removal you must immediately do the following to minimise impact on your machine and network (it can spread to others on your network)

  • If one of your computers gets infected, then immediately disconnect it from the network & shut down the infected machine. You should also shut down all other devices on your network.
  • If you have been compromised then immediately change all of your organisation’s network and on-line passwords.
  • Disconnect all backups on your network including other non-infected devices.
  • Removal all LAN & device connections.
  • Call an expert to get professional advice on next steps

Cryptolocker Removal?

Once you have isolated your machine & network, a professional such as Computer Troubleshooters, can do an evaluation of your next steps – checking backups, assess other devices, extent of infection, & the best method of data retrieval.

Once this is done we can determine if we can do a data restoration & Cryptolocker removal – it is a complex process, and in some cases if a backup has not be done properly or the steps above have not been followed it can be a compromise solution, or worse case you may need to pay the ransom. Even if you pay the ransom the Trojan still needs to be removed otherwise it can be reactivated,

Prevention is Key

With this type of threat it is better to “think when, not if”, as the human element eliminates even the best planning. Thinking now about business continuity may save considerable time, expense, and disruption.

Computer Troubleshooters can do an assessment of your business’ computer network. We can also provide recommendations for establishing a strategic approach to cyber security and assist you with a variety of solutions to reduce the risk of a security breach.  We strongly encourage you to prepare your business for the threat of a cyber security crime, call your local Computer Troubleshooters office today for help and advice.

 

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Yammer – What is it?

Microsoft have announced that all Microsoft Office 365 tenants with less than 150 users will have Yammer automatically turned on in their Office 365 tenant. So along with your standard suite of Microsoft Office products (Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, & Excel) you will increasingly see Yammer icons appearing on your screens. So what is Yammer and how can it be used?

Yammer is an enterprise grade Social Networking platform for businesses, and works similarly to Facebook in allowing online conversations between single users and groups.  Yammer can be setup so everyone across your business can access from multiple devices (PC, Mac, iPhone, Smartphones & Tablets) and communicate instantly with groups or other users, this leverages the increasingly integrative cloud capabilities within the core Office 365 product range, cloud applications such as Yammer are fully included in most subscriptions.

Why use Yammer?

Yammer is an integrated communications tool with instant messaging, message posting, group discussions & collaboration that allows security, permissions, & licences. It is controlled by the central admin panel for Office 365, which means you determine who in your organization can use the platform and which groups they can be a member. Unlike Facebook which is a public domain application, Yammer is run as an enterprise grade platform covered by the Office 365 Trust Center with significant privacy & security advantages over public applications.

Yammer is following the huge social shift in communication to online, particularly in the younger generation who have become digital natives with social networking as their preferred method of sharing & nonverbal communication. Many see the Yammer social network for businesses as a way to get work done smarter and faster designed for a generation addicted to social networking. Microsoft say it is a way of “bringing teams together” in a single communication hub reducing email trails, encouraging real time collaboration & feedback.

Users with a license that includes Yammer can start accessing Yammer from Office 365 via the Yammer tile in the Office 365 app launcher or start a Yammer conversation from other Office 365 apps. Existing Yammer users, who are also Office 365 users, can start signing in with their Office 365 credentials, unifying their sign-in experiences

How does Yammer work?

Assuming you have Office 365 you, or your administrator should be able to setup Yammer for your business reasonably easily.

  • User Profiles – The Profile is the starting point for each user with settings for basic personal details, contact information, organisational information, password management, and notification settings.
  • Groups – Groups can be set up internally for employees to share information, set by the group administrator this could be by department, by project, or all company. Users can be invited to join multiple groups & new groups can set setup reasonably easily
  • Internal Networks – Yammer can be set up for both internal & external network communication. The internal (or Verified) network is the main domain that each email is setup against, if all employees have the same domain they can access the full range of Yammer services between internal users.
  • External Networks -Yammer allows you to also join external networks that have members outside your organisation (different domain names), they  can either be public or privately invited (you request to join), there is a great search function that allows you find external networks which you may like to join (e.g. industry groups or subject support groups)
  • Notifications – in settings you can change the notification settings for each group or network, so for an internal group you may wish to see every contribution as it is made and get an daily email summary, while for an external industry network you may wish to get a daily summary as the end of each day. These can be changed by the individual user and generally depends on the traffic & importance  the group or network to the user.

Once your User Profiles, Networks, and Groups have been setup it is time to use the application for communication;

  • Inbox – just like email or on Facebook the inbox shows all activity or posts to have occurred in your internal groups or networks in a conversational flow with images and comments.
  • External Networks – you need to change into an external network to check activity or make a post.
  • Online Now – Yammer has a presence function to identify when other people on your internal network are online and able to chat (each profile online shows a green dot).
  • Update, Poll or Praise – these are types of comments anyone can make to the group to engage members or participate in conversations.
  • Files – Yammer allows files to be uploaded and shared across groups, versions maintained, and stored.
  • Search – The search function in Yammer is powerful using both #hashtags and conversational search it allows users to search group history of conversations, files, & topics, ultimately building a knowledge base within each group.
  • Icons – once you have Yammer working you will have Yammer icon on your PC Taskbar that shows when you have a message in your group.
  • Apps – there are number of Apps that facilitate Yammer on smartphones, iPhone, & Tablets – they all provide notification & user access for contributing on the go. There is an App store for other apps to facilitate specific areas such as awards, suggestion boxes, and milestone reminders for projects.

Do you want to know more about Yammer?

Yammer maybe a great addition for your business & with no additional licence cost as part of many Office 365 subscriptions. Office 365 is increasing the preferred IT platform option for most businesses, we can help with the user setup, data migration, & ongoing administration of the your Office 365 environment, as well as making sure you get the most from the other value added Office 365 services such as OneDrive, Skype for Business, & SharePoint.

Computer Troubleshooters can help you setup Yammer as part of your Office 365 solution and ensure you understand the limitations and recommendations we have around the implementation of these services. Call Computer Troubleshooters today to see how we can get you started with Office 365 and at the same time get you started with Yammer.

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How to reduce your business costs?

Reducing business costs is a “no brainer” win for most businesses, you get the upside directly into your net profit without investing more capital & the gains are ongoing. So in your business, where are the best areas to look for cost savings?

The hierarchy of costs in most business are;

  • Cost of Goods – cost of goods sold, distribution costs, inventory holdings and losses.
  • Payroll – staff wages, superannuation, annual leave, long service leave, workers compensation,
  • Overheads – rent on premises, travel, insurance, car, utilities, telecoms, broadband, & IT systems.
  • Marketing – advertising & promotion, printing, postage, web marketing, agency & creative costs.
  • Transactional Costs – banks charges, credit card charges, freight.
  • Outsource – accountant, lawyer, cleaning, specialist support services.

How to finding cost savings in your business?

While every business is different, as a business owner you can employ the same strategies as large corporates or cost analysis teams use to find cost savings:

  • Request Quotes – from existing & alternative suppliers.
  • Reduce Investment – seek alternatives to investing in new infrastructure or assets.
  • Operations – is there a better or new way to operate to achieve your operations goals?
  • Review Business Practices – does your current staff structure match your current requirement?
  • Support – internal staff versus external outsourcing.

When performing this task to finding cost reductions, quite often the answers are not available internally. Often external suppliers & outsourcing companies can tell you about alternatives and what competitors have done that might deliver savings to your business.

In our business we call this an “IT assessment”, where we go into a company and look at their current IT setups, review their business practices, assess their operational goals, and then give recommendations.

How to find ICT cost savings in your business?

We recommend the same approach as the generic saving strategies above: here are some examples of how these types of saving can be achieved;

Telephones & mobiles

  • Ask you existing supplier for a current contract, approach alternative telco for quotes on mobiles, landlines & broadband; this should be done every 2 years as plans change often, particularly with data allowances growing. Remember to approach the SMB focused channels as they generally have cheaper plans to retail shops.
  • Introducing a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy for your business, providing only calls and data to employees this saves contracting phones and tracking devices while the employee get to use their favourite device (iPhone or Android) without you footing the bill.
  • VOIP (Voice over broadband) developments have meant that roaming between office, home, travelling, or even overseas can be seamless to the caller – this means your phone number can follow you around and have integrated messaging with email & SMS.
  • Businesses can reduce investment by not investing in a physical PABX, but using a hosted PABX which is VoIP enabled. Charges are typically by the seat by the month but with cheaper calls and full PABX capabilities.
  • Office 365 includes features such as Skype for Business & Yammer (an internal social media platform) that allows teleconferencing, cheap external calls, internal messaging, and profile tracking that could reduce your external communication & travel costs.

 

IT Systems

  • If you have an external supplier for IT support ask them for a new contract and at the same time seek an IT assessment from another supplier. The key is to compare similar service levels and requirements, at the very least you can be assured you are getting value.
  • If you have internal staff managing your IT then you need to compare costs against the outsourced alternatives. Requesting an IT assessment from an external IT support supplier will be enable you to compare costs, remembering internal staff carry at least a 30% overhead component above their wage cost. Internal staff are often not aware of alternatives or may have a vested interest in not recommending substantial changes to IT support & systems.
  • The development of Cloud Computing has meant that many SMB’s can change business practices & IT structures by shedding internal IT staff, reducing internal IT infrastructure, and outsourcing the remaining support requirements with savings of up to 50% of costs.
  • Switching from internal infrastructure to hosted infrastructure, such as Office 365, can save you on the substantial initial capital investment for hardware & licences. It can also provide flexibility for future growth/decline, plus you save on running costs for rent, air conditioning, electricity, and on premise support that is a necessary part of having an on-premise infrastructure.
  • Cloud hosted systems such as Microsoft Office 365 offer great flexibility & save time for staff to access email and data while not in the office (in fact it can be accessed from anywhere around the world), & from multiple devices. This can only be delivered securely by the centralised Office 365 portal developed for remote management & administration of business accounts.
  • We often find that some companies just use their main business application vendors support desk for general IT support. This can be a very expensive approach to IT support – we recommend splitting applications vendor support from the general IT on premise & user support, this can again save up to 50% of the general IT support costs.

Reducing business costs is great way to improve your businesses bottom line, but it does require a focus on seeking alternatives to current operations and structures.

Call us for an IT Assessment to help find cost savings & reduce your IT costs?

So there are few ways you can drive more savings from your ICT. Ultimately for business we recommend giving us call so we can make a time to discuss your needs and put together recommendations on how we could help your business save ICT costs.

Let the experts at Computer Troubleshooters work with you to assess your IT needs and develop a customized plan for your business to reduce your costs. Give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call and one of our computer professionals will be happy to help you

 

 

 

 

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Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support – DIY vs. Outsource

Microsoft Office 365 continues to dominate the space for a small business suite of office applications. As a cloud hybrid licence it offers the scale benefits of corporate grade email & the Microsoft office suite, without the upfront capital requirements of a Small Business Server environment. According to Microsoft, Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support can be taken on by the technically literate person without the specialist knowledge required for a server implementation.

So can Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support actually be undertaken as a DIY project in a Small Business with limited IT knowledge & experience?

A typical Small Business IT Environment

As someone who is not a technical expert, but who is technically literate I embarked on testing this DIY theory for myself. My partner has a small rapidly growing business with four staff, and they were looking to avail themselves of all the benefits that Office 365 can offer.

The business is run from multiple offices (mostly home offices). Increasingly the business needs access to data and email services on the go from multiple devices such as laptops and iPhones. With a cloud hosted application database system, and Xero as their main financial and CRM system they have been on their way to the cloud for some time. They already use the basic Microsoft Office 365 products such as Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel, & Word on a continual basis and would like to share files between all the staff as they have clients who interact regularly with different staff and orders. Increasingly this has meant sending files to each other, and as the business is growing they have also found they need to cover for each other when staff are away or unavailable.

Their current IT environment has meant they often have trouble letting clients know when they are away or travelling, and often they have trouble identifying the latest version of files to use as the business has become more complicated. The existing laptops were due for upgrading being over 3 years old, and they were increasing worried that if they lost or damaged a laptop that all the information, files, setting and knowledge would also be lost. As the owners of the business they had their own phones but didn’t want to provide iPhones to the employees. Additionally every time they travelled (particularly overseas) or were on holiday they had issues sending emails.

Office 365 is the answer?

In the past (pre 2012) the solution would have been to install a Microsoft Small Business Server to the local network. These servers had exchange email, shared calendar and contacts, file sharing and remote access capabilities. Small Business servers were expensive in terms of initial hardware, licensing and implementation costs, and on an ongoing basis, IT support, maintenance and power consumption also weighed heavily. Additionally, considerations needed to be made for physical space and air conditioning, wiring/cabling etc.

Nowadays Microsoft Office 365 is the answer, with all these functions, but without the large capital expenditure expenses or the need to setup locally. Of course, now you pay a monthly subscription to Microsoft to provide the back end hardware, software and infrastructure in their Australian data centre.

Office 365 Setup

Office 365 can be setup through a number of channels in Australia and New Zealand. Options include direct with Microsoft or through authorised Cloud Service Partners like Computer Troubleshooters who are typically used to provide implement and support Microsoft hosted services.

Licences – You need to learn & understand the licencing structure to determine which plan is right for each of the users. Bear in mind that you can have different users on different plans depending on their usage. So you might have one user who users all the Office products, and some who just need email.

Subscriptions –  You need to buy & provision the Office 365 licences, this is generally transacted over the web but you need to be careful if you are buying a by the month or annual plans (general the annual plans have a small discount). You may also be asked to buy an annual licence, but pay monthly.

Administration – Once your domain has been setup with Office 365 it is relatively simple to set up each user in your admin account. The admin account is the central hub of Office 365 that sits over the top of each of your user accounts & allows you to do all the configuration at a domain level. This includes password, collaboration, profile & user management that is the heart of servers.

DNS Management – You need to change your DNS settings with your domain provider. Office 365 provide you with the DNS setting changes that you need to put into your current domain providers portal to direct emails to the Office 365 host. In my case this took a couple of hours before the change was done by the provider.

Download & Profiles – Once each user is setup by the admin & the DNS change is made, the users can then setup their account of their own hardware just by downloading the software direct from the Office 365 hosting site. They can setup a new profile for Office 365 or integrate Office 365 into the existing profile, this is probably one of the most confusing areas that can take some time to resolve. This software can be downloaded by the user to a maximum of 5 of the user’s devices (PC, Macs, smartphones or tablets). Usernames and passwords associated with each user will of course be needed for the download.

Office 365 Migration

The migration of existing data, files and setting will depend on the current IT environment

  • A server to Office 365 migration requires movement of all data & user profiles to Office 365, these need to match correctly with passwords and user profiles for a smooth transition. The data migration will depend on each user’s data size, but typically the migration of a large mailbox may take a few hours. The big difficulty is that in the interim, emails may be lost or not received.
  • A pop email migration is fairly simple, as the data is on the user’s laptop, so that the data can be simply held on the same machine and the office 365 profile directed to the exiting email store.
  • Files will depend on where they are currently stored, but can be moved to OneDrive or SharePoint once the account profiles are setup.

Overall migration is really a factor of how much data is being migrated and where it is currently stored, remembering that with Office 365 you are effectively transferring the data store to a data centre so it needs to transferred via your internet to seed your account. Just be aware that you need to understand your broadband data allowance and the effect on data speeds that you may encounter during the migration.

Office 365 Support

If something goes wrong support is a major issue – understanding the role Microsoft support plays in helping with office 365 deployments should you encounter an issue you don’t understand. SLA Critical & Urgent incidents where they are responsible is fairly prompt, calls are answered within one hour and update provided very 2 and 24 hours respectively. However, issues raised as important or advisory are updated every 72 hours or as decided by Microsoft. So experiencing an issue during migration it will be difficult to get prompt Microsoft support.

Office 365 – My DIY Experience

My experience in getting Office 365 fully functional is fairly positive I managed to get all 4 users setup over 2 days & get all the niggling issues sorted over the following days. Although I later discovered that by default Office 365 was rejecting the forms from their WordPress website for over 2 weeks. The disruption to the business was minimal although getting non-technical users setup with both laptops and mobiles was difficult to the extent they all needed to visit the office to get setup. The time did include setting 2 new laptops and setting them up. We did lose emails in cutting over for a few hours.

The end result is that I estimate I took me around 6 hours per user to get everything working 100%. When I sent this information out to the Computer Troubleshooters group they laughed. In general, they charge for about 2 hours labour and have tools that automate much of what I did manually. Some tools they use do the migration before the cutover, so that when a user sets up their profile the data and setting have been pre-provisioned, so no business interruption in encountered and they can do the migration at night over weeks so there are no data slowdowns during business hours.

Office 365 – My Recommendation

My experience suggested it takes about 6 hours per user to manually setup, migrate and then tweak Office 365 for a small group. That said I do work in IT Marketing and have used Office 365 in my business for some time so I did start with an advantage. If you are not good with IT, I would definitely get an expert to do it.

The bottom line is most business people earn more in 6 hours than they would paying an IT expert 2 hours in labour, & that is not taking into account the niggling WordPress issue that was solved by the Computer Troubleshooters guys.

So if you are thinking of setting up & migrating to Office 365, at a minimum I would get a quote from an IT expert to see if the trade-off is worthwhile. Most expert Office 365 guys will give you a quote to compare. Even if you try yourself and get stuck you have a good idea for the alternative should you need help in a hurry.

Office 365 – Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support outsourced

Computer Troubleshooters can provide professional IT services to your business to provision and administer Office 365 environments as needed. Office 365 purchased through a Cloud Service Provider like Computer Troubleshooters is at no additional cost to purchasing through Microsoft.

Let the experts at Computer Troubleshooters work with you to assess your IT needs and develop a customized plan for your business. Computer Troubleshooters can manage your IT services and you can manage your business. Give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call and one of our computer professionals will be happy to help you.

 

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Office 365, BYOD & Mobility?

Office 365 continues to be the leading platform for most Small Business IT environments in Australia, but as a hybrid cloud technology how does Office 365 sit with other mega trends in IT such as BYOD & Mobility?

BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, is a term created by Intel in 2009 to indicate the growing trend of employees utilizing their personal devices in their work environment. While employees have been bringing their phones to work with, it wasn’t a big concern until personal devices like tablets and Smartphones started to be used by employees for business critical tasks.

BYOD is actually great for most small businesses owners, as they don’t need to invest in the latest technology as the devices are owned and upgraded by the employee. Employees tend to look after their own equipment much better than a company asset as they are using something they love and understand, be it an iPhone or Android, each person seems to have their own preference.

It is estimated that employees gain 45 to 60 minutes of productivity per week simply by having the anytime, anywhere access offered by their personal devices. Office 365 is built to allow this type of access from multiple devices with remote access.

So letting your employees use their own devices & get access to company information from anywhere at any time can be great for the business, but what are the key benefits &risks?

Office 365 on BYOD benefits

Each Office 365 licence can be deployed on up to 5 PC/Mac devices, plus up to 5 Smartphone Devices (iPhone or Android), or tablets (iPad or Android), so each employee can have synced access to hosted Outlook email, Word, Excel, & Powerpoint giving a single view & same feel from any device, anywhere.

  • True mobility & flexibility for the user – Once the Office 365 account has been correctly provisioned & setup the downloading onto further devices is relatively simply using the Microsoft user account.
  • Centralised Control – Office 365 as a hosted application is administered centrally so that access & profiles can be administered from a central panel rather individually on each device, this makes centralized control & management far easier than software being deployed individually & setup on each device.
  • Linked Accounts – Office 365 uses server functionality to allow users to get all the benefits that was originally the domain of the on premise Small Business Server such as shared calendaring, shared inboxes, files sharing, & distribution lists.
  • Employee Paid – in many cases most companies now just provide mobile plans with calls & data allowance to employees, so no need for company handset contracts or tracking mobile assets.

Office 365 on BYOD risks

While the business owner can rejoice at the large savings in technology spending and the dramatic increase in productivity, these benefits do come with risk. Allowing your employees to openly access your business network environment opens up many potential risks such as;

  • External Threats – Employee exposure to external threats such as Viruses & Malware that could threaten your business IT environment.
  • Security – Every device can be lost that is not properly secured becomes a potential doorway for hackers and data thieves.
  • Employee Confidentiality – When an employee leaves your company, they can possess a lot of confidential and important information that your business can no longer access or control

How does Office 365 & Professional IT management mitigate these risks?

External threats still exist on the individual level (due mainly to individuals behavior) and we would always recommend that individual devices are protected using Anti-Virus and Anti-Malware products with backups to minimize frontline attacks, in addition Office 365 is managed in the Australian Microsoft data centre with enterprise grade security protect so it offers a second line of defense and backup. This also means that hackers & data thieves are dealing with 24/7 monitoring with enterprise grade detection & protection in the data centre.

Breach of employee confidentiality is probably the biggest threat to your business, with Office 365 the admin control panel is built to manage access from multiple devices. User access can be managed centrally so should an employee leave, passwords and access can be instantly shutoff. If a user loses a device, the software on the device & any company data can be removed using the centralized control panel.

Ultimately the centralized admin function of Office 365 is key to managing BYOD and mobility ensuring you keep your business IT environment protected.

How to embrace Office 365, BYOD and Mobility?

In reality over 53% of businesses in the US now allow BYOD for company business IT environments, so it is more than a trend, it is a reality. While large businesses can afford teams of IT specialists to manage this complexity what do small business do?

We of course would recommend talking to an expert like Computer Troubleshooters who understand these complexities & can help you setup an IT environment to suit your business. Office 365 is an affordable alternative for smaller businesses who want the flexibility of BYOD and Mobility with the functionality of a Small Business Server, however the Office 365 environment still should be professionally setup and administered to protect against threats.

If you would like to learn more, contact your local Computer Troubleshooters office and request that one of their technology professionals meet with you to assess your risks and discuss your options for keeping your business safe.

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Office 365, Office 2016, & Windows 10: The Microsoft Ecosystem at Work.

Microsoft Office 365 is now the default software architecture for Microsoft products in Small Business, with the launches of Office 2016 & Windows 10 in the July quarter we now have a fairly good picture of the new Microsoft Business Ecosystem – so what’s the verdict? Overall, I would say impressive technically, and ultimately reasonable value for the average business. In assessing you need to understand the changing IT environment that these products are designed around, the major trends being:

  • Bring your own device (BYOD).
  • Multi Device with Syncing between devices on multiple operating platforms.
  • Tablets, Smartphone & PC smoothing (same software on different device types).
  • Collaboration & anywhere access.

This means the Microsoft business office environment needs to be flexible, duplicable, accessible & remotely administered. Personally having used the combined office software now for some time, and having downloaded my Office 365 on 4 different devices and types (PC, Smartphone, Laptop, & Android Tablet) I am impressed, particularly with Outlook 365;

  • Same Operation – Outlook 365 looks feels and operates similarly on all device types.
  • Cross Platform – Microsoft, Apple, & Android all just work the same.
  • Simple Downloads – once your Outlook 365 tenant has been professionally setup, data migrated, & deployed – downloading the software on extra devices is easy as long as you know you admin stuff.
  • Syncing – it just works seamlessly regardless of what device I am using, it stays updated and syncs without any drama, knowing that the Microsoft data centre is doing all this in the background makes the value equation easier to swallow.

While Outlook 365 may not be the 2016 version it still works like a dream and think the difference between the Outlook 2013 & Outlook 2016 is minimal. I love these features in Outlook 365;

  • Clutter inbox – working like a spam inbox it is like triage for email it learns which email addresses send you frequent emails that you are slow to open or just delete. It identifies these emails and puts them in “Clutter” to work through when you are not busy. It does work and becomes a cool feature.
  • Conversations – is a way of displaying your emails so it will show all the previous emails on the same topic next to each other, it allow you to ignore whole topics plus when you are done you can delete everything in that conversation. Try it under View in Outlook.
  • Search – big enough to warrant its own tab it gives some many ways to slice and dice your search filter than the straight old index search. Plus it seems to work at a much faster speed than previous search.
  • Skype Integration – Use Skype to check in and collaborate with someone using Instant Messaging (IM), voice, video, or screen sharing. Also join online meetings while on the go using the Skype for Business mobile app. See who is online, IM meeting participants, and follow along when a presenter shares his screen – all from your tablet or phone.

Office 2016 is now available with a full updated software range including Word, Excel, PowerPoint with some new cool features, but to be honest when upgrading from 2013 they are not that different, but for Office 2010, & 2007 users it’s worth the change. Given Microsoft now include Office 2016 as the default download for new Office 365 subscriptions, most businesses will find they will upgrade their Office version when they switch to Office 365.  A few other programs are included that may make the switch more interesting for old Office users;

  • OneNote– Like an electronic notepad collect any and all relevant information (e.g., photos, videos, clippings, & drawings) in one central location, work with others, and watch the app sync changes within seconds.
  • OneDrive – Access your Office documents from anywhere and any device by saving them to OneDrive, pick up anywhere you left off, and co-author with others from the comfort of your office or home, or even on the go.

Windows 10 now has over 100 million users worldwide so it has been stress tested & the commercial lagging with drivers & applications has in most cases been addressed. If you have a specific application it may still pay to check it is compatible with Windows 10. Why move to Windows 10;

  • Improved performance – including decreased boot-up time, which is markedly quicker, while better hardware acceleration and a host of other tweaks mean general navigation feels nippier, too. Power management has also been improved, so mobile device battery life tends to be a little longer.
  • Design – if you were hesitant to move to Windows 8.1 due its look, then Windows 10 takes a compromised view with the with the flat windows and bold colours taking over,  but with the old comfort  of the Control Panel and Computer Management interfaces using old icons
  • Price – it is still free to upgradeso it is tempting, if you’ve got a copy of Windows 7 you’d almost feel like you’re missing out. After all, you can still downgrade back to whatever previous version of Windows you had if you decide you don’t like Windows 10.

Is Your Business Ready to Take Advantage of new improved Microsoft Ecosystem? The new Microsoft Ecosystem may be a great way to help improve your business. Office 365 offers a range of advanced tools that enables your employees to be productive anywhere and at any time across a range of devices. With Office 2016 & Windows 10 now in release you can combine to get the very latest software across your business knowing it works and is fully compatible. If you wish to upgrade your Microsoft Ecosystem it still requires guidance to get it right, so give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call today and one of our technology professionals will be happy to discuss how Office 365 can benefit your business.

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Microsoft OneDrive – What is it?

Microsoft Office 365 is increasingly integrating cloud capabilities within it’s core Office range (Outlook, Word, Powerpoint, & Excel), cloud applications such as OneDrive are fully included in most subscriptions.

OneDrive is an external storage resource located in the Microsoft Data Centre in Australia, available as part of your Office 365 subscription package. OneDrive will simply appear as drive in your computer when you migrate to Office 365, much like any other external directory such as your C: drive, USB or portable hard drive. So when you go to save a file you have choice to save to your own hard drive or the OneDrive drive which is located in the Cloud.

Why use OneDrive?

OneDrive is great place to store & share files, as simple as if you would like to hold a duplicate external copy of your file for protection, or you wish to access the file from a remote location from a different device.

OneDrive however is much more, it allows syncing between your devices and sharing with external parties with a permissions. OneDrive for Business is particularly useful for small businesses who may share files on a continual basis and provides a similar advantage to a server in centralizing access and versions with permissions for access. Office 365 business subscriptions include a 1TB data allowance of storage per user, this is a very large amount of data stored in secure & external data centre operated by Microsoft, The three main benefits of OneDrive:

Store – Offsite Storage for up to 1TB of files per user

Sync – OneDrive syncs files changes from any device  or location back to the central version so you always get the most recent version

Share – OneDrive allow files to be shared and accessed with permissions both internally within your organization & externally.

Small business in particular may be able to get most of the benefits of a file server by using OneDrive with little additional cost – so why not use it?

What are the limitation of OneDrive?

OneDrive is wonderful cloud enabled extra in the Office 365 package, but it does have limitations and you need to consider warnings when you choose to move any of your storage to the Cloud.

Data Transfer – like all cloud based service the transfer of data from your premises to the data centre can come with a costs either in additional data usage costs, or in data traffic congestion of your network. The effect on your business will depend on your broadband connection method, ISP, and rate plan, but if you slow down your core business IT infrastructure, it can spell disaster.

Sync – OneDrive is driven by a syncing mode that means newer versions of files can be overlaid over older versions, this is a great feature when you have multiple users using the same file and ensures you always access the latest version, however if you are using OneDrive for backup purposes, the backed up original version may automatically be overwritten by the sync mode.

Off Site but Connected – While the OneDrive storage is physically located remotely from your premises, it still is connected as drive to your system and network. As it appears a dive on your machine (much like your C: drive), should you catch a virus or worse a malware Trojan, such as Crytolocker, it can easy be encrypted or corrupted like any other data on your system. If you are using OneDrive for backup we still recommend a rotation of media or specific backup facilities to fully protect you.

Are you Ready for OneDrive?

OneDrive for Business is a place where you can store, sync, and share your work files. As part of Office 365, OneDrive for Business lets you update and share your files from anywhere and work on Office documents with others at the same time. It can be a great way to great the benefits of a server network without the upfront cost.

Office 365 is increasing the preferred IT platform option for most businesses, we can help with the user setup, data migration, & ongoing administration of the your Office 365 environment, as well as making sure you get the most from the other value added Office 365 services such as OneDrive, Skype for Business, Sharepoint & Yammer.

Computer Troubleshooters can help you understand how your business can benefit by using OneDrive as part of your Office 365 solution and ensure you understand the limitations and recommendations we have around the implementation of these services. Call Computer Troubleshooters today to see how we can get you started with Office 365 and at the same time get you started with OneDrive for Business.

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