February 13th, 2013

Windows_Feb12_AThe Microsoft Surface RT released back at the end of October last year, garnered some fairly negative reviews, creating a slight worry that the more powerful version, Windows Surface Pro, would also be a machine to pass over. Now the Windows Surface Pro has been released many business owners are wondering if it will meet their needs.

Here's a brief overview of the main technical specifications of the Windows Surface Pro that small to medium business owners most often ask about.

Physical size The physical size of the Pro is 10.81 x 6.81 inches. By comparison, the iPad is 9.50 x 7.31 inches. The thickness of the machine is just .53 inches, and it weighs 2 lbs. On size alone, this makes the Pro a highly portable device, though it is a bit too big to comfortably hold in one hand.

Processor, memory and battery The Pro has a third generation Intel i5 processor with 4GB of RAM which is more than enough to run nearly every program currently available for Windows. This means that you should be able to access and run all of your work based programs. The battery life on the other hand is around 4 to 5 hours, which falls fall short of other tablets, and even some laptops.

Storage space The Pro comes with two different storage options: 64GB and 128GB. On paper, this sounds like a solid amount of storage space. These numbers don't take into account the size of the OS however - which will take up 41GB. With the OS installed the 64GB version will have 23GB of free storage, while the 128GB version will have 83GB free.

While this is a bit of a let-down, the Pro does have a USB port which means you can attach an external hard-drive for extra space. Beyond that, there is also a MicroSD port which will allow you to extend storage space even further.

Display One of the main reasons users pick tablets is because of the display. The Pro doesn't disappoint, offering a 10.6-Inch HD display with 1920 x 1080 pixels. This means the display is a widescreen, and will likely be better sitting on a desk. From reviews that we've seen, the display quality rivals that of the iPads.

This high resolution also means that all of your windows programs will be sharp, and you will be able to view them just fine.

Software The Pro runs a full version of Windows 8, which means that any software that desktops and laptops can run, it can also run. This is the main feature that sets the Pro apart from other tablets. You don't have to buy mobile versions of your favorite software, just install it on the machine and away you go.

Cost The cost of the Pro starts at USD$899, this is for the 64GB model, without the Touch Pad cover. For businesses to get the most out of this tablet, you'll need to spring for the cover which costs another USD$119, putting the price up to USD$1,018.

This seemingly high price will have many small business owners cringing. The thing is, the Surface Pro is more of a laptop with a touch screen than it is a tablet. Looking at it another way: It's the most powerful tablet on the market, and gives many laptops and desktops a run for their money.

Should you run buy one? To be honest: If you're looking for an ultraportable device to replace an existing one and that can run all of your business software, then yes, you should consider the Surface Pro. But, if you're looking for a tablet to accompany an already inplace system, then it's better to look at something a bit cheaper.

If you are interested in learning more about the Surface Pro, please let us know, we'd be happy to sit down with you.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic General
January 16th, 2013

Microsoft Windows is the most popular OS among business users. This has been an undisputed fact for more than a decade. While the Windows platform is solid, it's not perfect. This is the nature of the beast and to IT professionals, these imperfections are called bugs or glitches. To the layman, they are viewed as a pain. One potential annoyance is your recycle bin disappearing, making it nearly impossible to delete things.

Here's how you can restore your recycle bin if it goes MIA.

Windows 8, 7 and Vista

  1. Right-click on any blank space on your desktop.
  2. Select Personalize.
  3. Choose Change Desktop Icons from the left side of the window. It's usually located just under Tasks.
  4. Click the box next to Recycle Bin.
  5. Click Apply.
The window that opens up also displays common desktop icons, and clicking the box beside these will put an icon on your desktop. You can also change an icon by selecting it from the box and clicking Change Icon. Pressing Restore Default will return the icons to their default picture.

Windows XP For Windows XP users, the manual process is a lot more intensive. To make it easier, Microsoft developed a Fixit tool, that when clicked on will restore the recycle bin. You can find the tool here. All you have to do is click the button with the mechanic holding a wrench, saying Fix It. An app will download and run, and you should soon see your recycle bin reappear.

While you may feel a little silly, deleting the tool that allows you to delete, mistakes are often easily made. What you need to know is how to fix them. If you would like to learn more Windows tips, please contact us.

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Topic General
December 19th, 2012

Windows 8 has been out for almost two months. Retail sales and reviews both look pretty good. While it will be some time before companies will be using Windows 8 as their main operating system, there will come a time when they do. Early adopters are already upgrading and finding a wealth of new features. One of such feature is Windows 8's specific keyboard shortcuts.

Below are six of the more common Windows 8 specific keyboard shortcuts. Note: WIN is the Windows key (key with the windows logo).

  1. WIN: Pressing the windows key once will switch from the desktop to the last opened application. If you are looking at an application e.g., Office, and press the WIN key, you'll be taken to the desktop.
  2. WIN + C: Will bring up the Charms bar.
  3. WIN + I: Will bring up the Settings Charm. This will work from the desktop in some applications. In other applications this keystroke may not work, or may open something else.
  4. WIN + F: Pressing these keys will open the file search window. From there you can enter the name of the file/folder you are looking for. Note, this will only work from the desktop, and not in applications.
  5. WIN + E: Open your computer's main drive. This is commonly called My Computer but may be different depending on what your computer's drive has been labeled.
  6. WIN + Print Screen: Pressing these keys simultaneously will take and save a screenshot. You will notice the screen dims for a second, this is to confirm the picture has been taken and saved as an image file. By default the screenshot will be placed into the Pictures folder of the Library.
These are just six of the many keyboard shortcuts in Windows 8 that make the OS easier to use. If you would like to learn more about Windows 8 and how it can fit into your company give us a shout, we can help.
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Topic General
November 22nd, 2012

Windows 8 is out, and with it comes a prettied up User Interface (UI) that is geared towards tablet and touchscreen device users. One thing that is de rigueur for all operating systems is the ability to customize it to meet your needs and preferences. As Windows 8 is a bit of a departure from previous versions, it may take awhile to figure out all of the customization options.

Ok, so you've bought and installed Windows 8, booted it up for the first time and it just doesn't reflect who you are. No worries, you can change that. Below are five ways you can customize Windows 8.

Customize lock screen Going with a more mobile theme, Windows 8 brings the ability to customize your lock screen, much like you can do with your smartphone. If you want to change the background image:

  1. Select the Settings charm from the main Windows 8 screen. You can also hit Windows key + i and select PC Settings.
  2. Click on Personalize to show the Personalize options on the right.
  3. Select Lock Screen.
  4. Select the picture you would like, or click Browse and navigate to the folder with the image you would like to use.
From this screen, you can also set which apps will show notifications on the lock screen. Pressing the + below Lock screen apps will allow you to set which apps display info. You can also set an app to show more detailed information by pressing on the relevant option below the Lock screen apps section.

Change tile size and uninstall or unpin programs Did you know you can change the size of the tiles on the new start screen? To change the size of a tile, simply right click on it and the tile options will be shown. If the app is small, you can select Larger to make it so and vice versa.

When you right-click you will also notice other options. Unpin means the tile won't be shown on the start screen, but it won't be uninstalled. If you want to get rid of the program, you can do so by selecting Uninstall when you right-click. You can also turn off Live updates if that's your thing, or if you have a slower Internet connection.

Rearrange tiles If you want to move a tile, but not uninstall, unpin or change its status, hover your mouse over the tile, hold down the left mouse button and drag the tile to where you would like it to be. If you have lots of tiles, you press Ctrl + mouse wheel to shrink or enlarge the start screen.

Desktop background If you're a fan of the older Windows 7 layout, and would like to customize your background, you can do so by:

  1. Clicking on the Desktop tile on the new layout, it's located on the bottom left of the screen. This will change to the more familiar Windows 7 layout.
  2. Right-clicking anywhere there is empty space on the desktop.
  3. Selecting Personalize.
  4. Clicking on Desktop Background and selecting the image you would like to use. If you want to pick your own image, you can click Browse and navigate to the folder the image is in.
Pin to taskbar In desktop mode, the taskbar (located along the bottom of the screen) is where all open programs are shown. If you use a program a lot, you can pin it to the taskbar by opening the program, right-clicking on the icon on the taskbar and selecting Pin this program to the taskbar.

There are a million and one ways you can customize Windows 8, many of the options can be found under Settings - PC Settings. If you're looking at all the different options and feel like Dorothy after landing in Oz, it's best to contact us, we can help explain the different options for you.

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Topic General
November 14th, 2012

Windows 8 is out and there's been a bunch of news and reviews. As with most all technical products there are a ton of different opinions on whether it's any good or not. Windows 8 does bring some big changes and will appeal to offices looking to upgrade. However, if you are planning to upgrade from an older OS, it's a good idea to ensure your computers can handle it.

Here's three things you should focus on to ensure your system is Windows 8 ready.

Processor The minimum processor speed for Windows 8 is 1GHz. What this means is that almost every system from the past decade should be able to run it. Many modern smartphones actually meet the minimum requirement, so most computers should be able to run it easily as well. Of course, if you have a processor that's around 1 GHz, you will notice that the OS isn't as zippy compared to systems with the latest and greatest, but it should be able to handle everyday tasks.

Memory Windows 8 comes in two versions, 64 and 32 bit. The main difference between these two numbers depends on the RAM a system has. The minimum amount of RAM required to run Windows 8 is 1GB. Most laptops and computers purchased today have 4GB or more, while computers bought four years ago have around 2GB. As a general rule of thumb, systems with 4GB or more of RAM match with the 64 bit version, while systems with less than 4GB of RAM will operate better on the 32 bit version.

If you're looking to upgrade from a previous version of Windows, the current version installed will dictate the version of Windows 8 you can install. If you have a 32 bit version of Windows 7 on your systems, you have to go with the 32 bit version of Windows 8.

The other main form of memory to focus on is hard drive space. Windows 8 requires the same amount of free hard drive space as Windows 7 - 16GB for the 32 bit version and 20GB for the 64 bit. As there is a new interface, there is a high chance that you will need even more space to fit all the downloaded apps and other updates.

As with most computer related components, the more RAM and hard drive space there is, the faster the system and the OS will run. For optimal performance, it's best to install Windows 8 on a new drive.

Monitor If you want to upgrade to Windows 8, you need to ensure that your monitors can support a minimum resolution of 1024 x 768. If you want to run two apps or programs side-by-side on the same screen, your monitors need to be a minimum of 1366 x 768. Most recent flat screen monitors can support this resolution, and HDMI monitors - 1080p or higher - will be fine.

To make things easy, Microsoft has an upgrade tool - Upgrade Assistant - that you can download and run. What it does is test your system to see if it can support Windows 8 and then provides you with a report of devices and programs that do and don’t meet the requirements. If a program needs an update to be compatible, it will also provide you with the links to download these updates. While this is useful, if you work with a managed service provider, or any IT company, it's a good idea to consult with them first to see if they can help with the upgrade, or whether their systems can support it.

To learn more about how you can use Windows 8 in your company, please contact us.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic General
November 6th, 2012

Microsoft is boring. Many products, while useful, just lack the visual appeal users have come to expect from tech companies, especially when it comes to the OS and programs. Most programs and recent OSs have been utilitarian, and great for productivity but not much else. Microsoft has listened to demands and recently released Windows 8, a completely new OS (on the outside) that mobile and retail users will likely enjoy using, but, what about businesses?

Here’s five key business related aspects of Windows 8.

Windows 8 changes the desktop The biggest change Windows 8 brings is the change to the desktop layout. Windows 8 defaults to a new touch-oriented layout that uses tiles similar to the ones found on their Windows Mobile operating systems. This change is an indication that Microsoft is going to be throwing considerable weight into the post-pc era, where devices like tablets and touchscreens work beside or replace conventional PCs.

This change from a file and folder oriented desktop to a tile oriented one could intimidate users who are unfamiliar with a mobile OS, or are less than comfortable with computers. It’s not like a user comfortable with XP or Windows 7 will be completely lost, as all of the existing programs that were icons on your desktop are now tiles with the icon clearly visible.

For those who are really uncomfortable with the new interface, pressing the Desktop tile will take you to the more traditional desktop Windows users might be more comfortable with. The best way to think of the desktop interface is Windows 7 with a mobile-ish overlay. Windows has noted that most Windows 7 programs will work just fine on Windows 8, however custom made programs may have issues and need to be upgraded to support the new layout. If you use custom made software, it is a good idea to contact the vendor/developer before upgrading.

Where’s the Start button? With most versions of windows, the Start button, located in the bottom left of the screen, was how you launched all your programs and found the majority of your files. Windows 8 doesn’t have a physical start button, rather the new tile interface is the start menu. Now you just swipe to the tile/program, and click it to open.

For small businesses looking to introduce mobile apps targeted at tablet or other large touchscreen users, or integrate tablet devices into the office, Windows 8 makes sense. For most other companies, the adoption and learning curve may take time to get used to. Most users we talked to agree, but note that once they get used to it, it's great.

Any new useful features? There are a number of new features that many businesses will benefit from with adoption. Windows 8 focuses on collaboration and mobility more than almost any other OS. On the control side, administrators have a program called AppLocker which enables adminstrators to easily control employee’s access to files and programs, while pushing out updates to all computers at once.

Another interesting feature is that Windows 8 supports profile syncing through the cloud and USB sticks. Employees can sit down at any workstation, sync their profile and have access to their own system's layout quickly and easily. Alternatively, they can use USB sticks to save their Windows session and have access to it when they plug in the USB. This makes the OS a lot more mobile.

While there are features of Windows 8 that businesses will utilize, it’s the programs that will define the success of this OS. Many businesses still use Microsoft XP and Microsoft has essentially stopped support for it. You'll come across some issues when upgrading Microsoft programs. For example, if you use XP in the office and want to upgrade to Office 2013, you’ll have to upgrade to either Windows 7 or 8 (Microsoft would prefer it if you picked Windows 8).

This decision will force all vendors and software developers to either write two programs, one that supports XP, and the other that supports Windows 7 and 8. Most developers will likely just chose to drop support of XP. Essentially, this will force businesses to upgrade if they want support.

What about RT? With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft also released a tablet oriented OS that’s based on Windows 8, Windows RT. The only difference is RT doesn’t run Windows desktop programs, rather it’s configured to run RT specific or cloud versions of programs. This could hamper collaboration between devices that run the two different systems. In other words, if you’re looking to upgrade, ensure the systems you choose are compatible. There will be a flood of Windows 8 tablets - tablets using Windows 8, not RT - and ultrabooks in the next few months.

How do I get Windows 8? There are a number of options available to you if you would like to get windows 8. Retail users of Windows 7, XP and Vista can purchase a digital upgrade for USD$40 which they can download and install. For those who like their software to come in a box,the cost is USD$70. Most businesses should contact a vendor as they will likely need to upgrade other systems as well. If you’re looking to upgrade, give us a call, we can help.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic General
November 6th, 2012

Social media, once the domain of tweens, teens and college students has expanded to encompass nearly all aspects of life. You have grandmas sharing YouTube videos of their grandchildren's first birthdays, businesses sharing their latest research or even conducting their whole marketing campaign online. This phenomenon is commonly labeled as social media, or as many see it, the modern Internet. While a collection of websites has allowed this to happen, Facebook is the most prominent.

Here are some interesting Facebook facts and figures.

Number of active users: over 1 billion. Number of mobile users: 600 million. That’s right, over half of the users access Facebook from their mobile phones. Number of likes since launch: 1.13 trillion. It’s crazy, thats 1,130 likes per person. Number of connections: Facebook's 1 billion users are connected to 140.3 billion other users. Talk about six degrees of separation! Number of locally tagged posts: 17 billion. The ability to add your location to posts was introduced in August 2010, and this statistic came from September 2012.

These are just a few Facebook facts associated with the recent 1 billionth active user milestone, reached in October. It’s amazing to think that 1/7th of the world’s population are active Facebook users. Imagine what the number would be if it wasn’t blocked in China?

So, what do these numbers mean for you? Well, first of all, it means a huge potential network of clients/friends. If 1 billion users are connected with 140.3 billion other users, that means that the average number of friends a user has is 140.3. Imagine running an ad campaign on any medium, having 140 of your closest friends see it, and share it with their friends. Your brand has the potential to go global and viral in a very short amount of time.

How do you leverage these numbers? Most companies use Facebook Ads, a service which allows you to place ads that users will see and potentially click on. If leveraged correctly, Facebook is one powerful marketing platform, regardless of the size of the company. If your company doesn’t have a presence on Facebook, you’re missing out on the potential it can bring. Call us. We can help you establish a presence.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic General
October 9th, 2012

Facebook: If you haven’t heard of it, you’ve likely been living under a rock, or maybe in China. It’s as much a part of our daily routine as eating or sleeping is. For businesses, it’s a great way to reach out to, and connect with customers and fans while potentially growing your business’s brand. Facebook has recently introduced a feature that lets companies target different users depending on their email and ID.

Custom Audiences is Facebook’s new marketing feature, available through a plug-in called Power Editor for Google Chrome. If your company utilizes the Facebook Advertising API (Application Programming Interface) to manage Facebook related advertising, this feature is also available to you.

What exactly is Custom Audiences? If you conduct any form of email advertising, you likely have a list of email addresses that you send content like newsletters to on a regular basis. If you have this list saved as a single column CSV - Comma-Separated Value: A document that stores tabular data (e.g., Excel files) with no formatting, separated by commas - you can import it into Power Editor. Power Editor will match the email addresses with Facebook users and allow you to create ads to target just those users.

If you have a phone list, you can upload that to use as well. This is a good feature as it allows you to reach out, through Facebook, with ads to clients or customers who aren’t currently your fans or don’t like your page. In other words, your marketing reach through Facebook has just expanded.

Because you do upload your customer’s information to your Facebook account, the information is stored on Facebook’s servers. This move has come under scrutiny from many security experts, to which Facebook has responded that all data uploaded is hashed for security. On top of this, advertisers must have consent from data owners to use their information and agree to remove it when asked.

For now, this feature is only available through third-party vendors or to users of the Power Editor script. Power Editor is an extension for Chrome which helps users to create, edit and manage Facebook ad campaigns.

How to create a Custom Audience If you have Power Editor installed, navigate to it and you’ll notice a new tab labeled Custom Audiences. Click it and a pop-up window will open. In the window you’ll be able to pick a name for your audience and upload the file with the contact information and type of information. Select the relevant information and click Create.

After the upload is complete, you should see the new list on the main window. Select the list and press Create Ad Using Audience. You will create your ad as you normally would, and it will be sent to the list you selected.

If you are looking to expand your marketing platform or reach out to your customers in a new way, this is a good feature to do so. While it is free for now, it’s yet to be seen if it will become a paid feature in the near future. To learn more about how to use Facebook for your marketing, please contact us.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic General
October 4th, 2012

Disruptive and emerging technologies can be risky. At least in the eyes of managers or owners of companies looking to adopt new technology. This is true for cloud solutions, as they carry a certain amount of risk that needs to be properly managed for integration to be successful. The first step to managing any kind of risk is knowing the risks involved with the particular idea, or in this case cloud solution.

Here are the three main types of perceived cloud risks that companies need to be aware of in order to effectively introduce a cloud solution.

Preventable risk Preventable risk is risk that is largely internal, or risk that arises from within the organization. This form of risk is largely preventable and indeed should be dealt with before the adoption of any new cloud solution.

Most companies have found that preventable risk results from employee actions, usually actions that are illegal, unethical or are against established procedures. Before the adoption of any cloud solution you should take steps to first define these internal risks and how they fit with the parameters of the proposed solution, then take steps to address these risks. This normally includes constant monitoring of the use of current systems, along with established boundaries of use.

If you don’t address internal risks - e.g., employees sharing illegally downloaded files, (which could land you in some very hot water legally), risk will be increased exponentially, or the project could fail.

Strategic risk With new technologies like the cloud, that can be disruptive, there is always a higher level of risk involved. This form of risk, that is a risk involved with a strategic decision that will net the firm higher returns, is inherent. While it’s not bad, it should be accepted in order to realize gains of any kind.

In other words, the higher the pay off, the riskier it will be. To manage this type of risk you need to have a plan that prepares for this. Cloud technology is still in its infancy, so there can and will be problems which may or may not put your entire organization at risk. Relying 100% on it is a poor way to manage risk. A strategy that includes backups of data and operations in the cloud, or having another system that can function in reserve, is an effective way to manage strategic risk. By employing something like this you can, in turn, take a larger risk; more cloud solutions.

External risk External risk is any risk that companies can’t control or influence. This includes risks due to natural disasters, upstream/downstream production strikes, political situations, etc. Because it’s nigh on impossible to manage these risks, a strategy that aims to identify potential external risks and then take steps to mitigate fallout from occurrence is needed. This process is commonly called ‘business continuity’.

A good example of nature affecting the cloud happened in recently, in late June, when Amazon’s data storage facility was struck by lightning, and backup generators failed, which took many services offline for hours. Companies that relied on Amazon’s cloud servers like Pinterest and Instagram, who didn’t have backup sites, were forced offline, causing a large loss in profit, not to mention some very unhappy users. This could have been prevented if A. Pinterest and Instagram had backup sites, and B. Amazon had a more robust redundant system.

Naturally, it’s easy to be Captain Hindsight and go around pointing out what should have been done. You can learn from these incidents and look at how the company mitigated risks before and after, and try to implement them into your organization. If you need help identifying and coming up with ways to mitigate risk related to the adoption of cloud solutions, give us a call, we can help.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic General
June 20th, 2012

Microsoft’s operating system, Windows, is arguably the most popular OS used by businesses. In recent months there’s been a large amount of press coverage in relation to the new version of Windows, Windows 8, which is scheduled to be released sometime in Q4 2012. Windows 8 will bring some sweeping changes with it, including a completely new interface called Metro.

Here’s an overview of Metro and what changes the new interface - the visual representation of the computer that allows you to interact with it - will bring. Please note that these changes reflect the release preview of Windows 8. These features will be in the retail version along with more features that have not yet been announced.

A tablet first interface When you first log in to Windows 8 you’ll notice that literally everything has changed, and yet it will seem instantly familiar to smartphone users. Gone are the old icons and folders, replaced by rectangular boxes, or tiles, which are similar to the icons on smartphones. In fact, these tiles are actually apps. If you have Microsoft Office installed, you will see a tile on the main screen with the Office logo. Click on it, and the “app” will start. These tiles are live, which means they will show new information i.e., the number of new emails will be shown in the email tile.

The biggest thing to note about Metro is that it was designed to be used on tablets, touch screens and PCs, thus making the overall interface touch friendly. If you’re not using a tablet or touch screen, you’ll be navigating the old fashioned way, by using a mouse or trackpad.

Navigation From the main screen of Metro, you’ll notice two things are missing. The first is the integral Start button, that you’d normally use to find and launch your programs, will be gone. In truth, it’s still there, just hidden. To access it you move your mouse to the bottom-left corner of your screen and it should pop up.

The second major thing missing is the traditional desktop every Windows OS user has gotten used to. Again, this isn’t actually gone, it's actually been turned into an app tile and will be found on the main Metro screen. Clicking on the tile will open a more traditional desktop that we’re used to.

Taking a page from Apple’s OS, moving your mouse to the corner of the screens represent a action. For example, moving to the top-left corner of the screen brings up a list of recently used apps that you can click on to open. The right corners of your screen allow you to launch features like Settings, Search and Devices - Microsoft now calls these “Charms.”

Will Windows 8 fit in with my business? While there are many other changes and new features that will be introduced when Windows 8 launches later this year, small businesses that do adopt Windows 8 will have a few hurdles to overcome. The biggest is the new OS is a large departure from other versions of Windows, and many employees don’t have the time to learn how to use a new OS, while also doing their work. This means that small business owners should work with their IT department, or provider, to provide training for their employees on how to use the new OS.

The second biggest hurdle is software compatibility. The current software you’re using may not work on Windows 8 when it’s first launched. While the vast majority of new versions of popular software is already compatible, older versions and less popular software aren’t compatible at this time.

If you’re thinking of migrating over to Windows 8 when it’s released but are unsure if the software you use will be compatible, you can visit Microsoft’s Windows 8 compatibility page. If you have any more questions regarding training for Windows 8, or implementing Windows 8 in your business, please contact us.

Published with permission from Source.

Topic General