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April 7th, 2017

170px_shutterstock_578419504As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” Microsoft is saying goodbye to its 10-year-old operating system, Windows Vista. This means that from April 11th onwards, Windows Vista users won’t be receiving essential security and software updates. How much will this affect small- and medium-sized businesses?

Windows Vista Launched worldwide on January 30th, 2007, Windows Vista has been Microsoft’s operating system for home and business desktops, laptops, tablet PCs and even media center PCs. This version came with a bunch of new features such as Aero, an updated graphical user interface; Windows Search, a new search function; as well as Windows DVD Maker, a new multimedia tool. Vista aimed to increase communication between machines on a home network, with peer-to-peer technology that simplifies file sharing.

Windows Vista criticism Not too long after its release, the operating system came under fire from both the users and the press. Initially, Vista aimed to improve the state of security, the main criticism its predecessor -- Windows XP -- received. There were commonly exploited security vulnerabilities and overall susceptibility to malware, viruses, and buffer overflows. According to Net Applications, Windows Vista has less than 1 percent of global market share in terms of PC operating systems. Despite that, Windows 10 is doing extremely well, boasting over 400 million devices running on it.

Will computers still function properly? Essentially, yes, but they will be susceptible to viruses on account of Microsoft discontinuing security updates. On top of that, Internet Explorer 9 won’t be supported either, meaning surfing the web with this browser could possibly expose you to even more vulnerabilities. Microsoft also warned users that certain apps and devices would not work with Vista, as software and hardware manufacturers are optimizing services for newer versions of Windows.

What’s the next step for your business? We recommend that you upgrade to Microsoft’s latest operating system: Windows 10. But before doing so, check the software and hardware specifications of your PCs, since they might not be able to handle Windows 10. If that’s the case, users can opt for a Windows 7 upgrade as an alternative.

Keeping up with the latest technological innovations might be a tedious task, but it’s also an imperative one. To ensure the future of your small- or medium-sized business, you’ll be needing IT that works for you and not the other way round. For more information on Windows operating systems, feel free to get in touch with us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
April 6th, 2017

2017April6Security_CStaving off malicious cyber attackers is already a herculean task, so the last thing you need is to feel exposed from a totally new angle. That’s how many felt after Wikileaks’ accusations that the US government was spying on its citizens. However, the truth is a lot different from what the headlines would have you believe.

What devices and apps are supposedly vulnerable?

Wikileaks labeled its ongoing release of 8,761 classified CIA documents “Year Zero.” Nestled among those files are tools and correspondence that explain how operatives could snoop on communications, downloads, and browsing history. Here is a list of the “affected” applications and hardware:
  • Windows operating systems
  • iOS
  • Android
  • Samsung Smart TVs
  • WhatsApp
  • Signal
  • Telegram
  • Confide
Those are some very big names, right? Thankfully, it’s mostly hyperbole. The reality of the situation isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds.

Two considerations before freaking out

First, almost all these exploits require physical access to devices before anything can be compromised. For example, news organizations repeatedly reported that WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram and Confide all had encryption protocols that had been subverted by the CIA. That is 100% false.

What the documents actually revealed is that the CIA was aware of security gaps in Windows, iOS, Android and Samsung’s Tizen OS, which allowed the agency to snoop on messages before they were encrypted. Messages sent in these apps are still totally uncrackable as long as the devices they are installed on haven’t been physically compromised.

Takeaway #1: Physical security is still one of the most important aspects of cyber security. Most data security regulations require certain physical security protocols as a deterrent to breaches that take place via theft of social engineering -- and for good reason.

The second reason not to worry is the hardware devices and operating systems that supposedly left encrypted messages vulnerable haven’t been sold for a long time. For example, only Samsung TVs from before 2013 were vulnerable to the always-on microphone bug -- which was patched in an OS update years ago.

But what about iOS -- surely that’s the scariest reveal of them all, right? Not quite. Only the iPhone 3G, discontinued in 2010, was susceptible to exploitation. Furthermore, Apple immediately responded that they were aware of this vulnerability and patched it in the version of iOS that was released in 2011.

Takeaway #2: Updating software is critical to keeping your data safe. As we saw in the Year Zero leaks, just one piece of outdated software can cause a domino effect of other vulnerabilities.

In reality, the most recent Wikileaks releases shouldn’t change your approach to cyber security at all. As long as you consider data security a never-ending battle, you’ll be safer than everyone too lazy or forgetful to lock up their server rooms or update their operating system.

But running a business doesn’t always leave you a lot of time for fighting a “never-ending battle,” does it? Fortunately, that’s exactly what we do for our clients every single day. To find out more about how we can keep you safe, call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
April 5th, 2017

2017April5Apple_CApple is constantly looking for ways to improve user experience in their iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices. And while some updates get lost in the crowd, the iOS 10.3 is an update you can’t miss. The update, which took over seven beta versions to develop, offers bug fixes and new features, including:

Find my AirPods Since the new wireless headphones are so small and easy to misplace, Apple released the Find my AirPods feature.

To track your AirPods, simply open the Find iPhone app and look for “AirPods” under your list of Apple devices. From there, you can see where your AirPods are located on a map and even make them emit noise, provided you’re within a certain radius of the bluetooth earphones.

Siri updates With iOS 10.3, Apple’s digital assistant can now understand and perform more voice requests. With electronic payment apps, you can request Siri to automatically pay bills and track your account status. If you have Uber or other ride hailing apps installed, you can schedule a lift simply by asking Siri, “I need a lift to [location].” You can even check your car’s fuel levels and lock status with automaker apps.

Apple Maps The newly updated Maps can now display hourly weather updates for your destination and even track the location for your parked car, in case you’ve forgotten where you left it in a crowded lot.

Apple File System (APFS) One of the biggest changes in iOS 10.3 is the introduction of the APFS, a system that controls how data is stored and retrieved. This new file system replaces the 20-year-old HFS+, which was originally designed for devices with floppy drives! Unlike its predecessors, APFS saves 1-7 GB of storage space, provides better data backups, supports easier file recovery, offers data encryption, and is optimized for Flash/SSD.

Security updates Meanwhile, iOS 10.3 has received much needed security updates. iPhones and iPads will now actively warn users if they have 32-bit apps installed and request that they update to more secure 64-bit versions.

Additionally, Apple has secured around 100 vulnerabilities, including a bug which allowed cybercriminals to spam Safari users with an endless stream of ‘Cannot Open Page’ pop-ups unless they pay the attacker an iTunes gift card.

Although iOS 10.3 didn’t offer any revolutionary built-in applications, it did make some nice quality-of-life adjustments for iPhone 5, 6, 7, and iPad users. Knowing Apple, we think more optimizations will be rolled out until the big iOS 11 update, but until then take the time to enjoy more storage space, better security, and the new Siri voice commands.

If you want the latest Apple developments, contact us today to be the first to know!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple
April 4th, 2017

2017April4Business_CMachine learning is all the rage nowadays, and few vendors are providing as many solutions powered by this new technology as is Microsoft. In its latest release, Office 365 includes “intelligent” functionality for analyzing your employee’s time and coaching them on how to use it more efficiently.

What is MyAnalytics?

Microsoft’s newest productivity offering is all about applying machine learning technology to your employees’ Office 365 data. By utilizing extremely powerful computing processes to analyze huge blocks of information, MyAnalytics can uncover trends and correlations that may be too complex for human discovery.

Every day, Office 365 users create several thousand new data points across Microsoft’s productivity suite, and there’s a lot of potential to rearrange meetings, project goals, and employee tasks to increase efficiency.

The most obvious improvement is with Outlook calendar. MyAnalytics tracks how long you’re spending with each person in your office as well as the time you’re investing in specific projects. After sufficient information has been gathered, your Office 365 dashboard will begin coaching you on how to organize meetings and project goals based on your habits and past successes.

How can it improve your office?

Have you ever worked on a huge project that required multiple contributors? Did you all meet regularly to update each other on progress? Users who add contacts -- from both inside the company and out -- and projects to MyAnalytics get reminders to stay in touch with co-workers most vital to project completion.

Every metric tracked by MyAnalytics can be shared with your team to make sure everyone is on the same page. So MyAnalytics is more than just a motivational tool, because sharing these metrics allows your team to identify bottlenecks and trends to smooth the workflow process.

Response time is another key metric your employees are probably only vaguely aware of. MyAnalytics calculates average email response times -- both from you and from contacts -- to identify what time of day you’re best at communicating, and how you can adapt your schedule to get more work done in the same amount of time.

Privacy concerns

One of the greatest things about MyAnalytics is that it doesn’t introduce any new privacy concerns for business owners. All the data it uses to create customized coaching and advice is publicly available to everyone at your business -- via calendar appointments, email content, and message timestamps. The only difference is that Microsoft is lending you the previously prohibitive computing power to sift through all of it.

Availability

This wonderful new tool comes free with any Enterprise E5 plan, but can also be added on to E1 and E3 Enterprise plans for just a few dollars per month.

Increasing employee productivity is never as clear cut as it is with MyAnalytics. Install a solution, follow its advice, and start brainstorming about what to do with all your extra time. We’ve got plenty of other great solutions for streamlining your business processes -- call us today to find out!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
April 3rd, 2017

2017April3Healthcare_CAdministering medical care electronically makes a lot of sense. It’s a practical way for patients to receive care and for doctors to provide it. Advances in telemedicine, a type of medical practice that takes place without the doctor and patient sharing the same physical space, is increasing in popularity, and rightly so. Healthcare businesses adept at adopting new technology have been practicing it for decades. But given today’s advancement in the healthcare industry, the variety of devices used, communication speed, and overall quality of service, vast improvements have been made to this convenient alternative to conventional medical practices.

Making telemedicine work

A key element in making telemedicine work is technology, which comprises video-teleconferencing equipment, a fast and steady internet connection, and the latest, advanced telemedicine software. Because this special type of medical practice requires a highly visual interaction, these elements are indispensable.

Healthcare businesses and individual medical practices with a telemedical capability also need to comply with the regulations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH), and other healthcare legislation. Mostly, these regulations involve compliance with the handling and storage of personally identifiable patient data.

To make telemedicine effective, healthcare providers need to exert as much effort and follow the same rules as a traditional medical practice. Is it an option truly worth considering?

Benefits of telemedicine

Easy Access

Telemedicine solves the basic problem of access. For example, if a patient in a far-flung Nigerian town needs to see a specialist based in the US, telemedicine can make that possible. In a less complicated medical situation, telemedicine solves the problems of mobility. Without having to go to the hospital for treatment, a patient can conveniently dial or log in to an online system to consult a doctor.

Efficiency

One of the more problematic aspects of a doctor’s visit is the long wait. Often, wait times take much longer than the actual consultation. Patients with a minor illness would rather self-medicate than visit a hospital and be met with a long queue. With telemedicine, the waiting can be done in the comfort of the patient’s own home.

Better healthcare

Seeing your physician online doesn’t mean a diminished quality of care -- provided, of course, that all devices, telemedicine software, and other technical aspects work seamlessly. In some instances, remote medical care enhances patient experience. Follow-ups, post-operation check-ups, and quick consultations can be done using a desktop computer, laptop, or tablet, thereby reducing the possibility of missing an appointment.

Lower healthcare costs

That’s not just referring to the transportation expense of going to the doctor’s; the actual cost of an in-person visit is much higher than the cost of a virtual one. For minor ailments like colds and flu, a physical visit to the clinic might set you back as much as $100; whereas a virtual one, only $45.

Telemedicine is not taking over conventional medicine -- it augments it. Substantially. Patients can expect an expansion of this practice in many medical providers, while healthcare providers can expect rapid growth in telemedical technology, especially as healthcare compliance requirements evolve.

We stand at the forefront of the technological innovations that will continue to define an industry as dynamic as healthcare. If you need industry-based knowledge, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Healthcare
March 31st, 2017

2017March31WebandCloud_CMore than half of all internet users browse the web with Google’s Chrome browser. So when a new version is released, that’s a pretty big deal. And even by Chrome standards, the most recent improvements make some big changes. Three upgrades stand out in particular. Take a look.

More power consumption improvements

Google’s browser is a known battery hog. At one point it got so bad that Microsoft was publicly criticizing Chrome engineers for destroying laptop battery performance. Part of the problem is that Chrome allocates far more processing power to tabs running in the background than do other browsers.

Google’s browser now limits power devoted to unopened tabs at 1% of CPU consumption. But if you’re using minimized tabs to stream music or video, don’t worry, Chrome won’t limit these. Engineers claim this change will “lead to 25 percent fewer busy background tabs.”

Chrome for iOS gets a “Save for Later” feature

In what is probably a delayed attempt to catch up to iOS’s native Safari browser, the newest version of Chrome for Apple devices will feature offline reading. To add to your reading list, just tap the Share icon in the upper right hand corner of the browser and select “Read Later.” Even if you don’t have internet, you can view content from both the Unread and Pages You’ve Read sections of your reading list.

Although not quite as convenient, earlier versions of Chrome on Android have a roundabout way of doing the same thing. When clicking the the download icon under the Menu dropdown, Chrome saves offline pages in local storage.

Better graphics on desktops

Chrome is also getting a serious boost in terms of visual processing power. Google’s browser now supports WebGL 2.0, which improves the speed, textures, and animated effects of elements on websites.

Support for WebGL has yet to make its way to mobile versions of the browser, but desktop improvements should put graphics on par with the 3D graphics in most modern games. Firefox and Opera already support this standard, but its addition to the most popular browser on the internet creates a huge incentive for web designers to push the visual boundaries.

For those who have been in the small- and medium-sized business field for a while, it’s tempting to think that browser improvements really aren’t that big of a deal. But in an age when the majority of work is done inside of browsers rather than software, how you surf matters. For all the best news and tips, get in touch with us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web & Cloud
March 30th, 2017

2017March30Hardware_CIntel has released a totally new type of hard drive designed for faster boot times and storage. People in the market for a new hard drive may consider this technology, but before making any big investments, you need to know the full capabilities of Optane SSD. Below is our review of Intel’s newest storage device.

Optane SSD Intel’s new standalone drive maximizes storage performance and can also serve as extra RAM for your servers. The Optane SSD DV P4800X has 375 GB of space, a data read latency of 10 microseconds, and data transfer rates (or throughput) of 2GB per second. With these specs, Intel claims users will experience faster boot times, quicker application load times, and 30% faster system performance.

All of this makes the Optane SSD perfect for hosting machine learning and analytics. Also, if your company is involved in high-performance computing, Intel’s new RAM/storage drive should be high on your company’s wish list.

Optane SSD, however, may not be the best for everyone. First of all, the latest storage drive is meant for servers. Another downside is that the 375-GB SSD is a hefty $1,520 -- almost as much as deploying your own in-house server would cost! In this case, you would probably get more value out of a conventional SSD.

SSD Consumer-level SSDs still provide fast software boot times, but will probably offer less storage space and throughput rates than the Optane SSD. This really isn’t much of a sacrifice, considering that plenty of users can afford and work with 128 GB of ‘normal’ SSD storage. In fact, a 128-GB SSD can go for as low as $50.

HDD Your other choice would be the standard hard disk drive (HDD). Though these storage devices are far more common and much less expensive than the previous two, HDDs are slow to boot, noisy, and susceptible to hardware damage and data loss. The only thing going for the traditional hard drive is its storage capacity. For $50 dollars, users can buy a 1-TB hard disk drive.

Although HDD may not be ideal in terms of speed, it’s a good choice for any business on a tight budget. Most people actually pair SSD with their standard HDD to get the best of both worlds. Operating systems and critical applications can be stored in SSD for faster boot times, while regular files can be stored in HDD.

Even with this crash course on hard drives and SSDs, you will still probably need a storage professional to help you pick the best device for your business. For all your storage drive queries, installment requirements, and IT maintenance needs, contact our IT consultants today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Hardware
March 29th, 2017

170px-03For Android users, not only does a new operating system entail a new, confectionary-inspired name, but also a handful of features to look out for -- case in point, Android 7.0 Nougat. Even better, older smartphone users can expect to enjoy it too, thus revoking Google Pixel of its exclusive privilege. Read on for four key features you wouldn’t want to miss out on:

Quick Switch What this feature allows you to do is to quickly jump between the two most recently used apps with a double-tap on the Overview button. (That’s the square icon located to the right of the three virtual navigation buttons at the bottom of the display.)

Multi-Window After ensuring the application’s compatibility, simply long-press the square Overview button to shrink the app to fill half the screen. This feature allows you to easily run two apps side-by-side on your smartphone or tablet.

Better battery First introduced with Marshmallow, Doze is a power-saving tool that prevents your apps from sending or receiving data without disabling your mobile data. It gets a boost in Android 7.0 Nougat. Doze utilizes sensors to detect when the device is idle -- even when it’s being moved around -- and lowers power consumption.

Data Saver After activating this function from the notification dropdown, Data Saver mode reduces cellular data used by applications. It does so by blocking background data usage, limiting bit rate for streaming, reducing image quality, just to name a few.

Enhanced encryption In Android Nougat, each file and folder saved on the device is individually encrypted and protected as opposed to being encrypted as a whole, like previous versions of the mobile operating system were.

The latest tech innovations might succeed in enticing consumers, but it’s usually the operating system that seals the deal.This is merely a preview of Android 7.0 Nougat’s capabilities. By no means does this list detail all the awesome functions that await Android users. If you’re interested in getting the latest updates or would like to have your Android-related questions answered, just give us a call!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic android
March 28th, 2017

For companies trying to create employee desktops stored on a server and delivered over the internet, security and optimization often entail a mess of vendors, settings, and updates. Thankfully, two of the biggest names in the industry just announced a partnership that aims to simplify the whole process.

For those who don't know, Azure is Microsoft’s build-it-yourself cloud platform. With more than 600 services, Azure is all about giving network administrators access to Microsoft data centers to pick and choose how your cloud is structured.

Citrix is one of the largest virtualization software providers on the market. And its most famous product, XenDesktop, was one of the very first software solutions to allow multiple users to access Windows from a networked desktop with a different operating system already installed.

Now compatible with Windows 10

With the recent release of XenDesktop Essentials for Microsoft Azure, these two solutions are becoming one. Administrators can now build fully-stocked Windows 10 desktops stored in Azure, and employees can access them from any machine with Citrix’s lightweight client installed.

The whole setup costs only $12 per user, per month, and comes with a host of administration settings for managing and monitoring your virtualized desktops and how users access them.

A better way to work

It’s like Azure is a moving truck, XenDesktop is the box holding all your stuff in the back of the truck, and your company applications and settings are what’s inside the box. With the right configuration, the whole box can be delivered to employee desktops anywhere in the world.

As long as employees are accessing virtual desktops from verified devices running MacOS, iOS, Android, or even an older version of Windows, they can work as if they are sitting right in front of the Windows 10 install located within your company’s cloud.

Virtualization is a wonderful solution for cutting costs and increasing efficiencies. Unfortunately, even with two of the most user-friendly vendors in their respective industries, virtualizing Windows 10 desktops is still a monumental task. For 24/7 access to support and expert advice, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

March 24th, 2017

170px_img_shutterstock_193752605Prior to the release of Microsoft’s version of Slack -- a popular cloud-based team collaboration tool --, Microsoft Teams received a major update that might have given it the competitive edge. Enhanced communications aren't the only way productivity will be driven; take your business to greater heights with these new features.

Smarter meetings The latest addition to Microsoft Teams is Scheduling Assistant, responsible for finding the ideal time to schedule a meeting. It takes into consideration the schedules of all members, and suggests the best possible time for all attendees. Needless to say, whereas Teams allowed users to schedule only intra-team meetings, Microsoft now supports one-on-one meetings. If you want to steer clear of Skype, read on.

Bots, bots, and more bots With the latest update, bots are now capable of tapping into conversations happening in a team as opposed to a separate chat. To activate team bots, simply type “@” and begin interacting with the bot from there. Microsoft is also working on adding a Bots tab to Teams. This allows you to keep track of all the bots that have been added to a certain team while allowing you to discover new tabs as well. Other bot-related improvements include:

  • New bot gallery - the gallery displays a complete list of all the available bots on Microsoft Teams. Alongside the gallery is where you can add bots to one of your teams.
  • Discover bots via search - simply click on the search bar at the top and select “Discover bots”. From there click on a bot to start chatting, or click “Add” to add it to a team.
  • Add a bot with an @mention - to add a bot to a channel, simply type “@” in your compose box, then select “Add a bot”
Public teams With public teams, anyone from your organization can join the team, unlike the private teams which are open only to specific members. Public teams will show up when a user is trying to join a new team, and you can also turn your existing private team into a public team (and vice-versa).

When it was launched in November 2016, Teams was a relatively minimal service. But in just four months, it’s become a lot more powerful and stable. Microsoft Teams has been available to Office 365 Business Essentials, Business Premium, and Enterprise E1, E3 and E5 users since March 14th. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office