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January 4th, 2017

2016january4_virtualization_cManaged IT services providers recommend virtualization not because it is an IT business trend that everyone simply must ride, but because it is, quite, a smart way of managing your IT resources. Your organization needs to be more efficient and should be willing to move to the cloud to achieve it. But, if you do it, would your current resources, and budget, allow for a seamless transition? Allow us to present the advantages of a large-scale cloud migration.

Preparation for migration

  • Is everyone within the organization on board with this major move? Are your employees adequately equipped with knowledge about the cloud? And, since large-scale transfers involve big data, would your security framework be able to deal with potential security threats during the transition? Can your company handle the inevitable expenditure that goes with investing in the cloud? These are just some of the points you have to consider when preparing for large-scale migration.

Reasons for migration

  • One of the most compelling reasons to virtualize tech capital is the need to meet your business’s increasing demand for efficiency, which could lead to greater profitability. Other reasons could include change of organizational leadership or a shift in business structure that necessitates storage recalibration. Regardless of your reasons for migrating to the cloud, you as a business owner should have a clear understanding of why you’re doing it, and make sure everyone understands why it is so important.

Size of resources to be moved

  • Using Amazon Web Services’ cloud storage gives you the benefit of eliminating the costs of buying your own storage infrastructure and it introduces an element of anywhere-anytime access to your business’s data and/or applications. That said, you must consider how much you’ll be transferring, and use it as your basis for moving. Knowing the amount of IT resources you’re freeing up lets you allocate more cost-effectively and allows your technology staff to focus on more innovative pursuits.

Migration requirements

  • Which specific data, servers, or applications need to be migrated? Does your company need large-scale migration, or can it survive on moving only a small part of your resources to the cloud? Perhaps, a subsidiary could survive without having to be moved to the cloud. When migrating to the cloud, you’d be remiss not to think of these tiny details.

Impact to the business

  • Temporary downtime is something you have to be ready for. You might need more time or you might need to consider alternatives for the brief interruptions that come with migration, and of course budget can be a major factor in your decision to move. You can save your business from unnecessary obstacles by first assessing its ability to handle these situations.
Recalibrating the management of your technological resources for scalable storage solutions in a cost-saving platform is not without its challenges. Your business and its stakeholders’ call for greater efficiency cannot be ignored. After considering these factors for a large-scale migration, you might realize that despite a few minor bumps, the benefits to your organization will far outweigh the projected costs, and that there’s nowhere to go but up (in the cloud).
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 3rd, 2017

2016january3_offce_cOffice 365 doesn’t represent the number of days you need to spend working; rather, it’s a productivity and collaboration-enhancing software that helps employees work from wherever and whenever they want. By enabling employees to work, share files and collaborate with colleagues on a cloud-based platform, your company will be given a competitive advantage. Here are the four newest features added to Office 365:

Real-time collaboration in PowerPoint

Users will now be able to share a PowerPoint deck and update documents with others in real time. This means you’ll be able to see edits as your colleagues make them. Microsoft was committed to expanding real-time co-authoring of a company’s native applications, with Microsoft Word already rolling out this feature beforehand. Currently, real-time collaboration is available for PowerPoint on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers in the Office Insider program and for PowerPoint Mobile on Windows tablets.

Move attachments to the cloud and share with colleagues in Outlook

According to Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team, this feature allows users to transform a traditional document into a shared cloud document within Outlook. Previously, Outlook users could only attach cloud-based documents to an email, but this new feature makes it easier to send large files and to collaborate on those files with ease.

Users can upload files into their own OneDrive or a document library as part of an Office 365 group and then designate sharing permissions for the email recipients. The new feature is currently available in Outlook on the web as well as Outlook on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers.

Mobile notifications for changes to shared documents

With this new update, users will be notified when any cloud documents in Word, Excel and PowerPoint are being shared or edited. These notifications let you know when changes are being made, even if you are away from a particular document, so you’re always connected and know when you have to act. This feature can be integrated with the activity feed on Windows desktops, and help businesses improve user collaboration. Koenigsbauer says that Microsoft will continue working on the notification feature “to provide more detail and transparency around shared document activity in the future.” Sharing and editing notifications are available for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint users on Android and Windows Mobile for Office Insiders. This feature will be available for commercial users in all Office mobile applications in the coming months.

Find, open, and save documents in a Shared with Me and Recent Folders tab

Microsoft’s “Shared with Me” tab in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint makes it easier for enterprise users to find and open shared documents without having to leave the app you’re working in. At the moment, the Shared with Me tab is available on Windows desktops and Macs for all Office 365 subscribers, iOS and Android devices included. And soon, it will be available on Windows Mobile. And the “Recent Folders” tab -- used to help quickly locate files as well -- is now available in Word, Excel and PowerPoint on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers in the Office Insider program.

Technology has become an integral part of modern businesses, and investing in the right IT resources is needed in order to achieve success. With the latest additions to Microsoft Office 365, small- and medium-sized businesses will enjoy enhanced staff collaboration, increased corporate productivity, and an overall competitive advantage.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
January 2nd, 2017

2016january2_healthcarearticles_cSince the dawn of modern medicine, technological advances have been giving doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators better and better tools for treating the unwell since the dawn of modern medicine. This includes everything from the stethoscope to vaccinations to x-rays to present day integrated healthcare technologies. Here are five technology integrations that are improving patient outcomes and the overall quality of care today.

Putting the words “healthcare technology integration” together opens things up pretty broadly, so what do we mean by it exactly? In this instance, we’re not talking so much about complex surgical procedures or hi-tech medical devices; the focus here is more on IT, or “information technology,” in the healthcare realm.

It may not sound as impressive as some of the sci-fi-seeming technological advances like anesthesiologists’ iPads that use “perioperative information management systems” to track the patient’s well-being during surgery; or the “Argus II” bionic eye, which takes a video signal from a pair of sunglasses and transmits it to retinal implants. But the improvements technology integrations are making to the patient experience are no less significant.

Timely Reminders

In the past, healthcare providers had but one “convenient” way of reminding patients of upcoming appointments. Phone calls are fine, but even with the advent of robo-calls, connections can be missed and messages can fall through the cracks. Today, your doctor’s office can reach you via more expeditious “e-methods” like email, chat, and text message. They also afford patients an interactive option where they can confirm dates and times with a click of their mouse or a tap of their screen.

Informed Decisions

Integrating technology into your healthcare routine will never replace the advantages of meeting your physician face-to-face, but it certainly makes it easier for you to manage your wellness. For example, there are apps that give you on-demand access to your medical records and patient history -- with features like real-time chatting with your doctor, therapist, or nurses -- allowing for better, faster decision making when it comes to your health, all without an actual appointment.

Painless Prescriptions

Here’s one area of patient care where new apps are truly simplifying things, making communications between you and your doctors and pharmacists completely hassle-free. In many cases, the process for getting the right drugs at the right time can be totally automated; gone are the days of calling in scripts or dropping them off and waiting. Welcome to the new age of software programs that manage your meds, automatically refill them, and keep you on track to better health.

Personalized Care

Everyone has a different approach to staying fit or recovering from illness, and in the world-wide-web era, search engines are a part of most people’s repertoire. But the data you find online won’t be tailored to your precise situation, and certainly won’t be 100% trustable. Thankfully, a slew of sophisticated health-tech apps are integrated with wearable devices to give you accurate, up-to-the-minute info on how you’re doing with your stress management, heart health, or temperature regulation.

Convenient Claims

The historically labor-intensive, oftentimes irritating undertaking of filing medical claims has been seriously improved upon by technology in recent years. Thanks to cloud computing, your doctors and insurance carrier can collaborate on your behalf using secure, encrypted apps that result in faster processing and far less paperwork. You’re even able to enter your insurance info ahead of time, and stay up-to-date throughout the process with automated status updates.

Technology integration in healthcare is improving the ways we prevent diseases, perform surgeries, and deliver treatments. But the innovations with the most significant day-to-day influence are the ones that provide patients with access to reliable, real-time information. That’s where patient outcomes, perhaps, have been advanced the most -- right before our [bionic] eyes.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Healthcare
December 30th, 2016

2016december30_android_cGoogle recently announced their latest operating system offering, known as Android Things. This operating system can have a major impact on businesses that offer apps on various devices aside from tablets, phones, and computers. If you are wondering how Android Things might impact you and your business, read on.

Android Things is a Google operating system designed for use and compatibility with connected speakers, routers, security cameras, smart thermostats, and more. Essentially these are the "things" that need to be connected through WiFi to a smartphone or tablet to be controlled as part of a larger network or system.

Google originally announced an Internet of Things operating system referred to as Brillo. However, Brillo did not do as much or as well as expected, and it has rarely been mentioned since. Rather than continue to allow Brillo to fade into obscurity, Google decided to rebrand Brillo as Android Things, an improvement that offers the same developer tools as other Android operating systems.

It is important to keep in mind that Android Things is a background operating system rather than an obviously visible system like the system on a phone or tablet. But the fact that it can accomplish more complex tasks quickly and efficiently can mean big things for its use in business.

If you are interested in knowing more about Android Things or about using devices that put this OS to use, contact us right away. We’ll help you keep up with the latest development updates so you can be the first in line when Android Things products are widely released.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic android
December 29th, 2016

2016december30_android_cRecently, changes to Microsoft Edge, the built-in web browser for all new Microsoft Windows systems, ended the browser's instantaneous compatibility with Adobe Flash. Many business owners and internet users alike are concerned and frustrated with these unprecedented changes and are wondering what they will mean for them going forward. If you are among those concerned business owners, get to know some of the reasons for these changes and the impact that they may have on you.

The primary purpose behind the recent changes made to Microsoft Edge is to make it more competitive with the popular Google Chrome web browser. Among efforts to do just that is the change to how Adobe Flash works on the Edge browser. Now, instead of Adobe Flash plugins playing and loading immediately when a person navigates a website, the application will be blocked.

An alert will come up near the address bar, letting users know that Adobe Flash has been blocked and will give the option to run the add-on or continue blocking it. For businesses that use Adobe Flash throughout their websites, this can be a frustrating change as visitors will need to take an extra step to access the full website.

However, there are numerous legitimate reasons for these changes to the Microsoft Edge browser. The most important of these issues is the fact that Adobe Flash is a security risk and is easily hackable, making it more likely for information and control to be lost to web users. Another issue is the fact that Adobe Flash is a big drain on battery life for computers and other devices.

The theory is that Adobe Flash is on its way out, and that newer, better systems are on their way in. As of now, Windows Insider users are the only ones with access to these updates, but soon the updates will go global and be made available to all users. In fact, Microsoft plans to eventually automatically load HTML5 web information first without loading Adobe Flash content at all.

Because so many sites use Adobe Flash, this can mean major renovations to existing web content. If you worry about the impact this will have on your business, contact us for immediate help and assistance in maximizing your website usability before these changes go live for all Microsoft Edge users.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
December 28th, 2016

2016december28_security_cRansomware has become a fast-track for making money for some hackers this holiday season. But instead of just demanding a small payment for the decryption code that will unlock their computers, some hackers are demanding that victims sacrifice two other friends to ensure they receive the code they need. Read more to find out what makes Popcorn Time such a devious program and how you can avoid becoming one of its victims.

Ransomware is nothing new. Cybersecurity miscreants have been taking advantage of online users for years by requiring payment to "unlock" a victim's computer. What Popcorn Time does differently is give users the option to spread the virus to two other victims in the hopes that they will pay the ransom -- a tactic that promises to double their money at the expense of your sense of morality (and at the expense of your friendships as well).

The Cost of Popcorn

When you inadvertently download this ransomware, you will be met with a screen that explains that your files have been hijacked/encrypted, and that to get them back you will need to pay one Bitcoin for a decryption key that they keep stored remotely. The Bitcoin fee is usually more than $700, a hefty price to pay during any season but particularly difficult for those infected during the holiday season.

Spread the "Holiday Cheer" and Hope they Bite

What makes Popcorn Time unique is the option victims have to take their cost away by allowing the ransomware to affect two of their friends for a chance to get a free decryption code. Of course, it works only if both friends pay the ransom, which leaves you looking (and feeling) like the Grinch.

Avoiding Popcorn Time this Season

The easiest way to avoid downloading ransomware is to stay off of sites that might contain questionable files. However, this is nearly impossible for modern users, and many hackers are getting good at making their files look legitimate. Limit your exposure to potential ransomware by keeping your software up-to-date and your computer protected with a security program from a reputable company (for example Norton or Symantec). If you need to learn more about how to avoid running into ransomware while you're online, give our professional cybersecurity consultants a call. We'll keep you away from the popcorn this season.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
December 23rd, 2016

2016december23_webandcloud_cGoogle is out to make the user's experience more secure and efficient with its recent announcement that it will disable Flash and implement an HTML5 default browsing protocol. This change won't be implemented all at once, but will start by changing the settings of 1% of Chrome users in December 2016 before eventually expanding that number over the next year. Check out why Google is implementing this change and what it could mean for your browsing experience, right here.

The current state of HTML5

HTML5 first hit the market in 2008 as a modification to its 4.0 version, adding a few changes and fixing bugs (as happens with most newer versions of programs). But it also promised to change the way developers design webpages and influence how browsers search for and view online information.

Most websites currently utilize a Flash-based display protocol, which is often slow and uses significantly more resources than HTML5 to accomplish the same tasks. By changing to an HTML5 default and requesting permission to use Flash, users have the advantage of faster load times and a more efficient browsing experience.

The Use of Adobe Flash

One benefit of using Flash for developers is purely aesthetic: Flash makes the website look good because the designs, colors and motion on the page are generally more eye pleasing. Unfortunately, the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages. Using Flash on a commercial website means slower performance, confusing navigation schemes, incompatibility with web analytics software, and limited visibility in some formats.

Google's Plan to Phase Out Flash

Google Chrome users should begin to notice a change in how they browse websites starting this month, December 2016. Only 1% of Chrome users (and a handful of users using the beta browser) will be asked whether they wish to run Flash as they go about their Christmas shopping.

In January 2017, Google’s proprietary browser will begin asking users whether they wish to use Flash whenever they visit a new website. In February 2017, with the release of the newest iteration of the Chrome browser, users will be asked before Flash components run on a page. Finally, by October 2017 all sites will load using HTML5 by default and require users to physically enable the Adobe Flash to experience anything delivered in that medium.

Developers at Chrome hope that by stretching out the introduction of HTML5 default settings, web designers will have time to adjust their strategies away from Flash and toward a more user-friendly design strategy.

Moving away from a Flash-based web experience will have gigantic implications for anyone who manages a website. Regardless of whether you built your site or outsourced its creation, it’s most likely going to need some serious restructuring in the coming years. Get in touch with us to get a head start on this project -- the sooner the better.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web & Cloud
December 22nd, 2016

2016december22_business_cRecently, Amazon Web Services (AWS) announced the creation of a new data analytics tool to lighten the burden on businesses when analyzing data in the cloud. This tool, referred to as “Glue,” is meant to clean up and organize data that comes into the cloud from various sources so that it can be analyzed by business intelligence software and data analytics experts. Let’s take a closer look at this service and how it can benefit you and your business.

Data analysis can be an extremely profitable arm of your business, if undertaken carefully. Much of what people consider to be data analysis for a business is actually just digital clerical work, which makes the process even more frustrating and time-consuming than it needs to be. At its core, AWS’s Glue is an app that automates this tedium, which is often referred to as ETL (extract-transform-load).

Third-party software already exists to help with this task, but the service from AWS is one of the first cloud-based alternatives to come to market. Glue is designed to work with businesses that have their own on-premises data centers and infrastructures in addition to working with AWS frameworks. In fact, if a business makes changes to on-premises data, Glue can be set up to trigger jobs and update the data in the cloud so users always have access to the most up-to-date information for use and analysis.

Essentially, AWS extracts various types of data from a wide array of sources and analyzes it, ultimately homogenizing the data to fit the business's existing database. This eliminates a great deal of work because the extremely tedious task of importing data is often done by hand. Handing this burden over to AWS allows businesses to focus on the real analysis work; saving effort, time, and money in the process.

Every day, data becomes more and more integral to building a successful company. And with such a heavy burden placed on this facet of business, falling behind on the technology that makes it possible is an expensive mistake. If you’re hosting large amounts of data on-premises or in an AWS database, contact us today about how you can eliminate costly ETL processes.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
December 21st, 2016

2016december21_apple_cA new feature has been added to iCloud Calendar to address its sudden onslaught of spam. Although some users were hoping for a solution that would eliminate the spam issue altogether, the very nature of how spammers propagate their links prevents that from happening. Instead, Apple needs your help in reporting and removing these unwanted calendar items to put the problem to rest once and for all. Read on for a full rundown of where this problem came from and what Apple is doing to fix it.

The problem started in late October, and it continues today. iCloud devices continue to receive numerous calendar invites from unsolicited people. These invites typically advertise “junk” products in an attempt to exploit the increase in shopping associated with the holidays. Users who actually do click the links find themselves redirected to sites that have zero connection to what they thought they would find. But worse yet, everyone, regardless of their interest, is being completely inundated by unwanted notifications.

Denying calendar invitations alerts spammers that the email address the rejection came from is still active. This just results in more and more spam in the future. Apple apologized to customers affected by the oversight, but until now users have had no efficient way of deleting the spam from their calendar.

A “Report Junk” button has been added as Apple’s best shot at a long-awaited solution to the calendar spam problem. This reporting mechanism can be found on any calendar invitation sent by someone not listed in your contacts.

Unfortunately, it requires opening each item and selecting “Report Junk” through iCloud.com (the feature has not yet been released for iOS or macOS). However, once you have deleted an event from your calendar, the information will be deleted from all synced calendars, even those that are shown in the iOS apps.

Spam is one of the worst externalities that comes with increased connectivity. Although we’re still waiting for a more thorough solution to this problem, you can rest assured that in the meantime we’re working hard to come up with one of our own. For all the insider tips and tricks on Apple devices, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple
December 20th, 2016

2016december20_virtualization_aVirtual containers have incrementally increased the ability of users to create portable, self-contained kernels of information and applications since the technology first appeared in the early 2000s. Now, containers are one of the biggest data trends of the decade -- some say at the expense of the virtual machine (VM) technology that preceded them. Read on to find out some of the performance differences between containers and virtual machines, and how the two can work together for your business.

When it comes to the virtual world, containers and VMs are not all that different. The VM is a good option for those who need to use more than one operating system in the course of a business project, while containers serve those who are comfortable staying within a Linux or Windows operating system without deviating. There are performance advantages to using containers, although these are counterbalanced by organizational advantages derived from a VM system.

Performance Nuances

VMs and containers both work from a virtual platform; therefore, the differences in performance relate to how they are configured and utilized by the people who maintain them.
  • Faster startup time: Containers don't have as much to start up, making them open more quickly than virtual machines. While it may not seem revolutionary, this can be up to a few minutes per instance -- a cost that adds up to quite a bit over the course of a year or more.
  • Resource distribution: Containers only need to pull hardware resources as needed, while a VM requires a baseline of resources to be allocated before it will start up. If you have two VM processes running at the same time, this might mean two of the same programs are pulled up even if they aren't being used.
  • Direct hardware access: A VM cannot pull information from outside of itself (the host computer), but a container can utilize the host system as it runs. This may or may not matter depending on what your users are doing, but certainly puts a point in the container column nonetheless.
Although it appears that containers out-perform virtual machines in most areas, there are uses for the VM environment, particularly for a business on the rise. With a virtual machine you have a security advantage because each VM environment is encapsulated with its own operating system and data configuration; additionally, you are not limited to the use of one operating system.

Virtualization is an incredibly tricky solution to grasp in its entirety. New avenues spring up all the time to get more use out of its benefits, and it might be tempting to take a “wait and see” mentality. In reality, one of the best things about virtualization is how adaptable it is as a business solution. We suggest you get into the game as soon as possible; give us a call so we can tell you how.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.