Blog

November 22nd, 2013

Windows_Nov18_CWindows 8.1 is more of a touching up when it comes to an upgrade, rather than the full facelift that Windows 8 proved to be. It seems that Microsoft is going the way of Apple with it's OS X and bringing in a schedule of yearly updates to its operating system. The bright and colorful tiles are still there but there are some changes that are worthy of note and may go some way to attracting new users unsure about Microsoft's newest operating system.

It would be a little strange and somewhat annoying to present users if Microsoft had introduced huge changes and really different features to Windows 8. After all, this OS was radical enough and has still to win over many users. For Windows 8 users the 8.1 upgrade is free and for other users the price is USD $120, with the Professional Edition costing USD $200. For present users there seems little point not to upgrade. For others, considering the upgrade, there are a few features which might persuade them.

New Start button: Windows 8 had many users feeling disorientated without the ability to click on the classic Start button in the bottom left hand corner. It seems that Microsoft might have been listening the gripes as the button is back. However, the techies may not have been listening hard enough as whilst the button launches to the Metro tile screen it doesn't include the traditional start menu which is what many users miss.

Boot to desktop: If you want to miss out the tiles and the Windows 8.1 Metro screen then the upgrade now allows users to boot up and go straight to their desktop. You can set this up by first of all clicking on the Desktop tile. From there, right-click and select Properties, then select Navigation. Here tick the Go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in box. Click OK. The change will be effective when you reboot.

Configure the Start button: Windows 8.1 also allows you more control over the start menu tiles that pop up. You can now configure this so that it displays the Apps screen instead. This can be useful for businesses who want to have all their apps right there visible in front of them. To configure the Start button:

  1. Right click on taskbar and select Properties.
  2. Click on Navigation.
  3. In the Start screen tick the Show the Apps View Automatically When I Go to Start box.
  4. Click OK. Click on the Start button and the Apps will show.
More screen control: You are able to display more tiles and apps on screen with Windows 8.1 and you can also organize apps more easily. These can be resized and renamed and sorted into categories and which are most used. When two apps are open at the same time these can be resized, which allows for easier multi-tasking too. Still more control comes with the new feature of being able to add your own tile backdrop, which is much more reminiscent of the classic desktop look with tiles sitting on top.

Omnisearch: Perhaps one of the biggest changes is with Search. When you tap in a search this is extended beyond your computer and includes the Internet too and Bing. There is intelligence added to the searches too with relevant information being presented too. Type in the name of a city and the weather will pop up. Links to Microsoft apps will also be visible on the dashboard too. The screenshot carousel look of the results is pleasing to the eye but the limitations of Bing's searches and the default to helpfully present accompanying information which you might not want may prove a little tiresome if nothing else.

Windows 8.1 may not have enough startlingly different features to sway you to the tile UI but it certainly lets users know that tweaks aside, the modern look of Microsoft's OS is here to stay. With more personalization possible businesses may become more interested too and if you want to find an OS that works for your needs then get in touch.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 14th, 2013

Office365_Aug09_CMicrosoft, and indeed many other program developers, are starting to realize that in order to stay ahead of the competition, they need to begin to cater to mobile users. Until recently, Microsoft has been largely absent from the mobile scene especially in relation to Office 365. They changed that a few weeks ago with the release of an iPhone app, and have also recently released an Android app.

The app, released in late July, is a scaled down version of the ever popular Office 365 platform. Users can access Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents that are stored either on the device or on SkyDrive/SkyDrive Pro.

These files, as long as they are stored on SkyDrive, will be automatically updated when you make changes from your Android phone. When you access these files, or try to edit them, the extra parts of the app disappear allowing you to focus solely on the document, making it easier to edit.

A bit more about the app itself The app is available for free on the Google Play store, however you do need to have an active Office 365 subscription that includes the Office suite e.g., a subscription to Office 2013, Office 365 Small Business Premium, etc. When you first open the app, you will be asked to sign in using your account and password, and your documents and information will be synced.

At the moment, the app only supports Android smartphones that are running Android 4.0 - Ice Cream Sandwich and later. While the US is the only country fully supported, Microsoft has noted that it will soon be available in 117 countries.

If you meet the requirements, and want to access your files from a mobile device, this can be a great app for you. There is one downside however - it won't work on tablets.

Why no tablet support Microsoft hasn't given an official reason as to why there isn't a tablet specific app. One of the reasons could be the fact that Microsoft is throwing its weight behind their own tablet - the Surface RT and Pro.

If you have an Android tablet and would like to access your Office documents, you can log in using Office Web Apps, from your device's browser.

If you would like to learn more about Office 365 and how it can help make your employees more productive, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 20th, 2013

Office_June18_CThere are many tools that business owners and managers have at their disposal that enable them to do their jobs more effectively. One of the most important is the word processor, with the most popular being Microsoft Word. Word is favored because of the multitude of features available for users. There are many features that often go unused however, one being the ability to protect documents and set who can access and edit your documents.

Here's how you can protect your Word documents.

You will see a new window pane open with three options:

  1. Formatting restrictions - Allows you to set restrictions based on styles used in your document. Hitting the radio beside this option will enable this. You can click on Settings to select which styles can be edited. Pressing OK will input the changes.

  2. Editing restrictions - Allows you to select how users will be able to edit the document. If you press the radio button beside this option, you will be able to select from four options:

    1. Tracked Changes - Users can make changes which are automatically tracked.

    2. Comments - Users can only comment, not make changes.

    3. Filling in forms - Only forms may be filled in.

    4. No changes - No alteration can be made to the document.

  3. Start Enforcing - Clicking Yes, Start Enforcing Protection will implement the protection you have picked in one of the options above.

You should see a new option in the window pane: Exceptions. This is where you can make exceptions to the level of document protection you have established. If you have set up User Groups in your network, you will see them in this option. Clicking the button beside a specific group will give them full permission to edit documents. You can also click More users... and add users by their name or email address who will become an exception to these rules.

When you have the settings established, click the Yes, Start Enforcing Protection button. If you need to make changes, or remove protection, open up the Protect Document window pane again and untick the box beside the protection option you choose. This will remove document protection.

Protecting your documents is a good idea, especially if you are going to send these out to clients or a third party who you don't want to be able to make changes, or edit. Some practical examples of this in action include a contract you send out to potential clients or employees, or sending out marketing materials with price lists.

If you would like to learn more about how you can leverage Word's vast features to improve documents, please contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 10th, 2013

Microsoft_May08_CThe world is becoming increasingly connected. This trend will continue to become more popular over the coming years, pushed forward by larger companies like Microsoft. Microsoft's goal is to have all of their services and products connected to one account - your Microsoft Account. There is a problem with this however: Having one account for multiple services could pose a security risk. To curb the possibility of security breaches, Microsoft has recently introduced two-step verification. Do you know what it is?

Below is an overview of the two-step verification system Microsoft has recently implemented.

What is it? If you use any of Microsoft's products, you likely have a Microsoft Account. This account is what you use to access SkyDrive, Outlook, Skype, Office or even the Xbox. The whole idea of this is that you have one account for all of Microsoft's products and services.

While this is great (you only have to remember one username and password), it can be a security issue. If a hacker gets into your account, they could have access to all of your personal information. Microsoft realizes this and has recently introduced two-step verification, a new Microsoft Account feature that beefs up your account's security.

Two-step verification is a feature that will ask you additional questions when you try to log in to your Microsoft Account. For example, you may be asked to enter a PIN or phrase that is sent to your phone. If you have used your credit card at the Microsoft Store, or on an Xbox in the past year, you have likely seen this feature in action. Now, Microsoft has extended it to your account.

This new feature is not mandatory for your Microsoft Account, so you have to sign up for it. But It is a good idea to consider enabling this function on your account, especially if you have sensitive information stored online. While this won't make your account 100% hack proof, it will drastically cut down the chance of a hacker gaining access.

How to set up two-step verification Microsoft has made it really easy to enable this security measure. You can do so by:

  1. Going to https://account.live.com/proofs/Manage and logging into your Microsoft Account.
  2. Selecting your phone number and Text from the drop down menu and pressing Next on the window that opens to receive a text message with a code. If you don't see this option, you should be taken directly to they account management screen
  3. Entering the code you get on your mobile device and pressing Submit.
  4. Clicking on Security Info under Overview.
  5. Selecting Set up two-step verification followed by Next.
  6. Picking from how you would like to receive verification codes (Authenticator app, Phone, or another email account). We recommend the app, which you can download onto your mobile device.
  7. Following the instructions on the screen and entering the code that is sent your the option you selected above, and pressing Next.
Your account should now have two-step verification. The next time you log in, you will be asked to verify the login using the option your selected. For example, if you selected a text message, you will receive a text on your phone with a code.

If you would like to learn more about your Microsoft Account and security measures you can take to, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 26th, 2013

BCP_Feb20_COne of the major objectives of almost every business is to remain operational. From time-to-time there might be factors, such as a natural disaster, that could put your company at risk. To mitigate this threat, companies have started to adopt a Business Continuity Plan with the aim of being able to recover from such disastrous events.

While a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) can be complicated, and comprised of many different objectives, the main reason companies include this in their business strategy is to build up resilience. Disasters of many kinds can result in either lost data, sales or even business. While a BCP won't prevent large-scale disasters, it will help your business recover quicker.

When looking at how resilient your business is, there are three main aspects to consider.

RTO RTO stands for Recovery Time Objective and is the time period from the beginning of the disaster to recovery of operations. This number, or time period, will be different for every company. For example, companies that operate online stores will likely have a short RTO, as they rely on 24/7 uptime to conduct business and sales.

In general the RTO is an objective, one that employees and stakeholders should strive for. Having one can help planners identify potential problem areas along with critical functions that must be recovered and any preparations that will be necessary. If a business does not address, or identify a set time to recovery they could see an unnecessary increase in recovery times, or worse lost profits.

RPO RPO stands for Recovery Point Objective and represents the amount of data a business is willing, or can afford, to lose. The easiest way to figure this out is to look at your systems and think about how much data or information you personally can lose before being unable to do your job. From there, you can work out the frequency with which you should back up your systems.

For example: If you figure that you can lose a day's worth of data, then your backup should be done on a daily basis. If you currently back up your data or systems once a week, and figure you can only miss a day, then RPO helps you realize this is not enough and that you need a system or plan that better meets your needs.

The difference between RTO and RPO is that RTO is a broad process that covers the whole Business Continuity timeline, while RPO is focused on data and backup.

ROI When looking at different Business Continuity systems, it is always a good idea to calculate the ROI, or Return on Investment. You can calculate the cost of the integrating any plan, time to implement and recovery, expected value it can bring your business and avoided losses. This will give you a pretty good picture on whether current systems are strong enough, and if new alternatives are better.

By figuring out the time you expect to recover, how often you should back up and the total ROI of proposed, or existing, systems you can gain a clearer picture of how resilient your company is.

If you're looking to make your company a little more resilient, why not get in touch with us? We are happy to sit down and discuss your options with you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 5th, 2012

Microsoft Office's Excel is an incredibly useful program for businesses, regardless of what industry they are in. While it is a helpful tool, spreadsheets often reach a point where there are so many rows and columns that you find yourself constantly scrolling up and down and left to right. The good news is that Excel has a feature that helps you keep track of the reference rows and columns more easily.

Here's how you can easily keep track of your place in spreadsheets through the use of freezing and splitting panes.

Freezing panes Freezing panes is often used when you want to keep a number of specific rows or columns in view whenever you scroll up/down/sideways. This often makes it easier to see important data without having to scroll up/down constantly.

You can freeze both rows and columns by:

  1. Selecting the row/column below/beside the field you want to freeze, e.g., if you want to freeze rows A1-3, select A4. You can select the row/column by clicking on the row indicator on the side.
  2. Clicking the View tab and pressing the arrow beside Freeze Panes which is located in the Window group.
  3. Select either:
    1. Freeze Top Row - This will freeze the first row.
    2. Freeze First Column - This will freeze the first column.
    3. Freeze Panes - This will freeze the selected columns and rows.
After you've frozen panes, you will notice that the Freeze Panes option has been changed to Unfreeze Panes. Pressing this will unfreeze the rows or columns you have previously frozen. The only issue with this is that you can only freeze rows or columns on the outer edge of the workbook, you cannot freeze panes in the middle of the workbook.

Splitting panes If you need to work in the middle of a large spreadsheet, while still looking at existing information in the same sheet, you can split panes. Splitting panes will allow you to scroll in a selected area, while the rest of the worksheet will be frozen.

You can split panes by:

  1. Mousing over the split box which is located above the vertical scroll bar on the right side of the screen. It's a little grey box just above the upward pointing black arrow.
  2. Clicking and dragging the bar over to where you want the split to start. e.g., if you want the split to happen at C23, drag the split box to C23.
This will create a vertical split. If you want to create a horizontal split pane, you can drag the split bar located beside the horizontal scrollbar - located in the bottom right beside the right-hand facing black arrow - to the area you would like to split.

By either splitting or freezing panes, you can easily keep track of important cells while navigating to other parts of your spreadsheet. You should be aware however, that you can't split and freeze panes at the same time. If you have split a pane, and then click on Freeze Panes, Excel will turn off the split pane, and freeze all rows and columns above and to the left of the start of the split pane.

If you would like to learn more about how Excel and Microsoft's other products can help you and your employees, please contact us, we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

November 14th, 2012

Windows 8 has officially been out for a few weeks and reports and reviews are coming in. For the most part, people seem to like it but are unsure of how successful the OS will be. This is due in large part to the drastic change in layout. If you're intrigued by these alterations and are thinking about upgrading you should ensure your system can actually run it first.

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 TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Articles
August 2nd, 2012

There are many keys to success of a small business, one of the most important keys is your employees. Your employees need to be able to work together while at the same time fulfilling different roles. If they can’t quickly and easily access necessary information, overall productivity will be down. One way to ensure this doesn’t happen is by employing a system like Microsoft SharePoint.

SharePoint was launched by Microsoft in 2001 as a document and content management program for intranets - closed networks within a company. Over the past 11 years, SharePoint has added a ton of different capabilities and features that make it an integral part of many business’s infrastructure. One of the biggest advantages of SharePoint is that it integrates with Microsoft Office and Office 365. Here are five things you can do with SharePoint to help make your company and employees more productive.

  • Centralize all essential documents. The problem many small businesses face is that files are spread out, normally kept locally on an employee's computer which makes sharing difficult. SharePoint allows you to organize your files in a central location while allowing employees or other parties to access and share these documents.
  • Collaboration. With centralized document management, your employees can collaborate easier. No more having to email another employee to get them to send a document then having to compile different versions into one document, as employees will have access to the same document with changes made clearly visible.
  • Solidify goals and roles. Employees in small businesses often complain that they don’t know what their roles are and what exactly the company is doing. With SharePoint you can create lists and documents with your goals and expectations of employees, which they can access. Clearly defined goals and roles will go a long way in keeping employees productive because they will be able to see exactly what they should be doing.
  • Project management. Project management can be one of the toughest things to keep on top of. One team may be using a separate calendar and documents that other teams don’t have access to causing productivity bottlenecks. With SharePoint you can create calendars and workflows that are shared on the network so you know exactly who is working on what, when it’s due and what’s left to be done.
  • Stage-gate implementation. With the combination of calendars, workflow and shared documents you can establish a clearly defined stage-gates, a set point where document drafts, workflow process or any project needs to be approved to move on to the next step. This creates an element of control that keeps projects on track, and necessary parties informed at all times.
Through clever use of SharePoint and the different addons, you can reign in uncontrolled projects, keep track of projects and ensure your employees know what they should be doing. If you and your employees are organized and have easy access to data and collaboration tools, you will see an increase in productivity of both employees and the company. To learn more about how you can use SharePoint for your business, please contact us.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
May 18th, 2012

Companies no longer operate in a local only location, with technology they can reach customers all over the planet. The same goes for their employees, they can be anywhere with an Internet connection, and still be a contributing and productive member of a team. This is made possible by software like Microsoft Office 365.

If you use Office 365 in your company, you can have online meetings through Microsoft’s messaging tool, Lync. Here’s how to start a meeting, and some features that make face-to-face meetings unnecessary.

How to start a meeting In Outlook’s calendar, schedule a meeting and invite the participants. When it’s time for the meeting, simply log into Lync, go to your calendar and select the meeting. You’ll have the option to Join online meeting, click it and the meeting will start. If a colleague is online and you would like them to join the meeting, click on their name and drag them over to the meeting window.

Features you can use during the meeting There are a number of useful things you can do in the meeting including:

  • Video calls. If you and the attendees have webcams, you can turn the meeting into a video call by pressing the webcam button beside the attendees’ names.
  • Share and share alike. Press Share (beside video) in the meeting window to get a dropdown menu with a number of things you can share with the participants. Say you are going to do a demonstration on your screen, you can share it with the attendees by selecting Main Monitor. You can also share presentations or programs.
  • Change the presenter. If an employee would like to show something from their screen, or is going to present something, you can give them presenter status by right clicking on their name and selecting Make a Presenter.
  • No interruptions. If one person is presenting, and another has a question, they don’t have to stop the presentation to ask a question, they can simply select IM and type the question. All participants will see it, and the presenter can answer the question when they are finished.
If you’re looking for an alternative to physical meetings, Office 365 has a great set of products that will allow you to do just that. To learn more about Office 365 or any of Microsoft’s other products please contact us, we’re ready to assist you.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office 365
May 18th, 2012

Presentations are an important part of business. Take Apple for example, millions of fans eagerly await their next presentation. While many small businesses would love to have an audience like that to present to, they don’t. What you, as a small business owner or manager, do need to do is prepare presentations that are professional and can hold the audience's attention long enough for you to get your ideas across.

Here are nine tips on how to prepare a good Microsoft PowerPoint presentation.

  1. Choose a relevant layout. When you choose the layout or template for your slides, pick something that’s simple and non-distracting. If you’re presenting yearly earnings, a background of flowers probably isn’t the best choice. Under no circumstances should you put your company’s logo as a background, this can make slides incredibly distracting. Put it in the header or footer instead.
  2. Colors. It’s important to pick a good colour scheme for your slides. The keyword here is, “contrast.” Pick colors that contrast and are easy on the eyes. A white background with black text is good, a red background with black text is bad. If you want to use your company’s colours and they don’t contrast well, pick one of your colors and another that’s a good contrast.
  3. Images. Pictures and graphics capture our attention, text puts us to sleep. The general rule of thumb is to have more visuals than text. Don’t have images for the sake of images, instead pick ones that convey what you want to say. Many good presenters will have a slide with nothing but an attention grabbing image, and use it to talk about their main idea.
  4. KISS your text. KISS stands for Keep It Stupidly Simple. Text should be kept to a minimum, at most five lines or bullet points per slide. The best presentations use only keywords or showcase the utmost important data and save explanations for the presentation.
  5. Eliminate animations. It can be tempting to have text or images pop up every few seconds. Resist the temptation, as it’s incredibly hard to match your presentation speed with that of the animations. Having to speed up or wait for animation will make you look unprofessional.
  6. Remain consistent. If there’s one key rule with presentations, it’s remain constant. This applies to everything in your presentation. Keep the font size, font, image type, colour scheme and layout the same throughout the presentation. If you put your logo in a header on one slide, it should be in the header on all the slides.
  7. Audience. When developing a presentation you should always keep in mind who your audience is. If you’re presenting to a marketing firm, they probably don’t need to see more than one or two slides with financial information. Beyond that, be sure to prepare a version of the slides for your audience. Any explanations and extra information should be put in here as well.
  8. Keep the file size down. If you’re presenting on another system or will be emailing the slides, it’s a good idea to ensure the file is as small as possible. The bigger it is, the slower it’ll load and the higher the chance it will stutter or crash.
  9. Practice. Go over the slides ahead of time and be sure you know the content inside and out. Another benefit to practicing is you will often catch mistakes and knowledge gaps that you can fix before you present.
By following these tips, you should be well on your way to producing a good presentation that will captivate your audience and make you look like a star. If you have any other questions regarding PowerPoint, or any of Microsoft’s other products we are here to help, please contact us.


Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office