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August 27th, 2015

Windows_Aug26_BHey Cortana! Saying this phrase to your Windows 10-installed laptop or PC will bring up your very own digital voice assistant. While you might not think much of it, utilizing Cortana can help you save valuable time and energy. Whether you’re looking for a specific file or wanting to send an e-mail, Cortana can assist you. Don’t know where to start? Here’s a quick guide to help get you going.

If you are using Windows 10, it’s likely you have come across Cortana at least once or twice. While you might fear that the effort involved in setting up the feature isn’t worth the time you will save once Cortana is up and running, you would be mistaken. Configuring her is quite simple and she is more helpful than you might realize.

Setup

For starters, you will want to have your microphone turned on if you plan on using voice commands, and all the privacy and locations settings enabled. Cortana will not work if these have not been activated. From there, she will give you a brief overview of her capabilities and ask you a few questions to get to know you better.

Once that is completed, you are going to want to spend a few minutes testing her out and seeing what she can do for you. This awkward, getting-to-know-you stage might seem like a waste of time but, once you have a good feel for Cortana, you’ll be more inclined to use her in the future.

Maximize Cortana

Now that Cortana is ready to assist you, it’s important to utilize her as a personal assistant. Here are a few areas she can really come in handy:

Find that document - Ever saved a document somewhere to later forget where it was stored? Simply ask Cortana to look for it by saying, “Hey Cortana, find (file name),” and she will bring it up for you. Let’s say you are looking for Word documents located in multiple folders on your computer; all you have to say is, “Hey Cortana, find my Word documents,” to have her pull up all your Word files.

Easily start tasks - Football season is nearly upon us and that means fantasy football season is here. Utilizing Cortana could give you the extra edge needed to win your league this year. If you want to check on Tony Romo’s status, say, “search for Tony Romo injury,” and the search results will pop up for you. Want to make a sneaky trade offer to John before your rivals? Say “email John Fantasy Football,” and a window with his e-mail address will pop-up. Of course, these features are universal and you don’t have to like or even know what fantasy football is to use them.

Answer your questions - One of the coolest features about Cortana is the fact that when you ask her a question she will not only show you the answer, but speak it as well. Want to know what the weather is like in Denver? Just say, “Hey Cortana, what’s the weather in Denver,” and she’ll give you the lowdown on it. Need to know when your next meeting is taking place? Ask Cortana and she’ll reply with the answer. This is especially nice when you’re in your office but away from the computer.

Talking to Cortana is nice, but speaking with a person about your IT is better. Contact us today for all your technology needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 12th, 2015

Office_Aug11_CYou can edit that Word document from the runway, input data to an Excel file from the ballpark or create a PowerPoint presentation without the need to open up your laptop with the new Office Mobile apps from Microsoft. The apps, available to users of Windows 10 at no extra cost, are designed for tablets with a "touch-first" interface. The increased functionality makes creating or editing Office documents on your tablet a breeze.

One of the biggest complaints about trying to edit a Microsoft Office file from a tablet is usability, or lack thereof. That has all changed, at least for Windows 10 users, with Microsoft’s recent release of Office Mobile apps. The tablet-friendly versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote have been built from the ground up to improve touch functionality.

Even if you don’t have Windows 10, you still might be intrigued about the potential of having Office apps that are touch-friendly. Here are some of the new features you can enjoy when using Office Mobile apps.

Word

Microsoft Word Mobile has all the tools and features of the PC version including more nuanced tasks like being able to track changes and add footnotes. The Read mode, a mobile exclusive, improves the way documents appear by making them flow better on the smaller screens of a tablet while also letting you zoom in and out with a simple tap of the screen.

Excel

Recommended Charts is the prominent feature of the Excel Mobile app. It allows you to quickly show off your data using a stylish chart or graph with only a few taps. You will also find that reordering columns, adding formulae, changing chart types and the majority of Excel’s other core functions are easier than ever before.

PowerPoint

Of course Office wouldn’t be Office without PowerPoint. The mobile version of the app allows you to edit slides with new touch gestures. This makes it easy to insert and edit pictures, tables, shapes and SmartArt. But the real star here, and of the entire Office Mobile setup, is the Presenter View. This mode gives you full control over what your audience sees on the big screen during a presentation while still letting you view your speaker notes on the tablet.

OneNote

Windows 10 comes installed with OneNote, so you’re probably already using it. Tablet users will notice that changes made by anyone working in the notebook are automatically saved and synchronized for everyone to see.

The release of Office Mobile apps is just one of three big launches to come from Microsoft in 2015. Both Microsoft Office 2016 and Office Mobile for phones are slated for release this fall. Yet, while these tablet applications represent marked improvements for Windows 10 tablet users, they are probably not quite enough to warrant the switch from other operating systems just yet. In fact, even if you’re in love with the idea of having user-friendly, mobile versions of Office, you might want to hang on in there - it’s likely Microsoft will release them for iOS and Android in the near future, too.

Want to know what hardware and software is best for your company? Want to increase productivity in your office? Get in touch with us and we’ll show you how to do it.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 17th, 2015

164_C_O365If you’ve recently been thinking about signing up for an Office 365 suite or are a current user, Microsoft made a recent announcement concerning their E4 plan that will have a direct impact on the service. Before the year’s end, the tech giant will phase out their E4 package entirely and replace it with a new, upgraded version known as E5. How will this affect you? Read on to learn more.

What’s included in E5?

According to Microsoft’s Office Blogs July 13th post, the tech giant announced that the E5 plan will include the following new capabilities:
  • Skype for Business services with support for features including Cloud PBX and PSTN Conferencing
  • Analytic features such as Delve Organizational Analytics and Power BI Pro
  • Advanced security features like Customer Lockbox, eDiscovery, Advanced Threat Protection and Data Loss Protection
With these new service offerings, Microsoft believes that business owners will be able to reach new customers and increase value for their existing ones.

The cost?

While Microsoft’s Office 365 current E4 package costs $22 a month in the US, there was no official announcement of the price for the E5 version.

However, since E5 will include services such as Advanced Threat Protection, which currently costs an additional $2 per user/month, as well as Power BI Pro, which is priced at $9.99 per user/month, a price increase seems inevitable - and very well could be significant.

Your options

Because E4 will be retired when E5 is released, that means that current E4 users will have to either upgrade to E5, or change to E3 plus Cloud PBX.

For those who have yet to sign up for Office 365, however, you’ll also have the additional options to choose an E1 or E3 package with available upgrades.

Is it worth it to upgrade to E5?

That all depends on your business, and likely the price of the upgrade. However, the question you need to ask is, “will the new capabilities enhance your organization enough to justify the higher cost? If you need additional help understanding how E5’s new features and capabilities can create value in your business, we’re happy to assist you.

Curious to learn more about the Office 365 E5 package? Get your questions answered, and give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 30th, 2015

Windows_Jun18_CJuly 29 is the day Windows users have been waiting for. This summer sees the release of the much-anticipated Windows 10 operating system, which Microsoft is keen to ensure outperforms the let-down that was Windows 8. The computing giant has been back to the drawing board and emerged with plenty of impressive new features to wow you and your team - here’s what you need to know before getting started.

You can get it for free

They say the best things in life are free, and that might just be the case with Windows 10. Microsoft has kept its word about making its newest operating system free to access - at least if you’re currently running an authentic version of Windows 7 or 8.1, its two most recent releases. You’ll enjoy a free lifetime upgrade to Windows 10 provided you make the move within the next year and, better still, it’s an automatic upgrade directly from your existing Windows 7 or 8.1 interface. If you’re running an older version of Windows, you’ll need to make a fresh install and you’ll also need to pay - the various available versions of Windows 10 are expected to retail starting at $119.

It’s being launched in phases

Although the official release date is July 29, in reality Microsoft is expected to undertake a phased launch. This means that you might not end up using the brand new Windows 10 on July 29 itself - instead, Microsoft is likely to make the new operating system available to desktop and laptop users first, and only later to mobile and other devices. What’s more, the firm already has its next move in the pipeline. Upgrade and update plans for Windows 10 are anticipated to be on the way in two phases, in June and October 2016. But we are expecting these changes, codenamed Redstone, to come in the form of more minor tweaks to the Windows 10 infrastructure rather than a full overhaul.

It’s the last you’ll see of Windows

Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that it sees Windows 10 as the operating system’s final release. But that’s not quite as ultimate as it sounds - this is not really the end of Windows. Instead, what we’re seeing is the transition of Windows from a product to a service. Microsoft envisions a future where, instead of major new versions of Windows emerging every few years, there are regular improvements and updates - far beyond the WIndows Updates that we know at the moment.

It’s likely that version numbers will come to play far less of a role in system updates in the future - in much the same way as mobile apps operate, we’ll instead settle into enjoying a frequently updated service that incorporates the latest features Microsoft has developed. And while some have expressed fears that this could lead to home and business users being tied into a subscription model in order to stay up to date, Microsoft appears committed to ensuring that ongoing upgrades are free.

Ready to make the leap to Windows 10? Want to find out how best to make the transition with minimal disruption to your business? Give us a call and let us walk you through it.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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.