Here’s What Windows 10 Looks and Feels Like

Windows 10 is here! Are you planning planning on jumping in and giving it a try? Here’s a video that gives a top level overview of the Operating System and some of it’s key features!

 

 

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

Effective E-Mail Access On The Road … Can It Be Achieved?

Many people love to spend pockets of time on the road catching up on emails, staying organized and getting prepared. Are you set up to take advantage of spare time in the best possible way for this?

© anyaberkut – Fotolia

© anyaberkut – Fotolia

How many of these scenarios have you found yourself in?

#1 : You’re rushing at the office to get an important project organized and started but you’re rushing to catch a flight or get home for an important engagement.

#2 : You’re waiting at an airport and you have a couple of hours to kill at the gate before your flight and you’d like to give people some direction on how to run a project while you’re gone.

#3 : You get to a hotel after a long flight and confirm something you sent to someone before you left the office.

#4 : You’re on the road and you want to check on what’s been said on an email thread that was started both before you left and that continued after you left.

#5 : You sent a flurry of email from your desktop at the office and you grab your laptop before heading out on the road and you want to be able to have full access to all your email communications on the road.

All these scenarios are made much less stressful when you have an effective e-mail system setup that is seamless and allows you maximum flexibility.

Ultimately you want to be able to grab whatever device is closest to you and have it be seamless and you able to pick up where you left off on any other device in your arsenal and be able to be fully functional immediately.

Whether it’s starting an email on a SmartPhone and finishing it on a laptop, or searching for an email on a Tablet and replying to that email from a desktop the point is that your entire email system follows you regardless the device you happen to be using at the time.

To achieve this your email and folders need to be located in a central location with the ability to get at those email messages and folders from multiple devices … this is what people commonly refer to as email being “in the cloud”.

This can be accomplished in one of the following ways :

#1 : Leaving all your email and folders in the mailbox at your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and accessing them from your devices using IMAP instead of POP3

#2 :Leaving all your email and folders in the mailbox on the mail server at your office (if that’s the way your e-mail is setup) and accessing them from your devices using IMAP instead of POP3

#3 : Using a Hosted E-Mail provider like Google Apps for Business or a Hosted Exchange provider and operating all e-mail operations from there.

There may very well be scenarios and/or solutions that I have not included here,  but here’s the main point : With some re-engineering of how your e-mail flow operates and re-learning some ways to work you can indeed achieve a bit of an “e-mail utopia” that is fully functional and allows you an seamless environment whether in the office or on the road.

I would encourage you to have some talks with your IT Department and ask them for help with ways to make your e-mail setup more functional.

In the meantime here’s some other articles related to the subject that I’ve already written and I’d invite you to take a look at them as well!

Am I Safe To Move My E-Mail To The Cloud

How Do I Pick A Great Hosted Exchange E-Mail Service Provider

I Want To Run Our Own E-Mail Server At The Office Which One Should I Pick

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll look forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

Managed Services vs. Time and Materials work … Which Is Better?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question! The clients needs have to be looked at and a solution crafted that is both comfortable and serves them in the best possible way!

Service Client on the Mechanism of Metal Cogwheels.

© tashatuvango – Fotolia

First off maybe we should lay out some definitions :

Managed Services : This could include all onsite and remote tech support and maintenance tasks needed, all taken care of for one monthly price.

Time and Materials : There is no set monthly bill and work is simply performed on an “as needed” basis and billed as time and/or materials are incurred.

To determine the best possible answer for a client there are a couple of questions that need to be answered first :

#1 : Do they have anyone onsite already that is willing and/or able to do some tasks themselves?

#2 : What is the agreed upon list of tasks/items that the IT Service will be responsible for in the customer environment?

Hurdle #1 : How much time do we anticipate it will take each month for the IT Service provider to perform these tasks each month and thus what would cost be charged by the hour?

This is achieved by adding up all the tasks that are needed to be done and the time needed for each and coming up with a total amount of time.

Hurdle #2 : Does the IT Service Provider have any tools available to them that could automate any of the tasks listed in Hurdle #1?

Automated tasks can often be done after hours and in parallel (all at the same time) thus dropping the total amount of time needed to accomplish the tasks and also the amount of disruption to the business environment.

Hurdle #3 : Does the customer have the budget to a regular monthly payment for maintenance/support services?

Some clients may be really small and/or just may not have the cashflow to support committing to a regular payment or any sort.

Once you armed with the answers to 2 questions above and have jumped the 3 hurdles then you pretty much have all the information you need to determine the best course of action for the customer …

Scenario #1 : The customer already has an onsite IT Support person and they simply need you as backup in case something comes up that the onsite person can’t handle. In this case there really is no basis for a managed services agreement … you just bill them when they call you and you’re done!

Scenario #2 : The customer already has an onsite IT Support person but that person is overwhelmed with break/fix requests from the onsite staff as is not able to keep up with the regular preventative maintenance tasks that are needed to keep desktops/servers secure and in good shape. In this case the IT Service can use automated tools to ensure these tasks are done on a regular basis and can be reported on and can do it for much less cost than someone doing it manually. In this case perhaps a managed services agreement can be set up to take care of the automated tasks and then perhaps just have a break/fix agreement in place for when the IT Service provider is required to come onsite and help out.

Scenario #3 : The customer has no onsite IT Person at all and the customer is not able to keep up with the regular preventative maintenance tasks that are needed to keep desktops/servers secure and in good shape. In this case the IT Service can use automated tools to ensure these tasks are done on a regular basis and can be reported on and can do it for much less cost than someone doing it manually. In this case perhaps a managed services agreement can be set up to take care of the automated tasks and any support requests that can be taken care of remotely then perhaps just have a break/fix agreement in place for when the IT Service provider is required to come onsite physically intervene.

Scenario #4 : The customer has no onsite IT Person at all and the customer is not able to keep up with the regular preventative maintenance tasks that are needed to keep desktops/servers secure and in good shape. To ensure cost certainty the customer has also requested a fixed monthly cost for everything whether it’s automated maintenance, remote support or onsite visits. In this case the IT Service can set up a managed services agreement that encompasses it all and the client just has one flat rate for everything.

Now … no 2 scenarios are the same and there are many more I could come up with but you get the picture!

A good IT Service provider will take the time to talk with the client and listen to their needs and desires and abilities and craft a solution that creates a win-win situation …

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

Running Apps In The Cloud (SaaS) vs. Locally On Your Own Equipment

We all love having complete control over the technology we use in business, but there “does” come a time when stepping back and letting others do what they do best so you can concentrate on doing what you do best just makes sense!

© Dmitry - Fotolia

© Dmitry – Fotolia

When a small business first starts out most owners are wanting to conserve cash so they will often follow a similar pattern and want to do as many things themselves as they can.

They might want to run their own email server onsite for their company email so an IT provider would put in a server running Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) or some other email server running on a PC or Server …

They might also want to run some sort of accounting package so they’ll load up something like QuickBooks or Simply Accounting on a PC or network it on a server in the office …

They might also want to run a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool of some sort so they’ll go out and get a piece of software for that as well as load it on a server or PC onsite …

… and so on … and so on … and so on …

Pretty soon you have a set up in place where you have a number of different applications as well as all their data running on hardware at your place of business and now you have to make sure it’s all backed up and managed.

You’ve also got to make sure that you have expertise available onsite or readily available to administer these applications and ensure software is updated and they are operating with peak performance!

What if there was possibly a better way?

When it comes to running a successful business one could very easily make a case that you want to “reduce” the number of variables you need to manage rather than “increase” them … True?

If you make the best fishing rods on the planet it would be best if you could just concentrate on making fishing rods and that’s it … True?

Let’s take a look at a few core technology items that many people run themselves as well as some options for moving those items to the cloud and offloading the operation of those items …

E-Mail

There are a number of options out there today, and we actually covered this topic in depth in another article entitled Am I Safe To Move My E-Mail To The Cloud? 

Google has their Google Apps For Business which provides robust enterprise class email services for business

There are a number of Hosted Microsoft Exchange providers out there as well such as Sherweb, Intermedia, Microsoft Hosted Exchange Online and I’m sure there are lots of others as well. If hosted Microsoft Exchange is something you’d like to consider other … we’ve written an articles about things to look when picking a hosted Exchange provider entitled How Do I Pick A Great Hosted Exchange E-Mail Service Provider?

The main thing is that there are a ton of options out there that will allow you to simply connect and use!

CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

In short, CRM is a way to keep track of all your customers, partners, sales leads, notes…etc…etc

Popular apps for this kind of function used to be installed versions of apps like Maximizer, GoldMine, ACT and others. The apps get installed on a desktop somewhere in the office, or a server, and then it’s shared out with other staff.

All of the above mentioned vendors have both installed versions “AND” cloud based versions now so that you no longer need to run it yourself. I’d encourage you to check them out

You also have players in the industry like SalesForce.com and Microsoft Dynamics which offer very robust cloud based CRM functionality as well.

Accounting

People are used to using packages like QuickBooks or Simply Account (SAGE) in Canada that are loaded on a PC or Server and possibly shared out with others in the office.

Both of these vendors also offer cloud versions of their software that you interact with using a simple web browser.

If you “are” considering a switch to an online version, do check with your accountant as to timing as usually a year end is the best time to make a switch.

Summary

This is obviously a very in depth topic. The sole focus of this article is simply to get you thinking about the fact that there “are” options out there to consider so go check em out!

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

Should I Run Regular Backups?

One would think the answer to this should be pretty obvious but it’s key to understand the whole process from start to finish!

© z_amir - Fotolia

© z_amir – Fotolia

There are a number of key questions that need to be answered in order to fully answer the question …

  1. Could your business survive if you had a complete loss of your data?
  2. How often does you data change and/or get updated?
  3. In a worst case scenario how far might you need to go back to restore your data?

Let’s deal with each question separately …

Could your business survive if you had a complete loss of your data?

I don’t know a single business on the planet that could survive if they had a total loss of their data and no relevant backup to retreat to.

This one point alone should be reason enough to have a regular backup scenario in place, but it also leads us to the next very important point in this discussion …

How often does you data change and/or get updated?

In the previous point I mentioned not having a “relevant” backup to retreat to. If you have a business where data is constantly changing what good is it if you indeed have a full backup but it’s a month old. The data you use in your business may change at a much different pace than other business, so when picking a backup strategy you need to take this into account.

You may decide that if you had a complete failure and had to go back to data from 2 weeks ago that would be just fine … that’s perfectly fine then … but at least think about it and be honest with yourself in your assessment.

In a worst case scenario how far might you need to go back to restore your data?

You might decide, in the end, that you want to do daily backups because your data changes frequently and that’s perfect! The next question you need to decide is that, from a historical perspective, how far back at anyone time would you want to be able to go back and perform restores of your company data?

Would you want to be able to go back only 1 month?? 2 months? 6 months? Think of it as a big rolling timeline where, as times marches on, the oldest falls off the timeline and is gone with newer data taking it’s place. You have to decide how big a “bubble” you’d want to have at any one given time and use that to decide what kind of backup strategy to have.

Summary

There really is no scenario I can see where a business “wouldn’t” need a regular backup strategy of some sort. All that’s left to decide is exactly “what kind” of strategy to have. The best time to decide these things is “NOW” from a position of strength as opposed to thinking about it after the fact when disaster strikes and it’s too late!

I’ve also covered this topic in a couple of other articles on my site … Is Your Data Safe And Could You Recover?  -and- It’s Late On Friday, Do You Know Where Your Data Is? so I’d encourage you to check out those articles as well!

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

How Much E-Mail History Should I Keep?

I know that I certainly give my clients the gears about keeping too much email history but in some cases it’s justified!

© Artur Marciniec - Fotolia

© Artur Marciniec – Fotolia

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding on what your own personal policy or what your corporate policy should be.

  1. E-Mail Client Limitations
  2. Industry Regulatory Requirements
  3. E-Mail Provider Storage Limits
  4. E-Mail Access Method
  5. Personal Preference

E-Mail Client Limitations

I am mostly thinking about Windows here and Microsoft Outlook specifically. If you use Microsoft Outlook in a Windows environment then your email is stored in what’s called a PST file (a file with a .PST file extension … e.g. outlook.pst). All your email and email folders, calendar, contact and task items are all stored in a single PST file.

Earlier versions of MS Outlook had a 2.0GB file size limit on them meaning that, although it wouldn’t suddenly implode, if you pushed the size of the PST to sizes larger than 2.0 GB you ran the risk of the file corrupting and thus potentially losing data.

In doing some research online for the writing of this article I did learn that in later versions of Outlook this 2.0 GB limit is no longer the case, but really massive PST files produce performance issues and are not recommended.

This all being said to say that when considering how much email history to keep you’ll want to keep this in mind.

Industry Regulatory Requirements

Depending on the particular industry you work in you might be required to keep a certain number of years worth of email history for forensic reasons.

Check with your IT administrator to see if there’s anything particular you need to do on your end as it might also be covered on the back-end of your system where archives are created. If this is the case then you can likely keep your email volume lean and mean!

E-Mail Provider Storage Limits

If you use IMAP as a method for accessing your email then your ability to keep history is really only limited by the capacity of your email service provider. G-Mail for instance allows you to keep 15 GB on their free gmail.com email addresses and on their paid Google Apps accounts they start at 30 GB of storage and go up from there! Yahoo allows up to 1 TB (Terabyte) of storage for their free yahoo.com email addresses … According to this article outlook.com doesn’t put any limit on the size of your email storage.

As you can see it all depends on who’s actually providing the e-mail service for you …

E-Mail Access Method

If you use simple POP3 for accessing your email then you have to consider E-mail Client Limitations, as mentioned above, but you also need to consider disk space on the PC or Laptop that you are accessing from. If you are using IMAP to access your email then you may choose to use a web interface to get your email in which case you would just limited by the amount of space at your provider -or- you may choose a traditional email client in which case you’d just be limited by disk space on your PC/Laptop or possibly by the email client software you use (see E-Mail Client Limitations above)

Personal Preference

If you are strictly a personal user then it’s pretty much whatever you like. Some people adopt a method of “Once I’ve dealt with it I never want to see it again” and they delete everything. Others are hoarders and keep “EVERYTHING” including even the SPAM they receive. You need to decide for your self what works best for you.

Summary

Ask lots of questions of the IT Administrator at your place of work if you are not sure what you should do or if you have a strictly personal account ask questions of your email provider and what their best practices might be.

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

Apple Watch hands-on demo

Courtesy of our friends over at Engadget here’s a hands on demo and feature review of the new iWatch from Apple … tell me what you think?

 

 

 

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

Choosing An Online File Sharing And Storage Service

People love having their data available and accessible from a multitude of different platforms, so online file storage and sharing might make sense for you in certain circumstances!

© ottawawebdesign - Fotolia

© ottawawebdesign – Fotolia

The number of different devices that people use in their day to day personal and business lives seems to be growing.

I know myself that I have my MacBook Pro, iPhone and iPad, and, depending on what I am doing at any one given time, one of these devices is almost always near me.

However, there are files that I am working on all the time and need to access frequently therefore one of the challenges I face is the ability to get to the files that I need from wherever I am.

There a services out there today like Google DriveDropBox, One Drive and Box (see here for a fuller list of possibilities) that allow you to store your files in the cloud and sync them to a multitude of devices so that your files follow you wherever you are and are always accessible.

Some of these services have tighter security than the others, some of them have nicer web interfaces than the others, some might have cheaper pricing ..etc…etc..  You could likely make a big list of PRO’S and CON’s for each.

Some of you might be completely on your own and just need something for your own personal use … some of you might work in teams and need more security and ability to determine who gets to see what and when … some of you might be super price conscious … Some of the services come with a certain amount for free and others provide little or no space for free … There is no “one size fits all” product here!

This is not intended to push you toward any particular product and is more intended to highlight the fact that these kinds of services are out there and are ready and available to you.

I would highly encourage you to check out the services mentioned above and maybe even read the article I’ve linked which compares a bunch of them!

You will ultimately need to do your own research on the topic and make a decision on the product that makes the most sense for you.

I’d really love to hear your opinion! If you have any questions or comments please reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you! 

Also, if you’ve enjoyed this article, or others on this site, why not use one of the share buttons at the top of this, or any other article on this site, and share a link with your tribe… I’d appreciate it!

I’ve Deleted Something … No Backup … What Now?

You have had people preach to you about backups, and you’ve always intended to have one, but now you’ve deleted something and “don’t” have a backup … what are your options?

© vizafoto - Fotolia

© vizafoto – Fotolia

Before we get started we understand that you’re likely a little freaked out at this point … very understandable. It is, however, vitally important you have a clear head and methodically think through the options available to you before jumping to conclusions.

Let’s start with the obvious and just get that out of the way first! After any deletion the first place we want to look is in the Recycle Bin (PC) or Trash (Mac). You’d be surprised how many people never look in those obvious places first.

Once you’ve confirmed that your deleted item(s) are not located here then you essentially have 2 options available to you …

  1. Software Based File Recovery
  2. Hardware Based File Recovery

Let’s look at each of these items separately …

Software Based File Recovery

This would be trying to use a piece of software to search your hard drive and, in some cases, find a file that’s been marked for deletion, and is no longer accessible, but the area of the hard drive that file was sitting on has not been reclaimed yet. In “some” cases certain pieces of software can be used to reverse the process and bring the file(s) back.

The key point to stress here is that this option would need to be tried immediately because once a file is marked for deletion and no longer accessible the operating system might re-use that space for a new file in which case the deleted file would be completely overwritten and, hence, gone…. so “time is of the essence” indeed…  You really want to limit the amount of disk activity on the machine at this stage.

A simple Google search of “software file recovery” reveals quite a number of both paid and free software file recovery tools available.

I would personally be a little wary of the free tools out there only because, as with most free tools like this, if you don’t pay for something you really have no right to an expectation in the end.

Many of the paid products will allow a trial in which case you’d be allowed to run a scan and possibly even identify that a missing file “is” accessible and “could be” retrievable and then you could pay the fee for the software and likely get your files back.

Do you research though (preferably on another machine to limit disk activity) and try to find some independent reviews of the software that look good to you and narrow it down before trying …

Hardware Based File Recovery

This is usually much more involved and often much more expensive than software based file recovery. This method is often used when a hard drive has crashed and the operating system no longer boots up.

If the hard drive is still physically intact and it’s just the operating system that has failed then you can go to any computer shop and ask them to recover the hard drive contents. They will usually remove the hard drive from the PC or Mac and install it in an external USB device and read the contents like any other external hard drive and grab the contents …

If the hard drive is not physically intact (e.g. when you turn the machine on you get a specific message about a missing hard drive or an inaccessible hard drive) then this is a whole different story.

In this case you need to decide just how important the data on that hard drive is. If you determine that you absolutely must get the data back at all costs then you would need to send it to a lab where they pull the drive apart physically and swap out whatever parts they have to try and get the drive back up and running again. If they are able to do that then hopefully they can get the data back for you.

If the hard drive needs to go into a lab for this kind of work it can often run into costs of $1,000.00 or more depending on the provider and how quickly you need it done.

Summary

This is some information to consider if you find yourself in this exact situation and I hope it’s been helpful .. please feel free to leave a comment below or reach out to me using my CONTACT page if you have questions or comments!