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!

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!

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!

Windows 10 Is Coming! Will you jump? …

This much anticipated release will be coming sometime later in 2015 … do you plan on making the switch?

© tashatuvango - Fotolia

© tashatuvango – Fotolia

I have mixed feelings on this and am not entirely convinced what I’ll do at this stage …

In the many years I’ve been in this industry I’ve noticed that Microsoft seems to have a super operating system out with wide adoption and people seem to love it … they will then release a brand new O/S that gets generally negative feedback … then they come out with another really good O/S, wide adoption happens again they then release another O/S that gets the negative feedback again!

I’ve seen this pattern repeated multiple times …

A Bit Of History …

Windows 95 came out back in 1995 and was followed in 1998 with Windows 98! Windows 98 matured as a product was very widely adopted with lots of patches and security updates published for it … people generally loved the product!

Then along comes Microsoft Windows ME (Millennium Edition) in September 2000 which was generally panned and criticized for performance and speed issues. PC World at the time dubbed it as “one of the worst operating system Microsoft had ever produced”

October 2001 saw the introduction of Windows XP which is still very much in use today and I think is a great operating system! In fact it’s nearly 14 yrs old and it’s still in use in nearly 20% of computers world wild as of December 2014 (link) … generally speaking this has been and incredible well received operating system from Microsoft …

November 2006 then saw the pendulum swing again to the dark side and along comes Windows Vista … again another operating that received much negative criticism (link) and many people made the decision to hold on to Windows XP and not make the move …

July 2009 the pendulum swings back to the “good side” and out comes Windows 7 and again people started adopting the latest operating system …

October 2012 saw the release of Windows 8 and October 2013 saw the release of Windows 8.1 and both of these were complete departures from the any of the traditionally laid out operating system and started using a series of tiles and such to try and amalgamate Desktop/Laptop/Tablet devices and Touch Computer and such and introduced quite a steep learning curve on the part of end users!

Summary

So … you see the pattern here???

Windows 95/98 (GOOD) … Windows ME (BAD) … Windows XP (GOOD) … Windows Vista (BAD) … Windows 7 (GOOD) … Windows 8/8.1 (LUKEWARM)

September 2014 saw Microsoft announce Windows 10 as the successor to Windows 8.1 and the early “hints” seem to indicate some pretty positive things including more of a return to the traditional “bottom left corner Start button” … “Traditional Interface” availability that people have grown to love and feel comfortable with over the years along with some other toys and goodies!

It’s still to early to tell if it will be a huge success … but I can’t help but refer to the pattern I outlined above. If Windows 10 follows the pattern we’ve seen repeated up to this point then all indicators would seem to point to it being a winner!

Add to that the fact that Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 for qualified new and existing Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 devices that upgrade in the 1st year and you could see quite a migration to Windows on both the personal and the business side!

I’d really love to hear your opinion …. if you have any questions, comments or concerns please leave a comment below or reach out using one of the methods on our CONTACT page and I’ll forward to hearing from you!

Support Is Ending Soon For Windows Server 2003!

Windows Server 2003 Support is ending July 14th, 2015 … what is your plan?

© adrian_ilie825

© adrian_ilie825

Windows Server 2003 was released back in April of 2003 and is now the ripe old age of 12! I am surprised it took this long but the time has finally come to pull the plug on this server operating system!

Microsoft has been making a big push lately to get all their customers to move off this operating and upgrade to either Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2012.

The operating system will still function after July 14th but Microsoft will no longer issues security patches for the operating system and it looks like any support options after the fact will be prohibitively expensive.

According to this great article written on Tech Republic it appears there’s also a potential bug that has surfaced when migrating from Microsoft Server 2003 to Microsoft Server 2012 which could prevent your ability to migrate successfully … so, you may need to consider migrating in steps and perhaps moving from Microsoft Server 2003 to Microsoft Server 2008 instead of making the leap all the way to 2012 …

The big point here is ???? DO YOUR HOMEWORK! … make sure you ask lots of questions of your IT Team about this :

  1. Do we have any Microsoft Server 2003 installs left at our business?
  2. If so, do we have a plan to migrate/upgrade to a more current Server operating system?
  3. If we “do” have a plan to migrate, and given the risks outlined above about possible bugs in migrating from Server 2003 to Server 2012, what is the plan to mitigate our risk and protect us during the upgrade?
  4. What tools and resources do you need to help make this a smooth transition?

The clock is ticking … a plan has to be in place and you need to get moving with this so you’re not left holding the bag and leaving your organization potentially exposed when support is finally yanked!

If you have any questions, concerns or comments please leave them below or reach out using the methods on our CONTACT page and we’ll look forward to hearing from you!

Are you exposed and at risk with your software licensing plan?

Many businesses will either wilfully or ignorantly turn a blind eye towards making sure they have proper software licensing in place.

© kentoh - Fotolia

© kentoh – Fotolia

Continually burying your head in the sand though, and pushing this to the sidelines, or failing to give this the priority it deserves, however, can leave your business exposed to serious legal and financial penalties so you want to give this subject some serious consideration.

Rather than think of this as a scare tactic, though, let’s take the time to look at the facts and consider this all objectively so, at the very least, you can be informed.

Not For Profit Organizations

Non-Profits, of all the types of organizations, really have the least amount of excuse for not having a proper licensing policy in place.

There are organizations out there like TechSoup (techsoupcanada.ca in Canada and techsoup.org in the USA) that are essentially clearing houses for software and hardware donations from a large number of vendors and it’s only for charities and non-profits.

Specifically as it relates to software, most licenses are available for a fraction of the cost of buying it via regular channels so there really is no barrier to having proper licensing practices in place.

If you are a not for profit organization or charity I would strongly advise you to sit down with your IT provider and have discussion regarding your software licensing strategy in light of the fact that organizations like TechSoup exist.

For Profit Companies

Unfortunately, if you are a for profit company, you don’t qualify to use the services of an outfit like TechSoup but there are some smart ways to save a few $$$ when it comes to your software licensing costs.

OEM Software (Microsoft)

If we’re talking about Microsoft software specifically you can save money by purchasing things like MS Office at the same time as you purchase a new PC. This is called OEM software and it’s much less cost than ordering separately from the new computer. The trade-off however is that you don’t qualify for attaching Microsoft’s Software Assurance to the product which essentially is a premium cost that allows you all upgrades that come along for a 2 yr period.

If you plan a fairly regular turn over of your PC’s/Mac’s though then perhaps OEM software is the way to go for you and you’d just have to get in the habit of buying new OEM copies of MS Office each time you purchase a new machine.

Open Licensing (Microsoft)

If you have multiple computers to buy for at the same time then perhaps Open Licensing makes sense for you. This allows a few benefits :

  1. Allows 1 license key to be used for multiple installs
  2. Allows certain free “at home” copies for each legitimate open license copy being used
  3. Allows you to add (extra cost) Software Assurance to the licenses thereby “assuring” you access to upgrades for a full 2 yrs after your purchase
  4. If you purchase software assurance (usually around a 50% premium) then every 2 yrs you can simply renew your software assurance for those licenses and get all upgrades for a further 2 years and start the cycle again … this ends up being much cheaper in the long run compared to purchasing all brand new copies each time.

Non-Microsoft Software

It will be impossible to cover each and every vendor here but check into each different company and see what kinds of programs they have in place for legitimately licensing their products. You might be surprised at how affordable some of the products are.

Here are a couple of examples :

Adobe for instance has their Creative Cloud suite of products where you can license just one product or get their entire creative suite for one low monthly price per seat.

AutoDesk is another one … they have a number of plans available where you can pay as you go on either a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis to make it more cost effective for the organization.

There are many other examples but companies will likely make it much easier than you think to legitimately license their products.

Summary

If you are a non-profit or a charity the extremely low cost of getting your licensing on board through organizations like TechSoup (mentioned above) virtually eliminates any barrier to getting your software licensing in order … you just need to take the time to schedule a meeting with your IT Person today and start the discussion …

If you are a for profit corporation/business begin by taking an inventory of all the software titles you currently use … then take a look at the number of licenses you actually own and can “prove” that you own and see what deficiencies might come to the surface. I would then check out the vendors of each of the titles you currently use and see what programs they might have in place like the Adobe and AutoDesk examples mentioned above and at least “start” the conversation of what it would take to make things legitimate and current.

The more informed and educated that you are the more “peace of mind” you create because at that point you at least know “what” the deficiencies are and “what” it will take to correct it … that’s the first step. The next step after that is working those costs into your budget so you can put the whole issues of software licensing to bed and move on to bigger and better things.

Companies like Microsoft are known to require companies to perform audits and report back to them with the current license counts in use vs. the license counts that have been paid for and then further require the companies to provide “proof” of ownership. I’ve seen companies get caught with this and then it’s literally a mad scramble to gather the information required and then an even bigger panic when they realize they are out of compliance and have a massive and “emergency” bill on their hands.

Why not get out ahead of this and start the process now so it’s done from a position of “strength” as opposed to a position of “weakness” … you’ll have greater peace of mind in the process!

Have a question or a comment? Please feel free to leave a comment here or head over to the CONTACT page and post a link to this post and a comment to your favorite social media channel!

A Few Words About Christmas!

Today is finally here! The day we typically get together with family and friends and perhaps a few others who don’t have their family close by and just simply “be together” and “be thankful” for the simple pleasures of life …

© karandaev - Fotolia

© karandaev – Fotolia

We all get so busy, and so buried, in work and business life that it’s easy to overlook those around us that have contributed towards our success this past year!

A very special shout out to all my customers and clients who have entrusted me with the safety and security of your networks and technology environments … I don’t take that lightly and very much look forward to contributing to your success and peace of mind this coming year … THANK YOU!

A huge shout out to people behind the scenes at my office whether that be accountants and book keepers or people that help organize and manage my schedule … you enable me to be as effective as possible and I absolutely could not do what I do without you … THANK YOU!

I want to give a very warm thank you too the colleagues of mine who have covered for me at times so I can go away with my family and enjoy some R&R … you guys are the very best at what you do … THANK YOU!

You are likely reading this on the morning of Christmas Eve and perhaps even considering shutting down the office early so why not take a minute and go to the people in your office that support you and make your job possible and tell them just how much you appreciate them … and if they are not in today perhaps give them a call and tell them just how much they mean to you …

Finally … I want to wish all my readers the very best this Christmas Season! God’s Blessings on you all and I wish for you your best year ever in 2015!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!