Can Office 365 Transform Your Business?

Microsoft has invested heavily in Office 365 as the way of the future for software licensing and it clearly turned out to be a winner! Both the consumer and business markets are enthusiastic about Microsoft’s Office 365 based on its user-friendly flexibility, effective communications and online productivity solutions. Have you thought about transitioning to Office 365?

Does Your Technology Support the “Time is Money” Viewpoint?

Advances in technology have enabled small and local businesses to participate in the global marketplace by maximizing productivity; delivering enhanced communication capabilities; providing affordable
e-marketing; and offering efficient customer service. It’s becoming increasingly common for small businesses to have user-friendly websites; online catalogs; call centers; customer relationship management tools (CRM); and streamlined inventory management systems. Technology is now primed to wring every ounce of efficiency and productivity out of a business to keep it one step ahead of the competition.

How Can Office 365 Benefit Your Business?

If you are an individual user or a business owner managing a team of employees, Office 365 offers many benefits including:

  • Work Whenever and Wherever: Access your Office tools from anywhere on any device. Create and edit Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote files and share with your team using cloud-based file sharing. Even the Small Business edition can support up to 25 users. All editions provide great storage capacity for your data. You can also use Office 365 with your desktop version of Office.
  • Email and Calendar: Sync your email and calendar with Office 365’s hosted business class email system. Stay in touch and on schedule with instant messaging. Secure and private communications are delivered across various devices with anti-virus and anti-spam protection.
  • Easily Manage Your Website: With easy to use DIY online tools you can quickly make changes to your website. You can add your existing website, domain name and domain-based email address to Office 365 without any additional web-hosting fees. Make a great impression by taking control of your website and keeping it up to date.
  • Online Conferencing: Take advantage of HD video conferencing for online meetings with desktop sharing. Save time and travel hassles with efficient online meetings that offer real-time note taking features.
  • Mobile Apps: View and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on your mobile device. When you return to your office, you can easily reconnect to these files from your computer with intact formatting and content. No time is lost when you can start working where you left off.
  • Subscription Advantages: Save money upfront with the subscription service format. You can pay by the month with the ability to cancel the subscription at any time. You can easily upgrade your subscription to another edition or bundle services within a service segment. No need to purchase new versions of software ever again.

Is Your Business Ready to Take Advantage of Office 365?

You can reshape the way you are doing business by reshaping your workforce. Office 365 offers a range of advanced tools that enables your employees to be productive anywhere and at any time across a range of devices. Gain the competitive edge for your business by boosting the collective performance of your employees through Office 365’s powerful cloud-based solutions.

Embarking on the Office 365 journey requires guidance so give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call today and one of our technology professionals will be happy to discuss how Office 365 can benefit your business

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Windows 10 is coming – What do I do?

If you haven’t already noticed a new Windows icon in your system tray in the lower right corner of your desktop, you will soon. Microsoft is offering Windows 10 as a free upgrade to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 customers. We are advising our clients to click on the “reserve your free upgrade” at this time. This doesn’t mean you have to or should upgrade to Windows 10 once released.

Why?

  1. There is no compelling reason to upgrade now. Zero. Nada. Don’t do it…please. As the old saying goes, “Free” is seldom free.
  2. The free upgrade offer will be available until at least 29th July 2016 so there is no rush.
  3. Like all new releases of Windows, we advise waiting until the bugs are cleaned up. Even then, we may advise against it depending on your situation. Stay tuned.
  4. Some of your applications may not work properly or some features may not function. Quickbooks has been identified as a potential problem, for example. Some do not have Windows 10 on their supported Operating Systems.
  5. Windows 10 introduces a totally new browser called Microsoft Edge/Spartan, replacing Internet Explorer.  This is sure to offer challenges and compatibility issues with web based applications many of our clients depend on every day.

What?

  1. This means that by clicking the “reserve your free upgrade now” you do reserve your free upgrade, as with most Microsoft promotions they don’t last forever.
  2. This means we can work with each of you to know when best to move forward to Microsoft’s latest Operating System.

Specific Recommendations:

I have Windows 8.1, What do I do?
Windows 8.1 is supported by Microsoft until January, 2023 (although your current hardware will disagree). Windows 8.1 is stable and runs most apps problem free. The main issue people have with Windows 8 is the default user interface. Many people are frustrated with navigating through the tile-like view of applications and features. While the Start menu and Desktop views come back in Windows 10, we can assist you in configuring Windows 8.1 to look like Windows 7.

I have Windows 8.0, What do I do?
Windows 8.0 is not entirely stable. You should upgrade to Windows 8.1 now, this can be an involved process and we can assist you for a smooth transition. Please note that Windows 10 is not even an upgrade option for 8.0 installations.

I have Windows 7, What do I do?
Windows 7 is supported by Microsoft until January, 2020 (although your hardware may disagree). Windows 7 is a stable operating system and all software is compatible and runs well. There is no reason to upgrade now and plenty of reasons not to.

I have Windows Vista, What do I do?
Mostly likely, your computer is over five years old, the threshold where problems making any changes are not worth the effort. Consider replacing. For the time being, we can still help our customers acquire Windows 7 computers (more on this later).

I have Windows XP, What do I do?
As has been covered many times previously, here and in the press, you need to replace your PC. At this time, that does not make us haters. In fact, we are very optimistic about the future of Windows 10 and fully expect it to be as successful as Windows 7, but not yet. Perhaps in 6-12 months, all the early adopters will have suffered through the initial launch bugs and the software vendors will have addressed the issues Windows 10 presents for them.

Your HOME Computers and Windows 10.
For your HOME system, if you get the alert, feel free to run the upgrade as you choose. As with all upgrades from any computer system, please ensure you have good backups of your system and data before you run the upgrade. Murphy’s Law applies to any upgrade of software on any device (iPhone, Android, laptop, etc), always assume something strange will happen and be ready for it. To be clear, the upgrade is generally safe and painless.

Managed Contract Customers and Windows 10.
For BUSINESS systems, we are requesting all our contract clients to postpone any updates until Computer Troubleshooters evaluates your unique needs and software. This will ensure no issues or compatibility issues arise as a result of older software working on the newer operating system. Computer Troubleshooters will schedule a time and do a full test with different equipment at your site. Once all test results are in, we will discuss with you the pros and cons of upgrading along with any anticipated costs. If you choose to do the upgrade, we will do the work for you. Some labour may be covered by your contract agreement for normal Microsoft related upgrade labour (upgrading of other software or hardware may incur an added charge).

For more information contact your local Computer Troubleshooters office.

Cryptolocker is back – Ransomware beware!

Cryptolocker the planet’s worst ransomware trojan has reappeared in all its ugly forms. Across the world networks and computer files have been encrypted by this trojan before a ransom demand is made to the user or administrator. Some victims who don’t have adequate backup are losing all their files, or having to pay a ransom of thousands to the criminals who propagate this electronic curse.

Cryptolocker is propagated via infected email attachments, and via a botnet; when activated, the malware encrypts certain types of files stored on local and mounted network drives using RSA public key cryptography.  Cryptolocker itself is readily removed, however encrypted files will remain locked unless the key is provided. Worse some who have paid the ransom, have not had the key provided being left with encrypted files and a big bill. It is estimated that around 3% of affected users pay the ransom requested.

Almost a year ago the US Department of Justice announced that the FBI and Interpol had publicly issued an indictment against a Russian hacker and had gained the keys to the malware. However it appears a new version and clones such as CryptoWall and TorrentLocker are back in business,

Security software is designed to detect such threats, however it may not detect Cryptolocker at all, or only after encryption is underway or complete, particularly if a new version unknown to the protective software.

To how do you get Cryptolocker?

Email is the primary entry point for the Cryptolocker Trojan into networks and computers. Cryptolocker typically is propagated as an attachment to a seemingly innocuous e-mail message, which appears to have been sent by a legitimate company. These emails may contain company logos and representations that they are legitimate: examples in Australia and New Zealand include Australia Post, New Zealand Post, The Australian Federal Police, Microsoft, UPS parcel deliveries, and several of the major banks.

The emails tend to offer legitimate services or ask a reasonable request as simple as a payment receipt, deliver document, or in the case of the Australian Federal Police scam asking you to view a speeding fine or photo. Once the attachment is clicked, the ransomware is deployed in your systems and then encrypts files across local hard drives and mapped network drives with the public key, and logs each file encrypted to a registry key. The process only encrypts data files with certain extensions, including Microsoft OfficeOpenDocument, and other documents, pictures, and AutoCAD files.

If you think you have Cryptolocker?

Once the execution file for the encryption is completed it is almost impossible to unlock files without the key. If you suspect that you have clicked on a cryptolocker email it is important to shut down as soon as possible. The malware invades all mapped drives of the network, so any connected backup or external drives can be infected, as well other machines on the network can also catch the virus, so keeping the machine off and isolated is a very important part of reducing damage.

Once your machine is encrypted it is really a matter of isolating the machine from all networks, keep it turned off and disconnected from the internet. It then becomes a matter of determining the damage & spread, & if backups are available. It is  a great time to call an IT Expert, like Computer Troubleshooters, who can advise the appropriate course of action, be it restoring the machine with backup, or paying the ransom (and in both cases removing the Cryptolocker virus) .

How to prevent a Cryptolocker infection?

Prevention – don’t open or click on unsolicited emails

  • Educate everyoneon the risk of opening email attachments that they shouldn’t. They may receive an email that they weren’t expecting or something may look wrong about it. These emails can also come from a spoofed account that may look legitimate or even appear to be from someone you know. The bottom line is to always be careful when opening email attachments.

Here is a our Checklist to protect Yourself, Your Family and Your Business from Cyptolocker

In both our professional and private lives, each of us needs to assume responsibility for our online activities. These responsibilities involve a combination of equipment maintenance and software updates coupled with appropriate online behavior and a constant vigilance against criminal activities. We suggest that you start with this brief checklist:

  • Maintain a Clean Machine by running the most recent operating system, security software, apps and web browser as a defense against online threats such as viruses and malware.
  • Security Software – every computer should have internet security protection to help detect Cryptolocker, it may also limit the harm done by warning you before the file is executed, should you accidently click on a host email.
  • Firewalls and Encryption should be in use by businesses to secure their internet connection. Educate employees about passwords and internet security guidelines.
  • Scams, Spam, and Phishing are hazards you can avoid. Don’t open e-mailed attachments from strangers and never click on unknown links contained within e-mails. Enable the filters on your e-mail programs to screen for spam. Beware of messages indicating upgrades, technical updates and special offers. These tactics are no longer limited to e-mail, so be vigilant when on social networking sites.
  • Have a Backup to non networked drive – either rotate external drives or have off site scheduled backup. Beware of using sync backups such as OneDrive as they can also be encrypted.

Computer Troubleshooters Can Help Your Business with Cyber Security

Computer Troubleshooters can do an assessment of your business’ computer network. We can also provide recommendations for establishing a strategic approach to cyber security and assist you with a variety of solutions to reduce the risk of a security breach.  We strongly encourage you to prepare your business for the threat of a cyber security crime, contact your local Computer Troubleshooters office today for help and advice.

Want to Fall in Love with Your Computer Again?

The Thrill is Gone – do you remember that classic blues song? It’s a heart-breaking reminder about the loss of a once exhilarating and passionate connection. It’s a bitter realization when the old spark seems gone forever. Somehow over time, all the previous excitement has simply fizzled out. Excuse us, but we are talking about your relationship with your computer!

How is Your Relationship with Your PC?

Yes, even your formerly beloved computer can slow down over time until the thrill is most definitely gone. Honestly, does your computer seem unresponsive, sluggish and outdated? Are those exciting new models starting to turn your head? Maybe you and your cranky computer just need a little professional help to rekindle that old flame.

Tips on Learning to Love Your PC Again

It’s very likely that the relationship between you and your computer is salvageable, it just needs a little extra attention. Try these steps to put some zip back in the relationship with your computer:

  • Slow Startup? Does it take your computer way too long to wake up and get started with the day’s tasks? It’s possible that there are too many non-critical programs launching during the startup process. Streamline the start-up process by consulting with a technology professional who can identify unnecessary programs that are slowing down the functioning of your computer. Cutting back on these boot problems should speed things along.
  • Is Your PC Bloated? PC makers often throw in a lot of free tools. Initially, it sounds good to have all of those freebies, but a lot of techies call those freebies “bloatware” for a good reason. It’s possible your PC is running slowly because of bloat. If these free programs aren’t helping you, removing them might lighten the load on your computer.
  • Ready to add RAM? Does it seem like your old PC is in a perpetual state of sleep-walking? Is it nearly overwhelmed every time it has to open a spreadsheet? If yes, then maybe it’s time to spend a few bucks and add more RAM or memory. To assess your current RAM status, check System Properties to see what you have onboard. How much RAM should you add? Do you simply surf the net and check your e-mail or do you have a kid who’s a high speed gaming fanatic? Have a technology professional properly assess your needs and add the required RAM to your PC.
  • Is Your PC Ready for a Second Life? Didn’t everyone’s grandmother use the phrase – “don’t throw good money after bad?” At some point, it’s probably not worth pumping more money into a really old PC. That doesn’t mean it can’t still enjoy a second life as something other than your smoking hot primary computer. Turn it into a secondary computer. Do you love “old-school” gaming, then check into those older games that can run on your older operating system. You can also donate it to a local school, daycare center or charity organization if it’s not completely ancient.
  • Time to Retire and Recycle? If your old PC is not even up to enjoying a second life, maybe it’s time to pull the plug. If you are going to retire your PC, remember to be responsible to both the environment and yourself. First, be sure to eliminate all of your data from the PC. Deleting files, emptying the recycle bin or reformatting the hard drive is not enough to cover your tracks. Even the browser’s cache, cookies and e-mail contacts can contain sensitive information. Don’t jeopardize your digital security. Contact a technology professional for assistance with secure data removal. Also, be environmentally responsible and never toss an unwanted PC in a dumpster. Recycle the equipment through a reputable recycler.

Improve Your Relationship with Your Computer

Those lyrics, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with,” can also apply to computers. If you can’t afford a new computer at this time, it’s very likely that your current computer can be improved with some professional maintenance. Computer Troubleshooters can help you increase the efficiency of an older PC with a little TLC and maybe some added RAM. Consider a deep cleaning to remove unnecessary programs that are doing nothing but slowing down the functioning of your PC. Contact us now and we will be happy to evaluate the status of your current computer.

Microsoft Server 2003: End of Life July 2015?

Microsoft have confirmed that they will end support for their popular Server 2003 product range on the 14th of July 2015. It was first released on April 24, 2003. An updated version, Windows Server 2003 R2, was released on December 6, 2005. This product range also includes Small Business Server 2003.

These products were aimed towards the small to medium-sized businesses. Supporting file and printer sharing, secure Internet connectivity, centralised desktop application deployment, and in the case of Small Business Server the addition of Microsoft Exchange (email) and SQL (database).

When Microsoft ceases support for Server 2003 they will no longer issue security updates or software patches for any version of Server 2003. If you continue to use this product it will be like basing your business on a piece of equipment that is 12 years old, no longer serviced, and who the manufacturer no longer provides parts.

Ultimately businesses who continue to use Server 2003 will take on declining performance & escalating risk over time.

Upgrade or your business systems due to Security and Compliance Issues

If you are still using Server 2003 or Small Business Server 2003, you should take this situation seriously or your business will be negatively impacted with some significant consequences. You should consider the following information as you make your Server 2003 migration plan.

  • Security Risks:The biggest problem is the security threat to your business. Without the security provided by an updated operating system, all of your business data and personal information is vulnerable to harmful viruses and spyware. There is a strong likelihood that malicious viruses will be developed & unleashed on Server 2003 once it is no longer supported. No business owner wants to think about a being attacked by Malware or their business not being able to function properly.
  • Compliance Issues:For many businesses, continuing to operate a non supported software can result in compliance issues leading to the suspension of certifications, and/or public notification of the organisation’s inability to securely maintain its systems and customer information. Compliance problems can place your business in legal peril and seriously damage your business’ reputation.
  • Upgrade Expenses:As a business owner trying to control costs, do you think an upgrade will be too expensive? Think again. The problems that are likely to arise can cost your business significantly more than the upgrade.

The good news is that Microsoft provides a number of alternatives that may suit your situation & budget.

So what are the alternatives for your business?

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 – Windows Server 2012 R2 offers a lengthy list of improvements compared with Windows Server 2003, including integrated virtualization, better security, extensive scalability, new operational roles, script execution capabilities, and far more. While it is a substantial learning curve to move directly from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012 R2, customers are well advised to not make an interim upgrade to Windows Server 2008 as that product has already gone to end of mainstream support in January 2015. Licensing & hardware investment can be significant to facilitate this migration.
  • Office 365 – This is a Microsoft cloud hosted version of much of the server software product plus it can be provisioned with the full range of Office software such as Email Outlook, Word, PowerPoint & Excel. By subscribing to this per user per month service you can avoid investing in new hardware, on site running costs (such as electricity, rent, air con, security) & for larger companies in house IT staff. Smooth migration from Server 2003 to office 365 requires professional user management and ongoing administration much like a server, but without the critical infrastructure management (Microsoft does this in their data center), so IT support can more easily be outsourced.
  • Microsoft Azure – This is a hosted server product that Microsoft has developed for IT integrators to host server infrastructure centrally and control locally, so software & application can be deployed & managed on an individual rather than collective basis. An Office 365 & Azure hybrid (using virtualization) may be a practical alternative for industries that have developed applications that are reliant on 32 bit technology that was the core of the 2003 product and may not be compatible with the 64 bit technology

Do you have a Server Migration plan in place?

Microsoft has flagged this drop dead date for support for a serious reason, so this is not a situation you can simply ignore. It’s happening on July 14 2015, so mark your calendar. Most large organisations have been working on their migration plans for years. For small-medium sized business owners, the hour is getting late so we strongly encourage you to take action today!

Computer Troubleshooters encourages you to take this situation seriously and develop a migration plan immediately. Our experts can help you understand your migration options and work with you to develop an upgrade strategy for your business. Contact us today before you run out of time.