Is Exchange 2013 for you?

imageWhen Microsoft killed the Small Business Server product last year it took away the one function that we implemented the most of for small businesses and that was an in-house Exchange Server. For those people that wanted control over their communication data this was a big thing. The cost difference of having to install a full blown Exchange Server setup vs. what was needed in SBS is a large expense and one that is beginning to be hard to justify. Can we really expect an under 25 user office to put up a full blown Exchange Server to support their employees? In most cases the answer is no!

So what do you do now to get beyond this cost barrier and still have enterprise communication capabilities? Microsoft’s answer is Office365. We have began deploying offices as small as one user to as large as you want to deploy on Microsoft’s cloud product with fairly good results. This past week we had a few indications of Microsoft’s growth pains but they are quickly updating their system and tweaking it to make it better and better everyday. I am thoroughly impressed from a user basis of what they have been able to accomplish and I like the prospects of where it is all going.

Microsoft’s whole suite of Office Productivity packages are available from the cloud now as an ongoing SaaS (software as a service) model and it is becoming more and more reasonable to buy into this approach. If you are a traditional office worker you may not need your Office software on multiple devices but if you are more mobile, take work home, have multiple devices that you use than the SaaS model makes a lot more financial sense.

imageLet’s take Microsoft Office for instance. If you are a single workstation worker, than you only need this suite of programs on one machine. Paying $229 for a perpetual license for that machine may make a lot of sense. However, if you also like to work from your home office machine or your laptop than taking that cost and multiplying it three times becomes awfully expensive, a total of $657. If you go with Office Pro that amount approaches $1,000. With the Office365 Small Business Premium package your cost is $150/user annually and you can install office Pro on up to 5 different devices for that user. Now this package is limited to a maximum 25 users in the company but for many small office environments/businesses this will be a great fit.

So what do you get for this annual fee? Microsoft Office Pro with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, Publisher and Lync. You have access to Office Web Apps which include Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote files via a web browser. Hosted email, you get business-class email, shared calendars, 25GB of storage space per user and the ability to setup your own domain name. Simple file sharing through SkyDrive with 7Gb of personal storage that syncs with your Pc. You can easily share these files internally or externally and control who sees or can edit them. Web conferencing and IM using your Lync communications program. You can conduct meetings over the internet with HD video conferencing, screen sharing, and instant messaging. Share presence, IM and audio calling with Skype users. You get a public website to market your business with a website that is easy to set up using your own company domain name with no additional hosting fees. All of this and a guaranteed 99.9% uptime/availability.

While $150/user annually by itself sound like a lot, the services that you get the and the enormity of the enterprise functions that you receive for that money are great and I feel are easily justified. As we are refreshing more and more of our Small Business Server installations the move to a SaaS model is making more and more sense.


Windows 8 Apps are finally coming into their own…

imageAre they? According to Microsoft there are now  six times more apps in the Windows Store as there were when Windows 8 launched in October 2012. While 60,000 is a fraction of the 800,00 plus found in either the Apple App Store or in Google Play, it is still a lot of apps.

It seems that they Apps are becoming more stable and more capable as the developers are revising them. Feedback from users are also helping developers to figure out what user really want from their apps and are making the changes to suit these requests.

Most of us are still drawn to the traditional “Programs/Software” that we use from the desktop. While the differences are subtle what really defines the difference between and APP and a Software program? Aren’t Apps just smaller snippets of code that differ mainly from their software/program counterparts by having fewer features and capabilities? Apps are great for devices that have limited resources like phones and tablets but do they really have a place on fully capable notebooks and desktop computers?

Apps provide a different delivery method of these smaller snippets of code to perform simplified functions that may be all you need from that program. One of the reasons some of us are drawn to the lure of the Windows 8 tablet design is the promise that we can use our favorite Windows programs alongside of these new Apps that are appearing side by side of the old standbys.

The Redmond Channel Partner Magazine collaborated on an article “40 Killer Windows Store Apps for Microsoft Partners” that discussed this very fact:

…even those helping deploy Windows 8, have focused on traditional Windows applications. After all, one of the main selling points of Windows 8 is that customers and partners don't have to reinvent computer software. If it ran on Windows 7, it will generally run on Windows 8. Unlike iPads and Galaxy Tabs, the Windows 8 ecosystem doesn't have to start from scratch.

This is just it. I have both IOS and Android devices and when I am using them for the workplace I am constantly looking for Apps that make more productive like what I have on my desktops or notebooks. In fact many times when using one of my tablets I am using them as a terminal to access one of my machines to do functions that I can’t do directly with the tablet apps.  In fact the usefulness of the tablet for me is primarily as an entertainment device or as something I use to give me access to my other systems to do the things that I need or want to do.


Will Windows 8.1be enough to begin Windows 8 adoption?

imageTwo of the biggest complaints I keep hearing from users is that Windows 8 doesn’t look like Windows and where is the Start button? I know that anything new always has a hard row ahead of it but the antagonism associated with the Start Screen and the loss of the Start Button has been vicious. I haven’t completed moving over entirely to Window 8 myself but I do have it running on my laptop and I have become quite comfortable with it. Though I don’t have a touch screen on the notebook to take advantage of the what that brings to the table, I have played with tablets that do and if I were to purchase a Windows 8 notebook I wouldn’t do so without it having a touchscreen. You just lose too much function without it.

With Windows 8 booting to the Start Screen doesn’t bother me at all, it does cause me to one extra step every time I boot up to jump to the regular desktop where I do all my work.When the free Windows 8.1 update comes out that will provide a choice of booting to the desktop, this will satisfy one of the complaints that most new users have with it not looking like Windows. On a tablet device the Start Screen is probably more desirable  but in a world where users are trying to be productive and get some work done, this is not the case.

Microsoft’s constant drive to make your experience simpler when using the Windows interface initially makes it harder to change to the simplicity of new Start Screen interface. On a desktop computer that has a keyboard as its primary input interface you can just type the word of the action or program that you are looking for and that immediately brings up a list of things that meet the criteria you are typing in.  I am a touch typist and I find this feature very useful. On Windows 7 I used the Windows Key to jump to the search bar within the Start Button a lot to find things and to launch programs and now if I am on the desktop I can do the same thing to jump to the Start Screen and begin my search in the same manner. Once you think of the Start Screen as the growth of the natural evolution of the contents of the Start Button than the new changes begin to make sense. The Start Screen becomes a more customizable palette for you to access many of the p[programs and utilities that were once found only on your Start Menu. But does Microsoft tell you this?

In a recent Redmond Channel Partner article by Kurt Mackie, many of the new networking features of Windows 8.1 were revealed and they are really sounding pretty interesting. Many of these new features will require adoption of the technology by other device manufacturers to be able to use these new networking functions and only time will tell if they will do this. If the do great but for now it is useless. Tethering will become a big function as well but again, there will be limited use of this function beyond turning your Windows phone into a hotspot I would think unless you are connecting your notebook wired into your internet connection and wanting to then piggy back your Wi-Fi devices on to it to have a sharable hotspot.Read Kurt’s article to find out more about some of the new BYOD Features and Security Features that are being shown at TechEd Conference last week.


Sophos and James Lyne

I was at the Sophos Partner Conference earlier this week and the final speaker of the last day before we were sent on our way was James Lyne. I hope that Sophos puts up yesterday’s talk because he was very interesting as well as entertaining. Here is a YouTube video I found of him giving a very similar talk that I thought you all would enjoy.


Aruba Networks Maps Out New Indoor Location-Based Services with Acquisition of Meridian

Press Release:

“Indoor GPS” Platform Will Offer Wayfinding and Context-Aware Advertising and Marketing for Public-Facing Enterprises

Sunnyvale, CA – May 16, 2013 – Aruba Networks, Inc. (NASDAQ:ARUN), a leading provider of next-generation network access solutions for the mobile enterprise, today announced the acquisition of privately-held Meridian Apps, Inc. (“Meridian”). With this acquisition, Aruba Networks enables new location-based services by combining its unique, network-based contextual information about users, devices and applications with Meridian’s Wi-Fi based wayfinding solution for smartphones and tablets.

The Meridian enterprise software platform is targeted at public-facing enterprises, including casinos, hospitals, malls, stores, transport hubs, convention centers, museums and campuses, to help customers navigate these large, indoor facilities. Enterprises use the platform to create custom-branded mobile applications to provide turn-by-turn directions, highlight points of interests along the way, deliver context-awareness advertising and offer detailed analytics about users’ travel patterns and preferences.

“GPS-based wayfinding solutions are extraordinarily popular, but they don’t work well indoors,” said Keerti Melkote, founder and Chief Technology Officer at Aruba Networks. “We intend to address that gap by creating ‘indoor GPS’ using Aruba’s Wi-Fi infrastructure and Meridian’s wayfinding platform. The addition of Meridian will enable enterprises to tap into a wealth of network-driven information so that they can better engage their customers with more personalized services. This is a clear opportunity for Wi-Fi to become not only an enabling platform for BYOD, but now across industries, a revenue-producing, customer engagement platform for the business.”

To learn more about Meridian’s platform, visit


ZixCorp Email Encryption: Security Meets Simplicity

To ensure convenient email encryption for all recipients, ZixCorp automatically delivers encrypted email in the manner that works best for the end-user. Here is a brief video that explains how this product can benefit you.


Vertical In a Minute: What Is "Unified Communications?"


What is Unified Communications? Take a look at this brief video from Vertical Communications describing what it is and what it means in their product line.


Windows 8.1 may feature the comeback of the start button

imageOne of the biggest requests that I hear from all the guys in our office is that they want the start button back in Windows 8 and they want to be able to select the desktop view as the default view in their installation of Windows 8. The latest rumors indicate that Microsoft may be moving to squash these apps, by enabling 8.1 to boot directly to the desktop and reinstating the start button. Discussions around code recently dug up in a DLL, buried within the bowels of a leaked version of Windows Blue suggests that this new minor revision of the desktop and tablet OS could offer users a way to skip the live tiles and go right to the familiar user interface that many long for.

Look at engadget for more information on the Windows Blue screenshot tour. There are also some interesting videos showing an installation of Windows Blue running on a virtual desktop. The videos are interesting with some of the changes in personalizing your Widows 8 experience to a much greater degree. This will be interesting to get our hands on once the beta version is released.


SonicWALL announces end of support for Gen 4 Firewalls

imagePress Release from DELL SonicWall announcing the end of support for Gen4 Firewalls on July 1, 2013.

End of Support for Gen4 (and older) Dell SonicWALL firewalls will commence on July 1, 2013. All Gen4 firewalls, regardless of whether they are covered under a stand-alone support contract or through a Comprehensive GMS support contract, are subject to the same End of Support date.  Our records indicate that your customers rely on one or more of these appliances:

Call us to discuss your options.


Sophos UTM Connected: What's new in UTM 9.1

imagePublished on Feb 18, 2013

A 3 minute overview of the new features and benefits of Sophos UTM Connected (UTM 9.1) The video explains how this release delivers faster wired and wireless connectivity in a secure and reliable way.

Our latest release, Sophos UTM Connected, lets you protect your users on the move against web-based threats and strengthen your wireless connectivity. At its heart is the software version 9.1 which is engineered to make our proven protection faster and even easier to use. Why Sophos UTM Connected? It’s all about creating ultra-fast wired and wireless connectivity in a secure, reliable way.


Access Sophos Whitepapers and Videos

Sophos is one of most trusted security vendors that we use in our professional installations. In a good marketing decision they are now providing free videos and whitepapers to you for giving them your contact information. So this is a great place to pick up a little more information to help keep your systems safe.

A video series from SophosLabsRansomware: hijacking your data

Ransomware: hijacking your data
Our experts at SophosLabs look in depth at ransomware variants and delivery mechanisms, and show how you can protect your data with a complete security strategy.

Read the whitepaper


Microsoft Outlook Configuration Analyzer Tool 2.0

Find quality products from people you trust >

imageThe Outlook Configuration Analyzer Tool 2.0 (OCAT ) has been replaced by the Office Configuration Analyzer Tool (OffCAT). The OffCAT tool provides all of the same functionality as the OCAT tool, but it also allows you to scan more Office programs (Access, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and Word).


OffCAT download

Download Documentation


Digital Textbooks might be able to tell if you did your work.

imageCourseSmart offers an education package to schools that allows professors to monitor what their students read in their textbooks as well as the passages they highlight according to a report from the New York Times.

CourseSmart acts as a provider of digital textbooks working with publishers like McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and John Wiley and Sons. The NY Times describes books in use at Texas A&M University, which present an “engagement index” to professors that can be used to evaluate students’ performance in class.

This will be another method the University and Instructors will be able to gauge why a student might be having problems in the course. It will tell them whether they have opened the digital textbook and what pages they have viewed, when they viewed them and how much time they spent reading the textbook.

So the question is going to be is how accurate this information will be in reporting back the students’ “engagement index”. Can the system be gamed and what assumptions does the software make in determining the index. Also, how does the software determine between someone studying really hard from one that is just plain clueless and in a panic trying to catch up on things they either don’t understand

Either way this is going into full gear next fall and it will interesting to see what the results will be. I think that if handled right it could be an effective tool learning more about the quality of the class content, instructor lectures and how much work is actually done by the student. All of these factors contribute to learning process.

For more info on CourseSmart click here…


Local News Station Reports warning about ‘Microsoft’ protection plan scam

imageThis newscast discusses one of the new ways that people are being tricked into sharing their personal information with scammers and tricksters. In this case the individual was called by someone claiming that they were from Microsoft and that he wanted to sell her a protection plan for her computer.

Rule #1: You are not going to get unsolicited calls from a real company. They may send you an email as advertising but nothing so in your face.

Rule #2: Anything having to do with connecting to your computer, again unsolicited by you should automatically flag an alert to you. Don’t trust this call.

Rule #3: Anything having to do with credit cards, banks or any other financial payment system that is again unsolicited by you should be flag as well. Tell the people thank you and hang up. Call your financial institution using a number that you know is right and ask them about whatever was proposed to you.

The key here is, if you haven’t noticed, don’t trust anyone that is trying to get information from your or access anything that you own that you have not asked specifically for them to do so.


Dropbox Upgrade includes Photo Albums Now!

imageSo if you have allowing Dropbox to upload your pictures from your devices to your storage area then you are probably accumulating a lot of pictures there now. If you want to find a group of images around a theme you can now associate them with an Album. This will help facilitate showing them off when you want family or friends to see just a specific group of images. It would appear that each image can only be associated with one album at a time. Which is too bad.

This is a good start but hopefully they will keep working on it to give us some more capabilities.


VMware Horizon Mirage

Here’s a quick video on VMware’s Mirage product. Really looks interesting from an IT perspective in managing a large group of PC’s that have mostly the same setups on them. It allows you to separate the PC into logical layers and to keep backups of desktop images to enable quick recovery or rollback in case of failure.

Priced at $1,815/10 pack this is a relatively elegant method of ensuring uptime for your office workers on their machines.When you compare this cost to the downtime for your users and the support costs to bring them back up you can easily see the cost savings.

How can this product help you? Use it to speed up Window 7 Migrations, or to Simplify PC Backup and Desktop Recovery and easily Manage Remote and Branch Office PCs. If you have 10 or more machines then this product can be a big benefit for you.


Evernote Premium account now has Document Search

imageThe amount of storage is not the only reason to go Premium with Evernote. Yes the prime reason to go premium is to increase your upload capacity but you also get the following benefits:

  • Larger upload capacity to 1GB each month
  • Offline Notebooks- easily access your data when you don’t have a network connection (iOS and Android only)
  • Share your notes with others – allows you easily share your notes with other members of your team
  • Each Note can be up to 100MB’s in size
  • On iOS and Android devices you can add a lock to the Evernote app to provide an extra level of security
  • When you attach a document in a note that are either office documents or PDF files they are fully searchable including scanned PDFs
  • Premium includes versioning. This is particularly helpful when sharing notes to be able to go back in history to previous versions of notes.
  • Images are also searchable if they contain text within the image.While this process is not limited to the Premium subscription but the images are processed faster. Evernote puts them at a higher priority if you have a Premium Account.
  • Last but not least you also get priority support. You will be sent to the front of the queue for a faster support response.

Do you need a Universal BIG Battery Solution

imageI saw this being discussed on Before You Buy and it really peaked my interest. One of the things that really caught my attention was that the charge lasts up to a year once it is fully charged. It will provide a decent charge for anything from a notebook to a phone. It will provide a laptop with anywhere from 2 –6 hours extended battery life, a netbook up to 8 extra hours, and a smart phone up to 42 extra hours. Use it for providing power to a hotspot or recharging any of your mobile devices. You can charge up to 3 devices at one time, can be recharged over and over again, is lightweight and has a 3 year  limited warranty.


Product Features

  • Portable, rechargeable battery for netbooks, tablets, and smartphones--just plug into USB port for instant power
  • Three outputs provide simultaneous charging of three devices at once; also great for gaming devices and MP3 players
  • Provides up to 5 extra hours of use for laptops, and up to 8 hours for netbooks
  • Comes with 6 tips to fit a wide range of devices
  • Comes pre-charged out-of-the-box; maintains charge for up to 1 year

MSRP is $179 and it is one of the products that I think could help cut down on your mobile kit weight and provide a big benefit of offline power access.


SkyDrive app for iOS has been updated

imageMicrosoft’s attempts to make SkyDrive the place to store your files in the cloud continues to move forward. If you are an Office 2013 user or are sharing documents with your team in the SkyDrive cloud any and all updates to the SkyDrive clients are always welcome. It seems to be getting better with each advancement and I am using it house all of my OneNote notebooks that I access from all my devices, whether it is my work or home pc, notebook, or any one of my many mobile devices but android and iOS.

Microsoft’s current release is v3.0 for the SkyDrive app for iOS that includes improved photo features, an updated UI, and a number of other new features and enhancements. You can install or update the SkyDrive app for iOS now via iTunes.

Here are the updates that have been made to v3.0 of the SkyDrive app for iOS:

Support for iPhone 5 and iPad Mini Updated app icons and user experience Works better with your photos: Download full resolution photos to your iPhone or iPadControl the size of photos you upload and download Photo metadata is retained when you upload to SkyDrive Opening and saving files to SkyDrive works better with other apps on your iOS devices Many other small changes, bug fixes and performance improvements


Frommer’s Travel Books are not dead…

imageFounder Arthur Frommer has bought his brand name back from Google, and he plans to continue publishing the printed guides. After Google announced that they were closing down the printed product of these guides a quick response from the original owner may  guarantee publishing will begin again. Hopefully. When I was in the service I had several of his printed guide books in my car as we toured around Europe on the weekends. However with today’s electronic devices do we really need to have a physical book to be reading from? I have already purchased eBook guides that I use to get around different towns that my wife and I explore and I use either my phone or my Nexus 7 to be able to read them and this works out pretty well.

Frommer’s was founded in 1957 and has changed hands several times over the decades. Simon & Schuster bought the brand in 1977, and it shuffled through a handful of publishers before landing at John Wiley & Sons in 2001. Wiley said in March 2012 that it would sell off several of its publishing assets in a bid to re-focus the company, and Google bought Frommer's five months later.

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