Friday April 26, 2013 at 11:19am
The world of IT is fast paced and ever changing with new technologies being developed constantly that allow us to work much more efficiently and productively than we could have ever imagined 20 years ago, the problem with this culture in IT is that it can often be daunting for business owners and IT decision makers when it comes to choosing the best direction for the business. Despite the ever evolving world of IT many users are still using software that is over 10 years old.
Microsoft have boasted more than 80% market share for more than 10 years and one of the biggest reasons for this is the popular Operating System; Windows XP. Currently, 39% of computing devices that access the internet are running the operating system, which was originally released in 2001. Unfortunately, for this 39% the days of being able to safely browse the web and repair the PC should any issues occur are numbered- the time is coming to change.
“Windows XP works fine for me, it is familiar and I know what I’m doing, why should I change?”
Microsoft have adopted a ‘support lifecycle policy’ which specifies how long Microsoft are willing to support the software. As a rule, each product will receive a minimum of 10 years support. This means that Windows XP SP3 and Office 2003 are both due reach the end of their lifecycle for support in April 2014. After this date, there will be no technical help from Microsoft in the form of patches or updates – leaving your PC vulnerable.
“What does this mean for me and my business?”
If you and your business are still using Windows XP after April 2014 there will be no more assisted support, updates or hotfixes – both paid for & free support will cease. As well as this, independent third party software vendors are likely to stop producing for Windows XP and will more than likely not offer support for users running it. Software vendor ‘Sage’ are just one of the companies who have announced via their website that they’re going to end support for any of their products that run on Windows XP by March 2014.
“What happens now? What are my options?”
If your current system meets the criteria, it may be that a simple upgrade will allow you to continue using your PC, however if you do not meet the minimum requirements for Windows 7/8 this will not be possible. The only option in this case will be to purchase a new PC that is capable of running the newer versions of Windows.
IT Services are a registered Microsoft partner and have the skills and know how to assist you in migrating your Windows XP desktop machines and laptops to supported versions of Windows. It is time to leave the dark ages and move into a new era of computing technologies.
Wednesday May 9, 2012 at 9:44am
Earlier last month, Google Drive launched, offering Google customers cheap cloud storage to use, starting with a typically Google 5GB free offering.
With up to 16TB offered, assuming you wish to spend the monthly bill of $800, there are likely many uses for such central storage. However the release of this product has once again brought the issue of privacy back to the forefront.
It's not that Google's privacy policies are worse or better than competing services, in general the policies for the service providers are similar. The main concern for domestic and business users is that their data whoever is used. So users may be surpised to hear that thanks for the efforts of entertainment industry bills such as the CISPA it may not be safe to use these services at all.
None of these services guarantee the protection of any files you upload and there are no promises that these services won't freely share your files and information with other parties. Here are over 800 companies currently partnered with/supporting the CISPA.
When you sign up to use Google Drive, you agree to the following part of their terms and conditions. “When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.”
This clause even led to the New York times warning it's writers not to use Google Drive until the terms of service were more clearly understood.
That very license continues even if you choose to stop using their services, what is just as surpising is most people have developed a reflex to automatically find the "I agree" button before they have had a chance to absorb these implications.
As it turns out, the terms of service actually contains language that appears to nullify that risk. "Some of our services allow you to submit content," Google says in its disclosure. "You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours."
The main confusion in the area of what data a service provider owns, is being blurred by the services a company offers. Dropbox to date has been a company only offering cloud storage, so it is easier to understand what they are licensing to do with your data. Google and Microsoft have a range of interconnected services governed by a single legal framework.
In a similar issue, the majority of cloud storage services also refuse to guarantee the safety of your data uploaded to their servers, that includes Dropbox, RapidShare, Microsoft SkyDrive, Amazon Cloud Drive etc. The following is from SkyDrive's terms of service.
"You’re responsible for backing up the data that you store on the service. If your service is suspended or canceled, we may permanently delete your data from our servers. We have no obligation to return data to you after the service is suspended or canceled. If data is stored with an expiration date, we may also delete the data as of that date. Data that is deleted may be irretrievable.
Cloud Storage is a concept that has been around for a long time, well before it was branded with the buzz word, cloud. With more mainstream companies such as Google and Microsoft offering their own solution, businesses are becoming more aware of these solutions when considering their long term IT investment and reconsidering their long term strategy.
Although there can be significant benefits of cloud services to a company, the short story is it that is not for everyone. Companies should carefully look at the terms and conditions of any service that they sign up for, regards ownership of data, rights to the data, safety and SLA's to access the data etc. This may be the most critical step with any long term decision with a vendor.
Thursday April 26, 2012 at 4:19pm
Microsoft has yet again managed to get everyone in the technology world whispering to each other about their latest announcement, Windows 8. A beta version of the new operating system from the tech giants has been made available to developers and many enthusiasts have been using and testing the product recently.
When Windows 8 was first revealed in September 2010, it was speculated that this build was a fake due to the resemblance to its predecessor. We now know that this is not the case as there are many similarities between the two operating systems.
The Windows 8 Consumer Preview made its debut on 29th February 2012, adding a few features and bug fixes to the Developer Previews that came out earlier this year. The biggest change in Windows 8 is its Metro UI. This new user interface is designed to unify the tablet and desktop experience, providing a familiar interface across devices.
Metro has received positive & negative feedback since its release to the public. Many consumers believe the Program icons are too large for a Desktop PC. Other comments include the small amount space on screen and ease of use. Many tech enthusiasts believe that the Metro UI doesn’t belong on a desktop. A better idea may be to scale down icon sizes, get rid of the sliding lock screen, and optimize it further for non-touch screen devices. Windows 8 comes packed with many noteworthy features, like native USB 3.0 support, a new task manager, and new advanced hibernation functionality, labeled ‘Hybrid boot’.
The introduction of Windows 8 brings a number of new features to the forefront, but quite a big feature has been withdrawn from the new version of windows, or at least the consumer preview: the Start Menu. This has caused a stir since the Start Menu has been part of windows for 17 years, and has been the handy shortcut to everything, accessible from everywhere.
The start menu has not totally disappeared in Windows 8, in the sense that you hover over the bottom left corner, a large black preview box appears labeled ‘Start’ and then a click will take you to the Metro UI. This is quite obviously tablet optimization, as it would be quite difficult navigating through the old start menu with your finger, and I think having Metro as ‘Start’ is a really good idea for tablets. But like I said before, this is just too big and clumsy for the precision mouse pointers, and makes navigating between applications hard work, as you are constantly moving all over the screen.
As of last week, there have been 4 versions of Windows 8 announced:
Windows 8 Standard – This version of Windows may prove to be the most popular, due to it’s low price. It will ship with Laptops and Home PC’s by default.
Windows 8 Pro - Windows 8 Pro is aimed at businesses and professional or technically minded users. This version includes many extra features and is going to be used in SMB’s as the standard, due to its ability to become part of a windows domain.
Windows 8 RT (ARM Devices) - RT is a very basic version that will exclude many features to make it slim enough to run on low powered ARM tablet devices. RT is set to bring a basic version of office as standard.
Windows 8 Enterprise - Windows 8 Enterprise is the most recent version to be announced, aimed at large businesses that includes all the features of Windows 8 Pro, plus IT management tools like deployment and virtualisation. This version will not be available to the general public.
Friday April 13, 2012 at 10:01am
In less that 24 months, on April 8th 2014 Microsoft will officially end extended support for all versions of Microsoft XP.
What does this mean, after that date Microsoft will no longer provide technical support, or security updates and perhaps just as importantly, it will lose support from third party software vendors.
It is the combination of effective antivirus, antimalware protection, along with Microsoft's security updates that is keeping XP protected in a modern connected world.
According to NetMarketShare.com 41% of all live Windows desktop distributions are Windows 7. What this number also means is that 51% of the remaining desktops are still on XP. That is quite literally hundreds of millions of desktops that will be affected by this policy change.
Mainstream support for XP ended on the 14th August 2009, which ended all future development for XP, ending service packs and iscurrently in a state of Extended Support which has restricted support to security specific updates and paid support.
The end of Mainstream support created challenges for IT managers and decision makers, removing telephone support with Microsoft. Many organisations have been reluctant to move operating systems, it is not unheard of for large organisations, government and financial to still be using Windows NT 3.51 and 4, putting the emphasis on security on the edge of the network with intrusion prevention systems. The end of extended support will but further reason for organisations to consider upgrades to Windows 7 or Windows 8 which is believed to be due for release later this year.
For large organisations, if you haven't already started migrating your XP Enviroment, time is certainly against you. A large organisation with 25,000 desktops would have to average 1,050 desktops a month.
With 726 working days between now and the 8th April 2014, they would have to average 35 desktops a day. A customised PC migration is no small challenge for any business, which can involve months of planning with all line of business applications requirements & licensing, user training and immediate support there after.
As of the 10th of April just passed, Microsoft has ended mainstream support for Microsost Windows Vista, providing only security updates over the next 5 years.
Windows 7 Deployment
Microsoft Deployment Toolkit
Windows 8 Consumer Preview
Monday April 2, 2012 at 9:03am
In the last 3 years, we have seen massive improvements in mobile technology. The whole high-powered smartphone scene started back with fast mobile processors being implemented by manufacturers like Nokia and HTC after which it started expanding fast.
The first wave of android 1.5/6 devices, which help change the way we see a smartphone, and gave an alternative to the staple smartphone OS known as windows mobile. Apple also created a hit within this timeframe (the iPhone) with its new UNIX based OS, that today we know as iOS.
Then came the first dual core phones, being announced and rumored in late 2010, and being release in Q2 2011. But now, Quad core smartphones are being announced and rumored, like the HTC One and the rumored Galaxy S III, which are promised to produce close to current generation console quality. This opens a whole new set of opportunities for smartphones, especially with the announcement and release of Ubuntu for android, which transforms your smartphone into a quad core powered desktop pc, just by docking the phone and connecting a monitor.
Now what does this mean for end users I hear you ask? Well, this means that Mobile Gaming will be taken to a whole new level, with improved 3D graphics ability, and a blazingly fast experience all-round. Some people argue that any more than a dual core phone today is overkill as there are not that many apps that require this much processing power. Our personal opinion is that it is devices like the HTC One X, the first devices to try this new technology is what drives development forward, and challenges people to create applications and games that pushes the boundaries of this technology, and with that push comes the global adoption of this technology, which enables people with high or low budgets can start to have a faster and a much better experience with their phone.
More details on the HTC One X can be found on HTC's UK Web Page.
Friday March 2, 2012 at 4:48pm
At the mobile world congress in Barcelona Microsoft has been showing the latest version of windows 8, the consumer preview is the next stable release being offered after the developer preview in September last year. As the name suggests the developer builds have been to give software and hardware manufactures a chance get to grips with new APIs and other tools available. The customer preview gives interested members of the public a chance to see what’s new.
The user interface in windows 8 has been dramatically changed to incorporate the new metro system, touch interface friendly metro is a big change from all previous versions of windows. Its clear metro has been created from the ground up to be used on devices with touch interface, tablets are getting more and more popular and windows 8 will run natively on many when it launches. Touch screen monitors attached to standard desktops will also be supported although many are undecided how popular the idea will be, Windows 8 will also have a mobile version to replace Windows phone 7 which has been slowly growing in popularity.
Available for the first time is the windows store where users can download apps just like Apples iTunes store. Applications from both Microsoft and third parties are available for testing, all applications are being released as early “App previews” but are free to download and will continue to receive updates as they are improved. Microsoft have put a lot of work into the new store with many features we have come to expect such as personalised suggestions and a rating system.
Microsoft’s cloud service “SkyDrive” will be integrated directly into windows 8, the web based storage will show up like any normal hard drive and be available from within metro applications. Windows mobile 8 will have the same functionality so not only will apps work seamlessly across a desktop or smart phone but you can also access your personal files wherever you are.
Internet explorer 10 will launch exclusively on windows 8 in a similar way to IE 9 on Windows 7, early impressions have been poor as the user interface seems very unfinished. What’s more important is the new rendering engine behind IE10, it claims to have better support for new standards such as HTML5 and CSS3. The same rendering engine and high-performance script engine is available on the Windows desktop as well.
More details on how to try the consumer preview can be found here
Wednesday February 15, 2012 at 5:32pm
For large enterprises all over the world, it’s considered a necessity to have a practical phone system that allows all of the employees and departments to communicate with each other successfully and easily. More often than not these phone systems require lots of administrative effort and will also most likely be quite costly to purchase, set up and maintain.
But what about small or medium sized enterprises? What about if a company doesn’t have the budget for a full scale, top of the range phone system? What if a company only has a handful of employees and doesn’t require a phone system that supports hundreds of users? Well, Cisco has a solution that is tailor made for owners of SMB’s.
The Cisco Unified Communications 300 Series for Small Businesses (UC320W) is a high quality and professional phone system that not only fits your budget, but also provides a high level of functionality and configurable settings that make your business run smoothly, for less.
The system is very flexible and will support a wide range of Cisco IP phones, it is also packed full of handy features that will boost productivity, reduce costs and give a professional impression to anyone calling your line. Take a look at some of these features to see if this product is right for you:
• The UC320 supports up to 24 users
• The device supports wireless networking
• Voicemail & automated attendant available
• Supports various Cisco IP phones
• Can also act as part of a data network
• A web based, state of the art configuration utility
• Backup your settings to an external drive
The UC320W is an asset to any small business; it’s been dubbed as ‘An office in a box’ due to features inside the phone system that provide a small business owner with everything they need. From data communications right down to wireless networking, the UC320 is a one stop shop for all of your communications needs.
IT Services can provide full communications solutions for both single and multi-site companies. If you’re interested in finding out more, please contact us on the details below.
Thursday June 23, 2011 at 2:11pm
Earlier this year. IT Services was tasked with assisting a local web development and hosting provider, with the planning and implementation of a hosted Exchange Server.
This would allow the company to offer hosted Exchange services to their existing clients under Microsoft's Service Provider Licensing Agreement along side their current hosting services.
Microsoft Exchange Server is a server based collaborative application product, offered by Microsoft providing hosted mail, calendaring, contacts and tasks to the client. Unlike typical POP3/IMAP 1 server, 1 client connections, dealing only e-mail, clients are able to access a synchronised experience across multiple desktop operating systems, mobile devices and web-based access clients. Enabling them to deal with the same resources wherever they are.
Exchange Server is found typically deployed for businesses on premises in products such as Microsoft Windows Small Business Server, or in larger client bases their own dedicated server appliances.
Typically, this can be an expensive solution to provide, with the upfront cost of hardware, licensing, consultancy. There is also a requirement to maintain the ongoing solution. Many businesses are looking at moving their existing systems to external providers to host these solutions under monthly ongoing fees, offsetting these costs and responsibilites under service level agreements.
IT Services, installed and tested the Microsoft Exchange 2010 based solution within their Lutterworth bases premises until the system was ready to deploy in a secure Telford based datacentre.
For anyone who has never stepped foot in a datacentre of any kind, it is best described simply with the words noise, heat, cold, not the sort of place any human being would want to spend long periods of their time with their senses being played with.
The point of such a centre is to provide a central location with secure 24/7 access with reliable, redundant power and communications.
The solution was installed in late January and has been performing strongly and reliably. Many of our client's, existing clients have now switched from their existing POP3 or inhouse Exchange based e-mail services moving over to the externally provided solution.
IT Services Support is experienced in the planning of long term projects. From deployment of new services, migration of services, moving of site premises for busineses.
If you would like to discuss any such services with IT Services, please do not hesistate to contact us.
Wednesday April 20, 2011 at 9:45am
Security has always been an ongoing issue affecting businesses. The methods and technologies that individuals or groups will use to attempt to exploit businesses has continuously changed.
Among those changes has been the main goal of of security attacks. The first known virus to affect machines in the wild, opposed to in a controlled environment, was in 1981, named Elk Cloner, The first virus was created and spread across Apple II floppy disks which produced a message on screen.
There have been many well known viruses that in the past, have affected thousands of machines across the globe simultaneously. Although a disruption in business will inherently cost businesses, many of today modern infections are specifically designed to attempt defraud businesses. Money has become the main objective in security breaches.
The cost of a data breach has risen for the third consecutive year to an average of £1.9m in 2010 according to an annual study by the Ponemon Institute. The average total cost of a data breach ranged from £84,000 to almost £3.8 million, with an average of £47 per record compromised.
There are several ways businesses should be ensuring that they have a complete and unified security strategy for protecting their business. But one of the most overlooked is businesses not enforcing a password policy on employees.
Among the most popular passwords used by employees have been, Password, letmein, iloveyou,qwerty, 123456, 666666, 7777777, access, among other simple single word names.
IT Services recommends users base passwords of either 2 methods.
1 Complex Passwords - Minimum of seven characters, one capital letter and a Base 10 digit or an non-alphabetic character. For example O$car47.
2 Password phrases, using a sentence or a long phrase a password to increase the number of characters.
To check how secure your password is, try Microsoft's password checker.
Friday January 28, 2011 at 9:34am
Among the keen eye administrators providing ongoing maintencance to Small Business Servers that they are responsible for, they will have noticed a new rollup update sneaking into automatic updates.
Officialy released 26/01/2011. SBS 2008 Update Rollup 5 (KB2458094) is the latest in ongoing released of service packs and update rollups released by Microsoft for their SBS platform.
An update rollup is a tested, cumulative set of hotfixes, security updates, critical updates, and updates that are packaged together for easy deployment. They are generally released to target specific known problems that have been encounterd on the product.
Among the fixes, some may be familiar encountered problem to system administrators as described on the official SBS Blog.
Small Business Server 2008 shipped with Windows Live Sign-in Assistant version 5.0.
Update rollup 5 upgrades the Windows Live Sign-in Assistant to version 6.5
Log files for the Windows Update Services Website will continue to grow rapidly and will consume a large amount of disk space.
Update rollup 5 adds a scheduled task named WSUSLOGCLEANER that will remove all the log files in the WSUS Administration’s IIS directory (c:\inetpub\logs\logfiles\w3svc1372222313, by default) that are older than 30 days. The files should be removed within 48 hours of the update installation. The scheduled task will continue to run on a daily basis and remove any files older than 30 days.
IP version 6 is improperly disabled by unchecking IPv6 on the properties of the network card.
After installing update rollup 5, the fix my network wizard will enable IPv6 if it was improperly disabled. The fix my network wizard will not enable IPv6 if it was properly disabledby following the steps in KB article 929852.
Small Business Server update rollup 4 would fail to install if Windows Sharepoint Services 3.0 had been removed from the server.
Update rollup 5 will install successfully if Sharepoint 3.0 is uninstalled.
While trying to edit the properties of a user account, you may receive the following error message:
Invalid E-mail alias
This e-mail alias already exists. Type a different e-mail alias.
This issue will occur if you have a user account and a mail enabled contact with the same SMTP mailbox name. For example: If you have a user with the email address of firstname.lastname@example.org and a mail enabled with an email address of email@example.com, you will see this failure.
After installing update rollup 5, you will be able you successfully modify the user account and will no longer receive the error message about an invalid e-mail address.
After installing any of the previous SBS 2008 Update Rollups (4 or lower) you might see the following event in the application event log happening every 5 to 10 minutes:
Log Name: Application
Source: Windows SharePoint Services 3 Search
Date: 8/5/2009 10:10:02 AM
Event ID: 2424
Task Category: Gatherer
The update cannot be started because the content sources cannot be accessed. Fix the errors and try the update again.
Context: Application 'Search', Catalog 'index file on the search server Search'
New content will not be added to the search index and in consequence it will not be found when doing a full text search within the CompanyWeb application. Update rollup 5 automatically implements the solution documented in this blog post. The Windows SharePoint Services 3 search errors should no longer occur after applying this update rollup and search should work correctly.
Update rollup 5 fixes compatibility issues with Windows Internet Explorer 9. Windows Internet Explorer 9 will now work with all the default Small Business Server websites such as http://Companyweb, http://server/Remote, and http://Connect
SBS 2008 Update Rollup 5 includes all the fixes from the previous released and do not need to been installed in order. Not all update rollups and service packs for SBS 2008 and it's associated products are released automatically. For example, Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. Some are a manual process and should deployment be planned accordingly.