Blog

December 18th, 2014

Office365_Dec15_B

As we approach the end of another year we wanted to take a moment and send season’s greetings from all of us. Wishing you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and all the best in the coming year.

Ed & Henrietta VanderLaan, Adrian VanderLaan and staff:

Pattie Atherton, Maurice Brink, Mark Kottelenberg, Alvar Vandenbeukel, Rob VanderLaan and David VanderMeulen.

In lieu of mailing out cards to clients and friends we have again decided to send donations to local charities this year. Donations will be made to Mission Services of Hamilton and Streetlight Ministries. During this season of joy and giving we encourage everyone to remember those in need.

Please note our holiday office schedule:
We will be closed on December 25th & 26th. We will also be closed on January 1st.

Topic General
February 13th, 2013

Windows_Feb12_BTablets are all the rage right now. You are starting to see businesses of all sizes integrate them into the office and end up not really looking back. Because of the growing demand, many manufacturers are releasing tablets. Microsoft, known largely as a software company, has recently released one of the most powerful tablets to date. Based on the technical specs, will it be enough for businesses though?

Here's a brief overview of the main technical specifications of the Windows Surface Pro that small to medium business owners most often ask about.

Physical size The physical size of the Pro is 10.81 x 6.81 inches. By comparison, the iPad is 9.50 x 7.31 inches. The thickness of the machine is just .53 inches, and it weighs 2 lbs. On size alone, this makes the Pro a highly portable device, though it is a bit too big to comfortably hold in one hand.

Processor, memory and battery The Pro has a third generation Intel i5 processor with 4GB of RAM which is more than enough to run nearly every program currently available for Windows. This means that you should be able to access and run all of your work based programs. The battery life on the other hand is around 4 to 5 hours, which falls fall short of other tablets, and even some laptops.

Storage space The Pro comes with two different storage options: 64GB and 128GB. On paper, this sounds like a solid amount of storage space. These numbers don't take into account the size of the OS however - which will take up 41GB. With the OS installed the 64GB version will have 23GB of free storage, while the 128GB version will have 83GB free.

While this is a bit of a let-down, the Pro does have a USB port which means you can attach an external hard-drive for extra space. Beyond that, there is also a MicroSD port which will allow you to extend storage space even further.

Display One of the main reasons users pick tablets is because of the display. The Pro doesn't disappoint, offering a 10.6-Inch HD display with 1920 x 1080 pixels. This means the display is a widescreen, and will likely be better sitting on a desk. From reviews that we've seen, the display quality rivals that of the iPads.

This high resolution also means that all of your windows programs will be sharp, and you will be able to view them just fine.

Software The Pro runs a full version of Windows 8, which means that any software that desktops and laptops can run, it can also run. This is the main feature that sets the Pro apart from other tablets. You don't have to buy mobile versions of your favorite software, just install it on the machine and away you go.

Cost The cost of the Pro starts at USD$899, this is for the 64GB model, without the Touch Pad cover. For businesses to get the most out of this tablet, you'll need to spring for the cover which costs another USD$119, putting the price up to USD$1,018.

This seemingly high price will have many small business owners cringing. The thing is, the Surface Pro is more of a laptop with a touch screen than it is a tablet. Looking at it another way: It's the most powerful tablet on the market, and gives many laptops and desktops a run for their money.

Should you run buy one? To be honest: If you're looking for an ultraportable device to replace an existing one and that can run all of your business software, then yes, you should consider the Surface Pro. But, if you're looking for a tablet to accompany an already inplace system, then it's better to look at something a bit cheaper.

If you are interested in learning more about the Surface Pro, please let us know, we'd be happy to sit down with you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General
January 16th, 2013

When it comes to computers, many users are constantly installing programs they need and deleting others they don't use. From time-to-time, users run out of hard drive space and go on a bit of a deleting binge to free up space. What can sometimes happen though is that you go too deep into the OS file system and end up getting rid of something important, like the recycle bin, for example. If you use a Windows machine and this happens, there's no need for panic and you can follow some simple steps to bring it back.

Here's how you can restore your recycle bin if it goes MIA.

Windows 8, 7 and Vista

  1. Right-click on any blank space on your desktop.
  2. Select Personalize.
  3. Choose Change Desktop Icons from the left side of the window. It's usually located just under Tasks.
  4. Click the box next to Recycle Bin.
  5. Click Apply.
The window that opens up also displays common desktop icons, and clicking the box beside these will put an icon on your desktop. You can also change an icon by selecting it from the box and clicking Change Icon. Pressing Restore Default will return the icons to their default picture.

Windows XP For Windows XP users, the manual process is a lot more intensive. To make it easier, Microsoft developed a Fixit tool, that when clicked on will restore the recycle bin. You can find the tool here. All you have to do is click the button with the mechanic holding a wrench, saying Fix It. An app will download and run, and you should soon see your recycle bin reappear.

While you may feel a little silly, deleting the tool that allows you to delete, mistakes are often easily made. What you need to know is how to fix them. If you would like to learn more Windows tips, please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General
December 19th, 2012

Modern operating systems are so feature packed that it can be a bit of a chore to sniff them all out. While many features are there to improve the user experience, many people don't utilize them at all. Some of the more underutilized features revolves around keyboard shortcuts. Sure, we use the more common ones, but did you know that Windows 8 has some really useful shortcuts beyond these?

Below are six of the more common Windows 8 specific keyboard shortcuts. Note: WIN is the Windows key (key with the windows logo).

  1. WIN: Pressing the windows key once will switch from the desktop to the last opened application. If you are looking at an application e.g., Office, and press the WIN key, you'll be taken to the desktop.
  2. WIN + C: Will bring up the Charms bar.
  3. WIN + I: Will bring up the Settings Charm. This will work from the desktop in some applications. In other applications this keystroke may not work, or may open something else.
  4. WIN + F: Pressing these keys will open the file search window. From there you can enter the name of the file/folder you are looking for. Note, this will only work from the desktop, and not in applications.
  5. WIN + E: Open your computer's main drive. This is commonly called My Computer but may be different depending on what your computer's drive has been labeled.
  6. WIN + Print Screen: Pressing these keys simultaneously will take and save a screenshot. You will notice the screen dims for a second, this is to confirm the picture has been taken and saved as an image file. By default the screenshot will be placed into the Pictures folder of the Library.
These are just six of the many keyboard shortcuts in Windows 8 that make the OS easier to use. If you would like to learn more about Windows 8 and how it can fit into your company give us a shout, we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General
November 28th, 2012

Working with many different small businesses we often get asked this question. Frequently purchasing a new computer is left to the last minute and at first glance is seems easier to run out to the nearest retail store and pick up a shiny new system. In addition these same retail stores are often advertising systems at great discount prices, but is it really cheaper in the end? What’s really the different between the consumer models found in retail stores and the business models available through resellers or directly from the manufacturer?

When comparing different computer models the conversation quickly focusses on the technical specs. The speed and type of processor, how much RAM and storage the system includes, among other details. These technical details are definitely important items to consider, however the total cost of the system also has other considerations. Three other considerations often overlooked are: operating system, warranty and install time.

Consumer model systems come with the Windows Home operating system which is not designed for business environments. The Windows Pro operating system is required to connect to servers, it also has remote connection capabilities and built in management tools that are needed to properly maintain a business computer. While Windows Home can be upgraded to Windows Pro after the fact, this costs an extra $80 – $150 for the software upgrade license, in addition to the labour to have this installed.

Warranty is the next differentiator between consumer and business models. Brand name business computers sold by HP, Dell and Lenovo all offer full onsite warranty coverage. Retail systems most often are sold with depot warranty. In the event that the computer needs to be serviced, a retail system has to be brought back to the store, or a repair depot. Businesses typically prefer to have a technician come onsite and repair the system versus packing up the system to be shipped away for repair which can take days or even weeks.

Install time is another cost that is often not considered when purchasing a new computer. If you purchased a consumer model, now you have to upgrade the Home operating system to Pro, install all the latest patches, install Microsoft Office and then finally you are ready to start configuring all the other data and line of business applications. The business computers save time by having Windows Pro already preinstalled, plus many of them even include the latest Microsoft Office software preinstalled. This results in shorter install times which translates into lower install cost.

So if consumer models require an operating system upgrade, don’t include onsite warranty and take longer to install is it really cheaper in the end? Often these extra costs can add up to $500 or more, not taking into account the additional stress that this can cause. Looking for a new or replacement business computer? Give us a call and we’ll help you save money and have less stress!

Topic General
November 22nd, 2012

Customization and differentiation is popular these days. You can go onto sites like Vans and customize a pair of shoes that meet your style and taste, or look at the hundreds of millions of different iPhone cases available online. When it comes to computers and operating systems, there's slightly less choice in terms of customization - for most it's Windows or OS X. While every copy of Windows 8 sold starts out the same, there are a huge amount of customization options to help make Windows 8 your own.

Ok, so you've bought and installed Windows 8, booted it up for the first time and it just doesn't reflect who you are. No worries, you can change that. Below are five ways you can customize Windows 8.

Customize lock screen Going with a more mobile theme, Windows 8 brings the ability to customize your lock screen, much like you can do with your smartphone. If you want to change the background image:

  1. Select the Settings charm from the main Windows 8 screen. You can also hit Windows key + i and select PC Settings.
  2. Click on Personalize to show the Personalize options on the right.
  3. Select Lock Screen.
  4. Select the picture you would like, or click Browse and navigate to the folder with the image you would like to use.
From this screen, you can also set which apps will show notifications on the lock screen. Pressing the + below Lock screen apps will allow you to set which apps display info. You can also set an app to show more detailed information by pressing on the relevant option below the Lock screen apps section.

Change tile size and uninstall or unpin programs Did you know you can change the size of the tiles on the new start screen? To change the size of a tile, simply right click on it and the tile options will be shown. If the app is small, you can select Larger to make it so and vice versa.

When you right-click you will also notice other options. Unpin means the tile won't be shown on the start screen, but it won't be uninstalled. If you want to get rid of the program, you can do so by selecting Uninstall when you right-click. You can also turn off Live updates if that's your thing, or if you have a slower Internet connection.

Rearrange tiles If you want to move a tile, but not uninstall, unpin or change its status, hover your mouse over the tile, hold down the left mouse button and drag the tile to where you would like it to be. If you have lots of tiles, you press Ctrl + mouse wheel to shrink or enlarge the start screen.

Desktop background If you're a fan of the older Windows 7 layout, and would like to customize your background, you can do so by:

  1. Clicking on the Desktop tile on the new layout, it's located on the bottom left of the screen. This will change to the more familiar Windows 7 layout.
  2. Right-clicking anywhere there is empty space on the desktop.
  3. Selecting Personalize.
  4. Clicking on Desktop Background and selecting the image you would like to use. If you want to pick your own image, you can click Browse and navigate to the folder the image is in.
Pin to taskbar In desktop mode, the taskbar (located along the bottom of the screen) is where all open programs are shown. If you use a program a lot, you can pin it to the taskbar by opening the program, right-clicking on the icon on the taskbar and selecting Pin this program to the taskbar.

There are a million and one ways you can customize Windows 8, many of the options can be found under Settings - PC Settings. If you're looking at all the different options and feel like Dorothy after landing in Oz, it's best to contact us, we can help explain the different options for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General
November 14th, 2012

Whenever a new operating system is released, many users rush out and buy it, eager to take advantage of the changes. Businesses are no different, with some already having upgraded to Windows 8. While Windows 8 definitely brings with it some big changes, it is an investment and one which could turn out to be a costly mistake if your systems can't run it.

Here's three things you should focus on to ensure your system is Windows 8 ready.

Processor The minimum processor speed for Windows 8 is 1GHz. What this means is that almost every system from the past decade should be able to run it. Many modern smartphones actually meet the minimum requirement, so most computers should be able to run it easily as well. Of course, if you have a processor that's around 1 GHz, you will notice that the OS isn't as zippy compared to systems with the latest and greatest, but it should be able to handle everyday tasks.

Memory Windows 8 comes in two versions, 64 and 32 bit. The main difference between these two numbers depends on the RAM a system has. The minimum amount of RAM required to run Windows 8 is 1GB. Most laptops and computers purchased today have 4GB or more, while computers bought four years ago have around 2GB. As a general rule of thumb, systems with 4GB or more of RAM match with the 64 bit version, while systems with less than 4GB of RAM will operate better on the 32 bit version.

If you're looking to upgrade from a previous version of Windows, the current version installed will dictate the version of Windows 8 you can install. If you have a 32 bit version of Windows 7 on your systems, you have to go with the 32 bit version of Windows 8.

The other main form of memory to focus on is hard drive space. Windows 8 requires the same amount of free hard drive space as Windows 7 - 16GB for the 32 bit version and 20GB for the 64 bit. As there is a new interface, there is a high chance that you will need even more space to fit all the downloaded apps and other updates.

As with most computer related components, the more RAM and hard drive space there is, the faster the system and the OS will run. For optimal performance, it's best to install Windows 8 on a new drive.

Monitor If you want to upgrade to Windows 8, you need to ensure that your monitors can support a minimum resolution of 1024 x 768. If you want to run two apps or programs side-by-side on the same screen, your monitors need to be a minimum of 1366 x 768. Most recent flat screen monitors can support this resolution, and HDMI monitors - 1080p or higher - will be fine.

To make things easy, Microsoft has an upgrade tool - Upgrade Assistant - that you can download and run. What it does is test your system to see if it can support Windows 8 and then provides you with a report of devices and programs that do and don’t meet the requirements. If a program needs an update to be compatible, it will also provide you with the links to download these updates. While this is useful, if you work with a managed service provider, or any IT company, it's a good idea to consult with them first to see if they can help with the upgrade, or whether their systems can support it.

To learn more about how you can use Windows 8 in your company, please contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General
November 6th, 2012

One of the integral parts of the modern computer is the operating system (OS) it allows users to graphically interact with the computer. Without it, typing this would have been a lot harder, an exercise in pure code. Microsoft has one of the most popular systems - Windows, and on October 26, they released a new version, Windows 8. Will businesses benefit though?

Here’s five key business related aspects of Windows 8.

Windows 8 changes the desktop The biggest change Windows 8 brings is the change to the desktop layout. Windows 8 defaults to a new touch-oriented layout that uses tiles similar to the ones found on their Windows Mobile operating systems. This change is an indication that Microsoft is going to be throwing considerable weight into the post-pc era, where devices like tablets and touchscreens work beside or replace conventional PCs.

This change from a file and folder oriented desktop to a tile oriented one could intimidate users who are unfamiliar with a mobile OS, or are less than comfortable with computers. It’s not like a user comfortable with XP or Windows 7 will be completely lost, as all of the existing programs that were icons on your desktop are now tiles with the icon clearly visible.

For those who are really uncomfortable with the new interface, pressing the Desktop tile will take you to the more traditional desktop Windows users might be more comfortable with. The best way to think of the desktop interface is Windows 7 with a mobile-ish overlay. Windows has noted that most Windows 7 programs will work just fine on Windows 8, however custom made programs may have issues and need to be upgraded to support the new layout. If you use custom made software, it is a good idea to contact the vendor/developer before upgrading.

Where’s the Start button? With most versions of windows, the Start button, located in the bottom left of the screen, was how you launched all your programs and found the majority of your files. Windows 8 doesn’t have a physical start button, rather the new tile interface is the start menu. Now you just swipe to the tile/program, and click it to open.

For small businesses looking to introduce mobile apps targeted at tablet or other large touchscreen users, or integrate tablet devices into the office, Windows 8 makes sense. For most other companies, the adoption and learning curve may take time to get used to. Most users we talked to agree, but note that once they get used to it, it's great.

Any new useful features? There are a number of new features that many businesses will benefit from with adoption. Windows 8 focuses on collaboration and mobility more than almost any other OS. On the control side, administrators have a program called AppLocker which enables adminstrators to easily control employee’s access to files and programs, while pushing out updates to all computers at once.

Another interesting feature is that Windows 8 supports profile syncing through the cloud and USB sticks. Employees can sit down at any workstation, sync their profile and have access to their own system's layout quickly and easily. Alternatively, they can use USB sticks to save their Windows session and have access to it when they plug in the USB. This makes the OS a lot more mobile.

While there are features of Windows 8 that businesses will utilize, it’s the programs that will define the success of this OS. Many businesses still use Microsoft XP and Microsoft has essentially stopped support for it. You'll come across some issues when upgrading Microsoft programs. For example, if you use XP in the office and want to upgrade to Office 2013, you’ll have to upgrade to either Windows 7 or 8 (Microsoft would prefer it if you picked Windows 8).

This decision will force all vendors and software developers to either write two programs, one that supports XP, and the other that supports Windows 7 and 8. Most developers will likely just chose to drop support of XP. Essentially, this will force businesses to upgrade if they want support.

What about RT? With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft also released a tablet oriented OS that’s based on Windows 8, Windows RT. The only difference is RT doesn’t run Windows desktop programs, rather it’s configured to run RT specific or cloud versions of programs. This could hamper collaboration between devices that run the two different systems. In other words, if you’re looking to upgrade, ensure the systems you choose are compatible. There will be a flood of Windows 8 tablets - tablets using Windows 8, not RT - and ultrabooks in the next few months.

How do I get Windows 8? There are a number of options available to you if you would like to get windows 8. Retail users of Windows 7, XP and Vista can purchase a digital upgrade for USD$40 which they can download and install. For those who like their software to come in a box,the cost is USD$70. Most businesses should contact a vendor as they will likely need to upgrade other systems as well. If you’re looking to upgrade, give us a call, we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General
October 31st, 2012

Email, one of the most disruptive technologies ever led the way for a digital communication wave of change that has more or less destroyed the traditional methods of communication. Why write a letter when you can just type out an email and have it delivered and read instantly? The problem with email is that it has led to a bunch of users who just type without thinking and hitting send, only to regret what they have written. Don’t look at us that way, we are all guilty of it. However, if you have Microsoft Outlook, you can put a delay on emails, giving you a chance to avoid such mistakes or regrets.

Below are instructions on how to delay emails in Outlook.

7-second tape delay for emails It worked well for hockey commentator Don Cherry after a few unpopular comments landed his program, Coach's Corner, in hot water. For emails, seven seconds is a bit short, we recommend delaying potentially inflammatory emails for 10 minutes, to give you time to review and possibly cancel if you notice mistakes. You can add a delay on individual emails in Outlook by:

  1. Clicking Options in the window you’re writing your email in and selecting More Options.
  2. Select Delay Delivery followed by Message Options.
  3. Clicking the box beside: Don’t deliver before and selecting the date and time to send the email.
You’ll be taken back to the message window after you’ve selected the delivery time, and pressing Send will put the email in the Outbox folder until the specified time. If you use a POP3 email account - if you’re unsure what you use, contact the administrator in charge of email - you will have to keep Outlook open.

There are many different reasons to use the delay function of Outlook, it’s especially useful if you often realize there are mistakes in your emails. You should still be sure to read over your emails and if it’s an angry reply or it contains negative information ensure that it carries a relevant tone and that you really want to send it. Has there ever been a time when you could have used this feature? Let us know.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General
October 30th, 2012

Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to travel to give presentations? Many professionals have a dream: Giving presentations from the office, or even from home. While you could just send your clients a PowerPoint file, it’s not as effective as you being present to answer questions or present the information. If you have Microsoft Office 365, you can use Lync to give PowerPoint presentations from the comfort of your desk, or couch!

Here’s how you can share a PowerPoint presentation using Lync.

Before you share your presentation, you should ensure that your PowerPoint slides are presentation-ready. This means going through and fixing as many mistakes as possible, ensuring the slides are readable and ensuring that all media is in place. When you are ready, schedule a meeting with participants, and either the day before or an hour before the presentation at least, conduct a dry run using all the materials, to ensure it works. You should also decide if participants can collaborate, present or just view the presentation.

On presentation day:

  1. Start a new conversation on Lync.
  2. Click Share - located above the IM Chat window - and select PowerPoint Presentation.
  3. Navigate to the folder you have placed the folder in. We recommend saving a copy on your desktop to make it easier to find.
  4. Select the presentation and wait for it to upload. The bigger the presentation, the longer it will take.
Once uploaded, the presentation should show on the right-hand side of the Chat window. Most presentations will show up with no restrictions, meaning anyone can make changes. You can adjust this by:
  1. Clicking Join Information and Meeting Options located at the top-left of the chat window beside your picture.
  2. Select Meeting Options.
    1. Select who can enter directly and who will wait in the Lobby before the start of the presentation.
    2. Chose who can be a presenter.
    3. Set restrictions for content.
After you’ve established your presentation options you can start. Basically whatever is showing on your screen is what the other participants will see. During the presentation you can navigate between slides by clicking the up or down arrow on the lower-right side of the presentation. Pressing the TV icon beside the arrows will put the presentation into full-screen mode, which is great if your participants are viewing the presentation on a large screen. To exit full-screen mode, move your mouse to the bottom of the screen and when the presentation menu bar pops-up hit the TV button again. Alternatively, you can press Escape.

One of the keys to giving a good presentation is to be able to review it. With Lync, you can record your presentations by clicking the two little arrows in the chat window located below the telephone icon. You will see a More Options drop-down menu, scroll down to Start Recording. You can control the recording from the bottom left of the window. If you need to take a break, hit Pause Recording, and click it again to continue. When you are finished hit the stop button and save the recording.

Being able to give presentations over Lync is a great way to connect with people and share important information without having to leave the office. If you’d like to learn more about using Lync in your organization, please call us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic General