Why Upgrade to the Latest Technology

Convincing the financial decision makers (i.e. Owners, CFO, etc.) for either Small or Medium Businesses from your organization to invest on upgrading your outdated network infrastructure into a cutting-edge technology can be challenging. If your company is running a few outdated hardware and software, it is time to make a decision to improve and secure your current network setup. The beginning of the entire process can be costly, frustrating and wearing but it will all play well at the end with a favorable outcome. Planning a strategic and operational concept will be a good start. Reviewing your current IT approach, and recommending new technology opportunities are also important. Educating employees on the latest technology is significant for businesses for its success.

Why upgrade

  • Modern equipment and latest software

Try not to wait too long on the upgrades, you will be missing out on a lot of hardware and software upgrades, some get decommissioned and replaced with better features so that you can get the most of it. It can be a financially burden for your company but less nuisance at the end of each day.

  • Dependability

Obsolete products may cut off technical support, updates and features; therefore outdated hardware and software that will require support will be in jeopardy and there might be a possible downtime in case of a hardware or software issue/failure which will cost some loss for your business. It is important that your computers are running 24/7 with a limited downtime.

  • Modern network infrastructure

Review your current network infrastructure if it has assurance to protect critical information and systems. Learn about best practices for eliminating application downtime and data loss with the newer technology applied in your organization. Outdated hardware will slow-down your work, modern technology will give more stability.

  • Time-sensitive projects

Converting old file format (using a 3rd party utility converter) to a new file format can be time-consuming. If a project is time-sensitive, every single minute counts and that your work will be done on time.

  • Smarter Users/Employees

Moving from an older to newer technology will be difficult to a few employees that are not technically savvy as they’ll have a hard time adapting to the new change. Make them aware that lack of modern technology knowledge is not a good representation for the company that they work for. I have personally dealt with these type of Users and guiding them to understand/learn about the new technology was very difficult for me. I’ve given them plenty of time to learn and at the same time a lot of patience involved while educating them on the current technology.

  • Secured network

If you have outdated software and hardware that provides security protection, your network can be vulnerable to unauthorized activities that can access your network. Security Vendors (Hardware and Software) can cut-off support on outdated technology as well as updates and patches. There might be a significant potential for compromising corporate data and loss may occur. This can be prevented by implementing the highest encryption which the newer technology has and it’s worth every penny that will protect your investments. Cleaning out infected computers may take hours or days and may results to downtime.

  • Enhanced backup system

Worry about your backup system? If you have an old backup system, consider replacing or upgrading this as well. There are a lot of reasonable cloud solutions or hardware devices that are available nowadays in case of any hardware failure caused by any disasters.

A few concerns and suggestions that I have compiled and might be worrisome to some businesses, as I have dealt with different IT projects for Small and Medium Businesses on upgrading the company’s technology devices/hardware and software.

  • Do you have an IT budget?

IT budget is one of the primary concerns for businesses as to why they have to keep on delaying upgrading to the modern technology. The technology implementor will have to come up with a great sales pitch to convince the financial decision maker on a possible technology upgrade. Start off with compiling statistics of the number of employees that are in urgent needs for the upgrades. Find out how many employees that are not the priority for now, this will help your company set aside a fair amount of IT budget. Present a simple IT Proposal to the Owners/Management and make it precise. Inform them that there are a variety of financing options available from different Vendors on new software, hardware and affordable payments – just what you need.

  • Would you need a complete upgrade – hardware/software?

Try not to wait too long on the upgrades, you will be missing out on a lot of hardware and software upgrades, some get decommissioned and replaced with better features so that you can get the most of it. It can be financially burden for your company but it will save a lot of headaches at the end of each day.

  • Worry about the incompatibility issues?

Gathering the data on obsolete products – i.e. hardware and software can be time-consuming. Plan ahead the preparations that will include training and setting up your test lab if needed. If you run into any software compatibility issues, give yourself plenty of time to come up with a resolution.

  • How to deal with non-tech savvy Users?

Make the transition easier for the conservative Users. It will be hard for them to adapt to the new changes. Show them how the new technology will benefit them and the business – from a very time-consuming to a user-friendly day-to-day work routine.

My final thoughts

Consider at least every three years to make the most out of your money spent on technology upgrades. Within three years there will be substantial improvements and you’ll have plenty of time to set up new goals, IT budgets and that Users will be ready for something new to learn and be knowledgeable with the modern technology. As time flies, the benefits of the upgrade will be worthwhile, this will reduce the complexity and simplify your business operations. Modernized technology will make your business successful.

 

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Why Consider Microsoft Office 365 for Business Use

Office 365 logo

Whether you are a small or medium business, complex environment or perhaps requires project management and looking for a solution that’s not complicated to use in a daily basis and needs integration with multi-device, multi-platform and companion apps, Microsoft Office 365 will be best suited. This is the same Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access and Publisher) as if it was installed in your computer but has more useful programs, apps and features – i.e. online conferencing, public website, cloud storage and you can access Office 365 from any devices (PC, Laptop, Mac and Smart) virtually as long as you have internet connection.

Microsoft Office 365 is a cloud solution and comes together with powerful capabilities all in a single package. The best part, you don’t have to worry about updating the software; you’ll get the Office 365 automatic updates, maintenance and 24/7 technical support as long as you keep your subscription from Microsoft up-to-date.

Productivity – You can get a lot more done and able to access your work files virtually anywhere and whatever device you are using. You may use Office 365 to share and edit files at the same time with anyone in your office or team so that everybody can be productive.

Collaboration – Is Teamwork vital in your business environment? Are you a traveler or a remote employee that requires retrieving your work files in real-time and doing collaboration with your co-workers? The All-in-One package has everything you’ll need – email, files sharing, calendars sharing, IM and web conferencing for you and your team.

Compatibility – You don’t have to worry on what devices or Operating Systems you’ll have to use or implement in a near future, it will run in all Windows Operating Systems-Clients (except XP and older versions) and Servers (except 2003 and older versions) . Mac Users will also benefit from Office 365 as there are Apps available.

Integration – Office 365 integrates well with a variety of devices by simply installing the Apps for Mac, Windows and other Smart Devices with full access to your corporate files.

Convenient – Install the Office 365 Apps and carry the device in your pocket or purse whether it’s a smart phone or a Tablet. Dealing with daily work tasks and conveniently accessible for an employee is vital for business.

Security – If you are concerned about privacy and security, Office 365 is highly encrypted and rest assured that your email and documents will be virtually protected.

Cloud Storage – Afraid to lose your files? It’s safe to store confidential files using cloud storage and not to worry that next day or anytime that your computer would crash. If in the event that this happened, since your files are stored in the cloud, simply use another computer, log on to your business profile and continue to work on your files stress-free.

Easy Migration and Implementation – Office 365 can be effectively implemented without complications. Easy transition from a traditional Microsoft Office to the modern and sophisticated Microsoft Office with limited downtime.

Cost Effective – There’s no need to hire an IT person to manage the File Servers and purchasing costly hardware File Servers, it’s all taken care of in a single administration, cost-effective and will give you a Return on Investment (ROI).

Other great features – Having your own mail server can be daunting and expensive, Office 365 comes with Exchange Online and SharePoint Online if you’ll need collaboration with your team.

I use Office 365 and I really like the integration with all my devices – Windows 8 desktop, Windows 8.1 laptop, Windows 8 Phone and Surface 2 and also with other Microsoft Products that I’m currently using as I can manage all my work files anytime and virtually anywhere across the globe and you can’t go wrong with that. Although we host our Exchange Server, there’s no interruption neither any conflicts running Office 365 from my own experience. Find out if Office 365 is the right solution for your business, see the different options here.

Backup Strategies

Backups are often neglected; do you backup your computer or server, if so, how often? At any moment a computer or server may crash unexpectedly and put your critical data at risk. Are you confident that you will be able to do a full restoration within a minimal downtime? Have you done a full backup test restoration including the hard drive images? How much information do you have stored on your Server’s hard drives? Are you hosting your own email or website? Are you running any SQL databases? These are all very critical and require a good backup strategy to be enforced to be able to recover from a disaster in an efficient and effective way. You must be prepared for any calamities such as fire, earthquakes and floods. Do you have any backup plans in the event of a natural disaster? Backups are a very important factor to consider.  The risk of losing data is often unnecessary and could be avoided by implementing a simple and sometimes cost-effective backup solution.

The Strategies:

  • If you have a Domain Network, having additional Domain Controllers (DC) is something that has to be implemented so that there will be limited network downtime just in case a disaster happens.  Active Directory Users and Computers will replicate to your additional DC(s) and improve the dependability and availability of your network resources if the main DC is not up and running due to a crash or failure.
  • Storing huge amount of files and data on your network can be very risky if you don’t have a well planned and tested backup system.  Local backups can be done if you have enormous or terabytes of files stored in your file server(s).  Losing these files could cause you a major problem that you may not be able to bounce back from.  If your company has a limited IT budget then you can purchase some affordable external USB hard drives to do a local on-site backup.  These can be taken off site by a member of staff. Another affordable option would be to purchase a (Network Attached Storage) NAS Device and use a third parties backup software like Acronis or Symantec to do a full backup image of your Servers hard drives.
  • Do you have (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) RAID configured in any of your Servers? If your Employer can afford and has a budget for a RAID 10 (also known as RAID 1 + 0) system and it requires a minimum of 4 hard drives, I highly recommend this. A server with RAID 10 is amongst the most popular RAID solutions and provides a very high fault tolerance in case of hard drive failures. RAID 10 is very pricey but it is the best RAID option for any perilous applications especially databases.  If you have a limited IT budget then investing in a RAID 1 (Mirrored) solution is also acceptable. It will allow for one of your drives to fail without causing major downtime. Keep at least one spare hard drive for your RAID on site in case of a drive failure.  Newer technology servers have hot swappable drives, so expect limited downtime and rest assured that your data will be safe and intact. Some Users won’t even know if the network was down.
  • Backup as often as you want – There is no such thing as backing up too much! Having a redundancy backup is a must have. A very common backup strategy is to make daily incremental, differential, and a weekly full backup.  Another question you may want to ask is: If my first backup solution fails, what will I do then? Having multiple backups to restore from is a must.  Placing all of your eggs in one basket can be risky. If you are going to use Tapes or External Hard Disks to back up your data it is recommended that you have a daily or weekly rotation between drives.  If you have five External Hard Drives on a daily rotation then even if your most recent backup is not restorable you can fall back onto the day before – Losing 24-hours worth of data is far better than losing it forever!
  • Do not backup to a different partition on the same physical disk. You should be aware that if the disk fails then the entire disk will be corrupted and your backup will be useless!  You may lose everything.
  • The types of restore you can do with a backup are an important factor to consider. How long will it take you to restore an entire hard drive?  Can you restore your server onto other hardware?  Do you have any hard drives in stock in the event your drives fail?
  • A Cloud backup solution can be costly, but if your company can afford it, it’s a great backup solution to consider.  Hosted cloud also known as online backup is very popular nowadays.  If you are going to use a hosted backup solution find out the level of encryption that they support and remember to write down the restoration procedure, in the event of a problem you will want to access the backups quickly.  Cloud backup is safe and a secured way of backing up data on remote data storage, also accessible from anywhere. The only downside is that it requires a higher bandwidth.
  • It is a very good idea to keep your servers in a fire/flood proof location like a Vault, if your Employer can afford this type of Storage.

Backup only important documents – you will be very surprised how many gigabytes worth of Media files such as pictures, music and videos that some employees will store in their roaming profiles and local hard drives. Some are for business use but mostly are for personal use.  It is worth reviewing what you are backing up at least once a month.

Side-by-Side Comparison of Backup Software – Client and Server Operating Systems:

Client Operating Systems – Paid and Free Software:

http://data-backup-software-review.toptenreviews.com/

http://free-backup-software.net/free-backup-software-comparison

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_backup_software

Servers – Paid Software:

http://windows-server-backup-review.toptenreviews.com/

Hosted Online and Cloud Backup Solution:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_online_backup_services

http://enterprisefeatures.com/2010/09/top-25-enterprise-online-backup-solutions-for-business-cloud-data-protection/

***A special ‘Thanks’ to Dave Atkin – co  Author .***

Why Backup

Are you certain that everything is playing nice and not knowing that one of these days a disaster (earthquake, flood, theft or fire) might happen? Let’s hope not……It will be too late to find out that all important files stored in your computer have disappeared.  For whatever reason that might be, these unforeseen events might occur. You might have accidentally deleted some files or your hard drive has just suddenly crashed or that someone stole your computer. Why would you neglect backing up files? That’s not a good practice at all. Why not start a good habit of regular backups?

With a backup of your files or an image of your Hard Drive, you can be up and running after a disaster in 30-45 minutes or so.  In fact having files and an image backed up makes good sense, redundancy backup is good in this case, backup as often as you want.

There are several easy options to perform a backup; even novice Users will be able to do this.

Microsoft has its own built-in tool backup application in Windows Vista and Windows 7 called Backup and Restore.  It can be found at Control Panel\System and Security\Backup and Restore.

A good Cloud backup solution might be a feasible option.  Sky Drive is a Free online backup solution from Microsoft.  “Cloud” is a new trendy term which simply means “The Internet” and generally refers to apps, and/or backups being stored and accessed from the net.

In this Article we will be focusing on giving simple guides on how to use SyncToy and DriveImage XML as backup solutions, both are Free Programs for Personal Use Only.

SyncToyis a great tool from Microsoft.  You may backup selected folders/files only and choose if you want to Synchronize, Echo and Contribute.

Operating Systems compatibility:  It supports both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7.

Locate and open the SyncToy program from your computer. In the Welcome to SyncToy screen click on Create New folder Pair.

Once the two folders are created, from the Left Folder click on Browse and locate the Folder that you want to back up, from the Right Folder, click on Browse and locate the Folder you wish to use as a backup.

You may choose if you want to Synchronize, Echo or Contribute.  A description for each one is available on the images called ‘Short Explanation’.  

 

Now that you have chosen the preferred backup that you want, choose a Name for your folder pair. In this guide I named it ‘My Backup’. Click on Finish then click on Run, to run the Backup.

 

Once you have setup your SyncToy backup, if you wish to edit the backup you may choose either Change Actions and/or Change Options.

Another great idea – is to create an image of your computer’s hard drive. If you’d like to back up your entire hard drive try DriveImage XML. This Free program is not for commercial use.

Operating Systems compatibility: Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 and Windows Server 2003. DriveImage XML will Backup, Image and Restore drives formatted with FAT and NTFS.

To begin, choose Backup from the Menu, and select the Drive that you want to Backup…..

In the Welcome to the drive backup wizard, click on Next…..

 

Select the Backup location; since my computer’s hard drive has only one Partition which is the C Drive, I will use the same drive which is the Drive C.  I can always transfer the image files to another network location or external hard drive later on when the whole process is done. If you have an external hard drive connected to your computer you may change the backup location. Under Options, leave the default to Split large files and in Compression choose None.  In Hot Imaging Strategy, leave the default which is Try Volume Locking First. Click  on Next….

The backup is now in progress, click on Finish after.  We have just concluded an Image backup of your hard drive.

 

If you need to Restore the backup image, you would select Restore from the Main Menu and locate the Image files. It is that simple.

Now…… Have you asked yourself “Why Backup?”

Note: This Article is intended for Personal use only. Please see my upcoming blogs on backup solutions intended for Business/Commercial use.