What Does Downtime Really Cost?


What Does Downtime Really Cost?

When preparing your technology budget, it is useful to know the costs associated with downtime. This information can help you prioritize IT expenditures so that critical systems and operations receive the funding needed to keep them running efficiently. Knowing the downtime costs can also motivate you to create business continuity and disaster recovery plans if you have not created them yet.


5 Ways to Save Time When Formatting Word 2016 Documents


5 Ways to Save Time When Formatting Word 2016 Documents

Most Microsoft Word 2016 users know the formatting basics, but many of them are unaware of the features they can use to streamline the formatting process. By customizing some formatting features and using shortcuts, they can get presentation-quality documents with minimal effort.


Planning to Upgrade to Windows 10 for Free? Time is Running Out.


Planning to Upgrade to Windows 10 for Free? Time is Running Out.


Posted 2016-07-21

Windows 10, the latest version of Microsoft's flagship operating system, was released on July 29, 2015, and millions of people have already received their copies of the tech giant's newest operating system. If you plan on taking advantage of Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade offer, there is an important deadline approaching: July 29, 2016. You have until then to upgrade existing Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 devices that qualify for the offer. There is no limit to the number of upgrades, so you can upgrade all the eligible computers in your business. They just need to meet the software and hardware requirements.

While there are plenty of good reasons to upgrade, Windows 10 isn't necessarily for everyone.  Here are a few things to consider when choosing whether or not to get Windows 10.

1.  It's Free (For Most People)

Microsoft is offering free upgrades to Windows 10 for anyone with a genuine copy of Windows 7, Windows 8.1, or Windows Phone 8.1. The free-upgrade promotion expires on July 29, 2016 and with the deadline fast approaching, this may entice a huge number of Windows users to make the switch.

However, the offer doesn't extend to Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8.1 Enterprise, Windows RT, and Windows RT 8.1. That being said, Microsoft started selling Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education on August 1, 2015.

2.  Improved Performance

Windows 10 features several performance upgrades. It boots up faster and its better hardware acceleration means that the operating system is a bit quicker when in use. The OS's power management system has also seen some improvements that tend to extend the life of mobile devices' batteries.

Additionally, the Refresh and Reset functions were re-implemented so that they work without the need for a recovery image. This reduces the amount of system resources that the OS requires, and makes it easier for users to remove any unwanted software that hardware manufacturers might have bundled into their copies of Windows.

3.  Better Security

Security was clearly an important consideration for Microsoft's developers when they were creating Windows 10. The new OS provides automatic updates, which can make things easier for some users. It also has a number of features designed to keep users and their data secure.

Microsoft's Device Guard tool blocks unauthorized applications from accessing Windows 10 computers or the networks connected to the computers. The OS's Passport and Windows Hello features protect accounts by changing the way people approach user authorization. Instead of relying on a password, these features let users launch Windows 10 devices by using biometric characteristics like their faces, irises, or fingerprints.  Of course, this is dependent on hardware requirements.

4.  The Return of the Start Menu

One of the main criticisms against Windows 8 was the loss of the Start menu. This clear and easy-to-use menu was a staple of previous Windows versions, and many users were upset when they were unable to use it. Thankfully, Microsoft learned from its mistakes by bringing the Start menu back with Windows 10.

The new version of the Start menu will be familiar to Windows 7 users, but it also features a customizable side panel with live tiles similar to the ones used in Windows 8. You can reorganize this panel to your liking; combine and resize live tiles; and create shortcuts to your favorite applications. Alternatively, if you don't like the live tiles, you can delete them and go back to the basic Windows-7-style menu.

5.  A New Web Browser

The release of Windows 10 also served as the debut performance of Microsoft Edge, the company's latest web browser. Microsoft Edge is designed to be faster, more secure, and more user-friendly than Internet Explorer. Users can customize the web browser by picking a background or choosing a set font size. It also has several new features, like the ability to convert to a streamlined format that removes sidebars and is easier to read. There is also a tool that lets you make notes on web pages, and then share screenshots of the pages through email or a social network.

If you prefer Internet Explorer, the Windows 10 users still have the option to continue using Internet Explorer; as a 20-year browser, many companies' may choose to continue its use of Internet Explorer for compatibility reasons.

6.  A Universal Approach

Windows 10 is a universal operating system that works on every Windows machine, be it a computer or a mobile device. Any app bought through the Windows Store will work on all of a user's machines and will feel familiar regardless of the device.  This universal operating system allows users to switch from one device to the next without losing any of their work. If you start working on a document on your computer, you can easily switch to your tablet and pick up right where you left off.  Microsoft's Continuum also facilitates this broader versatility. This feature changes the operating system's interface based on the status of the device. For example, if you plug a keyboard and mouse into your tablet, the operating system will recognize the change and switch to desktop mode.

7.  A Digital Personal Assistant

Cortana is Microsoft's answer to Google Now and Apple's Siri.  Originally connected to Windows Phone, the digital personal assistant can now be used on any Windows 10 device. Users interact with Cortana by speaking or by typing in questions. The digital assistant learns about users by keeping track of the things they like and is integrated with Microsoft's calendar and email clients. This means that it is able to answer more personal questions like "How long will it take me to get home?" as well as recognize specific issues that might affect you (e.g., a traffic jam or travel delay).

8.  Virtual Desktop

With Windows 10, you can create multiple different desktops and choose which apps to run on each one. This helps you keep your work life and your personal life separate.  It also allows you to share desktops with your colleagues.

A Few Words of Wisdom (and Warnings):

Although Windows 10 has a lot of advantages, there are a few things that you should be aware of before you upgrade including,

●Caution when rolling out your company-wide upgrade: As the saying goes “slow and steady wins the race”. This saying is very applicable to how you should roll out your company-wide upgrade of Windows 10.   It is strongly recommended that you upgrade only one company desktop initially and use this one desktop as sort of a “test machine”.  This gives you a chance to test all software on that one device before branching out and updating all the company's devices.  This approach goes a long way in avoid the nightmare headache of a company-wide crash if there are unknown compatibility issues with your company's devices or software.

Automatic Updates:  As noted above, Windows 10 users will get automatic updates. In some cases, this can be a good thing, but some users, especially organizations that need consistent desktops for all staff, prefer to maintain more control over their updates. For those people, Microsoft advises that Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise allows you to avoid the automatic updating process.  Businesses should be on Windows Professional anyway so this may not be much of an issue.  If you happen to have any Home or Student Editions of Windows, you can always utilize Windows “Anytime Upgrade” to Professional before updating to Windows 10.

Loss of Windows Media Center: Windows Media Center is not part of the new OS.  If you frequently use this application (e.g., watch a lot of DVDs, etc.) then you will need to find a suitable replacement.

Use and/or Reliance on older software:  Compatibility with existing, older software may be an issue. If you have applications that are only compatible with a certain operating system, check with your IT service provider about migrating to Windows 10. By the same token, if you have older hardware or peripherals that don't have updated drivers, then Windows 10 could be a problem and it might be time to buy newer pieces of equipment.

Privacy and Bandwidth Settings:  Windows 10 has a lot of privacy and bandwidth settings and those upgrading need to consider whether or not they want the settings to remain on their device(s). Many of these settings are automatically turned on by default during installation of Windows 10 software. As a precaution, be sure to look over the settings in case you want to change them. Talk to your IT service provider if you have any questions on the effect of enabling or disabling a setting.

The Big Finale

The media has claimed that the new OS could be the last version of Windows. Setting aside the speculation, the basic premise behind this statement is that Microsoft may be moving to a so-called Windows-as-a-Service model in which it will push out frequent updates to its current operating system rather than release a new version every few years.

Regardless of the hype, the fact of the matter is that Windows 10 will be here for years to come. Microsoft has already committed to a 10-year support cycle for Windows 10. Windows users will, in all likelihood, have to adapt to it at some point in time. Deciding when that will be is something that you can do with the help of your IT service provider.

The Requirements

To qualify for the free upgrade offer, your computers need to meet the necessary hardware and software requirements for Windows 10. You can find those requirements on the Windows 10 Specifications page.

Your computers also need to be running Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) or Windows 8.1 Update. The free upgrade offer does not apply to devices running:

  • Windows RT or Windows RT 8.1
  • Enterprise edition of Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 (there is a separate upgrade program to qualified enterprise customers with active Software Assurance subscriptions)
  • Older versions of Windows, such as Windows XP and Windows Vista

If you have a version that is not eligible for the free upgrade or you miss the offer's deadline, you can buy Windows 10. In the Microsoft Store, Windows 10 Home costs $119.99 and Windows 10 Pro is $199.99 (USD).

Ways to Upgrade

If you are planning to migrate your eligible computers to Windows 10 for free, you can perform the upgrade by using the Get Windows 10 app or by creating your own installation media (e.g., ISO files) with the media creation tool. Installing Windows 10 through the app is much easier than creating your own installation media, so that is the method recommended by Microsoft.

You can access the Get Windows 10 app by clicking the Windows icon in the lower right corner of the Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 screen. In some instances, the icon might not be present, even if the computer is running a qualified Windows version and meets the hardware and software requirements for Windows 10. The icon might be missing for one of these reasons:

  • Windows is not activated with a genuine license.
  • The computer is connected to a domain or was connected to one in the past.
  • The device is connected to a mobile device management (MDM) solution.
  • The computer does not have the prerequisite updates installed. In Windows 7, the KB3035583 and KB2952664 updates are required. In Windows 8.1, the KB2976978 update is needed.

Although Microsoft provides some guidance on how to deal with these scenarios, it is best to contact your IT service provider for help addressing them.

How to Upgrade Using the Get Windows 10 App

To upgrade using the Get Windows 10 app, you first need to reserve a copy of Windows 10. To do so, click the Windows icon in the lower right corner of the computer screen to open the Get Windows 10 app. Besides providing information about Windows 10's new features, the app discusses the upgrade process. It also automatically performs a compatibility check, looking for software and hardware issues that might prevent a successful upgrade. You can view the compatibility report by clicking the stack of three lines in the upper left corner of the app and selecting "Check your PC".

In the Get Windows 10 app, you will see the "Reserve your free upgrade" button. When you click this button, Microsoft will download the Windows 10 setup files to your computer over a period of time. When it has finished, you will receive a notification that your computer is ready for the upgrade.

Before you upgrade your business's computers, though, you should back up the current files on each one. Even though the files will be present after the upgrade, having backups of them is important in case something goes wrong.

You can perform the upgrade immediately or schedule it to occur at a more convenient time through the Get Windows 10 app. Alternatively, you can begin or schedule the upgrade by clicking the "Get started" button in the Upgrade to Windows 10 section in Windows Update. Either way, you will need to accept the terms listed in the End User License Agreement.

According to Microsoft, the upgrade usually takes 90 minutes or less. Once it begins, the computer will immediately restart. It might also restart several more times during the update. Plus, the screen might go blank for a long period of time. It is important not to turn off the computer during the update.

Eventually, you will be asked if you want to do an express or custom configuration. The express configuration is the best choice for most people. When the update is finished, Windows 10 will be up and running. All the applications and files should be present and available for use.


Tips to Improve Windows Performance


Tips to Improve Windows Performance

Many different factors can cause computers to become slower and less responsive, no matter their age. Files might take longer to open, and applications might respond to commands at a snail's pace. Fortunately, there are actions you can take to improve a Windows computer's performance.


6 IT Policies to Help Protect Your Company


6 IT Policies to Help Protect Your Company

Many companies rely on IT to help run their businesses. For this reason, they often depend on a set of IT policies to ensure the productive, appropriate, and legal use of IT resources. IT policies establish expectations and regulations for behavior related to company computers and networks.