Blog

July 14th, 2014

480365773By: Dan Bremner

Email security is on my mind today for a couple of reasons.

With my oldest daughter off to Marquette University in the fall, the “college fund” my wife and I have been saving into for years is no longer a deposit-only thing – we need to start tapping into it to pay tuition bills. So I’ve had to exchange some documents (via secure email) with my financial advisor to get accounts linked so we can transfer funds and make those tuition payments.

At the same time, as some of you know, we’re in the process of rolling out a new email security platform to our Managed IT customers. While “email security” in this sense refers to spam and malware filtering, the “secure email” I want to talk about is email encryption, a newly available option with this platform. It lets us exchange information via email while keeping prying eyes from intercepting and reading the contents. Like those documents from my financial advisor that have my bank account information in them.

But I’ve Always Heard Email Is Insecure?

Isn’t email inherently insecure? Well, yes, it is. Standards for email delivery don’t require encryption, which means that as your message passes from one mail server to another on the way to your intended recipient, there’s a good chance it’s being passed around and stored in plain text. It also may end up in many different places, not all of them secure, such as a smartphone, iPad, or home PC.

Bottom line: Email is insecure today, just as it always has been. This is why we avoid sending important login credentials, or anything else important like credit card numbers through email.

So How Do We Make Email Secure?

Over the years, many “email encryption” solutions have been introduced, incorporating technologies like S/MIME and PGP. Ease of use has been the biggest barrier to mass adoption. Not only were they cumbersome to use, but because you couldn’t assume a recipient was even able to receive an encrypted message, these solutions never really took off in widespread use.

More recent solutions have emerged to simplify the process, and to comply with data security legislation, such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, Sarbanes-Oxley, and the EU Data Protection Directive. To do so, they have approached the problem from a different angle. Essentially, since email is insecure, they take the sensitive data out of the email message. More on that in a moment.

It’s worth noting that these newer solutions have different goals than previous “end-to-end” email encryption solutions. Whereas those solutions aimed to ensure only the individual sender and receiver could read the message, these solutions are more concerned with making sure the message remains under the control of your company (or designated service provider acting on behalf of the company), with access granted only to authorized viewers, because that’s the key to being compliant. If you think about how such information is handled in the non-computer world, this makes sense. Your medical information is not just given to your doctor, but also the nurses and other medical personnel who need access to it, just as multiple people at your bank have access to your bank account number and can look up your balance.

Email as a Notification Tool

These newer encryption solutions take advantage of several realities.
1. Email is great for notifying people when they have a message.
2. Everyone already knows how to use email.
3. Interacting with secure web pages, whether for e-commerce or online banking, is both simple and familiar for most users.

With our newly available encryption platform, when you have a secure message to send, the outbound mail server detects if the message needs to be encrypted based on rules set up by your company. You could have a trigger like [secure] in the subject line that automatically creates a secure message, or it could scan the email content for something that looks like a SSN, or credit card number, and auto-create a secure message.

Rather than sending the message along, the message content is removed and stored it in a secure web-based messaging system. An email is sent to the recipient saying, “You have a secure message,” with a link to the secure web-based system. The recipient clicks on the link and creates an account (no cost). After logging in, they can read the message and any attachments. Subsequent messages to the same recipient will use that same account.

For many organizations that need to communicate sensitive data while remaining compliant with data privacy laws, a secure email solution could be just what the doctor ordered. Or banker, or lawyer…

Topic Articles
July 3rd, 2014

AndroidTablet_June30_AEach year, usually in late May or June, Google holds I/O, their annual developers’ conference. At this conference, Google highlights what they are working on and what you can expect from the tech giant in the coming months. This year’s I/O was held on June 25 and 26, and at the keynote the company talked at great length about their upcoming version of Android.

Coming soon: A new version of Android

It’s true that you can pretty much guarantee a new version of Android to be announced at I/O. This year, Google was true to form and spent the better part of the whole keynote speech talking about the upcoming changes expected with the next version of Android – Android L. Why Android L? Well, the latest version of Android to date is 4.4, codenamed: KitKat. It makes sense that the next big release of Android will start with the letter L. At this time however, it has not been assigned a dessert related name like the other versions of Android because it is still in development.

Names aside, there were a number of interesting changes talked about by the Google staff. Here are five that business users of Android devices will be interested to know about.

1. Material design – A drastic change to the UI

Practically one of the first things talked about, regarding Android L at least, was a newly designed UI or User Interface. In fact, when released, this will be the biggest change to the look of Android since the Ice Cream Sandwich update in 2011. Powering this change will be a new look Google calls material design.

Material design creates a drastically different look from existing versions of Android. This will bring a flatter design with lots of rounded elements and softer edges that will extend to all versions of Android – tablets, phones, Chromebooks, and even Google’s apps themselves. From this, it appears that Google wants to extend Android to other devices and it will do so by implementing a card-based design. These cards will play a front-and-center role with Android L, and according to Google they will be able to scale to meet screen size and dimensions. This means that one app will be able to work on different devices, without the need for a specific tablet, or phone version.

From the demo of material design that Google played, the new UI looks great. It looks clean, modern, and more colorful than ever before. If you are wondering what this design will look like when it comes to apps, take a look at the latest version of the Google+ app for Android, it has already been switched over to reflect the upcoming new style from Google. Or, check out this YouTube video from Google that highlights what the material design UI will look like.

The company also showcased a number of new changes to the UI that will make Android even easier to use. One of the biggest was how the apps interacted. Using the new version, the presenter searched for a restaurant and one of the search results was to an app installed on the phone. Tapping on it opened the app, without you having to close the results, to be able to then search for the restaurant. Overall, this will be a big change in the way Android looks and interacts with other apps.

2. Improved notifications

While a drastic change to the UI is pretty big news, Google wasn’t content to just redesign the look of Android. They also showcased an improved notifications function. In current versions of Android, you need to unlock your device and swipe down from the top of the screen to view your notifications which are displayed in chronological order.

In Android L, your notifications will be viewable, and actionable from your locked screen. For example, if you get a new SMS, you can read it directly from your phone’s screen, without having to unlock the device and open the relevant app or notifications center.

The other big change will be to how your notifications are displayed. Google is going to take a different approach to this and instead of showing these chronologically, it will display notifications sorted by relevance and importance.

Finally, Google will fix one of the biggest annoyances with Android – if you are working in an app, say giving a presentation, and you receive a call your device will no longer close the presentation and open the phone dialer. Instead, it will show what Google calls a ‘Heads Up Notification’. This is a small notice displayed on top of the app that you currently have opened. In the example shown, a game was being played when someone called. Instead of the game closing, you saw the call info hover on top of the app. You could answer, hang up or even send a quick auto-reply SMS (e.g., I am busy, will call you back later) without the current app being closed.

3. Trusted environments

Having a screen lock on your device, such as a pattern or number lock, is essential for all users. This is one of the best ways to ensure that others can’t physically access your device and the data within. While screen locks are a security must, there are times when they are more of an inconvenience than anything.

Take for example during a presentation. If you are using your Android device to show a slideshow, and pause for a time on one slide, long enough for your phone’s screen to switch off, it is a hassle to unlock the screen and reopen the app.

Google’s fix for this is a feature which establishes a trusted environment or device e.g., an Android smartwatch or your Office Wi-Fi. When you are in range of the watch, or the Wi-Fi connection, your device will automatically be unlocked and accessible without having to enter your PIN or code.

Move out of range however, and your device will lock, requiring the PIN or swipe code to unlock. This could be a useful feature for many businesses, especially those who use Android devices on a regular basis.

4. Deeper ties with Chrome and the Web

Many Android users utilize the recent app button on a regular basis. With one tap of the button, usually located on the bottom right of your device, or by pressing the home button, you can open previous apps. With the introduction of Android L, this will also show tabs that you have open in Chrome. This could be useful, especially if you use Chrome on your desktop and want to quickly access the same page on your device.

5. Business oriented APIs

The API, or application programming interface, is an essential part of the mobile device. It is the API that specifies how different apps should work together. With Android L, Google will include some business oriented APIs, with the most important being a set that allows both personal and business data to exist on the same device, without being mixed. In other words, you will be able to use a personal device for work, likely without mixing accounts, something which the BYOD crowd should find incredibly useful.

When can we expect Android L to arrive?

As of the writing of this article, there is no set release date for Android L. During the keynote numerous mentions were made of it being released sometime in the fall. Bear in mind that this is for Nexus, Google Play, and likely new devices released just after Android L. When, or if, it will be made available for other users is unknown, but likely won’t be until early next year.

In the meantime, keep reading our blog for updates. And, if you have any questions regarding Android in your business please give us a shout today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
July 2nd, 2014

Windows_June30_AMicrosoft’s operating systems (OS) have seen additions of several highly useful features throughout the evolution cycle of the OS. The hibernation feature, first introduced with Windows XP, is a solid example of one of the most useful power features. Ironically, with Windows 8 the hibernation feature is not readily visible but it is still a part of the OS. So, let’s take a look at how to enable hibernation on Windows 8 and consider how useful this feature can be for your business.

What is Hibernation mode?

Hibernation allows you to power down your computer while retaining its current operating state e.g., leaving programs open. In other words, with hibernation, your computer saves the contents of its Random Access Memory (RAM) to your hard disk or other non-volatile storage, so that when you want to resume your work you can start where you last left off. Available on every Windows OS, hibernation can usually be set in your power settings manually or even automatically so that it activates when your laptop’s battery is low.

How to enable hibernation on your laptop or computer running Windows 8:

  1. In your system tray, click the battery icon and select More power options from the panel that pops up.
  2. In the Power Options window, select either Choose what closing lid does or Choose what the power button does from the left panel.
  3. In the power options window, click on the blue text that says Change settings that are currently unavailable.
  4. At the bottom of the window, a new set of options will become available. Check the box next to Hibernate and click Save changes. Voila, the hibernate feature will now show up in the power options window that is displayed when you press the power button on your computer or laptop.

This feature allows you to resume work from where you left off within seconds, since you don’t have to boot up your computer nor re-open programs you were using. Not only that, but hibernation saves more battery power than sleep mode and uses no power while hibernated, a feature most laptops can really benefit from.

Hibernation is also useful if hardware maintenance has to be performed which requires powering down the hardware. For servers which need to be started up as quickly as possible after maintenance, hibernating and getting going again can be much quicker than shutting down and restarting the server applications.

Despite the benefits of hibernation, it is important to note that your computer does need to be shut down every once in a while to avoid performance degradation. Moreover, you should avoid hibernating your computer when you know you won’t be using it for a long period of time.

Hibernation mode can help boost productivity, decrease boot-up time, as well as help save your computer’s battery time. Interested in learning more about Windows 8/8.1 and its features? Contact us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
July 1st, 2014

Office365_June30_AMicrosoft’s cloud-based Office 365 is quickly becoming the go-to solution for many business owners looking for a familiar yet feature rich office suite. The great thing about Office 365 is that there are almost always updates being introduced that you don’t have to buy or even install. One downside with this however is not knowing what updates are coming in the near future. In mid June, Microsoft set about changing this with their Office 365 roadmap.

The Office 365 roadmap

Earlier in 2014, Microsoft announced that they would be moving to a faster rollout schedule for their popular software solutions like Office 365. This means that we can expect to see updates for some software being introduced on a fairly regular basis.

Because of this, it would help to know exactly what Microsoft is working on and when you can expect an update or introduction of new features. To cover this, Microsoft has recently announced an Office 365 roadmap that covers what the company is doing in relation to the business oriented version of Office 365.

You can view the roadmap on this Microsoft website which has been designed to showcase the status of features based on:

  • Launched - Features that have been completed and implemented in various Office 365 apps. These features should be accessible to all Office 365 for Business users.
  • Rolling out - Features that have finished development and are ready to be implemented to the various apps but are not accessible to most users at this time, but will be in the near future.
  • In development - Features that Microsoft developers are working on or testing, but aren’t ready to be implemented.
  • Canceled - Features that have been canceled; developers are no longer working on these, and they won’t be implemented into Office 365 apps.

When you visit the roadmap site, you can click on the different sections and see the recent features that are relevant to each. For example, if you click on Launched, the recently launched features will drop down. Click on one to see a brief overview of the feature, along with a link to learn more.

This can be a useful site for businesses, especially if you rely on Office 365′s features and are interested in which new ones will be introduced. We should stress however that the features listed on the site are relevant only for Office 365 for Businesses and Enterprises. Private and Home users may not necessarily see these features introduced.

Office 365 First Release program

For those users who look at the Rolling Out section of the roadmap site, and would like to have access to fully tested and supported features that are just about ready to roll out, Microsoft has also introduced a new program called First Release.

This program allows Office 365 for Businesses and Education users to sign up and gain access to upcoming features two weeks or more before they are introduced. If you would like to sign up for this program, you can do so as long as you are the admin of your account. If you are the admin for your Office 365 accounts, you can enable First Release by going into the Service Settings area from your management console. You should see an option to enable First Release, which you need to tick to turn on.

Once this is enabled you should be notified within a month letting you know that the first batch of early features is ready to implement. Microsoft has noted that the features implemented early via First Release will apply to the Office 365 user experience, SharePoint Online and Exchange Online. At this time, other apps like Lync Online will not be part of the program, but you can probably expect this program to expand to cover other apps in the coming months and over the next year.

Both the roadmap and First Release features could prove useful for power users of Office 365. If you are looking to learn more about these concepts and how Office 365 can be used successfully in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
June 25th, 2014

iPhone_June23_ALook around the office at the mobile phones your colleagues are using. There is a good chance that the most common phone is Apple’s iPhone. Known for its usability and sturdy build it is simply the favorite choice for many users. In early June, Apple introduced the latest version of the operating system for iPhone users – iOS 8. When it is pushed to devices in the fall, there will be a number of new features introduced, including an improved Notification Center.

About the iPhone’s Notification Center

The Notification Center feature was introduced with the release of iOS 5 and is available on every Apple mobile device. The idea behind it is that it can show you an overview of alerts and updates from specific applications. On iPhones and iPads this is an area where all of the most important information can be accessed quickly.

You can access your Notifications Center by swiping down from the top of your screen. When it is open you will see three views:

  • Today - Important information about the day, including upcoming calendar events, the weather, and other relevant information.
  • All - All alerts, including emails, messages, and updates from apps like Twitter.
  • Missed - Notifications that you have missed in the past 24 hours.

If you tap on any notification or alert, the app associated with it will be opened and allow you to view the content or update in full. For example, when you get a new email, Notification Center will alert you and show who it’s from and even some of the content. Tapping on the message will open the Mail app, allowing you to interact with it directly from the main app.

For many users, this is among the most useful iOS features, but many have commented that it feels unfinished. Sure it provides a way to quickly access important information but it is largely static and limited in use. Apple aims to change this with the release of iOS 8.

Notification Center’s iOS 8 update

When Apple introduced iOS 8 in early June, they announced that the Notifications Center will be getting widgets that will help make the Center even more functional – providing you with greater information all in one place. Those who have used an Android device before are likely well aware of widgets. These tiny versions of apps display useful information without having to open the app itself.

For example, on Android devices you can add an email widget to your main screen that allows you to read and reply to emails directly from your home screen without having to open the full version of the app.

Apple has decided to take another path with the implementation of widgets, instead baking them into the Notifications Center. With iOS 8, you will still be able to swipe down to access your Notifications Center, only now there will be way more information. In the example Apple demonstrated, there were widgets showing the latest scores of a baseball team and eBay auctions that you could bid on directly from the screen, without having to open the eBay app.

Of course this was just a demo, but you can bet that when iOS 8 is launched, you will start to see useful apps updated with widgets that you can add to Notification Center. If for example you use a note app like Evernote, there is a good chance that you will be able to create or edit a note in the Notification Center, without having to open the app itself.

It is clear that with the impending update, Apple is striving to implement a better and easier way for you to interact with your phone. For many business users this will mean less time having to open apps and search for the information they need. It will be interesting to see what business-oriented apps developers come up with next in terms of making the iPhone an even more effective business device.

Contact us today to learn more about the iPhone and how it can help improve your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic iPhone
June 19th, 2014

androidtablet_June18_AOver the past few years, the rise of Android work apps has led to an evident increase in the number of Android tablet users. But when you’re eagerly installing apps like Evernote or Skype, how much time are you likely to spend reading through the required permissions before you accept them? Probably not enough. To ensure safety, as well as to help maximize your Android tablet’s efficiency, it’s time you familiarized yourself with checking app permissions as well as knowing about common permissions you’re likely to come across.

Checking app permissions

Head into Settings on your Android tablet, go to Apps and then tap on any app and scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the permissions that have been granted. Note that you are not able to switch individual options on or off, so it’s all or nothing.

However, there are various third-party apps you can install to give you a better look and more control over app permissions. One of those apps is SnoopWall, which once installed will set itself as an administrator to comprehensively audit and manage the security setup on your tablet.

Common permissions 101

Modify, delete, and read storage: This gives an app permission to access the storage on your device in order to save and edit files. Most apps will require some kind of access, if only to keep temporary logs on your device. Keep in mind that any app with these permissions can also access your public folders like your photo gallery as well as your music folder.

Find and use accounts on devices: Facebook, Twitter, and Google accounts are often integral to the way you use your phone, letting you send a Tweet from anywhere and upload photos onto your Facebook account at any time. This permission simply gives an app the ability to tap straight into these accounts to make life easier for you. Bear in mind that the app can potentially access any information stored in the account in question.

Full network access: Most apps require some kind of Internet access, whether it’s for software updates, syncing, or retrieving data from online sources. Full network access is used when retrieving adverts to display, but as with most permissions, you’re relying on the app in question to use this privilege responsibly.

Phone status and identity: This permission enables apps to recognize when a call comes in and gives you the chance to answer it by pausing the current app in the background.

Prevent tablet from sleeping: When your tablet goes into sleep mode, it can interrupt certain processes such as data being written to the internal storage. This permission enables an app to keep your device awake while important system tasks are being carried out. It can also be used by video players to keep the screen on.

Read and send text messages: There are countless apps that want to replace your tablet’s SMS functionality, and this permission is used to automatically scan your incoming texts for authorization codes (used where two-step authentication is involved). This is another classic example of a permission that can be very useful or very worrying. It is vital that you make sure that the app asking for this permission has a clear use for it.

Read your contacts: While a whole range of apps ask for it, this isn’t something you want to give away without good reason. The ability to share content with your friends in some way is often the underlying purpose for this permission, but also so that the app can quickly auto-complete the names of your contacts whenever required.

Sticky broadcasts: This permission is all about the way apps communicate with each other. Android treats each app as if it were a separate user: broadcasts enable these apps to talk to one another (sometimes without your knowledge), and the stickiness controls how long they hang around in the device’s memory for. If an app wants to communicate something to other apps or to Android a long time after the event, it then uses a sticky broadcast.

There are plenty of other permissions to consider but these are the ones you’ll run into most frequently on your Android tablet. It’s important that you pay attention to app permissions in relation to new apps as well as apps you’re already using to ensure your tablet’s security.

Looking to learn more about app permissions? Get in touch today and see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
June 18th, 2014

virtualization_June17_AServer virtualization has been with Windows computing for over 10 years. During that time, many small businesses have embraced the technology to improve storage efficiency and get more bang for their server buck. Despite its growing popularity, many organizations are still doubtful about whether or not to virtualize their servers. With that in mind, it’s time you explore the option to see if server virtualization will help save money for your business.

10 ways to identify if server virtualization will save you money:

  1. Expert IT personnel: Some small businesses don’t have an IT person on the payroll, or if they do, that person deals with tasks such as security or desktop management which often means they are ill-equipped to deal with the technological sophistication that virtualization demands. If you don’t have an IT expert, virtualizing might not be right for you.
  2. Technology as core competence: If your company’s core competence is technology, or if you have lots of servers which require abundant storage and skilled IT veterans, server virtualization is sure to help save your company money. Not only will you improve on storage efficiency, but you won’t have a payroll replete with lots of IT personnels.
  3. Busy servers: If your servers are taking up floor, rack or shelf space, or if they are dedicated to particular applications; your business is likely to save money through server virtualization. Moreover, if your server equipment is aging, server virtualization might help with significant server consolidation, meaning fewer servers, lower power bills and more floor space, too.
  4. Sensitive applications: Note that not all applications do well in virtual environments. Some critical or sensitive applications require a lot of processor or memory resources and you don’t want them sharing those resources with other virtual servers. Find out about your applications performance needs, if they’re not sensitive they may be ripe for a virtual server.
  5. Shared storage: Some people will tell you that virtual servers must have a virtual storage, however those themes usually come from vendors whose livelihoods are tied to virtual storage. If your business focuses on having a centralized storage that is shared between users, virtualization can be very beneficial.
  6. Speed of deployment: Some businesses need to be able to provision servers rapidly since failure to do so is a distinct competitive disadvantage. If thats the case in your business, virtualization is a must. Ordering a physical server and deploying it can take days if not weeks; unlike a virtual framework which once in place deployment can be done in no time.
  7. Server virtualization test drive: Why not try virtualization on a small scale before deciding if you should go all virtual? You can buy inexpensive tool such as VMware Workstation which costs around USD$199 for your IT staff to try out and see the potential value of server virtualization.
  8. Do research: Even if you think you know all the basics about server virtualization, be safe than sorry by doing more research before implementing anything. A good place to start is Virtualization for Dummies. It provides a thorough basic understanding of the idea as well as what it can do for your business.
  9. Ignore server virtualization hype: With so much hype around virtualization these days it would be easy for some businesses to rush into. Don’t do that! Instead, do some research and analyze your business’ components and needs before deciding to go all virtual.
  10. Get help: Server virtualization can be quite complicated, the good news is that vendors are making it much easier to deploy. If you decide to virtualize your servers, getting help from a reputable vendor can pay off in the long run. Most vendors offer solution bundles which include servers and storage pre-installed virtual servers for turnkey operation.

While server virtualization proves to be an efficient and cost-effective solution for many businesses, the most important thing here is to not rush into a virtual server. Take a little time and go through a checklist to see if your business is right for the idea because if not, you’re likely to be losing both time and money. Looking to learn more about server virtualization? Call us today for a chat.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
June 10th, 2014

ipad_June10_AFor Apple fans, the most eagerly looked forward to days of the year are when Apple holds their World Wide Developers Conference. During this yearly conference, the company has taken to announcing a number of new products and platforms including an update to their mobile platform iOS. This year, the company didn’t disappoint and announced a new version of iOS.

The new iOS

At 2013′s WWDC, Apple introduced a new and completely overhauled version of iOS – iOS 7. Now, one year on, the platform has proven to be a hit with users. This year the company has announced iOS 8, which is being set up as rhwfsfcssxasaqaan improvement over the previous version.

In fact, Apple has taken the success of last year’s version of iOS and added a number of new features and updates that aim to improve on the platform while making mobile devices even easier to integrate into your daily routine.

6 Features business users will benefit from

During Apple’s announcement on June 2, there were a number of great new features and updates introduced, all of which will be available when iOS 8 is released. Here are six features business users will enjoy:

  1. Enterprise features - The iPhone and iPad are devices commonly used by businesses and it can be difficult for IT departments to manage these devices or for users to easily share files using company centric clouds. Apple noted that iOS 8 will come with enhanced management tools to make it easier for IT to manage devices and will also make it easier to share information and files through company clouds.
  2. Better Mail app - Many Apple users simply stick with the standard Mail app for all of their email needs – linking various accounts to one platform. Mail will receive new features and updates with iOS 8, with one of the most useful being the introduction of gestures. For example, you will be able to swipe gently to the left on a message to reply, or swipe hard to delete it.
  3. Improved Notifications Center - The biggest update to this feature is that you can now reply to a notification right from the screen, even if the device is locked. So instead of merely seeing that you have an email, you can reply. The bigger update is that the Notifications Center will support widgets from third party apps.
  4. Continuity - One of Apple’s main goals is to have a seamless user experience between their devices. With iOS 8, Apple will introduce Continuity which is a feature that will allow you to start doing something on your phone and then, at the click of a button, pick it up on your laptop and carry on without a disruption. For example, if you are on your laptop and your iPhone rings, you will be able to answer it from your computer. You will also be able to call from your Mac using your iPhone.
  5. QuickType - Possibly one of the biggest complaints about the iOS centers around the keyboard. To begin with, you could only use the native keyboard and installing third-party offerings was complicated or just plain impossible. With iOS 8 you will get a new keyboard that is context sensitive, meaning it will suggest the next word based on what is already typed and the person you are texting. You will also be able to install third party keyboards like Swype.
  6. Improved messaging with iMessages - In order to make messaging easier iOS 8′s version of iMessages will allow you to edit a group chat’s information, name, and participants. You will also be able to share audio messages and set messages to self destruct or delete after a certain amount of time.

Will I be able to get it? If so, when?

iOS 8 was officially announced on June 2, and as of the writing of this article is heading into a beta trial period. This means that it is technically available to some iPhone users who sign up to test the new version. However, we would recommend against this, especially if you use your phone for business, as there are likely bugs that could expose information on your phone.

Apple has noted that iOS 8 will be made available in the fall. If the past few years are any indication, this should be in early to mid September. Once iOS 8 is available not every mobile device will be supported. For example, the iPhone 4 will not receive the update. The same goes for the original iPad.

If you are looking to learn more about Apple’s products, or iOS, and how the systems can be used in your business contact us for a chat today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic iPad
June 5th, 2014

WindowsPhone_June02_AMicrosoft, well known developer of some of the most popular business software, has for the past couple of years been trying to break into the hardware market with their own tablet – Surface. While the first two versions of Surface were met with largely mixed reviews, Microsoft is determined to make this platform work and has recently released a new version – Surface Pro 3.

About the Surface Pro 3 tablet

Officially announced on May 20, this newest version of Surface brings about a number of changes to the platform. First and foremost, there is a change in the device’s positioning. While previous versions were designed to be direct competitors to the Apple iPad, the new version of Surface Pro 3 is being marketed as a highly mobile device that is meant to replace your laptop.

In fact, Microsoft has noted that they are targeting users, especially business owners, who have both a tablet and a laptop. The company is billing Surface Pro 3 as the device that will allow users to ditch the two, and instead replace it with one.

In pursuit of this goal, Surface Pro 3 has a larger screen and some advanced tech specs that provide it with laptop-level power, while keeping the overall portability of the modern tablet.

Technical specs business owners will find useful

Surface Pro 3 comes in five different versions, with the models being separated by which 4th generation Intel processor is included and the amount of storage space they have:

  • 64GB Intel i3
  • 128GB Intel i5
  • 256GB Intel i5
  • 256GB Intel i7
  • 512GB Intel i7

Aside from the processor, RAM and storage space, all versions share the following specs:

  • Size - The Surface Pro 3 is 11.5 inches wide by 7.93 inches high and weighs 1.76lbs.
  • Memory - The 64GB and 128GB models have 4GB of RAM, while the 256GB and 512GB models have 8GB of RAM.
  • Screen - There is a 12 inch screen with all models and a resolution of 2160 x 1440. This equates to a high resolution screen that should be more than enough for every user.
  • Connectivity - All models can connect to Wi-Fi, support Bluetooth 4.0, and have a full-size USB 3.0 port, along with a microSD card reader, and Mini display port.
  • Operating system - Surface Pro 3 runs a full version of Windows 8.1, which comes pre-installed on the device.
  • Accessories - There are a number of cases you can buy including the Surface Pro Type Cover which includes a full keyboard and trackpad built into the case. Combine this with the built-in multi-function hinge and you can use the device almost anywhere.
  • Battery life - Previous versions of the Surface had average, or slightly below average battery life. Because this device isn’t out yet, we can’t give an accurate number as to how long the battery should last. That being said, this is a powerful device so battery life will likely be closer to most laptops rather than tablets – anywhere from four to eight hours.

Should my business invest in this technology?

From the specs alone, the Surface Pro 3 looks to be a good investment for users who are looking to merge their tablet and laptop. Also, because this is a Microsoft tablet, users of the company’s other systems and software, especially Office 365 and Windows 8, will be at home with this device.

If you or your employees are looking to be productive while on the go, and use Microsoft or cloud systems, this device could be the perfect business tool. The major downside to Surface Pro 3, as with previous versions, is the price, which starts at USD$799 just for the device, so you are looking at almost USD$940 per unit. The most powerful version – the 512 GB/ Intel i7 starts at USD$1,949.

Should you be about to replace your tablet and laptop, this could be a viable solution as the cost of replacing both could be more than, or at least similar to, the cost of a Surface Pro 3. That being said, this is still a new device so it may be worthwhile waiting a few months to see how people who purchase the unit like it, and how it can be integrated into your business better.

Where can I find one?

Because this tablet was just announced the other week, it actually isn’t available to purchase just yet. You can go to the Surface website and pre order one now and as of the writing of this article, the i3 and i7 devices will be shipped August 31, 2014 while the i5 devices are scheduled to ship June 20, 2014.

If you can wait until the release, you should be also able to pick up the device from most major retailers and Microsoft partners who carry hardware. And, if you would like to learn more about this device and how it can integrate with your business contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
May 29th, 2014

Productivity_May26_AThe office is meant to be a place of productivity, but it can easily become a place of constant struggle against distractions. This makes efficiency an elusive goal and it’s not just those working in the office space who can’t get on with the task at hand and suffer, but potentially the bottom line of the business too. If this sounds like your office at times then you need a strategy to help negate a drop in productivity.

When it comes to problems with productivity, it can sometimes be difficult to spot what the main issues are. Productivity can suffer over time as challenges and work habits have an effect on what is achieved and how. Even if you’re not aware of any productivity concerns, it is worthwhile checking from time to time where you can boost efficiency.

Prepare for the day ahead

Nothing is as important as knowing which of your tasks matter the most. Collect your thoughts the night before and create a to-do list for the next day. Determine which demand needs immediate attention and which can be done later that day.

A priority list will enable you to focus on those business needs that require immediate attention, allowing you to complete more tasks. By allocating a specific order and time to each individual job you will be able to more clearly achieve and evaluate your progress at the end of the day.

Shut personal connections out

The worst distraction in the office is employee connectivity to the outside world. Social networking sites, emails, and personal calls divert the focus from significant and pressing work concerns to personal matters.

The key here is to look at how you can contain the social aspects which make work enjoyable and employees happy, and balance this personal freedom with the demands of your business. You may find that restrictions are needed, such as limiting personal phone calls. Some companies impose a ban on social media sites and keep a tighter reign on personal communications. Other companies keep a more open policy but instead instill in employees a personal responsibility to impose limits on their own behavior.

Get in the working zone
By showing your colleagues that you are busy and concentrating on your work you put up a barrier to them distracting you. By being polite and friendly but putting your work game face on you can show your determination and produce results to show at the end of the day. It’s easy for time to drift by with idle chat and unnecessary interruptions which could wait until break time.

Set personal deadlines

You may have a deadline set by the demands of a job you are focusing on, or set by someone working with you, but personal deadlines are also necessary. By giving yourself a set time to furnish reports and deliver outcomes, for example, you keep yourself focused and produce results. Keep your desk free from piled-up paperwork and tasks so you do not have to cram to meet deadlines.

Determine your distractions

Know which, from among the office clamor, distracts you the most and create a way to eliminate, minimize or extract yourself from this problem. Is it noise from other people that is bothering you or perhaps as simple as the pop-up notifications on your computer screen? Do yourself a favor and deal with it.

Focus is at the core of these guidelines. Start asking yourself what is preventing you from concentrating. Look at how you work and what the situation is when you’re in the flow and getting what you need to achieve done.

Productivity is essential in the corporate world as it is about fulfilling goals, ambitions and commitments, which can have a spillover effect on your life outside of work too. Determine which from among your tasks need to be fulfilled first, focus and boost your productivity.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.
Topic Productivity