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Which OS Should Your Company Consider In A Post-Windows XP World?

Windows 8On April 8th of 2014, Windows XP will officially reach its end of life as per the Microsoft Windows lifecycle factsheet. At that point, Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP with patches, bug fixes, security updates, or any kind of technical assistance except for those customers paying for extended support. With extended support prices easily exceeding half a million for many companies, upgrading is the most practical and recommended option. Which leaves the question-in a post-Windows XP world, what operating system should you upgrade to?

Windows 8/8.1
The most logical solution is to upgrade to the newest and brightest offering from Microsoft. Windows 8/8.1 is seen by many as being a pretty far departure from Windows XP. The operating system has almost been completely torn down and rebuilt from the ground up, leading to an experience that can take a little getting used to. The single most noticeable change is the overlay of Metro, Microsoft's controversial new interface, on top of the Windows that organizations are used to. This change, along with some other minor tweaks and updates (such as removal of the "start" button), has led critics to be skeptical of the system.
Still, while the changes might take a little getting used to, Windows 8/8.1 has the distinct advantage of still being Windows. That means most of your software should continue to run post-upgrade, files will still open, your network configuration should be just fine, and peripheral devices should function just like they always did. And since the end of life for Windows 8 isn't until January 10, 2023, your staff will have plenty of time to get used to the particulars of the operating system before it's time to upgrade again.

One caveat to running out and switching to Windows 8 immediately is the relative newness of the operating system. It hasn't been thoroughly put through its paces yet in the business environment, and it's difficult to say whether all the bugs have been worked out or not. Some people have reported issues with drivers, hardware, and older software, making Windows 8 and 8.1 a little bit more of a gamble if it's not rigorously tested and evaluated to work in your environment ahead of time.

Windows 7
For organizations wanting to stay within the Windows family, but not willing to push the envelope with the latest and greatest version, Windows 7 presents a great compromise. While Microsoft will be discontinuing support for the product a full three years earlier than for Windows 8, it will still remain a viable business operating system until January 14, 2020.
Windows 7 is much less of a sea-change than Windows 8 in terms of how the operating system actually functions and the way your employees interact with their computers. Compatibility between Windows XP and Windows 7 is top notch, so the majority of your software should have no problems working. Because most of the changes in Windows 7 from Windows XP are transparent, most of your employees should be able to adjust to the new operating system with little difficulty and little need for training, making it an almost plug-and-play solution.

Because Windows 7 has been around for several years now, and deployed in many challenging corporate environments, it has been thoroughly tested and is a solid, safe choice for upgrade. The only major reason to pass on a Windows 7 upgrade would be the improved performance of Windows 8 and the fact that the lifecycle for Windows 7 ends in only six years, meaning you will likely have to begin preparing for the next upgrade in four or five years.

Mac OS/OS X
If your company has been toying with the idea of giving up on Windows altogether, the end of life period for Windows XP is a great to evaluate the Apple platform. While OS X, and Apple computers in general, are very similar to their PC counterparts these days, you will still face many challenges. Of all upgrade options, this is the most expensive as it requires purchasing completely new hardware and software. Still, if you've contemplated switching over to Apple, using your Windows transition budget to soak up some of the cost is a great way to offset the added expense.  There are some real advantages to Apple eco system. Apple offers a solid mobile platform with IOS and desktop experience that work very well together.  While not for every business something to consider.

You can learn more about this issue for your business by reading our End Of Windows XP White Paper here. Call Ease Technologies today at (301)854-0010 to learn how Windows and Apple OS solutions can help improve your business in Baltimore, Washington or Fairfax.
    

Plan Ahead Reduce Time on the Phone with Tech Support

tech supportWhen a technical issue arises in the workplace, it goes without saying that you want to get it resolved as quickly as possible. One minor glitch in the system can disrupt your entire workflow, costing your company time and money. By following a standard protocol after experiencing a technical problem, you can reduce time loss and confusion associated with a technical disruption and the resulting phone call to tech support.

First, make sure you prepare ahead of time the information you are going to need on the call. When you make a call to tech support, you should assume that there will be key pieces of information you will have to provide, and having that handy before making the call will cut back on initial information gathering and allow you to dive into the actual issue at hand. Make sure your company keeps organized records of software account numbers, versions, and any other basic information related to your software that will help your tech support representative quickly identify what you're working with.

Being able to replicate the error that occurred is also important in order for you to thoroughly and specifically explain your problem and for the representative to properly diagnose the issue. Being able to identify the steps leading up to a glitch allows the tech to narrow in on exactly where the error is happening, which will greatly reduce the time it takes to solve the problem.

As the tech guides you through the solution, make sure you document the steps in detail. This will allow you to keep organized records of technical issues and solutions, which will help reduce calls to tech support in the future, and help you to better understand the cause and solution of the error, rather than just simply going through the motions over the phone.

Being thorough and organized is key to maintaining a smooth process when it comes to handling technical issues. Make sure to keep easily accessible records of all your vital technical information to ensure a quick recovery and information security.

Call Ease Technologies today at (301)854-0010 or contact us here to learn how you can cut costs and accelerate your growth with Ease’s unique IT support services and solutions for organizations in Baltimore, Washington or Fairfax.
    

Are Your Employees Sharing Company Data on their Devices?

When employees leave your company, most managers are busy trying to make up for a sudden shortfall in labor, or training replacement employees. A new study by Symantec reveals that you need to be far more worried about what your former employees are taking with them and what they do with it. And while in the past employees were likely to take some office supplies or a stapler, according to this study, modern employees are likely to walk out with valuable proprietary information. Even more troubling, according to the report, this slow and silent data leakage often happens even with employees who are still happily employed.

Organizations of all sizes are having to fight harder than ever to keep proprietary information from leaking outside of the company. Meanwhile, as more organizations begin to derive the majority of their value from the IP they generate every day (rather than from the kinds of monumental research projects that characterized companies even a decade or two ago), the leakage of information is getting harder and harder to stop.

Misunderstanding Intellectual Property
The biggest problem, according to the Symantec survey, is that many employees simply don't understand how intellectual property works. Forty–four percent of respondents to the survey revealed that they thought that a creator of intellectual property maintained at least some ownership of their creation. A slightly smaller percentage, forty–two percent, saw nothing wrong with reusing source code or other IP from a former job at their new place of employment.

Company IP on Non–Company Devices
Just as insidious, though much less malicious, a full sixty–two percent of employees surveyed reported moving company IP to non–company devices. These devices included personal laptops and desktops, tablets and phones, and cloud hosting sites. Most of these people, however, never bother to remove these external copies of proprietary files after finishing with them. This digital detritus presents massive opportunities for your organization's data to get lost or misappropriated. The problem becomes even more pronounced because most employees, fifty–six percent, don't see anything wrong with using a former employer's data in their current job. That can be a big problem if your competitors suddenly have access to your trade secrets, but it can be just as bad if you are the recipient of this stolen information.

How to Protect Yourself
With so many ways for your company IP to get lost or misused, what can organizations do to protect themselves? Based on responses to the survey, it seems that the number one thing that organizations need to do to protect themselves and their intellectual property is to educate your employees on IP laws and regulations. Many employees feel simply having non–disclosure clauses and similar protection in employment contracts is enough to guard against data leaks, however one thing this survey clearly shows is that these clauses are not enough to properly inform employees. It could well be that most employees simply sign employment agreements without really looking through or understanding them. To make the message sink in, make sure that all employees sit down with their manager and go through the employment agreement, stressing the rights and responsibilities employees have in regards to IP. When employees leave, remind them during their exit interviews that all proprietary information needs to be returned to the company, and that sharing such information with future employers is grounds for legal action.

If you do discover that a former (or current) employee is mishandling information, or sharing it with new employers, do not hesitate to invoke any legal rights you have against them. Non–disclosure agreements and confidentiality agreements mean very little when they aren't enforced, and being lax with enforcement could cause your other employees to disregard these agreements or give them less weight.

It has long been suspected by corporate information security experts that the biggest threat to organizational data security wasn't hackers or data thieves, but employees being careless or thoughtless. This survey from Symantec simply confirms these suspicions, and stresses that education, not a metaphorical fence around your organization, is the best defense against wandering data.

Call Ease Technologies today at (301)854-0010 to learn how Mobile Device Management solutions can help improve your business in Baltimore, Washington or Fairfax.
    

How to Reduce the Risk from Lost Mobile Devices

A lost business tablet or smartphone can open your company up to a significant amount of risk. From competitors getting your proprietary information to poached clients, and even extravagant cell phone bills, as a business owner you need to make sure that these risks are all minimized. Here's how:

Mobile Device ManagementBefore your employees' new phones leave the IT department, make sure your IT staff has loaded them up with some essential software. These essentials should include a disk encryption system that will keep the contents of the phone locked down and out of reach of anyone who happens to find the phone. They should also make sure to install a remote wiping program, and configure the phone to require a strong password to unlock.

Once the IT department is done setting up all the appropriate applications, you need to make sure that your employees understand the importance of mobile security. You should have a policy set up that employees who receive a company phone are familiar with and understand. This should cover things like what kind of passwords to use on mobile devices (stress that they should be no less thorough than those used on desktops), as well as the process for reporting a phone lost or stolen. Remind your employees that the sooner they report a phone as being lost or stolen, the more likely you are to either recover it or lock it down/remotely wipe it.

If a phone is actually lost or stolen, the first thing your employees should do is report it. A lot of phone recovery tools, like GPS tracking or remote wiping, require the phone to be on and in range of the wireless network to use. That means you have a limited time until either the batteries run out, or (if it was stolen) until the thieves remove the sim card, turn the phone off, or otherwise take it offline. As soon as the phone is reported lost, your IT department should lock it down using the remote control software you installed earlier. If the phone has GPS tracking, you should turn it on and immediately try to recover it, if it appears the phone was simply misplaced, or contact the police if it appears the phone was stolen.

If the phone is not recovered within the first few hours, you should have your IT team wipe the phone remotely to prevent any chance of your sensitive information falling into the wrong hands. All the contents of the phone should be backed up regularly to a secure server, so wiping a mobile device clean shouldn't cause your company to lose any more than a few hours or a day of information.

Remember, security on mobile devices is quickly becoming as important, if not more so, than security on your desktops and corporate networks. Take the time to secure your devices and Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions are a great fit for many businesses. 

Call Ease Technologies today at (301)854-0010 to learn how Mobile Device Management solutions can help improve your business in Baltimore, Washington or Fairfax.
    

What is the best 7" tablet?

All the most popular 7” tablets have just been updated just in time for the holiday season. Many people will be eyeing up these devices to use for work and home.  The 7” tablet form factor is turning out to be the more poplar size among all tablets.  The 7" devices offer great portability and screen size that fits nicely between a smartphone and smaller laptops. 

What is the right 7" business tablet for you?

Ease Cloud Workspace

Overview of devices
The three most desired devices in the 7" space are the Nexus 7, the iPad mini with Retina display and the Kindle Fire HDX. There are some small technical differences with the processors, screen size, weight and battery life.  For the most part, all three devices stack up pretty close with speeds and feeds. There has been a lot of catching up by Amazon and Google in developing tablets that compete with Apple now in this space.  

Generally what differences remain between these devices are the applications (apps), ecosystem, support and price. 

Amazon Fire HDX 7"
I get asked a lot by people after they they purchase a Kindle if they can they use it for certain work tasks.  Generally, it is still very much a consumer tablet oriented to consume Amazon media and content.  Great fit users who enjoy Kindle books, music, and video from Amazon. Plenty of third party games and entertainment apps.  Very limited from a business productivity tool with some email and browser functionality.  There are many of business apps available, but more of an after thought than a primary use case. 

Pros: The multi user and parental controls are awesome.
Cons: A limited business apps and ecosystem

Google Nexus 7
For the most part Google has caught up to earlier competitors with the Nexus 7" and really wins as a 32 GB Wi-Fi tablet on price alone.  Before the the most recent iPad mini, many regarded the Nexus 7 as superior in many ways.  Android's OS is more open and provides some extend features, but also have made it a target for some with malware issues becoming more of an issue. Plenty of business apps that include word processing, spreadsheets and other fundamental business productivity tools.  Google provides Docs which is a cloud based productivity office suite that has connectivity into Google's ecosystem and cloud storage.  

Pros: Plenty of consumer and business apps.  Makes sense if you already tied into an Android smart phone or just not as interested into media for you work tablet.  If you want a good email, browser general productivity tool at a very affordable price the Nexus 7 fits the bill.
Cons: Still a little bit of that fit and finish is still missing in the Android OS. Support is still pretty limited. 

Apple iPad Mini with retina display (iPad mini 2)
iPads and IOS is pretty widely being used in businesses, schools and home.  The iPad mini 2 has a much more durable build than other tablets.  Apple has the most complete set business and travel tool with iOS.  It has biggest offering of applications and Mobile Device Management as well. What makes iOS and the mini a great offering is that all the major developers have apps on the platform already.  Google, Amazon, Microsoft and all have many their major apps on iOS for the mini.  There are plenty of third party case, covers and devices that work on the platform, too.  Everything from Nike wearable sports monitoring devices,  blood pressure monitors and even Phillip's iOS controlled light-bulbs work with the iPad mini 2. 

Pros: Best offering for apps, ecosystem and support 
Cons: Apple's iCloud for cloud storage is the only 5GB and not very intuitive to work with and priced a lot higher than other similar tablets. 

Best business tablet
For those already tied in to the Apple ecosystem with their home iTunes music and iPhone, the iPad is an easy addition for a device that wants to be something for work and home. Finally, Apple still has the best support all the way around from online, telephone and in store options.
    

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