Bryley Basics: Enabling GodMode in Windows 10 (and Windows 8)

With Windows 8 and Windows 10, Settings and Control Panel are separate entities with different functions; it would be nice to access both from the same folder when making configuration changes, rather than switching between the two.

GodMode is a simple and useful Windows shortcut:  It combines Settings and Control Panel into one folder on your desktop.

To enable GodMode:

  • Create a new folder on your desktop.
  • Copy and paste the following into the folder’s name: {ED7BA470-8E54-465E-825C-99712043E01C}
  • You will now have a folder named GodMode that contains all Settings and the Control Panel

Please review Sarah Jacobson Purewal’s article Activate GodMode in Windows 10 in the August 18, 2015 edition of CNet.

Introducing Microsoft Office 2016

Microsoft Office 2016 for Windows should launch on September 22nd; the Macintosh version released in July.  After this upcoming release, perpetual licenses of Office 2013 and earlier versions will be difficult to acquire legally.

Significant changes include:

  • Create, open, edit, and save Cloud-based documents
  • Real-time co-authoring
  • New Tell Me search tool

Not so significant features include:

  • Contextual-information via Insights
  • Data-loss prevention
  • Colorful themes

Requirements:

  • Microsoft Windows 7 or later
  • Exchange Server 2010, 2013, or the upcoming 2016

The last requirement, updating Exchange Server to support Microsoft Office 2016, will take some planning and effort and should be completed before deploying Microsoft Office 2016.  Note:  The Autodiscover service within Exchange Server 2010 and 2013, which has a default configuration suitable only for simple networks, may also need to be reconfigured and republished.  (For example:  An organization with VPN users will likely need to adjust the Autodiscover service on their Exchange Server.)

See the article Office 2016 for Windows expected to launch on September 22nd by Tom Warren of The Verge.

Migrating to Windows 10 – Now, later, or never?

Migrations bring about change in the lives of technology end-users, whether desired or not.  Often, the IT-support team receives undeserved blame for issues with a new operating system; although, they can help smooth the way by testing core software applications and devices for compatibility before upgrading.

So, here you are with new computers that ship with multiple versions of Windows; which to deploy?  You know there are going to be compatibility issues; there always are.  (Our current VPN client does not yet work with Windows 10 and I have heard of issues with Google’s Chrome on Windows 10.)  Also, there are individuals within your organization who will have trouble adapting to a new user environment.

These are the issues you will need to address when migrating to Windows 10:

  • Equipment compatibility
  • Application compatibility
  • User acceptance

Equipment compatibility

Equipment-compatibility issues exist because Windows has always been everything to everyone:  Windows supports most any printer, scanner, fax, camera, or device as long as the manufacturer conforms to Microsoft specifications, which might include creating a Windows device driver (a small application designed to translate instructions between the device and the operating system) to enable all features.

Likewise, your desktop or notebook computer might not be compatible with Windows 10; you will need (at a minimum):

  • 1GHz processor
  • 1Gb of RAM for 32-bit deployment or 2Gb for 64-bit deployment
  • 20Gb of disk space
  • DirectX9 display with 800×600 display

Please see the Windows 10 specifications for details.

Applications compatibility

Software applications must also conform to Microsoft specifications; however, updating applications to work with a new operating system takes time and effort.  So, older, legacy applications not built to current-day Windows standards can be slow to comply, particularly those from smaller developers, who might not have the resources necessary to make them compatible.  These developers might suggest: “Don’t upgrade now” or “Use XP Compatibility mode”, but usually offer no specific timetable or long-term work-around.

Cloud-based applications have an advantage over most legacy applications; they are likely browser-dependent (and operating-system independent) and are updated continually.  However, you can run into compatibility issues with different browser versions and even different browsers.

User acceptance

An often under-appreciated issue is the changes to the user interface, particularly its look-and-feel; Microsoft received significant criticism with Windows 8.x and the fundamental changes in how it interacts with the end-users.

 

Migration techniques

The safe method, one that many organizations adopt, is to delay migration until:

  • All computers are known to have sufficient resources to run Windows 10.
  • Hardware compatibility issues are identified and resolved, either through updates or hardware replacement.
  • All applications are tested and compatibility issues are either resolved, the application is replaced, or a work-around is established.
  • Training is budgeted and approved.
  • Proper planning is completed to ensure a smooth transition.

However, organizations with limited budgets might not be able to invest fully in this process; they likely need to add a computer or two, right now.

For those already using Windows 8.x:

  • Applications and device drivers that work with Windows 8.x will likely work with Windows 10 (since the underlying framework is similar in both editions).
  • You can use the Windows 8.1 Upgrade Assistant to help identify application- compatibility issues with Windows 8.1, which will also be an issue with Windows 10.

Unfortunately, there is no substitute for testing; put in the time and do it right!

Often, it can be more effective to replace an aging printer (or similar device) than to try and make it work with a new version of Windows; the time to research, locate, install new device drivers (if they exist), test, and then update all migrated workstations can easily exceed the cost of deploying a new, modern device (with more features and greater functionality).

Training is necessary:  Group sessions to introduce the basics and answer questions are effective in getting things started.  Follow-up, small-group training or individual hand-holding can alleviate fears and improve productivity.

For training, Microsoft offers these free, Windows 10 training resources:

Now, later, or never

Basically, if you use Windows-based applications, you main options are:

  • Upgrade to Windows 10 without charge by July 29, 2016
  • Leave Windows-desktop entirely
  • Don’t change anything, ever

Microsoft is allowing anyone with a qualified and genuine copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 to upgrade to Windows 10 for free through July 29, 2016.  So, you can upgrade your existing equipment without licensing fees once you have completed compatibility testing, training, etc.

The second option, leave Windows, suggests one of two courses of action:

  • Switch to a non-Microsoft-dependent application.
  • Use a virtual environment to provide Windows-based applications. You can deploy these applications through a virtual server, either on-premise or remotely (i.e.:  via Bryley’s Hosted Cloud Server) that can provide access to your Windows-based application by running it on an older, Windows-based operating system.

The last option is extreme; it can work for a number of years, particularly if you are not replacing desktop computers, but will eventually require a change.  Basically, you are avoiding the inevitable.

We have begun the planning and application testing for our Windows 10 rollout; I’ll update our progress in future issues.

Visit How to upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 8.1 by Ed Tittle in the February 12th edition of CIO and Preston Gralla’s article: Excited about the imminent release of Windows 10? You might want to wait in the July 21st issue of ComputerWorld.

Microsoft Windows 10

Microsoft is releasing Windows 10 on July 29th.  It is available as a free upgrade to licensed users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 through the Get Windows 10 (GWX) application which is part of Windows Updates.  (Note: Some companies, including Bryley Systems, are temporarily blocking this update to permit a controlled migration to Windows 10.)

To minimize bandwidth and processing disruptions, those who reserve now for this 3Gb upgrade periodically receive parts of it until the entire upgrade is downloaded and ready for installation on 7/29/2015.

Windows 10 will run most Windows XP applications.  The Windows 10 Home Edition will likely sell at $119; the Pro edition at $199.

View the article from Mark Hachman at PCWorld It’s official: Microsoft says you can download the final version of Windows 10 on July 29

Microsoft is discontinuing Internet Explorer

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) was first included with Microsoft Windows 95; it is a much-maligned Internet browser, primarily due to its intermittent security issues and declining user base.

IE’s dominance came in the early 2000s, when it captured 95% of the market, but, with growing competition from Mozilla’s Firefox and Google’s Chrome, declined to somewhere between 27% and 54% of the market late in 2012.

On March 17th, Microsoft announced that Spartan –, a new, improved, Internet browser – will replace IE as the default browser in Windows 10.

In addition, by January 2016, Microsoft will support only the current versions of Internet Explorer and will discontinue support for all non-current versions.  (The current version is IE 11.)

Bryley Basics: More of Anna’s Windows 8 tips

Those of you running Windows 8 have probably experienced the new Photosapp, which opens the image in the full-screen, hiding everything else on the screen. It is really inconvenient for me, and I am guessing I am not the only one.  Here’s how to change from the default photo-views application in Windows 8, Photos, back to the Windows 7 version, Photo Viewer:

  1. Once in Desktop Mode go to the Windows Icon winIcon, right-click, and then select Search.
  1. A search bar will open; type Default Programs and then select.

 

  1. Select Set your default programs.

scnShot_1

  1. Select Windows Photo Viewer, select Set this program as default, and then click OK.

scnShot_2

You can use the same procedure to change other default programs.  If there is some type of Windows 8 default application that you are not happy with, this is the place to make those changes.

Did you miss my earlier post on how to boot Windows 8 straight to desktop mode?  If so, check it out here.

Living with Windows XP

Microsoft has officially ended general support of Windows XP, but many have not updated or replaced their Windows XP PCs.  Although we recommend against continuing to use Windows XP, particularly in any Internet-facing role, there are some steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of remaining on this platform.

The easiest, but least practical solution would be to disconnect all Windows XP PCs from the Internet or to limit their access to the Internet.  This step could exclude exposure to outside sources, but reduces the effectiveness of these PCs.

The second-most effective strategy would be to replace older versions of Internet Explorer (IE) with a supported Internet browser; replacing IE with Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome will reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of using a Windows XP PC to browse the Internet.  (Windows XP originally released with IE 6, but most Windows XP systems are now running version 7 or 8.  The current version of IE is 11.)

Updating to Mozilla’s Firefox is easy:

Please see http://www.zdnet.com/windows-xp-support-ends-survival-tips-to-stay-safe-7000028188/ for more information from Charlie Osborn of ZDNet.  Or, visit http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9246877/US_CERT_urges_XP_users_to_dump_IE?source=CTWNLE_nlt_pm_2014-03-11 for a similar message from Gregg Keizer of ComputerWorld.

Additional steps to reduce Windows XP risk include:

  • Disable the ability to add new applications to a Windows XP PC
  • Remove administrative rights of all Windows XP users
  • Disable ports and drives on Windows XP PCs

See the article from Toby Wolpe of ZDNet at http://www.zdnet.com/windows-xp-support-end-10-steps-to-cut-security-risks-7000028193/.

Microsoft Office 365 Free To Qualifying Nonprofits

Microsoft now offers the entry-level, E1 plan of its Cloud-based, Office 365 service free to qualifying nonprofits. 

The Office 365 E1 plan includes Exchange Online (email, contacts, calendar, tasks), SharePoint Online (collaboration) and Lync Online (text and video conferencing).  To see our overview of Microsoft’s Office 365, visit Bryley Office 365 Presentation 4-24-2013.pdf.

The process to determine if your organization qualifies for this free service:

  • Sign-up for a free, 25-user trial of the Microsoft Office 365 E3 plan*
  • Fill-out the account information (name, organization, address)
  • Create a user ID (and agree to the Terms and Conditions)

Once the application is completed and the free-trial accepted, Microsoft will notify your organization if it qualifies as a non-profit.

*Note:  The E3 plan includes all of the features of the E1 plan plus the latest version of Microsoft Office desktop suite and other items.  It is not free, but is deeply discounted to qualifying non-profits.  Upon qualification, you may convert some or all of your users to the free, E1 plan.

Here is the site for Office 365 Enterprise E3 Nonprofits Trial.

Deploying software systems to manage a growing organization

Most organizations use software to manage at least these items:

  • Accounting – Perform vital bookkeeping and accounting functions
  • Contacts – Organize and manage clients, prospects, vendors, etc.
  • Operations – Match assets to organization’s need on a daily basis

In organizations with funding limitations, deployment of a software-based system to manage specific functions often starts as a cost-based decision, which can lead to several miscues along the way since cost is only one of the factors that should guide the decision.

I’d categorize deployment options in this manner:

  • Build your own using all-purpose, brand-name, productivity software
  • Purchase stand-alone applications and manually integrate them
  • Deploy an integrated, all-inclusive system
  • Outsource this mess to someone else

I’ll address the first three options now and provide some feedback on deployment.   Outsource is a large topic that will be covered separately.

Build your own

Organizations with a do-it-yourself perspective often turn to the build your own approach; you basically use the functionality of productivity software (like Microsoft Office) to create a custom-built solution.  Generally, this works OK to start, but can be difficult to manage and maintain with growth.

Popular productivity-software options include:

  • Microsoft’s Office suite (currently Microsoft Office 2013), which includes:
    • Outlook to manage contacts, calendar, email, and tasks
    • Excel to create proposals and track financial information
    • Access to build and manage contact and production databases
  • Microsoft Office 365, a Cloud-based alternative to the Microsoft Office suite
  • Google Apps for Business, which is a direct competitor to Microsoft Office 365

When Bryley Systems first started in the mid-1980s, we used Lotus 123 (a then-popular spreadsheet application) as our primary tool for everything financial; it quickly became unwieldy, so we purchased an accounting-software package.

Stand-alone applications

Stand-alone applications target a specific function and provide work-flows and best-practices to address this function through use of the software application.

Stand-alone applications are often categorized by function (as described above):

  • Accounting
  • Contacts
  • Operations

Below is a brief summary of these categories.

Accounting

The accounting system is very important; it automates the various accounting and bookkeeping functions (Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Inventory Control, Payroll, etc.) and provides a shared foundation for other capabilities.

Intuit’s Quicken is easy to use as a checkbook replacement, but QuickBooks is a full-function accounting system that leads this market.  Peachtree is another popular accounting package, but with only a fraction of the market share.  Intaact is making headway in mid-sized businesses.

FindAccountingSoftware.com provides an easy-to-use, online guide at http://findaccountingsoftware.com/software-search/.

Contacts

Contact-management applications permit the input and retrieval of contact information with tracking and communications activities, including scheduling.  (You can manage your contacts within your accounting system, but this becomes less practical as your account base grows.)

ACT was one of the original contact managers and claims to be the market leader.  It is now owned by Sage Software (which also owns Peachtree and other accounting packages) and can be purchased or leased online.

Other popular options include:

  • Salesforce
  • OnContact
  • Prophet

We started with ACT in the early years, but shifted to Prophet in the early 2000s since it integrated with some of our other systems.

For a recent ranking and review, please visit http://contact-management-software-review.toptenreviews.com/.

Operations (both manufacturing and service-delivery)

 

In a manufacturing environment, a production-management system enhances control over materials flow (from raw materials coming into the organization to finished goods flowing out), production resources (tooling, equipment, and employees), and scheduling.  It is the glue that binds these items together, permitting the company to manage its flow of work.

We often see these packages at our manufacturing clients:

  • Exact Macola
  • Exact JobBOSS
  • GlobalShop Solutions
  • IQMS  Enterprise IQ

Capterra lists many of these options at http://www.capterra.com/production-scheduling-software.

Service-delivery management is a bit more diverse; what works for one type of service operation might not be appropriate for another type.  Typically, these are industry-specific solutions.

For example, we started with BridgeTrak, which is a service-ticketing application with scheduling and limited contact management.  It served well for a number of years, but we found it difficult to integrate with our accounting package (Peachtree at the time) and with other applications.

Stand-alone applications can be deployed internally, but many companies exist to assist with this process. Multi-user versions should have a dedicated, Windows-based server or be Cloud-based.

The lines are blurring between stand-alone applications and integrated, all-inclusive systems, but the primary issues with stand-alone systems:

  • They can become separate islands of information
  • They do not readily integrate with one another

Integrated, all-inclusive system

ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and PSA (Professional Services Automation) systems integrate all company functions and departments; it provides one repository for all organization data, which is available to all employees.  A related option, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), software is similar, but has less functionality and is often a component of an ERP or a PSA system.

High-end, all-inclusive systems from SAP, Oracle, Epicor, etc. cost hundreds of thousands or even millions to procure and deploy, but integrate every aspect of the organization.  Most large organizations work with one of these vendors and use their software nearly exclusively for all functions.

For mid-sized and smaller companies, there are many accounting-based systems that can be expanded through modules and customization to provide ERP and PSA-class alternatives.  Three of the more-popular options:

  • Microsoft Dynamics/GP (formerly Great Plains)
  • Sage 100 (formerly MAS 90)
  • NetSuite

There are also many software-development firms that focus on a specific, vertical market and provide a complete, market-specific solution.  In the mid-2000s, we chose this direction and purchased a PSA system from ConnectWise which is custom-tailored to our industry.

ConnectWise handles all facets of our business and integrates with our accounting system and with our sales-quoting tool.  All employees are required to enter every scrap of data into ConnectWise; our adopted slogan is “If it is not in ConnectWise, it did not happen”.

We also use QuickBooks, but primarily because it integrates with ConnectWise in a downstream direction.  We create our proposals through QuoteWerks, which integrates with both QuickBooks and with ConnectWise.

The initial investment is significant, but the time spent deploying an integrated, all-inclusive system solution within the organization and training employees can far surpass the cost of the software licensing. It is a demanding process, but it pays big dividends in uniting all functions and groups.

The primary benefits:

  • All functions integrate together
  • The system can usually integrate with other applications
  • All employees use the same interface and share the exact-same information

Deployment

To deploy these packages on-premise (rather than in the Cloud), you would need:

  • Infrastructure hardware – Physical server with reliability items (UPS, RAID, redundant power supplies, backup solution, etc.).  We recommend HP servers, but also support Dell.
  • Infrastructure software – Most business software are compatible with Microsoft Windows Server and Microsoft SQL Server.  Microsoft Exchange Server may be needed for email integration.
  • Infrastructure deployment – Setup the Infrastructure hardware and software (listed above), configure the end-user devices (PCs and mobile), etc.
  • Business software – Usually sold in a series of modules with add-ons and licensed to match your user count.
  • Business-software deployment – Usually sold as a project, which includes all of the setup stages needed to get the business software operational and assist in the transition.  A fair amount of process customization is needed; report customization is also part of this stage.  (Most folk select an internal “champion” or a “deployment team” to evangelize, build enthusiasm, watch-over the process, and keep things on-track.)
  • Training – We recommend several, time-spaced sessions followed by occasional tune-ups to allow acclimation and to provide hand-holding for those that will have the most challenges.

Cloud-based deployments eliminate the Infrastructure stages (except setup of client devices) and price the business software in per-user increments; however, customization and training are still needed.  The major incentives to Cloud-based deployments include:

  • Reduce capital expenditures (Infrastructure equipment and software)
  • Shift to operating expenses on a per-user basis
  • Speed-up time to deploy

Cloud-based deployments requires great trust in the business partner providing these services, but they can free-up cash (by eliminating the need to purchase Infrastructure) and get you setup quicker.

Summary

Many cash-strapped organizations start with build-your-own and later morph to one or a combination of the other three options as they grow.  However, deploying an integrated, all-inclusive system provides significant benefits and is now easier to budget and deploy with Cloud-based alternatives that spread costs over time.

Comparing Cloud-based services – Part 2: Storage

Many Cloud-based services fall into one of these categories:

  • Productivity suites – Applications that help you be more productive
  • Storage – Storing, retrieving, and synchronizing files in the Cloud
  • Backup and Recovery – Backing-up data and being able to recover it
  • Prevention – Prevent malware, typically spam and related components
  • Search – Find items from either a holistic or from a specialty perspective

In this issue, we’ll explore popular options within Storage, the highlighted item above, and compare them with one another.

Storage often comes in a free version with separate professional/business (paid) versions that includes advanced features.  The basic premise is that your data is stored in the Cloud – hopefully in a secure manner with sufficient redundancy – is available from any location on any device, and is synchronized between devices.

Most free versions offer these minimum features:

  • At least 2Gb of storage with synchronization across multiple computers
  • Easy access from mobile devices and PCs via downloadable client software
  • Direct access to files through a web browser
  • File sharing with other users

However, you typically must upgrade to a paid version to receive these capabilities:

  • Access control – Define and control who can access what, where, and when
  • Additional storage – Purchase extra storage once your limit is exceeded
  • Auditing – Identify and record what files are stored where and by whom
  • Integration – Integrate with other platforms (i.e.: Active Directory)
  • Security – Enable advanced encryption and security techniques

Popular services (alphabetically) include:

  • Box – 10 Gb free storage with NetSkope’s second-highest rating
  • Dropbox – 2 Gb free storage with over 200 million subscribers
  • Google Drive – 15 Gb free storage shared with Gmail and Google+ Photo
  • SkyDrive – 7 Gb free storage and integrated within Microsoft Office apps

Box

Box (www.Box.com) is a Q3-2013 leader in Forrester’s “File Sync & Share Platforms”.  It offers a free version, but is built for professional use with available integration to Active Directory and LDAP, security with rotating encryption keys, access control, and auditing.

According to Netskope’s review of Cloud-based applications, Box was the second highest-scoring Cloud application, coming in the number two spot on the NetSkope Q3-2013 Cloud Report.  (Please visit Netskope’s http://www.netskope.com/reports-infographics/netskope-cloud-report-q3-2013 for the complete report.)

My take:  Box is the most-comprehensive offering, but a bit more complex due to its advanced features.  It is a serious choice for those that value advanced features (access control, auditing, integration, etc.) and are willing to pay to get them.

Dropbox

With over 200 million users, Dropbox (www.Dropbox.com) claims market leadership.  It is built upon Amazon’s S3 storage and is easy to use.  The free version offers 2 Gb, but there is a professional (Dropbox Pro) version with greater functionality (and storage) and a business version (Dropbox for Business) that offers team collaboration.  All three versions offer synchronization and file-sharing; the help screens are brief, useful, and entertaining.

My take:  Dropbox is the easiest and most-fun to use, but it has the least amount of free storage and its paid plans are a bit more expensive than others.

Google Drive

Google offers Google Drive (www.GoogleDrive.com) as a stand-alone service or bundled within Google Apps.  The free version offers 15 Gb with synchronization among devices and sharing among peers.  It is a no-frills alternative with little glitz, just reliable storage at reasonable cost.  It is the base of Google Apps.

My take:  Google Drive has fewer doodads and the least amount of whimsy, but it is reliable and offers the greatest amount of free storage.

SkyDrive

Microsoft offers its free version of SkyDrive (www.SkyDrive.com) with seven Gb plus an additional three Gb for students.  SkyDrive is an option in newer versions of Microsoft Office and integrates to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Bing.  You can also “fetch” files from your base computer via web-browser on a remote computer.

My take:  SkyDrive offers the most for the least, although there is some buzz about slow synchronization between devices.  Its “fetch” feature is unique among these alternatives and its integration within Microsoft Office is a killer feature.