27 Jul

Amazon releases high-end virtual desktops

It’s nearly impossible to discuss virtualization without bringing up Amazon Web Services (AWS). It was one of the first big names in user-friendly virtualization services and it’s only gotten better over the years. With its latest release, AWS is providing customers with some serious computing power.

 

What are AWS virtual desktops?

 

If you have employees who need occasional access to lightning-fast workstations, hardware costs add up quickly. One way to tackle this problem is by providing users with low-end hardware that connects to a cloud service provider that delivers virtual desktops. These full-fledged desktops can be accessed over the internet and are far more cost efficient.

For quite some time, AWS’s “Standard” package has offered 24-hour access to virtual desktops with dual CPUs, 4+ GB of RAM and 130 GB of data storage for $43 per month. As long as you have a computer with an internet connection and are able to pay the subscription fee, you can run programs on an AWS virtual desktop that greatly exceeds your local machine’s capacity.

 

The WorkSpaces Power bundle

 

In June 2017, AWS introduced a new virtual desktop service for businesses that need a bit more capacity. The WorkSpaces Power bundle grants users access to machines with the power of four CPUs, with 16+ GB of RAM and 275 GB of storage.

Obviously, anything that requires such high-end hardware is going to be pretty technical work, but with the help of an experienced IT provider, you too can profit from the Big Data movement. AWS is advertising the Power bundle to developers, but it’s also great for businesses that want profitable insights from their huge databases.

The Power bundle virtual desktops have tremendous capacity, and that does come at a higher cost. The WorkSpaces Power bundle costs $78 per month for unlimited usage, or if you need it for only a couple days, $19 per month plus 68 cents per hour.

 

Faster data access for Standard and Power bundles

 

Regardless of whether you need the Standard or Power bundle, all AWS virtual desktops benefit from excellent data access speeds. The servers that host AWS cloud storage and AWS virtual desktops are in the same physical location, which means you don’t need to worry about lag when connecting the two.

 

Even if you’re “just a small-scale eCommerce site,” or a single-location office, every business can benefit from more affordable computing power. To find out what virtualization can do for your organization, call us today at 1-866-BIT-WISE or email sales@eitnetworks.net.

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05 Dec

The Surprise Office 365 App

There is a new weapon available to business owners who subscribe to Office 365. It’s called Office 365 Hub, and it was recently released under the guise of the Get Office App in Windows 10. Learn more about the Hub program and how it promises to increase your company’s efficiency and visibility.

 

What does Office Hub Do?

 

Office 365 Hub is a dashboard management program that makes it easier for you to integrate all your Office 365 apps in one location and manage the different programs without the need to get on a browser.

 

Users can:

Manage their payment and subscription information
Optimize Office apps for mobile devices
Access files, programs and apps on the cloud drive from any device
Switch between a personal and business account
Office Hub, like other dashboard management programs, allows you to access multiple apps and programs in one place. Clicking on the Home tab displays a summary of recent documents accessed as well as your commonly used Office apps like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook.

 

For the business owner, this ease of access increases efficiency company-wide. Business owners can install new apps on the desktop without visiting an online browser, while administrators will have no problem moving between the different office applications.

 

What’s more, Office 365 Hub provides a Help and Training tab with links to online resources, tutorials and support forums to help new Office 365 users to quickly acclimate to the cloud. All in all, Office 365 Hub promises a stress-free and easily manageable cloud experience.

 

Reaching the Office 365 Hub App

 

Unfortunately, the Office 365 Hub is not yet visible to everyone who signs on to the Get Office App on Windows 10. It is only open to those who are Office 365 subscribers and members of their Insider program. They also have to be set as Fast Ring subscribers, members who receive builds before they have been completely debugged and updated. Otherwise, you can expect the general release of Office 365 Hub and its benefits in the first half of 2017.

 

If you want the latest updates on Office 365 Hub or any new Microsoft features, contact us today at 1-866-BIT-WISE or sales@eitnetworks.net.

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25 Aug

New Features in Office 365

Microsoft’s Office 365 platform isn’t one of the most popular productivity suites in the world by luck. The company’s expertise in creating functional, innovative and easy-to-use business applications has won over thousands of users for decades even before the cloud. And today, Microsoft strives to remain ahead of the competition by rolling out new upgrades every quarter. So what does Office 365’s update have in store for you this quarter? Read on and find out.

 

Word

 

This quarter, Office 365’s upgrade will focus on cloud-powered intelligent services, designed to maximize productivity while saving time. And Office 365’s upgrade wouldn’t be an upgrade if there were nothing new in Word, the business application that put Microsoft on the map. To that end, Word is getting two new features called Researcher and Editor. As you may have guessed, Researcher is designed to help you find reliable sources of information by using Bing’s Knowledge Graph to help search and then cite sources in your Word document. In the future, Researcher’s body of reference materials will also include sources such as national science and health centers, well-known encyclopedias, and more. The feature will be available on mobile devices too.

Now that you have Researcher to help you start your paper, you can count on Editor to help you finish it. This new feature builds on the existing spellchecker and thesaurus, and in addition to the wavy red line under a misspelled word and wavy blue line under bad grammar, Editor uses a gold line for suggestions on how to improve your writing.

 

PowerPoint

 

Currently, when making a presentation, you’re forced to use the 1-2-3-4 linear method of showing your slides. The problem is that you can’t change your presentation order as needed without having to exit PowerPoint’s slideshow mode, and let’s face it, sometimes you do make mistakes and need to go back or move to a different slide. But thanks to PowerPoint’s new feature, Zoom, you can now present your slides in any order you want at any time without a hiccup.

 

Outlook

 

The time has come for Office 365’s Outlook to get the Focused Inbox which has been available for iOS and Android for some time now. If you’re not familiar with Focused Inbox, the feature separates your inbox into two tabs: Focused tab which includes emails that matter most to you and the “Other” tab for everything else. This makes it easy to identify email that needs your attention so you never miss anything important.

Not only that, but as you move email in or out of the Focused tab, Outlook learns from your behavior and adjusts to your priorities. You can also flag someone by typing the @ symbol in the body of the email and pick whoever you wish to flag. This will automatically highlight that person’s email and their email address will be added to the To: line. If you are mentioned, the @ symbol will show up in Outlook so you can quickly find all email where you are mentioned.

 

For now, Microsoft hasn’t set a release schedule for these new features, but according to Kirk Koenigsbauer, Corporate Vice President for the Office team, you can expect to use them soon enough! And as always, if you would like to find out how you can make the most out of Office 365 or Microsoft Office, contact us at 1-866-BIT-WISE or sales@eitnetworks.net.

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25 Mar

Office 365 Features You Should Know about

Need help getting some work done? Fortunately, Microsoft constantly releases new Office 365 features that can help you get an edge on the pile of work sitting on your computer. Among some of the new Office 365 features, you can Skype over a document with your coworkers, plot charts into excel with ease, and even sign for a document electronically with any device. So treat yourself, and use these features to increase your productivity in the workplace.

 

Simultaneously edit a document with other people

With Office 365, people can work together on any Word, PowerPoint, or Excel document in real time. This means multiple people can edit a document, figure out what changes have been made and who made them.

So if your employees are still creating documents by themselves, sending them over to their coworkers by email, and silently waiting for a reply, then this Office 365 feature can help cut down on unnecessary email waiting time.

 

Skype over a document with your coworkers

In addition to being able to work together on a single document, you can also verbally discuss the edits over Skype. This application lets you talk to everyone who is working on the document with a simple click of a button. You can also keep talking to your coworkers even after you’ve left the Office document session.

 

Link to files, don’t attach them

Is the file you’re sending too big? With the business editor of Office 365, you won’t have to worry about compressing your documents before sending them over email. You can simply attach the link to the file on your cloud application (Outlook Web App), and people with access to the link can immediately begin editing.

 

Let Bing find presentation images for you

Sometimes you just need that second opinion when you’re picking images for your presentation. That’s where Office Sway comes in. Basically, the application employs Bing image search to locate possible images that you can use for your presentation based on the words you are using.

 

Laser pointer mouse icon

Forgot your laser pointer on the day of your presentation? Simply go into presentation mode and hold Ctrl and the Left-Click mouse button to replace your mouse cursor with a laser pointer.

 

Change your electronic scribbles into text

This OneNote feature allows you to convert your electronic scribbles into text in just a few steps. Simply select the “Lasso Select” tool and circle the area you want edited and choose the “Ink to Text” option.

 

Electronic signatures

Printing out a document to sign it and then scanning it back to digital format is a bit outdated. However, with the Docusign app, you can setup your own electronic signature and sign documents easily from any device.

 

Create excel charts with ease

Office 365 has built in new features that will allow Excel to better present and format your data. Simply select the cells that you would want in a graph or table, open the Quick Analysis tool, and pick however you would like to visually represent your information. Voila! Instant chart.

 

Turn data from Excel into a map

Speaking of visual representation, did you know that you can convert your data into images? Provided that your data takes note of geographic locations, the Power Map feature can immediately distribute your recorded facts and figures over a 3D map.

 

Create and Convert PDF Files

You have a variety of choices when creating PDF files from word documents. Exporting your word documents into PDF files can be done by going to File>Export>Create PDF/XPS. You also have the option of saving just a portion of a file by indicating the pages you want to only be converted into PDF.

On the other hand, if you would like to edit a PDF, just open the file in the word document, where the PDF content will be opened in a new file. From here, you can copy and edit any content, images, or diagrams.

 

Consider utilizing some or all of these features to make the most out of Office 365 and make your life a bit easier. If you’d like to know more about other features that Office 365 has to offer, give us a call at 1-866-BIT-WISE or email sales@eitnetworks.net.

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11 Mar

How to Securely Transition to Office 365

It’s easy to see why Office 365 is an attractive solution for small and medium-sized businesses already familiar with the Office interface. More and more companies are making the move to the cloud, but many have yet to complete their transition and still rely at least in part on on-site SharePoint systems. When you’re ready to migrate, the move from SharePoint to Office 365 presents numerous security challenges to prepare for – not least because breaches are far more likely to be caused by localized issues than insufficient protection on Microsoft’s part. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you’ve got security covered when you make the leap to migrating from SharePoint to Office 365.

 

Identify your company’s sensitive data…

 

It’s so easy to create sites within SharePoint that businesses often have far more than they realize, covering just about every aspect of their operations. And it’s natural, of course, for at least some of the files housed within those sites to contain sensitive commercial or personal data. The key is ensuring that sensitive information is adequately identified and protected. Do this by conducting a security audit before you undertake your migration.

Your audit should identify the types of data stored in the various parts of your SharePoint network, including which specific information needs extra safeguarding. Be sure to consider everything from trade secrets and contract details to the personal information of your clients.

 

…and then restrict access to it

 

Once you’ve worked out where your most precious data lies, you can check who currently has access to it and whether their access is appropriate. After all, it’s not necessary for everyone to be able to get at all the data your company owns; it’s far better to operate on a need-to-know basis, with a reasonable level of flexibility.

Ensure that each of your employees has access only to the data that’s necessary for them to perform their duties. When you make the switch to Office 365, you’ll find that it allows you to conveniently set these different levels of permissions, including for external partners with whom you collaborate.

 

Trust nobody and suspect everybody

 

We say that lightheartedly, of course – it would be counterproductive to become so security-paranoid as to suspect everyone is attempting foul play with your company’s data. Nonetheless, it’s wise to consider everyone in your organization when it comes to auditing data access permissions – and that includes system administrators who might be assumed to have master access to every element of your network infrastructure.

A rogue administrator is the stuff of nightmares, since their elevated position gives them much greater leeway to siphon off valuable data without being noticed – or even to allow others to conduct questionable business and bypass the usual built-in security precautions. Overcoming the danger of an all-too-powerful administrator admittedly becomes easier if you have more than one on staff, but even in smaller businesses you can mediate some of the risk by regularly checking on your administrator’s usage and ensuring that their top-level system permissions remain justifiable.

 

Use machine learning to foresee security breaches

 

Every action performed by your staff within Office 365 is automatically logged, and with relative ease you can pull reports that allow you to analyze these. But the sheer number of events taking place within Office 365 in the course of your business’s normal operations means that even attempting to identify questionable behavior will be akin to the proverbial needle and haystack. That’s not to say it’s unwise to be on the lookout for anomalies in normal usage – the export of unexplainably large volumes of data, for instance, could suggest that a member of your team is leaking intelligence to a competitor, or that they’re about to jump ship and take your trade secrets with them.

Thankfully, it’s possible to leverage the developing power of machine learning to identify potential breaches before they happen – without the need to wade through unmanageable swathes of perfectly normal data. Graph API is incorporated into Office 365, and allows for the integration of machine learning tools into your security environment to achieve just that. The same tools can also help you avoid being caught out by hackers, by identifying system login attempts from locations that are out of the ordinary; you should bolster this protection by religiously removing inactive accounts and those of departing employees.

 

By covering these essential security considerations when it comes to your migration, you’ll be one step closer to ensuring you strike the right balance between the powerful collaborative features of Office 365 and the robust safeguards your business’s integrity demands. To find out more about how we can help your Office 365 migration run smoothly, or what other business benefits you can derive from cloud-powered technologies, just give us a call at 1-866-BIT-WISE or email sales@eitnetworks.net.

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02 Oct

A Look at Google Apps for Work

Over the past decade, as technology has continued to evolve rapidly, Google has gone from merely a search engine to a cloud-based application provider. Its famous product, Google Apps for Work, is gaining momentum in increasing its popularity among business owners, as a result of its numerous different applications and overall ease of use.

 

In a nutshell, Google Apps for Work is a cloud-based productivity suite and collaboration software application from Google that gives businesses all the benefits of cloud computing, including flexibility, scalability, and cost savings. Let’s take a closer look at all it has to offer.

 

Gmail

 

Gmail is Google’s webmail service, with over 400 million users worldwide. Although Gmail is available free of charge, you can get extended features for a low monthly fee, including custom company email addresses, unlimited group addresses, 30GB of inbox storage, and 24/7 help desk support.

 

Hangouts

 

With Hangouts, you can have a chat or group chat with your coworkers, start face-to-face group video calling, and share your screen and documents. Accessible via both desktop and laptop computers and smaller devices like smartphones and tablets, Hangouts is a powerful video chat application that is efficient and simple to use.

 

Calendar

 

Google Calendar allows you to stay in sync with your colleagues from anywhere, and on any device. These shareable calendars integrate seamlessly with Gmail, Drive, and Hangouts, so you can easily manage events, view and edit your schedule, and check your coworkers’ availability.

 

Google+

 

Google+ is a social network platform designed to help you connect, share, and collaborate with your team members. You can customize and filter the dashboard’s contents in a way that’s suitable for you.

 

Drive

 

Google Drive is an online cloud storage platform that enables you to store all of your files in one place. These files are accessible from anywhere, at any time, and from any web-enabled device. You can get as much storage as you need, and also view common file formats without having to install extra software on your device.

 

Docs

 

With Google Docs, you and your colleagues can work on the same documents, in real time, allowing for better collaboration and efficiency. You can also leave comments and communicate through a built-in chat box. What’s more, all edits and changes are automatically saved, and you can restore the revision history in an instant.

 

Sheets

 

Google Sheets contains the fundamental functions of the popular Microsoft Excel application. Whether you’re looking to create spreadsheets and charts, perform calculations, or generate pivot table reports, Sheets has all these capabilities and so much more.

 

Forms

 

Creating surveys and forms online has never been easier. Forms allow you to build professional-looking surveys and questionnaires. You can collect answers by sending the URL to respondents. It’s that simple! You can track and analyze responses in real time in order to gain valuable insights from your surveys.

 

Slides

 

With Slides, you can work on a single presentation online with your colleague, your whole team, or even external contacts. You can also control who gets the permission to edit or view the slides with just a few clicks. Again, there is no software installation required.

 

Sites

 

Looking to create an internal website to train your new hires? Want to build a project site for your team? These can be done easily, and without needing any coding experience. Simply choose a template from Google Sites and determine what needs to be put in place to make your website successful.

 

For more information about Google Apps for Work and how you can integrate it into your business, give our tech professionals a call today at 1-866-BIT-WISE.

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22 Jun

Containers vs. Virtual Machines

Businesses today rely on their applications and critical documents more than ever before to stay efficient and competitive. With that in mind, virtual machines are often the go-to platform to ensure precisely that, but things may change with the increasing popularity of containers. What exactly are containers, though? Are they better than virtual machines? Here we take a look at which will best fit your business.

 

Containers, just like virtual machines, are used for storing files, critical data, and applications in an organized manner following specific access rules. So how do they differ from virtual machines, and what are the pros and cons of containers? We’ll take a look below.

 

Containers can pack a lot more applications into a single cloud or data center than a virtual machine can. And because containers only require little memory from an operating system and its supporting programs and libraries, you can put two to three times as many as applications on a single server with a container than you can with a virtual machine. In addition, containers allow you to create a portable, consistent operating environment for development, testing, and deployment.

 

Still, there’s a lot more to containers than how many apps you can put in a box, and not everything about them is positive. One of the problems with containers that is often overlooked is security. Simply put, containers do not contain. What this means is that if a user or application has superuser privileges within the container, the underlying operating system could be cracked. And while you can secure containers by mounting a /sys filesystem as read-only among other options, it takes a lot of time and effort to do so.

 

Another container security issue stems from the release of many containerized applications. This is a problem because if you happen to install the first container that comes to hand, you’re likely to have brought a Trojan Horse into your server. You need to inform your staff and employees that they simply can’t download apps from the Internet into a container like they do games for their smartphone. Not only that, but breaking deployments into more functional discrete parts using a container is possible, but means more parts for you to manage. The whole point of a container is to run a single application, so the more functionality you stick into a container, the more likely it is you should actually be using a virtual machine in the first place.

 

So how do you decide between containers and virtual machines? Ask yourself whether you need to run the highest possible number of instances of a particular application on the fewest possible servers. If so, then containers are the best option for you. But if you want the flexibility of running multiple applications on your servers and you have a variety of operating systems, virtual machines are your safest bet.

 

Looking to learn more about how virtualization can help your business prosper? Contact us today at 1-866-BIT-WISE or sales@eitnetworks.net. We’re sure we can tailor a solution that meets your unique needs.

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05 Jun

How to Remain Productive While Working Remotely

Technologies such as cloud computing are freeing employees from their desks and lighting the fuse to the remote working revolution. However, for employees who lack discipline or a strong work ethic, a remote worksite is a breeding ground for a lack of focus and unproductivity. What can you do to help them out? Here are some ideas you can provide your staff (or take advantage of yourself) to develop the proper habits for successful remote working.

 

Stick to the plan

 

Would you go to the office without brushing your teeth or combing your hair? Probably not, unless you are a hipster. Believe it or not, it’s not a good idea when you’re working remotely either. Sometimes the simple act of preparing for your workday – jumping in the shower, shaving, and so on – can put you in the right frame of mind to work. If you or your staff are finding it difficult to be productive at home, try sticking to a pre-work routine and see if it makes a difference. Remember, nobody panics when things go according to plan.

 

Stick to a designated workspace

 

Attempting to work while sitting in your bed or lounging on the couch can be a recipe for a productivity disaster. So instead, try designating a specific space where you work everyday. It can be as simple as a desk set apart from the rest of your living room or bedroom, but just make sure it’s not cluttered with non-work items (like a TV remote, Star Wars novel, or Batman comic), and that it’s properly lit and comfortable. A move from the bedroom or couch to an actual desk will help you start taking things a little more seriously.

If you’re working from a coffee shop, airport, or other public place, consider using a pair of headphones to help drown out the noise so you can focus. Eliminate as many distractions as possible, and the productivity will come. Do not be swayed by others who may ask you, “Why so serious?” Remember that you are working, and your work ethic should not be diminished simply because you don’t drive to an office each day.

 

Stick by your team

 

Thankfully, cloud computing has made it unbelievably easy for your remote workers to stay connected to the office wherever they are. If your business is setup with Google Apps, Microsoft Office 365 or another cloud product, make it a requirement that your employees access it daily and remain available. When your staff is connected to your business this way, it will strengthen their relationship with other employees and the organization as a whole. Generally speaking, more connected employees are more productive ones, but if you upset the established order, everything becomes chaos. Don’t be an agent of chaos!

 

Stick to your schedule

 

When you work remotely, the line between work and personal life blurs more than ever. To avoid burnout, it’s important that you discipline yourself to log off after you’ve put in a full day’s work. Whether you choose to work from 9 to 5 or 4pm to midnight, define work hours and stick to them. This will help you completely disconnect at the end of the day, which will ensure that you’re properly rested and prepared for the next. Getting enough rest and relaxation is a sure way to put a smile on that face of yours.

 

Want more tips on productive habits for remote working? Are you ready to empower your staff with cloud computing to help them along? Let’s talk. Call us today at 1-866-BIT-WISE or email sales@eitnetworks.net.

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