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Byitbudd5

What Windows 10 Means for Your Business

The Windows 10 release means big changes for the OS. Here’s what SMBs need to know.

Windows 10 logoIn a historic move, Microsoft has just released the latest iteration of their Windows OS, Windows 10, as a free upgrade for existing Windows 7 and 8.1 users.

The Windows 10 release signifies a shift in direction for Microsoft as its new leadership gains traction. However, it also brings many changes to the product itself.

Here’s what your business needs to know about the latest Windows release.

1. The upgrade has an expiration date

The official release date of Windows 10 has been listed as July 29, 2015. But, there’s so fine print. According to Gartner vice president Steve Kleynhans, it’s essential you do your research to determine if it is a good deal for your company within the timeline.

“Certainly it is nice getting the upgrade to Windows 10 for free, but it requires that you move in the next 12 months,” Kleynhans said.

2. Windows is now a service

Software upgrades used to be a major source of revenue for Microsoft in the past, but with Windows 10 comes a new model. Users will receive updates to the OS as time goes on.

“Windows 10 will be a ‘final’ upgrade that receives three to four upgrade packs a year that include new features,” said JP Gownder, a vice president and principal analyst with Forrester. “Windows as a service means you won’t be stuck with some 10 year old OS, as many were with XP, but it does require a little rethinking of resources, even these upgrade packs require some testing along the year.”

3. You have to be ready for the updates

As you consider whether or not to make the upgrade, it’s important to consider if you can handle the deluge of service packs that will come your way in this new system, Kleynhans said. You won’t have much time to “settle” into the new service packs before the next one comes.

4. You can only upgrade from certain versions

To qualify for the Windows 10 upgrade, you must be upgrading from a Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 device. The availability of the upgrade for Windows Phone 8.1 varies by manufacturer, carrier, and operator. You’ll also need to have Windows Update enabled. Many of the enterprise versions are excluded from the upgrade offer, so make sure you check if yours is compatible.

5. There are different versions of Windows 10

Depending on your starting OS, you will get a comparable version of Windows 10 when you upgrade. Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, and Windows 8.1 (4) will yield Windows 10 Home. Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate, and Windows 8.1 Pro and 8.1 Pro for Students will yield Windows 10 Pro.

6. Follow best practices for deployment

Just because Windows 10 is a new model for the OS doesn’t mean that it won’t come with some of the standard deployment pains you may have faced in the past. Make sure you time everything properly to minimize the number of problems you run into.

7. Upgrade for security

Especially for SMBs, protecting your assets is critical. If you’re already a Windows shop, upgrading could bring some added security to your company.

“Security threats are only growing, and Windows 10 has some inherent application containerization that makes it more secure than its predecessors,” Gownder said.

8. It doesn’t (technically) require new hardware

While you will need a certain set of specs to run Windows 10 and a set amount of hard drive space, you probably won’t need to update your hardware. However, Kleynhans said, you might need new hardware to make use of new features such as Windows Hello or the advanced security. Unfortunately, he said, in may cases, that hardware won’t ship until later this year.

9. It’s a new user experience

One of the most contentious aspects of Windows 8 was its tile-based design. Some loved it, while others switched back to the standard desktop view immediately. Gownder said that Windows 10 is poised to provide the best of both tiles and the standard desktop, and will be optimized for mobile.

“If you have a detachable keyboard — say, on a Surface Pro 3 — the OS will default to desktop mode if the keyboard is attached, and to tile mode if it isn’t,” Gownder said. “So, it’s smart about desktop vs. mobile usage.”

10. The ecosystem might not be perfect

As we creep closer to the release date, it’s important to remember that although the OS might be ready, that doesn’t mean the ecosystem is. As an SMB, you might need additional support and, with the novelty of Windows 10, you might have trouble finding someone to provide the support right away, Kleynhans said.

Also, just because your key software or application works on Windows 10, that doesn’t always mean your vendor will provide Windows 10 support.

“They might need some time to complete some testing and make some tweaks,” Kleynhans said. “Talk to your software and service providers and understand their plans and timeline as your develop yours.”
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Contact Dorset Connects to discuss Windows 10 for your business

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Byitbudd5

Show, Don’t Tell: the Business Value of Data Visualization

– Provided by Anita Campbell, Small Business Trends

The Business Value of Data VisualizationRecently my team was debating whether to use a bar chart or a pie chart to illustrate sales data when a new employee asked why we were spending so much time on such a low value activity. “Why not just embed the spreadsheet?” she asked.

I was surprised and intrigued by the question, but the answer is simple: because a chart saves the viewer valuable time and energy by providing near instantaneous context and clarity.

Our challenge, like that of most businesses today, wasn’t in collecting and presenting data, but pulling meaning out of it. When done properly, data visualization solves this challenge because it takes advantage of the fact that human beings are visual creatures. A good chart packs more of a punch than a column of figures or a block of text. It persuades by isolating and highlighting a few bits of relevant data so the viewer isn’t overwhelmed with irrelevant detail that may obfuscate the point.

Today’s powerful software tools help us gain insights from data. We just have to use them wisely.

More Choices in Dashboards and Business Intelligence Software

Business dashboards — such as the free Power BI tool from Microsoft — excel at making data obtained through business intelligence software meaningful. With these tools, small business owners can get from data collection to understanding and insight faster, and with less manual effort.

The challenge for us as business owners is knowing how to use the computational power of these of tools to organize data into charts and graphs to help us, and our employees, extract meaning out of our company’s information. That’s where knowing some best practices around data visualization come in handy.

  • A good chart points out relationships between data points, such as by:
    showing the growth of numbers over time (bar chart),
    illustrating how big a part something is to the whole (pie chart), or
    forecasting the direction of things to come (trend line).

One of the charts we use in our business is a production time chart. Knowing how long it takes to produce our product (in this case content) helps us allocate writer and editor time. And it helps us project cash flow to know standard turnaround times and determine capacity to take on more work.

Here is a spreadsheet showing our actual turnaround times to produce five different types of content.

6_25_15-graph-1

As you can see, you glean some information from the spreadsheet. But it’s hard to make sense of it and use it to make business decisions. That’s because there’s a lot of detail and it’s not presented well.

The average figure further confuses matters. If we were just to look at a raw unweighted average for all content types, we might assume it takes at least one week to turn around most of our content. However, that’s not true.

For some types of content, it takes just a day or two. Other types of content can take two weeks to turn around, because an interview has to be scheduled, transcribed and then written up (the “Founder interview” types of articles). In other cases, considerable research has to be conducted pushing times out further (the “Product choices list” types of articles).

Now, here’s the same data, but grouped and averaged by product type, and then presented in a bar chart so you can see it at a glance:

6_25_15-graph-2

Doesn’t the bar chart make it much easier to tell instantly which types of articles have had the longest turnaround times?

And doesn’t it now become a simple matter to estimate standard delivery times and understand what’s a realistic expectation, now that we have a clear view of the right data?

That, you see, is the value of a good chart.

Byitbudd5

Azure may be the future for most businesses

Now that extended support for Windows 2003 has been officially discontinued, many businesses are faced with a challenge going forward: do they continue to invest large dollars in new server hardware for years to come, or do they turn towards a monthly subscription model as an alternative?

In the immediate future, businesses and their IT shops will continue to rely on the on-going cycle of bug fixes, security patching and stability improvements for their on-premises editions of Windows Server, Exchange Server, SharePoint Server and Skype for Business Server. However, it is difficult to see a future in which features that lie in the middle of these applications when running in the cloud make their way down to a DVD you can install in your own server room. What we may find, perhaps sooner than we anticipated, is a growth dead-end in on-premises feature parity.

build-more-with-microsoft_InvariantCulture_DefaultWhen comparing the costs of premise refreshes, versus the cloud alternative, you also need to factor in upcoming price hikes for on-premises software. Client access license (CAL) costs for many enterprise software products from Microsoft will increase by 13% by the end of this year, adding to the cost of staying on-premises. This is after a 15% price hike last year — new users, new divisions and new versions all require new CALs. You cannot trade them in.

Meanwhile, a low monthly fee gets you all-you-can-eat software until you stop paying the bill. Once you work up a couple of cost proposals and run them by your company’s numbers people, you will find a lot of raised brows and questioning when you try to justify continuing an on-premises deployment.

At Dorset Connects, we see an increasing willingness on the part of most IT departments to embrace the cloud for more than just email; not just because of the benefits but because they are left with a decreasing list of satisfactory choices: If an upgrade must happen, then why not upgrade to a full-featured release? If new versions of on-premises software are largely going to be service packs and bug fixes, then how does IT move business forward? And if it becomes increasingly expensive to keep funding an on-premises deployment, if new licenses become prohibitively expensive especially in relation to the value they provide, then what choice do you have as a business with moving forward?

The answer now seems to be Office 365 and Azure cloud services. Cloud Solutions Providers, such as Dorset Connects, and others, can help businesses look at their current on-prem systems and map out a strategy to begin transitioning to the cloud.

Contact Us today to get started.

Byitbudd5

The manageable side of risk management

Maximize opportunity. Minimize worry.

Remember the classic scene in the 1987 movie Wall Street in which Gordon Gekko places a call from a beachfront using a two-pound, football-sized cellphone? The underlying message: only a wealthy robber baron like Gekko could afford such extravagant technology.

Oh, how far we’ve come. By 2025, there will be upwards of 4.7 billion people online. Most data will move through or be stored in the cloud. And there will be 4 billion mobile Internet subscriptions globally. Nearly every business of every size relies on the digital world—from computers and mobile devices to cloud services and social media—to do things Gekko only dreamed of, from updating sales figures from the road to serving global markets in real time.

Rising security threats—to all businesses
Along with the incredible business advancements, SMBs also face security challenges nobody imagined in 1987. According to the security company Symantec, small businesses with 1¬–500 employees were targeted in 41 percent of all attacks in 2013—and attacks are rapidly increasing. In fact, targeted attacks on businesses with 1–2,500 employees rose an alarming 61% from 2012 to 2013.

Why are cybercriminals targeting SMBs? Because smaller businesses have the same valuable bank account information, customer data, and intellectual property as big businesses, often with far less stringent security practices and less advanced technology. Also, because SMBs may serve big businesses, they can be a convenient entry point for infecting their much larger partners and business customers.

Get in front of the problem
Despite the headlines and alarming rhetoric about cyberattacks, SMBs generally do not need to invest in million-dollar digital security solutions even if the resources for such solutions were available. Because most security threats involve malware attacks or insider misuse (losing a laptop, etc.), the most effective solutions are similarly mundane: only use protected software and cloud resources, and keep your software updated.

Focus on implementing products, services, and policies, especially in the following areas:

Identity: Protect mobile devices with customized security by user, location, and device – including the ability to lock devices, reset pins, and remotely wipe data.

Access control: Invest in solutions that ensure secure, remote access to sensitive business applications and data.

Desktop and device management: Use centralized tools to manage all your devices, and keep desktops and devices automatically set to receive the latest security updates.

Data protection: Make sure your software – from server and desktop to email, mobile and cloud — has built-in protections against hackers, malware, and viruses that exceed compliance and privacy standards.

Train your employees: your team is your first line of defense. Ensure all your employees understand the policies in place and how to help implement them. Learn more about how to get your team on board to help.

While cyberattacks can be problematic, there’s no reason to fear. Instead, invest in products and services that are inherently more secure, with security built in and prioritized throughout design and development. And make sure they’re also built for manageability and ease of use—so you can easily take advantage of the exciting benefits afforded by today’s highly connected digital world.

Explore the following resources for information on how to help keep your business protected:

Microsoft Internet Safety & Security Center
Office 365 Trust Center
Microsoft Intune Trust Center

Some of the links on this page do not lead to translated versions of the articles. These pages will display in English only.

Byitbudd5

Understanding virtualization

You’ve heard about virtualization, but what exactly is it?

Virtualization creates a virtual—rather than physical—version of a computer operating system, computer network resource, or storage device. For instance, with your computer, you can create a virtual machine that behaves like a separate physical computer. In this case, your virtual machine co-exists on the same computer as your regular operating system. With virtualization, you are using software to transform one physical computer into a more useful group of virtual computers.

What are the benefits?
One of the main benefits of virtualization is that it can cut a business’ IT costs. For instance, a business with multiple servers could use server virtualization to reduce the number of physical servers, decreasing maintenance and security costs. It also allows you to get the most out of your existing hardware investments. Rather than buying a new PC, laptop, or server, you can improve your utilization of the hardware you already own. And, you can easily set up redundant systems for disaster recovery, without having to add more hardware.

Virtualization can also help you minimize operating costs (e.g. power bills). Since you are already running the physical computer, adding virtualization can give you more computing power, without increasing utility expenses or requiring more physical space to house a server.

Once you virtualize, it makes it dramatically faster and easier to move the contents of your server to new hardware—whether on-site or in the cloud. This includes simplifying the upgrade process which is especially important if you’re running Windows Server 2003. On July 14, 2015, support will end for this product (incl. Windows Small Business Server 2003). Upgrade now to Windows Server 2012 R2 to help reduce capital costs, maximize your IT investments, and receive scalable data storage and application support for your growing business.

How is virtualization different from cloud technology?
Virtualization and cloud computing are related, but they are not the same thing. Both represent ways to reduce infrastructure costs by making the most of computing resources. Cloud computing allows entire services or applications to run on a network of distributed computers. Public cloud services can be subscription services like web-based email or Office 365, or online communication services like Skype or Lync. A private cloud, on the other hand, offers customizable services housed on your company’s servers or those of an IT solutions provider. Hybrid cloud solutions use aspects of both public and private clouds. In all cases, cloud services appear to be provided by real server hardware, but are in fact served up by virtual hardware. Virtualization is a key component of cloud computing, but even by itself, virtualization can be beneficial to businesses of any size.

Might virtualization be a good solution for your business needs? A Microsoft solutions provider can help—find a partner near you.

Byitbudd5

Boost sales with social selling

Finding new customers is critical to keeping your business going and increasing profits. But, how do you find and attract the buyers that need your products and services? Calling or emailing a stranger used to be the way.  Now, unsolicited calls and emails are less effective than ever at sparking a conversation. Just look at the statistics: an uninvited call is only 3 percent effective, according to an IBM preference study.1 Compare that to reaching out via a LinkedIn Inmail — recipients are likely to respond 67 percent of the time.2  Social selling is today’s answer to cold calling. Combine the power of customer intelligence technology with principles of social selling and you can easily engage with customers on social media to increase sales.

What is social selling?

Social selling is when you use social media to interact directly with your prospects. You provide value by answering their questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.  But what do you actually do? Pay attention to the customer’s buying and service history. Listen to social networks to gather content created by customers and prospects. Provide relevant and helpful information.

Identify the best prospects  It’s tempting to make or buy a long list of everyone who might possibly ever purchase your services or products. Resist!  Take a step back. Look at your current customer data as a way to profile prospective customers. Understanding their behavior and reasons for buying can help you identify and improve sales with promising prospects. Dig into what customers like about your company, their buying and service history, who they are, and what problems you are solving for them. And you’ll also want to learn more about their world by using social media and the web. Customer intelligence technology like Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online can help you streamline your prospecting and let you focus on building profitable relationships. For instance, Microsoft Social Listening can help you analyze what customers are saying on social media platforms and get the most out of your social media presence.

Boost Your Business with Social Selling

Target your social approach  To be effective at sales, it is helpful to monitor and engage with prospective buyers in social channels. Zero in on the social channels where your customers are most likely to spend time. For instance, if you’re selling handbags, Pinterest may be the best place to find your ideal customers. If you’re an accountant, LinkedIn is a more likely spot.  It’s good to thoughtfully share information, insights, or advice that’s relevant to your audience. By monitoring what’s most popular, you can learn what offers genuine value to them.

Stretch beyond your walls  You can also use technology to expand your reach, work faster, and be more productive. Start with your employees’ devices. Are they all running Windows? If not, your workers might be wasting time struggling with different experiences across their devices. Standardizing on one platform, such as Windows, will improve employee productivity, while allowing for broad device choice, be it based on personal preference or job function.  How about the applications running on your devices? Are they cloud-based? Move to Office 365 and your employees will still get the same Office experience they’re used to, whichever device they use, even if happens to be an iPad or Android-based device.  And you can easily manage these devices and provide more secure mobile access to company data, through cloud-based device and PC management solutions like Microsoft Intune and Office 365.

Make it personal  Pay attention to what customers and prospects are saying. Maybe one of your customers talks online about a personal event such as a promotion or birthday. Or maybe a customer complains about your product through a social channel. How you respond can be critical to how customers perceive your business.

Be an expert  Help customers discover your business by being generous with your time and expertise. You can demonstrate your knowledge by participating in a webinar, writing an eBook, or guest posting on a partner’s blog. As people share your content by cross-referencing or re-tweeting, it helps prospects recognize you as an expert they can trust — and helps build profitable, social relationships

Nurture long-term connections  Building and sustaining relationships are the key principles behind successful social selling. Keep in touch with prospects using social media and emails, even if they don’t purchase from you right away. You can take advantage of Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online to track your communications and help you keep a good rhythm of reaching out to prospects even when you’re on the go, from a Windows device.

1. “Tips to End Cold Calling.” LinkedIn.  https://business.linkedin.com/sales-solutions/prospecting-tool/cold-calling-tips 

2. Microsoft. Always Be Closing: The ABCs of Sales in the Modern Era. 2014. PDF filehttp://www.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics/always-be-closing/default.aspx

Byitbudd5

Windows Server 2003 End of Support – Migration Options

Windows 2003 Server End of SupportCompanies now have just two days left before Windows Server 2003 End of Support, and getting off the aging software could mean reaching into their wallets. With Windows Server 2003 nearing its end-of-life point, many businesses are looking for ways to migrate away from the software — without suffering downtime or hefty costs.

Microsoft will no longer guarantee security fixes for Windows Server 2003 after the middle of 2015, making companies still using it vulnerable to attack and causing any servers running it to fall out of all compliance requirements. That looming threat makes it imperative for a business running important or mission-critical tasks on the aging OS to give serious thought to migration.

Microsoft positions Windows Server 2012 R2, which is the latest version of its server operating system, as a key piece in its so-called Microsoft Cloud OS initiative. Organizations migrating to a newer Windows platform would see benefits in several key areas.

Windows 2012R2 shines with improvements to its Remote Desktop Services (formerly known as Terminal Server), Hyper-V for virtualizing multiple servers on one piece of hardware, and improved file delivery services.

An inflection point for cloud

One option for Microsoft shops is Azure. The cloud service’s initial costs are far less expensive than investing in new hardware. This point is critically important for organizations running Windows Server 2003 because that OS ran on 32-bit chip architecture; newer software requires 64-bit systems.

Going to the cloud means less data center infrastructure to manage. Billing is done in small intervals, and costs are more closely tied to actual usage. Also, workloads are scalable, without the need to invest in more physical storage.

However, cloud services come with concerns. Costs will accrue over time, and there’s a good chance organizations will eventually spend more on the services than on the hardware itself. Downtime is a potential issue for some, as no provider has demonstrated a perfect track record when it comes to maintaining cloud services. As with any service provider relationship, customers are at the mercy of the cloud provider. So, if Microsoft decides it wants to deprecate, change or remove an Azure feature, it can do so at any time.

Still, it’s a compelling option for businesses that want to stay ahead of the curve. And an increased number of businesses are considering it: 19% of North American respondents to a 2015 IT Priorities survey plan to build a private cloud this year.

One aging platform to another — Windows Server 2008

Windows Server 2008 R2, an x64 operating system released in 2009, is an OS organizations are considering in the interim. It is a stopgap option for companies that need to move off Windows Server 2003, but don’t have the hardware to support the latest and greatest.

Companies that choose this path can reap a number of benefits. In virtualization, Hyper-V has expanded capabilities, including Live Migration and Cluster Shared Volumes using Failover Clustering. Also, Active Directory added a recycle bin feature.

Still, Windows Server 2008 is a burning platform — mainstream support ends in 2015, and extended support expires in 2020.

Wait for Windows 2016

Due out in 2016, the next version of Windows Server is expected to contain a number of improvements. However, since the new OS isn’t expected until 2016, companies wishing to migrate to it directly from Windows Server 2003 would have to bite the bullet and go a few months without security updates — something Microsoft strongly recommends against.

If your business is running any Windows 2003 servers, you need to work with your IT department or consultants to plan for the End of Support on July 15.

This entry was posted in Business Intelligence, Cloud, Technology, Windows and tagged Business, Good for Business, Security, security threats, Windows on June 9, 2015.

To learn more about your options, visit our Windows 2003 Server End of Support page.