Pros and Cons of Subscriptions as You Update Software

There’s something nice about getting a subscription for application software, such as Microsoft Office for business or home use. You get automatic updates, for one thing. On the other hand, relying more on the cloud requires attention to different details. The end of support for XP and Office 2003 is calling the question: Should you choose subscriptions and the cloud or multiple licenses?

Here are some factors to help you decide the best answer for you.

Just about all office and home computer systems that still use Windows XP and Office 2003 are likely to have individual licenses for the operating systems on each computer. Some users may have been able to get a license for multiple computers for Office. None is likely to use the cloud because that software was written well before server-based systems came into vogue.

With Microsoft ending its support for XP and Office 2003 in just two months, users need to switch both systems. Our recommendations continue to be moving to Windows 7 for your operating system, especially if you are a business user, and Office 365, the cloud-based version of Office.

For home users, Office 365 can be a good deal. For about $100 per year, you can install a full copy of Office 2013 on up to five computers – supposedly in one household.  With all files accessible from any computer via an Internet connection or Wi-Fi network (if it’s set up for sharing), it’s ideal for a family, especially for doing homework.

In an office, the business version is great for collaboration and for mobile and remote users. In fact, a business can offer it as a benefit, allowing an employee to have Office 365 on a home computer. If the employee and company part ways, all the employer has to do is deactivate that specific computer and activate another.

But sometimes, cloud-based is not the best way to go. Every computer under your license will have access to everyone’s email account. In my own family, I’m OK with that. If I had a business with a number of employees, I wouldn’t be crazy about it. If you want to give a friend one of your licenses, they also could have access to your email, and if you are the friend who gets to use a license, you could be shut off without warning and lose access to email and files.

If any of these drawbacks is a concern, you can buy licenses to install Office on each computer. That keeps everything separate, and when you replace computers, all need is the product key to reinstall the software and keep on running. If your business expands, you can simply add licenses to cover additional computers.

The key to succeeding with licenses, of course, is to make sure you retain all the paperwork.

We can guide you through the selection process to make sure you have the right product and the right options for your situation. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us with your questions or to set up an appointment to talk.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.


Having a Tech Relationship

Tech support is just about always available 24/7/365 from all reputable hardware and software vendors. But a relationship with a tech provider can help you find solutions to problems that involve more than one app or one device.

Help desk personnel are trained only to work on the systems of the company that hired or contracted for them. A tech provider who knows your system can “connect the dots” to solve your problem.

That point was hammered home recently. One of our clients’ IP phone line was down all day. It was a provider issue, something over which we had no control. But it didn’t stop the client from sending us a message at 10 p.m. one night to complain about a totally wasted day.

The service provider, he told us, had sent out a technician, who reset the router. When it didn’t work, the technician suggested there might be a short in the router. The technician agreed to be at our client’s office at 7 a.m. the next morning to look at the router.

I responded to the client, asking him if he was still at the office. He responded that he was, so I told him to call me. I walked him through some testing procedures, and we determined there was no short. What happened was that when the technician restarted the router, it went back to the factory default setting instead of the IP address that had been assigned to our client.

We established a three-way phone call with the provider’s help desk, and in a matter of minutes, we were able to put the right IP address into the router and get the phone system operational.  Our client went home and got a good night’s sleep, knowing the problem would not be waiting for him the next morning.

The solution didn’t happen by accident. We do all of our networks the same way, whether it’s in one office or networks covering multiple offices. We know how everything is supposed to be set up, and we know the right questions to ask a help desk.

Software problems can be more vexing for the average computer user. Everyone has the ability to call Microsoft, for example, if there’s a problem with email. Usually, the help desk can give you a quick, effective solution. But sometimes, they may not be able to give you all the advice you need, and you may not be able to do everything exactly as you’re instructed.

One issue that immediately comes to mind is Power Shell. Without going into detail, making a mistake when working with a Power Shell issue can wipe out your email if you don’t know what you’re doing. For us, it’s a piece of cake because we know computers and software and are trained to know why something is not working correctly.

We also have a personal connection to our clients and a desire and incentive to provide great service. If the help desk agent can’t help you solve a problem that goes beyond the scope of his company, he still has a job. If we, as a tech service and support company, can’t connect your set of dots, no matter who made the hardware or wrote the software, we lose a client.

We’re always available and always happy to speak with our clients when tech issues arise. So, when a problem strikes your IT system, give us a call – 973-433-6676 – or drop us an email with a few words about your problem in the subject line. We’ll get back to as soon as we possibly can because your call is important to us.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.

Cool Remote Control Capabilities

Did you know you can answer your doorbell from anywhere in the world? It’s one of the many cool things you can do by remote control over the Internet. Once you look past the “coolness factor,” you’ll find that some of the latest remote control capabilities have a lot of practicality.

Many homes now have universal remotes that you can control wirelessly over Wi-Fi networks. While universal remotes are not new, you can easily program today’s units through pre-packaged settings for many of the most popular home electronics. They can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,500, and the more sophisticated ones have some comprehensive control systems for just about any entertainment system in your house. If using your mobile devices is more to your liking, you can find a variety of apps for any operating system.

In addition to entertainment systems, you can install interfaces to turn lights on and off, regulate thermostats, lock and unlock doors and do a lot of other things. Security companies and telephone/cable providers offer a number of systems, which you can combine with video systems. You’ve likely seen them advertised on TV. It’s all pretty “gee whiz” when you stop to think about it, but in today’s world, systems like these enable you to better control access to your home and your utility bills.

They can help in other ways, too.

We recently installed a new doorbell in our home that allows us to answer a ring through our cell phones – from anywhere in the world, of course. It recently came in handy, when FedEx showed up with something we had ordered to install at one of our clients the next day.

With nobody home, I was able to talk to the delivery man through the speaker in the doorbell system and arrange for him to leave the package at our home. Had we not been able to do that, we would not have been able to complete the scheduled service for our client. That incident alone made the doorbell a good investment for us.

Other applications are being tested for use with automotive vehicles. They’ll allow you to use your phone to lock and unlock doors and check the mileage on your odometer, the amount of gasoline in your tank and the date of your last oil change. You can also set off the alarm – from anywhere in the world.

All of this good stuff, however, requires two things.

First, you need to have a stable Wi-Fi network in your home. Whatever you choose to use, you’ll be adding another device to your network. If you’re adding something for your home entertainment, you want to make sure you’ll enjoy whatever you’re watching or listening to. If it has something to do with your home operations and/or security, you can’t afford a network glitch.

Second, make sure your network and your devices are secure. If you don’t have strong access security for your network or lose your device, someone could unlock your door and get into your home. That point needs no elaboration.

We’re more than happy to answer questions or help you set up remote devices and universal remote control systems. Just give us a call – 973-433-6676 – or shoot us an email.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.