Guide Needed for Office 365 Subscriptions

It’s no secret that Office 365 subscriptions are the way to go for small and medium-size businesses. Using the cloud increases everyone’s accessibility to the files they need to do their jobs effectively, and it reduces a lot of your IT management headaches, especially for installing those necessary updates. But while all roads can lead to the cloud, finding the right road for your business can be a daunting task. We can help you find your way.

As one of the IT professionals and Office resellers quoted in a recent article in Channel Pro Network, we are very aware of all the organizations that want to lead you to Office 365. Besides subscribing directly through Microsoft, you can sign up through a number of carriers, such as a cable or telephone carrier. You already use them to access the Internet and, in many cases, to provide your email. Because competition drives them to keep their prices lower or to add capacity, these large carriers need to find ways to increase their revenue. Offering Office 365 as a “software as a service” is one way to do it.

But is it right for you?

As we point out, there are so many different SKUs and plans in Office 365, it can be very confusing. Microsoft offers three packages: Business Essentials, Business and Business Premium. Pricing ranges from $5/mo/person on an annual basis to $12.50/mo/person, but only the premium package includes everything. Microsoft allows you to mix and match services and features from the packages, but you really need to know what they’re charging for this customization and whether the cost makes sense for you. While it might be more convenient to just choose the package that has one thing you need and one or more that you don’t, differences of $3.25 or $7.50/mo/person can add up quickly.

By reviewing our clients’ carrier bills, we see many instances in which they start with free offers and then wind up paying for tools they don’t use. While our reviews can help clients cut their bills, getting us involved in the selection process can put you on the most cost-effective plan at the start. There are two key areas where our knowledge of your application needs and your technology can work for you.

First, we know how many people need to be using each of the various Office 365 tools. We can help you subscribe to just the services you need and set up the access just as you need it. We can take into account how many people work from a central or branch office and how many people need to work from remote locations – and whether they are accessing Office 365 from a computer or mobile device.

Then, we can set up your system to meet those needs and train everyone to make sure they know how to work within your system. The question you need to ask is: Can the large carrier provide you with this level of understanding your set up and your needs right from the start?

Second, once you have Office 365 installed, can the large carrier troubleshoot problems? Microsoft will be able to help you with problems directly related to their product, and they will do a good job with that. But small businesses have unique technology. There is no “standard” computer, server or networking system, and there is no way that anybody providing telephone support can get you to tell them all the technical information they might need to solve your problem satisfactorily. Training a tech support staff to cover every possible combination of systems and potential problems is virtually impossible.

As your IT consultant, we can look at every aspect of your software and technology needs and guide you through the myriad pathways to Office 365 nirvana. We have the knowledge of your systems, and we’ll take the time to help you select the right packages and tools for now and plan for your future needs. Call us – 973-433-6676 – email us to help you find the right Office 365 package for you.

Outlook App Puts Power in Your Hand

Microsoft has amped up the power of Outlook with apps for iOS and Android. They come as Microsoft prepares to release Windows 10, which is designed to work across multiple platforms, and they enable you to work more efficiently while you’re on the go.

Despite the smartphone becoming a primary screen for reading email, most people prefer to deal with action items on their computers. Sorting a lot of email, managing calendars and sharing files require too many steps or multiple apps that don’t work together well on the phone.  The new Outlook app brings together your email, calendar, contacts and files in a way to help you get more done, even on the smallest screen.

Here are some of the features that can help you be more productive with your smartphone or tablet in those short time bursts available between appointments and tasks.

Starting at the top, the Outlook app allows you to segment your email inbox into two broad categories: Focused and Other. The app uses some intelligence tools to learn what’s important to you, and it has a single-tap capability to unsubscribe from unwanted email. That’s a huge benefit when you’re trying to manage email in seconds.

From there, you can continue to use swipes to delete, archive, and move messages, and you can also “schedule” a time to handle a specific message. The feature removes it from your inbox until the time you have scheduled it to return. That eliminates a lot of extra scrolling as you move through the day. The “People” view shows you messages  that the app determines (learns) the people you’re in contact with most by email.

All of these features work across your favorite email accounts, including Office 365, Exchange,, iCloud, Gmail and Yahoo! Mail.

The Outlook app makes your calendars available within the app, allowing direct interaction with your email. The ‘Quick RSVP’ feature lets you respond to meetings (Accept / Tentative / Decline) right from your inbox, without even opening the mail. The ‘Send Availability’ feature lets you find and share available meeting times in email. Once you’ve settled on a time, you can even create a meeting invitation—all within the app. You can view meeting details, invitees and their attendance status.

Outlook simplifies sharing files stored in the cloud.  With just a few taps, you can insert a link to any file from OneDrive, Dropbox and other popular accounts in your email message. Recipients are automatically granted permission to view these files, with no extra steps. You can find files quickly by viewing your recently received email attachments, and you can search across both your cloud storage and your email attachments at once with Quick Filters to let you quickly sort by file type.

The app is free. For iPhones, it requires iOS 8.0 or later. It’s compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch and is optimized for iPhone 5, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus. For Android users, Android 4.0 or later is required. If you have questions about how to use it with your phone or tablet, call us – 973-433-6676 – send us an email. We’ll be able to answer your questions or walk you through the set-up steps.

Patch for Patch Tuesday

Patch Tuesday can be a dreaded day even though it fixes a lot of critical breaches and bugs in Microsoft software. Because the fixes are issued monthly, hackers always have time to exploit holes before users get the patches installed. That’s all about to change.

Microsoft announced last week at its Ignite event that beginning with the release of its Windows 10 operating system, security updates will be released as soon as they’re available, instead of once a month. The new update policy will follow the protocol used for smartphones and other mobile devices, which are capable of receiving updates as soon as they are available. That’s part of the Windows 10 strategy to work seamlessly across all platforms, including Apple and Android.

The good news for network administrators is that they won’t have to scramble every month to install a boatload of updates while worrying about what parts of their systems might have been attacked. But they will still need to decide when and how to deploy them. Windows Update for Business will have tools to help administrators decide which machines get updated first and determine when to install or not install specific updates.

SOHO and home users who want their PCs to be frequently patched can choose to do so with the option to sign up for either a “fast ring” of security patches, where security patches are released quickly; or a more conservative “slow ring.” We don’t know how quickly or slowly those updates will be deployed in each “ring,” and we don’t know yet if Microsoft will push out certain updates faster if they’re needed.

We believe that making updates available on an as-need basis instead of once a month will be better for everyone who uses a computer or a device – especially in this day and age, where most people shuttle among computers, tablets and smartphones to access all sorts of data and application files from the cloud. We’ll keep you posted on how the process to deploy updates develops. If you are thinking about upgrading your technology now or sometime in the next 6 to 12 months, let’s talk about the timing to make sure you can maximize your productivity and cost-efficiency. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to start the discussion.

PC Program Folders Explained

Ever wonder why Windows suggests a program file for installing new applications? Ever wonder why it’s good to follow the installation software’s folder suggestion? Here’s why.

Just about all PC-based computers today run 64-bit code (also referred to as x64) and x64 versions of Windows. However, many programs are still written for the older 32-bit version, and a lot of users still want them. To accommodate this backward compatibility, Windows x64 needs to run both 64- and 32-bit programs, and it can do a better job if it keeps these two very different types of code separate.

This may be a bit technical, but the operating system can’t assume that an x86 program even knows that such a thing as x64 code exists, and that could cause problems if they cross. Keeping them in separate folders is the simplest way to avoid problems.

This can get a little bit like Abbot & Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine, but why is 32-bit code identified as x86 instead of x32? The 16-bit chips in early PCs used the 8086 architecture. Even when the chips went 32-bit in the late 1980s, they still used 8086 code, and x86 model numbers. (Remember the 386 and 486 processors?) So the number 86 now refers to pre-x64 code, whether it’s 16- or 32-bit, although the 16-bit x86 code won’t run in 64-bit versions of Windows.

Why do we tell you this? Because if software you installed doesn’t seem to be working properly or working at all, you may have inadvertently or unknowingly mixed and matched programs and program files. Fixing the error without knowing how all these interactions affect your system could make the problem worse. With remote access to your computer, we can likely fix it or guide you through the fix. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to fix your program-folder issues.