Unlicensed Software

Not having a valid product key or software licensing verification can bring a new system installation to a grinding halt. It’s a problem we frequently see when we replace older PCs bought from previous vendors or service providers. It should be top-of-mind now because many companies will start budgeting soon for next year’s capital expenses – and it’s a necessity for those of you who need to migrate from the Windows XP operating system before Microsoft ends support in the spring. (See Windows 8 – The Saga Slogs On)

You can save yourself a lot of aggravation, time and money by getting your software-licensing information now. It doesn’t matter if you are contemplating the purchase of new hardware or not. If you have the original CDs or disks and Product Keys from your latest installation, gather them up and put them in a safe, accessible place.

If you don’t have them, contact your vendor and request them. If you have problems, call us, and we’ll see if there is something we can do or advice we can offer to help.

If you don’t have valid licensing credentials for your software, there is essentially no way we – or any IT service company – can reinstall your software. There’s also no way anyone can install upgrades. We’re not talking about being “software police”; we’re talking about being able to help you be as efficient as possible. Otherwise, you’ll need to buy new software as an unplanned expense.

If you have Software as a Service, licensing is not an issue. You’re paying a monthly or annual fee for the service, and you log in through an interface to download upgrades or reinstall your software. The software provider generally checks in randomly to make sure your license is valid.

We strongly recommend that you keep your license up to date. If you stop paying for the software but can still access it, you’re essentially using unlicensed software. It may be easier to repurchase a new version of your software, but it will take some time, and it likely will be more expensive.

We’re always available to help you with immediate software licensing issues or help with set up an orderly transition to new systems. Just call us or send an email.

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

Doing the Right Thing

Taking a few extra minutes early in the process of preparing a quote for new and existing clients saves hours of time and lots of money down the road. We believe it’s the right thing to do to serve you better. You depend on us to make sure your IT system delivers the performance and reliability you need to run your business.

For new clients, we always like to visit the site whenever possible to see what physical factors we need to account for in our proposals. We recently won a project to install a firewall for a VPN that was used for remote access by employees. We were the only IT company that went out to the facility to get the full picture and better understand how the company works.

Whether it’s for a new or existing client, more detailed information helps us all agree on the best solution. In this case, we were able to provide tighter security and easier access by creating environments for specific people in the organization.

When employees log in, the system puts them into the programs they need to do their work. When they log off or close the program they’re using, they go off the company’s system. And with limits to where each user can go, it prevents anyone from just browsing information they have no business seeing.

Just to add a quick note about security and system performance, one of the things we can determine during our fact-finding sessions is the best level of security for your business. Setting security too high, for example, might slow your sales force’s access to critical information, and that could slow your cash flow or cost a sale.

So, make time to talk to us and share the information that helps us serve you better. In the long run, you should be more efficient and more profitable. Email or call (973-433-6676) us for an assessment of your IT system and its capability to meet your business needs.

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

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Windows XP Support – IMPORTANT INFO

July 2, 2013

You have been identified as possibly having 1 or more Windows XP Machines.

What does this mean for you? 

Actually you are not required to do anything but we feel it is our duty and obligation to let you know what the risks are to you and your business.

Windows XP Support is coming to an end by Microsoft on April 8, 2014.

This does not mean Sterling Rose will not continue to support it.    It means Microsoft will stop releasing security updates and software fixes related to Windows XP as well as new programs and updates might not work with Windows XP.

So what if we stay with XP?

There’s a seemingly valid contention that sticking with XP after Microsoft’s end of life for the OS isn’t a big deal. Most large companies have applications and custom code from the COBOL days, and no doomsday scenarios are playing out, so why should XP be any different?

While this logic is sound, XP remains one of the major targets for exploits, primarily due to market share. Just as infamous bank robber Willy Sutton quipped that he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is,” malware and targeted exploits will go after systems with a large installed base. Surely new exploits will be found after Microsoft ends support, and users will have to rely on Microsoft extending support yet again, or a third party layering protections atop Microsoft’s code

What if I want to upgrade?

Now is a great time to upgrade.   While we feel Windows 8 is not right due to its drastic user interface changes especially removal of the Start Menu and Windows 8.1 not making things much better. Windows 7 is a great choice and has been around and some large companies are just beginning Windows 7 deployments.  This means you can upgrade to an operating system that is very well supported and will continue to be for a while at least till the year 2020.

What is it going to cost?

That’s a great question.   There is the new hardware cost which is minimal.    But the reason we send out this letter months in advance are to give you time to budget replacement as there could be software that might need to be upgraded as well.     We realize that it is not just the cost of the PC but the labor, data transfer, and any associated software costs that add up to the total cost.

If you would like to discuss this further and would like to start planning do not hesitate to reach out to us to setup a meeting.

 

Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication is another security layer for remote access to websites and networks. With more and more web-based applications requiring more complex passwords, needing to enter some other information may seem like a royal pain. But it provides the protection you need to enhance your data safety.

Two-factor authentication is just what it says. It’s a second password, a reference to a graphic symbol or an answer to a question. While nothing is 100% foolproof, it’s a step to help the system you’re using verify you are you. And for now, it offers protection against hackers when you bank or purchase goods online or use a VPN (virtual private network) to access your work computer or corporate systems and data files over the Internet.

Getting up and running with two-part authentication for business and personal applications is quick and easy.

Many businesses are using mobile phones as the second part of two-factor authentication. When a user accesses a VPN from a laptop or tablet, just to use one example, you enter the normal username and password. Once the network identifies the user, it sends a numeric code to a designated telephone number. For most of us, this is usually a mobile phone. You then have 60 seconds to enter  the numeric code from the computer or tablet you are using.

For personal Internet applications, such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, you can go to “settings” to strengthen your security.

In Facebook, for example, you can go to settings and click the Security folder on the top left of your screen. You’ll have nine settings you can adjust. Some of them are two-factor authentication steps. You can also deactivate your account. Going down the left side of the screen, you can edit your privacy preferences and even block or restrict email addresses and invitations for apps.

In LinkedIn, you can access your settings from your picture in the upper right corner and use the drop-down menu to change your privacy and other settings. Twitter’s settings allow you to require having a verification code sent to a telephone number when you sign in.

We can answer your questions about setting up security programs for your business or for you and your family. Leave a comment or send us an email with your questions and concerns – or give us a call at 973-433-6676.

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

Google’s Revolving World

In the ever-changing world of online services and applications, Google is going through another round of transitions. Here are some of the key changes that may affect your business and home computing:

  • Google Reader, which lets you pull in articles from just about any blog or news site, is being discontinued as of July 1. The company says that with more people accessing news from smartphones and tablets in bits and bites (pun intended) throughout the day and night, it’s no longer needed. You may already rely on social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to keep up with news instead of devoting a larger block of time to reading more in-depth articles online. If you want a replacement for Google Reader, Feedly is seen as a good place to start. It works with the most popular browsers, except Internet Explorer, and has an app for mobile devices.
  • Google Postini, which provides email security and archiving services for use with their existing email servers, will be transitioned to the Google Apps platform. Google will manage the transition for its customers, and they will not have to replace existing email servers with Gmail. Google says it will notify customers 60 to 90 days ahead of the transition to let them know who is eligible and how it will be done. Postini customers can learn more from the Postini transition page.
  • Google Cloud Print lets you send your file securely to your printer over the web from any connected phone, tablet laptop or desktop. It’s a new app, and it has a lot of exciting possibilities. You can learn more from Google’s Cloud Print page and contact us with specific questions about setting it up and using it.
  • Google Quickoffice is coming to the web. Google recently purchased the app, which allows users to read and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents on the iPad, iPhone and Android without losing the document’s layout and other advanced features that Google Docs currently can’t handle. Google recently introduced Chrome Office Viewer for displaying Word, Excel and PowerPoint files in a browser. You will get Quickoffice as part of an automatic update. Likely to replace Google Docs, the new program will affect you if you use Dropbox. Google will not support it, and you’ll lose some functionality. Documents To Go may be an alternative to the new Quickoffice if you rely on Dropbox. We’re researching it, along with other possibilities, and we’ll let you know what we find.

Microsoft Office for iPhone

Microsoft last week released a version of Office for the iPhone. It’s available through iTunes or the device app store, but you must be an Office 365 subscriber to get it. The iPhone app has light (reduced capability) versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint and syncs with Microsoft’s SkyDrive online storage service. You should be able to pick up a document exactly where you left off on another computer tied to the same account, while comments they add to a Word or Excel file should appear when you open it up on another machine. You should be able to preserve charts, animation, comments and other key properties. That’s not always the case with programs offered by Google and other companies to work with Office files on mobile devices.

We have a copy on our phone, and here’s our initial review: It does not have the option to sync with Dropbox or Google Drive. You can only sync with SkyDrive, which means you need to choose your platforms wisely.


The app platform changes all the time, and new providers are always entering the market to bring you new products and services or to replace the apps you’ve liked and want to keep using. We’re ready to answer your questions and help you install and set up the systems and apps that will enable to be more productive at work and at home. Just call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us.

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

Administrative Alert

Are you the owner or key manager of a business? Do you know the passwords for your network and the software packages that keep your business running? If you answered “yes” to the first question and “no” to the second, it’s time to take the necessary steps to get control of your lifeline.

We’ve been seeing a lot of this password problem lately when called in to take over a company’s IT services. Neither the owner nor a key manager has any idea of the administrative user name or password, and that means they have no access to their system.

The issue typically shows up when a business takes on a new IT company to manage or troubleshoot its data system. It creates a huge problem because you can’t switch ownership of your system back to you and your new IT provider. That, in turn, prevents you and the provider from being able to fix problems with your network and operating system or from being able to update or upgrade your software packages.

As you would suspect, no business changes its IT provider unless it’s unhappy with the service. When we start with a new account, we find a system has deteriorated from neglect for one reason or another. Sometimes, we can use special tools to unlock a password and get into a system and/or software package. It all depends on whether the set-up is simple or complex.

When hard feelings and money are involved, the break-up is pretty bad. At worst case, the old IT provider can withhold or threaten to withhold passwords. Even if a company owner can successfully sue a former IT provider for the password information, it still takes time and money.

One of our new clients was in the middle of installing new hardware and software. With only part of the system delivered over the course of six months and only partial payments being made, the company’s owner decided to scrap the whole project and order all new hardware and software.

That’s extreme. But key point to remember is that not having your passwords makes next to impossible – if not totally impossible – to service your system properly.

To protect yourself from impending disaster, you should follow these steps:

  1. Make a list of all the user names and passwords your business has for your operating system, email system, software packages, Internet access, etc. Put them in an electronic format and decide who has access to what. As the owner, you should have all the access. You can give all or partial access to other people in your business, but make sure they will always be there or be accessible to provide the access information when needed.
  2. When you install or upgrade any system, make sure you have all the user names and passwords and that you give the information to people as required.
  3. When you change IT providers or when someone with access information leaves, change user names and passwords immediately. We recommend a complete password reset because bad break-ups lead to security breaches.

If you’re not sure about all of your passwords and access information or not sure how to set it all up, we’d be more than happy to help you resolve any problems. Just call us – 973-433-6676 – or drop us an email to schedule a consultation.

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