Be Aware of Backup Terms & Conditions

If you’re one of our many clients using Office 365, we’ve likely put you on OneDrive, which essentially backs up some or most of your files. You also likely have another backup option or two that includes data storage in the cloud. But do you know what gets backed up to each cloud? Or how long it’s kept on a server? Or what happens in a catastrophic failure? Here’s what to be aware of.

For this article, we’ll focus on Office 365, Dropbox and Google Business Services. And while we believe the cloud is safe for data storage, the question is: How safe is it? There’s a lot we don’t know.

For example, what happens if something goes drastically wrong, such as an employee of the service going rogue, a hacker getting into the server, or a catastrophic system failure?

What happens if you lose your mind and delete a whole bunch of files – and then realize two months later that you need them?

In broad, general terms, the terms and conditions you agree to absolve them from any responsibility for any error that could possibly connected to you or your actions. None of the cloud providers covers your disasters; they only cover theirs. If there is a complete “nuclear meltdown” on the part of your service provider, they’re only required to restore data to the last point where they backed it up. If you back up your system on Wednesdays and the meltdown happens on Tuesday, you’re out six days of data.

One other problem that many small businesses and individuals face is knowing where all of their data is. They may have stored data in some account and haven’t accessed it for years. They may not even remember having the account. In many of the terms and conditions you agree to, a data storage company may have limits on how long they keep data, but let’s assume it’s unlimited. In cases where you forgot all of your access info – or maybe now use a different email address as your user name, it can be tedious, if not impossible, to verify you own the data and retrieve it.

To cover a reasonable number of contingencies, you should answer the following questions:

  • Do you know where all your data is and how to access it?
  • How much data do I need to keep? The amount of data we keep tends to expand as we acquire more storage capacity, and today’s technology makes that capacity virtually unlimited. Only you know what’s important, but your storage decision doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing proposition. You can prioritize your data and put it in different places.
  • How are you backing up your data? You can do it automatically to a cloud and/or a portable hard drive connected to your computer or server. You can also do it manually. And, you can use any timeframe from real time to once a week – or even less often, though we’d always recommend real time as the first choice.
  • To what extent do you backup your data? You may be backing up only data files, or you may be backing up application software – or both. If you have employees who work remotely, you may have a system in place that backs up their work files or any changes that they may make while using certain applications.

Once you answer those questions, we can help you design a backup and storage program that meets your needs. However, it’s far from simple, especially for small businesses. We constantly go back and forth with vendors and clients about where to back up data and whether it should be more than one cloud. We tend to put our stuff in the cloud because it’s safer, but no cloud can cover human failure (it’s in the terms and conditions).

Security is the biggest human failure. If you or one of your employees with access to data opens a security breach, there’s no cloud service provider who’ll take responsibility for that. That human error is compounded if you go two or three months or longer before you find that data is missing or compromised – and that’s almost always the case.

Our advice is to forget about terms and conditions from your provider and set a few of your own:

  • Look at the data you store and determine how much you really need to keep.
  • If you find data stored in places or accounts you no longer use, transfer everything to a place you use and close out old accounts.
  • Decide where to store your data. Ideally, if you want to cover all of your bases, you should use more than one cloud and have a physical device in your office or home, such as a server or portable hard drive.
  • Develop and institute an automated backup program.
  • Decide who has access to your data – and then institute a process to keep it safe and make sure everyone who uses the process is trained.

We can help you follow through on all the terms and conditions you set for yourself, your employees and your data. Our process includes helping you make sound decisions on what to store and where, closing up all your loose ends, designing and implementing a storage program, training employees and monitoring your storage program. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your needs and set up an appointment to move forward.

Terms & Conditions and Apps

Many of the companies we do business with online, especially those for purchasing merchandise, like us to use their apps for phones and other devices. We accept their terms and conditions to get it done – and we never bother to find out what data those apps share and with whom. You can sidestep the issue by going to a company’s website for the transaction. And while you’re at it, you might want to delete those unused apps that may be tracking you and feeding info to…whomever. I recently cut my apps from something like 150 to 47 – and I still only use about half of them. I was prompted to do it initially because for years, I suspected an app was screwing up my phone. So now, my phone works better, and even though my data may be shared with unknown parties, there are fewer of them watching me.

Intel’s Chip Shortage Impacts Computer Sales

If you’re wondering why it’s taking longer to deliver and install new computers, it’s because there’s a shortage of Intel chips. Intel has placed the blame on several factors, including a slower demand in China. According to reports, Intel can also cite sales to cloud customers, a weakening NAND flash market and weaker modem demand.

Some observers contend the shortage will worsen this spring, a traditionally high season for entry-level computers such as Chromebooks. Others say Intel simply didn’t anticipate the demand and didn’t put in enough manufacturing capacity to handle the volume. With priority going to data centers (the cloud), that means there are fewer chips available for PCs and laptops. PC processors are reportedly last on the company’s priority list.

As for us, we’ve seen a drastic increase in the lead time for new computers. We used to be able to get them in a day or two. In one instance, an order placed in January arrived at the end of March. One of the computer manufacturers affected by the shortage is Dell, one of our favorites for Windows-based units. Dell prefers Intel chips, and so do we. Dell said earlier this year it might look for other sources, but as it stands, we’re stuck for the moment. We don’t expect the situation to improve until the second half of 2019 – and nobody’s making sure-fire predictions.

Some industry sources predict the shortage will ease by the summer because the large data-center customers have made their required purchases. But with expected Chromebook sales still to be made, others are predicting the shortages will extend well into the summer and maybe beyond. The shortage may worsen before it gets better – because of the Chromebooks. We’ve seen reports that Intel will ramp up production facilities in Ireland and Israel, increasing capacity by 25 percent.

What can we do in the meantime to minimize the effects of the Intel shortage?

If you’re looking at new computers to improve business efficiencies, we can look at upgrading the efficiencies of other equipment, such as routers, servers and peripherals. Those are improvements you are likely to make down the road, anyway, so it could mean you’ll have a two-stage process. The computers will come later. We can also fine-tune your software and make sure that all your operating system and app software is up to date and in sync with your computers’ capabilities.

If you’re still using the Windows 7 operating system and planning to purchase new computers to work with Windows 10, we can place your orders now. Even though your new systems may be backlogged, they will be in the pipeline, and you should be able to plan your migration to your new systems before next February, when Microsoft ends its Windows 7 support.

We can also consider alternatives, such as computers with chips from other manufacturers. However, we urge you to consider the long-term effects of any alternative you select to solve a short-term problem.

If you are planning on buying new computers, let’s talk about your needs and explore possible solutions in light of the Intel chip shortage. Good planning can help you mitigate the effects of the current market conditions. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up an appointment.

Office 365 and The Cloud

The recent Office 365 outage highlighted reasons why using the cloud exclusively is not always the ideal solution for everyone. It’s great to be able to pull data from anywhere in the world, but if you can’t place an order or send out an invoice, the cloud has rained on your parade.

Most of you likely didn’t notice effects from a recent Office 365 outage that affected getting email on your computer or mobile device. You have had trouble getting and sending email, but hey, we always seem to have problems. Still, it’s no reason to give up on Office 365, which we like a lot, or give up on the cloud. The cloud enables a business of any size to access records and all sorts of data files, use applications, and collaborate to conduct business from anywhere. It’s the engine that drives virtual offices and connects a company’s workers and clients or customers in the same way, regardless of whether you’re in 2 or 200 locations and cover 2 or 2 million people.

When you’re at the smaller end of the spectrum, Office 365, for example, gives Microsoft a large enough customer base to provide the same resources that you’d find in an international conglomerate. By leveling the technology field, it gives more people access to the world of commerce.

To break it down and probably oversimplify the technology, Microsoft Azure makes it all happen. In a company of any size – or even a family of home users – it syncs everyone’s passwords to access email, applications and data. It provides multiple layers of security, and through a process known as SSO (single sign on), Azure makes all of those levels of security talk to each other. That communication, which is transparent to non-technical users, is what makes it so easy and convenient to use the internet.

As the tech industry develops better artificial intelligence, Azure and similar services will also drive innovations that will lead to the elimination of passwords while increasing security. AI looks at patterns and can analyze whether an abnormality is a one-time event or if there are multiple occurrences that demand a quicker, harder examination.

For all those reasons, we believe a hybrid computing environment may make sense for small offices and home users. Office 365 with a backup of data files to Azure puts a vast amount of resources to work for you to maximize your efficiency for work or play – and to keep your identity and data secure.

But if you are a business that requires a lot of employees to access sensitive data, you may want to keep the data and applications local – on a server – to keep access away from the internet. Keeping it all inside minimizes the risk that one person’s carelessness or mistake will open a breach in your security. You can still have your server send data to the cloud as an effective backup process, and you can still allow certain employees to access files on your server or in the cloud from remote locations, but strict controls will minimize opportunities to breach your security.

We can advise you on whether to implement a cloud-based technology system, a hybrid system or a strictly on-site system and help you implement it. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about it.

The Azure Workaround

When Azure, Microsoft’s storage cloud, was hit with a problem that rolled around the world, it affected some of our clients who use it for storing and accessing data and apps, especially with remote access such a key need. Microsoft hasn’t been the only cloud provider hit, and this won’t be the last problem. But nothing needs to shut you down.

The Azure problem essentially locked people and businesses out of their data and apps. In the most basic terms, any Azure customer using Dev Ops and Office 365 who depended on two-factor authorization to protect their Azure accounts couldn’t log in. We were affected as a customer of both services.

At the time we were affected, we were doing a setup at a client and needed to get a big file, which we store through Azure. When I logged in to get it, I got no access; I just got a message they would send a text. I had an external hard drive with an old version of the file, and that was not suitable. Transferring the file remotely from my office computer would have taken too long. We solved the immediate problem by transferring the file from my computer to my Dropbox account and then downloading it from there.

We worked around the problem, but we operated in a vacuum. As an IT service provider, we got no information about anything that was happening, and that was frustrating. We later learned – along with the rest of the world – the problem started in Asia and made its way westward as organizations in Europe, Africa and the Americas began their workdays.

It took a few days for explanations and suggestions to reach everyone, and it didn’t take long (in the grand scheme of things) to return to normal operations. The problem centered around a breakdown in the two-factor authentication process. We and our client were fortunate that I had the capability – files stored on a computer I could access and Dropbox – to initiate a solution. But not every user has the resources I had.

Two-factor authentication is one of the key ways we can protect our data and app security, and the technology is evolving as we move toward password-less access to cloud servers and other websites that house highly sensitive info, such as banks, shopping sites and healthcare organizations. As hackers get better, our industry needs to stay ahead of them.

We don’t believe that shutting off two-factor authentication is a good solution to a random-access problem, but when it comes to your Microsoft accounts, you can turn it on and off as needed. That might be an effective workaround.

Microsoft’s website has step-by-step instructions for all who have a Microsoft account.

  1. Login to
  2. On the home page, click “Security & Privacy”.
  3. On the “Security & Privacy” Page, click on “Manage advanced security” link.
  4. Look for a page where you will find a link to “Set up two-step verification” or “Turn Off” Two-step verification

If you have any questions about the process or need a walkthrough, contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email. We can also help you with two-factor authentication with other systems and help you with other solutions to maximize your data and app access and security.

By the way, this is not a Microsoft-specific issue. Other cloud services, including Google and Amazon, have had access problems. Service outages will happen again because we will continue to use cloud-based services and because…stuff happens. Looking at big picture, the cloud has too many advantages, such as access from any internet connection and the best possible security measures available, to pull everything back to individual computers and servers

Updating Your Cloud Strategy

We hear all about the cloud without end. For large corporations and individuals, using the cloud is a nearly flawless solution for storing and accessing apps and data from anywhere. But for small businesses, exclusive reliance on the cloud may not be the best solution. Here are some decision-making factors.

First, for all their differences in size, a huge corporation and an individual have a few things in common. Individuals and corporate employees can travel anywhere in the world and need to access apps and data wherever they are. The cloud works really well for this.

Although they operate on totally different levels, subscription-based apps such as Office 365 work really well for individuals and large corporations. Individuals can share the cost over a large user base, enabling each to benefit from constant upgrades that app publishers can update from central locations. Large corporations essentially do the same thing within their communities. They spread their cost over many users, and their tech teams control the software-update process to keep operations running as smoothly as possible.

A small business is different in one significant way. It’s essentially a self-contained community of users who use the same apps and data in one location. Yes, that business may have employees who log in ‘from remote locations, and yes, it may benefit from subscription-based application software. But we are likely talking about 10 to 100 people who are working with the same apps and data in a “bubble” known as the office. While small businesses combine to form a huge user base, each has its own specific needs, and our clients rely on us to customize systems to meet specific needs.

Therefore, the cloud may not be the solution, especially if you are a small business still working with a combination of a Windows 7 operating system and a Windows 2008 server, either in your office or in the cloud. We’re approaching a perfect storm with that combination because by January 2020, Windows will no longer support that OS and server platform. They’re too old and expensive for Microsoft to develop performance upgrades and security patches. You are being brought to a decision point.

We recommend that small businesses look at a cost/benefit analysis that covers five years to determine whether you upgrade your OS and server or migrate to the cloud. Five years is a good projected lifetime for a server and OS, it makes it easier to compare their cost with setting up and using a cloud-based system.

Setting up a server on the cloud involves costs, including the cost of server space and the cost to set it up to meet your needs. Once that’s done, your maintenance cost should be minimal. If your business runs Office 365, you already have a cloud presence through Azure, Microsoft’s cloud system. And while Azure automatically updates its server, it’s still a maintenance operation. All cloud servers need maintenance, and it’s something you pay for as part of your agreement.

Of course, using a cloud-based server requires access to a good internet connection, one with sufficient bandwidth for your needs and virtually perfect reliability. If you don’t have the bandwidth, your business won’t operate at its desired level. If your service goes down, you’re out of business until it’s restored.

If your computing needs are largely internal, you might be better served with your own server on a strong internal network, which can be hard-wired for better performance and security than a Wi-Fi network. You’ll incur purchase and set-up costs for your server, and you’ll need to install all updates in a timely manner. But your maintenance expenses should be relatively low once you’re up and running.

By setting up computers as terminals on a server and hard-wiring the network, you won’t need a router system or a big pipeline to the internet. You’ll also have fewer internet access points to secure, and that could help keep out intruders. Finally, depending on your employees, they’ll likely be less likely to wander off to other things on the internet.

Whichever way you go, you will have the most up-to-date servers, application software and security technology available at the time of installation. Cloud systems will update automatically, but your internal system can be configured to download and install updates.

With a January 2020 deadline, you have time to analyze your options and start moving along your chosen migration plan. We can help you analyze your business’s needs over the next five years and put a plan into action so you don’t miss a deadline or a beat. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for an appointment.

IoT and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

At a recent technology conference in Las Vegas, I was overwhelmed by how far technology has advanced in such a short time – and by how much faster the impact of technology on our lives will grow. We are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Where are we headed? We’re headed for the clouds – the massive server and data storage networks make it possible to do everything imaginable from a phone or tablet from anyplace in the world where you can get an internet connection. This time-compressed evolution is the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Yes, it does seem strange to talk of an evolution, which is long-term movement, with the short burst of a revolution. But that’s just how fast technology moves.

In 1995, we were astounded that we had PCs on every desk. By 2005, we had democratized data in the sense that businesses of all sizes stored and sometimes shared data they gathered and used. That could be correspondence (email), financial records (banks, large retailers), or business info of all sorts, ranging from sales and inventory records to programming heavy industrial equipment. In 2015, society made a really big leap to the cloud to store and manage all the data we use for practically every aspect of our lives. Even people who never use the internet and pay cash for everything are affected by today’s technology if they drive or vote or pay taxes.

Some things I saw in Las Vegas give indications where we’re heading. Business is undergoing a digital transformation built around their customer experiences and new business models. Some one million digital devices come online every day, and by 2025, 60 percent of all computing will be in the cloud. While we each need to maintain our online security vigilance, the entire computing world needs to step its efforts because no bit of information ever goes away. Further, no matter how deeply hidden any information remains, the tools to find it and exploit it are constantly developing. The bad guys can build botnets (networks of electronic robots) to find IP addresses for any exposed device. The Boa open source server, which was used to automate a lot of web-related functions quickly and securely, was discontinued in 2005. But it’s still used in some devices, and with no technical support, bad guys are free to try to pick away at out-of-date defenses. Opening one door can lead to other doors that can be opened, and in some cases, the hackers who open the doors can’t be traced – or can’t be traced quickly enough.

It’s not just the bad guys using stealthy methods to find information. Anyone can use a Google search to find systems and get into them. Those systems can include security cameras and alarms and smart speakers. A Google search can also turn up expired security certificates, which can indicate vulnerabilities.

So, here’s some of what needs to happen:

  • The owners and operators of every server – from a single location to server farms with multiple links – must make sure their firewalls are “locked-down” and secure. That requires the installation of all security updates and patches as they become available and constant monitoring to make sure all ports are secure.
  • All device manufacturers must keep their firmware updated for maximum security. And, if the manufacturers can’t send you updates, you should get and install them on your own.
  • You need to make sure your firewalls and devices are secure through patches and strong passwords. You also should be running virus and malware scans regularly and frequently.
  • Be extremely careful and attentive when you click on a link. You can’t afford to let down your guard.

We also highly recommend an onsite security audit if you have any hint you may have an exposure. We can check all connections for everything on your network – home or office – and trace back anything that looks like a possible security issue, apply a fix and test it. Security issues never resolve themselves and fixing them involves looking at a variety of complexities.

If your computers or devices are running slowly, if you clicked on an email or link you think shouldn’t have, or if you think you’ve been hacked, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to set up a security audit. None of us wants to give up our technology; we just need to make it as safe as possible.

Tips from Orlando

Although we played as much as anyone who visits Orlando, we got a lot of work done at Microsoft’s annual tech conference. When I looked at my calendar, I had booked 21 sessions for the week, each session some 75 minutes long, and I probably walked some 40 miles in the expo. I narrowly avoided DBP – otherwise known as “Death by PowerPoint – surviving to get some useful information in many places.

As useful as the sessions were, some of the best learning took place offline while walking the expo hall with fellow members of The Crew. I joined The Crew several years ago. We’re all independent IT consultants, and we stay in touch all year long through a variety of ways, including phone calls. We can turn to each other when we have questions, and my Crew members have been an invaluable resource everywhere we go.

That includes Orlando. When one of members gave a presentation at the conference, we turned up to support him – and we wound up helping him out when he experienced “technical issues.”

Walking the expo gave us access to the best and brightest in the Microsoft arena. All of the booths were staffed by software engineers from Microsoft and its affiliated companies, and we got to talk to them in depth. We could talk about problems we’ve experienced or features we like and get more in-depth knowledge. We learned about workarounds for problems and ways to use advanced features in software and hardware.

Here are my three favorite take-aways from the conference.

  1. Many people who use Microsoft One Drive like to use # and % in their file names, but the system would not accept names with those characters. One Drive now allows you that option, so go ahead and # and % to your heart’s content.
  2. The fall update of Windows 10 will include more capabilities for One Drive. You’ll be able to sync large libraries of files on demand and be able to open files without having to download them.
  3. You can add the ability to share calendars in Outlook or native applications on mobile devices. The feature is not automatically available; you need to re-share calendars each time you want to sync them. While it’s a bit of a pain, all you need are valid permissions for sharing, and you can differentiate each person in the group by color. We can help you set it up.

To borrow an old phrase, we passed the last exit on the information super highway light years ago. With conferences like Microsoft’s annual event, we can be the roadside service resource that keeps you moving. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us at any time with any questions or service requests.

The BYOD Hangover

Some businesses got drunk on BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. They bought heavily into the idea that they could cut costs and get more work out of employees by letting them use their own mobile devices and computers. Now we’re starting to see more problems for businesses, individuals and everyone they touch electronically.

Ten years ago, the benefits were clearly present for businesses and their owners/partners and employees. As the first generation of smartphones, mostly Blackberry, took hold, busy people and small businesses found they could untether themselves from office systems. Tablets, starting with iPad, increased their freedom because their bigger screens and keyboards made it easier to read spreadsheets, written documents and email and update files or respond to email.

  • Salespeople could access pricing lists, customer records and just about any critical information they needed to provide better service.
  • Everyone with a smartphone – and soon after, a tablet – could respond with increasing capabilities.
  • Busy parents could stay in touch with the office, giving them more flexibility to manage their lives.

In our business, IT professionals could respond to client or corporate information management needs from anyplace that had cellular service.

As Wi-Fi and all forms of communications networks grew and more smartphones and tablets came to the market, along with various carriers, the ways to stay connected lost all technical limits. And because everyone wanted to have their own personal technology – smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer – to use on their own time, businesses of all sizes met the demand. Employees no longer needed to have specific products. IT managers were able to incorporate everyone’s devices, and employers were happy to give everyone 24/7/365 work capability.

It was intoxicating for everybody. Now, it’s intoxicating for hackers and cybercriminals; everyone else is having a big, bad hangover. The problem is security.

Here are some sobering concerns:

  • While we can help our business and professional services clients secure their networks and access to the data on their corporate servers, we need to educate employees about programs to control security. A business really needs to depend on its employees to keep their individual devices and computers secure. One hole can be an entry point to sensitive data anywhere.
  • Mobile phones and tablets are becoming more vulnerable to security problems. Why? That’s where the money is. With people conveniently accessing critical data over cellular and Wi-Fi networks all the time, hackers are finding more ways to penetrate security measures. Everyone needs to make sure they know that anybody in the world can take a peek at their business on any unsecured public network – like one in a coffee shop, hotel lobby or airport.
  • Even if you take every available security step in your corporate and personal systems – strong passwords, strong firewalls, up-to-date and active anti-virus and malware software – anyone with access to your system who doesn’t follow the same precautions puts you at risk.
  • The convenience of publicly accessible storage sites, such as Dropbox, can lead to the loss of privacy of your data. When you give someone the ability to download files from a storage site onto their own computers or tablets, you effectively give them ownership of that data. That means an employee can “own” client lists, financial information, etc.

With the horses already out of the barn and out on the open range, you can’t corral them and bring them back. But there a number of steps you can take:

  • Educate everyone in your organization about the need for security and what they need to do:
    • Have strong passwords and change them often
    • Be aware of when they are on unsecured public networks
    • Keep their own personal technology protected with up-to-date, activated anti-virus and malware programs
    • Understand that any holes in their own security systems can open holes for hackers to get into your business’s system and the systems of anyone or any organization they’ve ever contacted over the Internet – and that it can go viral from there
  • Require strong passwords (combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters) to access your data files wherever they are
  • Require frequent password changes
  • Determine which files need to stay on a secure server that you control
  • Backup data securely and often
  • Monitor your backup

We can help you with all of these steps:

  • Lunch ‘n’ Learn programs about security
  • Audits of your system’s security
  • Monitored backup services

Contact us by phone – 973-433-6676 – or email to keep your data clean and your systems sober in the BYOD environment.

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.

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.