A Tip to Speedup OneDrive

For the most part, the cloud is a safe place to store your files, but we have clients who prefer to have the files they’re working on stored on their hard drives. OneDrive is good for up to 150,000 files, but it can take longer than we like to retrieve files after you blast through that storage level. Here’s a tip to speedup retrieval: Use the Add Shortcut to OneDrive.

The Add Shortcut to OneDrive option does not sync anything to your computer; it just creates a link or bookmark to the document library or folder in your OneDrive for Business. This way, you can access the content from any device using the OneDrive app or website. You can also share the content with others more easily using OneDrive. However, you need to have an internet connection to access the content, and you cannot work offline.

The Sync option syncs the entire document library or folder to your computer using the OneDrive sync app. This way, you can access the content from your File Explorer or Finder, and you can work offline. Any changes you make will be synced automatically when you go online.

Just be aware that synching large libraries or folders can take up a lot of storage space on your computer and affect performance.

Microsoft recommends using the “Add Shortcut to OneDrive” option over the “Sync” option in certain scenarios. They include:

  • The document library contains a large number of files that would take up too much space on your computer’s hard drive.
  • You need to access the files from a device with limited storage space.
  • You need to access the files from a device that is not owned by you.

Just to recap, the “Sync” option downloads the entire document library to your local machine, while the “Add Shortcut to OneDrive” option adds a shortcut to the library to your OneDrive folder on your local machine. The option you choose depends on your specific needs and circumstances.

If you’re synching all your data now and want to set up the OneDrive shortcut, talk to us. If you don’t set up the shortcut properly, it could be the technology equivalent of following GPS directions off the road and into a swamp. You risk losing all your data, and that can be more expensive than just trying to fix a computer.

Call us – 973-433-6675 – or email us to set up an appointment to set up your OneDrive shortcut.

The New Outlook for 2024

Windows Mail is going away. Let us all say “hallelujah” and give thanks. And let us all start moving to the New Outlook, which is web-based and adds speed, more functionality and additional security features to the old Classic Outlook.

Beginning in 2024, new Windows 11 devices will be shipped with the new Outlook for Windows as the default mailbox application, free for all to use. The Mail and Calendar applications will remain available via download in the Microsoft Store through the end of 2024. Users can switch to the new Outlook for Windows from a toggle in the Mail and Calendar applications on existing devices. If you still want to use Classic Outlook, simply toggle it back. New Windows is part of Microsoft 365 and takes advantage of OneDrive and SharePoint.

While many of us are reluctant to leave our comfort zones, where the old Outlook or Outlook Email might reside, there are several reasons why you should make the switch.

The new Outlook will have a much longer shelf life than the old version. That’s because it’s part of the transition from desktop- or computer-based to web-based apps. Once you get used to it as an individual user or have your employees trained, everyone can settle into a more productive routine.

You’ll first notice how quickly it loads and updates email messages. We found it faster than the classic Outlook, and it streamlines how you can handle email messages and coordinate email and your calendar. You can pin emails to the top of your inbox so they are easy to find later, snooze emails to temporarily hide them, and then have them reappear when you’re ready to respond and get reminders to follow up on important conversations. You can time the schedule for sending emails so they are delivered at the best time for the recipient or undo a sent email within 10 seconds, and you can use the sweep function to clean up your inbox quickly by setting advanced inbox rules for incoming mail. With My Day view, you can see your upcoming calendar events and tasks anywhere in Outlook. Package delivery and upcoming travel dates are also automatically added to your calendar from your email confirmations, and you can view the weather forecast in your calendar at any time.

Aesthetically, you have hundreds of customization options and several key functional options. You can save attachments to OneDrive while in Outlook and open them without leaving Outlook to open your Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.

For security, the New Outlook has beefed up its spam and malware filters, and those with a Microsoft 365 subscription can also access other security features, such as encryption.

Finally, the New Outlook has much more robust search capabilities, which we’ll explain in more detail next month.

In the meantime, we invite everyone to try the New Outlook. We believe you’ll find it a more productive tool once you learn its basics. We’re available if you have any questions about its new features. Just give us a call – 973-433-6676 – or email us if you have any questions.

Azure – Always at Work in the Background

Microsoft’s Azure platform has been our backup program of choice for clients since Office 365 became a product for small businesses and home offices/users. We like that it’s a living system – one that continues to evolve and grow.

If you read the article Microsoft ‘Ignites’ Tech Initiatives, you couldn’t help but notice that Microsoft is throwing massive resources behind Azure as a technology platform. As we see it, Azure will become an even stronger backup resource as it helps you use your data files and apps more efficiently. That said, you need to make it your backup program – or at least one of your backup programs – if you want to take advantage of advancing technologies.

Backup is a misunderstood term in the context of IT services. We define a backup as an extra copy of data from a computer. Simply putting data in the cloud – even with OneDrive through Office 365 – is not a backup; it’s storage. Now, it can be useful – even vital – to store data in at least one cloud and on some sort of external device that’s separate from a computer or office server. But it’s not backup.

Why is backup critical? Two scenarios come to mind: 1.) a catastrophe that wipes out your computer or cloud-based server and 2.) a rogue employee or hacker getting into your account and deleting files. The big issue in both scenarios is recovery.

Azure solves the recovery issue for us because it works seamlessly with Office 365, including Outlook and its PST files for your email. For some, backing up email may be more important than backing up files.

As an IT professional, I like Azure’s ability to generate reports – with more capabilities coming online all the time. Microsoft constantly uses customer feedback to add more power to the platform. That gives us the ability to go back into our clients’ backup records to trace incidents and to restore files after a catastrophic event. That’s critical because it can be 90 days – sometimes longer – before a hack or data loss is discovered by a client. When that happens, we can go back in time through the power of Azure to find data files that help us help you recover.

As a set of powerful tools, Azure needs to have respect from users. Yes, you can go into Azure, but you can also create havoc with your systems and our work if those tools are misused. One of the things that drives me crazy is when we look like we don’t know what we’re doing when restoring files because somebody messed with the system.

That being said, we believe in educating our clients. If you want to learn more about how your Azure backup is set up and see what it can and can’t do, we’ll be more than happy to give you a remote tour. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to book your tour of your system.

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.


More Companies Want Your Collaborative Efforts

Dropbox has entered the collaborative space by adding a host of new tools to help you and teams share files. We see it as a big leap for a company that started as a file-sharing provider, but we don’t see it as the equal to Microsoft OneDrive.

Two areas where we see OneDrive as far superior are cost and feature sets.

The cost of OneDrive is built into the cost of the monthly subscription of Office 365 for all but the most basic plans. For most of our clients, plans range from $5 to $12 per month, and the key benefits are access to the most widely used business and home applications, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The subscription provides updates for security patches and bug fixes and performance and feature updates. OneDrive almost comes across as a throw-in, but Microsoft has recognized the value of keeping its massive user base in the family. What was an extra-cost feature set is now a way to provide tools and features, such as collaboration and file backup tools and useful apps from other providers. We covered some of them last month.

Depending on your plan, the cost of Office 365 with OneDrive includes the ability to store terabytes of files, which can be set up as shared files when needed. Collaborators can make changes, and the files are immediately updated, so everyone knows they are working with the most recent file. This capability has been available through Google Documents and Dropbox, but by keeping it all within Office 365, it’s about as seamless as a process can get.

Dropbox has always made a limited amount of file storage free, now 1 terabyte, but you need to be on a plan if you need more. The cost of the additional storage, for most of our clients, is roughly the same cost as having Office 365 without having the applications and tools included. In effect, you pay twice for the same capabilities.

As for capabilities – and features and tools, Dropbox can argue that by teaming up with Google, Slack and others, you can benefit from a broader range of ideas. Yes, that may be true, but here are two considerations:

  1. In the course of all the things you do, what are the tools and features that matter most to you? If you have Office 365 and it does all that you need it to do, you might be better off keeping it in the family.
  2. For a business or network of volunteers, how much training and retraining do you want to do? Learning a system is a lot like learning a language. The more you use it (or speak it), the better you become. That translates to better productivity.

Yes, Microsoft can be a big, plodding giant, but we believe its standardization works best for consistency, and that’s a huge advantage for businesses and volunteer networks. It’s easier to keep everyone together.

Finally, we like OneDrive’s file transfer capabilities better. Prices for cloud-based services can change at any time, and it can be difficult to move and verify the transfer of large volumes of files. We share a concern that this could make it difficult to migrate from Dropbox because the transfer process is too complex. Part of this may stem from changes made to a computer’s registry, where Microsoft, Dropbox and other applications are waging a war for the limited number of overlay icons to show file status. Each app changes its name to claim a spot in your Registry Editor, which Microsoft allots in alphabetical order. This could potentially create registry problems, which are all difficult to resolve.

We can help you set up OneDrive and transfer files from your computer and Dropbox. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your options and begin the process.

Trade War’s Perfect Tech Storm

You could see this one coming way off on the horizon. Computer users on Windows 7 are starting to move to Windows 10 as the date approaches in 2020 – it’s eight months off – for the end of Windows 7 tech support. The shortage of chips is starting to abate, but with tariffs looming on chips imported from China (which means just about all chips), prices will rise – possibly affecting supply and demand. We’re finding ways to work around the issues for many of our clients, and we can still keep options open for those who call quickly to get equipment ordered and work scheduled.

For clients still running Windows 7 who have computers with the capability of upgrading to Windows 10, we’ve been able to execute a two-step strategy. Success depends on having a good processor and enough RAM (random access memory). The first step is to install Windows 10, and the second step is to install a new solid-state hard drive (SSD). The combination of the new OS and SSD makes those computers run like new, and that will buy you time to make a bigger investment in a new computer.

The new SSDs we’re using are mostly 256 GB hard drives, and they are providing enough space for users with 500 GB mechanical hard drives – and even some with 1 TB hard drives. For those who need to store a lot of files or may want to store them, we’re installing 500 GB SSDs.

There are two primary reasons why the smaller SSDs work for most of our clients. First, SSDs are a different technology. They don’t require the space to physically access, use and store files. Second, our clients with Office 365 packages, including those with the $5, $8.25 and $12.50 monthly plans, can store files on OneDrive and access them on any device from where they can get to the internet. Personally, I have 32 GB of files on OneDrive and keep only a handful of files on my hard drive.

With OneDrive now making the storage space part of its package and integrating it with Office 365, we believe it is now a better value than Dropbox. While Dropbox has a free plan, it is limited to use on three devices, and it can easily escalate to more than $100 year just by itself. OneDrive also gives you a better feature set, including Mile IQ, which we talked about in our opening letter in the email.

With prices expected to rise because of market conditions and/or tariffs, anyone who can solve their Windows 7 and upgrade issues with a new SSD hard drive can do it at a reasonable cost. A 256 GB drive costs $125, and 512 GB drive is $200. We generally need about 1-1/2 hours of time to set up the drive, including file transfer. While we can’t predict what prices will be in the near or long-term future, we can look at Apple for some guidelines. If a new iPhone costs $1,000, a 25 percent tariff increase will raise the price to $1,250. The supply chain can only absorb so much of the increase for a limited time, and once the prices go up, they won’t come back down.

If you are an Office 365 user, see our article Setting Up and Using Microsoft OneDrive to learn how to get ready for migrating to a new hard drive or computer. We recommend you call us to help you get your OneDrive account set up, and then you can manage the transfer of files on your own.

Again, we urge all who need or want an upgrade to Windows 10 and a better hard drive to call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your best migration path, order the required equipment and schedule the work.

Setting Up and Using Microsoft OneDrive

Microsoft OneDrive may be as close as we’ll get to finding a safe harbor in the perfect storm created by the end of Windows 7, chip shortages and trade wars. Even without the storm conditions, it can give you smoother sailing.

We’ve found that OneDrive fits several trends we’ve seen among many clients, including more mobile computing, more collaborative work, and the need to work with larger files across all platforms. For those of you with Microsoft Office 365 plans starting at $5 per month, you get 1 TB of storage as part of your plan. If you need to access a lot of large files, including huge spreadsheets as well as photos, music and movies, this a good place to keep them. You can send collaborators links to any files in your OneDrive folder, and they can make changes, just like people do with Dropbox. This eliminates the need to send emails with attachments back and forth. As an added bonus, files are automatically saved in real time when working with a file in a OneDrive. And, finally, you can get Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Office 365 apps for mobile devices, enabling you to view, edit and even create documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Granted, it may not be the same as on a computer, but it’s another tool at your disposal.

In addition to being free for Office 365 users, you also get a couple “blow-away” features. One of them is a version history, which is great for tracking financial reports on Excel spreadsheets or changes to Word documents. Instead of saving umpteen million versions, you can go back to a date and see the file as it was. It was meant as an autosave feature for data recovery, but it’s certainly not restricted to that.

We also like Mile IQ, which we discussed in our email for this newsletter. It works on your phone, and it senses motion when your car moves and starts to track miles. At the end of a trip, you swipe right for business use, and left for personal use. You can always go back and add details for each trip you track. It’s not a well-publicized feature, but it’s great. You can sign up through their website.

Installing OneDrive is not a particularly difficult process, but it has a few complexities in the setup. We recommend you have us help you with the setup so that you can work more easily with your file. The first two steps are:

  1. Select the Start button, search for “OneDrive”, and then open it. In Windows 10, select the OneDrive desktop app. In Windows 7, under Programs, select Microsoft OneDrive. 
  2. When OneDrive Setup starts, enter your personal account, or your work or school account, and then select Sign in.

At this point, we’ll help you configure OneDrive to match your needs and get you started on transferring your files. We recommend putting all of your files on OneDrive for two reasons: 1.) You’ll have them there for recovery in case your hard drive crashes, and 2.) you can always select files to put back onto your hard drive.

By having access to all of your files but only having a percentage of them residing on your hard drive, you’ll free up space that will allow a mechanical hard drive to work more efficiently, or you’ll be able to get by with a smaller hard drive.

In operation, you’ll access your files from your OneDrive folder instead of from your File Explorer and work on them through your application program. If you turn on AutoSave, everything you do will be saved in real time, and you’ll never lose data due to a power outage or hard drive crash. Yes, if you lose your internet connection, you’ll lose OneDrive, but you can continue to work on your files and save them. When OneDrive access is restored, the changes will be saved.

If you are getting a new hard drive or computer, we use OneDrive to transfer your files. We believe that if you have an Office 365 plan and if we’re doing the work already, you are better off keeping your OneDrive and using it. You’ll find more benefits as you go along.

Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to get your OneDrive set up. If you’re an Office 365 subscriber, it’s there for the taking. If you don’t have Office 365, let’s talk and see if it’s right for you.

Save Your Vacation with Additional Storage Capacity

OK, I’m as the frugal as the next guy – maybe even more frugal than most. But not spending a buck or three per month to store all your vacation images in the cloud can be penny wise and pound foolish.

Let’s begin this discussion with one certainty: No matter how much your vacation costs, you’ll never be able to replicate the exact conditions or scene that you photographed or videoed. That makes your photo or video priceless.

Automatically sending your photos and videos to a cloud-based storage facility is the best insurance you can have, and for most people, spending $0.99 to $2.99 per month will take care of all your needs. We’ll talk mostly about Apple’s storage plans because more and more of you are using your iPhones (and sometimes iPads) as your primary camera and video recorder.

iPhone users typically get 5 GB of storage space in the cloud for free. That’s for a lot of photos and videos for many. For the most part, nobody pays attention to storage until you get that nasty little notice on your phone that your storage is full. The notice usually refers to your available iCloud storage, and when it’s all full, the camera basically stops recording new photos or videos until you have sufficient space. However, you can remedy that by buying extra storage space on the spot, as long as you have internet access. If you don’t know your Apple password, you can always reset it.

Your least expensive option is get 50 GB (10 times the free storage) for $0.99 per month. Two other plans are 200 GB for $2.99 per month or 2 TB for $9.99 per month. That last one may be overkill but put it in perspective. If you can travel the world and want to keep your memories safe – or share them with anyone at any time – a little less than $120 per year is a cost-effective option.

Apple and iPhones are not the only options. Android users can tap into Google Photos with Google Drive, which gives you 15 GB of free storage to use across Google Drive, Gmail, and Google Photos. You can also use Google Photos with a computer or iPhone/iPad. You can get 100 GB for $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year or 1 TB for $9.99 per month or $99 per year. Amazon offers all its customers 5 GB of photo storage free and unlimited storage to it Prime customers.

There are also numerous websites that offer storage and the ability to share with family and friends. In addition to storage and sharing, they offer you and registered family members and friends the ability to buy photos, photo books, coffee mugs, etc. Some also will sell your photos online. Some of the better-known websites include Flickr, Shutterfly and Photobucket.

Camera technology is also keeping pace with the online world. Whether you have a compact point-and-shoot camera or a professional DSLR, manufacturers are adding wireless capabilities, so you can upload photos and videos directly to the cloud or store copies on your mobile device, though they can cut those file sizes to 2 MB. Also, be aware that when you delete photo and video files from your devices, you may also be deleting them, too, from your cloud storage. Check for settings that keep the files in the cloud, and if you can’t set that up, be careful about what you delete – though many of the servers keep your files for 30 days.

Every year, we get calls to try to recover photos and videos. Sometimes, recovery is not possible. But it is possible to prevent the problem. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to help you select the best available storage program for your needs or to help set up your storage. It could save your vacation.