A Closer Look at Microsoft 365

microsoft 365

Microsoft office has been a staple in creating documents for as long as I can remember. I used it all through out school, for every school paper, and continue to use it as I write up this very blog. Every few years Microsoft would release an update with new features and my old version would become less cool and outdated. I always dreaded the thought of buying a new computer and having to reinstall and re-purchase the software.

Microsoft 365 was created to solve these frustrations. Between the perks, savings, and features available it might make sense to for you to consider switching up your options. Lets take a closer look. You can make the decision for yourself.

What is it: Microsoft 365

Microsoft Office 365 is a subscription based software service that works in the cloud. It allows you to access and edit your Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents from virtually anywhere. It’s convenient on any device. We live in a multi-device world where it is expected to be productive on multiple PC’s, tablets, and smart phones. With every one Microsoft Office 365 subscription, you can connect up to five devices. Pick up right where you left off. For example, you can start your presentation at work and you can finish it in the comfort of your home without the hassle of saving to a zip drive and reloading when you get home.

What else?

New releases are readily available for download. Along with security updates, bug features, new features, and new versions. While this might seem overwhelming to some people, for tech-lovers it is nice knowing you are constantly working on the most recent version.

What’s the catch?

Instead of paying a flat-fee, you pay a yearly subscription fee. When looking at the two side by side, it is clear that Microsoft is favoring 365, and loading it up with features.

Heres the break down:

Microsoft Office 2013
If you only need the core applications (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote) you can get Office 2013 Home & Student for $140. If you need Outlook, you get Office 2013 Home & Business for $220. Add Access and Publisher and your looking at $400. These fees only apply to one license for one computer.

Microsoft Office 365
You have two versions to choose from.
Office 365 Home Premium for $100 per year
Office 365 Small Business Premium for $150 per year.

Both versions come with the full Office 2013 Pro software for your PC, and you can connect your subscription for up to five devices. As an added bonus, Microsoft has thrown in an additional 20GB of SkyDrive storage and 60 minutes per month of international Skype calls

Decision:
How much are you willing to pay for convenience? If you have multiple devices, it’s worth considering. Contact a specialist at Kincaid Network Solutions to see if the great program is right for your business.

Dan is the Chief Information Technology Architect at Kincaid Network Solutions. Connect with him on .

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Why Are Software Updates Important

windows update screen

Software Updates. Those annoying little pop up bubbles letting you know that a “new version” is available for download. Most people click out of the notification immediately. Ignoring any possible signs their computer could be telling them. They often think to themselves: ‘My computer is working fine’,  ‘I don’t have time to reboot’, ‘Do I really need to be installing this update?’ Have you found yourself falling victim to these sayings. Well, as it turns out, software updates are one of the most important things you can do with your computer. Chances are, if you don’t update, your system is more likely to get hijacked or spammed with malware. Think of it this way, it’s similar to a recall to replace a defective part in your car. If you ignore the recall, your car will not work properly.

Why are they important?
Software updates are important because they protect you from security concerns and also enhance your user experience.

Security Vulnerabilities:

Security is a complex topic. Criminals and hackers are constantly prodding and testing codes. They look for flaws that would enable them to steal information and take control of your computer. Lucky for you, there are also good people out there that search for the flaws. When a flaw is found the software vendor issues an update to fix the problem. They work to close the gap, fill the holes, and then release you the update.

Product Enhancements:

Not only are they important to protect you from the bad guys, but they also make your software better with product enhancements. These features will add extra functionality and make your application run more efficiently.

What Software applies?

All software is up for grabs and at risk for being hacked. Common software you could relate to include any of your mobile apps, email communications, and your laptop operating system. Adobe products are also common.

Failure to update leaves your system vulnerable to being attacked or compromised. Don’t give them an option to hack your computer. You can set your system to update automatically and alert you when there is a new update available. A good rule of thumb is to check for updates at least once a week.  No virus is the same and the way it attacks the system can be different. It’s better to be safe then sorry!

Kincaid’s Managed Services provides managed Microsoft and Third Party software updating for its clients’ machines. This allows us to keep track of the machines on your network which aren’t fully patched, and easily patch the machines in need. Keeping your network up-to-date with patching is just one of many best practices to combat security vulnerabilities.

Please take note that in April of 2014, Microsoft will no longer support the XP operating system. This means that patches will no longer be released for the OS, leaving any security vulnerabilities wide open and forever unresolved.

Kincaid can help you upgrade your aging infrastructure in your business to ensure your equipment and your business is protected.

Dan is the Chief Information Technology Architect at Kincaid Network Solutions. Connect with him on .

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6 Ways to Increase Bandwidth

Computer ProblemsInternet bandwidth is the amount of data your computer receives and sends across a network or cable. You can connect to the Internet using traditional dial-up, and broadband options like cable and wireless. However, different connections will give you different bandwidth. For example, a dial-up connection will give you significantly less bandwidth than broadband connections. Less bandwidth means a slower Internet connection. And a slow Internet connection wastes time and destroys productivity. If your Internet is slowing you down, here are six ways to increase bandwidth:

Use Shorter Networking Cable

If your connection is slow, you could try using a shorter telephone line or networking cable to connect your computer to the modem or router. The shorter cable will face less interfaces, giving you better bandwidth and faster service.

Close Unused Programs/Applications

You should always fully exit applications when you aren’t using them. Many applications do not exit when you click the “Close” button. Instead, they disappear down to the system tray and continue running in the background. This means they are still using bandwidth, uploading and downloading files. Don’t forget to close your programs!

Avoid Using Bandwidth-Heavy Apps

If your hardware seems to be working properly, the problem could be that other applications are hogging the connection. For example, if you constantly download files with LimeWire, your web browsing is going to be slower. Always avoid using bandwidth-heavy applications like video or audio streaming.

Clear Your Browser History

In order to maintain optimum speed, you should clear your cookies, cache and browser history once a month. If you use Internet Explorer, look for the “Tools” menu and select “Delete Browsing History.” Make sure you check the appropriate boxes for cookies, browser history and Temporary Internet files. For Firefox, simply select “Clear Recent History” from the Tools menu. In the Safari menu, you can select “Reset Safari.” Then choose “remove all website data.”

Try Different DNS Server

DNS stands for Domain Name System. DNS is responsible for looking up and translating a web address into a computer-friendly IP address. For example, DNS allows you to use kincaidns.com, rather than an IP address. However, sometimes the server your computer uses can have problems or shut down completely. Lucky for you, there are other public DNS options available.

Troubleshoot Your Hardware

Before you call your Internet provider, give your modem or router a quick reset. By turning it off and on again, you are giving the hardware a chance to reboot. Also, check other computers and devices. If the problem only occurs on one device, you know it’s not the router or modem. However, if all devices are running slow, you could consider replacing your router or modem.

Dan is the Chief Information Technology Architect at Kincaid Network Solutions. Connect with him on .

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4 Reasons Why Your Business Needs Professional IT Support

DSC00342.JPGIn today’s technology era, most businesses not only operate, but thrive, on computer technology. Whether you’re using old-fashioned desktop computers, mobile applications or any other smart technology, your business is using computers in ways that were previously non-existent and therefore unavailable.

With so much of what we do in business today relying heavily on technology, and more specifically computer technology, it’s a good time to stop and think about the kind of support you have behind that technology – the managed support services, the network security services, the consulting services.

If you don’t already have a professional IT company working for you, here are the top 4 reasons why your business should get one right away.

Easy Network Evaluation

If you’re not quite sure where to start when it comes to implementing a small business network solution, you might want to call in a professional simply to have your needs or any existing computer network evaluated before implementing anything new or more complex and involved.

Many businesses don’t focus on IT because they place emphasis more on the business itself than what is going on behind the scenes, therefore many business owners don’t know too much about the former topic. That’s all OK, though, when you have a professional to do the dirty IT jobs for you. If you need a way to kick start a new network implementation or you need to update an existing network, a professional IT service provider can provide you with a network evaluation that will simplify your life and your business.

Téléphone ancienQuick Access to the Experts

Most professional IT service providers these days offer 24-hour support 7 days per week. That means that when something goes wrong with your computer network, if you have professional consultants on your side, you can call them no matter what goes wrong and they will help you diagnose and fix the problem.

No-Hassle Network Implementation

If you don’t already have a sophisticated small business network solution in place, a professional IT company could help you get started. Not only with the pros design a network that works for your business and fit the design exactly to your business’ needs, but they will also be there to implement the network for you, then offer managed support after implementation as needed.

Hiring a professional for network implementation means that you won’t have to worry about all of the wires that have to run to each computer in your business or how to integrate your network into every aspect of your business – you just sit back and let the pros do it all for you.

No Need to Worry About Emergencies

In the event of any natural disaster that takes down your business’ computer network, or even a small accident that occurs internally that causes your network to crash, you won’t have to worry about picking up the pieces if you have a professional on-hand that’s ready to tackle the challenge.

Professional IT companies can help you map out an IT disaster recovery plan so that you, and everyone in your business, can feel well prepared should anything ever happen. Plus, you won’t want to be fumbling around wondering what you’ve lost on your network should it ever crash for any reason, and with a professional, they will do the worrying for you and make sure everything gets taken care of.

One job of the pros is to insure your company is well prepared and well backed up should anything ever occur, and these are difficult to achieve if you don’t have much IT knowledge. That’s why it’s best to trust the guys who do the job all the time, and feel confident in knowing that your business is ready to handle any accident or disaster that may come your way.

So don’t wait – call a local professional IT service near you to get your business up and running smoothly and efficiently in the ever-evolving technology age!

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Virtualization: The “Green” Technology

Looking to add green to the planet AND to your profits?  Then go green with virtualization!

What is Virtualization?

Virtualization is the creation of a simulated copy of a server, operating system, storage device, or other network resources. Although a commonly used term today, virtualization is not actually a new technology term.

The goal of virtualization is to centralize administrative tasks while improving scalability and overall hardware and resource utilization. With virtualization, several operating systems can be run simultaneously on a single CPU. This parallelism tends to reduce overhead costs and differs from multitasking, which involves running several programs on the same operating system.

Kincaid Network Solutions partners with VMware, an industry expert in virtualization.

“Most servers and desktops today are still consuming 70-80 percent of their rated power even when idle,” said Stephen Herrod, chief technology officer, VMware. “VMware is able to deliver substantial power and cost savings through innovative power management capabilities in our virtualization solutions that safely power down or throttle servers when not in use.

By powering down servers and desktops during inactive periods such as evenings or weekends, we can help customers save another 25 percent or more on power consumption without affecting applications or users.”

What are the Benefits For Your Business AND the Planet?

  • Fewer hardware components are used, there is less cooling of components because fewer servers are running, therefore less energy is used. This will also give you a higher ROI on your capital investments.
  • Your system administration work is then reduced.  Your staff’s time, productivity and efficiency can then be better utilized and administrators will be able to plan more strategically.  
  • You become directly involved in the reduction of power plants needed, helping to reduce energy and your carbon footprint. You can expect to save 80-90% on energy costs.

With these benefits you will not only make your business more profitable but also gain a competitive edge over your competitors.
 

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What is an MSP? Part 3: Summary

Computer Lib 2nd edition fist diskette logo TRACED in high resolution!If disaster strikes, will you be a survivor or a statistic? We’ve covered the points of what an MSP is, what benefits having one can provide for your business and what an MSP entails. So what is left to learn?

In Summary

A managed service provider will not only help to simplify the administration of your business, leaving you to concentrate on generating revenue and looking after your customers, it can also help provide redundancy and fail-safes for your company that may be extremely costly and time-consuming to implement yourself.  

As your business grows, so do the requirements to maintain computer systems that support your business processes.

The main reason most companies are unable to recover from a disaster is that the only version of accounting, billing, and customer records are maintained on the business premises. A reputable IT services company will immediately establish a schedule and implement a server disaster recovery plan to back up all electronic information on the computers and will recommend a document management plan to move all paper records into document imaging software.

All backups are maintained off-site in a completely different region so that a natural disaster cannot destroy both the business site and the backups.

Following a catastrophic event, the MSP will begin to execute the pre-developed disaster recovery plan. All the efforts to develop the plan will save your business from certain extinction. Hopefully your business will never need the plan, but if a tornado, fire, hurricane, or flood destroys your physical business site, the equipment will be replaced and the information will be restored to its original state within days of the event.

The business can then recover relatively quickly.

So please remember, with data rapidly becoming the most important asset your business has, you need to be able to recover your critical information under any circumstance so your business can survive.

Once again, will you be a survivor or a statistic?  Unless you are completely sure your business would survive a catastrophe, please come speak to us and get a network evaluation and get on your survivor island.

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What is an MSP? Part 2: The Benefits of an MSP for Your Business and What an MSP Includes

Macro Computer Circuit Board #3If disaster strikes, will you be a survivor or a statistic?

What Are the Benefits of an MSP for Your Business?

Is your business looking for ways to improve profits, growth, and increase efficiency, while reducing waste, risk and liability?  Then here are some benefits you will enjoy:

  • solutions that take the hassles out of managing and maintaining your critical IT systems
  • keeping your IT network reliable and running at peak performance
  • saving you money by keeping your business productive and running at full speed
  • give you peace of mind knowing that your network is secure and protected
  • help you, either on specific projects, or be your entire IT department
  • customize a support plan that is tailored to your environment, and meets your specific technology management and support needs

Those are some of the benefits you will enjoy.  So the solution is to be proactive, not reactive.

What Does the MSP Include?

Basically the MSP includes day to day operations of your network and your IT project management plan.  Now for 6 specifics:

1.) IT Strategy and Planning

There are a lot of technologies out there and a lot of ways to make your business run more smoothly and at a lower cost. MSP’s can help you build a strategy that puts these technologies to work for you. We provide strategic planning and IT consulting services to help with emerging technologies.

Remember when you had an IT support question or issue, or your network was down and you had to worry about getting someone on the phone, receiving accurate answers, or the amount that it will cost?

Those days are over with an MSP. Your systems are constantly maintained, monitored, updated, and backed up so your network is RELIABLE! No more waiting, wondering or paying for down time. You get one fixed price for your own IT staff.  Would this help with budgeting your monthly expenses?

Did you know downtime can cost a company upwards of $2,000 an hour? Every business has to control IT costs and stay off the spending roller coaster. Prevention is the best medicine. With the MSP, each and every day your IT network is receiving maintenance of your servers, workstations and mobile computers. We monitor your network for spyware, virus activity, and failed backups and keep your systems patched and updated.

Your backups probably get used more than you think. Users mistakenly delete files or e-mails and it’s convenient to go to last night’s backup to restore them. You may even take a hard drive or a tape offsite once a week. But what happens when the backup itself is destroyed, or there’s nothing to restore it back to? 

With data rapidly becoming the most important asset your business has, you need to be able to recover your critical information under any circumstance so your business can be a survivor.

2.) Server and Desktop Management

We proactively update, back up, and manage all your computers and servers remotely. Every aspect of your network is monitored and issues can be spotted and fixed before they can cause any type of problem. You can rest assured knowing your vital data and IT systems are being monitored and protected 24/7 from our dedicated remote support center. 

Let us help you to reduce server operational expenses, increase server availability, improve data protection, and enhance flexibility by implementing an IT disaster recovery plan.

You will maximize your servers’ return on investment, and can then focus on the priorities of your business.

3.) Firewall Management

Firewalls are a key component of a secure network and must be managed properly to ensure they protect your critical information assets.

Since Firewalls are configured to allow “good” traffic in but keep “bad” traffic out, they need to be updated continuously to support constantly changing business requirements.

Firewall management can be resource-intensive and can require a high skill level. Because of the effort and complexity involved, a majority of firewall breaches are caused by improper configuration. We review your current firewall configuration to ensure your business is properly protected.

4.) Help Desk

Have an urgent problem? You can actually speak to us if you have a problem! We can fix most problems remotely, so that you are back up and running without having to wait for a technician to come to your office.

5.) Onsite Support and Emergency Response

We provide regularly scheduled visits to perform routine service and optimization of IT infrastructure. We also provide emergency visits for unforeseen failures, troubleshooting and repairs.

6.) Business Continuity

To ensure that critical business functions will be available to an organization, business continuity planning is a vital process that must be carried out daily to maintain consistency and recoverability at the time of any natural or human disaster. Having a solid business continuity plan will allow your business to restore and recover.

The time your company will invest in building your business continuity plan, will provide insights on improving your workflow. Typical improvements come from better records retention policies and the elimination of redundant activities. It will also increase client confidence.

Your clients will feel better about their relationship with your firm knowing that you are prepared to deal with a serious business interruption.

Those are 6 items the MSP includes that provide you with small business network solutions that you need…

(To be continued in “What is an MSP?” part 3)

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Essential Considerations When Setting Up Your Small Business Computer Network

network bugs? web crawler?Do it Right the First Time!

Many small business owners know it’s a high priority to get a computer network up and running as quickly as possible to assure their businesses operates smoothly right from the start. 

However, it’s also a process that really shouldn’t be rushed. It’s important not to sacrifice the quality of your network. You will save time, money and aggravation if it’s done right the first time.

The Basic Checklist

So where do you start?  A list of initial considerations when it comes to your network implementation is helpful, as you think about what you need and want.

•    How many computers are you looking to connect onto your network?
•    How strong do you need your network connection to be?
•    How much will you actually use this network?

Once you’ve identified the basics for your computer network, you can look at more details.

Safety and Security First!

One of the most critical considerations with your business network is its safety and security.  What if a fire or natural disaster destroyed your business?  Would you be able to get back up and running within a few days?  How are you going to keep your business information safe on your network?  What is your back-up plan in case of failure?

At this point, you may be better off hiring a professional who can set you up with managed support services when it comes to your network, and customize a server disaster recovery plan in case of an emergency.  

Having a safety and security plan in place before you implement your network could save your business in the event of a disaster.

Belkin Wireless G Router F5D7230-4To Go Wired or Wireless?

Do you want each computer on your network to be wired via Ethernet connections or would you rather go completely wireless?

The first thing to consider is how many computers you’re planning to connect to the same network. If you have several rooms where computers need to be connected, installing a wired network may prove to be more difficult than setting up a wireless router and connecting each computer to the network wirelessly.

If you have just a few computers, you may be better off going with a wired network. Ethernet connections are widely known as being more reliable, plus they’re generally less expensive connections and they’re usually faster. With a wireless network, of course, you’ll eliminate the wires and cords.  It really comes down to which option would be most beneficial to your business needs.

Which Devices Should Be Connected to Your Network?

Next, you should consider which devices in your office you would like connected.

For example, with a good computer network, it’s easy to print to one community printer from several computers, or to scan a document into one scanner and send it to several desktops.
Look around your office and decide just how intricate your network needs to be.

Other Basics to Get in Place

Before you take the next step, you’ll need to decide how many computers will be connected on your network.  Each computer needs an up to date operating system to ensure it will run smoothly on your new network.

Additionally, you’ll need some cables if you’re taking the wired route, or a wireless router if you’re choosing to go wireless.

If you’re concerned about which options are best for your business, or you’d like professional help setting up your network, you can call a local IT company.  Most will offer a complimentary network evaluation and can help you design a custom network implementation strategy.

Person typing on computerDIY Or Hire The Pros?

The final question to ask yourself is whether to tackle your network implementation yourself or bring in professionals.  There are advantages to both – by doing it yourself, if you are confident of what you are doing, may save on some extra costs.  By hiring the pros, you’ll never have to worry about your network because it will be in the hands of the pros.  

After you’ve decided on what you want and need for your network, now only you can make the decision on whether to go the DIY path or to hire the pro’s .

We hope this helps get you off to a great start with your network!

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