13 Aug

Meet Edge, Microsoft’s New Replacement for Internet Explorer

Microsoft Edge's User Interface

Are you Ready for Microsoft Edge?

Alongside Windows 10’s release, Microsoft has introduced a new browser which they have dubbed Edge, and they’re making it the default.  Internet Explorer 11 can still be used in Windows 10, but Microsoft has indicated that they will only be supporting it in the future with security fixes, and it’s being kept around mostly to support corporate customers and older/intranet websites.  For most users, Edge will be the browser that Microsoft will want them to use.  With Edge, Microsoft has decided to start over from scratch instead of trying to continue building on top of Internet Explorer and all of its legacy features and code which were holding them back.  So what’s new with Edge?

Faster

Internet Explorer 10 lagged behind all of its competitors in most every speed metric there was for browser performance.  With Edge, Microsoft has finally caught up, at least for the moment.  See Anandtech’s test results here:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/9458/examining-microsoft-edge-browser-performance

Cleaner

Demonstration of Microsoft Edge's Reading View

Microsoft Edge’s Reading View

Microsoft has also gone back to the drawing board with their user interfaces, and come up with a look that mimics the minimalist look of Google Chrome.  Nothing extraneous; a back button, a forward button, a refresh button, a home button, and an address bar.  To the right are three additional icons:  A Share button for social media integration, a Web Notes button which allows you to add annotations and notes to the web page then save it or share it with others, a favourites button, and a settings button.  There’s also a Read mode, which tries to strip out extraneuous advertisements and clutter from pages in order to make for a better experience reading articles and the like.

Your Personal Assistant

Demonstration of Microsoft Edge and Cortana

Microsoft Edge and Cortana

Cortana can be thought of as Microsoft’s equivalent to Siri found on Apple I-Devices.  It’s powered by Microsoft’s Bing search engine, and fully integrated into Windows 10.  In Edge, it also tries to help out whenever you type into its address bar, similar to what Google does with Chrome’s address bar: if you type in a question about the weather, Edge might show you local weather reports, and if you type in a stock symbol, it’ll show you its current price.

Is it Better Than Internet Explorer?

It’s definitely much faster than Internet Explorer 11 was, and it integrates many of the features that its other competitors have introduced.  If you like sticking with Microsoft browsers, then certainly you should try it out when you get Windows 10.  There might be some older websites which won’t play well with Edge, because with their new browser, Microsoft has stopped supported some less secure older technologies, including ActiveX. For those older websites, you can always fall back to IE.  Also keep in mind there is no extension support yet in Edge.

Is it Better Than Chrome or Firefox?

Performance wise, they’re all on a level playing field at the moment.  If you’ve already fallen in love with one of those browsers, and are using features such as Google’s browser syncing or any extensions or plugins, there isn’t that much of a reason to switch back to Microsoft.  At the moment, there is no extension support for Edge, so if you are using a bunch of extensions already in those browsers, then keep that in mind.

31 Jul

Windows 10 is Out. Here’s What You Should Know.

An example of Windows 10's User Interface

Windows 10 User Interface

Windows 10 is out!  If you have Windows 7 (Service Pack 1) or Windows 8.1, the upgrade is provided free from Microsoft for the first year!  Here’s how to upgrade, direct from Microsoft: http://www.microsoft.com/en-ca/windows/windows-10-upgrade

What’s new with Windows 10?

Windows 10 builds on the base of Windows 8.1; on the surface the two look fairly similar. They’ve rolled back some of the more tablet-focused elements to make the interface make more sense for desktop users, though, including the return of the start menu.  There’s also a new web browser included which is a big improvement on the last version of Internet Explorer: more on this new browser later on.  From Microsoft, here’s a list of the features that Windows 10 provides:  http://www.microsoft.com/en-ca/windows/features

Should I upgrade now?

Our recommendation is to hold off on updating for now if you are thinking about using your computer for business purposes and are using 7 or 8.1.  If you are purchasing new hardware though, Windows 10 is much more business-friendly than Windows 8.1 was,  and if you still have computers running Windows XP then you should certainly think about replacing them with modern, faster, and more secure Windows 10 machines.  For personal use, you can definitely download it if you’re curious to play around with it.  There is no rush, if you’re worried about the free upgrade offer expiring; you have a year to get this free upgrade.  You can also “reserve” it without actually installing Windows 10.  Just don’t go through with the “upgrade” step in the link to Microsoft’s instructions provided at the top of this post.

Have there been any problems reported so far?

Some users are criticizing Windows 10 over privacy concerns, including the data it collects, its default settings, and the personalized advertisements it serves up: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jul/31/windows-10-microsoft-faces-criticism-over-privacy-default-settings

Windows 10 will also change your default browser if you are upgrading and not doing a clean install, which has drawn criticism from users and also Mozilla’s CEO, Mozilla being the company behind the free and open-source browser Firefox: http://fortune.com/2015/07/31/windows-10-browser/

A successor to Internet Explorer

We will have a blog post later on about Microsoft Edge, the new browser that comes with Windows 10 that will be replacing Internet Explorer, and what you should know about it; stay tuned for that.

If you have any questions about how Windows 10 will effect your business, contact Advance Micro Solutions and we’ll be happy to help!

22 Apr

“Google Mobilegeddon”: Google Changing Search to Favour Mobile Friendly Websites

Google-Mobile-Friendly-UpdateGoogle is tweaking their search algorithm so that on Google searches on mobile devices (ie. smartphones and iPhones), sites designed to display correctly on mobile devices will be ranked higher.

From Business Insider: Google is making a giant change this week that could crush millions of small businesses

From Google itself:  Rolling Out the mobile-friendly update

Is your business’s website ready for this?  If not, contact Advance Micro Solutions today.

20 Feb

Top 10 Reasons Why Every Small Business Needs Data Backup

SyncBackPro Data Backup Software - The Professional's Solution

SyncBackPro Data Backup Software – The Professional’s Solution

Today’s information technology touches every aspect of your operations, challenging small businesses like yours with developing and maintaining networks to ensure uptime, reliability, and cost effectiveness. Despite this, the majority of small companies still keep and maintain their servers in-house instead of utilizing a third-party data center for either cloud computing or colocation services. This is not the wisest business decision when you consider the costs of interruptions in the form of fire, power outages, and server failures, not to mention cyberattacks.

The honest truth is interruptions are going to happen more often than not. The best way to defend your company’s data is with a backup and disaster recovery plan offsite. Below are the top ten reasons why every small business should have a data backup plan:

  1. Backing up your critical data to the cloud is more reliable. Cloud computing simply means that your data is stored over the Internet. External or portable hard drives can break down. Utilizing the cloud allows for easier backup, management of data, and sharing of content.
  2. A backup and disaster recovery plan minimizes costs of downtime. The findings of a recent study entitled 2013 Cost of Data Center Outages conducted by the Ponemon Institute showed the full costs associated with an unplanned data center outage.
  3. Using the cloud for data backup is very affordable. The cost of this technology can easily be acquired at an affordable price—a wise investment that secures your data offsite.
  4. Security at an online backup data center is like Fort Knox. Data centers are like the Fort Knox of data protection (without the armored tanks). Not only are data centers hard to break into digitally, but also physically because of enhanced security.
  1. Upgrading your firewall network creates faster access to data while preventing unauthorized use. Your old firewall may be causing your system to slow by letting in too much unwanted traffic. Consider an upgrade that can take care of annoyances like SPAM.
  2. Combining solutions for data storage saves money and energy. According to Gartner, Virtualization has surpassed 50 percent of all server workloads and is expected to reach 86 percent in 2016. Using your existing server and cloud backup, you can save money and energy, which helps offset the cost of server management, maintenance, and upgrades.
  1. Freeing up your IT department from laborious backup tasks. The added benefit of storing your backup on the cloud eliminates the time-intensive task of manually backing up data, which gives your IT staff time to focus on other duties.
  1. Easier access to your data. Having your data on the cloud makes it easier for your employees and customers to conduct business because they can access your information from virtually anywhere.
  2. Switching to a Vancouver data center for your storage needs ensures privacy. Many Canadian businesses use cloud storage in the United States. But according to the January 2012 Cloud Computing Report by the Law Society of British Columbia, there are over 10,000 US-based government agencies that could get access to your data without a warrant.
  3. Enlisting a Vancouver third-party specialist in creation of a detailed business recovery plan. Collaborating with a local provider can be vital to finding flaws and opportunities in your current system.

Choose a Vancouver Outsourced IT Management Team can ensure business continuity
Advance Micro Solutions, a Certified Business Partner with IBM, is dedicated providing backup services in an affordable way. Get peace of mind with a no-cost review of your IT and hardware infrastructure. And be sure to ask us about 2BrightSparks Backup software.

For a free consultation, please call 604-303-6622 or send an email to inquiry@ad-micro.com.

12 Feb

Avoid the top 3 security flaws most SMBs make

Network Cyber-SecurityWith advances in Internet technology, Vancouver SMBs have flourished. However, that success comes with the increased risk of cyberattacks and security breaches. It seems that hardly a week goes by without hearing about a new attack on a company’s vital data or a new malware that’s been unleashed.

 

Keep undesirables out with a network firewall
A good firewall and network security system can keep out undesirables who shouldn’t have access to your network while allowing in the good traffic you do want. But that system needs to be constantly monitored and updated to stay relevant. The lesson for today’s companies is to “take cybersecurity as serious as physical security of their employees or security of their physical facilities,” says Cynthia Larose, chair of the privacy and security practice at the law firm Mintz Levin in Boston.

Ensure the protection of your customers’ vital information
If you want your customers to trust that you have the highest online protection possible that ensures their private information won’t be stolen, a firewall is the most critical IT investment you can make. And there are affordable yet top-of-line hardware and systems that detect mischief but also limit any damage before it gets too far.

Stop cyberattacks with an affordable yet top-of-the-line system
One of the best Network Firewalls on the market for small businesses is Fortinet Unified Threat Management (UTM) Network Security Appliances.  Fortinet has won numerous awards for technological innovation, product performance, and functionality, including “Company of the Year” from the British Columbia Technology Industry Association (BCTIA) in June 2014. The FortiGate-40C and FortiWifi-40C offer comprehensive network security protection against all manner of cyberattacks. Part of a complete, high performance security solutions portfolio, the system is a powerful blend of firewall, IPS, application control, antivirus, and other defensive measures that can help ensure that your computer network keeps humming.

Make sure your company’s data isn’t at risk of a security breach
The experienced team at Advance Micro Solutions can review your current system and provide consultation on where there are potential weaknesses. For a free consultation, please call 604-303-6622 or send an email to inquiry@ad-micro.com.

05 Feb

Attack of the Hacks! See where cyberattacks may strike next in 2015

Kaspersky Labs Security Landscape FeaturedIn 2013, $11 billion was lost to credit and debit card fraud. Last year, hackers compromised
the personal information of 76 million households from JPMorgan Chase. Other hackers exposed 56 million credit and debit card numbers of Home Depot customers. And of course we all know about the cyberattack on Sony Pictures, which was arguably the most notorious computer hack of the year. The numbers aren’t out for 2014 yet in terms of dollars and intellectual property lost, but cybercrimes such as these can best describe the year as the “Attack of the Hacks.”

These high-profile cyberattacks exploit age-old flaws in open frameworks. Last June, the Government Accountability Office stated that “more than 46,000 cyber incidents were reported by federal agencies in fiscal year 2013—an increase over the prior three years.”

Expect more mobile payment system cyberattacks in 2015
The numbers aren’t in yet for 2014, but cyberattacks are expected to increase on digital transactions from mobile devices in 2015. Security firm FireEye predicts that point-of-sale (PoS) attacks will be more rampant. Cybercriminals are likely to focus on finding the vulnerabilities of new types of online payment systems like Apple Pay, a mobile payment system. But you can also expect more creative targeting on payment processors and PoS management firms as retailers strengthen their defenses.

Beware of ransomware and cyber extortion
SentinelOne Labs sees a possible coordinated “time bomb” attack on enterprises through the use of ransomware. This nasty piece of software locks computer systems (usually with a fake notice from a government agency) after taking customer personal and financial data “hostage.” The cyber thief then demands an extortion be paid in Bitcoin or via PayPal before the system is released back to the company or individual. If the demand is not met by the stated time period, malicious software is unleashed on the operating systems of enterprises who fail to pay.

Can your network withstand a cyberattack?
In October 2014, famed VC/PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel spoke about cybersecurity and its current state of readiness. As data breaches pile up, Thiel expects cybersecurity to remain a big problem. “So much commerce is happening on the Internet and we often have no good intuition of how poor the security is.” He suggests that the situation can only be addressed by software.

What can your company do to ensure readiness against a cyberattack?
You can’t afford to be complacent so monitor your accounts as closely as possible. In addition, be sure to review your risk management and damage control procedures to keep corporate network intrusion to a minimum. This includes keeping up with operating system security updates and having the latest security software on your systems.

Need further help?
The experts at Advance Micro Solutions would be happy to offer a no-cost review of your IT and hardware infrastructure and suggest ways to increase security against cyberattacks. For a free consultation on data security plans and top-of-the-line disaster recovery systems, please call 604-303-6622 or send an email to inquiry@ad-micro.com.

02 Feb

Top Networking Trends In 2015

Network Signal Strength BarKeeping up with evolving technologies in the data center can be a 24-7 exercise, particularly when it comes to networking. Now that data, voice, video, ERP and other applications are moving to common IP platforms, network management has become increasingly complex. According to the tech pundits, more complexity is on the way.

One of Gartner’s top ten tech trends for 2015 is “software-defined applications and infrastructures.” As with anything “software-defined”, there is some debate about what that really means. According to the Open Networking Foundation, “this migration of control, formerly tightly bound in individual network devices, into accessible computing devices enables the underlying infrastructure to be abstracted for applications and network services, which can treat the network as a logical or virtual entity.”

While that may sound a little abstract, it promises very real benefits to the enterprise:
Increased uptime: Removing manual intervention to individual networking devices eliminates errors that potentially cause downtime.

Tighter security: conventional hard-wired networks can’t provide the kind of granular security for apps, endpoints and BYOD devices facilitated by an SDN.

Faster and more agile provisioning: a SDN can be set up as easily as a virtual machine (VM), since an SDN is basically a virtualized network environment. As a result provisioning services across the network is a much faster and agile process.

Freedom to experiment: When the network is centrally controlled individual device adjustments can be made quickly from the command center without having to touch the device. This lets administrators try out new network configurations without being stuck with the consequences if something doesn’t work right.

Efficiency and lower operating expenses: Lower hardware costs are a strong selling point for SDNs. Operating expenses are also decreased by improved efficiency.

Virtual network services, lowered capital expenses: SDNs provide savings for clients of cloud providers and other managed IT shops.

Another popular network security technology is Data Loss Prevention (DLP), which ensures that end users do not send sensitive or critical information outside the corporate network. In addition to being able to monitor and control endpoint activities, some DLP tools can also be used to filter data streams on the corporate network and protect data in motion.

Then there is Application Delivery Networking (ADN), a comprehensive IT strategy for the safe and efficient distribution of business-critical applications across a company’s network for increased overall business performance.

Finally, and of utmost importance, are the ever-evolving network security solutions. Advance Micro Solutions recommends Fortinet Unified Threat Management network security appliances with next generation firewalls with centralized network security management and reporting solutions. For SMBs, Advance Micro Solutions provides NetGear smart switches for a cost-effective solution.

To learn how Advance Micro Solutions can build and maintain your network with proven industrial strength technologies, call for a free network assessment today.

29 Jan

Discover the three most important differences between WordPress, Drupal and Joomla

Today, there are thousands of free, open source website builder options available for non-techies. Although these Content Management Systems make creating new websites easier, they do have their strengths and weaknesses. Before choosing one you should ask yourself, what will your website be used for? What does it need in order to achieve your company’s overall strategy? Will your website serve as a primary source for blogging, press releases, or product and services advertisement? Or will it also function as a source of revenue?

If you’re having trouble deciding which platform is best for your needs, you can take heart in knowing that the three biggest: WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla do what most people are looking to accomplish. However, there are some differences. Let’s take a look at their pros and cons and see how they stack up against each other.

WordPress’s ease of use can’t be beat
WordPress LogoWhether you’re a novice or seasoned developer, WordPress is by far the easiest to use, especially with the amount of free support out there from avid users. Released in 2003, it has been used on millions of sites and seen by millions daily. WordPress is also the most popular for blogging and smaller websites, but can do much more due to its plethora of plugins (more than 26,000), which presents both a great benefit and a challenge. These plugins allow you to do practically anything on your website. Unfortunately, not all the plugins are very good. Some may even slow down or crash your website. If you decide to choose WordPress, it’d probably be best to consider uploading the least number of plugins you need to ensure your site runs smoothly.

Drupal’s great for securing personal and financial data
Drupal LogoReleased in 2001, Drupal was designed to do almost anything from blogging to e-commerce. It can handle hundreds of pages of content without difficulty or slowing down your overall website. What makes Drupal a great choice for business are due to its strong version controls and access control list (ACL) capabilities, which make it very secure for your online buyers who have to input their financial information. Although Drupal is among the safest for content protection, it’s also more difficult to learn.

Joomla handles lots of data and media with ease
Joomla LogoIf you have a lot of data and media to manage, whether its PDF format, articles, videos or soundtracks, Joomla may be your best choice. Released in 2005, this software has the best interface for handling large quantities of information among the three open source website builders. However, it isn’t as user-friendly as WordPress or has the high security protocols as Drupal.  Downloaded over 50 million times, Joomla’s extensions aren’t as plentiful as WordPress, but there are over 7,700 free and commercial extensions available from the official Joomla! Extension Directory.

Which is best depends on what’s best for you
If you’ve been tasked with building a website for your company consider WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla as three great open source website builder options. All three are free to download. Plus, they’re pre-designed to produce the most search-engine friendly sites.

Need further guidance?
If you’d like further guidance on how to build a website or need assistance on which content management system is best for your company, the friendly experts at Advance Micro Solutions would be happy to discuss your web presence situation and challenges. Please call or email our experts for a free consultation.

26 Jan

July 15th is Closer Than You Think

Windows Server 2003 End of Life CampaignWhat does the date July 15th, 2015 mean to you? If you’re one of the reportedly millions of servers across the globe currently running live applications on Windows Server 2003, that is the date that Microsoft will cease supporting your server OS. That means:

  • No security updates
  • No hot fixes
  • No applications support
  • Nobody at Microsoft to talk to
  • Armies of hackers just waiting ‘til after July 15, 2015 to raid Windows Server 2003 systems
  • Armies of regulatory compliance monitors ready to swoop down on offenders

For those suffering from FOM (Fear of Migrating), there is plentiful practical advice. First, it’s generally agreed that current WS2003 users acquaint themselves with the key features of the new OS. These include improvements to server management, automatic de-duplicating, licensing, storage, and much more. When you consider the time that’s elapsed since WS2003 was released and today, coupled with the technological advances of the past ten years, plain old logic would suggest that migrating is in order.

Nonetheless,  many MS2003 users are happy where they are. “While it’s a common occurrence to see support for older products retired by software vendors, it’s annoying if either the old stuff is still running perfectly well or if the upgrade option is financially onerous, will significantly disrupt the business or offers little in the way of real added benefit.” – Forrester

No matter how happy you are with Windows Server 2003 or how dismayed you are by Microsoft’s impending abandonment, staying put on MS2003 is risky business. You could upgrade the server, but you should expect functionality errors with your applications that need to be resolved in a “live” environment. If you’re running WS2003 on equally old hardware, the Band-Aid approach is a ticking time bomb.

The smart thing to do? Migrate and upgrade.

Microsoft officials warned Windows Server 2003 holdouts recently, “With the average Windows Server taking over 200 days to migrate, now it is the time to act and start planning for your migration. With the Architectural changes in 32-bit to 64-bit technology – everything changes in Windows Server 2012.” In other words, you’re either on the bus or off the bus.

Need help? Advance Micro Solutions has been performing Windows Server migrations from 2003 to 2012 since it’s release in November of 2013 and can help in any number of capacities. We’ve got a team of experts that can help assess your situation make the transition as painless as possible. We also have many migrations under way. To ensure your place in the migration queue, contact Advance Micro Solutions today.