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.

24 Feb

“Superfish” Security Vulnerability on some Lenovo Laptops

Badfish - Superfish Vulneribility ScannerHave you recently bought a non-ThinkPad branded Lenovo laptop?  If so, your passwords and banking information could be vulnerable to hackers!

Recently, it came to light that a piece of software called Superfish was pre-installed on some recently released Lenovo laptops, and that Superfish circumvents SSL, which is what many sites – including major banking and social media websites – use to secure the exchange of sensitive data such as login information and passwords. This circumvention could be exploited by hackers and third parties to silently intercept that information.  Many people are referring to Superfish as “adware” because of the exploitative behaviour it exhibits.

This is a large breach of trust issue for Lenovo and for computing in general, so if consumer privacy is a topic that concerns you, then this is a story to keep an eye on.  Yesterday, a lawsuit was filed against Lenovo for this, and certainly there will be more fallout from this before everything is said and done.

You can check if a certain model is affected in the official statement Lenovo released: http://news.lenovo.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=1929

You can also check if your computer is affected using this website, built by security experts at CloudFlare: https://filippo.io/Badfish/

If you’d like to learn a bit more about Superfish, CBC has an article that gives a broad overview of the situation:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/superfish-adware-frenzy-over-lenovo-betrayal-of-trust-1.2968640

You can also download the tool to remove Superfish here, in this additional released statement from Lenovo:  http://news.lenovo.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=1931

Finally, here’s an open letter from Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius: http://news.lenovo.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=1932
09 Feb

Top 2015 Tech Trends in Canada

Internet of EverythingAccording to several recent IDC reports, commissioned by Telus, 2015 will be a year of rapid technology transformation in Canadian businesses. The reports have identified six key drivers to keep an eye on.

1. The cloud, still?
Cloud adoption in Canada has been slower than the rest of the developed world for a variety of reasons. A survey of 350 SMBs by IT Business Canada late last year indicated that over half would be making partial moves to the cloud. Still, there were several concerns:

  • Forty-six per cent of respondents ranked data security as their number one concern in leveraging cloud technologies
  • 22 per cent said their biggest worry was keeping the sovereignty of their data intact.

Many Canadian businesses simply want to keep their mission critical data in Canada, and understandably so: high profile attacks in the U.S. have weakened confidence in U.S.- based cloud providers. As the availability of Canadian cloud providers grows, more SMBs are expected to start taking advantage of cloud technologies.

2. The Internet of Things will proliferate, creating business opportunities
IDC predicts that by the end of 2018 Canadian workplaces will be home to more than 114 million smart connected devices. These devices, ranging from auto-usage sensors for insurance companies to smart gas meters will enable businesses to accurately price services based on usage.

3. Computing Everywhere
As the communications infrastructure evolves to 100% IP-based and wireless systems, the mobile workforce grows. Two-thirds of Canadian businesses are using an IP-based VoIP telephony system as their primary telephone system, while 90 per cent of Canadian businesses use smartphones. Gartner refers to this as “computing everywhere”, providing employees with seamless access to all their business applications across all their devices.

4. The BYOD trend will expand
The study also revealed that 73 per cent of Canadian executives support a BYOD smartphone program and 58 per cent support BYOD tablets. This will expand to additional devices and apps, particularly as wearable and IoT technology proliferate.

5. The security challenge will increase
The growth of trends in cloud, IoT and BYOD have created needs for enhanced data security in transit and at rest. The explosion in data being generated and stored across a wide array of devices provides cyber thieves with more ways to hack into networks, making security one of the largest areas of spending growth in 2015.

6. Migration from legacy skills and systems
As the profound benefits of third platform computing begin to outweigh the risks, Canadian businesses will be investing in new skills and systems while aggressively shutting down legacy technologies.

Advance Micro Solutions helps Vancouver area businesses capitalize on emerging technologies and optimize for growth. For a free technology assessment, contact Advance Micro Solutions today.

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.

10 Nov

Asian Manufacturing Trends Good for SMBs

Asian RegionIf you’re wondering when global manufacturing is going to shift its center of gravity to someplace in the world besides Asia, don’t hold your breath. While manufacturing can and does take place in other parts of the world and there are constant shifts in the product focus of any given geography, Asia is still the world’s factory. And China remains the dominant force.

Costs Rise, Growth Slows
Since the 2007-2008 recession, growth in the region has slowed somewhat, but it is far from stagnant. Industry Week believes growth has slowed from 5 percent CAGR prior to the recession to 1.5 to 2 percent CAGR looking forward from now through 2017. A variety of factors are keeping the lid on growth, which include:

  • Rising labor wages
  • Government efforts to update infrastruc­ture
  • Expiration of certain tax ben­efits
  • Efforts to impose stricter environmental regulations

What these all add up to are higher costs for OEMs and distributors. The dramatic increase in wages, coupled with rapid economic growth in coastal China, has pushed some manufacturers to look beyond the developed coastal regions around Shanghai. The increased cost of logistics for inland manufacturers is becoming more manageable as the infrastructure improves.

Asia as a Consumer
Ever since Asian countries became the world’s primary source of low cost manufacturing, we’ve seen images of poverty-stricken laborers in dangerous conditions working for peanuts. While this is often still the case in some industries of Southeast Asia, other industries (particularly the electronics manufacturing industry in China) have become the source of economic boom and a dramatic rise in the standard of living.

As a result, according to Industry Week, “Major markets such as China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and India are becoming significant consumers of industrial, commercial and consumer goods. Designing supply chains to consider both existing Western consumption and significant Asian consumption adds new dimensions of complexity to the decision-making process.” The flip side of which is opportunity.

Good News for SMBs
The industrialization and urbanization of the areas that surround the Asian manufacturing hubs has created an opportunity for Western companies to both manufacture and sell goods in Asia. Many OEMs have found that the barriers to smaller production – those generally under $5M – have been removed.

From a logistical perspective, the vast improvements in systems, processes, technology, and communications have made it much easier to do business in Asia. In addition, specialized brokers are helping smaller OEMs manage outsourced manufacturing and suppliers on the other side of the world.

Also, SMBs can now look at Asia as both a supplier and consumer, so it’s easier to justify a local presence that can both oversee manufacturing and sell into the local market at the same time. Eventually when local demand catches up with supply, the “world’s factory” may see some competition from countries that have been slower to modernize.
If you’re interested in learning more about manufacturing technology or market conditions, the Pacific Rim experts at Advance Micro Solutions are glad to speak with you. We can be reached here. (CTA)

07 Nov

The Ink Dries on Lenovo Acquisition of IBM x86 Servers

Lenovo Canada IBM System x3500 M4 7383EJU

Lenovo Canada IBM System x3500 M4 7383EJU

If you’ve been following Lenovo’s $2.1 billion acquisition of IBM’s x86 server business out of one eye the past several months, you may be surprised to learn that it wasn’t a done deal until very recently – Oct. 1, to be exact. Now that the regulators have all signed off and the ink is dry, the herculean effort of moving more than 7,500 IBMers – the entire X86 salesforce, the R&D facilities, and the manufacturing infrastructure – over to Lenovo has begun. And while this acquisition alters the IT industry playing field, existing IBM x86 SMB customers shouldn’t notice much difference.

An Acquisition Déjà Vu
If you’re the proud owner of an IBM System x product, there are a plethora of articles and blog posts that say you have nothing to worry about. Many insist that the transition is expected to be as seamless and transparent to the customer as the IBM ThinkPad acquisition in 2005. According to The Register: “Lenovo purchasing System x isn’t all that different than when they bought up IBM’s PC operations. The two markets have a lot in common.”
The acquisition puts Lenovo on the battlefield with global server powerhouses and channel giants Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and Cisco. According to PC World, Lenovo still has much ecosystem development work to do with software companies like Microsoft, Oracle and VMware. One could also argue that those relationships will all be part of the package, as they were with the ThinkPad acquisition.

What’s In, What’s Out
Insofar as the acquired offerings are concerned, nothing has changed since the deal was originally proposed back in January. Boxes that will now bear the Lenovo logo include:

  • System x racks and towers
  • x86 BladeCenter
  • x86 Flex System blade servers and integrated systems
  • Associated software, switching, and maintenance operations

Lenovo will get licenses to IBM’s GPFS (General Parallel File System), SmartCloud Entry package, System x management software, and the Platform Computing suite. Lenovo can OEM and resell these products (plus IBM’s Storwize and tape tech) or use them as components in their own solution bundles.

An SMB Dream Come True
This is all great news for SMBs, who can expect to see the price for the Lenovo x86 product line be commensurate with competing products from Dell, HP, Cisco, and other hardware vendors. According to The Register: “When it comes to x86 servers, IBM receives high marks for their x86 technology, performance, and reliability – but lower scores when it came to pricing and ease of doing business.” Those low scores should improve now that Lenovo is in charge.

Lenovo is also known for its commitment to the business partner channel, which has helped them become the world’s number one PC maker. After this week, Lenovo is now the third largest commodity x86 server maker behind HP and Dell. According to CRN: “IBM’s x86 business has always been the IBM red-headed step child compared to its mainframe business and software. At Lenovo it will be a flagship brand… the x86 team has a sense of renewed vigor. The x86 team is really pumped. They are getting a lot of attention and the budget they need to really make a difference in the market.”
To see how your company can take advantage of new Lenovo System X product line, reach out to an expert at Advance Micro Solutions today.