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?


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:



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!

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.

21 Jan

Insurance Industry Challenges and IT Solutions

Family InsuranceThe challenges facing the insurance industry and Canadian brokerages can be daunting. The manner in which insurers address many of these challenges depends to a large degree on the ability of the firm’s IT infrastructure to scale, adapt, and otherwise adjust to the changing landscape.

Earlier this year, insurance firm Stikeman Elliot listed what they viewed as the top ten challenges facing Canadian insurance brokers. While all of these developments have an impact on a firm’s IT strategy, some being impactful than others. Here are some that have a direct impact on the IT department.

  1. The 2014 ORSA (Own Risk and Solvency Assessment) Guideline came into effect at the beginning of the year, burdening IT with unforeseen data management demands. Firms with old, inflexible data storage systems may have struggled to comply by the March deadline.
  2. Compliance with new regulations almost always has an impact on data management. Intelligent tiering of technologies for backup and recovery and more powerful analytics is critical for compliance.
  3. Capital requirements are forcing firms to look for cost savings, much of which can be found in the data center. Technologies and solutions, such as virtualization and cloud, can reduce physical data center footprints by requiring fewer servers and related appliances, less office space, lower energy consumption, and fewer management hours.
  4. Mitigating security threats, especially in mobile environments like insurance sales, can be expensive and time-consuming. The OSFI (Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions) cyber security self-assessment guidance lists many preparatory measures that require additional IT focus and expense.
  5. Emerging technologies will continue to reshape Property and Casualty personal lines business. The potential of telematics will become clearer, big data will get bigger, and internet-based distribution will continue to gain market share.


One local insurance firm with 6 branches and 40 employees addressed these challenges by turning to Advance Micro Solutions, whose team of experts implemented a solution that continues to help control costs and increase flexibility, reliability, and efficiency.


The solutions consisted of:

  • x3550 M4 server with 32G memory,
  • 2 x 900G hard drives with Raid 1 mirroring
  • Windows 2008 R2 server standard
  • Microsoft remote desktop service


The insurance firm received a scalable global solution with a highly secure and internally controlled data center that their existing IT staff could monitor, update, and operate remotely. There was no new need for additional internal employees to support the server since everything was set up and customized by Advance Micro Solutions based on the insurance firm’s specifications.

If you are looking for ways to control IT costs in a dynamic, highly regulated industry like insurance, reach out to the experts at Advance Micro Solutions for a free technology consultation.

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