Top 3 New Features in Windows 10


Windows 10 release is around the corner and there are some great new features and functions that have been added to draw users back to Microsoft and help recover the damage that Windows 8 caused.

1) Back to the Start….

Windows 10 will bring back the much desired and much missed Start Menu at the bottom left corner.  This time around it will offer more then just apps and a control panel.  Early preview have shown widgets\live icos that can be customized into the Start menu.

2) Internet Explorer (IE) no more…

Well not exactly no more.  The browser that has been around since the popularity of the Internet will still exist within Windows 10 but only for use with legacy applications and sites.  With Windows 10, Microsoft has introduced a newer faster, more secure browser called Spartan. Spartan is heavily integrated into everything you search and do on the web and with the assistance of Cortana (the new Windows 10 assistant) it will make the process more seamless.

3) Universal Apps…

There is a new App store model coming across all the Windows products and as the title suggests, its Universal.  If you install an application on your PC it should be available on your phone and tablet as well.  We are sure they will be some restrictions on this but the whole point is for the end user to work seamlessly no matter where he/she is located.




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Cloud File Storage vs. Cloud Backup

Is there a difference?

In a world where everything is saved, shared and stored to the “cloud” its easy to get lost if your data is safely stored or backed up.

File Storage

There are multiple file storage options available on-line these days, most common brands are Box, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive.  All of them offer ease of use and push all your files to the cloud, from where they can be accessed anywhere at any time.

But what if you accidentally delete a files(s) on the main computer? That action will replicate almost imminently to the on-line file storage and you have essentially lost that file(s).

This is where a Backup solution comes into play.

Cloud Backup

Cloud Backup solutions not only sync your files in real time but also provide you with the option of selecting a date from which you can restore from.  Most backup solutions should let you backup the last 15 days if not more.  A good backup solution should offer:

  • Daily, weekly, monthly backups
  • Options to archive data
  • Encryption
  • Filters (exclude files that don’t need to be part of the backup)
  • PC and server backup
  • Options to backup data only within Canada, or within U.S. or both.
  • Easy setup and minimal input from the use

A good business will have a combination of both on-line file storage and a cloud backup as part of their Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP).  With high speed internet available almost anywhere in North America your business can move to a temporary site or recover from a disaster much faster then ever before.

When you compare the cost of business downtime vs the cost of these backup solutions it becomes very clear that every business should have a DRP.

Is your business prepared?

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What is the Cloud?

What is the Cloud?

Essentially “the cloud” is a collection of shared resources. Servers and networks that are combined together offer businesses a centralized location to store all their data and/or applications.  The Cloud has been around since the birth of the Internet.  Till recently only corporations were able to afford and justify the costs of having Cloud services but with the prices of high speed internet and disk space coming down year after year, almost any small /medium business can afford a Cloud service now.

Types of Clouds

Private Cloud – this has been around since the start of the Internet.  It provides companies that house their servers internally on their own network to share this resource across multiple offices and locations via the internet.

Public Cloud – in recent years this has seen a huge surge in popularity as cost of servers and network operations start to decline.  In Public Cloud companies share the same “space” as other  companies.  For example one server might host 2,4 or 10 different companies (multitenancy).  It all depends on the your needs and budget.

Hybrid Cloud – with internet connections getting faster and more reliable a Hybrid Cloud is quickly becoming the preferred options for most businesses.  It combines the benefits of having an onsite private cloud in conjunction with using a public cloud.  You get the speed and security of having a server within your office walls along with a piece of mind that your files are also available in the cloud if your office network was not accessible.

Cloud Services

Email – Gmail, Hotmail, Exchange..

Data – Dropbox, Box, Skydrive…

Applications (SaaS) – Office 365, Google Apps, Salesforce…


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Backup Your Business Data

Losing some or all of your business data may have devastating consequences. Even if the data isn’t considered critical to your business, the loss of emails, contact data and other documents may still have a considerable impact in lost downtime and productivity.

Creating a back-up of your data is a sensible and easy way to ensure that in the event of a fire, computer theft or virus infection you can recover all of your business information from your computer or website quickly and easily.

The financial cost and time that it takes to create and implement a back up strategy is likely to be only a fraction of what you will spend if you need to recover from a data loss without one.

Think of a backup strategy as insurance for your data.

Top tips

  • Make regular backups of critical data and programs on your computer. Store the backup disks in secure offsite storage.
  • Make sure you avoid needing to recover data by having good security practices in the first place. Install and use security software including a firewall and anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
  • Use a strong password to secure your back-up. This will make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for someone to view it or misuse it.

Develop a back-up strategy

  1. Develop a disaster recovery plan. Start by assessing your level of risk and identifying what actions you can take to minimise the risk.
  2. Assess what data and programs on your computer need to be backed up and how often. You may either back up all the data and certain programs on your hard drive each time you back up or you may do incremental back-ups. Incremental back-ups only include the files that have changed since the last time therefore saving time and space.
  3. Select a back-up device that is large enough to store the files and fast enough so it is not too time-consuming. Examples include CDs, DVDs, memory sticks or an external hard drive.
  4. Make a note somewhere obvious, such as in an office diary, reminding you to do the back-up.
  5. Test the data that has been backed up successfully and that your process is working properly.
  6. Store the back-up copies in a safe location away from your computer systems i.e. away from your home or business premises. Remember putting this information on portable media makes it vulnerable to physical removal so secure it.

Back-up storage devices

Data can be backed up to an external USB hard disk, DVD ROMS, or high capacity tape drives. The cost of storage has fallen dramatically over the past several years. An external portable hard disk big enough to store the data for most small or medium businesses will cost less than $200. Some portable hard drives even come with free back-up software. Larger business can invest in back-up tapes which hold even more data in a small easily transportable format and are usually more cost effective for large amounts of data.

All back-up software should allow back-ups to be created automatically on a scheduled basis. All you have to do in most cases is change the storage media. If you are using USB hard disks you should have several of them that you can rotate, one for each day. This eliminates the chance of a corruption in your main data overwriting your only back-up copy.

You should undertake regular testing of your back-ups to ensure that they are working correctly. This could be as simple as restoring a copy of all or some files to a temporary folder on one of your computers. Most back-up software will come with a feature that can be used to verify the data once it has been written to the back-up device. This makes the back-up process slower but should stop any errors occurring with the process.

Offsite or online storage of back-ups

You should ensure that you create additional copies of your data so that they can be stored offsite. Having an offsite copy ensures that in the event of a break in or fire that you have a copy of your data away from the danger.

A typical back-up strategy could involve making daily back-ups of data which are stored in a secure location on premises with a weekly back-up that is removed from the premises each week.

Companies on the internet offer online back-up of data. Some antivirus products now come with free online backup with around 2GB of space. These can be an ideal solution for some small business but remember that you are entrusting your data to a third party company and that you have no control of who has access to it from within their organisation.

Don’t forget to ensure that all back-ups (onsite, online and offsite) are encrypted and protected with a password.

Password protect back-ups

A back-up on a single storage device makes it convenient for anybody that steals or finds your data! Using a strong password to secure your back-up will make it much more difficult, if not impossible, for someone to view it or misuse it.

Most back-up software will allow you to set a password on the files. Some versions of modern operating systems such as Window Vista and Windows 7 include software for encrypting entire drives on your computer and your back-up devices. There are also free open source software programs that will allow you to do this. Searching the internet for terms such as “open source encrypt backup” will find these software applications.

Source: StaySmartOnline

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The Importance of Having A Website for Any Business

web-design-sthelensOne of the most surprising things when you look at small businesses is how many of them don’t have a website. You would think that in this day and age everybody would know how important a website is for all businesses. Clearly that is not the case. Any business that does not have a website is missing out on one of the most powerful marketing tools available to them.

The main reason that it is important for businesses to have a website is how people are likely to find you. These days most people will go online and research products and companies before they make a purchase, if you don’t have a website you are missing out on all of this potential business. Even if people don’t buy your product online they are still likely to research it online so you have to have a website so these people can learn about your business.

A website is also important because it helps you establish credibility as a business. Most people just assume that you have a website since the vast majority of businesses do, at least the vast majority of big companies do. There are actually still quite a few small businesses that don’t have a website and without one this is exactly what they will remain. If you don’t have a website that you can refer people to potential customers are going to assume that you are a small time company that does not take their business seriously. Once you establish this reputation it is going to be hard to make sales.

A website will not only give you credibility but it will also help to give the impression that your company is bigger and more successful than it may actually be. One of the great things about the internet is that the size of your company does not really matter. There is no reason that you can’t get your site to rank in Google ahead of a large multinational competitor and funnel off some of their traffic. This is a big part of the reason that a website is even more important for a small business than a big one, it tends to level the playing field.

Clearly there are still a lot of small businesses that do not have websites, there are various reasons for this but mostly it comes down to the belief that they are expensive. It is rather surprising how much small business owners believe a website will cost them. In truth a website can be built for very little money. Remember you don’t need a giant ten thousand page website for your business, just a simple site that tells people about your company and your products will be more than enough.

Source: Superweb

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Security pros cheer hint of hands-off updates in Windows Blue

Microsoft’s apparent plan to automatically update its own Windows Store apps is drawing praise from security experts.


“People just don’t want to deal with [updating software], nor should they have to,” added Andrew Storms, director of security operations at Tripwire’s nCircle.”Auto-updating apps … improve security and are great for anybody that does not have their own update or patch management solution,” said Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of Qualys, in an email reply to questions.

Kandek and Storms were reacting to reports Monday that the next version of Windows 8, code named “Blue” by Microsoft and thought to be formally dubbed Windows 8.1, will automatically update Microsoft-made apps designed for the tile-based “Modern,” née “Metro,” user interface (UI).

The WinBeta blog was the first to note the auto-updating when it examined a recently-leaked build of Windows 8.1, saying that the PC powered by the still-unreleased upgrade had received silent updates to several Modern apps via the Windows Update service.

Currently, Modern apps bundled with Windows 8 and Windows RT, or those later installed by users, must be updated manually: Customers receive an alert when an app update is available, but must still steer to the Windows Store, the official download market for all Modern apps, to retrieve and install the update.

That hands-on model runs counter to long-standing Microsoft philosophies regarding software updating and patching, which hold that the less asked of users, the safer they are. The most prominent example of that outlook is the Windows Update service and its by-default enabling of Automatic Updates, which silently downloads and installs fixes, patches and even additional features to the operating system without user interaction.

If WinBeta’s claims are accurate and automatic updating of Microsoft’s Modern apps makes it into the final of Windows 8.1, customers will be safer, the experts contended.

For Storms, automatic app updates fit nicely with Microsoft’s previously-announced plans to issue Modern app patches on the fly, not only on the monthly Patch Tuesday. “It’s a reflection of where Microsoft is heading,” Storms said. “Their internal philosophies [regarding updates] are starting to change because it’s a transition time for them.”

WinBeta provided no evidence that third-party Modern apps would also be updated automatically, hinting that Microsoft will hew to tradition, and reserve Windows Update for its own software.

Consumers may generally consent to automatic updates, but enterprises have historically balked at modifying company machines without compatibility testing to make sure new code doesn’t break existing applications or workflows. Businesses have also often blocked upgrades sporting new features for fear of increased employee training costs or a sudden flood of calls to the help desk.

But corporations should rethink those conservative practices and get with the program, argued Kandek “While I believe some enterprise shops will want to control this update process in a tighter way, many companies will be better off letting machines — at least workstations — auto-update and trust the built-in and battle-tested update mechanism to keep machines up to date as long as they are connected to the Internet,” he said.

Kandek cited instances where corporate IT has already been cut out of the update loop, including employee-owned devices such as Apple iPads and iPhones, and Android-powered tablets and smartphones, and browsers like Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox, both of which rely on silent updating services.

“Windows 8.1 is just another example of that tendency [toward auto-updating in the enterprise],” Kandek said.

Storms was more cautious, if only because of a recent episode where a flawed Windows patch crippled an unknown number of Windows 7 PCs with the infamous “Blue Screen of Death” and constant reboots.

“I think at some point every app that is not cloud-delivered will end up being 100% auto-updating,” Storms said. “If it weren’t for the BSOD-related patch from Micr

Microsoft has not revealed a release schedule for Windows 8.1, saying only that it plans to deliver updates more frequently. Most analysts and pundits, however, expect Microsoft to preview Windows 8.1 at its BUILD developers conference June 26-28, and ship the upgrade to customers later this summer or in the fall.osoft last month, we’d have a good history lesson to tell here. Sadly, there is always going to be something that breaks.”

This article, Security pros cheer hint of hands-off updates in Windows Blue, was originally published at


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How you use your time will determine your company’s success

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How you use your time will determine your company’s success

While many Canadians dream of owning a business, the task of running one can be quite daunting. Not only are you president and chief executive, you are also the finance department, marketing team, office administrator and IT support staff, just to name a few of your jobs.

Running a successful small business takes careful planning and management. However, the strategy of many entrepreneurs, is to roll up their sleeves and tackle all the tasks on their to-do list. What they may not realize is that spending their time doing chores that can be left to others can have a negative impact on the business. It is important to evaluate when to let go and pass off a task to an employee, contractor or other form of outsourced assistance.

First, appraise the value of your time. Entrepreneurs tend to undervalue it, often using something called backward math: taking a yearly salary and dividing it to get an hourly rate. This equation fails to factor in vacation time, stat holidays, time spent in meetings, training or travel.

Then there is something called “opportunity cost,” which is the value of opportunities you miss because you are doing something else. Perhaps you missed an important networking event because you were stuck doing year-end accounting. There are only 24 hours in a day so it is critical to properly evaluate your time. Running to the office supply store to get paper and ink seems like a simple task, but it may prevent you from getting other, more significant work achieved. For any given task, think about what it is taking you away from, it may be nothing but be honest?

Taking on tasks others can do faster, better and more efficiently can also negatively impact your business. Take for example, web design. While there are many templates available that make it easy to build your own website, the results are often far from spectacular. Your company’s website is often the first point of customer contact and you only have one chance to make a first impression. The same can hold true of advertising and marketing material.

Even if you can do the task at hand and do it well, there are other signs you should delegate to others.  For example, are you working all hours of the day and night just to keep up? Excessive hours are understandable if you are experiencing substantial growth, but not if it’s just to maintain the status quo. As well, missing deadlines and deliverables is a sure sign you have too much on your plate. Finally, if you find yourself missing out on time with family and friends because you are working, it may be time to call in outside help.

It can be frightening to rely on others. However, there are many resources available to help you find the right person. For example, networking events are great places to get referrals for the best lawyer, accountant, web designer or marketer to work with. Additionally, there are many online companies (oDesk and, to name just two) that help connect business owners with reliable experts. Of course, don’t overlook your network of friends, business partners and associates — they may know just the person you are looking for.

While “outsourcing” often has negative connotations, it doesn’t necessarily mean sending work outside the country. For the small business owner it should mean drawing on your network of contacts, using outside resources and your employees to achieve your goals. Being honest with yourself regarding your expertise and the true value of your time is an important step to building your business and your success is Canada’s success.

Statistics show that small businesses have quite a positive impact on our economy.  Last year listed 10 surprising stats about small business in Canada, three of which illustrate their value: in 2009, 28% of the country’s total GDP came from businesses with fewer than 50 employees. These companies also accounted for 25% of Canada’s total export value. Perhaps even more important is that nearly half of the workforce (48%) is employed by small businesses.

Bringing in outside expert help not only can increase your likelihood of success but it may even help you get back a little bit of free time – and that’s something that is hard to put a value on.

— Sean Harris is general manager of small business sales for Grand & Toy

– Article provided by Financial Post

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How often should I replace computers?

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How often should I replace computers?

Computers can “slow down” for a number of reasons; most of these can be resolved by FlashByte either remotely or as a site visit.   But sometimes computers reach a point where they are no longer powerful enough – they were fine when they were bought four years ago but now the day to day activity becomes too much for the computer to handle.   The latest applications and operating systems put stress on the machines that they were not meant to handle, and like all mechanical devices, you reach a point where it is no longer economical to repair or maintain.

Newer computers on average are four times faster than a three year old computer; sixteen times faster than a six year old computer; and cheaper too. In a world where every second counts and people are hyper connected, any type of competitive edge that can help you win a client or business is money worth spending.

So, how often should you replace desktops and laptops? On average a desktop should be replaced every four years and laptops every three years.  Why are desktops and laptops different?  Laptops are generally slower than a desktop so you’ll notice them struggling a lot sooner and general wear and tear is usually much higher for a laptop.

Sometimes businesses are afraid of spending money of computers due to high cost of replacement but when you look at the numbers below, it might be worth taking a look at upgrading your systems or having someone from FlashByte assist with your next computer refresh project:

  • Average desktop price – $1000
    • Life – 4 years
    • Average yearly cost – $250
    • Average weekly cost – $4.81 (cheaper than some coffees)


You don’t have to refresh all your computers at one time.  Most of our clients replace about 1/3 of their computers every year.  This way they can budget and prepare funds for their IT systems.

It is not the cost of repair that’s should be the issue, it is the effect it has on your companies productivity because of the downtime.

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