Microsoft Small Business Server (SBS) replacement

On: April, 17th 2015 | Under: Office 365


Microsoft Windows Small Business Server was hugely popular with businesses of up to 75 people. The most recent version (SBS 2011) offers a combination of Windows Server 2008 R2 and Exchange Server 2010 in one box at very good price. It also includes SharePoint Foundation 2010 and SQL Server 2008 R2 Express and, with the additional purchase of a Premium Add-On pack, it can support applications that rely on SQL Server 2008 R2 Standard.

However, last July, Microsoft said Small Business Server 2011 would be the last SBS version and no longer be available for purchase. Support would also cease sometime in the future.

So, where does this leave businesses that previously would have used SBS as their low-cost, all-in-one server solution?

Microsoft would like you to purchase Windows Server 2012 Essentials, the product it has positioned as a replacement for SBS. Essentials is however quite a different animal altogether.

For one thing, it provides out-of-the-box support for just 25 users (and 50 devices.) If you have more than that, you must purchase the full-blown Windows Server 2012 Standard edition.

More importantly, one key attraction of SBS has been removed: Essentials doesn’t include Exchange at all. For that functionality, you’re expected to subscribe to Microsoft Office 365, use a hosted Exchange service or buy and run your own Exchange server on a separate physical box, all at an additional cost.

Our recommended Small Business Server Solution;

  • Email – Small Businesses need to move to their email to Office365, or hosted Exchange, as a hosted solution it is an enterprise grade product supporting multiple device access (including Windows, Apple & Android apps for tablets and smartphones), syncing between devices, shared calendars & contacts, distribution groups, shared mailboxes, web based access, additional options include email archiving, compliance & retention polices – similar features to SBS
  • Office 365 Licensing – Full Desktop versions of Outlook, Word, Excel & PowerPoint on a subscription basis able to be deployed on up to 5 PCs or MAC’s plus 5 tablets plus 5 Smartphones per user. Plus you get access to Lync (soon to be Skype for Business) which provides video conferencing, screen sharing, and instant messaging. Also included is SharePoint, a company intranet application, that enables file sharing and document management.
  • Storage – Office 365 includes 1TB per user of OneDrive for Business cloud storage. For businesses requiring local storage for large data requirements and economical transfer, on premise Windows Server 2012 Essentials is the suggested solution.
  • Backup – As a hosted service all Office 365 products are managed and backed up at the data centre. However most business will still require a backup solution for local workstations and locally stored files. OneDrive for business can be configured as the cloud repository however data transfer sizes may mean that Windows Server 2012 Essentials is a better option also backing up shared files and application stored locally.
  • Applications – If you have locally based shared applications (such as MYOB) we can look at hosting on Windows Server 2012 Essentials or if you are looking for a cloud based alternative look to Microsoft Azure or similar services. Network Printing may also require a local server depending on your hardware and network.
  • Support – As Microsoft partners we aim to be your single point of contact for all your IT. We administer and manage your of Office 365, plus we can manage your workstations, security, and on premises networks to keep your business systems performing.

We can help with your Small Business Server Solution

If you need guidance and support on the complex decision please give us a call. We can sit down with you and explain the difference options, discuss alternatives for you business and ultimately make a recommendation. We are able to transform you business, migrate your existing data, and provide you with the support you need to make the change.

If you require guidance give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call today and one of our technology professionals will be happy to discuss how we can help.

 

Want to Fall in Love with Your Computer Again?

On: March, 13th 2015 | Under: Office 365


The Thrill is Gone – do you remember that classic blues song? It’s a heart-breaking reminder about the loss of a once exhilarating and passionate connection. It’s a bitter realization when the old spark seems gone forever. Somehow over time, all the previous excitement has simply fizzled out. Excuse us, but we are talking about your relationship with your computer!

How is Your Relationship with Your PC?

Yes, even your formerly beloved computer can slow down over time until the thrill is most definitely gone. Honestly, does your computer seem unresponsive, sluggish and outdated? Are those exciting new models starting to turn your head? Maybe you and your cranky computer just need a little professional help to rekindle that old flame.

Tips on Learning to Love Your PC Again

It’s very likely that the relationship between you and your computer is salvageable, it just needs a little extra attention. Try these steps to put some zip back in the relationship with your computer:

  • Slow Startup? Does it take your computer way too long to wake up and get started with the day’s tasks? It’s possible that there are too many non-critical programs launching during the startup process. Streamline the start-up process by consulting with a technology professional who can identify unnecessary programs that are slowing down the functioning of your computer. Cutting back on these boot problems should speed things along.
  • Is Your PC Bloated? PC makers often throw in a lot of free tools. Initially, it sounds good to have all of those freebies, but a lot of techies call those freebies “bloatware” for a good reason. It’s possible your PC is running slowly because of bloat. If these free programs aren’t helping you, removing them might lighten the load on your computer.
  • Ready to add RAM? Does it seem like your old PC is in a perpetual state of sleep-walking? Is it nearly overwhelmed every time it has to open a spreadsheet? If yes, then maybe it’s time to spend a few bucks and add more RAM or memory. To assess your current RAM status, check System Properties to see what you have onboard. How much RAM should you add? Do you simply surf the net and check your e-mail or do you have a kid who’s a high speed gaming fanatic? Have a technology professional properly assess your needs and add the required RAM to your PC.
  • Is Your PC Ready for a Second Life? Didn’t everyone’s grandmother use the phrase – “don’t throw good money after bad?” At some point, it’s probably not worth pumping more money into a really old PC. That doesn’t mean it can’t still enjoy a second life as something other than your smoking hot primary computer. Turn it into a secondary computer. Do you love “old-school” gaming, then check into those older games that can run on your older operating system. You can also donate it to a local school, daycare center or charity organization if it’s not completely ancient.
  • Time to Retire and Recycle? If your old PC is not even up to enjoying a second life, maybe it’s time to pull the plug. If you are going to retire your PC, remember to be responsible to both the environment and yourself. First, be sure to eliminate all of your data from the PC. Deleting files, emptying the recycle bin or reformatting the hard drive is not enough to cover your tracks. Even the browser’s cache, cookies and e-mail contacts can contain sensitive information. Don’t jeopardize your digital security. Contact a technology professional for assistance with secure data removal. Also, be environmentally responsible and never toss an unwanted PC in a dumpster. Recycle the equipment through a reputable recycler.

Improve Your Relationship with Your Computer

Those lyrics, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with,” can also apply to computers. If you can’t afford a new computer at this time, it’s very likely that your current computer can be improved with some professional maintenance. Computer Troubleshooters can help you increase the efficiency of an older PC with a little TLC and maybe some added RAM. Consider a deep cleaning to remove unnecessary programs that are doing nothing but slowing down the functioning of your PC. Give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call and one of their technology professionals will be happy to evaluate the status of your current computer.

 

 

Microsoft Server 2003: End of Life July 2015?

On: February, 12th 2015 | Under: Office 365


Microsoft have confirmed that they will end support for their popular Server 2003 product range on the 14th of July 2015. It was first released on April 24, 2003. An updated version, Windows Server 2003 R2, was released on December 6, 2005. This product range also includes Small Business Server 2003.

These products were aimed towards the small to medium-sized businesses. Supporting file and printer sharing, secure Internet connectivity, centralised desktop application deployment, and in the case of Small Business Server the addition of Microsoft Exchange (email) and SQL (database).

When Microsoft ceases support for Server 2003 they will no longer issue security updates or software patches for any version of Server 2003. If you continue to use this product it will be like basing your business on a piece of equipment that is 12 years old, no longer serviced, and who the manufacturer no longer provides parts.

Ultimately businesses who continue to use Server 2003 will take on declining performance & escalating risk over time.

Upgrade or your business systems due to Security and Compliance Issues

If you are still using Server 2003 or Small Business Server 2003, you should take this situation seriously or your business will be negatively impacted with some significant consequences. You should consider the following information as you make your Server 2003 migration plan.

  • Security Risks:The biggest problem is the security threat to your business. Without the security provided by an updated operating system, all of your business data and personal information is vulnerable to harmful viruses and spyware. There is a strong likelihood that malicious viruses will be developed & unleashed on Server 2003 once it is no longer supported. No business owner wants to think about a being attacked by Malware or their business not being able to function properly.
  • Compliance Issues:For many businesses, continuing to operate a non supported software can result in compliance issues leading to the suspension of certifications, and/or public notification of the organisation’s inability to securely maintain its systems and customer information. Compliance problems can place your business in legal peril and seriously damage your business’ reputation.
  • Upgrade Expenses:As a business owner trying to control costs, do you think an upgrade will be too expensive? Think again. The problems that are likely to arise can cost your business significantly more than the upgrade.

The good news is that Microsoft provides a number of alternatives that may suit your situation & budget.

So what are the alternatives for your business?

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 – Windows Server 2012 R2 offers a lengthy list of improvements compared with Windows Server 2003, including integrated virtualization, better security, extensive scalability, new operational roles, script execution capabilities, and far more. While it is a substantial learning curve to move directly from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012 R2, customers are well advised to not make an interim upgrade to Windows Server 2008 as that product has already gone to end of mainstream support in January 2015. Licensing & hardware investment can be significant to facilitate this migration.
  • Office 365 – This is a Microsoft cloud hosted version of much of the server software product plus it can be provisioned with the full range of Office software such as Email Outlook, Word, PowerPoint & Excel. By subscribing to this per user per month service you can avoid investing in new hardware, on site running costs (such as electricity, rent, air con, security) & for larger companies in house IT staff. Smooth migration from Server 2003 to office 365 requires professional user management and ongoing administration much like a server, but without the critical infrastructure management (Microsoft does this in their data center), so IT support can more easily be outsourced.
  • Microsoft Azure – This is a hosted server product that Microsoft has developed for IT integrators to host server infrastructure centrally and control locally, so software & application can be deployed & managed on an individual rather than collective basis. An Office 365 & Azure hybrid (using virtualization) may be a practical alternative for industries that have developed applications that are reliant on 32 bit technology that was the core of the 2003 product and may not be compatible with the 64 bit technology

Do you have a Server Migration plan in place?

Microsoft has flagged this drop dead date for support for a serious reason, so this is not a situation you can simply ignore. It’s happening on July 14 2015, so mark your calendar. Most large organisations have been working on their migration plans for years. For small-medium sized business owners, the hour is getting late so we strongly encourage you to take action today!

Computer Troubleshooters encourages you to take this situation seriously and develop a migration plan immediately. Our experts can help you understand your migration options and work with you to develop an upgrade strategy for your business. Call your local Computer Troubleshooters office today before you run out of time.

 

Are You Protecting Your Clients’ Private Information on Your Network and Devices?

On: January, 5th 2015 | Under: Office 365


There’s a long list of improvements that technology has delivered, but a major downside is cybercrime. The theft of digital information has become the most commonly reported type of criminal fraud. Surprisingly, the theft of digital information has actually surpassed physical theft. When Sony was recently hacked they stole 100TB of data – everything they could find – emails, movies, passwords, & payroll information.

Cybercrime: A Big Danger for Small Businesses

While financial institutions and large companies have been strengthening their networks against attacks, cybercriminals have begun targeting less well-defended small businesses. Small businesses are attacked everyday, it just doesn’t make the news like a massive data breach at Sony or Target. If you aren’t convinced that it’s a major problem, the following information based on a 2013 survey conducted by the US National Small Business Association:

  • 44% of small businesses have been victims of cyber attacks. The average cyber attack costs a small business $8,700.
  • Business must often pay to notify customers of a data breach and also pay for credit monitoring for customers with compromised information. Companies are potentially liable for damages in lawsuits brought by customers with compromised information.

Protect Your Clients and Your Business

Computer Troubleshooters offers the following recommendations to increase the security of your network and to safeguard your clients’ valuable personal and financial information:

  • Cybersecurity Awareness: Awareness, education and training is actually the first line of defense when it comes to protecting your business and clients from cybercrime. Establish a cybersecurity plan and policies for employees that requires the use of passwords; guidelines for handling

 

  • Secure Your Wi-Fi Network:You must password protect access to the router on your network. A common misconception is that simply having a router on your network will provide the protection you need. Without a password on the router, it is like putting a door on your office but not locking it.

 

  • Authentication and Passwords:Each employee must have unique passwords. Changing passwords every three months is recommended. Multi-factor authentication adds greater protection because it requires additional information to gain entry. When working with vendors that are handling your sensitive financial information, ask if they use multi-factor authentication. If not, you might want to work with a different vendor.
  • Clean Machines:Always use the latest operating system, security software and web browser. These will provide the best protection against online threats including viruses and malware. Block spam with a reliable spam filter, plus your e-mail will be easier to manage.
  • Secure Transactions:Protect client financial information from theft during online transactions by using encryption software. Encryption software also protects your business’ financial accounts, personnel files, product information and other highly sensitive data. Isolate payment systems from each other and don’t surf the internet from the computer you use to process payments.
  • Control Business and Client Information:Know exactly how and where critical information is stored, how it is used and how it is protected. Administrative privileges are only for key personnel. Limit employee access to data and always use strong and individualized passwords. Also, control physical access to computers. Lock laptop equipment when not in use. Use a reliable backup system that is at compliant with your industry.
  • Firewall:Consider using a reliable software firewall that prevents outsiders from accessing data on your private network. If your employees work from home, be sure that their home system is also firewall protected.
  • Mobile Devices:Require users to password protect their mobile devices, encrypt their data and install security apps to prevent cyber criminals from stealing information while the device is on a public network.

Play It Safe!

You have worked hard to establish your business. Success in any business is largely built on a reputation based on the trust and support of loyal clients and customers. Don’t gamble with this hard-earned loyalty by putting your clients’ security at risk. Safeguard your business against cybercrime by taking the necessary steps to ensure the security of your clients’ sensitive information.

Computer Troubleshooters can help you fight cybercrime by strengthening your business’ network with a variety of security products and solutions to cover all areas that are potentially at risk in your business. Computer Troubleshooters can also help you to establish a cybersecurity plan and policies for your business. Give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call and one of our technology professionals will be happy to help you.

 

 

 

Keeping it Clean!

On: December, 5th 2014 | Under: Office 365


It is easy to see the colossal mess that can quickly pile up in the office kitchen when you are busy. Just a few days of neglecting the rubbish and suddenly your office kitchen has become a health hazard. Seriously, how long has that leftover slice of Christmas cake been sitting there? Hey, there’s not a single clean coffee cup to be found on the shelf!

Unfortunately, most of us who work in an office environment are familiar with that type of kitchen experience.
In reality, a similar fate can befall your office computers. If you neglect a regular schedule of computer updates and maintenance, messy problems will soon start piling up. A disorganized office supply room or a dirty kitchen is bad enough, but never forget that your computers handle your business’ most important assets: accounting, financial records, communications and client information

Keeping It Clean – Inside and Out!

Remember that keeping the outside of your computers clean isn’t just about aesthetic appeal. Routine cleaning, especially the removal of dust, can keep your computer from overheating and damaging the hard drive and other components. It’s important.

Perhaps even more important than a dust-free keyboard, is keeping your computer’s internal “nuts and bolts” in working order. To keep your computers in tip top shape, we strongly recommend the following guidelines:

Step 1: Keep your computer up to date. Both Mac and Windows release regular security updates for your operating system. These updates are generally set to run automatically. If you aren’t sure if the updates are complete or if you have disabled the automated updates, follow these guidelines:

Windows : Go to the Start Menu, click on All Programs and then click on Windows Updates. See the status of your updates and check on the automatic updates settings. You can set your computer to download and install updates or you can perform these tasks manually.

Mac : Open the Systems Preference menu and choose Software Update. All available updates will appear on a list. Select the updates you want to install.

Step 2: Clear your Internet history or over a period of time data builds up to a point that can cause performance issues. Use the tools that come with your Internet browser of choice and following the required actions:

Internet Explorer: See the Internet Options control panel and click Delete on the General tab under the Browsing History. Firefox: See Firefox menu and open Options to click the Clear button to erase cookies and cache data. Chrome: To clear data, hold Control and Shift and click Delete. This will open a menu where you can select the data you want to erase. Also click on Clear Browsing Data when you are done. Safari: Clear the browsing cache by using the Edit menu then select Empty Cache.

Step 3: Malware is a type of program that can create security holes and compromise your computer’s performance. Call a Computer Troubleshooters professional to learn about a variety of both free and paid programs that are designed to erase malware and spyware. One of the best ways to avoid malware is to never download anything you are not sure of, such as a mysterious attachment that comes from an unfamiliar e-mail address.

Step 4: Defend your computer against malicious viruses with a powerful antivirus program. Having an antivirus program on your computer is a necessity. While no program can guarantee you will be safe from every possible threat, not having this protection or having a low quality product exposes your computer to the likelihood of infection. To avoid losing important data or having to pay for expensive repairs, talk to your local Computer Troubleshooters about your security needs.

Step 5: Hard drive maintenance is an automatic task provided on most recent computers. It defragments and reorganizes data storage for greater efficiency. It also handles disk cleanup by deleting duplicates and unused temporary files. This process is typically automatic on a Mac. With Windows, if your computer doesn’t provide automatic hard drive maintenance, use the Start Menu to open and run the maintenance program.

Step 6: Now that your computer is running more efficiently, be sure that the computer has a reliable backup system in place. There are many different options for backup solutions that are both reliable and affordable. Call your local Computer Troubleshooters to discuss the available solutions that best fits your needs.

Take Care of Your Valuable Assets with Regular Computer Care and Maintenance!

Your computers are one of your business’ most valuable assets. Try to imagine getting through even one day of business without your computers functioning. Take care of your computers so that you can take care of your business. Regular computer service, maintenance and updates will keep your machine working at optimal efficiency. Computer Troubleshooters can help you with malware, virus protection and backup solutions or help to establish a regular maintenance schedule for your office computers. Give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call and one of their technology professionals will be happy to help you.

Why you need to protect against Thunder Storms?

On: November, 25th 2014 | Under: Office 365


It is the season for thunderstorm activity across Australia. Recent storms have caused havoc with IT equipment in office & homes for our clients. Last week’s storm in Sydney fried computers, printers, cable modems and backup external drives, let alone more expensive business equipment such as servers. No one who got equipment fried actually got struck by lightning, so why did they lose multiple pieces of equipment in one wild storm and most importantly how do you stop it happening to you or your business.

Most technology depends on a clean, uninterrupted supply of electricity. Unfortunately, inconsistencies in your electrical supply or a sudden complete loss of power can cause major damage to computer systems and other sensitive equipment.

Electrical supply is subjected to ‘brownouts’, surges and even complete outages. ‘Brownouts’ are momentary slumps in supply, to a level under 100 volts. They are frequently caused by electrical storms, creating a momentary drain on the power supply. Brownouts can affect a computer even if the voltage dip cannot be ‘seen’ (e.g. the lights in the room dimming). And if they don’t crash your PC, they can cause stresses that can shorten the life of its components.

Surges of power often follow brownouts as the power rebounds back to normal, and can have similar effects caused by too much voltage. Surges are common in areas where lines are hung on poles that are exposed to lightening, while the lightening may not hit the line the storms electrical activity is enough to cause variations in the voltage.

What devices will protect my systems from electrical issues:

• Surge/power filters or protectors are designed to ‘fail’ and cut the offending power supply before it damages your equipment. A direct lightning strike or similar condition will destroy any surge/power filter, but it will indicate that it has lost protection and may still have some protection in reserve until it can be replaced. A surge/power filter is designed to ‘self-sacrifice’ itself, and is low cost compared to some other alternatives.

• An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) sits between your power outlet and your electronic device, providing backup power from its batteries when the mains supply fails. This gives you time to safely save open files and initiate the computer’s shutdown process, this particularly important for servers.
Additionally, most UPS’ regulate the power that comes from the wall, eliminating sags, spikes, noise, and other electrical interference that can damage equipment and data or interrupt operations.

A couple of common questions about power protection devices:

• If I have a UPS, do I need surge protection? Yes – International standards don’t require UPS’ to have surge protection, so they don’t have a high level of protection as this would increase their cost and make them uncompetitive. They are designed to handle the end of a major surge, not the whole surge itself, so the UPS device itself also needs adequate protection from surges. It’s much cheaper to replace your failed surge protector than your fried UPS.

• How long can things run on a UPS during a blackout? Well, there is no standard answer, as UPS solutions are available to support devices from anywhere from five minutes to two days. There are also several types of UPS, namely Standby, Line-interactive, and On-line, which have different features (and associated costs). Typically, you should plan on enough run time to allow you to save any open files and safely shutdown your system, a definite requirement if you run a server.

In many cases, power protection can be justified by looking at the consequences of not having it. Several hours of professional work can be lost with just one brownout, due to a computer crashing before the work can be saved to disk. The consequences can be even more devastating if the power interruption physically damages the saved, historical data on the computer’s disk. This can cause a business to suffer expensive setbacks in terms of time and disruption, even if the data can be restored from a recent backup.

Prevention is always better than cure and for a small investment in electrical protection hardware you can make sure you don’t get fried in the next thunder storm.

Talk to your local Computer Troubleshooter about how power protection can help to prevent you from losing valuable time and money.