Rest In Peace, Windows XP

On April 8th, 2014, Microsoft officially ended support for Windows XP. The XP OS will no longer receive security patches or updates, leaving it wide open to hackers, malware, viruses, and other Internet-borne diseases.

This should come as no surprise however, as Windows XP is nearly 13 years old. Released in October of 2001, it is nearly as old as the original Google search engine and the first Mac OS X. It certainly predates Facebook. And yet, as many as a third of all PC users continue to use the XP OS. Why?

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The Small Business Owner’s Complete Guide to the Cloud

Cloud computing. The term is everywhere, an apparent synonym for convenience, scalability, and good plain business sense. Why?

It is the “why” of cloud computing that has gone overlooked amidst all the hype. WHY, exactly, is cloud computing so beneficial? How does it work? Understanding the answers to these questions will reveal that, in fact, cloud computing has many different uses, and is only beneficial when used in the right way by the right type of consumer. Enterprises, for example, should use cloud computing in a much different way than small businesses, although this is far from clear in most of the literature.

So let’s clear the cloud away from the cloud and start with asking: why?


By definition, “cloud computing” means using remote servers for data management via Internet connection. This way, the data is portable and can be accessed anywhere and anytime, servers can be leveraged against each other to handle increased data requirements (scalability), and you can rely on the cloud service provider to maintain the infrastructure without unforeseen costs and downtime wreaking havoc on your office. Before the rise of reliable, powerful Internet connections, all the servers and infrastructure had to be in-house. There was no way to access the data from your computer at home or from your smartphone. If you needed more computing power, you had to add another server. And businesses had to deal with lots of hassle and investment surrounding technology maintenance or upgrades.

Ok, but we’ve already jumped too far ahead of ourselves. If cloud computing means using remote servers for data management, what, exactly, is meant by “data management”? Does that mean data sharing? Processing? Storage? All of the above?  When people talk about cloud computing, they are usually only referring to one or two of these uses. When you’re reading articles, blogs, advertisements, or whatever on cloud computing, be sure you understand what the author is intending for cloud usage. Not knowing can be especially dangerous for small business owners, who have far different requirements for data management than their enterprise counterparts. So the question to ask is: why? Why would I be using cloud services and why would I benefit?


Over the last 5 years devices like smartphones, computers, tablets, and TVs have all evolved to the point that they can access the same content. Now we can share that YouTube video we saw last night on our laptop, with a friend at lunch using a smartphone. Devices are no longer content specific.

This phenomenon has translated into the workplace, where employees expect to access the same data remotely from multiple devices. This is especially true for enterprises, which may be spread across myriad locations around the world. So yes, enterprises really benefit from shareable data accessible by multiple remote devices, but do small businesses?

The answer to that question is usually no. If small businesses do need shareability, the more economical option is usually to translate their existing server infrastructure into a private “cloud”. This private cloud option is also far more secure and less prone to data loss and corruption.


Let’s talk about data processing. As we stated earlier, cloud computing allows for the sharing of physical resources. Separate servers can be leveraged, or scaled, to handle increased computing requirements.  Enterprises love this because their computing or processing needs vary greatly and can require the processing power of thousands of servers. Rather than ramping up a single operation with dozens of servers that may need to be decommissioned in six months, an enterprise will rely on a cloud provider that has thousands of servers ready to go, and can shut the servers down with very little notice.

Most small businesses have relatively stable data requirements and require the processing power of only one or two servers. So for small businesses, the scalability feature of the cloud is rarely an advantage. If a small business needs enhanced processing power for line-of-business software or other needs, it is actually more economical to fully leverage their existing server or servers, rather than to purchase monthly cloud services.

But let’s talk about cloud-based software for a moment, as this has been a definite trend – internet providers who need to exchange and process data with their partners are now hosting their key applications in off-site data centers. Likewise, software vendors are installing their applications in the cloud, enabling them to maintain and support one platform and reducing the chore of having to upgrade all users individually. They also can take advantage of the scalability feature and pass the savings on to their customers.

Hosted voice over IP (VoIP) applications should be noted here as well. Hosted VoIP solutions are perhaps the original shared processing solution; they use an Internet connection to scale a phone switch among users.

The takeaway here is that while the scalability feature often isn’t an advantage for small businesses in terms of infrastructure, it can be an advantage when it comes to software and third-party applications. That is why at Tektivity we generally recommend a “hybrid” environment for small businesses, with a mix of proprietary infrastructure and cloud-based applications.


You will hear many hawkers expounding upon the benefits of storing your data in the cloud, claiming that it is the most secure and convenient form of data storage/back-up out there. But we have found the opposite to most often be true. Data frequently becomes lost or corrupted as it is uploaded to the cloud, businesses may be left stranded when their cloud service provider goes out of business or reneges on their service agreement, and what the heck happens if and when the Internet connection is lost? Small businesses are the biggest losers when it comes to issues such as these. We highly recommend that small businesses continue their own on-site data backup, which can be fully automated and does not have to be the headache that it is often claimed to be.

Ok, but what about…?

It is hard to poo-poo that singular advantage of the cloud, as we stated earlier: “you can rely on the cloud service provider to maintain the infrastructure without unforeseen costs and downtime wreaking havoc on your office.” Ok, but if that is the reason you’re considering moving to the cloud, why not check out your local IT service options? For less than half the price of an in-house IT person or a full-on cloud service provider, a local IT service can monitor your network 24/7, de-bug it proactively, be on-call for any user issues, and dispatch a local technician in the off-chance of a hardware failure. At Tektivity, we even include automatic upgrades in our contract agreements, so that your technology remains up-to-date with no downtime and no disruption to your workflow.


So buyer beware, cloud computing is not the one-size-fits-all solution that it is presented to be. It is important to find an IT partner that is knowledgeable of the cloud but doesn’t hawk cloud services simply because they’re the latest and greatest. Your IT partner should keep the nature of your business in mind and ask that all-important question – WHY? – to find the best solution for YOU. And for small businesses, as we know well here at Tektivity, that solution is often a custom hybrid blend of local resources and cloud services.

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Posted in Technology for Business

The Biggest Trend In Small Business IT For 2014

2014 IT Trends

2014 IT Trends

It’s that time of year again. Industry pundits pull out their IT predictions for the biggest trend in small business IT for 2014. Our clients often ask us, “What do you guys see as being the big trends for 2014?”. Here are our own predictions:

The biggest trend that we foresee is the combination of hybrid systems that use both cloud and traditional onsite systems. These hybrid systems make businesses more flexible by integrating personal computing devices that employees are bringing to the workplace. This trend is really three different trends that are vitally reliant on each other. You can’t talk about cloud services without talking about mobility, and you can’t talk about mobility without talking about BYOD. Here is our take on all three.

Blending Cloud Services with Traditional Onsite Systems – The Best of Both Worlds.

This trend has already started, but Tektivity sees more and more small businesses requesting a blend of cloud based services with traditional onsite systems. These hybrid approaches will make small businesses more efficient and allow them to adapt to an ever changing marketplace even quicker. There are some resources that are much more efficient when kept onsite and others that work better in the cloud. Small businesses can see real efficiency gains by combining both approaches into one seamless system.

There are several things driving this trend. The most prevalent is upstream and downstream partners putting their resources in the cloud. Ordering, pricing, inventory control, resource management, and too many other functions to mention, are now being handled with cloud based systems. In order to participate as a valid business partner, small businesses are being required to access the cloud services of their larger partners.

Another driver of the hybrid system is traditional line-of-business software, that runs on onsite servers, is being transitioned to cloud servers by the software developers. Having centrally managed software saves the end-user the headache of having to do upgrades by themselves. The downside is that you may have to keep your other systems up to date to remain compatible.

Flexibility vs. Mobility

Another driver of hybrids is the demand for flexibility or what others refer to as mobility. By having access to information wherever you are whenever you want is flexibility created by mobility. The flexibility trend will grow even stronger in 2014. It is hard to imagine a software developer who is moving their product to the cloud not to have a mobile app to serve as a client on smartphones and tablets.

Employees are demanding the ability to access corporate resources while outside of the office. The trend towards cloud resources is certainly helping their cause, but there are still corporate resources that should be kept onsite. Opening the portals to provide better access to this information and resources will become more important to small businesses that want to remain nimble and reactive.

In a previous blog, I spoke about Unified Communications, or how you could make your office phone system more flexible by extending it to mobile devices. This trend will be driving small businesses to look very hard at their existing phone system and how to integrate it with other information resources, like their computer network.

Personal Devices in the Workplace – BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)

Flexibility really means allowing people to use devices they are familiar with and want to use, like smartphones and tablets. I was amazed the other day, when looking for an iPad app to access our cloud based CRM system, to find nearly double the number of apps available today then say 3-4 months ago. The demand is there for software developers to create mobile apps for specific use.  Why? Because people want the convenience of using one or two portable devices to quickly keep in touch and to easily access corporate information and resources they need to make decisions on the spot.

Using personal devices does create a whole other set of security issues, but the BYOD trend has been around long enough that we are starting to figure out how to secure the data being accessed, which will only fuel the flames of the this trend.

The overriding small business data trend for 2014? Cloud services operating in a seamless environment with onsite services that create greater efficiency, including increased flexibility with how those services are accessed using a wider array of devices.

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5 Essential Microsoft Office 2010 Tips That Work in all Office Applications

ms office image

ms office image

Okay, you’ve upgraded to MS Office 2010. If you’re just starting, you’re probably a little frustrated, but Microsoft’s new interface is easier once you get used to it.

Where the fun comes in is using some new features that will save you time and can make your life and work functions a lot easier. Here are 5 new features I really like, I hope you like them too. (Instructions are not Mac compatible).

Pinning Often-Used Documents

When you want to open a file, there is a convenient list of recently opened documents, very handy. You simply go to the File tab, choose Open and Microsoft provides a list of recent documents. But what if there are a few documents that you tend to use or access all the time? Wouldn’t it be nice if they were always at the top of the list? Easy. Hold your cursor over an item in the Recently Used list and to the right of the highlighted area you will see a small Pin icon. Click on the Pin and your document will be moved to a top section of the list and stay there until you unpin it by clicking on the Pin again.

Clip Board With Multiple Items

Did you know the latest MS Office clipboard holds up to 24 different items? This can come in handy when you need to move a lot of names or numbers around. Because the clipboard holds the items from one application to another, you can now do things like move multiple numbers from Excel into a Word Document or numerous Word phrases into PowerPoint.

Here’s how: In the Home ribbon right underneath the File tab is Paste, Cut, Copy, and Format Painter icons. Underneath these commands and icons is Clipboard with a little diagonally down arrow. Click on the arrow and a sidebar pops open with the latest things you have copied. Simply put your cursor where you want to paste an item, then click on the item in the clipboard list and it will copy to your document at the cursor location.

Picture Cropping and Styling

In Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, cropping photos and graphics got a whole lot easier. Simply insert your picture (was it one of the 24 items saved on the clipboard? See above) If you right click on the picture, the Crop command button appears, along with a nice Style command button. Choose Crop and now you can resize your photo by cutting part of it away. The Style command has a nice selection of borders for you to choose from. Try cropping a styled picture for really nice effects.

Keystroke Shortcuts to Access Ribbon Commands

The ribbon of commands atop any MS Office 2010 document are pretty easy to navigate with a mouse. But there is a little trick using the Alt key that may come in handy and keep your fingers on the keyboard. Simply press the Alt key any time you are in an MS Office 2010 document, it will make boxed letters appear in the ribbon. Then pressing any of the letters will take you to that particular command. For example, typing Alt-H-I in succession will indent your paragraph. If you have some formatting or other commands you use frequently, memorizing the keystroke shortcut can save you a lot of time.

Customizing Your Ribbons

That’s right, you can customize your ribbons to regain your favorite commands that MS Office removed, or delete commands you will never use. Go to the File tab and choose Options. Then choose Customize Ribbon. This command takes you to a pane that has multiple options for changing the commands on your various ribbons. Once you get to the tab it is pretty intuitive. Don’t worry there is a reset button to take you back to the default ribbons should you mess something up.

This customization also applies to the Quick Access Toolbar which is the little toolbar that sits way up in the left hand corner above the main ribbon. Go to File, choose Options, and then choose Quick Access Toolbar. This is the toolbar that probably makes the most sense to customize.






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5 Things to Consider While Buying Tablets or Laptops for Employees


A client asked us the other day if their company should be looking at tablets or laptops for their employees. While every situation is different, we talked to them about five different things to consider while making the decision:

Connectivity – How connected do the users need to be?

Tablet: While there’s a connection to the cloud and Internet resources, there’s also limited access to data on corporate network.

Laptop: Network access to data and other resources both internally on a corporate network and externally through the cloud and Internet

Conclusion: If you need to access corporate information, a laptop will offer more security, easier ability to get to the network, and better performance once connected.

Consumption and Usage of Information – How are they using the device?

Tablet: Good for consuming information, bad for creating content. Even add-on keyboards are small, no mouse. Touch screen has some advantage.

Laptop: Not terrible for consuming information, excellent for creating content. Easier input, larger keyboard, mouse. No touch screen, well at least in most cases.

Conclusion: If you simply need information that has already been created then a tablet will serve you well. The limited processing power, input methods, and lack of multitasking on a tablet makes it much easier to create content on a laptop.

Battery Life – How mobile do the users need to be?

Tablet: Very mobile, very light, with a long battery life.

Laptop: Laptops are also portable but with shorter battery life and are heavier to lug.

Conclusion: Tablets are designed to be a take anywhere device and the longer battery life keeps you connected and productive longer than a laptop.

Processing Power – What types of programs and applications are you running?

Tablet: Has just the right amount of computing power for what it does, but lacks computing power for complex operations. Single purpose tablet apps have a “cool” factor and can be very useful for a particular task. The Microsoft platform is available on some tablets, but these apps will run slower on a tablet and are harder to use.

Laptop: Depending on the processor, laptops can perform very complex and process intensive applications. Multiple windows and tasks can run simultaneously. Applications tend to be more general and allow the user to complete more tasks.

Conclusion: While there are some applications on the tablet that make single tasks easier, the tablet has limited processing power. You need the faster processor, memory, and storage capabilities of a laptop for complex projects or data manipulation.

Storage – What are you storing or running on these devices?

Tablet: Storage capacity limited to 16-64 gig.

Laptop: Standard laptops come with 500 gig hard drives.

Conclusion: While 64 gig is plenty, most users consume several hundred gig of space on their laptop. Think of a tablet as being a purse when you travel and a laptop as a suitcase.

So the question is, tablet vs. laptop? Which device should your company buy for its employees? The answer: it depends. It depends on why your staff is using computers in the first place. Use the 5 criteria above to help you make the best decision for your business.


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