PTG specializes in the delivery of IT services with a focus on business continuity, virtualization, and storage solutions to support your line-of-business and communication applications. Our implementation services are centered around IT and business best practices, gleaned from years of working in the industry and from well-established vendor partnerships.

Upgrading to Windows 10: 4 Features We Love

Today’s post comes from PTG Project Engineer Matt Banning.

On July 29th, Microsoft released Windows 10 to the general public and I can honestly tell you that it is well worth the wait. Windows 10 is Microsoft’s newest Operating System designed to encompass all the best features from Windows 7 and Windows 8. I’ve been running beta versions of Windows 10 for almost a year now and wanted to give you a quick rundown of the features that I enjoy the most:

Speed

One of the first things I noticed after turning on my Windows 10 PC is that it retained its Windows 8 predecessor’s ability to quickly turn on.  It booted up in a matter of seconds. Other than that, Windows 10 looks and feels like the Windows 7 interface, but with a facelift.

Windows 10 Start ScreenThe Start Button

One of the most noticeable improvements in terms of functionality and aesthetics is the Start button – it’s back! Instead of the traditional popup windows that expand to the right as you delve into folders (like on a Windows 7 PC), Microsoft streamlined the start button using a vertical format. This allows Microsoft to use the same Operating System, providing the same user experience, across all platforms: Phones, PC and tablets.

Cortana

Another favorite feature of mine is Cortana, the digital personal assistant. This is Microsoft’s version of Siri. Cortana is available on select Windows devices and tablets, but comes preinstalled on Windows 10 PCs. Cortana is a personal assistant that can help you remember tasks, remind you when to leave for appointments, and reschedule your meetings. Cortana also uses Bing to provide relevant information like current weather reports, local news, and traffic information.

Personally, I use Cortana the most to take notes and to remind me about upcoming appointments. Recently, when traveling, Cortana let me know several hours before my flight that it was still on schedule and recommended when to leave for the airport based on traffic.

Windows 10 Action center

 

Action Center

Last, but certainly not least, is the Action Center. Instead of the Charms bar from Windows 8 (the screen that comes from the right side of the screen with search, share, devices and settings), Windows 10 has a notification center. The bar that slides in from the right side of the screen displays a rollup of all of the notifications your device has to offer. Notifications are shown in broad categories: News, Security and Maintenance, Settings, System Notifications, and Outlook Notifications. Instead of having to hunt through all of the different applications you have, you can use the notifications area to quickly view it all.

 

From the simple improvements in the start menu all the way to the new Edge browser – Microsoft really spent a lot of time and effort on this operating system. All in all, Windows 10 is the best OS I’ve seen in a long time.  Its feature-rich, super-fast, and extremely user friendly. You can expect this to be the new standard in both business and home use. Great job, Microsoft.

 

Have you used Windows 10 yet? If so, what are your favorite features? If not, what are you looking forward to trying? Tell us in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

Think twice before mapping a document library in SharePoint!

A common request from customers is to map a SharePoint document library to their PC.  This makes sense for a lot of reasons – but there are some inherent risks with this model.

There is a folder in every SharePoint document library called ‘Forms’.  This folder holds all of the SharePoint views for that document library.  We have seen many instances where end users will mistakenly delete this folder and corrupt their document library.  (See our fix on this post from 2009.)

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You will only see the forms folder if you have hidden items enabled in Windows Explorer.

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The other issue to keep in mind is that often times these document libraries will not reconnect on reboot.  This is really just a ‘setting the user expectation issue’. While these document libraries may look and feel like network drives – they don’t behave exactly the same!

Where to Store Your Files in Office 365

If you’re new to Office 365, figuring out where to store your files can be confusing. There are multiple options (OneDrive and Sharepoint), and if you aren’t familiar with them, it can be hard to know what files to put where.

Most of us, before moving to cloud, were used to storing our files in folders on our computer or on a shared server. With Office 365, though, your files are stored in the cloud and can be accessed anywhere. But this doesn’t mean you have to change the way you work when it comes to saving files.

You have a few different options – namely Sharepoint and OneDrive for Business (please note – Microsoft uses OneDrive to refer to a couple of different options. We explain this difference in this blog post).

Matt and Graham break down the differences between OneDrive for Business and Sharepoint in this video:

For a quick recap, think of OneDrive for Business as replacing your My Documents folder (or an external hard drive). Use it for your files that you don’t necessarily want everyone to access. If you DO want to share files with someone, but not necessarily to whole company, you can share from within OneDrive.

Sharepoint is basically a replacement for a shared server. These files will be accessible by other people in your company. Your Sharepoint administrator can set up libraries and permissions based on job role (much like having separate shared folders for different parts of the company).

If you have any questions about where to store your files, or if you’d like more information about cloud storage, please contact us.

Fixing Embedded Yammer Feeds in IE

Yammer, the social network for your business, is a valuable resource. As we’ve covered in the past in blog posts and videos, it’s one of our favorite resources for reducing email clutter.

But it’s useless if you can’t see it – and some people are having issues with the embed feed not showing up when using Internet Explorer. The problem seems to be that IE is blocking the domains that Yammer uses for the embedded feed. Thankfully, there is an easy fix:

Here’s how to fix the Yammer embedded feed not showing up in Internet Explorer:

1) Add Yammer to the trusted or local intranet zones in IE settings. Chris Hopkin’s recommends these settings on his blog:
Security > Trusted Sites
[Enable] Protected Mode
*.sharepoint.com
login.microsoftonline.com
Security > Local intranet
[Disabled] Protected Mode
*.assets-yammer.com
*.yammer.com

2) Update the security level to get rid of the “This page is accessing information that is not under its control. This poses a security risk. Do you want to continue?” prompt. To do this, change the settings for the message in the “Custom Level” section in the security tab. Find “Access data sources across domains” (miscellaneous section) and change the setting from “Prompt” to whatever setting you want.

After making these changes, you should be able to see your embedded Yammer feeds. If you are still having issues, or want to learn more about Yammer, please contact us.

6 Tips to Keep Your Data Safe on Vacation

6 Tips to Keep Your Data Safe on VacationIt’s summer time, which for many, means vacation. And for most workers, it means not completely unplugging. As much as we’d love to put the phone away for a week, most of us are still checking emails or keeping up with the news on our phones.

But relaxing on the beach or in the mountains, doesn’t mean you should relax when it comes to your data security. Keep these tips in mind when you’re on the road to keep a data breach from ruining your vacation:

  1. Use caution when connecting to free Wi-Fi, like in an airport or coffee shop. If you are not required to authenticate through a secure webpage, your device is open to being compromised.
  2. Check the URL of a website (or secure log-in when accessing Wi-Fi) before logging in to make sure you’re actually logging into the website you think you logging into. A common way of stealing log-in information is to create fake sign-in pages that look like the real thing. If the URL or page look fishy, don’t log in.
  3. Turn off your Bluetooth when you’re not using it. By leaving it on all the time, you’re risking someone pairing to your device and gaining access to you pictures, files or contacts.
  4. If you use mobile banking applications, use a passcode or fingerprint authentication. Most banking apps will require (or at least have the option) to create a passcode specifically for that app. If this is an option for you, turn it on. If your app gives you the option for any other dual-factor authentications, use that, too. Do not use public wi-fi for connecting to your mobile banking (or accounting) apps. Log out when you’re not using it. And if your device is stolen, report it to your bank immediately so they can put a hold on your account.
  5. Use caution when downloading apps. Avoid unknown 3rd party app stores. Only download apps through the official app store for your device (App Store, Google Play Store, Windows Phone Store). If you are unsure of an app, search for it online before downloading to read reviews and find out if it’s legitimate. When you’re downloading an application, be cautious about what you’re giving it access to. For instance, a simple game shouldn’t need access to your phonebook and SMS/messages. If an app asks for too much access, you may want to skip the installation all together.
  6. If your device is lost or stolen, use the device wipe feature to wipe your phone’s information. View these instructions for remotely wiping your device: iPhonesAndroidsWindows Phone (scroll down to “To erase your phone”).

Staying Informed with the Office 365 Administrator App

Office 365 Admin AppThis post comes from PTG Project Engineer and Office 365 administrator, Matt Banning. 

Between vacation and being onsite at our clients’ offices, I’ve been out of the office a lot recently. Luckily, using the “Office 365 Admin” app, I’ve been able to keep myself knowledgeable about my Office 365 environment.

This app lets me monitor the service health of my Office 365 environment by sending me push notifications about any service related issues. It provides a brief description of the issue,  periodic updates, any workarounds, and an estimated time to resolution.

Getting a push notification when a service starts to have issues allows me to be proactive rather than reactive. Often, I’ve called and alerted the customer to the issue, and what we’re doing to fix it, before they’re even aware of the issue.

In addition to reporting, the app also provides a lot of information – my favorite being the user section. It displays the contact information for all of your users, making it easier to contact them when an issue comes up. It’s even more helpful when it comes to licensing.  It provides an overview of all the licensing within your organization and the gives you the ability to change a user’s license directly from the app.

Some of the other helpful information it provides includes:

  • The overall health of each services within Office 365 (Exchange, Sharepoint, etc). The health statuses include health, degraded, outage and investigating.
  • The message section displays any tickets you have with Microsoft – open or closed.

This app was originally intended for system administrators and IT professionals. But for any Office 365 administrator, no matter your level of expertise.  I highly recommend it for staying up to date on your service health, especially if you’re out of the office frequently.

Powerpoint vs. Sway: What’s the difference?

PowerPoint vs Sway

Recently, Microsoft introduce a new presentation building app called Sway (read our introductory blog post here or view our Sway about Sway here). An obvious first question is “why would Microsoft introduce a new presentation building app when they already have PowerPoint?” The answer – because not all presentations are created equal.

While there are some definite overlaps, Sway presentations PowerPoint presentations are built differently, look different and serve different purposes.

Here is our breakdown of the differences:

What is it and what can I create?

Sway

Presentations. Sway is the newest presentation creation tool from Microsoft.

Powerpoint

Presentations – and more. Powerpoint is the most popular presentation creation software around and that’s still it’s primary function. But it can also be used to do things like create images for social media and create video (especially when you add Mix).

Where does it live?

Sway

Sway is entirely online. Presentations are created and viewed in your browser or can be accessed with the free mobile app.

Powerpoint

Powerpoint is primarily a desktop application. With Office 365, you can get an online version with limited features. You can also access Powerpoint with the free mobile app.

Adding content

Sway

There are a few different ways you can add content to Sway.Sway Content Types

  • You can upload content (like a Word Document) directly to Sway and let it build the bones of your presentation for you.
  • Sway supports OneDrive, so you can add content you’ve saved there – including graph you’ve made in Excel Online.
  • You can pull in web content. From within Sway, you can search Bing and pull in content directly from sites like Wikipedia, Youtube and Flickr. Or you can search Twitter and pull embed Tweets directly into Sway. Or use SoundCloud to embed audio.
  • You can let it suggest content for you. Sway will take your content into account and make suggestions for other content to add.

New types of content and new ways to add them to your presentation are constantly being added. Check the Office 365 blog for the latest Sway news.

Powerpoint

You can manually add a wide variety of content to the presentation. Content you can add includes (but is not limited to): text, images, photo albums, pictures, charts and graphs (which you can create from within Powerpoint), audio and video, equations, screen recordings (which you can record from within Powerpoint), and objects (like full Word docs or Excel spreadsheets).

PowerPoint Content

Designing your presentation

Sway DesignsSway

Compared to Powerpoint, your design options in Sway are limited. There are several templates with customizable colors (with more in the works to be added soon) to choose from. You can choose between horizontal or vertical scrolling. Your options are pretty limited, though.

The templates are built to look like one continuous page with different sections, so scrolling is a big part.

The best way to really customize your Sway is by using images. Sway is great for handling large images and using your own images as the background. Even though  your choices for template are limited, by adding in your own images, you can make your presentation look like your own.

Powerpoint

Powerpoint comes with a ton of premade templates or you can design your own. Templates are built around slides. You can add transitions between slides but it’s primarily static content.

PowerPoint Designs

Collaboration

Sway

Sway has collaboration – meaning you and coworker(s) can work on the same presentation at the same time.

Powerpoint

If you only have a desktop version of Powerpoint, only one person will be able edit the presentation at once. If you have Office 365, though, you and coworker(s) can work on the presentation at the same time in both the online and desktop interface.

Sharing

Sway Sharing OptionsSway

Sway presentations can be shared a few ways. You can share directly with Facebook, Twitter or with a link. Or you can embed a presentation into a website. You can also control who can see the presentation and revoke access if needed.

 

 

Powerpoint

Sharing your Powerpoint presentations is dependent on what version you’re using. If you have an Office 365 subscription, you can easily share by email or link. If you’re using a desktop version of Powerpoint that isn’t connected to Office 365, you’ll have to save your presentation and share it via email (or whatever you use to share other types of files).

Accessibility

Sway

Anyone can use Sway for free with a Windows Live account. It’s also part of Office 365.

Powerpoint

To use Powerpoint, you’ll need either an Office 365 subscription or to buy the software.

When should I use each?

There are no hard and fast rules about when to use Sway vs. when to use Powerpoint. Each has their strengths but ultimately it comes down to how you build your presentation and how it’s being presented. Before deciding which program to use, take a few minutes to evaluate what your content is and who your audience is.

If you are creating a data heavy presentation with charts that you’ll be presenting to an audience, Powerpoint is probably your best bet.

If you’re building a presentation dependent on imagery including a lot of online content or if your audience will be guiding themselves through the presentation, Sway is probably going to work better for you.

If you don’t have Sway or Powerpoint, click here to try Office 365 for free and take both options for a test drive.

How to Find Everything You’ve Tagged in OneNote

OneNote Tags

Out of the box tags in OneNote

I accidentally stumbled across an awesome OneNote feature today – Find Tags.

I have been using OneNote more and more.  My increased use is mostly due to two factors:

1) The release of Office Lens app (a free app that allows me to upload photos, documents, even whiteboard screen captures into OneNote). We covered it recently in this blog post.

2)  The way OneNote syncs across all my devices – the mobile apps are very feature rich.

Either way – I create a page for each week and keep track of all my To-Dos and projects I am working on.  I use the tags feature heavily.  Tags allow me to organize my content into things like To Dos, Important Information, Passwords, Projects, Books to Read, even discussions with specific people.  OneNote has a list of tags out of the box or you can also customize your own tags.

If you are a heavy OneNote user – your tags can be spread across multiple pages of a notebook or even across multiple notebooks.  What if I wanted to find everything I tagged?  Luckily, it’s easy to do.  On the Home tab of OneNote look for Find Tags:

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Then, choose your search scope – everything from a single page to all of your notebooks.

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In this example, I am choosing a single notebook.

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The result is a single page with all of your tagged items – easily sorted by the tag type!

Get Back to the Basics of Data Security

Your computer is telling you an update is available and you need to restart. How long does it take you to actually restart and install the updates? And, you’re creating an account on a new website – did you use the same credentials that you are using on every other site?

Most of us have been there. It can be easy to get complacent about data security. News stories about data breaches exposing customer data are becoming more and more common. These stories just show how important data security is.

So let’s get back to the basics of keep your data (and your company’s data) safe. There is never a 100% guarantee, but you can save a lot of time and money preventing data compromises by just sticking to the basics:

  1. Do not use the same password for all of your accounts. Most people take the easy way out on this one. But using the same password means a hacker only needs to figure out one password to access all of your accounts.
  2. Make sure you have a good backup of your data and back it up regularly. If you DO get a virus or fall victim to ransomware, you can easily recover your data.
  3. Don’t open an email attachment or click on a link from an unknown sender. And even if you know the sender, be cautious. There is always the chance someone you know has been compromised. This is true for email AND social media. If it’s not something you’d open on email, don’t do it on Facebook, either.
  4. If you’re shopping online, check the validity of the site before you buy. To do this, click on the lock on the toolbar in Internet Explorer.
  5. Do not give out your passwords, even to coworkers. Please ask that they change your password if you need them to access your computer or email without your presence.
  6. Do not store your passwords in an unsecured location. This includes an Excel file on your computer and post it notes under your keyboard. If you need to store your password somewhere, use a secure password manager like LastPass or 1Password.
  7. Keep your computer, phone and tablet up to date. Yes, it can be annoying to restart your computer to do, but these updates often times contain critical security patches.
  8. Lock your computer if you walk away from it. Your IT Company can implement a security policy to lock your computer during idle time after so many minutes. You shouldn’t rely only on this, though. Don’t leave your computer open for anyone who walks by to access.
  9. Use Malwarebytes, or other malware prevention programs, to check your computer for malware. Run these scans on a regular basis and keep the program update to date so you’re protected against the latest threat.

Remember these steps and make it your mid-year resolution to take your data security seriously. It could prevent some serious headaches down the road.

OneDrive vs Sharepoint: Understanding the Difference

OneDrive, OneDrive for Business and SharePoint – All three programs allow you to store your files in the cloud – but all three have different purposes. Learn the differences and where you should store your files.