Windows XP: High Risk For Your Business

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Microsoft will end all support for Windows XP on April 8, 2014. This means that everyone using XP beyond this date will no longer be able to receive security updates from Microsoft, which will turn Windows XP into a liability.

Despite the fact that Windows XP is a dozen years old and sunsets in under five months, it is still widely used by millions of users and claims a 21% market share. Rest assured, the hackers are gearing up for an all-out assault on XP users this spring.

Security reports from the Malicious Software Removal Tool and Microsoft’s free Security Essential program (which scans 400 million Outlook.com accounts and millions of Office 365 accounts), reveals that XP is by far the most infection-prone operating system.

Here are the latest infection rates (the number of infected computers for every 1,000 systems scanned) broken down by OS that contained malware.

Windows XP SP3:
9.1 per 1000 scanned.
Windows Vista SP2:
5.5 per 1000 scanned.
Windows 7 SP1:
4.9 per 1000 scanned.
Windows 8:
1.6 per 1000 scanned.

The data show that Windows XP is almost twice as likely to get an infection compared to Windows 7, and it is six times more likely to be hit with malware than Windows 8. Those figures should prompt even the most ardent XP user to start planning for an upgrade.

It is important to remember that malware is written to attack any system it encounters, and we can see that, by looking at the malware encounter rate from these same security reports, the percentages of computers having encounters with malware is fairly even across the different operating systems.Печать

Windows XP SP3: 16.3%
Windows Vista SP2: 16.5%
Windows 7 SP1: 19.1%
Windows 8 RIM: 12.4%

This report shows that using the latest operating system, such as Windows 7 or Windows 8, is the safest.

Researchers provide a technical explanation as to why newer Windows operating systems have better security: “Microsoft has steadily incorporated defensive technologies into Windows with each new version. The only major technology XP had was Data Execution Prevention (DEP), and even the implementation of that has improved greatly in subsequent versions.”

It is human nature to put off a large upgrade project, especially for a small business where budgets are tight.

Part of our service includes a comprehensive evaluation of your systems and network, with the goal of providing you a report showing which machines on your network are vulnerable, which can be upgraded, and which should be replaced.

We use automated tools for much of this process, so we’re able to offer this service to clients, and prospective clients, at a markedly reduced consulting fee. Please call the office at (734) 457-5000 to schedule your appointment.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

Windows 8, A Diamond in the Rough?

Feature article by Tech Experts
So should you be planning to upgrade to Windows 7 or hold off for Windows 8?

If you’re still running Windows XP, Microsoft is saying to not bother waiting for Windows 8 and jump into Windows 7. That being said, from a business point of view should you wait for Windows 8 or go for Windows 7?

Windows 8 was initially released as a developer preview on September 13th of 2011 and since has been pushed very hard by Microsoft and the media alike to many IT professionals.

After Microsoft boasted over the drastic rethinking of Windows 8 and how it has revolutionized Windows as a whole, IT pros everywhere picked every aspect of Windows 8 apart.

Is Change A Good Thing?
Many feel it is not going to make a very good business operating system for end users. The reason for this? Change. Windows 8 brings a vast amount of change to the table, some good, some not so good…

After the release of the Developer preview and several months of time for Microsoft to further polish their new Operating System, they released the current version Windows 8 Consumer Preview build 8250 on February 29th 2012.

Microsoft again touted the newly improved OS citing it has made over 100,000 code changes since its previously released Developer version.

So, just what is Windows 8? Well Windows 8 is Microsoft’s attempt at making an operating system to bridge the hardware gaps between mobile platforms and the widely used PC.

Complete Overhaul
Windows 8 has been completely overhauled to give end users a similar user experience whether they are sitting at their desktop computer, using it on a tablet, or (as some experts believe) using a new Windows phone.

While Microsoft has not officially stated that this OS is going to be released on the Windows phone platform yet, it surely would not take them much to do so and would allow them to have their devices all synced.

Synced? That’s right! The new OS relies heavily on the cloud. The way this operating system has been developed it will allow users to login on any computer (provided they have an internet connection) and have the same application access they had on their computer at home.

With further integration of cloud services users will also have access to all of their documents, pictures, and videos via cloud based storage.

Many of Windows 8 features have a long way to go still before they are developed enough for everyday public use.

Metro Interface
One of the most notable features of Windows 8 is its new “Metro” style interface pictured above

This screen is your start menu now. Yes, Microsoft removed the start button that has been in Windows for more than 20 years… This new way of accessing your icons and applications allows you to click on (or touch if you have a touchscreen monitor or tablet) an icon and instantly be using it.

Load times for applications are very low, at least with the applications that have been released via their app store at this point.

Applications opened from this screen also do not need to be closed according to Microsoft (Again very similar to many mobile operating systems today).

The only problem with not actually closing the applications is for those people that never turn their computer off, everything you ever open will stay open and if you don’t force close the programs they will continue to run and use system resources which over time will make your computer run slow.

Even though Microsoft has removed the start menu they have kept the desktop..somewhat. The desktop is still able to be accessed via the Metro application menu but again is not meant to be used unless you need access to files and folders.

One other new feature Microsoft has added to Windows 8 is the ability to have “Picture Passwords”. A Picture Password allows you to select a picture you want to use as your password, and then draw three gestures on the picture to allow access to the computer or tablet.

This new feature is meant to increase security as it will make it more difficult for hackers to gain access to a user’s computer (At least via a keylogger).

One of the big reasons to steer clear of Windows 8, at least at this point, is numerous bugs within the OS and the apps it uses. Bugs range from minor issues such as lack of support for common email protocols such as IMAP and POP, to more major issues related to hardware not functioning inside Windows 8 due to conflicts.

At this point with Windows 8 still being in Beta it is perfectly normal to have the issues they are having with the operating system but, if the issues continue into the retail release of the software they will have another Windows Vista on their hands.

If Microsoft turns this operating system into a winner, it could mean big things for Microsoft.

One major point is if Windows 8 becomes popular, Windows will make a break into the tablet market which is predominately Android and iOS based. This would also give Windows an edge on other mobile operating systems as they would be able to operate across multiple platforms without any lapse in functionality.

So, is Windows 8 worth waiting for? At this point it makes more sense to go with Windows 7. If you are the kind of person that is into change…a lot of change…then hold off for Windows 8, but at this point Windows 8 is looking rough.

 

The Benefits Of Using The Current Version of Windows

With all the different versions of Windows out there, how do you know what one will work best for you, and why?

The answer, in most cases, is the most current version of Windows is the one you should be using. In general the most current version of Windows (in this case Windows 7) will offer the greatest benefits for your money.

Security
One of the many benefits to having a current operating system is the security features. When you’re up to date, you are far less vulnerable to viruses and malware.

Windows XP is still one of the most widely used operating systems.The problem with it is that there are so many viruses and malware developed for it that it is much more vulnerable than Windows Vista or Windows 7.

One security feature that makes Vista and Windows 7 more secure than Windows XP is the fact that they both have a two way firewall built into the operating system.

This means that if a virus was to get into the system (and the firewall was still functioning properly) the outbound firewall would catch outbound communications from the virus to whatever it is transmitting to.

Windows XP only has inbound firewalls which helps to stop incoming connections, but does nothing once a virus, malware or other attacker has gained access to the computer system.

This is likely the biggest advantage security wise for the newer operating systems.

Increased productivity
As far as productivity goes there may be instances that require a user to stick with an older operating system due to software compatibility issues. These issues in most cases are few and far between.

The reason this is the case is due to compatibility features within Windows 7 and Vista that allow a user to set a program to run in “Compatibility Mode.”

Running a program in compatibility mode allows a user to run programs that were designed to be run in older operating systems.

This feature will allow programs that were designed to run on operating systems as old as Windows 95 to run in the current version of Windows.

While compatibility mode will work in most cases, it isn’t guaranteed. Always work with your line of business application company to keep your software updated.

Remember the importance of maintaining support for any specialty software you use.

Updated applications
One final reason to use the most current Operating System is the ability to run newer applications and hardware that were not previously supported in older operating systems.

If your computer is older, it might not have the horsepower necessary to run the most current version of Windows. In that case, it is may be more beneficial to upgrade the PC.

If you’re interested in upgrading, we can check your current systems for memory and processing power, looking forward toward an operating system upgrade.

Remember, an up to date system lets you be more productive, have better security over your important data, and increase your profitability by decreasing downtime due to failing hardware, viruses and malware.

Feature article By Tech Experts Staff for Tech Experts

Office 2010: Definitely Worth Upgrading Your System

Now that Office 2010 is available, companies should consider whether to invest in the latest version of the software. My answer is: It depends, with a strong leaning toward “yes!”

The “it depends” part considers the current state of your business’ hardware, what version of Office you are currently using, how your firm’s other software applications integrate with an upgrade and most importantly, your technology budget.

Office 2010: The Latest
According to Microsoft, the Office 2010 suite is designed to make work flows more efficient; to effectively use Web applications to make work available anywhere; and to make collaboration with others much easier.

When considering whether to upgrade to Office 2010, Outlook’s integration with Exchange Server 2010 may be a consideration or some firms.

Exchange Server 2010 is designed to reduce deployment costs; simplify high availability and disaster recovery, ease administration and provide greater mobility and flexible access.

Your Hardware and Operating Systems
For some, the decision about whether to upgrade to Office 2010 may depend on where your business is in its hardware life cycle. If you have older machines that might not support the increased hardware requirements of Office 2010, it is probably best to wait for the upgrade to coincide with your hardware refresh.

For businesses that still use Windows XP, upgrading to 2010 may not be an option, since the newest software program will probably not run efficiently on the older operating system.

Your Current Version of Office
Many companies are still using Office 2000 or Office 2003, so their choices may be between forging ahead with Office 2007 or jumping straight to Office 2010.

The learning curve is an issue to consider. Office 2007 and Office 2010 are strikingly different from the 2003 version, while Office 2010 has a more similar look and feel to Office 2007.

This is particularly true when it comes to the “ribbon,” the Office Fluent User Interface that replaced the traditional menu and toolbars in Office 2007.

Firms that are upgrading from Office 2007 to 2010 will have fewer training issues than those that are still using Office 2003 or Office 2000.

Integration Issues
Integration issues should always be a concern for any business considering new technologies.

Integration with your billing, document management, client relationship management, and calendaring software should all be considered. Often, third-party applications will require patches or updates in order to work seamlessly with Office 2010.

Communicate beforehand with your vendors to ensure that all applications will function without a hitch during and after the installation of Office 2010.

Proper planning is key, but so is testing. Testing should include both compatibility and usability.

The staff that will use the software should have an opportunity to examine it – they’ll be the best judge of how much additional training will be required.

Budgetary Issues
Now more than ever, small businesses need to get the biggest bang for their technology buck. It is not the time to roll out a new software program that may be buggy or have integration issues.

For firms with limited IT budgets, the more-proven Office 2007 could be the smarter choice, especially if the new version of Office is purchased with Microsoft Software Assurance, which gives you upgrade rights in the future to Office 2010.

Regardless of the decision your firm makes about upgrading to Office 2010, preparation is the key.

You’ll need to prepare your staff for any changes and plan for a reduction in productivity during the intial roll out.

Planning is extremely important, to ensure that the integration proceeds smoothly and the firm employees can reap all of the benefits they expect – and that they have paid for.

Windows 7 – Microsoft Wins With New Operating System

Microsoft has had everybody from family and friends, to clients and colleagues talking about the newly released operating system Windows 7. So what is the big deal, and what is all this hype about?

If you’re one of the many that didn’t make the upgrade from Windows XP to the Windows Vista, then Windows 7 is for you!

I’ve been running Windows 7 Enterprise for a couple months now, and hands down, this has been the best operating system I’ve used, making my entire computer experience more enjoyable. With that said, here are some of the key points and new features that have really got me on the Windows 7 bandwagon.

Overall System Performance
I saw a tremendous increase in overall processing time, running the same hardware as what I was before. Less processes running in taskmanager, more available memory due to programs not requiring as much memory as in XP or Vista, and an increase in my laptops battery life due to less power consumption.

The Shake Down
This is a fun feature. If you have a few different windows open like email, web pages, some pictures, and maybe some music playing, by simply clicking and holding the click anywhere on the title bar, all other windows will minimize, leaving only the window you “shook” up.

Windows XP Mode
If you have a program that is picky, possibly old, or simply works only in Windows XP. You can run that type of program from a virtual machine right inside Windows 7. The only requirement: A free additional download from Microsoft.

Problem Recorder
This application simply records your screen as you perform various steps you take to complete a task. For example, if you need to know how to set up your Outlook for a Yahoo, Gmail, or other free email account you can simply have the tech do it on his machine, with problem recording running, and then send you the file as an MHTML document. This type of document can be opened with any web browser, and will show you a break down with pictures, graphics, text, and even custom messages you can insert to demonstrate a common configuration or setup. This is great for training.

New Taskbar
This caught my eye right away, as I always have numerous applications running. The Aero theme really sets off the task bar, and you can now drag your minimized apps around, and pin your favorite programs to
start up automatically. You can now minimize/maximize all yourapplications with the click of a button located right next to the clock.

Windows Media Center
Again the Aero theme sets off the entire look and feel, but now you can finally play DVD and even Blu-Ray discs without any additional software or applications.You can even read/write with the appropriate hardware.

Personalization
The personalization center now offers over 20 different colors, several new dual screen compatible screen savers, rotating desktop backgrounds, and over a dozen new sound themes. You can even create your own personalized theme, making the system look and feel exactly like you want!

These are just a few of the user friendly additions that I have been found to be my favorite, but there is a laundry list of other features that just continue to amaze me. The manageability additions for IT professionals are quite impressive and extensive as well.

Overall, I would highly recommend Windows 7 to any user who is still running XP looking to finally make that leap, and even to the Vista users’ who might be skeptical. It has totally changed and made my entire computer experience a better, faster, more efficient, and less stressful activity.

At the end of the day, we just want our computers to run smooth, and do what we want, and Microsoft really hit the nail on the head with this one.

What You Need To Know When Considering Windows Vista Options

It’s official! Windows Vista will hit the shelves in early 2007.

You’ve probably already heard plenty of details about this new version of Windows. As with past Windows releases, the question for small- and medium-size businesses isn’t if they’ll upgrade, it’s when.

Here are some things to think about as you consider your upgrade options.

What You Get with Windows Vista
Windows Vista includes a multitude of new features, and this list isn’t meant to be exhaustive. These are some of the items that should be high on your business’s priority list:

Improved Security: Vista includes Microsoft Defender (antispyware) and Internet Explorer 7 (which includes a phishing filter and antispoofing technology), as well as Microsoft Windows Firewall technology—all essential for maintaining your technology infrastructure.

Improved Software Setup and Maintenance: Vista enables you to create and store “images,” which are system software configurations that can be easily replicated on new PCs. That means the average time to set up a new PC will be reduced, and upgrading software on existing PCs will be a snap. Add those together and you get a reduction in IT costs.

Instant Search: Search is the name of the game for document-heavy companies. This function should make it easier for you and your employees to find files and documents in a data-intensive environment.

Windows Aero: The new graphical user interface is fast and looks very slick.

Here’s a fair warning on Windows Aero: In order to use this feature, you will need to make sure that your computing hardware is “Vista Premium Ready,” as opposed to “Vista Capable.”

The difference between the two will be most striking in the graphical interface: Vista on a Vista Capable machine will look more like Windows 2000, but the hardware requirements for it will be significantly less than for Vista Premium Ready. Chances are that equipment you have purchased in the last two years will be Vista Capable. It’s also likely that very little of your current equipment is going to be Vista Premium Ready unless you’ve already been buying higher-end gear.

Microsoft will offer business-class versions of Vista, giving you the choice of which mode you want to operate in. Be sure to match the hardware, software version, and mode to the features you want in your Vista upgrade.

Different Windows Vista Versions
Microsoft will be marketing multiple versions of Windows Vista: two versions for home use, a business and an enterprise version, and an “ultimate” edition. Most small and medium businesses are likely to opt for the business version. It’s not clear yet whether the business version will come in Vista Capable or Vista Premium Ready packaging. This is important because Vista Capable hardware does not require a DVD drive, but Vista Premium Ready does.
When to Get Windows Vista

Don’t be confused by the fact that Office 2007 is going to be coming out at just about the same time as Vista. The two releases are unrelated: You can upgrade to Office 2007 in your current environment—you don’t need to move to Vista to use the newest version of Office.

Before you take the Vista plunge, think about these three issues:

First, if you’re running an older or unsupported version of Windows, we highly recommend that you think about upgrading as soon as possible.

Second, understand how your current software will operate in a Vista environment. Microsoft has tools available to assist you here, and it’s important to use them to test all your applications and ensure that they can run in Vista before you make your move.

This puts a real premium on not only knowing what applications your business runs on a “authorized” basis, but also what software some of your users may have loaded on their own in order to perform day-to-day tasks. Depending on the nature of your business, this practice may be more common than you think.

Third, and probably most important, you need to understand your hardware environment and your plans for upgrading your hardware infrastructure. We’ve already mentioned the issue regarding DVD drives, but you also need to examine processor speed, memory, hard drive space and graphics cards in light of any plans you have to move to Vista.

Most equipment purchased in the past couple years should be able to support Vista in the Vista Capable mode.

Your Bottom Line
While every small and medium business starts in a different place, here’s our recommendation as to how you approach the Vista-upgrade issue:

Don’t buy Vista the day it becomes available, but don’t wait more than a year to get started.

Time your decision to be in line with any hardware purchasing pattern you’ve already established.

Decide now how important Vista Premium Ready features are to your business, and make any incremental hardware purchase decisions consistent with either these or the Vista Capable requirements.

Analyze some of the new hardware/chip features that provide improved performance and reduce IT costs and match that plan up with whatever conclusion you’ve reached on Vista.

Give yourself a good six months to determine software compatibility with Vista before you begin the migration.

If this sounds confusing or you just plain need help, give us a call. As a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, our staff is trained to provide you with the guidance you need to evaluate Windows Vista in your organization.