Microsoft Expires XP and Office 2003

April 2014 will spell the official End of Support for Windows XP and Office 2003, two widely-installed products from Microsoft.  What this means for anyone using these products is simple – you won’t be getting any more updates for them, and eventually, newer programs won’t be designed to work with them.  Both of these packages will still work by themselves for as long as you wish to use them.

For Windows XP users, understand that new software you buy may NOT work with that Operating System – so it will eventually become an issue you have to deal with, if you plan to upgrade or install new software or hardware on your PC.  If the ONLY thing you’ll ever use the machine for, is to work with Office 2003 applications and the same printer you have now, no worries.  If you use it to browse the web, or if you get a new printer, or need the new Quickbooks…now you might have issues.

You have time to consider options – it won’t SWITCH OFF at midnight on April 14.

For most business users, or those not using a touch-screen device, an upgrade to Windows 7 is probably less jarring than Windows 8.  If you balk at paying Microsoft in excess of $300 for a version of Office 2010,  or $200+ for Office 2013 , you can either go the FREE Open Office route, or opt to buy the new Office 365 (the web based version requires an Internet connection to work costs $5 a month, while the one that installs the program to your PC is $12.50 per month.)

As with all software, we recommend a TRY BEFORE YOU BUY strategy – make sure you like the version you’re planning to buy, and that it will run well on your current machine.

Don Shadrake, CIO The Reserves Network

Working From The Cloud

 By Don Shadrake, CIO  the Reserves Network

There is a lot of buzz right now about working “in the cloud”  If you have a Yahoo, Gmail, or AOL account for email, or use web backups, or share pictures and updates on social media, you are in fact working in the cloud – you’re just borrowing resources on someone else’s hosting machinery.

Pushing your company resources to a cloud platform can make sense, especially where you have a large territory to cover, with lots of highly mobile employees.  It’s usually not a hard transition to make, and depending on needs, can be very cost effective.  The benefits can include quick setup of new offices and workers; reliable systems that aren’t affected by weather, disasters, or circuit outages; and 24/7 access to important information on laptops, tablets, or smartphones.

Before your company makes the leap, you just have to weigh options, costs, and your own requirements.  Some big ones:

          SECURITY – do I need to ensure all data is encrypted, including backups, to comply with regulatory or business requirements?  Does my security needs mean I CAN’T work from a shared host environment, where systems are shared by many companies?  How do I prevent, respond to any attempted breach of my security systems?

          BANDWIDTH AND REDUNDANT CONNECTIONS – how many people will be connecting to my system at one time?  Do I need to provide “failover” circuits so that an outage with a local carrier doesn’t affect anyone’s ability to get to my systems?  How much Bandwidth is sufficient for my needs?

          MANAGEMENT – if I have my own systems and servers, who is managing them day to day?  If I am in a HOSTED environment, what kind of support can I get from the Hosting organization, and during what hours?  Do I need equipment FAILOVER, so that if one server stops working, another automatically takes it place?

          SOFTWARE – do my systems speak cloud?  Can I migrate the programs we use to a cloud-based environment?  Is now the time to re-design how we work, to better support mobile devices?

Most local and national hosting companies can answer a lot of these questions, as they have years of experience with the things you want to consider.

My company has been “in the cloud” for many years now, I’d be happy to answer questions as well.  We’ve been very happy with the many advantages of cloud computing, and can’t imagine doing it any other way as we’ve grown and evolved.