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August 14th, 2014

The amount of data both available to, and generated by, a company is increasing exponentially. While some smaller to medium businesses are coping fine with the growth, many are struggling with managing their data, let alone leveraging it to help make better decisions. If you find that your business isn't coping with data, one solution may be to implement a data warehouse.

What is a data warehouse?

A data warehouse is a system used by companies for data analysis and reporting. The main purpose of the data warehouse is to integrate, or bring together, data from a number of different sources into one centralized location. The vast majority of the data they store is current or historical data that is used to create reports or reveal trends.

Possibly the biggest benefit of a data warehouse is that it can pull data from different sources e.g., marketing, sales, finance, etc. and use this different data to formulate detailed reports on demand. Essentially, a data warehouse cuts down the time required to find and analyze important data.

While not every business will need one right this minute, a solid data warehouse could help make operations easier and more efficient, especially when compared with other data storage solutions. That being said, it can be tough to figure out if you actually need one. In order to help, we have come up with five signs that show your business is ready to implement a data warehouse.

1. Heavy reliance on spreadsheets

Regardless of business size, the spreadsheet is among the most important business tools out there. Used by pretty much every department in a company, they can be a great way of tracking data. The problem many business owners run across however is that spreadsheets can grow to immense sizes and can become unwieldy.

Combine this with the fact that each department has spreadsheets that you will likely need to pull data from in order to generate a report. If this is the case, you are creating manual reports, which can take a lot of your time.

If you are struggling to find the data you need because it is spread out across different sheets, in different departments, then it may be time to implement a data warehouse.

2. Data is overwhelming your spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are designed to operate with a set amount of data (rows and columns). Reach, or exceed this limit, and you will find that the file becomes sluggish or will downright prevent you adding more data.

While it can take a while to get to this point, companies will reach it if they keep adding to their data. At this point you will see a drop in productivity and overall effectiveness in how you use your data. Therefore, a data warehouse that can combine data from different sheets may be a great solution.

3. You spend too much time waiting

If you set out to develop a report, only to find out that you need to wait for colleagues to provide the information on their spreadsheets, or to analyze their data, you could find yourself waiting for a longer than expected time.

This makes you highly ineffective and can be downright frustrating, especially if employees are too busy or just can't provide the information needed. Implementing a data warehouse can help centralize data and make it available to all team members more effectively. This cuts down the time spent actually having to track it down and communicating with colleagues.

4. Discrepancies in data and reports

Have you noticed that when team leaders or members in different departments create reports that the data or findings are different from yours, or other reports? Not only is this frustrating, it is also time consuming to sort out and could lead to costly mistakes.

This can be amplified if some departments have data sources that they don't share with other teams, as this can throw doubt into the solidity of your data and other reports. If you have reached this point, and realize that there are discrepancies in your data, it may be time to look into a data warehouse which can help sort out problems while ensuring mistakes like duplicate data are eliminated.

5. Too much time spent generating reports

Ideally, we should be able to generate a report using existing data almost instantly, or with as few clicks as possible. If you find that when generating a report you have to keep going to different sources to check if the data is updated, or to keep manually updating other sources, you could quickly see the amount of time needed to develop a report grow.

Because data warehouses consolidate data, you only have to turn to one source for data. Combine with the fact that many data warehouses can be set up to automatically update if source data is updated or changed, and you can guarantee that the data you are using is always correct.

Looking to learn more about data warehouses, or about the different data solutions we offer? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 14th, 2014

iPad_Aug11_AApple prides itself on producing products and systems that simply work. This has proven to be a successful concept, as is evident with the sheer number of Apple products out there. The iPad, for example, is arguably the most popular, and useful, tablet with many business owners and managers owning one. These devices rely on apps but a common issue is that we often have so many apps it can be difficult to see what we have installed. Here are three ways you can figure out what apps you have installed on your iPad.

1. Finding installed apps via Settings

While there is no set section of the iPad's Settings that allows you to view installed apps, you can actually view installed apps by looking at the Usage section. This section tells users how much storage space installed apps are using, therefore giving you a list of installed apps.

You can access the Usage section of Settings by:

  1. Opening the Settings panel on your iPad.
  2. Tapping on General.
  3. Selecting Usage.
This will list the apps you have installed, organized by how much hard drive space they are using. What's great about this method is that you can not only see the apps you have installed but also see if there are apps you aren't using, or apps that are taking up valuable space. You can also select apps to learn more about how much memory they are using and even uninstall an app should you not need it anymore.

2. Finding installed apps via Spotlight

If you have iOS 7 on your iPad you can view all installed apps via the Spotlight feature. Spotlight allows you to search your iPad for files, folders, apps, and more, and can be accessed by swiping down from the top of the screen when looking at the Home screen.

You can see what apps you have installed using Spotlight by:

  1. Opening Spotlight by sliding down from the top of your iPad's screen.
  2. Tapping on the blank spot beside the magnifying glass.
  3. Typing "." (period/full stop) without the quotations.
You should see a list of your installed apps come up, though there is no apparent way they are organized. If you tap on an app name, it will open.

3. Finding installed apps via iTunes

The other way you can find out the apps you have installed is via iTunes. You can do this by:
  1. Plugging your iPad into your computer via the cord that came with the device.
  2. Opening iTunes, if it doesn't open automatically when you connect it.
  3. Clicking on the device's name under Devices.
  4. Selecting Apps.
You will be able to search for apps, or you should see a full list of installed apps. The great thing about this feature is that if you search for apps, you should see where they are on your device's screen. From there you can move the apps around, or even delete them.

If you are looking to learn more about using the iPad, please contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic iPad
August 13th, 2014

Offie_Aug11_AMost business users are familiar with using work applications like Microsoft Excel. While Excel creates charts and tables to make information easier to read, there’s a function that most users tend to forget, or are unaware of - headers and footers. So let’s see what they are and how adding them to your spreadsheet can help make your data even easier to read.

What are headers and footers?

As with Word, Headers and footers are lines of text that print at the top (header) and bottom (footer) of each page in an Excel spreadsheet. They often contain descriptive text such as titles, dates, or page numbers displayed in page layout views and on printed pages.

Headers and footers are useful in providing quick information about your document or data in a predictable format and also help set out different parts of a document. Simply put, they make calculations, graphs, and pivot tables much easier to read and follow.

How to add and remove headers and footers:

  1. Select the spreadsheet for which you want to add headers or footers.
  2. On the Insert tab in the Text group, click Header & Footer; this displays the spreadsheet in page layout view.
  3. To add a header or footer, click on the left, right or center of the Header or Footer text box at the top or bottom of the spreadsheet page.
  4. You can now add a preset header or footer to your document, or create a custom header and footer.
  5. To start a new line in a header or footer text box, press ENTER; to include a single ampersand (&) in the text of a header or footer, use two ampersands. When you are done, click anywhere in the spreadsheet to close Header or Footer.
  6. Return to Normal page view by clicking on the View tab and Normal button.
  7. To remove the header or footer from a spreadsheet, select the View tab and click on Page Layout. Delete the information you want to remove.
The next time you need to repeat text on a page to make information more organized and easier to digest, you can simply do so with Excel's header and footer feature. Looking to learn more about Microsoft Office and its features? Contact us today and see how we can help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 7th, 2014

Security_Aug05_AThese days, the security of various technology based systems is constantly being called into question. From attacks on mobile devices to ever increasing types of malware, many businesses are struggling to stay on top of their security. One of the best ways to help ensure your systems are secure is to be aware of common security issues. To that end, here are five common ways your security can be breached.

1. You are tricked into installing malicious software

One of the most common ways a system's security is breached is through malware being downloaded by the user. In almost every case where malware is installed the reason is because the user was tricked into downloading it.

A common trick used by hackers is to plant malware in software and then place this software on a website. When a user visits the site, they are informed that they need to download the software in order for the site to load properly. Once downloaded, the malware infects the system. Other hackers send emails out with a file attached, where only the file contains malware.

There are a nearly limitless number of ways you can be tricked into downloading and installing malware. Luckily, there are steps you can take to avoid this:

  • Never download files from an untrusted location - If you are looking at a website that is asking you to download something, make sure it's from a company you know about and trust. If you are unsure, it's best to avoid downloading and installing the software.
  • Always look at the name of the file before downloading - Many pieces of malware are often disguised with file names that are similar to other files, with only a slight spelling mistake or some weird wording. If you are unsure about the file then don't download it. Instead, contact us as we may be able to help verify the authenticity or provide a similar app.
  • Stay away from torrents, sites with adult content, and movie streaming sites - These sites often contain malware, so it is best to avoid them altogether.
  • Always scan a file before installing it - If you do download files, be sure to get your virus scanner to scan these before you open the apps. Most scanners are equipped do this, normally by right-clicking on the file and selecting Scan with….

2. Hackers are able to alter the operating system settings

Many users are logged into their computers as admins. Being an administrator allows you to change any and all settings, install programs, and manage other accounts.

If a hacker manages to access your computer and you are set up as the admin, they will have full access to your computer. This means they could install other malicious software, change settings or even completely hijack the machine. The biggest worry about this however, is if a hacker gets access to a computer that is used to manage the overall network. Should this happen, they could gain control over all the systems on the network and do what they please on it.

In order to avoid this, you should ensure that if a user doesn't need to install files or change settings on the computer, they do not have administrator access. Beyond this, installing security software like anti-virus scanners and keeping them up to date, as well as conducting regular scans, will help reduce the chances of being infected, or seeing infections spread.

3. Someone physically accesses your computer

It really feels like almost every security threat these days is digital or is trying to infect your systems and network from the outside. However, there are many times when malware is introduced into systems, or data is stolen, because someone has physically had access to your systems.

For example, you leave your computer on when you go for lunch and someone walks up to it, plugs in a USB drive with malware on it and physically infects your system. Or, it could be they access your system and manually reset the password, thereby locking you out and giving them access.

What we are trying to say here is that not all infections or breaches arrive via the Internet. What we recommend is to ensure that you password protect your computer - you need to enter a password in order to access it. You should also be sure that when you are away from your computer it is either turned off, or you are logged off.

Beyond that, it is a good idea to disable drives like CD/DVD and connections like USB if you don't use them. This will limit the chances that someone will be able to use a CD or USB drive to infect your computer.

4. It's someone from within the company

We have seen a number of infections and security breaches that were carried out by a disgruntled employee. It could be that they delete essential data, or remove it from the system completely. Some have even gone so far as to introduce highly destructive malware.

While it would be great to say that every business has the best employees, there is always a chance a breach can be carried out by an employee. The most effective way to prevent this, aside from ensuring your employees are happy, is to limit access to systems.

Take a look at what your employees have access to. For example, you may find that people in marketing have access to finance files or even admin panels. The truth is, your employees don't need access to everything, so take steps to limit access to necessary systems. Combine this with the suggestions above - limiting admin access and installing scanners - and you can likely limit or even prevent employee initiated breaches.

5. Your password is compromised

Your password is the main way you can verify and access your accounts and systems. The issue is, many people have weak passwords. There has been a steady increase in the number of services that have been breached with user account data being stolen. If a hacker was to get a hold of say your username, and you have a weak password, it could only be a matter of time before they have access to your account.

If this happens, your account is compromised. Combine this with the fact that many people use the same password for multiple accounts, and you could see a massive breach leading to data being stolen, or worse - your identity.

It is therefore a good idea to use a separate password for each account you have. Also, make sure that the passwords used are strong and as different as possible from each other. One tool that could help ensure this is a password manager which generates a different password for each account.

If you are looking to learn more about ensuring your systems are secure, contact us today to learn about how our services can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
August 6th, 2014

BCP_Aug05_AMany businesses are constantly facing a potential disaster. It could be a major fire that wipes out your business, or something as simple as accidentally deleting an important spreadsheet. Regardless of the severity of the potential disaster, businesses need to be prepared and one of the best ways to prepare is to back up your data. In the first part of this article we covered four tips that can help. In this article, we take a look at the next four tips to help ensure your data is backed up.

5. Automate your backup

It can be tough to actually remember to back up your files, especially if your business is busy. Therefore, you could look into an automated backup solution. At the very least, you should set a schedule as to when backups are conducted and set what is being backed up. While this isn't a full automation, a schedule will help.

If you are using solutions like the cloud or NAS (Network Attached Storage), you can usually automate the process by selecting which files and folders to back up and when. The software that powers these solutions will then do this automatically.

Ideally, your backups should be carried out automatically to ensure your data is available should you need it. But you should check periodically to ensure that your data is actually being backed up. This is especially true if you are backing up other systems, as there have been cases where employees have become frustrated by the backup process and simply turned it off. The business owner, thinking their data was being backed up would be in for a bit of a shock when systems crashed, if this was the case.

6. Back up your backups

Redundancy of your backups is just as important as actually backing up your data. You should keep a backup of your backup in case something happens to your original backup. While this doesn't have to be carried out as often as the 'normal' backup, this should be done on a regular basis.

In order to really ensure backup redundancy we recommend that if your main backup is kept on-site, then the secondary backup should be on another storage medium that is kept off-site.

7. Don't forget data stored on non-physical drives

What we are referring to here is the data stored on different services like your email, social media, and non-physical locations. This is especially true if you say have you own servers. It's highly likely that there is data stored on these services as well, and should they go down and you haven't kept a backup, you may lose important information.

Essentially, think about critical data that is used in the company, but isn't physically kept on computers. It may feel like this is going a step too far with backups, especially for businesses who use email services like Exchange and Gmail. However, while the chances of these systems going down are incredibly rare, it could still happen. Therefore, you should conduct a monthly to bi-yearly backup just to ensure that data is there somewhere should something happen.

8. Test your backups

Finally, it is beneficial to actually test your backups from time-to-time to ensure that they are not only working but the data is actually recoverable. If you do a trial run on recovering your data, you can get a good idea of how long it will take to retrieve this information when you actually need to recover it. You can then take steps to optimize this and let the relevant people know.

Also, testing is a good way to discover any problems, e.g., if someone has disabled backups, or one solution isn't working. This will ensure that your data is there when you need it.

If you are looking to integrate a data backup solution, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

August 6th, 2014

OSX_Aug05_AEarlier this year, Apple announced that they would be releasing the newest version of their popular operating system OS X. This latest version, code named Yosemite, brings a number of new features and changes and is slated to be released in the fall. Meanwhile, Apple has recently released the beta of OS X.

About AppleSeed

When developing any software, including operating systems, companies need to put each program through a series of tests. These tests, usually called Alpha and Beta tests, are usually conducted by trained bug hunters who push the program to its limits, attempting to expose things like bugs, glitches, and other problems that need to be fixed before the program release.

Over the past few years, there has been an emerging trend where developers have started to turn to users to test programs. This is actually a common practice in the video game industry which has started to take hold in the software industry as well.

The main reason behind this move is because it is usually costly to hire Alpha and Beta testers, so if you can get your customers to help test it, you save money while being able to release a generally better product. At the same time, you also get to drive interest in programs and possibly increase sales.

This year, Apple has decided to adopt this practice and has introduced the AppleSeed program. The idea behind this program is that users can sign up to beta-test future versions of Apple software. Anyone with an Apple ID can sign up for the program and if you are approved, you will be allowed to beta test upcoming software for Apple.

How to get onto the beta

One of the first programs being tested is OS X Yosemite. This year, Apple has opened the beta to one million people. If you go to the OS X Beta Program site - which is a subprogram of the AppleSeed project - you can press the Sign up button to apply to join the program. You will need to enter your Apple ID and password and then follow the steps to sign up.

If you have gotten an invite to beta test OS X Yosemite, you can go to the Beta Program site and press the Sign in button at the top-right of the page. Once you are logged in, scroll down the page and click Get OS X Yosemite Beta Redemption Code. This will give you an Apple Store code that will enable you to download the beta version. If you already have a code, try going to this page on the Beta Program site and pressing Download OS X Yosemite Beta.

This will open the Apple Store app with the activation code already implemented. Press the Redeem button and then follow the instructions that pop up to download and install the beta version.

Should my company be beta testers?

While it may seem like a cool thing to be able to get access to the next version of OS X before everyone else, there are some caveats with the program:
  1. This is a beta test. The software is not finished and some apps and programs will not work properly. You will also see bugs and glitches that you should report to Apple to fix.
  2. The final product may not look/function the same as the beta. While beta versions of software are pretty close to the finished version, there is still a chance that features and functions in the beta will change before the program is released.
  3. It is difficult to revert back to a stable release. Stable releases are a version of software that has been released to the general public for use - in this case OS X Mavericks. If you do install the beta and decide it's not working, it can be difficult to revert back to Mavericks. It may even require you to wipe your computer and start fresh.
So, taking this into account, should your business try the beta version? We strongly recommend against this. The main reason is because there is a good chance that your other systems may not be fully compatible with OS X Yosemite. The absolute last thing you want is to install the beta version of Yosemite only to find out your printers, or other business functions, don't work with the software.

If you feel that upgrading say a personal laptop is worth it, then we strongly recommend that before you do do so, take the time to back everything up. It is also worth noting that you will need OS X Mavericks installed on your laptop/desktop if you are thinking of trying OS X Yosemite out.

Should you have any questions about the upcoming version of OS X, contact us today to see how we can help. There are many ways you can upgrade and refresh our business tech without having to resort to using beta programs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Apple Mac OS
August 4th, 2014

web_Aug4_A A common problem many small business owners have is letting go. Many feel that because it is their business, they simply must be in charge of everything. This can put a lot of undue stress on a person, especially if they are not experts in areas like IT. When it comes to information technology, one of the best solutions a business owner can adopt to outsource the company's tech needs to an IT partner who can work with you to help manage your IT. While this is good option used by a lot of businesses, there are still many misconceptions about outsourcing your IT. Here are six:

1. It is costly

Talk to some people about outsourcing your IT and the first thing they may mention is how expensive it can be. This comes about because you used to have to invest in expensive hardware and infrastructure that allowed an IT partner to access and manage your systems.

This is simply not true these days, especially with modern technology. Many IT partners offer their services on a per-user or monthly basis, delivered over existing network connections. This makes it easier to budget. Many small businesses have come to realize that outsourcing is a cost-effective solution, especially if they rely on a vast amount of technology.

2. People will lose their jobs

Mention outsourcing and many people get their hackles up, thinking they will be losing their job. While it is true that outsourcing some business processes like manufacturing could well result in a loss of jobs, outsourced IT providers often set up their business to work with existing team members.

These providers exist to essentially fill in the gaps of a business's IT, or take the existing load off of an overworked IT team. Because business technology is such a wide concept, most IT experts focus on one or two concepts. This means that they don't have to be involved in every aspect of technology of a business,

Also, as good IT services can help your business run more effectively this can, in turn, lead to a more productive and profitable company. This secures and creates jobs not threatens them. The best way to think of outsourcing your IT is that it won't cause a loss in jobs, but instead will help provide a stable platform that supports business growth.

3. You lose control over your infrastructure

There is a common concern that when you outsource a business process to another company you lose control over it. When it comes to outsourcing IT, many business owners often believe that they will lose control over their infrastructure because the partner usually installs and maintains this.

While it is true that an IT partner will manage infrastructure, almost every provider operates with your business goals and needs in mind. They will often implement solutions that not only support but improve existing processes while also reducing costs. This leaves you with a stronger business set-up.

4. It's all or nothing

The idea here is that when you outsource your IT, you have to outsource all of it. In truth, tech solutions are quite flexible and include individual or bundled services that can cover just one area of several aspects of your IT.

The best solution is to outsource the processes where support is weaker. Maybe your IT team is focused on running your online store, so the last thing they probably want to do is implement collaboration software. If you outsource this, you can increase the chance that implementation will go smoothly and you will get the solution you actually want and need.

5. You won't be compliant with regulatory bodies if you outsource

Many businesses work in industries that have strict compliance regulations about the way data is stored and used. Some business owners think that by remaining in control of this, you will be 100% compliant because you can better control the system.

However;, many IT providers operate in the same industry and face the same regulations time and again. This often means that they can actually provide systems that ensure compliance and are also able to keep abreast of changes; implementing them often quicker than an in-house solution.

6. Service levels will be lower than in-house

There's something to be said about in-house support. If a computer breaks, support can be there in a matter of minutes to help fix it. Your IT providers however, is usually based in the same geographical location. This means a quick response to in-house calls.

Beyond this, many providers proactively manage systems. This means that they can often tell when something could go wrong before it does, and then take the correct steps to either fix or prevent the issue from happening. It is this proactive approach that really pays off in the long run, largely because it saves you from costly and preventable repairs, not to mention expensive downtime.

If you are looking to learn more about how outsourcing your IT can help, contact us today to learn about our services.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web
July 31st, 2014

WindowsPhone_July28_AOne of the biggest trends when it comes to mobile devices, is the increasing integration of smartphones into every part of our lives. Many developers are looking at ways to essentially turn the phone from a device you interact with into a device that is really an extension of yourself. The way they are doing this is by introducing apps that allow you to interact with your phone. Google has Google Now, Apple has Siri, and earlier this year, Microsoft introduced Cortana.

What is Cortana?

If you're a video game aficionado then you will likely know that Cortana is the Artificial Intelligence character from the immensely popular Halo series. In early 2014, Microsoft announced that they were working on a personal assistant program for the mobile version of Windows 8.1 and Cortana was created.

The idea behind Cortana is that you use it as your personal assistant. When you want to know the answer to a query, simply ask and your ever-helpful PA will find the answer for you. As you use your phone and interact with the app, it will learn what you like and your interests and keep you informed about these preferences. You can even use it to place calls, check-out the weather, set reminders, and more.

The Cortana personal assistant has been released for all US users of devices running Windows 8.1 and worldwide users should be getting it by early 2015.

On a side note: One interesting tie-in with the app is that the voice of the Cortana app on your Windows 8.1 device is actually the same voice as Cortana from Halo! We guess that this is Microsoft's way of telling us that the Cortana app is much like the full-on Artificial Intelligence from Halo.

How to use Cortana

Before you start using Cortana, you should first enable it. This can be done by:
  1. Swiping to the left on your phone to open the app drawer and selecting Settings.
  2. Swiping over to Applications.
  3. Selecting Cortana.
  4. Sliding the bar at the top of the screen from Off to On.
Once you enable Cortana, you should see a tile placed on your home screen. Tapping the tile will open the app, or you can press and hold the Search button at the bottom right of your device. When the app is open, simply press the microphone icon at the bottom to interact with your device.

You can tailor the information and interests Cortana has access to by pressing the Notebook button at the top-right side of the app. Once you have set a few interests and have used the app for a short while you should start to notice more relevant information being displayed.

Recent updates

Microsoft has noted that they will be releasing updates to Cortana every few weeks and some of the latest include features that make the app much more useful. The latest big update announced two new features:
  • Nearby places - Cortana will now recommend places to go to nearby. Using data from apps like FourSquare, you will now be able to discover the best places nearby that are new, popular or have lots of buzz.
  • Local apps - If you enable this, you will get suggestions for apps that are relevant to your location. For example, if you go to Seattle you will get a list of recommended apps like maps, transit, etc.
These new features should be available now. To ensure that they are:
  1. Open Cortana.
  2. Tap on Menu (three bars at the top-right).
  3. Select Interests followed by Discover.
Looking to learn more about using Cortana or the Windows Phone in your office? Contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 31st, 2014

AndroidPhone_July28_AIn many countries when you go to buy a mobile phone, and more specifically an Android phone, from a carrier the mobile carrier will often install their own apps onto the device. These apps, commonly referred to as bloatware, are usually tied into a service that your carrier offers and are for the most part ignored by most users. The problem is, the majority of users don't really want these apps but when they try uninstalling them they often quickly find that they cannot. However, there is something you can do about this issue.

Bloatware defined

Read Android themed blogs and you will eventually come across this term. When it is used to refer to mobile phones, bloatware is software that has been installed by carriers or device manufacturers. These apps are generally useless, unwanted, or are value-added apps - meaning apps which you need to pay extra for in order to use e.g., a music service run by your carrier.

The kicker with bloatware is that you don't get a choice as to whether or not it is installed on your phone. The reason for this is because carriers and manufacturers install the apps before you purchase the phone. Many carriers have contracts with manufacturers to actually install the software before the device leaves the factory.

Is bloatware bad?

Mobile bloatware often gets a bad rap, especially because much of it is unwanted by users. That doesn't mean the apps are 'bad', or malicious. In fact, some users do actually use the software that comes installed by mobile carriers. The issue many have is that they have had no say in the matter and as a result feel forced into using certain apps, when they would rather be using something else, or would never have downloaded these apps in the first place.

In short, the vast majority of bloatware is not overly useful but it is by no means malicious. It's really more of an annoyance to many users.

Can I get rid of bloatware?

The short answer to this question is: No, you usually can't get rid of bloatware. Some of it can be uninstalled, but most of the apps installed by the carrier or manufacturer aren't able to be deleted.

That being said, there are two options you can consider:

1. Disable bloatware on your device

While you usually can't uninstall bloatware, phones running Android 4.X and newer do have the option of disabling it.
  1. Open your device's Settings panel. This is usually done by sliding down from the top of the screen and selecting the person icon with five squares followed by Settings.
  2. Tap on Apps and swiping right so All is highlighted at the top.
  3. Scroll to the app you would like to disable and tap on it.
  4. Press Disable.
  5. Tap Ok in the warning that opens.
  6. Once you do this, the app will be removed from the home screen and will no longer run in the background.

2. Purchase devices without bloatware

If you are currently looking for a new device, or are looking to upgrade your current phone, an option would be to purchase a device that doesn't have bloatware. For example, most phones you purchase separately from your carrier won't have carrier specific bloatware. Take for example Nexus devices. These phones, when bought outright, only have stock Google apps like Calendar, Gmail, Chrome, and Google Play store installed. Of course, if you buy the device from your carrier, there is a good chance it will have the apps on them. So it is best to look at the big-box stores or retailers.

If you are unsure as to whether the device you are looking at has bloatware installed, try asking the salesperson or looking at online reviews. As a general rule of thumb: If you buy the device from a carrier, or on a contract, the device will have some bloatware on it - most carriers have a stipulation on the agreement you sign giving them permission to install it, or noting that it is installed. When you sign the contract you thereby agree to have the apps on your device.

The major downside to buying devices like this for some users is that you have to pay full price for the device. For some this is worth it, while others are ok with the odd bit of bloatware if they get to pay less for their device.

Looking to learn more about Android phones? Contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

July 30th, 2014

Windows_July28_AHave you ever gone to talk with a colleague and gotten a look at their computer's desktop only to notice that they have files, apps, and folders strewn about in a seemingly random fashion? Or maybe you are guilty of a cluttered desktop. Many people tend to have somewhat unorganized desktops, especially if they have used the same computer for a number of years. The problem with this is that it can be a chore to find files and folders, and if your desktop has a ton of icons your computer could be more sluggish.

Want to tidy up your desktop? Here are six tips on how you can get your desktop more organized and even reduce virtual clutter too.

1. Before you begin do a bit of recon

Before you go about simply deleting everything off of your desktop, it is worthwhile thinking about what you really want to keep on your desktop. This will be vary from person to person, of course, but most people treat their desktop as a place where they put files, folders, and app shortcuts that they want to quickly access.

Take the time to think about what you use the most and which files and folders you really need to access instantly or which you use all the time. An easy way to figure this out is to simply auto-arrange your icons by right-clicking on an empty area of your desktop (where there are no icons) and selecting Auto arrange icons. This will arrange your icons into a grid format that makes them easier to see and work with. Then, right-click on empty space and hover your mouse over Sort by and select Date modified to order the icons by the date they were last modified, or opened, with the latest at the top.

2. Create holding and app shortcut folders

People often use their desktop to hold files like downloads, photos, screenshots, and even email attachments. This can lead to an incredibly cluttered desktop in a short amount of time.

In truth, you probably don't need all these shortcuts on your desktop. What you can do is create a folder on your desktop where all non-essential files and folders go. A folder like this is great to hold downloads or files that will only be used for a short amount of time.

The key here, is this folder is used for non-important, or temporary items. If you don't plan on keeping it, put the file, icon, etc. into this folder. Once you are done with the file, simply go into the holding folder and delete it.

It could help to also create a shortcut folder. When you install new programs on Windows, a shortcut icon is often automatically added to your desktop. However, these desktop shortcut should be for frequently used programs only. For programs that aren't really used that often, it is best to create a separate folder the shortcuts. This not only reduces desktop clutter, but puts shortcuts in one central location, making them easier to find.

3. Be ruthless

Once you have your folders set up, it's time to start getting rid of the clutter. As with any clearout you should be ruthless. If you haven't used a file, folder, etc. in the past two months or so, you should seriously question whether you can get rid of it.

To make this easier, open your desktop via the File Explorer. You can do this by opening any folder and clicking Desktop from the left-hand menu bar. This will make all of the icons and files on your desktop easier to see and work with.

Go through these and uninstall programs you no longer use, delete images you no longer need, move unimportant files, and place files in their relevant folders. Once complete, take a look at your browser to see where it downloads files too. If you have your browser set to download files to your desktop by default, try going into the settings and changing the download location to another file like the Downloads folder.

4. Stick with it

Once you have de-cluttered your desktop, try to stick with the rules you have set. With downloads ask yourself whether these need to be on the desktop or whether they can go into a folder somewhere else.

Of course, sticking with it won't always be easy, so maybe take time once every month or two to revisit your desktop and clean it up a bit.

5. Use the taskbar or Start for apps, not the desktop

With Windows 8 and 8.1 you can actually pin apps to the Start menu, so when you click it the apps are available in the window that pops up. This is a great alternative to simply having program shortcuts on your desktop. Pin apps to the Start menu on Windows 8 and 8.1 by opening your apps list (clicking the down arrow from the Windows Start screen) and right-clicking on the program you would like to pin. Select Pin to Start to be able to access it when you hit the Windows key on your keyboard.

If you prefer the traditional desktop view of Windows 7, or are using Windows 7, why not pin your important programs to the taskbar at the bottom of the screen? This can be done by right-clicking on an open app and selecting Pin to Taskbar. The programs will remain at the bottom of the screen, and can be opened by simply clicking on them.

6. Strategically pick your wallpaper

An interesting way to minimize clutter is to pick a wallpaper that you enjoy looking at. Be it a favorite picture, slogan, etc., try to frame the image so the focus is in the center of your desktop. Then, place your icons around the image in a way that they still allow you to see the image. If you can't see the image, then you have too many icons and it may be time to get rid of a few.

Also, having an image you like also serves as a reminder to try to keep icons to a minimum in the first place. This could be a proactive solution to keeping desktop clutter down.

If you are looking to learn more about using Windows in your office, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.