MERIT Solutions Blog

MERIT Solutions has been serving the Chesapeake area since 1982, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

4 Undercover Google Drive Tips

Google Drive is how most of us are meeting SaaS for the first time. No more hunting for data sticks, no more ‘it’s on my other computer’ - but while we might be pleased with it, how well do we really know it? Here are four ways to get more out of Google Drive.

Google Drive is intuitive to use. For one thing, it quite closely resembles certain other applications… for another, it’s simple and there’s help available. But using it and getting the most out of it are two different things. Here’s how to use Google Drive to push your productivity like never before.

1: You Can Work Offline

Yes, it’s the equivalent of boasting that your airplane also has wheels. But sometimes you do have to work offline, and when that happens you can stay with Google Drive. There’s an ‘offline’ mode that lets you view, edit and create documents, though you need Chrome to use it. In Chrome, go to your Google Drive account, click on the gear icon and select Settings. In the General tab, select ‘Sync Google Doc, Sheets, Slides, & Drawings files to this computer so that you can edit offline.’ Chrome will save all your changes, then sync them with Google Drive when you’re back online.

2: Track Revision History

If multiple people are working on a document, it can get hard to remember what it looked like to start with. Losing your past versions can be hard if you’re used to desktop apps that let you go back and compare. Actually, Drive does too: go to File and click See revisions history, and you can select from multiple prior versions of the same document. You can even use the Show more detailed revisions option to group revisions by your own criteria.

3: The Web Clipboard

One of the least-known features of Google Drive is its Web Clipboard feature, which is weird because it’s one of the most useful. You can copy and paste data across multiple Docs, Sheets and Slides, it holds multiple items at once (unlike OS clipboards!) and you can access its contents from any of your devices. If you want to use it, select an item and go to Edit > Web Clipboard > Copy to web clipboard. Items you haven’t accessed within 30 days get automatically deleted, though, so don’t start using it for storage!

4: Search for Links in Documents
Normally when you want to add links to a document, you have to go to the page and copy the link. Not any more. Instead, highlight some text, go to Insert > Link, and a search box appears, letting you do the whole process right in your Doc.
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Disaster-Proofing Your Data

What stands between your data and disaster? You do.

IT disasters cost US businesses $1.2 trillion every year. Worldwide, the total is $6.2 trillion. And more of that comes from so-called ‘silent disasters’ software bugs or malware and hardware failures than you’d think. Everyone thinks about preparing for floods or hurricanes, because they’re high-profile and high-impact. Fact is, they’re also low-probability.

And with leaking, hacking and security risks riding front-of-mind for so many, it’s easy to forget that many of the the disasters that put your whole company IT system up on blocks are just that - accidents. It really doesn’t matter, after all, where they come from. What matters is how you respond to them.

1: Plan For Disaster

Anticipate likely problems before they arise. No, you can’t get ready for everything - but you can build data loss templates that reflect the most likely threats you face. Map out two to four of the most likely scenarios and base your preparations on those. Look at the data losses you’ve suffered in the past, or those that affected other enterprises in your business vertical and geographic location, and build on that knowledge to prepare.

2: Make Sure You Have the Right Tools

Ensure that the processes and technology to deal with the treats you’ve identified are in place. Have backup and recovery, snapshot and replication capacity ready for when it;'s needed. A good disaster recovery plan will need all these in place to cover any eventuality. Augment their efficacy and prevent overuse by building in a monitoring tool that’s sensitive and accurate, with a low number of false positives.

3: Test It!

Just like a fire alarm system is only as good as the last fire drill, so a data recovery plan, too, is only as good as its last test. When was the last time you tested yours? If the last time you tested your data recovery plan, the solution involved switching out a blown valve, you need to step up testing. Otherwise you just think you’re ready - when you need your data recovery plan the most, it might let you down.

With a resiliency plan in place, you’ll be equipped to hit the ground running if disaster does strike, as well as being more likely to catch internal problems like ailing hardware or buggy programs in the bud, before they can trigger a disaster.

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3 Essential Elements of a Secure Mobile Strategy

Mobility and BYOD are a gift for companies looking for improved agility and productivity. But they come with downsides built in, including security worries. If you strategise them right, though, you can get their benefits without falling prey to any of the pitfalls.

These are the top 3 essential elements of a secure mobility strategy.

1: Manage What Matters…

...and stop trying to manage everything else.

The days when the IT department had a realistic chance of controlling data flows through an enterprise are over. Instead, it’s time to triage: vital data must be managed and protected, while the majority of data can simply be ignored by IT. One way to do this is MDM - Mobile Device Management. This allows you to check whether a device remains secure before it accesses your company network - whether it’s owned by a worker or the company. Another is MAM - Mobile Application Management, which involves diffusing an app but centralizing its security settings and controls. Finally, virtualization and sandboxing holds out the hope of making the spread of conventional malware all but impossible and preventing large-scale hacking too.

2: Automate the Outcome You Want

It’s the things we don’t have to think about that boost productivity. How many business bloggers have you seen, talking about the power of habit? It’s the same in IT. Set up your systems so the right thing happens automatically. When an employee gets a new device, whoever owns it, make all their work materials available on it with the click of a single URL. When employees move from one physical location to another, pre-configured controls adapt the level of access that’s available to avoid security risks - and tell the person what’s going on and why. Use Active Directory to assign containers - sets of information, apps and access privileges - to roles rather than individuals, so that when someone new enters or leaves a role, everything they need is available.

3: Avoid the Dreaded Quadruple Bypass

A ‘quadruple bypass’ refers to the leakiest, most insecure setup you can have: BYOD on a consumer-grade device, handling sensitive company information and going straight to cloud. Completely sidestepping the control and monitoring of IT at every stage, this ‘bypass’ is ripe for hackers, leaks and malware. This is the structure you’ll find if IT hasn’t been involved in implementing BYOD and cloud!

This is the nightmare scenario for IT and it must be avoided at all costs. Fortunately, that’s not that difficult. It has to be by making other options more attractive, though. Give workers a superior user experience on IT-approved, secure systems and they won’t wander from it. It’s the best guarantee of security.
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Getting Ahead of the Internet of Things



IT techs need to be ready when the IoT lands. It’s estimated that well over 20bn devices will be a part of the IoT, ranging from consumer goods like toasters to complex sensor arrays in smart homes and vehicles. The volume of data created by this network will be gigantic, requiring a rethink from organizations in terms of how they view, manage, store, and even think about data.

Getting Ready for IoT

Over the next decade, the growth in the number of IoT networks will be very large and very fast. Every industry vertical will be involved, because no-one will be able to afford to turn down the benefits associated with IoT. Its effects will be felt everywhere from manufacturing to healthcare, sometimes in unpredictable ways.

Re-evaluate Database Architecture and Data Management Strategies

Right now, most companies have a core database that houses transactional data. IoT data won’t replace that, but it won’t behave the same way either. Look for solutions that will support multiple deployment scenarios. Your database technology should be capable of scaling up and down, to be device-agnostic while having the potential to accommodate a huge amount of data.

Remember: Not Every Database Will Cope With IoT

You need to select a database that’s built to cope with the volume, velocity and variety of data that’s going to come to you from IoT sources. Time-series and geospatial-oriented databases will cope far better than general purpose databases.

Deploy Data Management Technology

Consider the potential value of deploying data management technology both within the network and on its borders. As the volume of data generated by IoT networks grows this is likely to become an unavoidable necessity, and those enterprises that implement data management, processing, and analysis will have a significant advantage in that, while they might not have more data than their competitors, they will have more useable data.

There’s More to IoT Than Coping With The Data

At first glance, IoT seems to offer one main challenge: how to cope with all that data. But how well companies emerge from the early days of IoT is going to depend more on how they respond to some other challenges, including the access IoT will grant to new markets and new applications within existing markets. As the number of devices capable of gathering and sharing data grows, so more and more enterprises will find it cost-effective to leverage the increase.
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Why BYOD Has a Bright Future

BYOD - Bring Your Own Device - was an incipient trend in 2014, but it’s expected to fully breach the mainstream in the year ahead as enterprises learn how to make the most of it.

BYOD Teething Troubles

BYOD faced some troubles starting out. The trend comes with some privacy concerns, since workers naturally tend to take their own devices home with them and connect them to non-work-approved networks. There was even a major lawsuit in California that, by ruling that company workers for the ri use of their own devices, seemed to presage the end of the BYOD trend. What really happened was that the trend went from strength to strength as other technologies and techniques caught up with it. 2015 looks set to be the year when it enters the mainstream for good.

Contractors

BYOD makes sense in a world where enterprises are decentralising everything from IT to workforces. An increasing number of white collar workers - just the people most likely to bring their own tablet into work - are independent contractors rather than employees. They’ll take their own devices with them from gig to gig, allowing companies to hire workers and working equipment at the same time rather than acquiring hardware.

Cloud

As data increasingly moves onto the cloud, public, private or hybrid, the privacy concerns over BYOD become less prominent. BYOD is a natural fit for cloud. And when everything from data to unified communications, calendaring to email, is cloud-based, the importance of the device used to access it recedes. Privacy concerns about sensitive company data stored on someone’s iPhone also recede, for the same reason.

Momentum

While companies figure out what to do about BYOD, it’s already happening. Many companies have adopted a ‘if they want to, let them’ attitude to worker-led BYOD adoption. The longer an ‘unofficial BYOD’ policy persists, the more likely a data breach is, but by the time it comes, it’s going to be almost impossible to get rid of BYOD.

Hybridization and Split Billing

Many companies are going to wind up with mixed BYOD/CYOD policies. Senior staff will be using BYOD while lower-level employees will be on a more secure CYOD setup. Data accessible to both via the cloud will mean the main division will be between high-ranking salespeople and C-level staff, and the rest of the company.

BYOD is so underreported that the chances are that it’s not just coming, but really is already here. And this year, it’s going to take over.
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Peak App: Do We Really Need More?


The phrase ‘there’s an app for that’ has achieved the ultimate in internet acceptance - it’s a hashtag and a meme. It’s also increasingly true - apps have proliferated at a massive rate. But does that mean there are now too many, and should you think of building one?

Apps are the lifeblood of mobile internet, and they’re among the fastest growing sectors anywhere in the economy, so it’s hardly surprising that a lot of people want to get in on the action. But it’s not always a good idea to become an app creator.

Apps are an explosively growing sector. Between January and November 2014, Google Play, Amazon Appstore and iOS App Store each grew by more than 50%. And it’s part of a long term trend going back to at least 2010. iOS App Store is worth 10 times what it was then, and in 2014, iOS App Store sold $10 bn worth of apps. Maybe that’s why the three big players now have 1, 024, 000 developers working on apps between them - over half of whom work at Google.

All of which sounds like a digital gold rush. Why wouldn't you want some of that?

Apps take up 86% of a typical mobile web user’s online time. That sounds like another fabulous stat showing why apps are the market to get into. But it’s actually deceptive. It sounds like, if you’re an app maker, you’re competing for 86% of a mobile user’s attention.

The reality, though, is that if you don’t make games, which account for 32% of app time, you’ll struggle. Facebook and social messaging account for another 27% of app time, leaving 41% to play for. Twitter, YouTube and utilities absorb another 18%, leaving just 23% of app time actually in play. That’s spread across an average of 26 apps used on a monthly basis. If you’re one of them, you’re competing for less than a percent of the typical user’s time.

What will that competition look like? In an increasingly frantic marketplace, it will often look like financial outlay. Each app download costs the developer an average of $1.30, but some run far higher, as much as $70 in some cases. And half the users you acquire this way will be gone in just three months.

None of this is a reason not to build an app: some apps are massively successful, and plenty that aren't are providing value for their users and profits for their developers. But it is a good reason to think about whether you need an app - and to reconsider search. Mobile search has been eclipsed by consideration of that 86% figure - but in fact, as we've just seen, a new app developer is competing for just 5% of the average mobile user’s internet time, as against the 14% accounted for by browsing.
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5 Creakily Ancient, But Still Really Useful Office Tips


So Microsoft Office isn't exactly a hot new app. In fact, you probably have it open in the background right now, right? And no doubt, you feel like over the past million years you've been using it, you've figured out how to use it pretty well. But there are shortcuts and tips that can save you hours of time - and they’re not always obvious, even to experienced users.

Microsoft Office is kind of like what John Lennon said about life: it’s the application you use while you’re busy making other plans. That means it isn't very glamorous. But most people who sit down at a keyboard for a living will be using Office most days. Let’s look at some ways to cut corners, trim fat and boost performance. You can even use Office for things you've been opening other programs for!

1: Remove the Background From An Image

You can remove the background to an image in MS Office. Here’s how:
first, select the image and click the contextual Format tab in Picture Tools. Go to the Adjust options, select Color and choose Set Transparent Color. Then click on the image, and like that… no more background.

2: Select By Style

In MS Word, you can find text by selecting it by style. That’s especially useful if you want to check all your subheadings, titles and so on. Click the dialog launcher for the Styles group, then right-click the style you want to locate instances of. You’ll be asked to confirm that you want all instances of that style, and told how many there are, in the drop-down.

3: Close Docs, Not Apps

If you want to keep Word open when you close your last document, press [Ctrl]+[F4] when you close the last document. The document will close, but the application will remain open.

4: Quickly Select Rows and Columns in Excel

There’s a keyboard shortcut to quickly select rows and columns in Excel. To select the current column, press [Ctrl]+[spacebar]. To expand the rows, it’s [up arrow] and [down arrow], without releasing the [Ctrl] key. To select the current row, press [shift]+[spacebar]. To expand the columns, it’s [right arrow] and [left arrow] without releasing the [shift] key.

5: Nudge to Budge in PowerPoint

Sometimes you want to move an object in PowerPoint without dragging it. We've all had the problem where just picking it up to drag it moves it too far and sends you running to that old favorite among-st Office shortcuts, [Ctrl]+[Z]. Nudging can be the answer here. Select the object, then hold down [Ctrl] and press the appropriate arrow key. You’ll see the object move a tiny amount, enough to fine-tune your layout.
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The secrets of YouTube


YouTube has come a long way from its origins as a place to look at kittens and home videos of people’s dogs. There’s a multimillion dollar industry based around it, a new generation of media stars who got their start on the channel and its connection with Google and its ubiquity, to say nothing of how easy it is to embed, mean it gets a lot of use for business purposes too.

With that in mind, you’re probably not getting the very best out of your Youtube experience. Here are a few ways to get the normal stuff done faster - and a couple of tricks you probably didn’t even know were possible!

1: Space Bar

Most of us know that the space bar is play/pause on YouTube. If you want to watch something in slow motion, though, hold the space bar down! This is really useful for detailed how-tos.

2: Jump Around!

J jumps you back 10 seconds in the video. L jumps you forward 10 seconds. No mouse required. You can also use K as play/pause, if you’re watching a video entitled ‘how repair space bar.’

The arrow keys fast forward and rewind, and the number keys jump to percentage locations in the video: 1 is 10%, 5 50%, 0 the beginning.

These don’t work in fullscreen mode, by the way.

3: Lean Back!

...is the name of an app that allows you to turn YouTube into a keyboard-only experience with a totally new interface that can be conveniently browsed with only the arrow keys and ‘enter.’ This doesn’t seem to work on Macs, though.

4: Do What You Feel!

YouTube has a hidden feature called Moodwall (yes,I’m aware that we’re moving away from tricks that are useful in the enterprise, but I thought you’d want to know). Moodwall lets you select your mood from a sidebar. YouTube then shows you videos appropriate to your mood. If you disagree, double click on the mood you chose, and the videos will all change.

5: Ride the Snake

OK, so now we’re moving from ‘not useful in the enterprise’ to ‘not useful at all,’ and it’s also not really a secret - it’s even on YouTube’s Wikipedia page. On any video you’re watching, pause it and hold down the left or right arrow key for a few seconds. Then press the up arrow key to start the game, and hey presto! Your computer and YouTube together have created the ‘snake’ game that made Nokia owners the world over miss public transportation throughout the early 2000s.

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The worst passwords of 2014 - and what we can learn from them


2014 was the year of the leaky, hacked, unsecure internet - the year we all came face to face with the fact that our details aren’t safe. And that harsh lesson really didn’t sink in. Most hacking is done through old-fashioned channels like email fraud, but when passwords are leaked, it often turns out there was no need, to judge by some of these.

Password management firm SplashData released its list of last year’s worst passwords,and they’re exactly as bad as you can imagine. The company got its data by analysing the 3 million or so passwords that were leaked last year, and arranged them in league order of most to least common. Of course, the more common your password the easier it is to guess - but when it’s both really common and really weak, it makes you wonder why hackers bother to steal it when they could just guess.

The top 5 offenders

These are the 5 most common leaked passwords of 2014:

1: 123456
2: password
3: 12345
4: 12345678
5: qwerty

Yes, seriously.

Lessons to learn

First, never ask IT why your password has to be 14 characters long!
Second, look at what these characters did and do the opposite to create a strong password.

These passwords all display a total lack of thought. Faced with a decision - which password? - these people tapped a few keys without thinking it through at all. So, consider: any keys that are already next to each other on the keyboard are a bad choice, so is a long numerical sequence like ‘1234.’ And ‘password’? Also not good.

Widen the net: your name? Out. Your company’s name? Also a bad choice. And if you live in LA, ‘Lakers’ isn’t too great either. What unites these bad choices is that they’re easy to guess if someone knows one other thing about you. For the same reason, your partner or children’s names aren’t good choices.

Creating a strong password

Strong passwords are strong because they’re really hard to guess. Using things like the letter ‘3’ for ‘e’ or the number ‘4’ for the word ‘for’ are now predictable. Instead use a password using unconnected words with symbols, caps and numbers scattered throughout. It’s also a good idea to have a different password for each account: having the same keys for car, garage, house and office obviously spells trouble, and the same logic applies here.
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5 Projects IT Pros Need to Stop Putting Off


Anyone who’s ever seen an Eisenhower square knows how easy it is to do urgent-but-unimportant stuff today, and put off important-but-non-urgent stuff until tomorrow. We all do it. The danger with that approach is that projects that are actually vital are always on tomorrow’s to-do list – never today’s. Here are 5 IT projects it’s time to shunt up the list to job #1.

1: Software updates – especially in end devices

Increasingly, inhouse IT departments are moving towards a ‘push’ model of updating software, one that distributes software updates to devices on the network from a central point. But that transition’s far from over and in some IT departments it’s still necessary to physically go out and update software. If the machines that need updating are in distant corners of the company buildings IT can end up supporting four different releases of the same software.

2: Job descriptions

Jobs exist now that didn’t even two years ago. Go back six years and the landscape has changed unrecognizably. But when’s the last time job descriptions in your department were updated? Go back over them and make sure they’re up to date or you’ll find that when you need to know who’s in charge of cloud issues or social media outreach it turns out that officially, no-one is.
3: Spare parts and old equipment
Below the top layer, there’s probably equipment in the back room for repairing external dial-up modems, spare 5½” floppy disk drives and a couple telegraph keys near the back. It makes sense to keep this equipment to cannibalize it for spare parts or in case it’s needed, but unless you’re building a steampunk laptop in your spare time some of this stuff just needs to go. Getting round to this job isn’t always easy, but managing it at least once a yea shouldn’t be too hard.

4: Asset inventorying

Asset inventorying software has been on the market for a decade or more, but many IT pros still don’t have a clear understanding of how many of their servers are idle or underutilized. An asset inventory can identify these and help you decide whether there’s slack in the system or whether you’re running servers that just can’t cope with modern demands and need to be replaced.

5: Vendor agreements

IT departments are often missing something vital, despite all that spare equipment: contracts. Many are short as many as a third of all the contracts that cover their agreements with their vendors. If these are missing, ask vendors for copies and check what they cover. Your relationship with the vendor may have changed, or the type of provision on offer might have moved with the times. Make sure your contracts are complete and up-to-date.
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5 Tips to Do More With Your PDF Files on Google Drive


Google Drive started out as simply an online viewer for docs and spreadsheets. Now, it’s evolved into a full-blown online office suite. And just like desktop office suites, many of us don’t know how to use it to its full potential. PDFs remain one of the most popular document formats but they can be hard to manipulate. Drive can help.

Save to Drive, straight from Chrome

Google’s own-brand browser is already a pretty solid PDF viewer. But did you know you can save web pages as PDFs directly from Chrome to Drive?

Click on the ‘printer’ icon in the bottom right corner (you have to be logged into Chrome), then scroll down to the ‘Google cloud print’ section and click on ‘Save to Google Drive.’ Done!

Search text from PDFs with OCR

OCR is Optical Character Recognition, and you can use it to search PDFs in Google Drive. Right click on a PDF and select ‘open in Google Docs,’ then save i in Google Docs. Bingo: you have a searchable document of your PDF content.

Export any Doc to PDF format

In any document on Google Drive that you’d like as a PDF, simply click ‘file,’ then ‘download,’ and select ‘PDF document. Done! And if you synch it immediately by saving it to the local Google Drive folder you won’t even have to manually upload the file back into Google Drive.

Scan to PDF with Google Drive’s mobile app

It’s frustratingly Android-only, but Google’s mobile Drive app is still impressive. It allows you to scan handwritten notes or pages from books (copyright, people), and automatically detects page edges and optimises contrast to bring out the text. Once you’ve taken the picture, there are editing options: select the plus sign in the lower left corner of the app screen and you can collate several scanned pages into a single PDF, then move onto the ‘check mark’ symbol to save the whole thing to Google Drive.

Manipulate PDFs in Drive with add-ons

Google Drive is partly so great because of what i can do, and partly because of what it can do with other apps. So if you want to split PDFs up, try PDFSplit! Open your PDF in Drive, then look in ‘open with,’ and select PDFSplit! From there you can break a PDF up any way you like and resave the pieces. Want to merge PDFs instead? Use PDF Mergy. Select your PDFs, right click them, then hover over ‘open with’ and select PDF Mergy. Finally, PDF is a popular format for forms and contracts, and it’s useful to be able to sign a PDF. HelloSign and DocuSign both plug easily into Drive and let you import or draw your signature into a PDF.


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5 Reasons Why Telecommuting Is a Win-Win


Obviously ‘teleworking’ covers people like traveling sales operatives who’ve always worked that way, but an increasing number of tech and IT staff are spending their working lives outside the office too, with clerical and support staff not far behind. It’s a win-win situation that both companies and workers like.

You’d expect companies to hate telework and employees to love it. For employees, it means a couple of hours, at least, rescued from the daily commute, and a chance to work in their pyjamas or with the stereo up loud - not options at most people’s offices.

Problem is that Photoshop is far from inexpensive. A quick online scan will show that newer versions of this image-editing program can run higher than $600.

But don’t companies hate the idea of losing control over their employees? How can you check on a worker if they’re not even there? And doesn’t remote working lead to slackness?

Not everyone sees it that way. According to a report issued late last year, the US government now thinks about 47% of its employees - over a million people - are eligible for telecommuting. So what’s so great about it, and how is everyone a winner?

Telecommuting eliminates wasted time

Sure, some people work on the way to work. Most people sit in traffic, for an average of an hour each way. That’s wasted time for everyone, and telecommuting gives it back.

Telecommuting cuts costs for companies - but not wages for workers

Workers who work at home don’t need offices, cutting down on overheads - rent, heating, insurance and all the other costs associated with property. But they still make the same salary.

Remote workers are less stressed and more productive

Remote workers and in-office workers agree that teleworkers are less stressed, sleep more, drive less - and get more done. Less stress, more productivity? Win-win.

Absenteeism is a good thing

Americans work longer hours than any other industrialized country, but we don’t get more done. There’s a culture of ‘presenteeism’ - if you’re in the office early and late, you’re a good employee. ‘Part-timer’ is used as a slur. Get rid of that and ‘absent’ workers can be judged on their quality and productivity, not on how much time they spent on the job. That’s better for everyone.

Absent doesn’t mean out of reach

Much of the time in modern offices, people communicate by email, cloud or messaging services anyway. If you’re going to email someone, and get an email back, what difference does it make where they are? If you’re driving into work to open and reply to emails, doesn’t that defeat the point?


Teleworking means businesses spend less money and workers do more work, while workers have a better quality of life and more control over their working time.
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What is the difference between Windows Search and Indexing Service?


One of the more popular products that MERIT Solutions sells, after showing our clients the features and benefits, is the Fujitsu Scansnap iX500 desktop scanner. This compact scanner will scan 25 pages per minute, front and back, in full color AND it OCRs the document on the fly! By doing Optical Character Recognition (OCR) on a PDF file before saving it, you can search for any word in the document. Additionally, with Windows 7 and Windows 8, you can search a folder or an entire drive for a specific word within the contents of the pdf, doc, txt or any file which has been indexed.

But, what if the documents ou want to search through reside on a file server? Can you still search thousands of files for that elusive reference? Yes, you can using Windows Search Service. This role service has been built into Windows Servers since the release of Server 2008. What confuses things is that there is also an Indexing Service available as a role. The difference is that Windows Search Service (WSS) is installed by default and is the one you want, unless you have a special need for Windows Server 2003 indexing service compatibility.

Something to be aware of is that the location in which you store your files needs to be explicitly listed in the Indexing Options applet in the Control Panel of the file server. The fact that this control is called Indexing Options and not Search Options, only adds to the confusion.

Some 64-bit operating systems need the Adobe PDF iFilter to fix some issues with not properly indexing pdf file contents. This iFilter can be downloaded from the Adobe site if you find that your workstation will not proper search pdf files. To confirm or deny this need, open a pdf file and search for a word that is contained in the document (click ctrl-f to open a search box). If you can find the word, then you have an OCR'd pdf file. (If you created a pdf file by using Save As from a word processor, then it is automatically ready for indexing.) Once you know you have an indexed pdf file, look at the top right of your File Explorer window. You will see a box with the words Search Documents (or the name of whatever folder you happen to be in.) Type the same word into that search box and see if it finds the pdf file. If it does, you are in good shape for searching on your PC.

Now, open a shared folder on your server. Copy that file into the folder. Wait a couple of seconds, then search the folder for the same word. If the search indexer is doing its job, you should find that same pdf file on your server.

Bottom line: for most instances, the native Windows Search Service should be sufficient to index and allow searching for a wide range of file types, including Adobe pdfs on both your local PC and your file server.

-- Randy Spangler
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The 3 Biggest Risks of Shadow IT - and What CIOs can do about them


Shadow IT, the use of unsanctioned cloud and mobile devices by staff, is a growing sector - but while the Bring Your Own Device philosophy has caught on fast, not everyone appreciates the risks to data and workflow it can bring.

When staff members begin to bring their own devices into work, it can spell positive changes for the IT world and a leap in efficiency for the company. Everyone’s using cloud and mobile instead of sometimes-clunky proprietary systems, and everyone can get on with what they need to do, wherever they are and whatever device they want to use. Sounds great, because it is.

There is one problem, though. Staff who don’t have IT training often don’t realise the security risks, so they’ll move data about over clouds or between devices without proper security measures.

Then there’s the risk to workflows. It’s great when everyone uses efficient cloud-based apps to do work, but what happens when it all comes together and none of the pieces fit because everyone’s used a different app, or a different spreadsheet format?

Finally there’s the problem of everyone using different distribution networks and a hundred different versions of a document getting passed around, because there’s no centralised system in place. So what can CIOs do about these problems?

Data security training

CIOs need to offer staff an appropriate level of security training so everyone understands that data has to be secure - company IT systems contain customer data, proprietary data, financial data and employee data and all this must be kept secure. Strong passwords, password protection on individual documents and an awareness of the porous nature of public clouds and mobile devices contribute to the success of secure shadow IT.

Workflows

Shadow IT can be great for the individual employee. But when staff bring documents that are in mutually unintelligible formats to the same meeting, everyone ends up sending a lot of time figuring out how to synch it all up. How to avoid this? Institute standardised workflow systems throughout the organization that can be accessed (securely!) through shadow IT.

Too many versions

Devices that rely on capacitive touch screens tend to have the sharpest image quality. Capacitive touch screens are coated with a material that sends a continuous electrical current across the sensor. Fortunately, the human body is also a type of electrical device. This means that when you touch the screen you absorb some of the current. The device registers this disruption, causing it to send information to its controller. The device will then perform the action that you requested.

Person 1 emails person 2 a document, who alters it and emails their version to person 3. Person 1 emails person 3 their version too. Which is the right one? Expand that process across time and multiple workflows companywide and you have a recipe for chaos. The solution is to build an efficient workflow structure that enables multiple people to access a single version of the document or spreadsheet and manipulate it without duplicating it, so there’s only one ‘version’.

In every case, the best thing CIOs can do is to start by accepting that shadow IT is here to stay and staff are going to use it. Then it’s about giving staff the tools and knowledge they need to use it effectively.

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The Best 3 Alternatives to Basecamp


Basecamp is 37Signals’ flagship project management software. Originally created as a tool to let freelancers manage projects, it’s gradually added functionality and customers until it’s now the most popular content management software solution out there.

It’s not all roses for Basecamp, though. Because it’s so simple, many people complain that even basic functions like the ability to assign tasks to multiple people or even time tracking, are absent. And unlike when Basecamp was first thought of, there’s some serious competition now.

1: ActiveCollab

ActiveCollab comes in web-based and self-hosted, and it has some pretty heavyweight customers, including Stanford University and the British BBC, as well as Adobe. It’s integrated with Xero for time tracking and invoicing, and starts at $25 a month for a package that gets you 5 users, 5GB of storage and unlimited projects. If you want unlimited users, projects and storage you can go up to the $299 per month premium package, and you can even buy an self-hosted version of the software for $499 and put it on your own servers.

2: Asana

Asana promises ‘teamwork without email’ (subtext: project management without Basecamp). It offers Google Drive integration, and the ability to forward emails to Asana and have it turned into a task automatically, and it also offers a comprehensive list of keyboard shortcuts to shave off seconds. Asana is free for the first 15 users and goes up to $50 per month for 16-30 users, and tops out at $800 for 100 users. There are unlimited projects and tasks, as well as private projects and teams.

3: Freedcamp

Freedcamp is designed to emulate Basecamp: it’s an alternative because it’s a free knock-off, ‘the closest free alternative you will ever get to Basecamp,’ in the company’s own words. Freedcamp is good enough to number ABC, Chase Bank and even Google among its customers, so its simple, Basecamp-like user interface and array of group communication tools that include a wall, browser alerts and social media integration means it’s basic but effective. In reality Freedcamp is only free if you’re happy with just 20MB of storage. If you want more, you’ll have to upgrade, to 1GB of storage for $2.49 per month or unlimited storage for $39.99 per month.

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The Most Innovative Tech Products of 2014 - and What To Look Out For This Year


2014 was a killer year for innovative tech products - some of which represented improvements on existing technology, while others pointed ahead to whole new worlds. Here are the top X innovative tech products of 2014 - plus X to watch out for in the year ahead!

1: Virtual reality

If Oculus Crescent sounds like a transformer, that’s appropriate. The Oculus Crescent Cove VR headset is the latest offering from the virtual reality company Facebook bought for $2bn in 2014. VR has been a perpetual flop for tech companies, but Oculus might be the ones to make a go of it, especially now the graphics and other tech is in place to support it. And with Facebook’s reach behind it, we might be hearing a lot more about it in 2015. (Alternatively, Google Cardboard offers a different take on things...

2: Virtual currency

Bitcoin came of age in 2014, and mobile payment methods like Apple Pay and similar offerings from Google and Paypal are set to make us forget, not only cash, but physical payment of any kind, even credit cards. Being able to pay directly with a smartphone sounds pretty innovative now, but by next year, it might just be normal.

3: The best of everything, ever

Apple made a desktop with the best screen ever, its near-15-million-pixel, 27 - inch iMac Retina display. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 has the best screen that’s ever been in a smartphone. And the iPhone 6 has the best camera ever put in a smartphone, while Android got enough of a reboot to make it a serious contender. Even already extant technologies got way better in 2014.

4: And for my next trick…

What does the coming year have up its sleeve?

Microsoft is releasing Windows 10, designed as a multiplatform OS that will work on smartphones, laptops, desktops, and even the Xbox. It’s also got a bundled browser that isn’t Internet Explorer!

Samsung expects to be able to ship a bendable phone by the end of the year. The company foresees mass-producing flexible displays before the end of 2015. And, finally, hot on the heels of the world’s largest iPad comes… a really huge, 12-inch iPad, the iPad Pro, blurring the line between laptops and tablets.

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The 3D Printer That Makes Custom Electronics



Could anything be more Zeitgeisty than a 3D printer that can produce things to fit into the Internet of Things?

The first generation of 3D printers are mostly used for producing small items. But Jennifer Lewis of Harvard University has helped create a new kind of 3D printer, one that can print electronics.

The Voxel8 printer

Voxel8 only bega developing a product last year, but the printer is the result of more than 8 years of research by Ms. Lewis and her Harvard colleagues. Right now, it can’t quite print things as sophisticated as a smartphone. But it is able to make quite complex gadgets, like helicopter drones.

The printer costs about $10, 000 and is aimed firmly at professionals, not the domestic market. Currently, Voxel8 is trying to get feedback from designers to optimize the product for them.

Talking about the future of manufacturing

The Voxel8 team foresees their technology being used around the world. Ms. lewis says that in the next decade, ‘rather than shipping components, you are going to be shipping CAD (Computer Aided Design) files and then you’re going to have local centers of manufacturing excellence, where these CAD files are just ported and then directly products come out.’

Until now 3D printers have largely been used by hobbyists. That doesn’t mean they’re not being used industrially - in China, they’re 3D printing houses, and in the USA and Europe car parts and, notoriously, firearms are getting the treatment too. But 3D printing is especially good for electronics.

Why are Voxel8 betting on a 3D future for electronics?


Voxel8’s co-founder, Daniel Oliver, says, ‘for 3D printing to push the limits of what’s done now, it has to solve key issues that current manufacturing technologies don’t.’ For electronics, that’s the duality of the circuitry and the physical object. Currently, electronic circuit boards are manufactured in standard shapes and sizes and the designer’s job is to fit them into the product. With 3D printing technology, the device and its electronics can be manufactured at the same time.
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Top 3 Cyber Security Risks for 2015

2014 saw an explosion of concern about cybersecurity, as more and more of life moves online - especially financial life. When big companies and even government agencies were hacked and millions of people’s details were leaked, we all sat up and took notice. But what form will the dangers of cyberspace take in the year ahead?

Cybersecurity is a major mainstream issue. Hacking experts warn that 2014 was the beginning of a new arms race between legitimate web users, companies and even governments, and ever-more-sophisticated hackers on the other. 2015 will see traditional cybercrime like internet password fraud continue, but there will also be brand new threats to accompany new technology.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things is the name given to the web of communicating smart devices that will increasingly predominate in our homes and workplaces. When the toaster talks to the fridge and the doorbell communicates with the garage door, that’s great - but it’s great for hackers, too. John Nesbitt is the founder of Cyber Senate, a council of the world’s cybersecurity business leaders. His group believes that ‘the IoT presents unique security challenges in terms of the number of connected devices present,’ and that makes it ‘the main cybersecurity risk for 2015.’

In fact, it’s possible that many of the Things in the IoT have already been hacked - or come ‘pre-hacked’ with spychips. In any case, they’re far from secure: ‘we have sacrificed security for efficiency,’ concludes Mr. Nesbitt.

Cyber-espionage

Governments, non-governmental organizations and other groups are already busily engaged in cyber espionage, including data gathering as well as hacking and other activities. Non-governmental political groups are already players in this game - witness the Syrian Electronic Army’s antics in 2014.

McAffee’s ‘2015 Threat Predictions’ document warns that cyber-espionage attacks are likely to increase in frequency in 2015 and that ‘newcomers will look for ways to steal money and disrupt their adversaries,’ while the information-gathering behind the scenes will become more sophisticated.

Cyber theft

It’s almost certain that cyber theft will rise in 2015, for two interconnected reasons. One is that more people will do more business online. The other is that an increasing proportion of those will be relative novices who lack good cyber-security habits and knowledge.

Some of the risk is out of consumers’ hands, too. In many cases, ‘the payment technology used won’t protect against retailers who aren’t storing payment card data securely, and they will still need to be vigilant in protecting stored data,’ says Symantec Security’s Candid Wüest.
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How to Use Cyberduck To Manage Files Stored in the Cloud



Sometimes it’s useful to store public-facing data in the cloud. When that’s necessary, it’s typically done inside the web application by the end user. They’ll upload their pictures, video or other content quite happily using the app. In that case, there’s no real need for an admin to get involved. But when an admin does need to get involved, the best way is often to go forward by taking a step back.

If you’re a systems administrator looking for a way to manipulate content the best choice might just be an FTP client. Remember those? In the bad old days before Adobe Muse and other design software started letting you just upload whole websites in the click of a button, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) clients were how things got onto the web. And if you have cloud data you need to get right into and manipulate by hand, they deserve a second look. In particular, Cyberduck merits your attention.

Cyberduck is available in over 30 languages. You can get it for Windows or OSX, and it supports a whole range of FTPs. Standard FTP is in there, and so is SSH FTP, as well as WebDAV, Amazon S3, Microsoft Azure, and Openstack Swift. That means that if you’re a user of Rackspace Cloud, HP Cloud, Internap, or any cloud storage systems that use Openstack, you can use Cyberduck. And Google’s Cloud Storage meshes with S3 protocols, so you can connect there too.

Getting set up

After you install Cyberduck - and Bonjour, if you’re a Windows user; it’s optional, but not necessary - click ‘Open Connection.’ You’ll get a drop-down, and from there you can select the protocol you want to configure. Copy and paste your credentials to be allowed access to the system you’re connecting to and click ‘Connect.’ You’ll get a password prompt, and FTP users will get a warning that their password will be sent in plaintext - unencrypted. You can bookmark servers during a session so they’re easy to return to for future sessions.

Manipulating files

You can upload and download files with a simple drag and drop. There’s a queue manager for batch upload files and you can view the progress of those uploads. Click the ‘Get Info’ button and you’ll be given the option to manage attributes, and you’ll also be able to configure data on traditional web servers so it can be distributed with Amazon CloudFront, Memset Memstone and Akamai. You can edit files through an external editor, and upload revisions from a temporary stored file.

What about security?

Cyberduck stands out from other FTP clients because its FTP functionality is actually the least important part of what it can do. It also stands out because the majority of FTP clients aren’t great for security, but Cyberduck is. You’re constantly being reminded that standard FTP means your passwords and other data are being sent unencrypted. That’s because FTP was introduced in the 1970s, before encryption was seen as a major issue and certainly before SSL. But FTP continues to be offered on many servers anyway. Many traditional FTP clients leave no alternative, and the best you can usually hope for is SSH FTP. Instead of these limited options, Cyberduck gives cloud access, offering better security too.

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Consumers Demand More from Mobile Web Surfing

In an interview with O'Reilly Radar writer Mac Slocum, Joshua Bixby, president of Strangeloop, said that the days in which consumers were happy to just be able to connect to the Web with their mobile devices are long gone. Today, the owners of smart phones and tablets demand that Web pages load quickly on their mobile devices and that these pages include all the bells and whistles of a full Web experience.

And, Bixby told Slocum, those companies that can provide this experience are the ones poised to thrive. And those that can't? They'll fade away.

Web, mobile Web no longer separate entities

As Bixby says in the interview, the Web and the mobile Web can no longer be considered two separate entities. Today's consumers expect their Web experience to be just as smooth and complete whether they're reading a forum on their laptop or reading a newspaper on their smart phone.

Of course, what's most interesting is that the smart phone market is still so young. As prevalent as these devices appear to be, the truth is that the vast majority of consumers still don't own smart phones. Bixby cites this stat in the O'Reilly Radar story: 155 million U.S. mobile phone users aren't using smart phones.

The smart phone revolution

Bixby says that this stat shouldn't prevent developers from creating a rich mobile Web experience. Change happens quickly when it comes to technology, and new mobile users are picking up smart phones before they experiment with lesser mobile models. Many of these new tech users, then, will do the vast majority of their Web browsing through smart phones or other mobile devices.

Too much focus on apps?

Today, Bixby says, too many developers are focusing on apps rather than their own Web sites. This can lead to problems. Bixby points to this example: Users, while accessing their Twitter feeds through a tablet or smart phone, click on a link to a story that interests them. However, instead of the link taking these users directly to the news story, it takes them to a page that demands that they download the news site's app. Those users who actually do this, and don't skip this step, are then taken to the news site's home page and not the location of the actual story they wanted to read. To get to that story, they'll then have to go back to their Twitter feed to find the original link.

This, Bixby says, is a good example of developers missing an opportunity to take true advantage of mobile devices.

It's clear that Web sites that don't create a good experience for mobile users will miss out on traffic and customers. Consider Bixby's interview a wake-up call.
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