Choosing the Right IT Consulting Company

 

Making a big decision is never easy. No matter how decisive you are, at some point you’re bound to lose a little sleep –change your mind a couple of times– over a big decision. Choosing an IT consulting company that helps you with your information technology issues doesn’t have to be a task worth losing sleep over. We know that running your business is tough enough without having to decide what IT firm will be capable of providing all the right tasks and services on time and within budget, so we’ve provided you this list that will help you in narrowing down the right firm for your IT needs.

Experience

Small IT firms choose to hire qualified, experienced IT consultants because they want the job done right and in a timely manner, as opposed to IT consulting companies chock-full of new college graduates. By investing in a firm with experienced talent, you’re investing in years of problem-solving capabilities and customer service. Leaving your networks safety at the hands of those inexperienced puts you at a higher risk.

Pedigree

While experience shows what a firm has done in the past, it’s important to make sure that it’s keeping up with the present and the future. A company that’s actively engaged in providing learning opportunities for its staff will be ahead of the curb when new technology releases, providing smoother transition to new systems. Increased knowledge of new trends through conferences, awards, industry-recognized certification programs, and more, display a firm commitment to staying informed; a necessity when it comes to ensuring that your network is prepared for new and growing security threats.

Reputation

Reputation is nothing to make light of. Reviewing and researching the IT firm’s history, specialties, capabilities, and customer satisfaction is all paramount in ensuring that you’re making the right pick. Calling on previous clients, or research reviews online of the firm’s success with previous clients will give you a good view of what’s in store for your experience with that firm. Not only does a reputable company provide peace of mind, it’s an investment, a warranty, and security, which keeps your own reputation in the limelight.

Costs

Everything boils down to cost. At the end of the day, compromises have to be made which may mean you don’t always get what you want. Small business owners understand the affliction of tight budgetary requirements, and as such need to make an IT decision that won’t set them financially off course. By making the choice of outsourcing IT work, you’re taking a step in the right direction, as it’s typically a more affordable option than creating and hiring a specialized in-house IT team. 

 

The New Salesforce

 

Unless you have been hiding under a rock you have probably heard at least a little bit about “The New Salesforce” but may not know exactly what that means.

On the surface some might say that “The New Salesforce” is simply a new user interface.  While that is partly true it is so much more – it is a totally new user experience which is outlined in more detail below.

As one might expect, Salesforce didn’t quietly announce the new Lightning User Interface with a press release, they did it in style with a world wide live stream complete with a pre-show and a killer keynote.  To start the event, Salesforce showed a video of the evolution of the platform from 1999 through 2015.  For some of us it was a walk down memory lane.  Check out the video below:

The most recent UI change that coincided with the launch of Chatter introduced some additional functionality but for the most part was little more than the change of a style sheet.  Functionality was still driven by the tabs across the top. List views and the overall experience was much the same of the previous version.

Lightning UI changes that entirely.  This is far more than colors, nav menus, and fonts.

Give Me Some Details Already!

If you were at Dreamforce last year you obviously heard the two biggest product announcements – Wave (also known as Analytics Cloud) and Lightning.  Both of these tools have their fingerprints all over The New Salesforce.  Charts and graphs have the look and feel of those found in Wave.  If you were at all like me and puzzled to learn that the Lightning framework was only for Salesforce1 Mobile things make a lot more sense now.

Lightning UI is built around and inspired by the user experience from Salesforce1. This also explains why certain features like Sales Path were only available for Salesforce1 at launch.  The convergence of mobile and desktop experiences is upon us.

Speaking of Sales Path, it is important to note that Lightning UI is going to be available first for Sales Cloud with Service Cloud and other functions to come at a later date. No ETA has been announced for a Lightning enabled experience in the other clouds.

Of course Sales Path will now be available for desktop users along with the following:

Account Insights will provide recent news articles on companies you are currently working with.

Salesforce has been pushing more and more functionality to the feed which makes it no surprise to see this carried further in the form of the Activity Timeline.

Now you can get analytic charts on all List Views while making changes to your filters on the fly.

One of the things that stood out to me was the new Pipeline Board which allows you to look at your open deals in which they are all organized in a column by stage.  For those sales reps that wait until the last minute to update their pipeline before their weekly sales review they can now simply drag and drop an Opportunity between stages to make updates. Again, this release is not just a UI change but an entirely different user experience.

Many of you have lamented the fact that there is no single screen in Salesforce to see all of your task in one place.  I have frequently installed Basati Activities from the AppExchange (Free) to help my clients get this consolidated view.  Lightning UI will make this a native experience without the need for third party tools.

While attending a launch party, one of my colleagues mentioned that the new Notes experience is much more like Evernote allowing you to “tag” a note by associating it to multiple records.

As was mentioned previously, elements of Wave can be found throughout Lightning UI including…wait for it…the ability to create Dashboards with MORE THAN THREE COLUMNS!!! Some of you just got our of your chair and did a little dance. Dashboard components can be resized independent of one another.  On top of that, all Dashboard Components enjoy a fresh, modern look and feel.

For Administrators and Developers

For those of you who are an administrator or developer there are probably dozens of questions around how you will build, manage and further customize Salesforce in this new world.  Obviously Lightning Components are key to Lightning UI.  When you make the transition you will be able to build with standard and custom components as well as those from the AppExchange.  On that note, in case you weren’t already aware, there is now a separate section of theAppExchange just for components.

Developers – don’t panic, the Visualforce pages you have written will not suddenly cease to work.  In fact, during the launch announcement it was clearly stated that VF will work indefinitely – hey, S Controls still work after all!  The one caveat was that going forward Visualforce may require some additional testing.

Also of note, Salesforce has released Lightning Design System which is the same toolset used by Salesforce’s in house engineers working on the application.  This system will allow you to create beautiful, pixel perfect apps and can be downloaded here.

Admins and Developers alike will do themselves a favor to start getting some experience with Lightning UI in the brand new Trailhead modules released alongside the announcement last week. On that note, for those interested in getting a pre-release org with Lightning UI enabled you will get higher priority by earning some of those badges.

Misc.

A few other miscellaneous items to note:

  • Lightning UI will be available in all 32 languages currently supported by Salesforce at the time of launch
  • Any customizations made to the desktop version will apply to Salesforce1 Mobile – again, Salesforce is driving more and more toward a consistent user experience.
  • The list of supported browsers includes:
    • IE 11
    • Safari 8.x
    • Most recent stable versions of Firefox & Chrome

It is worth noting that organizations still running older versions of IE will have their users redirected to what is now being called “Salesforce Classic” – in other words, the UI you are used to seeing today.  The only surprise in the browser list was the fact that the new Microsoft Edge browser was not mentioned. I will be surprised if Edge availability isn’t announced in the very near future.

Should You Adopt Lightning UI Immediately?

By now I’m sure you are jumping up and down eager to roll this out to your entire company.  Not so fast…there are a lot of things to consider before flipping the switch.

First, as was mentioned previously, Lightning UI is only available for Sales Cloud.  If your organization uses Service Cloud you will not be able to deploy this new functionality to everyone right out of the gate.  Salesforce has put a lot of thought into how this will be rolled out and has given administrators a lot of control.  Organizations will have the ability to be more selective granting access to users, profiles and via permission sets. I highly recommend that you test with a group of users before going org wide.

There are a number of other resources that should be reviewed including:

Particular attention should be paid to the Compare Classic & Lightning Experience file.  While there are some incredible new features it is worth noting that Lightning is not at feature parity with Classic. Some of the notable items that aren’t yet available in Lightning UI are:

  • Calendar and Events
  • Items to Approve
  • Account Teams
  • Account and Contact Hierarchy
  • Person Accounts
  • Opportunity Teams
  • Joined Reports
  • Certain Types of Report Types including: Tables, Funnel, and Scatter
  • Filtered Dashboards
  • Dynamic Dashboards
  • Scheduled Dashboard Refreshes
  • Inline Editing
  • Forecasting

For larger organizations that may be slower to make the jump it is worth noting that Salesforce has stated that there is no end in sight for Salesforce Classic.

If you want to watch the announcement in all of its glory check out the full length video here.

Let us know what your thoughts are so far in the comments below.

 

Author: Scott Hollrah

MANAGING PARTNER AT VENN TECHNOLOGY

Scott has a passion for creating customer success on the Salesforce platform. Building on his 6+ years of success he has supported Salesforce projects in a wide variety of industry verticals including retail, energy, nonprofit, technology, finance, distribution, and more. Scott has five Salesforce certifications which include Administrator, Advanced Administrator, Developer, Sales Cloud, and Service Cloud.

 

The Good and the Bad of Windows 10

Windows 10 is the new, and potentially last, OS upgrade you’ll be receiving for a while. But is it time to upgrade? Windows 10 merges the best of Windows 7 with the intentions of Windows 8 to create a hybrid for those familiar with both. But just like upgrading any company OS system, changing to Microsoft 10 could cost you money, time, and work that could be placed in other areas. Let’s take a look at some of the Pros and Cons of upgrading…

Security

While any new OS will inevitably contain ways to breach security, Windows 10 provides some much appreciated security devices to protect your data and keep networks clear.

These upgrades include:

  • Device Guard prevents applications from running unless they’ve been recognized.
  • Windows Hello allows you to setup biometric authentications, including voice, iris, and fingerprint recognition.
  • Secure Boot will prevent malicious software from loading while your computer boots, which thereby potentially compromising the operating system as soon as it starts.

Upgrade

As the permanent installment to Windows OS systems, Windows 10 strips you of your ability to choose whether you want to download system updates and instead makes software updates mandatory. For administrators, this could be a potential issue should a patch arise that creates problems with your system or programs.

Similarly, hardware incompatibility could mean that your copier, scanner, or fax machine no longer works with Windows 10, forcing you to find a resolution to the issue, or forcing you to upgrade to compatible hardware.  Likewise, the same issue arises for porting Windows 7 or 8 apps over to Windows 10… once ported, will they work?

Cloud Computing

Straight out of the box, Windows 10 is ready for a host of Azure services, such as Azure Active Directory, which can drive new desktop infrastructure, selling Office 365 licenses, building out private cloud and configuring disaster recovery over a network.

Style

Windows 10 is a direct upgrade to Windows 8. It brings together what people loved about Windows 7, such as the Start bar, with the app and panel design of Windows 8, to bring about a visual and functional style which promotes easy access and visual pleasure. Along with the Start bar is the return of the Aero look, which allows you to make your Start bar translucent, and can be customized, along with the app tiles, to an array of colors.

Included in Windows 10 is Cortana, a virtual assistant which will be familiar to anyone using iOS’s Siri. Cortana responds to typed or spoken commands, and can schedule, set reminders, check times, search general inquiries, or provide you with OS help.

Multitask

Lastly, of prominent features, Windows 10 comes with the new Microsoft Edge Brower, Continuum for your Microsoft smartphone, and multiple desktop functions.

First, Microsoft Edge is an immense upgrade over Internet Explorer and is a large competitor to Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. Built into the browser is the ability to highlight, annotate, mark, and make notes on webpages for your reference or for sharing with others, functions that previously were only available as add-ons in competing browsers.

Next, Continuum allows Windows smartphone users the ability to pick-up on their phone from wherever they left off on their OS. As a result, many apps will be able to transition from one platform to another with little issue.

And lastly, Windows 10 offers the ability to manage multiple “virtual” desktops that you can easily transition between. As well, you can now multitask more efficiently with window snapping, a feature that allows you to place a different window in each of the desktops four corners. 

Surface Tension

Saturated markets are everywhere and technology is one of them. The options for a tablet, computer, or smart device are endless. You may be asking yourself what makes the Surface Pro a contender in a world governed by Apple and Google? 

Microsoft attacked a market that runs on a mobile operating system and brought a full version of Windows to it. What does this mean for you, the consumer? Use everything you would use on your desktop at home, at work, or on your laptop in a more compact setting. The Surface Pro 3 packs a punch in the power department. Outfitted with a varying size range of SSDs, the latest generation of Intel processors, and even a detachable keyboard cover, it’s everything you need to do most anything.

Being the size of an iPad, it’s an easy grab, allowing you to get your work done in any environment, be it the café, office, or just watching videos on the couch. Some cool features of the Surface Pro include the Pen to draw or manipulate the device in any way you see fit. The built-in Kickstand allows you to set it up anywhere with ease and get to work quicker. The mini display port allows this beast of a tablet to be plugged into various monitors, meaning, you can use this device as a full-fledged computer if you desire. Do I hear jumps for joy? I sure am jumping myself.  You can see more of the features of the Surface Pro 3 in the below pictures.

In conclusion, the Surface Pro 3 does what the competitors can’t. Run a full-fledged operating system natively on something the size of a tablet… And do it flawlessly. Use it as a tablet, use it as a computer, heck, even use it as a creative space or a journal. It’s whatever you want it to be.  We guarantee you are going to love it. 

Will Moore's Law Continue?

Moore’s Law infographic: via Visual.ly

Moore’s Law infographic: via Visual.ly

Moore’s Law states that computer power will double roughly every two years. This was proposed by Gordon Moore in 1965 and he believed it would last about a decade. The theory is still holding up, though often with discussion on how much longer it will last. This has become a topic for debate whether manufacturers can continue to keep this pace.

What might slow the pace? Some feel we are reaching the limit of transistor size and microprocessor performance. Large advances might be needed such as bio-engineered processors.

What pressure is causing the constant advancements? Some estimate microprocessor chips sales will increase from $315 billion in 2015, to $380 billion in 2016.

A slowed pace could lead to major changes in the computing industry. IT equipment may not be outdated as quickly. Warranty specifics may be the differentiator between products, more than new features. So whether the performance gains increase at the same rate or not, businesses will continue to evaluate their options on how to out manage their competitors.

Keeping Kids Safe Online

As the world of technology moves ahead at breakneck speed for all of us, our children are left increasingly vulnerable to screen-time addiction, online bullying, and adult content. We could watch over our kids’ shoulders while they are on the computer, but frankly, the thrill of watching my fourteen-year-old play Minecraft is gone. Fortunately, there are some excellent programs to help concerned parents.

All four of the programs tested offer basic protections for Windows and Mac. They will all allow you to block website categories, such as gambling, violence, pornography, etc. In addition, you can add specific websites to block or allow. The parent will also be able to schedule hours when the child is allowed to use the computer, and the length of time the child is allowed each day.

Norton Family Free

Norton Family Free provides all of the basic tools needed to monitor internet activity and control access. The interface is modern, clean, and easy to navigate. Setup is a breeze.

Norton was the only program I tested that the time restrictions applied to the child’s use of the computer, not just the internet. Another great feature is the remote management. I can make changes to the child’s access from any internet browser, and it takes effect as soon as the child updates their rules. There is even a handy smartphone app.

The reports provided are excellent, except for the over-reporting of blocked advertisements and such. It makes it cumbersome to sort through the blocks to see which are real issues and which are not.

Norton Family Premier

Norton Family Premier has all the functionality of the free version, with a few key additions. With the Premier edition, you can see exactly which videos your children are watching on YouTube, receive weekly detailed reports, and manage Android devices.

Net Nanny

The Net Nanny interface is fairly easy to navigate, and installation is simple. It provides the ability to block website categories, with an added functionality to warn. For instance, you may allow a teen to browse to a site about alcohol, but you can give them a warning to tread carefully. You can also mask foul language. So if your child is reading comments on Facebook or YouTube, they will see “What the %@#” instead of the curse word. Pretty cool.

But surprisingly, Net Nanny does not offer a category to block social networking sites. You can create your own category and spend your spare time researching social networking sites to block. Or, if you allow your kids to use social networking, you can monitor that for an extra fee.

I found the Net Nanny YouTube videos and webinars to be useful tools. Check out their video called “8 Tech Tips for Parents with a Clever Kid”. Your clever kid does not want you to watch this video.

Safe Eyes

Safe Eyes by McAfee provides all of the basic parental control features, but it is difficult to find anything else positive to say about this program. The first impression was the very dated interface. Getting the settings entered was a little awkward, but I managed. We spent way too much time trying to get Minecraft to work until I let my daughter login with my account. The design of this program is such that when the child’s time is up, they lose access to the internet, but they still have access to the computer. However, you could use the built-in parental controls in Windows or Mac to limit access to the computer itself.

Another problem with Safe Eyes is the lack of remote management. The program must be managed on the device. So, if my son calls me at work, and he needs access to a website, there is nothing I can do about it until I get home.

How to Choose?

In some ways, Net Nanny is more advanced than the other parental controls tested. Net Nanny strives to block content, not just specific websites. That is very appealing. But the fact that I cannot totally block social networking makes Net Nanny impractical for our family.

Safe Eyes is rather clunky and since it does not provide remote management, I would not choose this one. The free version of Norton Family provides a better product.

I found Norton Family Premier to be the best of the four parental controls tested. It is easy to use for both the parent and child. Of course, there is the high cost to consider.

Norton Family Free has enough unlocked features to provide a good deal of control for most parents.  I have settled on Norton Family Free for now, and if I decide down the road that I would like more reporting, then I will probably upgrade to Norton Family Premier.

What I like best about all of these programs is that every time my children log in to the computer, they are reminded that they are being monitored. That may be enough in many cases to keep them in the safe zone.

 

Windows 10 release week: What to know, and what to expect

Windows 10 has nearly arrived after months of anticipation. You may have questions regarding the release or maybe you're not quite sure if upgrading is best for you. Well, we're here to clear up some confusion and get you in the know about the new Windows 10.

What's Happening?

Tuesday at midnight ET, Microsoft will begin rolling out Windows 10 in stages. 

While you may not receive a notification for the upgrade immediately, do not fret! The upgrade is scheduled to be pushed out in waves, beginning with Windows Insiders and followed by the general public. These waves will span out over a period of a few days to ensure a more stable launch, so don't be alarmed if you do not receive your update immediately. 

 

What will Windows 10 look like?

Windows 10 is a refined version of the Windows you know and love. The design and interface is meant to bring you the best of both Windows 7 and 8 with, of course, some new features. Cortana, Microsoft's intelligent personal assistant, will be deeply integrated into Windows 10 bringing an advanced start menu and convenient voice commands to the experience. Microsoft will also be debuting their new Edge browser, and their XBOX integration is deeper than ever before. 

Why should I upgrade?

The best thing about the new Windows 10 is that it's free! (for the first year) for qualified Windows 7 and 8.1 devices. So long as your computer meets the requirements, you are free to install and upgrade. As far as we know, this will be the latest and greatest, and will eventually become the standard for Windows. Getting familiar with it now will give you the upper hand if your company decides to roll it out onto every computer. 

What we suggest

We are excited about the launch of Windows 10 as much as you are, but you may want to hold off on it for a few weeks or until the first Service Pack arrives, and here's why. With every new software there is always the possibility of upgrade trouble or bugs. Before you implement Windows 10 into your business, always consult your technology service company and your in-line business application providers to ensure it’s compatible.  While we implore you to wait to upgrade on the business side of things, we do encourage you to upgrade your personal devices (but make sure to fully backup before you install!) to try out and hopefully fall in love with Windows 10.

 

Learn more about Windows 10 here

The email spam filter and you : A brief guide

New data from security firm Symantec has shown email spam to reach an all-new 12-year low as hackers and cyber attackers turn away from it. Falling below the 50% mark, the amount of spam emails sent in the first quarter of 2015 is on the same level as it was in 2003, which means although your spam filter might be working well, you simply may be receiving less than you previously were. What does all of this mean?

Well, while spam may be frustrating and unwanted, when clicked on, spam has an ability to generate money or attach malware onto your computer. The drop in sent spam suggests cyberattacks are currently adapting and refocusing their efforts on new ways to generate money. Malware attacks, ransomware, and crypto-ransomware are undoubtedly on the rise and may represent a new era in cybercrime.

Unfortunately, the same spam filters that prevents spam from cyber criminals may also be blocking emails that you might find important. Publicists, marketers, salespeople and other professionals whose jobs rely on emailing might find their work futile if their spam gets stuck in a folder with all the malware that the filter thinks it’s a part of. If your job relies on emailing, we’ve created a list of obvious words and phrases not to use when you want to ensure that your message gets to the right person.

Obvious words and phrases that set off spam filters

·         Cash

·         Money

·         Reduce debt

·         Home mortgage

·         Problem with shipping

·         Problem with your order

·         Cialis, Viagra, etc.

·         Cheap meds

·         Weight loss

·         As seen on Oprah

·         Replica watches

·         Gift card

·         Diet

·         Millions

·         Earn your degree

·         Bad credit

·         Easy income

·         Work from home

·         Lottery

·         Pay your bills

·         Free laptop/iPad

·         Job alert

·         Foreclosure

·         Bankruptcy

·         Timeshare

·         Take our survey

·         Discount coupon

·         Store credit

·         Huge deals

·         Free download

·         Discount shipping

·         Huge sale

·         % off

·         Holiday savings

·         Free gift

·         Free shipping

·         Regarding your order

 

Spam filters block more than just keywords, though. They seek out and dismiss emails containing symbols, words in all caps, and language that appears urgent. Ensuring that your email comes across non-“spammy” is a good step in making sure it gets to the right place. At Prototype IT, we offer spam filter support to prevent you from receiving spam before it even gets to you. Read more here!