8 essential tips for Outlook users

If you want your business and employees to gain the most from Outlook, then here are some tips that every Outlook user should know. You can customise the following points and email this list to all of your employees:

  1. Streamline your inbox
    Microsoft recommends keeping your email files to 2GB or less (this is where your data is stored on your computer). Outlook can be set up to automatically archive your emails, or you can delete old emails that you’ll realistically never need again. You can also look at storing some of your data on your network or in shared folders. There’s no need to store absolutely everything in your email account.
  2. Repair corrupt files
    If you do suffer from corrupt files you can talk to your IT department/provider, or try to repair them yourself using the inbox repair tool and if that doesn’t work the crop tool.
  3. Back up your files
    This is always the best way to recover from a critical issue, and you can set a schedule where your files are automatically backed up every day or more often if needed.  You can backup emails, your calendar, contacts, tasks and the journal.
  4. Avoid spam filters
    To make sure that your emails and your client’s emails don’t get caught in a spam filter, avoid words that trigger these filters (Google ‘spam keywords’ for some lists). Also, fill in the subject line of your emails with a good description and use plain text, avoiding links, images and HTML.
  5. Different types of Outlook
    Just because you use Outlook at home and at work, doesn’t mean that both will look the same and have the same features. So don’t panic, just be aware that there can be some differences and work around them.
  6. Virus protection
    Your PC is protected from viruses and malware by the IT department, but to help avoid downloading viruses do not open emails and attachments from unknown sources. Also, don’t enter our company address on web sites and do not disable or remove antivirus software.
  7. Customisation
    You can customise Outlook for your own uses, for example your email, contacts, calendar and tasks. If you need help, please ask your IT department or search for more information online.
  8. Avoid embarrassing email mistakes
    For example, it is so easy to hit ‘reply all’ when you only intended to reply to one person. There are lots of other mistakes that are too easy to make as well, so check out our company email policy so you know how to avoid these mistakes and also what you can and can’t do when writing company emails.

All you have to do is to create a company email policy and add a link for your staff to this email and then everyone in your business will be using Outlook like a professional.

For more information on the Capital IT difference, call us on on 07 3333 2122 or complete our online enquiry form.

Will you be affected by recent changes to the NBN?

In October 2014, many people were unsettled to see that the National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) had changed its rollout map. This resulted in many homes and businesses being removed from the initial NBN rollout and consequently, these people became quite indignant and irate.

This change took place because the new Coalition Government decided to report the true state of the NBN, rather than just wishful thinking. The problem was that NBN Co had been including areas in its publicised rollout plan that were just on paper.

No work on the NBN infrastructure had actually commenced or had been scheduled to commence in these areas in the near future, but they had still been included in the NBN rollout plan. In other words, the plan was inflated with what NBN Co wanted to do and clearly did not reflect the actual state of affairs.

So when people saw that their regions had been removed from the rollout plan, they became irate. They did not realise that the Coalition Government were now only reporting areas where crews were either actively engaged in constructing the infrastructure in the field or where it was already deployed.

This makes sense, as the rollout maps will now be updated monthly to include new areas where construction has actually commenced – giving everyone a clearer picture of the NBN rollout.

Introducing fibre-on-demand

To increase internet speeds, the previous government wanted 93% of premises to have complete fibre connections, called fibre-to-premises (FTTP), but the current government scrapped this idea as it was too expensive.

The problem is that internet speeds are limited by the the existing copper connections between a building and the broadband node. So for fast internet speeds we need to replace the old copper cables with fibre connections.

The Coalition Government however, initiated a multi-technology mix (MTM), because it is cheaper to use the existing infrastructure, than to totally replace it with fibre cables. So what we now have is an NBN which includes fibre connections to the node (mainly in new builds), as well as HFC pay TV cable and existing copper connections.

So all new work will be based on the MTM model. This means that some new premises will be given all fibre FTTP connections, but most existing premises will have to make do with copper or HFC connections to the node.

This is where fibre-on-demand options will become important for homes and business who want the faster all fibre FTTP connections, but instead have a copper or HTC and fibre mix.

However, if you missed out on a FTTP connection and want to make use of the fibre-on-demand option, then be prepared to pay thousands of dollars for the privilege, particularly if you live in less densely populated areas of Australia.

For more information on IT solutions for your business, call 07 3333 2122 or complete our online enquiry form.

The new Microsoft Surface 3: Pros and cons

We knew it was bound to happen – as soon as Apple launched their iPad a few years ago, Microsoft was going to enter the game as well. We know that Samsung and other companies have entered the market with their own Android tablets, but no-one has really matched the iPad.

Surface 3 pros

So it comes as no surprise that Microsoft has just launched the Surface 3 tablet. This new and updated device is more of a hybrid, as it can work as a laptop and as a tablet. It uses Windows 8.1, has a full-size USB port, a micro SD slot, can run all desktop apps and still only weighs 622g.

With the Microsoft Surface 3 you have a 10 hour battery life, an integrated kickstand and full HD display. You can even run Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office on the Surface 3, something that even the iPad cannot perform as yet.

Its thin design, light weight and its ability to run full computer apps is due to the Surface 3’s Intel Atom x7 processor chip with 64 bit computing, giving it a higher performance than other generic tablet chips.

The Surface 3 also has the much loved touch screen facility and you can even purchase a pen to draw and write on the screen. The keyboard has larger size keys than previous Surface models and you can change the angle of the keyboard for easier usability.

Surface 3 cons

The huge problem with the Surface 3, as it was with the earlier models, is still the keyboard – it has to be purchased separately (increasing the cost of the Surface 3) and reviewers have stated that the keyboard is not even user-friendly. Apparently, the keys are too close together, making mistakes far easier than with a full size keyboard and it also has an unreliable trackpad.

Conclusions

The Surface 3 seems to be a both a laptop and a tablet in equal measure, so if you usually carry around both an iPad and a laptop, then this light weight device might just be the ticket. Unlike the iPad or Android tablets however, the Surface 3 also runs full desktop apps and you can easily work with external drives or monitors. It is like having a full PC which you can carry around with you.

 The main problem with the Surface 3 however, is with the keyboard, which is frustrating to use and is not even included in the price of the device.

It appears that Microsoft might be coming closer to competing with the iPad, but if they want to seriously challenge Apple, they need to redesign their keyboard and include it in the price, then they will have a sure winner in the Surface 3.

For more information on IT solutions for your business, call us on 07 3333 2122 or complete our online enquiry form.

10 top tips for email efficiency

How did we live without emails? Just 20 years ago, we were hardly aware of them and now we are inundated every day with a plethora of messages that have become so vital to our business. In fact, without emails it is safe to say that our businesses might well grind to a screeching halt.

The other side of the coin is that emails have become so insidious in our daily lives that we can waste too much time reading, sorting and responding to them. Time that is better spent in other areas of our business.

How often have you had hundreds of emails waiting for you in your inbox and all of a sudden, hours of productive time has simply slipped away – while you are not even half way through your inbox?

So what can we do to manage our emails more efficiently? Well, here are 10 top tips that will help you manage your inbox more effectively and free up your valuable time:

  1. Save contacts: Don’t just rely on the autocomplete feature when you are filling in the recipient on your email, as this information is sometimes lost. So save all of your contacts to your address book.
  2. Microsoft Outlook: Instead of using Outlook Express or Windows Live Mail, use Microsoft Outlook as this has more features and is easier to restore if there is an issue with your PC.
  3. Navigation panels: Set up navigation panels so that you can see your folders, lists of emails and the emails themselves, without having to open new windows all of the time.
  4. Delete: Read each subject line and delete all those that are auto alerts or those you consider as unnecessary. Don’t keep emails because you might act on them later (because you won’t).
  5. Keep it short: If you have to respond to emails or send them yourself, keep them short. Be concise, clear and straight forward.
  6. Turn off notifications: If you are notified every time you receive an email, this can be very distracting. So turn this function off and set time aside at the beginning and end of the day to read and respond to emails.
  7. Don’t open emails: Not unless you have the time to act and respond to the email. Otherwise you are wasting time and doing everything twice.
  8. Leave it at three: If you need more than 3 emails to get your point across, call them on the phone. You can fix the problem in a matter of minutes on the phone, instead of wasting time with more emails.
  9. Templates: If you find that you are writing the same emails over and over again, create a template (canned response) which will save you lots of time.
  10. Use filters: Instead of 100’s of emails in your inbox, you can direct incoming emails into different folders. This unclogs your inbox and allows you to address each folder in turn and tackle similar emails in one hit.

For more information on IT solutions for your business, call us on 07 3333 2122 or complete our online enquiry form.

8 benefits of structured networks

As your business grows, you need to move from a simple peer-to-peer computer network to a more structured network based on a centralised server system. This offers a number of key benefits to a growing business:

  1. File consolidation: Instead of having important files and documents stored on various computers throughout your business, you can store all of them in one easy to access, central location. This helps you to keep track of all of your important files and leads to more collaboration, as employees can access and modify files held on the server, eliminating the infuriating habit of having different versions of documents on different computers.
  2. File permissions: Each user on the network can be assigned certain access rights (the ability to see, open or edit files and folders). This allows for granular control over sensitive data, and ensures that private information is only available to those who have the authority.
  3. Backups: Instead of backing up the files on each PC in your organisation, you can automatically backup all files on the one server. This saves you the worry over forgotten backups, and gives you a solid foundation for disaster recovery because all of your data is synchronised with the server, for restoration to each PC at any time. This means if your PC ever goes kaput, you’re back up and running with all of your data on a new one right away.
  4. Flexibility: Any employee can use their login and password details and sign into any computer on the network. They will instantly have all of their desktop icons and menus, etc., available, just as if they were on their usual PC. So if one PC crashes or an employee needs to access their files in another part of the organisation, they can call up all of their menus and files on any networked computer.
  5. Security: A network server greatly increases your company’s security level. You can give specific employees access to particular files (excluding access to others), prevent certain external downloads and control access to particular IP addresses. Preventing unauthorised users access to sensitive material is an important aspect of enterprise security, which is easily executed with a structured network.
  6. Antivirus and spam: The easiest and most secure strategy to reduce hackers, malicious viruses and spam emails is to do so at both the PC and the server level. Depending on the type of firewall you employ, you can restrict access to your system from incoming emails, drop suspicious emails and downloads from the network and prevent untold damage to your business.
  7. Reliability: Unlike a desktop PC, servers are equipped with multiple redundancies. This means that if the power supply fails, the server does not stop working. With multiple storage systems and hard drives, this also means that you can replace faulty components without diminishing the operation of the server or interrupting your employee’s work.
  8. Customisation: With your own server you can install and customise company required software and even customise the server itself to better serve your needs.

Undoubtedly, a structured network utilising your own server will, in the long run, save you both time and money. In fact, it can be quite inexpensive to run and even if it wasn’t, the benefits far outweigh the costs in security, flexibility and peace of mind.

For more information on IT solutions for your business, call us on 07 3333 2122 or get a free online quote.

Why you need appropriate software licensing

Regardless of the size of your business, ensuring that you have the appropriate licenses for the software used by your company is vital to the ongoing welfare of your business. Some companies forget to renew these licenses or simply believe that once software is purchased or licensed initially, that they have a perpetual license.

Unfortunately this might not be true, so a thorough review of your software licensing agreements on an annual basis is always recommended.

However, if you are not convinced that maintaining up-to-date software licenses is an important part of your business, then here are 5 reasons that might change your mind:

  1. With the appropriate software licences, you can legally distribute the software throughout your organisation making sure that everyone can access the software they need to do their job. Without the appropriate licence, you might be committing a crime when you distribute the software to your employees.
  2. With licensed software, most companies also receive expert help and support for that software, as part of the licensing agreement. This means that you no longer have to spend your valuable time finding IT help when you are faced with a problem with the software, but you have instant help on the end of a phone.
  3. The more software you purchase and the greater it’s distribution within your organisation, the larger the discount you can receive. Volume licensing is a very cost effective way to fund top of the line software, especially for a large number of employees across an organisation.
  4. You don’t have to worry about losing access to the software, because your license has suddenly expired. Forgetting to renew a licence or not purchasing the correct type of licence can result in your employees being unable to access the software they need. This can be a huge problem to your productivity, and can result in your inability to deliver client jobs on time with a subsequent hard knock to your reputation.
  5. With a licencing agreement, you know that you have a legal copy of the software and your company is legally allowed to use the software. With all of the hacking and pirating that goes on in the industry today, it is good to know that your company will be safe from any issues concerning the illegal use of software, at any time in the future. For example, Microsoft office which is used by many companies, is one of the most pirated software packages in the world, even though it is easily affordable with services such as Office 365.

If you’re looking for a reliable and established company to manage all of your IT services, call 07 3333 2122 or complete our online enquiry form.

POP email is dead

There are a few different types of email services that you can use for your business. Which one you use depends on many factors. So, how do you know which type of mail service is right for you? Let’s go through the options.

POP and IMAP

POP is the oldest and most basic service available. It was designed in 1984 for personal use, so it’s really on the way out. With POP, when you receive an email, it’s downloaded to your locally installed email software (such as Microsoft Outlook, Windows Live Mail, IBM Notes etc) and stored in a single file on your computer. However, no data is synchronised between devices so you may end up with a bit of a mess in terms of managing your inbox. POP is also slower and less reliable than many other services.

IMAP is similar to POP, but it does offer some synchronisation of emails and calendar items. On the downside, it’s very unreliable and often doesn’t keep the data up to date due to the amount of information we now send and receive on a daily basis. It’s particularly tricky to get working on a Mac, too.

Office 365 and Microsoft Exchange

Office 365 (also known as Microsoft Exchange) is an email platform and suite of tools by Microsoft which provides full synchronisation. This means if you mark an email as read and move it to a folder that you’ve created, you’ll find that email in the same place even if you’re checking emails on your phone or tablet as well. The same goes for calendars, contacts and more.

On top of this, it also allows you to connect each mailbox/user account to your existing network, so that when a user logs onto their office computer or device, the network knows who they are, and which mailboxes they have access to. There are countless other benefits such as shared network storage space and business-grade antivirus solutions to protect you from spam.

Exchange offers the following key benefits over POP and IMAP:

  • You can still use the same software you have always been using.
  • Since you access this software over the internet using the cloud, all you need is your mobile device or PC and an internet connection – and you are good to go.
  • All of your data is centrally located, so you always have the up-to-date version of documents and files, regardless of your location.
  • Security is very high and you can set the access for specific files to allow or disallow access by certain employees.
  • It brings collaboration to a whole new level, with instant updates, backups and multiple user access to files and documents.

So, Office 365 is definitely the way to go for any business, but now comes the next decision: Do you purchase an in-house server to manage your emails, or do you opt for an online cloud-based version such as Office 365?

Should we buy a server or use cloud email?

The answer usually lies in the size of the organisation and your budget, which means there are three distinct options:

  1. If you already have a server for your network, and it has appropriate software in place, it’s usually best to utilise those facilities.
  2. If you don’t have a server, but your network warrants one and/or you have the budget to purchase the server and related hardware/software, again this is probably the way to go.
  3. For smaller businesses (say, up to 10 staff members) who don’t have a server, using a cloud-based email such as Office 365 will keep up-front costs down while making it easy to scale up or down as needs change. It’s also handy if you’re looking for a Microsoft Office software licence, because this can be included with each mailbox, if required.

So if you are suffering with an outdated POP email system or you simply like the idea of increased productivity and collaboration, then call 07 3333 2122 or enquire online about the best option for your business.

How to protect your critical data

There are two ways you can protect data that is vital to your business: with antivirus software, and by backing up your data. The problem is that if you don’t have a backup solution in place, or you do but some of your important files such as your mail boxes aren’t backed up, then you can still have a catastrophe on your hands.

Protecting your business against spam and malicious viruses, as well as ensuring that all of your systems and files are adequately backed up in case of a disaster happening, are two strategies that are essential to the integrity of your business.

Anti-virus

The usual way that viruses attack your system and files are because they are either downloaded via emails, presented as legitimate files or because you have unknowingly visited an infected website.

Just because you are aware that viruses exist and are on alert for spam emails, doesn’t necessarily protect you from inadvertently downloading a virus. Many viruses piggyback onto legitimate emails, from friends, work colleges and clients or can even appear to come from institutions with which you are legitimately affiliated.

Once downloaded, these viruses can quickly invade your system and create havoc for your business, slowing speeds and deleting critical files at the very least. This is why a network-level firewall solution, rather than a simple downloadable virus software, such as one that is used on home PCs, is essential for your business.

Backup protection

Regardless of the type of server you use, your business must have a reliable back-up and recovery system in place. Even with an in-house server, if the building burns down, then you also lose your backup files.

You can’t afford to lose all of your files and documents, just imagine losing all of your customer files and your employee payroll details – your business would literally come to a standstill. So having the ability to not only backup your files and documents, but to also backup every windows machine and to save these backups to both your in-house server and to an external location, will make sure that you are up and running in no-time.

With anti-viral protection and disaster backup recovery in place, your downtime will be minimised and you will recover from any problems quickly. This means that your customers will hardly notice any difference, if at all, and will continue to be serviced with minimal disruption to their services.

For more information on our anti-spam and anti-virus services, or our backup and disaster recovery packages, call 7 3333 2122 or complete our online enquiry form.

7 reasons to keep your in-house server

Many companies use in-house servers to host their applications, emails, files and documents, as well as their antivirus software and to create backups. Maybe you are considering whether or not to implement an in-house server or to replace your old servers which are showing their age and moving to the cloud?

Well before you make the ultimate decision to move your existing physical infrastructure to the cloud, maybe you should reconsider the benefits of using in-house servers first. Cloud technology may well be the latest high-tech strategy, but in general it can be quite expensive, especially if you already have an in-house system in place.

Here are 7 solid reasons why in-house servers are still a very popular option for many businesses:

  1. You literally have physical control over your entire infrastructure. You keep your critical data close to home and you generally have faster access to files and documents than if you used an outsourced server. So staff can quickly access any files they need at any time 24/7.
  2. You don’t need an internet connection to access your data or files. So in the unlikely event that you lose your internet connection, your business can continue working until it comes back online. You also have your backup files in-house, rather than in the cloud, so you can quickly be up to speed if your system fails and you have no internet connection. Another benefit is that you don’t have to rely on download or upload speeds or constraints, because your data is on hand.
  3. You can develop your entire IT system, specifically to your business needs. So as your business grows, all you need do is add an additional server to the network and you are good to go.
  4. Your files and documents are kept securely in your premises, so you don’t have to worry about hackers and you can restore backups instantly if needed.
  5. You can host your own website on your server, so you won’t be affected by shared hosting or have any contractual issues with an internet service provider.
  6. With the advances in technology over the past few years, the cost of hosting your own server has reduced dramatically and is now very affordable even for small businesses.
  7. You have complete control over who has access to your data, because it is held in-house.

For these reasons, many businesses are continuing to use in-house servers, whilst actually using the cloud for their email. This is because Office 365 is designed specifically for the mobile world and is far superior to the outdated POP protocols.

For more information, call 07 3333 2122 or complete our online enquiry form.

Best practice for sending large files via email

Many email servers refuse to accept email attachments over 10MB in size. While attachment sizes haven’t kept up with the times, there are other easy ways to send someone large files over email, including:

  • Uploading files to online storage platforms such as OneDrive, Dropbox, or Box.net.
  • Sending attachments in separate emails (e.g. one large file per email, rather than all files attached to a single email)
  • Reducing the file size, such as by downsizing images in Word documents before saving/attaching
  • Compressing files into a ZIP archive
  • Using mailing list software (check out this article about using mailing list apps by our marketing partner, GO Creative, for more information).

Email security

In today’s article we are reminding everyone to stay alert to the recent spate of new virus-harbouring spam emails that have been hitting networks all across Australia.

Please keep a keen eye on emails purporting to be from the following organisations:

  • Australia Post
  • ATO
  • Microsoft
  • Antivirus vendors
  • Courier companes
  • Any Government department or organisation discussing security

Also look out for emails from unknown companies which:

  • include ZIP or EXE file attachments
  • state that your website or hosting is insecure
  • promote SEO and Facebook services

Please also be alert to the fact that telephone calls are also employed to gain access to your PC remotely on the premise that you have already been affected by spammers.

These are the most common issues we have seen this month, and traditionally the aforementioned organisations will not use electronic mail for general communication.

Some will install a nuisance program on your computer which will scan your system and ask for a credit card payment to clean out the “errors” your system supposedly has.

More seriously, in some cases malicious software is installed and will encrypt your files such that they will only unlock after a ransom has been paid to the organisation who has sent the threat.

Even with the strictest security measures, spammers can change the email address they send from, and modify their delivery methods to fool and bypass spam filters and antivirus programs.

If an email does sneak through please delete without opening it, or you may contact us if you’re unsure.

If your antivirus protection is not up to date or you are not sure please also contact us.

Feel free to pass this on to fellow team members, suppliers, customers, friends, and family.

And remember to regularly back up your computer system and networks.