Spam almost feels like a part of life anymore. I expect that when I open my email, I’m going to see a couple spam messages that the junk folder settings just didn’t catch. It barely fazes me anymore, I just delete the spam in my inbox and junk folders and go about my day. The real problem comes in for those that receive far more than just a couple spam messages in any given day so I can understand the frustration that comes with having to go through and delete all of those. Thankfully for Office 365 customers, Microsoft provides a means of being able to block those messages from landing in anyone’s inboxes to begin with. That tool is called Forefront Online Protection for Exchange.
Forefront makes it extremely simple to create rules that can block or allow emails to come through based off of the following information:
Now not all of this information is needed for each rule, but it’s great that rules can be setup to block or allow emails of a certain topic or from a specific sender or domain. Based off of my experiences there did not appear to be any delay in the mail filtering after the rule was setup. If you’d like to start blocking some of those pesky spam messages then follow these steps to set up rules of your own:
- Log into the Office 365 portal using an administrator account
- Click on the Manage link listed under Exchange
- On the left hand side of the page select Mail Control
- On the right hand side of the page click on the link labeled “Configure IP safelisting, perimeter message tracing, and e-mail polices.”
- If not already selected then click on the Administration tab at the top of the page
- Select Policy Rules right below the administration tab
- On the right hand side of the page click on the New Policy Rule link
From there you can go ahead and set the parameters for the rule and once done select Save Policy Rule. After that you’ll see your new rule listed under Policy Rules and from there you can make modifications to the rule as necessary or delete it if it’s no longer needed.
Based upon what I’ve seen, Forefront doesn’t always catch blatant spam messages on its own without the aid of the rules, however after creating rules I have seen the amount of spam messages received drop dramatically. All in all I have to say that Forefront Online Protection for Exchange is a great tool for use with Office 365.
Microsoft released SQL Server 2012 on April 1st, 2012. The product is part of a tradition of scalable database solutions, and offers many great improvements over the previous releases.
The most important thing to note about SQL 2012 is its reporting capabilities and how they integrate with SharePoint. Microsoft SQL Server 2012 offers a new feature called PowerPivot, which involves a direct integration with SharePoint server and Excel 2010 and 2013 that provides real-time data views and reports. PowerPivot provides an easy way to create and share Business Intelligence for billions of rows of data.
SQL 2012 also offers new high-availability features, such as multi-subnet failover clusters. A multi-subnet failover cluster allows SQL servers in different LAN segments - such as distinct office locations - to host database failover clusters, which provide high-availability and redundancy to databases. This allows companies with distributed computing environments to utilize the server infrastructure of multiple sites.
Licensing SQL Server 2012 for hardware has been completely re-thought. SQL Server 2012 will be licensed based on processor cores, which is a new idea in the 2012+ line of products from Microsoft due to the density of processors in modern computing hardware. This can make using the hardware-licensing model too expensive, so companies may be more interested in licensing based on User or Device CALs instead, which provides a simpler planning infrastructure.
Contact Trigon today if you would like to find out more about SQL Server 2012 and how it can improve your business!
So, your company has decided to migrate from Windows XP and Office 2003 to Windows 8 and Office 2013, respectively. The problem is that you haven’t used either Windows 8 or Office 2013 yet. How do you prepare for the transition? Well, migrating to the latest in Microsoft technologies isn’t always the simplest task; however, Microsoft does attempt to make it as easy as possible. One of the ways in which they try to simplify things is through their Enterprise Agreement program. Microsoft’s Enterprise Agreement (EA) has many perks, such as 24x7 support and the “step-up” licensing capability. However, the key (and often unused) benefit of the EA agreement is training.
From the previous example, migrating from Windows XP and Office 2003 to Windows 8 and Office 2013 will require plenty of training. This is true not only for technical support staff, but also the end users. Microsoft has you covered with training vouchers through the Enterprise Agreement program. These training vouchers provide the ability to set aside training days on all sorts of technologies based on the amount of licenses that are covered with Software Assurance. From there, your Software Assurance benefits manager obtains the training vouchers, which can be used for online or instructor-led classes. Once you have the training vouchers, you are free to choose from a list of available courses and schedule the training.
With tools like these at your disposal, there should be fewer reasons for not upgrading to the latest Microsoft technologies. If you have any questions about what the latest and greatest Microsoft technologies can do for you and your business, then contact the experts at Trigon and we’ll be more than happy to assist you.
Windows 8 is Microsoft’s latest iteration of the desktop operating system. This is to be the operating system to unite all the Microsoft devices. With Microsoft looking to get their slice of the emerging markets of tablets and smart phones, Windows 8 ties in the desktop experience to the same type of interface found on the mobile devices. Microsoft utilizes the Metro interface to raise the comfort level moving between the devices. The Metro interface makes the touch screen usage of the operating system easy, but you need a touch screen interface to truly see the value of this. Windows 8 does bring forth other improvement though; such as improved security, device interconnectivity and the most commented one we hear about, the faster start up time.
The prevailing question is… does your business need Windows 8?
The answer is no, at least not yet...
After reviewing and using Windows 8, we can’t help to think that Windows 8 is the next Vista. Yes, Vista was a working operating system, but it never caught on. There wasn’t a compelling drive for businesses to move to Vista. With XP working great…why change? Businesses have embraced Windows 7, it works well and companies are productive with it. Windows 7 is what Vista should have been. There isn’t a drive to move to Windows 8 due to failures or incompatibility issues with Windows 7. Add in the retraining that the staff will have to go through to be comfortable and productive with Windows 8 and it may not be worth the effort. You may want to wait to move to Windows 8 if you’re using Windows 7 in your environment. If you have XP, then an upgrade is absolutely essential.
Of course, you will need to move to Windows 8 at some point. Windows 7 will be dropped as a supported operating system by Microsoft eventually. There will be applications that will work best with the Windows 8 technology and applications whose device interconnectivity adds productivity. From a support viewpoint, there are some suggestions and risks to consider if you are looking at moving your business to Windows 8.
- Timing: Start planning for your migration to Windows 8 in your business by first determining how long you can use Windows 7. Some small to mid-sized businesses might not need to move to Windows 8. We have worked with many clients who never deployed Vista in their environments, and upgraded to Windows 7 only when it was necessary. Keep in mind that most new desktops and laptops ship with Windows 8 installed already. You can downgrade to Windows 7 at no charge if requested. If you have a Windows XP environment, now would be a good time to move up to Windows 8. Plan it out as the impact of a failed upgrade could have a profound effect on your business.
- Training: As Windows 8 is a very different interface, make sure to identify the person in your environment who is most comfortable with using this new interface. This may be the person with a Windows based smart phone. Deploy the new operating system to the company a few days ahead of time. This will help make the change less shocking and identify any issues with your current applications may have with Windows 8. Conduct end user training sessions or have “cheat sheets” available for those repeating questions such as “where is my start button?” or “how do I log off?”
- Compatibility: Make sure you are aware of what applications are compatible with Windows 8. If an application is compatible with Windows 7, you should be okay. But if you are moving from XP, make sure you verify your critical systems are compatible with Windows 8.
At Trigon, we are currently evaluating the case for an upgrade to Windows 8 on a case by case basis for companies of all sizes in the Philadelphia and Central Pennsylvania markets. There is no particular “rule of thumb” on whether an upgrade should take place or not. However, through careful analysis, Trigon can help you make a determination if an upgrade is worth it. A smoother deployment leads to reduced downtime, increased trust in the migration, and better office morale. Contact us to discuss an upgrade and how it may affect your business today!
There are many obvious benefits to server virtualization and consolidation. This technology allows mid-sized companies in the Philadelphia and Central Pennsylvania region to maximum the investment in their current hardware. It also reduces energy consumption and cooling needs in the data center. Cost savings is the most common effect of virtualization.
However, a very welcome byproduct of the virtualization trend, whether it’s Hyper-V, VMWare or another technology, is disaster recovery capability. This benefit was historically reserved for large enterprise environments. Due to lowered costs of storage, the purchase of Storage Area Networks (SANs) is no longer out of reach for mid-sized businesses. Microsoft Hyper-V 2012 has also made disaster recovery more attainable for the mid-market. It appears that Microsoft has paid attention to their customers’ needs with the recent development of Hyper-V Replica.
Microsoft has the built in the ability to create an exact replica of your server environment to separate hardware. The hardware can be placed onsite or, ideally, at another location in order to provide for “true” disaster recovery. This functionality is included with Windows Server 2012 so no additional software cost is incurred.
Some of the shining features of Hyper-V Replica are as follows:
- Not dependent on server hardware
- Built for standard WAN links
- Works with clusters
- Provides failover broker
- Asynchronous replication
- Point in time failover
These features allow flexibility in how a disaster recovery solution is designed. The ability to failover between hosts is no longer dependent on identical hardware. Failover can be enabled to much less expensive machines with slower disks, which is optimal for offsite disaster recovery to another location. Built in compression and asynchronous replication allows the data replication to work over standard and readily available WAN links. As a result, expensive highly-provisioned bandwidth links are not required to handle the replication. A replication and failover broker handles the tasks of failing over to another Hyper-V server dynamically (i.e. without user intervention) in the event of a disaster.
All of the aforementioned features use to be out of reach for mid-sized businesses due to prohibitive costs. Until the latest Hyper-V 2012 release, a company would have been required to purchase a costly SAN in both locations and pay for advanced implementation services in order to configure replication and failover in the case of a disaster. With the addition of the Hyper-V Replica capability in the new version, two SANs are not required. A single server with sufficient disk space could function as the recovery server at the remote data center. After initial seeding of data between sites, only changes in data need to be replicated across the WAN. Realistically, your business could be up and running in a few minutes, instead of days or weeks, if your primary site is lost.
Your organization may already have all of the components required in order to implement a full disaster recovery solution. Trigon can provide a brief analysis of your environment, develop a plan and implement a Hyper-V Replica solution to protect your organization from a disaster. If you are in the Philadelphia or Central PA region, contact us today to find out how we can assist you!
Should you replace your server or consider a cloud solution like Office365?
At Trigon, when our clients in the Philadelphia and Central PA region are considering an upgrade to their technology, we always assess whether a cloud solution like Office365 or Google Apps is a viable option. In many cases, a cloud solution is a good fit from a productivity and budgetary perspective.
Total lifecycle management and ownership of Microsoft Office products can be very expensive. Not to mention the added expense and overhead associated with upgrades. Office365 offers access to cloud-based email from anywhere, web conferencing, file sharing and Office Web Apps at a low, predictable monthly cost. Below is a list of a few common features and benefits associated with Office365.
- No need to purchase Microsoft Office when purchasing new equipment
- New Office version upgrades at no additional cost
- Spam filtering included – using Microsoft Forefront technology
- Instant Messaging included – using Microsoft Lync technology
- Large 25GB mailboxes
- Sending and receiving large attachments
- Team sites for sharing files included – using Microsoft SharePoint technology
- Email archiving capability included
If you would like a full review and detailed pricing for Office365, Trigon can objectively help you determine if this solution is a good fit at no cost. We encourage you to contact us to discuss the benefits, costs and risks of moving to the cloud. Please give us a call at 484-323-5004 or email us at email@example.com.
According to the http://bgr.com/2012/12/26/microsoft-surface-sales-christmas-2012-268839/ article, Microsoft’s Surface tablet was not in high demand. The iPad seemed to be the largest volume of tablet sales this Christmas season, followed by the Amazon Kindle and the Samsung Galaxy.
The article goes on to describe calls to a number of resellers (Best Buy and Staples) that were contacted and each had Microsoft Surface tablets in stock. A Tweeter also did a 24-hour survey and found pretty much the same results in Tweets of those purchasing new tablet devices.
I have seen a number of advertisements for the Surface and it definitely looks like after some time in the market, it may be a contender in the tablet market. Once more options are available for the new devices and integration with newly released Windows 8 increases, I can see the devices gaining on Apple’s lead. I don’t have a tablet device myself, but my wife really enjoys her new Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet. I appreciate it running the Android OS, as my Smartphone also runs Android and a lot of the apps I have available can be used on the Nook.
Maybe down the road when I have Windows 8, I will look into the Surface more than I already have. It looks to be a great tablet and Microsoft did a good job making it look like the Windows 8 OS that is just coming out. Windows 8 is still also new to the corporate market, so once more systems have the latest Microsoft release, the Surface will probably increase in sales as well.
What about you? Do you have a tablet or are looking into getting one? Have you seen a Surface or any of the other tablets mentioned? They are great at having a very portable option that gives the average user an easy way to connect to the Internet without having to lug around a big laptop. If you are interested in finding out more about tablets and other mobile devices, contact us about our Philadelphia IT Mobility Solutions.
One thing that Windows gets a lot of flak for is the fact that there are so many viruses and other malware out there that can infect a Windows machine. Something that not many people realize is that Microsoft does try to take steps that ensure Windows is more secure. While there are exploits and security holes within the Windows operating system, the larger issue lies with 3rd party applications such as Adobe Flash, and Java which are used more often by attackers to infect a computer. Microsoft realizing this had created several protective features that can be used by 3rd party software manufacturers. These features are, Data Execution Prevention (DEP), Structured Exception Handler Overwrite Protection (SEHOP), and Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR).
DEP, SEHOP, and ASLR were designed to reduce an attacker’s ability to use an exploit in a 3rd party application to install malware on the computer. Microsoft has included this functionality in Visual Basic and requires an application to be recompiled to include these features. For many well established software manufacturers this isn’t always an easy or worthwhile task to complete. For that reason Microsoft has created the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET). When installed and configured it will allow applications to use these features without needing to be recompiled. There is a warning that not all applications will function properly when using EMET, but if that is the case the application can be removed from the list.
I’ve installed EMET on my own computer and can report that so far none of my commonly used applications such as Chrome, Outlook, Word are functioning any differently and have confirmed in EMET that these applications are using the emet.dll file. I would definitely recommend this application for people who are concerned about the security of their Windows computing devices.
If you own or run a business and you would like more information on computer security or Microsoft products, then give us a call and let us assist you.
After having already taken a look at Windows 8 I decided it was time to take a look at the Windows Server 2012 Release Candidate. I did a Google search for it which led me to the download page. At the download page you are given an option of downloading the ISO image or a VHD. I chose the ISO since I could use that to burn a cd or install a virtual machine. With the ISO downloaded I installed it on a virtual machine. While going through some of the installation options I did notice that Microsoft has kept the server core option for those who don’t need the GUI. The installation was fairly quick and painless and after completion I was rather surprised at what I saw. I had heard that Windows Server 2012 was going to ship with the new Metro user interface but when I first logged into the machine I saw the traditional Windows desktop. The Metro interface is still there and can be used in all the same ways as with Windows 8 however Microsoft chose to have the traditional desktop load at startup.
At this point my experience with Windows Server 2012 has been pretty pleasant. I had read all about the new revamped server manager and how most server functions could be operated through it so I decided to give it a try. Having installed Active Directory many times before I decided that this would be the first thing I do. As usual I installed the Active Directory binaries and once completed I opened up a command prompt and typed in dcpromo. Much to my surprise I received an error message stating that Windows would no longer be using dcpromo to finalize and configure the Active Directory installation. You can now use a GUI tool or a powershell command to perform this task.
In addition to the change in installing Active Directory Microsoft is also implementing new powershell cmdlets, an updated version of Hyper-V virtualization software and many more things. If you’re interested in trying out Windows Server 2012 you can download it here http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/hh670538.aspx. Don’t’ forget if you want to install this use your favorite virtualization software to try this out so you don’t install over your current operating system.
HTC has arguably taken the Android phone to new heights and it looks like they are shooting for gold with the new Windows Phone 8. The 3 models in prototype look to be very impressive and the windows 8 platform seems almost geared for use on a touchscreen. The Windows phone 8 will use the same kernel as the desktop version of Windows 8, lending truth to Microsoft’s claims of a truly universal OS. As I’ve said before the sweeping changes to the Windows GUI make it look, even on a desktop, as if you are navigating one of the current generation smartphones. To me the best part of the release of the HTC Windows phone 8 is the entry level unit. Admittedly I go for the top of the line but giving consumers a lower end choice that, while it may not have ALL the bells and whistles certainly gives you more options than a $100 price change based on internal storage capacity. The entry level prototype sports a dual core Qualcomm processor with a 4 inch 720p display which is great for a handheld device and will let you watch your favorite streaming movies. In contrast the flagship design will rock a 4.7 inch 720p display and a quad core Qualcomm processor. While I haven’t seen the final specs on these new phones, HTC may just have the stuff to pull me away from the iPhone.