Technology Advisor Blog

Customize your Layout in Outlook 2010

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 11/30/11 9:07 AM

Outlook 2010 LayoutYou probably spend a big chunk of your day in Outlook with email, contacts, calendar, and tasks.  It's worth a few minutes to customize your layout to get the most efficient workspace that works for you.

To adjust your layout, go to the "View Tab" and about 2/3 of the way over to the right, you'll see buttons for "Navigation Pane", "Reading Pane", "To-Do Bar" and "People Pane". 

The "Navigation Pane" shows the hierarchy of all your mail folders on the left side of your screen.  You have three views to choose from: normal, minimized, or off.  In the normal view, all your folders show up.  In minimized, the the headlines are scrunched up sideways on a small slice of the screen.  You can also toggle "favorites" on and off.  These are the folders you use most often.  The buttons for mail, calendar, contacts and tasks also show up here, and under "options", you can select the order you'd like to have them displayed.

The "Reading Pane" button allows you to place the reading pane (preview of your mail) to the right of your list of mail, at the bottom, or turn off the preview.  Under "options", you can mark items as "read" when the appear in the reading pane (or with a timed delay that you select), mark an item as "read" when the selection changes, and toggle on "single key reading using the space bar" which means that you can scroll through your mail without using your mouse if you'd like.

The "To Do Bar" button allows you to display your calendar, appointments, and tasks to the right side of your screen.  The "normal" view lets you see all the information, "minimized" scrunches the information to the right side showing just the headlines, and "off" removes it completely.  You can toggle on and off the Date Navigator (shows you a small calendar of the current month), your appointments, and your tasks.  Under "options" you can pick the number of months to show, select whether or not to show "all day" and details of private appointments, and show the task list.

The "People Pane" button lets you see previous emails from the sender you're viewing in the preview pane.  This is really useful to catch up on the full thread of a conversation in email. You can display this as normal (will show a list of messages), minimized (just shows the sender), or off. Under "Account Settings", you can take it one step further and connect with social networks.

Spend a few minutes adjusting all the settings to see what works best for you.  I like to see the full navigation pane, "normal" preview, one month of calendar, and my appointments and tasks all summarized on one page.  This way I have a comprehensive view of everything all in one place.  Check it out!

Tags: Outlook 2010, View, Layout

Are "Default Passwords" our Defense Against Cyber-Terrorism?

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 11/23/11 9:07 AM

Cyber Terrorism - The next threat?In last night's Republican debate, one of the questions posed to the candidates was "What threat might we face in the next few years that no one is talking about today?".  The question was in the context of the 9/11 attacks shortly after George Bush became President, that defined his term in office.  One of the answers that caught my attention was cyber-terrorism.  Instead of a physical attack, our critical computer systems and networks could be attacked by hackers.  When you stop and think about how pervasive computing is in our modern lives, covering everything from banking to delivery of our utilities, it's scary to think of how vulerable we are.

In the Kaspersky Labs Threat Post yesterday, Paul Roberts posed a very scary question:  Was the three character password used to hack South Houston's Water Treatment Plant a Siemen Default?  Apparently the hacker describe an "easy-to-crack three character password" that provided access to the Siemans Simatic HMI (human machine interface) software that controlled the water treatment plant.  The description matches the default password that comes with the equipment, but the actual password hasn't been confirmed yet. 

Although the hacker says he didn't take any action when he gained access to the system, he could have shut out other users, taken control of the water treatment plant, and cause a lot of damage.  He used Internet scanning software to discover systems that were connected to the Internet, and then had a pretty easy time getting in.  He describes himself as merely a hobbyist, not a "real" hacker.

If default passwords are being used to protect our critical infrastructure, we're at risk!  This breach has gotten attention in the news, but who knows how many other similar systems are vulnerable like this.   The department of Homeland Security is working with Siemans to investigate the breach, but this is just the starting point.

ALWAYS use STRONG passwords to protect any applications you access over the Internet. Strong passwords should contain uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.  They should never be words in the dictionary, and ALWAYS change the default password!

Tags: Security, passwords, strong passwords, default passwords

Securing your Business is Easy as 1 2 3

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 11/22/11 9:20 AM

Security LockJust about every day we read about a new computer security breach in the news.  The big events draw a lot of attention and generate the headlines, but small business owners need to stay vigilant too!

It can be overwhelming to try to digest all the available information on computer security.  We like to think about it in three easy steps.

Step 1:  Secure your perimeter.  Think of this as having a wall around your business, a fence, or locked windows and doors.  Your firewall protects you from the Internet by creating a cyber barrier between you and the outside world.  If you picked up an inexpensive router at Staples a few years ago, you should strongly consider upgrading to a business class router.   We highly recommend Sonicwall products, but there are many great choices.  We're also recommending gateway security software to manage the traffic in and out of the network, above and beyond basic firewall protection.  Also, remember that your firewall needs regular firmware upgrades to stay up to date with respect to new threats.

Step 2:  Protect allsystems on your network with Anti-Virus and Anti-Spyware software. The important point is that EVERY system needs active protection (up to date license, dynamic updates multiple times a day).  Do you know that EVERY system is up to date?  Do you have a policy about bringing in systems from home (BYOD - Bring Your Own Device)?  What about guests?  If guests on your network are a factor for you, we strongly recommend installing a separate "sub-net" so that these guests can get Internet access (using your same Internet connection with no extra cost), but they won't be on your main network.  How do you know your guest has up-to-date virus protection?

Step 3:  Keep your applications and operating systems up to date with security patches.  Microsoft routinely releases free updates on "Patch Tuesday", the second Tuesday of the month. Many people are aware of these updates because they're in the news, and your Windows system will prompt you when updates are available.  What people often overlook is that Macs need updates too, and other applications such as Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Flash and Java are also vulnerable to security loopholes and also need to be regularly updated. (And don't forget your smart phone, but this is a whole new topic).

There is no such thing as 100% security.  Even if you do everything "right" there is still a chance that you could have a problem, such as a virus, but with focus on active protection, you greatly reduce your risk and potential for damage.

Remember that security is effectively a "cat and mouse" game.  Vulnerabilities are detected, hackers try to exploit the vulnerabilities, and the security firms try to stay a step ahead.  To protect your small business, remember your "123s":  1. Perimeter, 2. System, 3. Applications.

Tags: Security, Firewall, Virus, Spyware, Patches

Invasion of the Computer Dust Bunnies!

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 11/18/11 10:19 AM

Computer Dust BunniesYou've probably heard over and over again how important it is to keep your computer clean from viruses, malware, spam, and other cyber threats, but did you know it's also important to keep your computer physically clean? 

Over time, dust from your room environment will get inside your system and do harm.  The photo to the right shows a computer that was having trouble booting so we opened it up to check it out.  The inside was covered with dust, which can cause components to heat up or fail.

From time to time, open your system case and carefully vacuum out the inside of your computer and your computer will last longer. Typically, it's easy to pop off the side panel, and cleaning it up will just take a few minutes.

Tags: Cleaning your computer, dust.

Get Your eMail Organized with Microsoft Outlook Rules

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 11/16/11 11:20 AM

Outlook RulesIf your inbox is getting out of control with too many messages, it's time to start creating some "rules" to organize your mail. 

To get started with "Rules", highlight the message in your inbox that you want to move, then select the "Rules" button on the "Home" ribbon.  You'll be given some short-cut options to "Always Move Messages" from the sender, or "Create Rule", or "Manage Rules and Alerts".  

If you get newsletters, or updates on a regular basis from folks, it's a good idea to move them into specific folders so you don't wind up with a giant, cluttered in-box.  Highlight "Always Move Messages..." and then select the folder you want to move the message to.  If you don't already have a folder, select "New" and then create the folder. 

If you select "Create Rule" instead of just "Always Move Messages...", you can get fancy and create an audio alert to let you know when you have new mail from that sender, instead of just relying on seeing an un-opened message count in the folder. You can browse though a long list of different sounds to choose from, so have fun with this.

Take a look at your inbox and see if you can find groups of email that would make sense to organize and start getting the rules in place. 

Tags: eMail, Microsoft Outlook 2010, Rules

Create Company Letterhead in Microsoft Word 2010

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 11/14/11 9:13 AM

Ekaru Letterhead WordIf you want to email company letters that have the same look as your company letterhead, its easy to do in Microsoft Word 2010.  You can created "pdfs" to email your company communications, and also print without having to use up your "good" letterhead.  To do this, you'll just need to use some clip art and master the header and footer in Word.

In Microsoft Word 2010, follow these simple instructions:

  • Select the "Insert" tab
  • Select "Footer"
  • Select "Edit Footer"
  • Insert logos, address information, industry affiliations, social media icons, etc.
  • Select "Header"
  • Select "Edit Header"
  • Insert Logo, etc.

You'll have a great looking copy of your letterhead in minutes!  You can customize your letterhead easily for different mailings, without worrying about about printing large quantities to keep the price down.

Sign up for our next webinar to learn more tips and tricks like this.  Also, if you have a suggestion for a topic, we want to hear from you!


Tags: Microsoft Office, Microsoft Word 2010, letterhead

Using Templates in Microsoft Word 2010

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 11/11/11 1:30 PM

Fax Cover TemplateDid you know you can create great looking documents using "templates" in Microsoft Word 2010? 

Open Word, Select "File", "New", Select one of the many templates, then hit "create" to start working on your document.  You can use the blank, or customize the design.  In a few minutes, you'll have a great looking document, without needing to know anything about graphic design.

Some of the many sample templates include:

  • Agendas
  • Business Cards
  • Calendars
  • Certificates
  • Invitations
  • Fax Cover Sheets
  • Invoices
  • Quotes
  • Newsletters
  • Receipts
  • Timesheets
  • and more...

Next time you have a few spare moments, look through the samples and you'll surely find some options to spruce up documents for your small business.



Tags: Microsoft Word 2010, Templates

How to Get (or Get Rid of!) a Ruler in Outlook 2010 eMail

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 11/8/11 1:32 PM

Ruler Outlook 2010I was composing a new email and noticed the ruler across the top.  While the ruler is useful in some cases for advanced formatting (aligning text and images), it was a nuisance for me and I started searching the tool bar for how to get rid of it.  I must have toggled it "on" by accident, and now it was stuck there.

To turn the ruler on or off, Click on the "New e-Mail" button in the top left of Outlook, then all the way on the right there is a tiny ruler icon on the top edge of the scroll bar.  Click on the ruler icon to turn the ruler on or off, depending on your preference.  Hope this post saves you time!

Tags: eMail, Microsoft Outlook 2010, ruler

Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity - Optimize your Backup!

Posted by Ann Westerheim on 11/2/11 2:31 PM

WinterWeatherWe've had several days of power outages after a surprise October snow storm, and this serves as a good reminder to think about disaster planning and business continuity.  Today, businesses of all sizes need a data disaster recovery plan, which helps ensure the company will continue operations after experiencing some type of disaster due to:

  • Power outages
  • Severe Weather
  • Natural disaster
  • Hardware failure
  • Theft
  • Employee mistakes
  • A malicious act from a disgruntled employee or outsider
  • Loss of key personnel
  • Supply Chain Disruption
  • ...big disasters and small disasters...
While a snow storm may pose a few days of inconvenience, it's a good idea to plan for bigger disasters in advance.  People tend to "look on the bright side", but the statistics are scary:
  • According to the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington D.C., 93 percent of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster.

  • According to The Gartner Group, 34% of companies fail to test their tape backups, and of those that do, 77% have found tape back-up failures.

  • Data recovery services costs range from hundreds to thousands of dollars IF your hard drive can be recovered.

There are many aspects to a good disaster recovery plan to cover personnel, facilities, and technology.  One of the key areas we focus on is getting a solid data backup which is easy to do, and will alleviate a lot of pain when disaster strikes.

If you're still using tape backup, it's time to make a change RIGHT NOW.  Tape Backups are a “known evil,” and industry analysts estimate that anywhere from 40 to 70% of all attempted recoveries  from tapes fail.  Why?  Consider the tape backup process and the many points of potential failure that exist throughout:  You need to Install, update, and configure Backup Software, and determine exactly:  1) what to back up, and 2) when to back up.  Are you sure you're backing up ALL of your critical data, as often as you should?  Tapes also wear out over time .

Your backup should be:

  • Automatic - "set it and forget it" (except PLEASE check restores periodically, best practice is automatic verification)
  • Off-site - rather than relying on taking drives off site, we recommend on-line backup now that costs have come way down and make it affordable for small business.  Keeping your backup in the same building you work will leave you exposed in the event of a site disaster.  Best bet is to get your data FAR away.
  • Local copy too! - If your backup is only on-line, keep in mind that it can take a LONG time to get your data back when you need it.  With a redundant local copy, you get the best of both worlds.
  • Image based rather than file based.  If you do need to get new equipment, rather than spending all that time reloading all your applications (IF you can find the disks), and image-based backup basically serves as a clone.

For clients who have a high cost of down-time, we strongly urge them to consider an optimized backup and disaster recovery service.

For more details about putting a full plan in place, check out a great article on  Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Planning: The Basics

Tags: backup, disaster recovery, business continuity, on-line backup, image backup

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