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ABM Blog

IT Information

We will add some relevant IT information here. This could be anything from new industry technology, to how we chose our supplier partners.

Good to know cables, in your office environment

There are dozens of different cables, with a variety of connectors, it can get confusing with what goes where. This article aims to clear up a few important and commonly used cables around the work place. If there are any more you would like to know about, you can send us an email or fill in our contact forms.

USB A, B, Micro and Mini Cables

USB type A, B, Mini and Micro

Used to connect external devices to a main device. For example; USB A: keyboard to PC, USB B: Printer to computer, USB MINI: Cameras to PC and finally, USB MICRO: Mobile to computer. 

VGA and DVI Cables

VGA and DVI

VGA can carry analogue signals and DVI both analogue and digital. These cables become less popular, replaced by HDMI to display. However, they basically complete the same action. Transmitting video from a source.

RJ11 Telephone Cables

RJ11 or Telephone Cable

They look similar to RJ45 networking cables, however, are smaller. These are not used for ethernet connections. Instead telephone connectivity. Used for ADSL, telephone and modem. 

RJ45 network cable

RJ45, Network or Ethernet Cable

Used to transfer data and connect necessary technology together. For example, computers, printers, routers and storage areas.

Power Cable

Power Cable

Supplies power from the mains to your technology. Also known as a kettle lead. There are a variety of types. including cherry and figure of 8.

HDMI Cables

HDMI to HDMI or Display Port to HDMI

Stands for high definition multimedia interface. It can provide connection between your laptop and a larger screen. Or your monitor and PC. 

Small Business Server Reaches End Of Life Jan 2020

It has been the chosen solution for small businesses for years. An all in one product which includes email, internet access, licences for users and secure data storage. Supporting 75 users over 50 devices, made it the perfect start up and further expansion package. Unfortunately, Microsoft have decided to take this product in a different direction, and have therefore phased out the SBS server. This article will answer why you need to start thinking about a new solution and what your other options are. If you have any further questions, or items you think we have missed, please contact us to let us know. We are happy to discuss any queries you may have. 

Why is changing your SBS server is important?

  1. Costs - There are costs involved with migrating to a new product. However, with efficient planning and management this shouldn't be a painful task. If you choose to stick with your SBS server, your whole infrastructure has to stay compatible with it. This means no further technology upgrades to move with the times, or to increase company efficiencies. In the short term this might not be such an issue. But long term when you truly have to improve your infrastructure, you will have hardware and software costs. Bear in mind that technology moves forward quickly, and changing your software now may be an easier task than years down the road, which in turn will also harbour more costs.
  2. Security - When a product is no longer supported, part of this means there are no further security improvements. No weak points in code are fixed. It sits dormant while technology moves forward. Leaving entry points open for hackers, and allowing your companies security to be compromised.  
  3. Support - Microsoft have made this product an 'EOL' which stands for 'end of life'. As well as no further improvements, it will no longer be supported by Microsoft. Any problems you face with the software will be down to your IT company to fix. However, if they can't fix the issue and it is directly in relation to the software, then you are in a difficult position. 
  4. Company Responsibility - With laws and regulations in business changing to adapt to a highly technological future, requirements for the running of your business will change. Depending on your business model, you may have to upgrade. Especially when it comes to the safety of the data you store. 

Your upgrade options

Windows Server 2019: Essentials, Data Centre and Standard

With three options to choose from for your business, this may be the most popular choice for small to mid - sized companies. 

Essentials

  1. No email solution: You have to pay for an additional product to support your emails. (Read Exchange paragraph for further details)
  2. 25 users and 50 devices: Perfect for smaller companies. You are supplied with licences for all 25 users. However, as soon as you go over this number you have to upgrade.
  3. Specifications: You get 64GB of RAM and 2 CPU's (central processing units). This is your limit, however for a small business this shouldn't be a problem.

Data Centre

  1. High Limits Option: You can have an unlimited number of virtual machines and will only purchase the licences that you require. You will need one per server and one per user.
  2. Specifications: 24 Terabytes and licence up to 512 Cores. Comes with extra features such as; shielded virtual machines and clustering fail over system.
  3. Cores: For each Core you have in your machines, you will need to buy licences. If you have 50 Cores you will have to buy 50 licences. 

Standard

  1. High Limits Option: You can have an unlimited number of virtual machines and will only purchase the licences that you require. You will need one per server and one per user. (Same as data centre)
  2. Specifications: 24 Terabytes and licence up to 512 Cores (same as data centre).
  3. Basic: This is a lesser version of the data centre. It doesn't come with extra features. 

Exchange

This product is an email solution and pairs well with the Windows 2019 server. An on - premise solution, to store and manage your company emails. For larger companies this may not be a good solution for you. As you will have to buy many licences and this can get expensive. Every email needs a licence.

Office 365

A Cloud based system with a variety of options. All options come with a commercial guarantee, 1 Terabyte of One Drive storage, up to 300 users only, 50GB of email and Office available to install (licenced) on 5 devices per licenced user. It is important to mention that with any Cloud based system, if you do not have internet you will not have access to anything. If your internet is slow, then this may not be the solution for you.

Office 365 Business

Gives you access to the Office suite install only. You will not have an email solution with this package. This is great for companies who have an on premise solution already. Simply requiring the latest version of Office.

Office 365 Essentials Licence

Access to the Office suite, emails and SharePoint online. The Essentials licence is only for mobile and tablet devices. You will not be able to access anything on your desktop. (unless you already pay for outlook in which case you will have your email on your desktop)

Office 365 Business Premium 

Exactly the same as the Essentials package, however you can install your Office suite and email onto your required devices. You also have access to SharePoint. 

It is good to keep in mind there are higher tier options. It is an adaptable product, but you will pay more for these perks. We wanted to explain the perfect options for those who are moving forward from the SBS Server. If you need any more information regarding these higher tier options, or anything you have read so far, please contact us.

Other Alternatives

If you want to move away from a Microsoft solution, there are other options for you. Moving completely away from using Microsoft may be a hard process. However, there are products you can use to supplement your systems. 

Google G Suite

Cloud based system. You have Google's version of Microsoft's apps. This includes a Gmail email system, Google 'Office' and several Google applications. These are available to use within your browser or to download. You have the G drive storage system, which lots of people say is better than the One Drive alternative. However, once again, if you have no internet, you have no access to email or data.

Kerio

Alternative to the Exchange option. Kerio is the closest product in terms of specification to the Exchange. It isn't as feature rich, but still works well. It allows you to have an on - premise email server which you can control yourselves.

Overall it isn't as bleak as people believe. There are multiple options to choose from, and hopefully this has pointed some light on them. There are several steps you can take to prepare yourself for the changeover. These mainly include: talking to the right people, such as your IT company and your employees. Find out what you use the most, does it work well, and what is missing. What do you require when you move onto the new system? Ensure the new option contains all the support you may require. Do not settle for something that leaves you in a situation where you require help and it isn't available to you. Find out all of the costs involved. Whether these be ongoing, one off or for the future if you require an improvement to your solution. Does your hardware need updating to support the new system? Will the new hardware benefit your business in terms of compatibility with the new solution? Therefore, increasing efficiency for your employees and yourself. 

Communication is key. Everyone should be knowledgeable about the changes being made, and your staff should receive training / guidance to use the new solution. These new products are adaptable. If they don't work for your business one way, they may be adjusted to your requirements. Your IT company should be helping and guiding you to make the process as streamline as possible. If you are unsure about anything, they should be able to answer your questions.

If you do require any help, please do not hesitate to give ABM a call. 
01243 773113

Helpful Steps To Take, Before Calling Your IT Company

Many IT recovery cases are serious and should be left to professionals. However, there are several basic issues that could be remedied yourself. We don't encourage changing settings and generally trying to fix something technical. But following these simple steps can help to discount some problems. 

  1. Turn off and on - Not everything can be turned off and on again. PC's and laptops are fine as long as you do a complete, safe shut down. If you can't and the PC has completely frozen, you will have to proceed to hold down the button. You can also power off routers and switches, however, this will affect everyone else in the office, so check everyone has saved and finished what they are doing.
  2. Cable check - Lots of people call and get worried because their technology doesn't turn on, or flickers. This could be because the cable is loose or has been unplugged. Please check the cables, and potentially, if using an extension lead, swap this out too. Be careful about what, and who else, is plugged in to it though.
  3. Others affected - As an IT technician it is good to get a full picture of an issue. This way we can decide where we need to look and where we don't. Saving time for the company, and therefore on the cost of support. Part of this process is checking if anyone else in your office is having issues. Ask around to see if they are experiencing the same problems. 
  4. Works elsewhere - If you can, it might be a good idea to test if the issue you are having, works on another computer. This can easily isolate your PC as the problem or allow the technician to look further afield if necessary. 

If you are unsure and do not feel comfortable completing these steps, that is okay! While they do not take too much time, it is helpful to saving on company costs and getting straight to the issue. But, if you would prefer guidance through these steps, we are here to help and will talk you through it.

If you have any questions please check out our common IT questions page and fill in the form.

Administrative Professionals: Technology Required

The 22nd marked a day celebrating admin professionals nationwide. We thought it might be a good idea to put together a list of technology perfect for employees working in this sector. If what you read requires any further discussion, please contact us. We can advise and quote your company on all of these factors.

Height Adjustable Monitor

Dual Adjustable Monitors

As mentioned, many times previously, dual screens are honestly a ‘must have’ for your desk. For people working with numbers, spreadsheets, calendars etc 24” sized (and above) monitors would probably be best. Why? Limited strain on the eyes and larger room for more content, makes for efficient processes. Height adjustable monitors are also a great idea. Sitting at a desk can really ruin your posture and cause lots of health issues. Having an adjustable monitor can reduce strain and muscle tension. Employees will feel more comfortable.

Silent Wireless Keyboard and Mouse

Quality Keyboard & Mouse

Notably one of the most annoying sounds is a keyboard tap and mouse click. This can cause high levels of stress and aggravation, especially for someone constantly using these accessories. Invest in a high -quality soundless keyboard and mouse.

Elite Desk HP PC

Lower Specification Machine

Administrative professionals generally do not require a very high specification machine. Generally, they have basic storage requirements, have low functioning software and use basic applications. This is one way you can save money in an office environment. Ensure you don’t pay extra for a high spec machine for job titles that don’t require it.

High Quality HP Printer

High Quality Printer

Lots of companies try and be as paperless as possible. This is fantastic; however, it is found that lots of administrative tasks, still require a paper trail. Having a high-quality laser printer and copier is a good idea. Not only does it reduce ink wastage, is more economical to run, and prints at high speeds, but also creates presentable work.

applications for admin professionals

Applications

Lots of the time administrative professionals rely on sharing their data to several places and to different people. They also mostly rely on calendar functionality and remembering large amounts of information. Ensuring they have the right tools to complete their tasks is very important. Some of these could include professional Microsoft applications, drop box or SharePoint and applications like a dictaphone, note organiser and complete task management.

Dual Screens For Efficient Working Environments

Why is having double, or even triple screen capability the best investment for task productivity?

Dual Monitors

Since moving to a dual screen environment my level of content output has increased massively. Not only does it improve productivity, but I find my environment much less stressful. When I work from home on a laptop or with my one screen set up, I find myself day dreaming about my desk at work. Who would have thought it?

Just as an example, every week I complete KPI's for ABM. This requires me to have an internet browser open, an excel spreadsheet and website statistics. The basic gist of the task is to collect large amounts of data and to transfer it onto a spreadsheet in a presentable format. On one screen I can complete this task in 3 hours. With dual screens I have this done in 2 hours no problem!

An hour can make a lot of difference. With a busy work schedule, and several tasks to complete before the end of the day, this hour can be the difference in completing another piece of work. Time is money.

Let's look at a few statistics:

The university of Utah completed a recent study, confirming that with two monitors, task productivity increases by 25% and with three monitors 35.5%.

This is a link to a study from Dell. They have created a whitepaper detailing lots of statistics and information about dual screen usage. 

What are the true benefits to multi - screen environments?

  1. Productivity - As mentioned this is a major factor in the dual screen environment. 
  2. Cross Referencing - Instead of flicking through tabs on one screen, trying to find your document and then the information you might be using in another tab. You can have them open side by side. Most tasks require two or more sources of data. For instance, to write this blog post, I had my internet tab open with statistics on dual screen efficiencies, and this website blog page.
  3. Multi - tasking - Lots of people find themselves doing two or even three things at once. Most employees and employers have a large range of tasks that require completing before certain deadlines. Having two or three screens allows you to do this effectively. Everything is open in front of you and you can switch easily between jobs. 
  4. Email / Calendar Monitoring - Most companies require constant checking of their emails and calendars. At ABM, our email is always required to be open ready for support. However, for other companies this could be to receive orders or to ensure you don't miss an appointment. 

The Drawbacks

  1. Job Title Requirements - Research suggests that not all job roles will require a multi - screen environment. For example, studies show that its best for writers to have one very large screen rather than two or three. This is because they don't need to do anything else but concentrate on writing. It is up to you to truly decide if you require this for your job. 
  2. Distraction - Having two screens means you can view two windows open at once, your work and potentially another personal search. Many people could look like they are still working, whilst actually having another personal tab open on the other screen, to minimise when required.
  3. Costs - Depending on your choice of screen depends on the costs involved. Most likely, different job titles will require different sized monitors. The larger and higher quality the screen, the more money you will spend. Jobs in design and video editing would obviously benefit from higher quality monitors. Whilst admin and accounts would likely not need the same expenditure. If you are kitting out a new office you will spend more buying two monitors for each employee rather than one. But truthfully if you implement it slowly to see how effective it is, you can spread the costs.
  4. Graphics Card / Ports - Your PC requires a graphics card that will support your use of two screens. As well as ports to plug in the monitors.

Overall there are negatives and positives. But truthfully the drawbacks can be easily fixed. Simply manage who requires two or three screens. Monitor internet usage if you truly believe your employees are completing personal tasks. There are affordable monitors on the market that still look good! You don't always need to go for the 24" plus, full HD monitors. At ABM we have some affordable options in stock available for purchase. Most modern PC's have a graphics card that support this function and ports for the screens to. 

If you want to try this function out, we can look into your environment and lend you monitors. Throughout this time observe satisfaction and productivity and then decide. We can quote you for screens, fitting and testing if you require. 

This opinion may be bias, but it is truthfully worth the business investment. Many companies who have made the transfer have said they would never go back.

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