Monday, April 17, 2017

A Checklist for Transitioning your Company to Windows 10

Microsoft Windows 10 was released in July of 2015. Now, some 21 months later, 50% of users are still using Windows 7, while only 25% are using Windows 10. Did you know that Microsoft will stop offering extended support for Windows 7 on January 14, 2020? This means that no security updates or bug fixes will be released after that date. If you run a business, it may be time to plan your transition. You have two choices:
  1. Do not upgrade. Stay on your current version of Windows. Just know that you might want to stay off the Internet. You will be susceptible to viruses, malware, etc., and most of the security software will also stop supporting Windows 7. The Internet is not a safe place.
  2. Upgrade to Windows 10. This will be the last full upgrade you will need to do. Windows is now a SaaS. By operating as Software as a Service, Microsoft will roll out updates and upgrades periodically and automatically, (and may eventually drop the “10”). 
Even though Microsoft lists the end of sales date for Windows 7 as October 31, 2016, you can still buy computers with Windows 7 installed. But why buy something that has a short life expectancy? It has been almost 2 years since Windows 10 was released and most of the bugs have been worked out. Windows 10 is not perfect, but will it ever be? No operating system (OS) is perfect.

Here is a checklist to help your business plan the transition to Windows 10.
  • Do all your applications support Windows 10? If you are keeping your application software updated, most likely you will need to upgrade to Windows 10 eventually. It usually takes a few months for developers to test their applications on the latest version of Windows, but most reputable developers should have accomplished that task by now. The most widely used applications should run on Windows 10. If you have an application that does not run on Windows 10, it may be time to find another application.
  • Is your IT staff ready to support Windows 10? One of the great “features” of Windows is the automatic updates. Also, one of the great detriments to Windows is the automatic updates. Microsoft will roll out updates and bug fixes almost every day. Not all are perfect. A less than perfect update could create havoc in your office. If your employees are PC reliant, you could see a productivity decrease until your IT staff can roll back an update or apply a patch. It might be best to turn off the automatic updates and only apply updates after some time has passed. This requires monitoring by your IT staff. The Internet explodes with commentary when a bad update is released, so it will be easy to learn when problems arise. Your IT staff will need to monitor the process.
  • Plan testing to ensure all hardware and software will support Windows 10. Some large companies test for 18 months before rolling out. If you are a smaller company, you should be able to accomplish this task is just a few months, but it is important to discover issues and resolve them before your user base is affected. Create a testing plan, select power users to test and who can communicate effectively, and test everything!
  • Check your budget. Can you afford it? The upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 was free during the first year after its release. Now it will cost you anywhere from $29 to $199 per PC, depending upon how you execute the upgrade. If you have very old computer, you may save money in the long run by purchasing new computers with Windows 10 already installed. Your older computers may not run Windows 10 or they may slow down considerably and become unusable, so you may need to replace them or create a virtual desktop environment.
  • Consider the features. While you can configure Windows 10 to look like Windows 7, and not like a tablet, many of the new features are designed to exploit new hardware or to help your IT staff more easily support users. Windows 10 brings features that allow your IT staff to better control and manage the user desktop. Every version of Windows has promised to make life easier for the IT staff. Now they can support more users, much easier than in the past, but there is a learning curve. It is important that your IT support staff is trained and ready to support your users.
  • Plan your transition. Will you convert every computer at the same time? One computer at a time? A department at a time? Buy new computers? Convert to virtual desktops? There are a lot of options to consider. It is important to consider your hardware budget as well as your support budget. When is the best time to put your employees through a change like this? Consider your fiscal and calendar years to determine the best time to transition.

Plan. Test. Revise. Retest. Transition. Evaluate.

Follow this checklist and you can execute a successful transition to Windows 10.

Monday, February 20, 2017

What's Your Password?

What's Your Password?
In the past, when I was helping users with computer issues, I used to ask that question all the time. If it wasn't taped to their monitor, they rarely hesitated to give me their password. That's okay, because I gave them something in return; technical support to help them get back to work.

But many people give out their password over and over again to complete strangers? That's exactly what happens when you sign up for some new online service and use the same password you use for every other online service where you have an account.

Why do people do this? Because it's impossible to use a different password for every single account you have online. How would you remember them all? There is a way, but more on that in a bit.

Because of the constant hacking taking place online, users are told that they must use a secure password. At least one letter, one number, one symbol, one upper case letter, etc. Most people adhere to those standards because they are forced to, but how many really use a different password for every account? One survey says that 55% of users use the same password for most, if not all, websites.

Are you really choosing a secure password? Here's a quiz from Carnegie Mellon University to see how much you know about choosing a hard-to-guess password.

Those other 45% must write all those passwords down, but that's another rule. Don't write your passwords down!

Eventually this issue will reach critical mass and chaos will ensue. What's the solution to this mess?

My laptop has a fingerprint scanner so I never type a password to login to Windows. Well, that's not true. Once I upgraded to Windows 10, the fingerprint scanner stopped working because HP did not support the upgrade so no drivers are available to make it work. A great idea while it worked. I'm the only one who could login.

Facial Recognition
A neat idea if you don't have tape over your webcam to keep people from spying on you. I used it for a while on an old Lenovo laptop, but it didn't work very well because the varying background behind me confused the software when I logged in from different places.

Badges, Random Number Generators, etc.
Many businesses use proximity badges that will log you in or out of a computer as you approach or walk away. This makes it easy for the user, but if they lose their badge, the possessor has access to the users account. Not very secure.

Other companies use credit card-sized cards that generate a code which you type into your computer. You use the code in combination with your password, so it doesn't solve the password issue. You can use this yourself if you use the Authenticator app on your smart phone and if the service you're logging into supports it.

When logging into Yahoo! on your computer, an app will activate on your smart phone and ask you to verify that you're logging in. A good move by Yahoo! since 1 BILLION accounts on the service were hacked. They were hacked again last week!

What's something easy that you can use today?

Using Multiple Secure Passwords
I now use the Dashlane program on my computer to generate a different unique and secure password whenever I sign up for a new service. It automatically enters my username and password on websites when I login so I don't have to remember them all. The service is free. For a monthly charge, you can use a companion smart phone app that will sync the account information to your smart phone. When you launch Dashlane on your computer, the program uses two-factor authentication and the Authenticator app, which makes it even more secure.

And, by the way, if a website has two-factor authorization, use it! Most will ask you one of those secret questions you see all the time. Try to choose something different for each website and don't choose one with an answer that might change. For example, don't use the favorite movie or musical act or anything else that might change over time.

The Future
CBS News Sunday Morning shared a new technology that uses your heartbeat to log you in. Actually, it uses your heart rhythm because everyone's rhythm is unique. Your Apple Watch or Fitbit might assist you when logging in someday. If you lose your device, it doesn't matter because no one else has your heart rhythm. But will the bad guys learn to record heart rhythms so they can be played back later in order to hack your account? Only time will tell.

So, What to Do?
Until the heart rhythm login becomes reality, I recommend to use Dashlane or a similar product. Many companies endorse this method for their users and since I've been using it, my life is much simpler, and I haven't been hacked yet... that I know of...