Visio made free to all Commercial M365 Users

Microsoft have announced a web-based version of Visio will soon be made free to all commercially licensed Microsoft 365 users.

The popular diagramming and visualisation app was originally a standalone license, but will transition to being offered as an inclusive web app for the first time, much like Microsoft PowerBI, Microsoft Project, and other historically specialist apps Microsoft have been keen to promote more widely.

Visio (Online?) is described an initially ‘lightweight’ version of the original, allowing business users to create, edit and share professional diagrams live within their browser – as well as integrate these with other apps such as Microsoft Teams, Office apps like Word or Excel, and even via PowerBI.

This new version will be available to all business users with Microsoft 365 Business Basic (or higher) subscriptions. Power users needing extra functionality (such as the ability to automatically visualise external data sources) will still need a standalone plan (Visio Plan 1 or Plan 2) to access higher level features.

A ‘Visio in Microsoft 365 Early-Access Signup’ Form is available here for keen diagram-makers everywhere!

 

Lineal are a certified Microsoft Gold Partner – for expertise and support, please contact us today.


Helping Us Keep You Safe

As things re-open from Covid-19 lockdown measures, Lineal are taking some important steps to help keep everyone safe while we care for your technology.

 

Regular Staff Testing

This Spring we introduced regular Covid testing, with Lineal staff receiving Innova SARS-CoV-2 antigen rapid lateral flow self-testing kits.

All results are received within 30 minutes and are submitted twice weekly via the GOV.UK Covid-19 test reporting service.

 

Maintained Social Distancing

Although staff have returned to the office, we’ve maintained flexible remote and home-based working for many, with around three-quarters of staff working at least two-days per week remotely. Staff hot-desking is discouraged – a measure we’ll review over time.

Lineal’s front-of-house has been enrolled in the NHS venue QR code system since September 2020, for app-based track-and-trace.

We’re asking both staff and clients to maintain onsite social distancing & mask use during site visits, as a precaution.

 

Vaccination

We’re encouraging all our staff to book vaccination appointments as soon as their age group is eligible under the national NHS covid-19 vaccine roll-out.

At time of writing, this programme has now been extended to those in the 30-40 age bracket.

 

We’ll be reviewing recommended best practice regularly as NHS guidelines are reviewed. For more information, please contact Lineal today.


PhoneLine+ Launched for Micro Businesses

Gamma Communications have launched a new ‘PhoneLine+’ service to help micro-businesses prepare for the WLR switch-off due by 2025.

The new easy-subscription service allows micro-businesses, sole traders and other organisations with few lines to move to a low-cost and digital ‘virtual-landline’ style service that can even incorporate their existing analogue phone hardware.

However users can also leverage extra cloud-based features – including desktop PC/Mac softphone and mobile app access to their existing landline(s), call-redirection, number presentation, voicemail-to-email, automated open/close scheduling and other ‘business style’ features.

All existing analogue PSTN phone lines are due to be switched off by 2025, meaning businesses need to plan to either migrate their analogue phone services/numbering either to SIP-based technology or a cloud-hosted VOIP system that routes calls via the internet.

phoneline+

For the UK’s 6.5 million micro-businesses, many of whom rely on mobile re-directs or use a joint telephone number for broadband/voice calls, this presents a challenge, as Openreach is already upgrading the fibre network to FTTP – putting many small companies’ advertised numbering at impending risk.

Moving your phone service to PhoneLine+ is available via a simple email-signup process, with the option of porting across your existing number, and choosing between either a new VOIP handset or adopting your existing landline with an ATA adaptor.

Gamma Communications is both the UK’s largest SIP provider, and one of the most established VOIP telecoms providers: with around half a million phone users using its popular Gamma Horizon platform for business telecoms. PhoneLine+ is expected to prove equally popular, as the telecoms market extends to include smaller organisations, needing a more simple, flexible and cost-effective option.

 

For communications expertise and support, please contact us our team today.


Gartner survey concludes that 1-in-5 workers think of themselves as an expert in IT.

According to a survey conducted by Gartner at the end of 2020, nearly one in five workers consider themselves to be digital technology ‘experts’ since COVID-19 – and over half consider themselves proficient.

Researchers suggest the increase in confidence (or overconfidence) is perhaps due to the increased reliance on collaboration tools such as Teams and Zoom and a lack of in-person IT support while working remotely – but found more than half (55%) of those surveyed were using personal devices for access to work systems/data, or privately obtained ‘shadow IT’ applications not sanctioned by their employer, at least some of the time.

The sample group, spread across US, Europe and Asia-Pacific regions among around 10,000 full-time employees at organisations with 100 or more employees in November and December 2020, analysed workers’ technological and workplace experiences.

Whit Andrews, distinguished research vice president at Gartner, argued: “Workers seized on the crisis” adopting “a wide range of technologies and applications in the space of a few months.”

Workers Shift Device Preferences

The Gartner survey found that digital workers increased their reliance on portable devices during 2020. Workers reported an 11% increase in the proportion of their work time spent on laptops, smartphones or tablets. The proportion of their time spent on desktops declined by 8%.

The findings also showed a rise in the number of workers using personal technology for work purposes. Over half of respondents reported that they use applications or web services that they personally obtained – most of which are not employer-sanctioned – for collaborating with other workers. The same proportion (55%) are using personally owned devices for their work at least some of the time.

“When organisations were forced to go remote in early 2020, workers started to rely on their own devices or programs they discovered themselves to make up for their employers’ technology shortcomings,” said Mr. Andrews. “In 2021, organisations can embrace this trend by expanding the choice of devices and software programs that workers can use with little or no friction.”

Flexible Work Supports Increased Productivity

One of the main questions lingering among executives regarding the impacts of the last year is remote work’s effect on productivity.

According to the Gartner survey, among employees whose work-from-home time increased since January 2020, 36% reported an increase in productivity, while 35% reported no change. Flexibility in working hours was the most cited factor enabling greater productivity, selected by 43% of respondents.

A quarter of workers surveyed did report that their productivity fell. Connectivity issues and technology changes were among the top reasons cited for decreased productivity.

“Digital proficiency becomes even more essential for productivity when working remotely,” said Mr. Andrews. “CIOs should extend worker-to-worker lateral mentoring and training to ensure that no employees are left behind as technology mastery becomes the expectation.”

 

For IT Support expertise, please contact Lineal today.


macOS Gatekeeper Vulnerability Discovered

Apple has released important security updates under macOS 11.3, in response to a serious gatekeeper vulnerability discovered by security researcher Cedric Owens.

The weakness, found in Apple’s ‘Gatekeeper’ tool which normally blocks unrecognised apps from being installed by default, allows a dangerous file to be rigged so as to not trigger the operating system’s inbuilt safeguards.

Writing in a Medium Post entitled ‘Gatekeeper Bypass: 2021 Edition’, Owens demonstrates a terrifying method by which an attacker can ‘very easily craft a macOS payload that is not checked by Gatekeeper.’

Once launched, no warning prompts prevent the user from installing just about any dangerous application, which can also communicate with external servers without even triggering App Transport Security (ATS).

The simplicity of the hack, which leverages the fact that scripts placed in Contents / macOS / directory are not checked, has been described by Objective-See as ‘massively bad’ and ‘a doozy’ of a blog post.

GateKeeper itself was originally introduced in 2012 as part of an effort to stop the spread of malware in Mac OS X ‘Lion’ v10.7.5, and was followed by enforced application notarisation in 2020 under macOS 10.15 ‘Catalina’, as Apple required software developers to have apps officially cleared for authorised use.

In response to the discovery, Apple have released macOS Big Sur 11.3 update with ‘improved state management’ that prevents the ‘bypass’ of Gatekeeper checks, and are urging macOS users to install the upgrade.

 

For Cybersecurity expertise and support, please contact our team today.


Lineal Wins Tech SW Award

Lineal Software Solutions Ltd recently won a Tech SW award at the 2019 Tech South West Awards.

Held at the Exeter Mercure Rougemont Hotel, the Tech South West Awards recognise technology excellence across the wider South West region of Bath, Bristol, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire. Awards celebrate talent, creativity, business success, education, leadership, diversity and more.

Each ‘Cluster’ Award celebrates fantastic organisations and technical initiatives across different parts of the South West. This could be a company achieving fantastic growth, an organisation or partnership delivering a big positive difference to their community, a learning initiative, innovative programmes, novel ways of encouraging and celebrating tech heroes, diversity, best practice or local tech successes.

This year Lineal won North Devon’s Cluster Award, and also narrowly missed out on winning ‘Tech Company of the Year (Revenue under £5m)’.

Managing Director Mike Matthews and Naomi Williams (Business Development) were proud to collect our Tech SW award, and our glass trophy now enjoys pride of place in our office!

“We were honoured to be the recipient of one of the first Tech SW awards” explained Mike: “It’s a real endorsement of our team’s hard work and our commitment to delivering brilliant technology solutions for businesses and organisations across the South West.”

Lineal will continue to grow and develop – we look forward to next year’s Tech SW awards, which you can learn more about here: https://www.techsouthwestawards.co.uk/


Record satisfaction in Lineal Client Survey 2019

Every year we ask you, our valued clients, to give us feedback on how Lineal has been doing recently, and how we might be able improve.

This year, Lineal posted some of our best customer satisfaction results to date: our client survey 2019 posted a stunning 92% of you rating our overall customer service either ‘Great’ or ‘Good’ – a record high, and a similar 92% felt we met out mission statement as a company, a further small increase on 2018.

We’ve worked hard to develop team structures and training programmes in the past year, with some promising results. You rated the extent to which we understood your technical queries strongly – 95% of you believing our support teams understand your queries either ‘Extremely Well’ or ‘Very Well.’

client feedback 2019

Our speed of response also continues to develop. More than a third believe Lineal acts ‘Quicker’ or ‘Much Quicker’ on IT support tickets than expected, with just 3% of respondents believing we responded slower than expected. This is our best responsiveness score in five years.

The trend towards a more diverse range of IT services was shown again in client survey 2019: more than 15% of you now recognise Lineal’s ability to deliver specialist consultancy, networking & cybersecurity expertise, and more than 55% recognise us as a provider of managed cloud IT services.

We’re not perfect: among the constructive suggestions raised this year were that we perform routine website security updates out-of-hours to maximise availability, and that we help to provide more training material for newer products.

Your feedback help us highlight potential areas of improvement for our staff, and define our focus for the coming year. Among our favourite comments from this year were:

  • “Keep up the great work guys! Exciting times ahead…”
  • “I have had a pretty good service. Your staff are always polite and do not get too technical with me.”
  • “It is great to see a friendly face at our front door – you just know that your problem will be solved.”
  • “I’ve been very impressed with the level of service I have received from Lineal over the last 2.5 years at [Client] and would have no hesitation in recommending you guys”

Whatsapp, Messenger and Instagram to Merge Messaging

Facebook has announced plans to merge WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram’s messaging capabilities.

The social media technology giant plans for interoperable communication between each platform, although the development is stated to be the start of a “long process” and the apps will remain independent.

The consolidation may be good news for consumer-facing businesses, as dramatically more of the world’s smartphone chat users are centralised under a common standard for instant messaging.

WhatsApp released a Business version in 2018, suggesting that the chat software provider believes the public will increasingly seek to engage with businesses directly via such chat apps in preference to traditional methods such as email or phone call.

Whatsapp (over 1.5 billion active users globally), Facebook Messenger (1.3 billion) and Instagram (1 billion) will easily represent the largest collective chat application user base in the world, and the most popular across Europe, Africa, North America and South America.

The coagulated mass of (WhatsMessengerGram?) will also allow Facebook to better compete with Google’s unified Messenger App, and Apple’s iMessage platforms, as well as further challenge regionally strong chat applications with tertiary functions – such as payment transferring WeChat, preeminent among Chinese smartphone users.

Facebook’s project is set to be completed later during 2019.

For IT and communications expertise, contact Lineal today.


Lineal’s Ian awarded Certified DrayTek Network Admin

Lineal’s Ian Meredith has been awarded DrayTek Certified Network Admin Certificate, adding an additional qualification to Lineal’s networking experience.

DrayTek’s ‘Dray School’ requires network engineers to pass a series of advanced network and security configuration tests using DrayTek devices, routers and access points, including best practice for firewall settings, fault-finding and other detailed network tasks.

DrayTek’s business-grade Router range have won praise from across the IT Support sector recent years, with the provider winning a PC PRO Technology Excellence Award for five successive years (2014-18). DrayTek router models have proved highly popular with businesses, with intelligent features such as 4G fail-over increasingly in demand for business continuity requirements.

As a part of the 2-day examination procedure, each engineer’s router is attached to a testing network which judges whether the engineer has managed the device correctly, and automatically passes or fails based on a series of security checks.

Well done Ian!

 

For Networking and Security Expertise, contact Lineal today.


Lineal Reviews: Plantronics Calisto 7200

Conference phones have traditionally had image problem. Costly, serious pieces of equipment, which often retail north of £350 for even a basic model, they feel inconvenient. Used infrequently, they’re sometimes more complicated than a telephone should be.

Worst of all, for all but the most established of businesses, a conference phone is a little… heavy-duty. Wired-in, with a large footprint, tangle of cables and strange satellite microphones – conference phones are an invasive species in the meeting room.

Enter Plantronics’ Calisto series – a curious pocket-sized invention (pictured) designed to bridge the gap between speakerphone and a true conference phone setup.

Four directional microphones (which can focus on sound from whomever is speaking) give 360 degree meeting-room coverage and efficient noise-cancellation to the Calisto range, which in a novel twist: is battery powered.

Plantronics, whose reputation for high build-quality audio equipment (particularly headsets) has been well-earned in the air-traffic control sector and moon landings, are increasingly reaching out with more accessible desktop telecoms hardware – even acquiring another successful Lineal communications partner: Polycom, back in March.

There’s a pleasing practicality to the Plantronics Calisto range: both USB wired and bluetooth connections are available to connect to either laptop, PC, tablet or your smartphone (in addition to USB wireless on other models.)

At only 270g, and just 11cm square, it’s small enough to be truly portable – tidied away into a desk drawer or moved to ‘create’ new meeting room spaces whenever needed. In the real world, where meeting rooms need to be swapped at a moment’s notice, why not just pick your conference phone up and carry it down the corridor?

For smaller and medium sized businesses where workspace might be limited, the Calisto’s ease-of-use helps present both a professional image, and finally makes conference calling into something within reach of everyone.

Previous models of Plantronics Calisto (including the 600 series) have been well received, and Plantronics has judged the small business market well. Expect great things.

 

For communications and IT expertise, contact Lineal today.


Lineal’s Martyn climbs to Everest Base Camp

A Lineal engineer has climbed to the world-famous Southern ‘base camp’ of Mount Everest, to a height of 17,598 feet (28°0′26″N 86°51′34″E).

Lineal’s Martyn Kay, a senior support engineer, reached base camp (via Kathmandu) as part of a team of 6 intrepid explorers, flying to Lukla (in what appeared to be a modified rickshaw) before a climb of more than 5,300 feet to base camp itself. On the way they crossed one of the worlds highest mountain passes and summited 3 Himalayan peaks above 16,000 feet.

Affected by the thin atmosphere at an altitude in excess of 18,000 feet, Martyn described the symptoms of altitude sickness as constantly fighting to catch your breath accompanied by pounding headaches.

Following in the footsteps of Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tenzing in 1953, the team reached the Southern base camp on 18/4/18 under snowy, sub-zero weather conditions.

Despite encountering other teams in difficulty, Martyn and team completed their 100 mile expedition and returned safely from the life-changing experience – bringing home local Nepalese delicacies for the Lineal team.

 

Scale new heights with Lineal! Contact our team today.


Lineal officially turns 30 Years Young

North Devon IT support and software company, Lineal Software Solutions Ltd, has celebrated 30 years’ success in business.

First founded in 1988, our company, which supports businesses and organisations across the UK and beyond with a range of IT services, are preparing to move to larger offices in central Barnstaple in the Spring.

Managing Director Mike Matthews thanked staff past and present for all their hard work over the last 30 years:

“Technology (and hairstyles) have changed considerably since 1988, but for us the best is yet to come. I’m proud that during that time, we’ve played a role in the success of some of North Devon’s best-known companies.”

We have doubled in size in the last two years, now employing over 20 locally-based staff who work in IT support and software development on behalf of other businesses and organisations across the UK and, increasingly, overseas.

Lineal also now includes staff from disability social enterprise Pluss, apprentices and degree apprentices, training in cooperation with Petroc.

The company has been recognised as one of the South West’s few Microsoft Gold Partners, helped to launch the Barnstaple Town Centre Wi-Fi project, and is part of DigitalND – a new group designed to promote digital connectivity and skills in North Devon.

Mike added: “The South West still has important connectivity and IT skills challenges to address, but public internet access didn’t even exist thirty years ago. Now the small company we originally started in my back room supports trusted clients as far afield as Australia. Ten Years from now? Watch this space.”

 

For IT Support and expertise, get in touch with our team today.


End Net Neutrality, rules FCC

Net Neutrality looks set to end in the USA, following a landmark 3-2 decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC.)

The ruling will permit American internet providers to cease treating all internet traffic equally, and permit the blocking or throttling of certain types of internet traffic or charging for access non-uniformly – providing the restrictions are released publicly.

Opponents of Net Neutrality fear the lifting of restrictions will pave the way for anti-competitive behavior in the US and ultimately around the world – with internet service providers (ISPs) deliberately impairing services provided by competitors to make their own offering appear superior. Imagine ISPs degrading each other’s parent-company video streaming services, and you get the picture.

This latest ruling u-turns on the 2015 decision to guard against anti-competitive practices, and will be politically controversial – passed strictly down party lines with the committee’s three Republicans, including Trump-appointed Chairman and former Verizon lawyer Ajit Pai voting in favour, and two Democrats voting against.

Consumer protection has, if anything, become slightly stricter in the UK following recent Ofcom decisions, whilst across the pond, 2017 is expected to go down in internet history as a year of dramatic internet deregulation. Internet usage crosses national borders of course, with the international affect of the FCC’s decision being ours to speculate on.

The end of Net Neutrality won’t kill the internet, but it’s likely some intelligent individuals will be developing discretely advantageous ways for their own business interests to benefit financially from preferential treatment online, or profit from those who wish to do so.

Long term, any introduction of ‘toll-road’ style access is likely to act as a barrier to entry to newer technology companies, to the benefit of more established providers.


Boffins from Lineal win Tarka Radio Quiz Night

Brainboxes from Lineal have won North Devon’s first Tarka Radio Quiz night.

Tarka Radio, North Devon’s Hospital Radio station, is run by volunteers for the enjoyment of patients and staff at North Devon District Hospital. 

Public, business and smartypants technology teams all took part in the charitable quiz at the Barnstaple Hotel to help raise funds for the beloved local broadcaster.

An intrepid six, assembled from the elite across different Lineal departments, answered three long rounds of tricky questions with only 5 incorrect answers.

Our thanks to Tarka Radio Chairman Keith Turner for organising such an enjoyable evening on behalf of a good cause.

You can learn more about Tarka Radio here


2017: Be Prepared

2017

With data security making national news headlines, 2017 is only likely to put increasing pressure on businesses of all sizes to take sensible precautions.

But with IT moving so fast, what innovations are likely to lead the way through 2017? Exactly what sensible precautions will most tech-savvy companies be taking?

 

Cloud is good…

The worldwide push for ever more cloud-based systems appears to be unstoppable. A recent report from Synergy Research Group has suggested the global market for cloud computing grew by 25% to September 2016, reaching a staggering $148 billion in value.

It’s hard to see this not continuing, with companies relying on the convenience and automation of stashing growing quantities off-site backups in the cloud – using services like Office 365 as their private vault. As we’ve covered before: holding assets like email in the cloud actually gives you better protection than most people’s private server.

 

…..But Hybrid Cloud is better still.

But 2017’s smartest will be looking further ahead to Hybrid Cloud systems. As IT Pro recently noted, many companies report using more than 5 backup systems, but have no planning for speed of recovery should that data actually be needed urgently during 2017.

Getting all that data back may present a problem if your organisation is large, meaning hybrid on-site/cloud services like Lineal’s Disaster Recovery Service are likely to become the most flexible middle option. Keeping both a synchronised backup on-site, and a copy with a relatively local cloud service, leaves even the most vulnerable business with the maximum number of options.

 

Change your passwords

If you don’t already change passwords regularly, the security benefits cannot be overstated. Stolen data can often be circulated on the internet many times, so changing passwords regularly keeps not only your business secure, but helps prevent repeat data theft from being profitable. 

Whilst everyone still has a ‘New Year’ mindset and are prepared to accept a little change, it’s worth updating those passwords company wide. Remember to use a variety of different characters and choose something only you would ever guess.

 

Have a 2017 Plan A…. and a Plan B

Ransomware increasingly appears to be the organised criminal world’s cyber-weapon of choice and shows no sign of abating; expect to see more big UK high-street names get compromised this year by malicious emails. 

Antivirus companies may include ever more sophisticated heuristics to intercept malicious downloads before they begin encrypting your files, but ultimately only safe backups will ensure you can always restore to a clean set of data. Every firm should have a ‘Plan B’ for how to carry this out.

 

It’s all about Recovery Time

Expect to see Disaster Recovery (not just back-up and contingency) become a by-word for preparedness, with companies and organisations in every sector being judged not just by their number of backups, but by their costly hours of down-time. 

So if nothing else, start 2017 with an old piece of technology: a pen and paper. Work out what your business’ data recovery plan actually is, and how long it will take –  should the very worst happen.

 

Lineal can provide a range of IT security and business continuity solutions: contact our team today.


Lineal at 50th North Devon Show 2016

North Devon Show

Team Lineal recently attended the 50th annual North Devon Show, setting up alongside a range of local businesses in the show’s ‘Arcade’ tent at the Umberleigh show ground.

Visitors to our stall at the largest one day event in North Devon received free 30-day trials of Microsoft Office 365 (along with many free sweets!) to celebrate Lineal recently becoming a Microsoft Gold Partner. We also took the opportunity to showcase our SQLWorks business software, ShoreTel Unified Communications systems, ESET security software, and much much more.

“As a local business, Lineal are always pleased to be able to attend the North Devon Show” explained Lineal’s managing director Mike Matthews: “the huge variety of enthusiastic local firms and organisations exhibiting here always make the day a success, and there’s always something new to see.”

Two days of rain beforehand didn’t dampen spirits, and the show itself was sunny and well attended by thousands of both North Devon locals and tourists to the area.

We’ll see you next year!

For IT Support, systems and software expertise – contact Lineal today.


You spoke, we listened – Results of the Lineal Client Feedback Survey 2016

customer support

It’s that time of year again – when we ask you how we’ve been doing, and what Lineal can do to improve the quality of our technical support.

Firstly, a big thank you to those of you with kind words to say about members of our IT help desk. Our team found your kind comments to be enormously supportive and it’s good to know that so many of our customers value the contribution of their account manager so highly.

83% of you felt we met the technology needs of small to medium size businesses ‘Well’ or ‘Very Well’, and 89% felt we understood your IT queries ‘Very Well’ or ‘Extremely Well.’ Overall, 85% of you rated our customer support ‘Good’ or ‘Great.’

We weren’t perfect however – some of you felt we’d been slower to respond to certain emails and call-backs recently, and we’re putting in place new measures to address this: we’ll be adding to our team in coming weeks to help manage our responsibilities to our ever-growing number of IT support clients, and to ensure clearer communication between our team and customers during ongoing project work.

Your comments included an insightful mix of both praise and constructive criticism which we’re reviewing carefully – but here were a few of our favourites:

  • “A good “local” company. Always on hand.”
  • “As a small organisation of mainly non IT literate users Lineal staff always respond to queries in language we understand and without making us feel stupid!”
  • “Would like to thank Martyn especially, and dealing with mostly one person simplifies things.”

Thank you to everyone who gave us their feedback, it will inform our future decision making and help us provide a high quality of customer support.


Windows Server 2003 vulnerability for 1 in 5 businesses

Windows Server 2003

Nearly 1 in 5 Windows Server users are still running Windows Server 2003 at great risk, more than a year after Microsoft announced end of security support for the product, new findings have shown.

Research by Spiceworks and Cloudphysics both found that 18% of Windows Server licensing market share is still taken up by Windows Server 2003, based on data recorded in June 2016. More than 53% of those surveyed also still ran one or more instances of Windows Server 2003 somewhere in their organisation.

Anyone still using the old software risks becoming vulnerable to security threats, which Microsoft will no longer address, with many organisations potentially being in violation of their compliance, insurance or regulatory obligations for data protection.

The continuation of Windows Server 2003 (which Tech Radar last year touted as potentially “the biggest security threat of 2015”) has been left unresolved within many companies, many of whom believe they lack a clear decision, expertise, or funds to replace the now unsupported operating system.

In the short term the best measure is risk mitigation: isolate any Windows Server 2003 systems as much as possible to prevent access by outside security threats.

But sooner or later, all companies will need to upgrade important systems, and those that do make the move are less likely to invest in the capital expense of physical hardware as they were over a decade ago – with increasing numbers likely to utilise an outside IT provider to migrate to a managed virtualised solution, for example business cloud services.

For Windows licensing support or guidance, please contact Lineal today – 01271 375999 or click here.


Barnstaple/Bude U14 Gig Rowers win Lineal Shield

Lineal Shield

A mixed Barnstaple and Bude youth team have won the first U14 juniors shield, sponsored by Lineal Software, at the third annual Barnstaple Pilot Gig Club Regatta.

This year’s winning youth team, which included rowers from Barnstaple and Bude, beat Appledore in a 1-mile sprint race on the river Taw to Barnstaple’s Longbridge.

The event, which is supported each year by Lineal, includes teams from across North Devon and Cornwall, and finishes just outside Lineal’s main office in Barnstaple.

We hope that the juniors’ contest for the new shield will become a regular feature of the annual regatta, and that the competitions will grow to get more young people involved in local sport.

In addition to sponsoring the shield, Lineal’s Managing Director and resident sports reporter Mike Matthews provided live action photography of the men’s, women’s and junior races from aboard Lineal’s mobile camera boat: ‘The Red Baron!’

Congratulations to all the teams on a fantastic event.

 

 


Lineal achieves Gold Microsoft Partner Status

Microsoft Partner

Lineal has been certified as a Gold Microsoft Partner with immediate effect, becoming the only such Gold Partner in the North of the region.

Our official Microsoft Partner status was upgraded from Silver to Gold after Lineal’s team qualified for Microsoft’s Gold Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions competency – the result of several month’s efforts by the team comprising training, outstanding performance in our deployments and a large number of highly satisfied customers.

Head of Technical Services, Matt Norris, praised the team on all their hard work: “Lineal’s Gold award shows our commitment to providing our customers with only the highest quality Microsoft Cloud Services and Support – and to the continued development of our team’s expertise. I cannot be more proud of our team and the dedication to excellence they have shown which has been recognised in this award.”

The award is Lineal’s latest achievement following a string of Silver Microsoft awards, including Silver Authorised Education Partner (AEP), Silver Midmarket Solution provider, Silver Application Integration and Silver Hosting.

Microsoft certified partners must undergo a rigorous program of technical assessments and examinations via the Microsoft Partner University, as well as demonstrating real-world proficiency in undertaking complex Microsoft deployments for customers, in order to qualify for the prestigious ‘Gold’ status.

In addition, and pivotal to Lineal’s commitment to exceptional knowledge and expertise in the South West region, each Gold Partner must employ a number of Microsoft Certified Professionals (MCPs) whose skills match the requirements of each award. MCP is the global standard for measuring expertise in Microsoft products and technologies with each of our team being required to hold multiple MCP Certifications which are regularly renewed. MCP examinations are widely recognised to be among the hardest professional qualifications to attain in the IT industry.

Lineal’s team are now working towards additional Microsoft Gold awards covering new Microsoft specialisms and products.

 

For expert Microsoft Services and Support, contact Lineal today by clicking here

 


Lineal becomes Microsoft Authorised Education Partner

Microsoft Authorised Education Partner

Local IT company Lineal Software Solutions Ltd. has been awarded a Silver Microsoft Authorised Education Partner (AEP) award, demonstrating its ability to specialise in Microsoft services for customers in the education sector.

To earn a Microsoft AEP authorisation, local IT partners must undergo extensive testing to prove their level of expertise meeting the IT needs of, and support for, academic institutions.

Managing Director of Lineal Mike Matthews thanked Microsoft: “We’re delighted to be awarded this special accolade from Microsoft in recognition of our commitment to IT in the education sector.”

“Our experienced IT support team take their responsibilities towards schools and IT users in the classroom very seriously, delivering cost-effective, tailored IT services with great professionalism. We’ll also be working hard to make Lineal a Microsoft Gold Partner in the very near future!”

“By becoming AEPs, partners show themselves to be committed and trained in providing discounted Microsoft academic products to the education market,” said Anthony Salcito, Vice President of Education for Microsoft Corp.’s Worldwide Public Sector.

“This authorisation, along with our other education partner initiatives, gives our partners recognition of their areas of expertise and our academic customers the confidence that they are buying from academic IT specialists.”

The Barnstaple-based IT firm serves a large number of businesses, schools and other organisations across the wider North Devon area and beyond.

 

Learn more about Lineal IT Support for the education sector by clicking here, or call us on 01271 375999.


Exchange Server 2007 support to end in 2017

Exchange Server 2007

Lifecycle support for Microsoft’s Exchange Server 2007 email will end in April 2017, Microsoft has confirmed.

Existing email servers will continue to work past this date initially, but will receive no further patching without purchasing ‘custom support’ at an unknown extra cost. Each version of Exchange is predicted to last only around 10 years, with the 2016 edition lasting until 2025.

Exchange 2007 was included as part of Microsoft Small Business Server 2008 which went end of mainstream support last year. With the challenges of ensuring systems are secure, upgrading from SBS 2008 sooner rather than later will be the order of the day for many businesses.

Unfortunately, upgrading old copies of Exchange Server 2007 to Microsoft’s latest version of Exchange Server (2016) may be more challenging than many organisations will expect, as a direct migration is not available.

This forces users to stepping-stone via the 2010 or 2013 versions, a restriction that will be familiar to any business that has tried to upgrade a legacy Windows XP system to Windows 10, who must buy a redundant Windows 7 license just to make the transition.

The best alternative solution for many will be to abandon their on-site Exchange Server entirely and take the option with a much smoother transition: instruct a Microsoft partner to seamlessly migrate their email to Microsoft’s excellent Office 365 cloud offering.

Lineal can offer consultancy services for upgrade and migration planning in addition to being a certified Microsoft Partner. We specialise in Office 365 and hybrid deployments across the entire Microsoft product set.

 

Please get in touch to find out how easy and cost effective it can be to move your email to the cloud with Lineal.

 


WhatsApp Encryption Launches

 

Popular messaging app WhatsApp have launched end-to-end WhatsApp encryption for over one billion users.

The new security capabilities introduced by the Facebook owned company ensures that every message remains encrypted during transmission, preventing even WhatsApp from reading user data.

With encryption and technological privacy issues regularly appearing in recent news headlines, the WhatsApp encryption upgrade comes at just the right moment for the security concerned, after more than two years of delays in development across multiple platforms.

Much like during Apple’s recent legal dispute with the FBI, the move would also prevent the release of confidential user data following a court order. According to reports from the New York Times, the technology provider have been reported to already be in a longstanding dispute with the US Department of Justice over user data.

WhatsApp are making it clear they support absolute user privacy, with “not even WhatsApp” able to read the encrypted data, and users able to verify their connections are secure via a 60 digit or QR code swap.

From today, the WhatsApp conversation screen will now display an official notification to all users – confirming that their messages are encrypted successfully.

 

For hardware and software security advice – contact Lineal today.


Is mobile phone coverage in North Devon set to improve?

 

Mobile phone coverage across the UK may be about to improve, with mobile operator O2 seeking a controversial merger with rival Three. 

The £10.25bn deal looks set to merge coverage patterns, potentially providing shared coverage to customers of either network in more rural areas, and comes just two weeks after BT took similar ownership of EE, the UK’s single biggest mobile operator.

Of course, whilst consumers may be set to enjoy improved signal from shared infrastructure, this may come at greater expense. Both the European Commission and Ofcom have raised numerous monopoly fears about the merger, arguing that fewer than four mobile providers in the UK risks less competitive pricing for customers.

Three’s parent company, CK Hutchinson, has attempted to counter by promising in a public letter to the Financial Times that prices will not increase for at least five years.

Unlike in many other EU countries, the UK does not enjoy a universal service obligation for mobile phone coverage data strength – lose signal in North Devon and no rival provider’s phone mast has any obligation to offer phone coverage for anything other than 999 emergency calls. Travel abroad and your phone will ‘roam’ to a friendly foreign network to ensure you always have the option of staying connected.

The solution to some coverage blindspots may be right around the corner in the form of fewer, bigger networks for everyone – but don’t rule out paying more for it.

 

For a wide range of IT services right here in North Devon, contact Lineal today: www.lineal.co.uk or 01271 375999


Lineal merges with Active Computing & Telecoms

Lineal Active Merger

Lineal Software Solutions recently merged with another local IT company, Active Computing & Telecoms Ltd, based in South Molton.

Active Computing formally joined with Lineal as of December, and will continue to offer quality business IT services across Devon as part of Lineal’s IT support division.

Nick Hews, Managing Director of Active explained: “I’m very pleased to see Active joining with Lineal: like Active, Lineal began right here in North Devon, and places a very special importance on listening to their customers’ needs – which was very important to us before moving ahead.”

Managing Director of Lineal and former branch chairman of the North Devon FSB, Mike Matthews said: “We’re delighted to be taking on Active Computing. Between us we can now offer the widest possible range of business IT & telephone systems, technical support and business accounting software.”

Following the Lineal Active merger, the two partners have recently launched their new website (www.lineal.co.uk) for 2016.

Former staff members from Active now work at the premises of Lineal, and added together the two companies have more than 50 years’ experience trading across the wider North Devon area and beyond.

 

Visit www.lineal.co.uk or call us on 01271 375999


How Lineal provided Free Wifi to Barnstaple Town Centre

 

Over Christmas 2015/16, Lineal launched a technical trial to provide free, public-access Wifi across Barnstaple Town Centre.

The pilot scheme, which took place during the busiest shopping period of the year, saw our team solve a number of technical challenges: scoping sites for Wifi access points, installing suitable hardware and managing network connectivity for shoppers and visitors to the town.

With generous support from Barnstaple Town Centre Management (BTCM), North Devon Council and M&E Alarms, we delivered a free wifi network connected to by more than 400 people each day at peak usage.

To build the network itself, we used Cisco Meraki MR-66 ruggedised outdoor routers, fixing a ‘mesh’ grid of interconnected access points high on selected buildings owned by local businesses who agreed to take part. Visitors to the town could connect from any smartphone or other wirelessely enabled device, via a special ‘splash’ page.

Managing Director of Lineal, Mike Matthews, explained: “We wanted to attempt an ambitious project which would benefit our local area. Wider connectivity opens up new ways for people to find out information about upcoming events, for local businesses to advertise, and for visitors to our town to share their enjoyment of Barnstaple with friends and family over social media. There are many possibilities.”

connectivity trial

Throughout the trial period each access point also collected anonymised location data in real-time. With as many as 20,000 wirelessly enabled devices moving within Barnstaple town centre during a 24 hour period, the free Wifi Project was also successfully used to measure footfall patterns in public places, which could one day be used to help local authorities plan for busy periods.

Although the pilot project has now ended, team members from Lineal presented the initial findings to the Barnstaple Town Centre Management, North Devon Council and Devon County Council in February 2016, with a view to launching the network as a more permanent asset for the town in the near future.

 

For more information on cabling & network infrastructure services from Lineal: click here or call us today on 01271 375999


Apple invests in LearnSprout for Education

 

Education tracking software LearnSprout has been bought by Apple, in a purchase expected to extend the computing giant’s reach into the education sector.

American software platform LearnSprout, already used across 42 states in over 2500 schools, is an analytics dashboard that allows teachers to monitor pupil’s performance and results, attendance, student health and more.

LearnSprout’s developers argue that by aggregating data, schools can help study trends for promoting better teaching, improving readiness for higher education and ensure a more efficient use of resources.

This is the second announcement in recent weeks about Apple investing heavily in technology for the education sector, following the January launch of Apple’s Education package and iPad modifications designed for classroom use. It’s unlikely to be the last.

 

For education sector IT support – talk to Lineal today: 01271 375999


Touchpad draw ‘Ink’ added to Office 365

 

Ever wish you could add handwritten notes to documents in Microsoft Office? Now you can – as Microsoft have unlocked the ‘Draw’ tab for Office 365.

The new tools come with a range of pen shapes and bright colours, and have been designed particularly with touchscreens and tablets in mind. Accessible across all Office 2016 documents, spreadsheets, presentations and notes, the ‘Draw’ tab follows the recent releases of Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and the iPad Pro. Those with clumsy fingers may prefer to use a stylus.

It’s undoubtedly a pretty and relevant addition to Microsoft’s historically bland Microsoft Office – the simple colour wheel can be used for highlighting text or adding freeform annotations in various ‘ink’ colours.

Behind the new sketchpad fun is some intelligent software, which includes shape recognition that allows users to ‘rough’ draw polygons for conversion to regular shapes for use in diagrams or flowcharts .

The possibilities for working collaboratively, marking homework, sketching designs, reviewing reports or simply saving paper are endless and enjoyable – and show just how practical Office 365 has already become.

 

Explore Office 365 with Lineal today: click here or call 01271 375999


Teachers Rejoice! Apple Education Package Launched

 

Apple have finally announced that iOS 9.3 will included special support for schools and colleges.

Using iOS 9.3, each student can be given a unique Apple ID that is compatible with any iPad in a classroom, allowing for the use of any device from a pool of shared school iPads. The Apple education package ID’s themselves are maintained through Apple School Manager, a web based control panel giving admins control over the system.

Apple’s new ‘Classroom’ App allows teachers to launch any app on every shared device in a room at once, and guide students through educational materials. A ‘Screen View’ function keeps an eye on what’s on every student’s screen, allowing teachers to prevent distractions from learning.

For students assigned the same tablet each day, a caching system holds work and resources, and gives a photo login procedure so that each child can find their usual device easily.

More than 70% of UK primary and secondary schools now use tablet computers as part of their ICT tools – including ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) schemes. So far however, schools have had to find a good reason to justify the extra expense for Apple’s high-quality iPad devices over cheaper rivals.

By offering cleverly designed software support for the classroom environment, Apple may have just provided that justification.

 

Learn more about IT support for the education sector – contact Lineal today: 01271 375999.


Has Microsoft been tracking your Computer?

 

Almost certainly – but don’t panic. Details of anonymous data gathered from Windows 10 users were released this week, with Microsoft publishing more usage information surrounding Windows 10 tracking.

In a blog post, Microsoft explained that the data is gathered for “Standard diagnostic, anonymous analytics that enables us to deliver the best Windows 10 experience possible.”

Via Windows 10 tracking, Microsoft have now measured more than 200 million active devices running the new operating system, 2.4 billion search questions asked of Virtual Assistant Cortana, and more than 44.5 billion minutes spent using the new Microsoft ‘Edge’ browser.

Routine data collection is unlikely to concern most users – and has clearly been announced to show Windows 10’s success. Microsoft also casually notes that the new operating system, released in the summer of 2015, has been “Outpacing… Windows 8 by nearly 400%.”

The accelerating adoption of Windows 10, including among 22 million Enterprise and Education customers, offers Microsoft renewed hope for growing the user base of associated products, such as Azure cloud computing, Windows Phone and the impressive Office365.

If concerned, users can ‘turn off’ all feedback (aside from error reports) by setting the feedback option to ‘Basic’ in their settings.

Taking a more nuanced view, this admission illustrates an industry ever more capable (and willing) to be flexible with privacy concerns of customers in the quest for the perfect user experience.

 

Need Windows IT support and advice? Contact Lineal today: www.lineal.co.uk or 01271 375999


Apple iPhone 6S “3D Touch” Screen can measure ingredients

3D Touch

3D Touch technology shows potential

Apple’s iPhone 6S pressure sensitive 3D Touch screen can even be used to weigh small quantities of materials using a third-party application, users have discovered.

An iPhone 6S screen can be used to hold a measuring container, re-calibrated to zero with a tare function via a web app, and set to display the mass of ingredients placed in the container by measuring the downforce they exert on the 3D Touch screen.

An interesting proof of concept, expect to see this useful bit of technology spread beyond Apple’s iPhone – rumours have been circulating online that Samsung’s next flagship smartphone will also have a pressure sensitive screen.

For now the technology is not necessarily practical for actual cooking (unfortunately illegal uses might be entirely possible) because the maximum accurate weight is only 385 grams.

Expect to see more sensitive screens and wider measurement ranges in future iterations of the 3D Touch, and similar screens from rival smartphone makers as a new standard feature.

Now if only it could mix the ingredients too!

 

With over 25 years of experience – contact Lineal today for Apple IT Support: 01271 375999 or [email protected]


The Windows 10 update you didn’t notice

 

Windows 10.1 updates security

With ‘Windows 10.1’ now barely a month old, and the Microsoft operating system already running on over 12 million business PCs, how fares Microsoft’s free updates strategy?

Windows 10.1 update was released with relatively little fanfare (be honest, you didn’t notice) adds features that, understandably with hindsight, might have been a distraction at the main Windows 10 release back in July.

Packaged within were mainly performance and security upgrades – Windows 10.1 will now boot almost 30% faster than an old Windows 7 system on the same device, the Cortana virtual assistant has some new handwriting recognition skills and there are new enterprise tools for mobile devices. Microsoft Edge runs smoother too, offering previews of tabs before viewing and syncing favourites across devices.

Most importantly, after recent corporate data breaches in the news, Microsoft have added a range of new security safeguards. These including ‘Windows Hello’, supporting enterprise grade biometrics including fingerprint and facial recognition – sadly currently only available for US users.

Aside from controversy surrounding user privacy then (if you didn’t notice your Windows 10.1 update, that’s maybe because Microsoft installed it automatically on your device without asking you) the first free update went ahead with relevant additions and limited fuss.

Starting free updates officially moves Microsoft into line with Apple’s OS X business model that has become the industry standard. Yet limited promotion of Windows 10’s ongoing development risks downplaying Microsoft’s progress.

Which would be unfair, because Microsoft is plainly taking extra care to develop the business security of their product range, including the excellent Office365, Microsoft Azure and now Windows 10.1. Microsoft is clearly listening to business’ fears, and businesses should welcome it.

 

For help and support with Microsoft enterprise IT, contact Lineal today.


Why your AirDrop isn’t working (and how to fix it)

Airdrop

AirDrop must be prompted to recognise older Apple devices

Apple’s AirDrop tool has been a much praised addition to Apple’s software lineup – allowing Mac users to wirelessly transfer files from one Apple device to another in close proximity.

However users often report that their new Mac is unable to ‘see’ adjacent Mac devices, preventing them from using AirDrop.

The solution is surprisingly simple: look to the bottom of the AirDrop window on the newest manufactured device, where a small link reads “Don’t see who you’re looking for?” clicking this opens a new option “Search for an older Mac”, which widens the search to older devices running OS X or iOS.

There’s been no explanation from Apple as to why Airdrop is set up in this way, but enabling ‘Search for an older Mac’ allows a 2015 Macbook to find a previously invisible 2011 Macbook with ease, allowing you to begin transferring files.

Happy AirDropping!

 

Lineal have over 20 years of Apple expertise: contact us today via 01271 375999 or email [email protected]


Bloxx announces discontinuation of products

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Bloxx to become part of Akamai Technologies

Web filtering provider Bloxx have announced that they will be ceasing support for their products and services, following a shock email from the company’s Chief Executive.

The move comes as part of a cash deal takeover bid by cloud services firm Akamai Technologies, announced on 2nd November 2015, and will see an end to the sale of all Bloxx products.

Bloxx has a good reputation in the UK and beyond for delivering a strong feature set in their appliances that are used to filter online content delivered in sensitive environments. Their products are commonly implemented by educators, healthcare providers, local authorities and businesses.

Although existing contracts will be honoured, those who have invested in physical Bloxx hardware may well find the lifespans are now limited, with little indication of whether Akamai will offer suitable replacements.

Bloxx’s impressive record has drawn the attention of national media before, with the Edinburgh based-company receiving hate mail from teenagers unable to access restricted websites on school computers even with a range of proxies.

With online security stories dominating the news in recent weeks, wider awareness of the need for web, social media and email monitoring is likely to only increase demand for such products. It remains to be seen whether interested parties will consider a cloud-based offering from Akamai to be sufficient, especially when it comes to security and bandwidth management.

Need help with online content filtering and network security for your organisation? Speak to Lineal today: call 01271 375999 or email [email protected]


Personal Computing with Mac just became less personal

iMac

Here at Lineal we’ve generally been impressed with the release of OS X El Capitan – but the release of Apple’s latest operating system has not come entirely without pitfalls.

Some of our own staff experienced printing problems for the Mac version of Microsoft Office 2016 – these have fortunately already been rectified in update version 10.11.1 by a humbly apologetic Apple.

One of the most notable surprises however was the outright removal of functionality that long-time Mac users have had from the earlier days of personal computing.

Apple’s Disk Utility app update has removed the ability to verify and repair disk permissions on your Mac, leaving users with no way to verify incorrectly installed programs with the correct disk permissions to read/write to their hard drive.

At Lineal we’ve always advised users to verify and repair disk permissions after major updates, and even some Apple software regularly flags up as in need of verification.

Apple has made two sweeping generalisations: firstly, that Mac users only need to run software that immediately cooperates with their hardware (a big assumption) and secondly that users will be content to let Apple worry about the details of their computer maintenance.

Personal computing today feels a little less personal. Mac users have become used to the idea that Mac updates are very reliable, and worthwhile installing promptly – yet the sudden removal of longstanding features puts this in doubt for the first time.

Should we all trust manufacturers? A question for Volkswagen.

Lineal can offer Tech Support for a range of Apple devices: get in touch with us today via 01271 375999 or contact us online. 

Flickr: M Dreibelbis

Punching above its weight – how ShoreTel helps SMBs outclass the competition.

sobs

SMBs & ShoreTel

Presenting a professional face to the world relies upon efficient customer service, but if you’re just one small business starting out, how do you keep up?

ShoreTel’s Cloud Phone systems are a perfect example of how technology can be a force multiplier for SMBs allowing your small team to take on much bigger competition – and win.

Your goal should be to make dealing with your business stress-free and more convenient than bigger rivals. It’s no surprise that the UK Which? ‘Worst Customer Service’ Survey 2015 is topped by utility and telecoms companies – those with typically slow, large scale, poor quality interaction with customers over the phone.

A cloud-based phone system allows users to cleverly route incoming calls to the right place, by any method you choose – service level, skill matching, customer identity, caller location or simple priority. By deploying a smart call routing system to direct calls to the right person you can ensure that the customer spends as little time as possible holding on the line and gets their query answered.

In order to better serve customers when they call, ShoreTel’s unified communications platform can be configured to give members of your team the relevant details at their fingertips – such as simple screen pop-up containing a customer’s information. This helps your customer service team deal with queries faster, and in a more informed manner.

Being away from the phone need not be a barrier to SMBs either: voicemail and fax can also be routed onwards into transcribed email, so mobile working won’t hold you back from interacting with customers promptly. ShoreTel’s data also integrates with common CRM systems, seamlessly stitching the different strands of your business’ existing work flow together. Operating a business with a small staff, on the move, or across multiple locations? ShoreTel is made for you.

ShoreTel Connect’s Contact Centre is based around a monthly subscription service rather than a big hardware investment – a much more cost effective option for smaller businesses and ensuring a faster return on investment (ROI). Yet the true investment is in your reputation as a company – as a trusted business that is efficient and responsive to your customers’ needs.

Don’t get stuck holding: explore ShoreTel today.

To learn more, speak to somebody from Lineal today – call us on 01271 375999

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Cyber Crime hits the headlines

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Cyber crime is finally set to become the UK’s most common crime type, following inclusion in the latest crime figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This re-classification comes only days after news headlines emerged that an Eastern European crime group successfully used ‘Dridex’ malware to steal over £20m from UK bank accounts via thousands of infected PCs in the UK.

Cyber criminals are increasingly mounting more organised attacks on businesses, small and large – last year even U.S banking giant J.P Morgan suffered unfortunate press and a sudden plunge in its share price when digital thieves stole the personal information and contact details of more than 76 million customers.

The 2015 National Strategic Assessment from the National Crime Agency estimates that losses due to cyber crime in the UK now amount to a staggering £16 billion annually. The NCA also asserted that the theft of large amounts of private companies’ data still faces ‘considerable under reporting.’

Nowhere is this more threatening than for those in the financial services industry, where both reputations for reliability and access to funds make IT security of paramount importance, requiring compliance with the strictest procedures for identity validation, network safety and fraud detection.

All businesses need to be prepared for the future, where cyber crime is likely to become more sophisticated and UK companies may be expected to demonstrate greater data protection measures. This week Microsoft promoted it’s Financial Services Compliance program in connection with Office 365 – making assurances (aimed squarely at businesses in the financial sector) of direct access to staff and resources to ensure that Microsoft Office cloud services comply with financial security regulations.

Greater awareness of cyber crime amongst Government figures, the media and the public can only be a good thing, but ultimately it still remains very much up to the individual to ensure their IT systems are secure – before the worst happens.

 

More than 70% of businesses fail after significant data loss. Lineal can install a range of security measures to safeguard your business IT systems and data – enquire today via: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/

 

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View from the top: Lineal Reviews OS X El Capitan

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Apple launched the new OS X 10.11 El Capitan to Mac users yesterday, in the latest free update of its trademark operating system.

The new offering is not a revolution, but an evolution of Apple’s OS X Yosemite released last year, with the newest version including a host of tweaks to improve performance and ease of use.

Having test-driven the software, Lineal staff had the following initial verdicts on El Capitan:

  1. Immediate downloads are for die hard fans – even with 60+ Mbps download speeds, it took us several hours to download the full version today, less than one day after release. Conversely, some of our team managed to download it hours after release in under 20 minutes. Early download performance seems very inconsistent, presumably due to global load on Apple’s servers. For a more user-friendly experience, be patient and download over the weekend.
  1. We liked the new multitasking tools, including the Split View window management system highly reminiscent of Microsoft Windows 10, but even more useful on Apple’s smaller screen MacBooks.
  1. El Capitan improves performance behind the scenes, loading a test PDF file around 50% faster, and improving battery life in the process. Finder also shows a greater initiative, intelligently understanding ‘edited yesterday’ and similar phrases to speed up searching for your files.
  1. Safari finally gets a refresh that includes pinned tabs, allowing for a more efficient way to keep persistent information open. This has been possible in Chrome and Firefox for some time so it’s good to see improvements to Safari to complete the user experience compared to the rivals.
  1. Several of Apple’s most basic apps have received an overdue refresh – for example Notes, where users will find they can now add hitherto excluded images and video if needed, along with a few basic formatting options. Shake your mouse cursor and it will swell in size so that you can find it easily. Apple hasn’t changed – these are thoughtful touches.

Overall OS X El Capitan is a solid, if somewhat modest, revision to Apple’s software range, which clearly has not been rushed to release. The new features have been developed with care and the real draw is increased performance. Both are worth waiting a day or two for though, giving other users time to test the new system, and yourself a less stressful update.

Lineal can offer support and expertise for a range of systems, including various Mac devices – get in touch with us today via: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/

 


Smarter working: why you need Office 2016

10.-Office-365-Planner-Charts-View

Microsoft Office 2016 is here: the staple of word processing, spreadsheets and presentation work everywhere is now available for single purchase on Windows 10 and Mac OS X.

Office 2016’s apps will look very familiar to existing customers – but Office 2016 is undoubtedly ‘smarter’ than any previous version of Office, with its most impressive new features aimed at boosting productivity for both home and business customers.

Take Microsoft’s new ‘Smart Lookup’ function for example – click a single word in a document and Office will web search that term (via Bing) within the window, allowing instant research.

Cleverly, Office 2016 will even infer from the context of the surrounding paragraph the exact meaning of the word being searched for, preventing irrelevant homonyms clouding your search results. A neat trick certainly, but also an important one for certain sectors – for instance helping children do school work with protection against loading inappropriate search results based on words with double-meanings.

It is a similar case with 2016’s new ‘Tell me’ function. Gone are the clunky help menus or cartoon paperclips – ‘Tell’ Word for a tool like ‘mail merge’ or ‘footnotes’ and the Office 2016 apps will not load search results, but immediately take you to the exact menu and function needed.

The latest version allows for collaborative working (finally catching up with rival Google Drive) with multiple users able to edit documents in real time with a visible tracked changes function, from remote locations if needed. As an added bonus, Office is integrated with Skype, aimed at making the process of collaborative working more easily communicated.

Part of productivity is personal though, so Office 2016 also introduces ‘Office 365 Planner’, an app aimed at time and project management. Even Outlook will attempt to shave a few minutes off your day by linking attachments from cloud-based OneDrive and introducing ‘Clutter’, an automated email filtering service which avoids distractions by pushing less relevant emails into a separate folder, helping you to best utilise your time. Office 2016 knows that time is worth money, and for some may be a very smart investment indeed.

 

Need advice on software for your business, or help migrating to Microsoft Office 365 services? Lineal can help – contact us today: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/

 


Hot stuff: Amazon releases £50 Fire Tablet

AmazonFire

Online shopping giant Amazon have announced they will sell a budget tablet computer, the Fire Tablet, at an advertised price of just £50 from the end of September.

In possibly a promotional world first, Amazon will sell the Fire Tablet in a ‘six-pack’ for the cost of five tablets. Take note education sector; for under £1500 an entire class of 30 children could have personal access to this basic tablet computer.

Nor are there any indications that the Fire Tablet will be poor quality. Like many tablets the Fire will burn on a standard Android system, with the technical specs boasting a 1.3Ghz processor, 8GB of storage space, a 7-inch (171 ppi / 1024 x 600) screen and 7 hours of battery life, all fairly standard for the lower end of the tablet market.

Of course Amazon’s pitch is more strategic than it may first appear – the bargain handheld device allows the massive retail conglomerate another way to promote Amazon video streaming services, Amazon Prime, Kindle Books and other online shopping services.

But commercial clients too could benefit from working with low-cost handheld and mobile devices like the Fire Tablet – here at Lineal we’ve long argued that technology needs to suit your business, not vice versa. Portable access and low outlay means that these tablets allow your digital information to spread into less static or safe working environments – out of private offices and studios, into public places, onto construction sites, factory floors, classrooms, or the remotest of small businesses.

The cost of the device may even ignite interest among some users reluctant to risk moving to a tablet, encouraging them to finally give it a try.

Lineal can help match your tech needs to your business. Learn more here: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/

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Keeping your business IT secure – What’s the perfect password?

IT-Security

How to keep your IT Secure

Data breaches can lead to a massive loss of trust among customers, so how do you ensure your IT remains secure?

Despite what many online sign-up forms would suggest, the ‘strongest’ password is not necessarily long and complicated. Whilst complexity makes a password harder to guess or crack with a ‘brute force’ testing of combinations, most security breaches occur from stolen passwords, either physically or by malware attacks.

Very complex passwords do not help in this respect: users still need other IT security, such as antivirus software, errors are more common when typing (particularly on handheld devices) and employees may find complex passwords harder to remember – undermining data security by writing down their login details. The ubiquitous sticky note attached to the monitor is still a trusted solution to working with complex password policies in some organisations!

Routine password changes are a sensible precaution for most businesses, but can make it harder for employees to remember their passwords, leading to the same problem in which users are locked out of work accounts, copy passwords across accounts, or write passwords down at risk of theft.

Phrases can help avoid this problem by making passwords easier to recall: ‘Lineal15theB3st’ is preferable to a 15-digit numeral because a touch of personality adds memorability. Beware profanity though – just imagine trying to explain it to technical support later on!

Here at Lineal we’d also advise against ‘Remember Me’ automated sign-in functions, as well as Windows 10’s new Wi-Fi password sharing ‘Wi-Fi Sense’ Feature, as these make your chosen password redundant.

If you want to see where the future of online security is going, follow the money: most online banking incorporates a two-stage authentication process, requiring both a password and a unique alert code texted to the customer’s mobile phone for identification. This is already a free optional setting for Google, Facebook, Twitter and other popular websites.

Lineal’s advice is to stick to the following basics:

Avoid physical theft:

  • Don’t write your passwords down on a post-it note on your desk! Microsoft has a practical tip: if you absolutely must write a password down, do so in a safe place, without labeling it as a password or to which account it refers. Substitute words should also be used to hide the true password, for example writing ‘Fruit8£’ could refer to a password of ‘Apple8£’.
  • Don’t use an easily guessed word, such as your name, your company’s name, 1234, the name of something on your desk, the word ‘password’, or anything similarly obvious.
  • Never tell anyone your password, and change your password if you suspect it has been compromised.

Ease of Access:

  • If you struggle to remember your passwords, use a password storage program to store some of them. Remember to use a secure password for the program.
  • Mitigate against your own forgetfulness by setting up alternate password recovery options, allowing you to choose more varied, difficult passwords.
  • Consider where users will need to log in from – take full advantage of using numbers and special characters ( ! , £, %, * etc.) for keyboard users.

Preventing digital theft:

  • Use different passwords for your most important accounts, such as online banking.
  • Use two-stage authentication.
  • Maintain up to date anti-virus security software and firewalls on your work desktops, and don’t download untrusted software or open suspicious emails which could be phishing or contain password stealing malware.
  • Consult IT specialists to ensure office networks are protected from outside attacks.

Your security should always be strong enough to give peace of mind. Lineal can provide expert advice and support for securing your IT systems: why not get in contact with us here?

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iPhone 6S, 6S Plus and iPad Pro Release: Apple stays ahead of the pack

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This week saw the hotly anticipated release of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, Apple Inc’s flagship smartphone announced in their annual product release that has become as inevitable as the tides.

With the iPhone now accounting for something close to 70% of Apple’s revenue, the 6S and 6S Plus were the main attraction. The new design fixes old durability problems with a stronger case and tougher screen, but added features include the obligatory faster processor, a new rose gold colour choice, and an upgraded 12MP camera – all aimed at keeping ahead of the competition, at least when it comes to performance.

‘3D Touch’ is Apple’s newest technical innovation, making the screen of the company’s newest devices pressure sensitive. This gives users the illusion of screen depth by accurately judging the strength of the screen press, allowing for new capabilities like a ‘peek’ at an app with a gentle touch, and giving Apple another technical edge with which to play the long game.

Not that Apple’s thinking hasn’t been questioned: commercial clients may find the power to shoot high resolution 4k video enticing, but will likely be sceptical at how practical it is to save such high-quality video files on a smartphone.

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iPadPro_Pencil_Lifestyle2-PRINTIndeed, for a company whose founder’s dislike of the stylus is well documented, releasing a large tablet with a stylus appears an open invitation for criticism. Nevertheless this is exactly what Apple have now done, introducing the new iPad Pro, a 12.9 inch tablet, ostensibly optimised for creative use by designers, illustrators and other editors needing a larger screen.

The demonstration of the iPad Pro included the new $99 (£65) stylus, the Apple ‘Pencil’ effortlessly photoshopping a woman’s smile on screen, an illustrative but perhaps ill-chosen example that somehow made it through Apple’s press office without ringing media alarm bells. Appropriate use aside, the technology is nevertheless impressive: the Apple pencil combined with 3D Touch allows pressure sensitive brush strokes on screen drawn with great precision.

This year’s releases represent Apple maturing a little, yet still relying on groundbreaking technical features to stay ahead of the curve.  Apple Inc. shares actually slid two percent to close lower on Wednesday, with investors holding their breath to see whether the new products were enough to really ‘impress’ customers. The tech giant has arguably sacrificed some of the flamboyance of previous years’ releases to concentrate on the innovation needed to outpace rivals, and open more important doors for its own future, including in the form of its renewed invasion into our living rooms with the new Apple TV and tvOS complete with the long heralded AppStore.

Lineal has over 20 years of business experience with Apple Mac, including connecting your mobile devices for working on the move – why not get in touch with us today? http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/

 


Facebook 'Pages' Function opens up shop to the World

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Facebook have announced that Facebook Pages will soon allow online sales, in a move expected to be welcomed by online businesses.

The popular social media website could potentially offer organisations access to the largest marketplace in the world, after Facebook recently made headlines for over 1 billion active users in the space of 24 hours. The competition is also likely to be fierce however, with over 45 million pages already in existence vying for attention.

Facebook pages currently include an option for a ‘Call to Action’ button like this one, allowing visitors to ‘Contact Us’, ‘Sign Up’, with similar ‘Donate’ options for non-profits, which will all receive a redesign.

Over the next month however, Pages will be granted access to new ‘Shopping’ and ‘Services’ sections, allowing a business to showcase their products for purchase or a range of professional services for hire. Additionally, Facebook are understood to be testing a voice-activated AI ‘assistant’ service, ‘M’, for both Facebook and the Facebook Messenger App, keeping pace with similar offerings from other giants of the tech world.

It would be a brave business which moved to Facebook sales alone, although some startups may attempt just that, eventually processing all payments through social media as a replacement for a traditional website.

But as the old saying goes: ‘Where there’s crowds, there’s business.’ A conventional internet banner advert is clicked-on merely 0.1% of the time, or one in a thousand views, perhaps tempting internet savvy companies to move more of their efforts to Facebook, a website millions of users log into (willingly) each day.

If you need technology to drive sales for your business, why not get in touch with Lineal? Contact us here: http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/


Skylake processors begin new era for Intel

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Intel have announced the release of their new Skylake processors – their sixth generation of processor chips using multiple cores to combine greater processing power with lower energy consumption.

The new chips will boast around a 60% performance increase for a standard PC, with overclocking capabilities and other features clearly aimed at capturing the higher end of the gaming market and similar. There are also more rudimentary improvements behind the scenes: for example supporting multiple 4k displays, and optimising for new connections expected on the next generation of laptops, including USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3.

Skylake’s greatest asset however will be remarkably more efficient power-use. Intel believe superior energy efficiency (and less overheating) will allow more devices to operate without the need for internal fans, saving device weight, size, manufacturing costs, environmental costs, maintenance on moving parts, and prices for consumers. Their smaller models, Core m3, m5 and m7, will also help corner the market on more portable devices, saving weight and critical battery life in the tablets and smartphones of the future.

Intel must realise their market is changing and that it will be harder to keep selling new processors. Both Microsoft and Apple now offer constant upgrades to their Windows 10 and OS X Yosemite operating systems via free downloads – such that users are no longer forced to buy a new computer or package when they wish to upgrade. The IDC estimated last November that new tablet sales were also slower than the industry expected, as users hold on to older, well-built devices longer than expected rather than purchasing newer models. Hard drive capacities, in devices of all sizes, will only increase.

This all leaves Intel with a sales challenge – how to sell computer hardware to a world that doesn’t necessarily need or covet new devices as regularly? Skylake must provide new opportunities to manufacturers to push the boundaries of what can be achieved with a better chip to drive fresh sales across the industry.

Expect to see Skylake processors become available by the end of 2015, with the PC market picking up the range fully in the New Year.

If you’d like to take advantage of Lineal’s advice and expertise, you can contact us online easily by clicking here: http://www.Lineal.co.uk/contact/