From Telegraphs to USENET and How to Protect Yourself from Spam

When someone thinks of spam they typically think of unsolicited bulk commercial email they receive in their inbox. However, the concept of spam started a little earlier than you might think. How far back? How does 1864 sound? Spam in 1864 you say? Yes, in the form of a telegraph, advertising a local dentistry actually. The Telegraph was so much news that the local paper even reprinted the telegraph that was sent to many households, further propagating the message.

Spam Messages

More recently, people consider the first spam email coming out of Digital Equipment in 1978 which went to a total of 393 people promoting their latest computer model. You can thank a Monty Python sketch based on a cafe that only served the canned spiced ham SPAM for the origin of the name. Another early spammer was the lawyers Canter and Siegel posting their “Green Card Lottery” message to USENET, a shared messaging system.

What does all this have to do with today? You don’t want to be known as a spammer. There are three ways to attack the spam problem. First off, you don’t want your marketing emails to be classified as spam. Secondly, you don’t want your mail server to be abused where someone sends spam through your hardware. While this wasn’t sent to you directly, your hardware could be blacklisted, thus affecting your own emails. Lastly, you don’t want your employees to respond to spam. There are ways to filter this at the mail server to prevent them from seeing the messages, or at least classify messages as fishy before their opened. Our company Alliance Technology Partners can help you to protect your business from being labeled a bad apple in the email business.

Starting with the most important avenue, ensuring your marketing messages get through, there are some best practices to know about. For starters, don’t just send emails directly to your clients. Putting everyone’s email in the “To:” field of a message is bound to cause problems when someone does a reply-all. If you absolutely have to send a message to LOTS of people, it is better to use the BCC (for blind carbon copy) field of a message. Better yet, rely on a mailing list management package like that offered by Constant Contact. Typically, you don’t want to add people to the mailing list yourself. Instead, people should opt-in. More importantly, with each message you send, there should be unsubscribed instructions.

Protecting your mail server is not an easy task. There are some simple steps you can do like requiring that users are authenticated before sending a message, but someone can just spoof the email headers to make it appear messages came through your server. To best protect your server, in 2012 DMARC, or Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance was introduced. Combined with the earlier introduced SPF, Sender Policy Framework, this makes sure that any messages appearing to come from your mail server actually came from your mail server. Alliance Technology Partners can help you keep up with the latest ways to protect your email servers and thus getting your marketing messages through.

Lastly, it is important to look at the inbound side of spam. With all the talk of Russians hacking servers and the release of inappropriate celebrity photos, most of these attempts are triggered by phishing attacks of targets. You still need to worry about viruses being sent through email, but phishing involves fraudsters sending what look like real emails in the attempt to reveal personal information like passwords and bank account info. You don’t want your employees giving away the farm so that others can then get into your company network or your employees worried about identity theft. Alliance Technology Partners can help protect your mail servers from letting these unsolicited emails through.

Contact us at sales@alliancetechpartners.com or (314) 649-8888 to learn more about how we can help you.

Wisdom Wednesday: Taking and Printing Screenshots on Windows 10

Need a fast Windows screenshot? We’ll show you how to do it!

Do you need to take a quick Windows screenshot for work or fun, but can’t figure out how to do it? Don’t worry: Our guide will show you just how it’s done.

Windows 10 Screen Shots

Copy the Screen for Posts

Traditionally, the “Print Screen” option is the quickest way to take an easy screenshot that you can use later on as desired. The only problem here is that these days Print Screen looks a little different based on what type of keyboard you may have. These steps may not all be available on some keyboards, especially more compact keyboards or non-Windows keyboards.

First, look at the top rows of buttons on your keyboard. Look for a button that says “PrtScn” or “Print Scr” or any other abbreviation (it may also be lurking around the Ctrl key, there are several places that they appear. If there’s a dedicated key, all you have to press it. This will instantly copy a snapshot of the screen. You can then go into any document and paste the screenshot wherever space is available.

Note that sometimes this feature is on a dual-purpose key, and you may have to access it by pressing the Ctrl or Fn key at the same time.

Automatically Save Screenshot as File

Let’s say that you don’t want to just copy a screenshot for pasting, but that you actually want to save a screenshot as its own photo file. In that case, you may need a combination of buttons. If your keyboard has both a Print Screen button and a Windows logo key, you can press them both at the same time: This will usually take a screenshot and then automatically save it as a separate file, typically in the desktop or its own screenshots folder.

Of course, it’s not always that simple. If you have a Windows key, an Fn key, and a Ctrl key, you may need to push some combination of these keys along with the Print Screen key to create an automatic save. A little bit of experimentation may be in order, but if you’re using a built-in keyboard (like on a laptop) then you can probably look up the best method.

Choose a Single Window as a Screenshot

This is a common case in many of today’s larger screens, where you have several windows open at the same time but only want to take a screenshot of one window, not the whole screen. There’s a way to do this, too: Click on the window you want to copy so that it’s highlight. Then press the Print Screen key and the Alt key at the same time. If your keyboard has an Fn key, you have to press Print Screen, Alt, and Fn at the same time to get this to work.

“Snipping” Screenshots

Windows also lets you select a particular area of the screen through a dedicated screenshot tool called the Snipping Tool. It’s not as fast as other methods, but it is very effective. Just type in “snipping tool” into your Windows search box and it will bring up the right link to select. This opens up a small bar that allows you to create a “New” screenshot and change the shape of the shot. You can then drag your mouse to create whatever size you need.

Looking for more information on how to use Windows 10? Remember to take a look at Alliance Technology Partners’s Wisdom Wednesday series for continued advice. If our St Louis, Chesterfield, and surrounding area. readers have any further questions or need help figuring out a problem, contact Alliance Technology Partners at (314) 649-8888 and sales@alliancetechpartners.com.

How Your Sales Team Can Beat the Competition with the Power of Data

A talented sales team can perform well, but if they harness the power of data they can beat the competition by forming strategies that have the insights of data to back them up.

At one time, sales and marketing were two distinct functions in a company. But in the age of digital marketing and Big Data, the line between the two has grown blurrier. Many of the old methods of making sales are on their way out as technology constantly evolves and changes business owners’ expectations for communications and the sales process. Even the most talented sales teams need to go the extra mile and make smart use of data in order for sales strategies to become more effective.

Sales Performance

By making investments in your IT infrastructure and digital marketing framework, the returns on these investments will be immense. Data on your existing customers and prospects can produce insights that no amount of time-consuming and expensive market research could possibly provide. Here’s how making a solid investment in your IT systems can propel your sales team to higher efficacy.

Having access to more data = improved segmentation.

The most successful marketing efforts come from having strong segments, opposed to a general outreach campaign that goes out to all email subscribers or social media. Segmentation can be by industry, job title, geographic region, spend level, or whatever other criteria that the sales manager wishes to set. By creating more segmented strategies, this can help sales teams target products and campaigns much more effectively.

Data and a solid infrastructure can provide more insights to fuel marketing campaigns instead of relying on intuition or flawed research.

Data provides insights to managers that other methods simply cannot. By investing in your IT infrastructure, you can determine everything from how much of a webpage a prospect will read before closing it or the patterns present in how often subscribers enter and leave the company email lists. Sales decisions that are based on data are more likely to have a positive impact because there’s no guesswork involved, or costly market research that may produce flawed results.

Technology facilitates sales experimentation.

Years of sales experience alone can’t completely predict how well a product is going to sell. With A/B testing and other methods of experimentation, sales teams can try out different data-driven methods or even small things like different landing pages and see how well prospects respond to them. With an apt technological infrastructure, experimentation with different marketing segments becomes easier to perform and evaluate.

Correlation doesn’t equal causation and the right technological tools can improve data-centric insights.

What makes sales challenging is that there are so many variables which ensure that no sales strategy ever results in 100% of the prospects making a purchase. Data can provide insights and prove to be less risky than making decisions based on guesswork or market research, but carefully choosing what systems to use for CRM, analytics, and getting the right talent to utilize these tools in conjunction with the sales team can fine-tune what the original data is telling decision makers.

Technology can improve the relationships that the sales team has with clients.

In addition to improving targeting and market segmentation, the right technological tools can help sales teams manage their workloads and client relationships more efficiently. By identifying key workflow issues and addressing them with the ideal IT solutions, sales teams can become more effective and even improve their relationships with clients. When the sales team is able to completely facilitate the sales process for clients, it gives them more ability to develop relationships instead of dealing with technical limitations or heavy lifting.

IT infrastructure is a solid investment to keep a business up and running, but when it comes to sales teams it can help them harness the power of Big Data to strategize effective sales campaigns. Insights based on data opposed to intuition or market research (which may be incredibly flawed because the test subjects are disinterested and just want the incentive) will help the sales team target more precise segments and even improve their relationships with existing clients.

When the competition is not addressing market segments or workflow issues in the sales process that technology can resolve, this puts your business in a much better position to successfully sell to their prospects.

Don’t Compromise Your Clients’ Data

Why CPA Firms Need to Use Secure File Sharing

CPA firms of all sizes handle personally-identifiable information every day. This presents significant risks of their clients’ data being hacked. Secure file-sharing can help your business keep clients’ data safe and improve your bottom line.  

CPA Cloud

Whether you’re a one-person CPA practice or a large regional firm serving thousands of clients, you have a duty to keep your clients’ information safe. As a trusted financial advisor, your clients will expect that their personally-identifiable information will not be compromised easily when they hire you. Financial transactions inherently pose a risk of unwanted third parties trying to get sensitive information like Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, and other information that shouldn’t be compromised. By using a secure file sharing system, CPA firms of all sizes can take a significant preventative step from having sensitive client data breached. Additionally, secure file sharing systems offer workflow optimization benefits that can make your practice run more smoothly.

Taking Accounting into the Cloud

All business, not just accountancy, is continually moving into the cloud. There’s no need to keep communications restricted to email and paper when a new file sharing system hits the market every week. When you move your practice to the cloud, clients can access their information whenever they need to. For information that you need to see, such as transactions to update the client’s books or prepare their tax returns, file sharing systems in the cloud will update in real time which prevents you and the client from having to schedule multiple appointments. This enables you to take on more valuable engagements.

The array of choices for secure file sharing systems can be dizzying, but you must choose one that has a great user experience for both you and your clients. A system that presents a security liability (such as simply emailing sensitive files to customers because you don’t have a system in place) or has a clunky and awkward user interface is not going to ensure speedy and straightforward data delivery.

Security Concerns CPAs Face

CPA offices are gold mines for hackers, particularly small firms that may not have robust IT protocols or sophisticated file sharing systems. If your client data is not in the cloud, it can make your workflow more complicated, and anyone who has access to the computers and servers can quickly wipe sensitive data from those machines. In addition to losing your credibility as a practice, continual breaches can also drastically increase the cost of your liability insurance. Clients who have suffered identity theft have a tough time recovering from it and can hold you responsible for it. Not taking proper precautions against client identity theft can also result in stiff penalties from federal and state accountancy boards.

Encrypted emails alone are not enough. If you are sending sensitive files through encrypted emails, this protection often will not be adequate security-wise unless the encryption is end-to-end, such as if you and the client are both using a system like Proton Mail. Or, the client must download decryption software while the key is usually sent in an unencrypted email.

Public file sharing systems like Dropbox often provide more security than encrypted email without the hassles involved on the user’s end. But if you send huge files, neither of these solutions will be feasible in the long term. In addition to staying compliant with regulations and protecting your reputation, secure file sharing solves the problem of safe and secure exchange of information while simultaneously providing a better user experience.

Choosing the Right File Sharing System

When browsing file sharing services, choose one that integrates with your accounting software so that any data clients send you will update their books with ease. People make mistakes when manually transferring data from documents into accounting software while cloud solutions are meant to make this easier. Increased accuracy is just an additional benefit that a file sharing system can offer, but a free and low-cost options like DropBox do not provide this.

If you would like to provide your clients with long-term access, choose a system that will give you this option as most basic file sharing systems will terminate access after a certain timeframe. If your clients continually ask you for documents like tax returns years after they’ve been prepared, this option will save a lot of time so they can always access their information without having to ask you or your staff.

Moving CPA practices to the cloud are inevitable. Secure file sharing systems can help your practice run more efficiently all while keeping your clients’ information safe from being intercepted by identity thieves.If you invest in a more sophisticated file sharing system, you can get additional security features that will help you stay compliant with regulations and even make your workflow smoother.

Does It Make More Sense for Small Business Owners to Outsource IT or Manage it In-House?

Every business needs IT solutions of some type in place to compete today. Small businesses that have fewer resources face more challenges in managing their technological needs. Does it make more sense for your company to hire in-house or use a managed IT service?  

outsourced IT department

Every small business needs some kind of technological infrastructure in place no matter what type of business it is. It can be as simple as a website and a secure server for a solo owner who doesn’t have an office or a brick-and-mortar shop that needs a point-of-sale system and must keep customer data safe from hackers. IT solutions increase productivity, improve communications among clients and team members, and can automate many mundane tasks that otherwise take up a small business owner’s time and resources.

In deciding how to utilize their resources, small business owners may find themselves facing a dilemma when it comes to choosing a managed IT service or hiring a dedicated in-house employee. For small businesses that are continually strapped for resources, using a managed service is likely to meet all of their needs. However, other types of businesses who rely on their technological infrastructure heavily and frequently face workflow disruptions because of it may benefit from having a dedicated employee.

Pros of Using a Managed IT Service

Major Cost Savings

The most obvious benefit to a majority of small business owners is that outsourcing IT aspects like a help desk presents significant cost savings. IT professionals can command a high salary for their skills, and this presents a cash flow issue for business owners who may be unable to pay this salary in the long run.

24/7 Availability for Certain Tasks

Because they have multiple employees who may operate on different schedules or be location-independent, managed IT services may offer 24/7 support for services like help desks and resolving server problems while an in-house employee physically cannot do this. For customers seeking help any hour of the day, this is incredibly valuable.

Technology Evolves Incredibly Fast

Computers become obsolete in barely two years today. Hardware and software solutions also continually upgrade, and faster than ever before. Technology evolves too quickly for one employee to keep up with. Even if a small business owner’s technological needs are relatively simple, staying up to date provides a competitive advantage that improves workflow and efficiency and in-house staff may not be able to accomplish this.

Pros of Hiring In-House

An In-House Employee Gets to Know Your Customers and Staff

While a managed IT service can provide this level of support to a lesser extent, the main advantage of hiring in-house is that your dedicated IT employee gets to know you, your staff, and customers. By being on-site every day, they become familiar with your processes and associates which provide valuable insight.

Technological Emergencies Can Be Solved Immediately During Work Hours

By having an IT person on board, there’s no wait for resolving important issues that can arise. Since they develop familiarity with your systems by being on-site every day, having a dedicated employee can be a more efficient solution if your infrastructure requires a higher amount of maintenance to prevent workflow disruptions.

In-House IT Staff Tends To Work at a Slower and More Deliberate Pace

While this sounds detrimental at first, this deliberate pace means that IT employees can take as much as time as necessary to address issues that give them more time to comprehensively evaluate systems and implement a solution. Since managed IT services will service multiple clients, they may be unable to provide as detailed of evaluation.

In-House IT Employees and Managed IT Services Working in Conjunction

Depending on the resources available to the business and the technological needs, some processes are best done in-house while others should be outsourced to a managed IT service. For instance, server and hardware maintenance can be performed in-house by a dedicated employee who is able to immediately jump to an emergency and take care of it before workflow is disrupted. They handle these tasks but a managed service can take care of other tasks like email system management and a 24/7 help desk so that the staff can focus on other responsibilities.

Small businesses with fewer resources may need to send all of their IT needs to a managed service while a business owner with more resources can hire in-house staff for the most important technological aspects but use a managed service for tasks that don’t make sense for the in-house staff to use their time on.

Is It Time to Upgrade to Microsoft Surface? 7 Advantages for a Growing Business

Microsoft Surface devices and software can help your company succeed: Here’s how.

Microsoft Surface

Is your company considering a switch to new computer services or a device upgrade? It’s time to consider the Microsoft Surface lineup. Microsoft Surface device, starting with the Surface hybrid tablet and Surface Pro, have been around for some time, but in the past couple years Microsoft has worked hard to expand its Surface offerings and their compatibility with the greater business environment (along with fixing some of the more annoying bugs and generally helping Windows 10 to run more smoothly). Here are the top reasons you should consider Surface in your next upgrade.

1. Surface Devices are Growing More Versatile

It doesn’t matter how your business uses devices, there’s probably a Surface solution for you. Early Surface hybrids were tablets with an easily attachable keyboard so that you could treat them like laptops in a moment’s notice. The Surface Book is an even more versatile full laptop that can act as a tablet and detach in a pinch. The Surface Studio is a large desktop PC that can handle even more complex or screen-demanding projects. There’s even Surface Hub, which is designed for large conference rooms. As the Surface line has expanded, it has grown far more adept at filling in gaps and meeting business needs no matter how they prefer their hardware.

2. Mobility When You Need It

While the Studio and Hub are designed to stay in one spot, most Surface devices are made for mobile activity (we wouldn’t be surprised to see a Surface Phone pop up in the next few years, either). That’s ideal for businesses that are switching to more flexible scheduling, more open office setups, more on-the-go work, and more remote office situations. Hybrid tablets and do-a-little-of-everything devices like the Surface Book are ideal for these situations. Plus, the focus on Windows 10 and standard business apps like Word and PowerPoint often make Surface devices more reasonable for mobile work than alternative options.

3. Versatile Modes of Operation

Surface devices aren’t just mobile, they are also open to a variety of different uses. One of the complaints in some companies – especially for marketing and design – about Windows products is that they aren’t very friendly toward more delicate visual work. Microsoft has been working to change that image, with success. Even the Studio was named for this particular target audience, and its 28-inch, ultra HD touchscreen was specifically designed to be friendly to artists. The Studio also includes the Surface Dial for fast palette changes and other design options, while both the Surface Book and Studio come with the Surface Pen for sketching, note-taking, and other tasks. There’s literally something for everyone.

4. Microsoft Cloud Services

Everyone has a variety of cloud services that they’re eager to offer businesses. But Microsoft’s services available with Surface devices come with several more unique benefits. Options like Office 365 exist to bring a more secure version of Office to employees no matter where they are or what computer they are using. Microsoft Azure, on the other hand, is a fuller suite of apps and services that allow a company to quickly create its own customized, over-the-net platform for its particular needs (plus you pay by usage, not by what you use). Services like these typically come with free trials and discounts when you buy Surface products as well, allowing you to test them out.

5. A Focus On Security

Microsoft knows that businesses still use plenty of Windows apps and services, and it knows that security is a top concern for many of these businesses. As a result, there is a definite focus on Surface and Windows 10 on providing top-line to security, from biometrics to new security analytics. This has lead to the NSA adding Windows 10 and Surface to its list of devices recommended for classified use, among other security benefits.

6. Microsoft Deals for Schools and Nonprofits

Microsoft has some excellent deals for schools, nonprofits, and similar organizations. That includes massive Surface discounts, donations to qualifying nonprofits, and many other efforts that help these kinds of organizations. If you can qualify, don’t ignore these deals and programs!

7. User Preference is Trending Toward Surface

Okay, but what do people actually prefer to use? It turns out that they are increasingly fans of Surface devices. In April 2017, for the first time we saw Microsoft tablets overcome Apple tablets in the J.D. Power Tablet Survey, which compared Surface tablets and iPads (among other options). Employee satisfaction is, of course, an important metric when making any big switch to new hardware, so it’s good to see that people are responding so positively to the latest Surface offerings. Getting buy-in for Surface devices has never been easier!

Interested in more information about upgrading your office or switching to Microsoft products and services! Alliance Technology Partners can help. Let us know what your St Louis, Chesterfield, and surrounding area. needs are and ask specific questions by contacting us at sales@alliancetechpartners.com and (314) 649-8888.

 

Flashback Friday: Remember Netscape Navigator?

Do you remember the very first Netscape Navigator web browser? It made the internet accessible to everyone.

Netscape Navigator

Most of us elder citizens of the web recall the first consumer friendly and freely available browser called Netscape Navigator. Internet users today, could not imagine a time when there was no extensive connectivity, but it was during the early days of the web, that universities and the military first began to see the tremendous communication opportunities via the internet. In 1992, Marc Andreessen joined the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois. At the same time, the era of company owned and operated supercomputers was ending. More cost-efficient workstations running on microprocessors replaced them.

Andreessen graduated the University of Illinois where he led a team of IT people who developed a software project called “Mosaic.” The early users of Mosaic were other universities and research facilities including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The purpose of Mosaic was linking all the users together – and forming the genesis for the internet.

Netscape Revolutionizes Computer Use

The first users of the early internet were IT types with some programming skills. These skills were needed as everything connected to the internet had different interfaces. So, Andreessen pushed NSCA to link everything together using software based on his university work with Mosaic. In 1993, the Mosaic browser was launched and users could roam the internet. That was the theory, to test it, NCSA used the internet to distribute Mosaic for free as a download from the internet. It worked, and users could connect to the internet.

Features of Netscape Navigator 1.0 December 1994

The success of Mosaic captured the attention of Jim Clark, the founder of Silicon Graphics. He convinced Andreessen to join him in commercializing Netscape. They decided that the new browser would be free to make sure it was successful.

The first offering of Netscape was in 1994 and called the Netscape Navigator. After its release, “Best if Viewed with Netscape Navigator” became ubiquitous on many sites across the net.

One radical change made by Netscape in its first version of Navigator was the ability to see a web page on-the-fly, and text and graphics appeared on the screen as they downloaded. Before the first release of Netscape, a site could only be viewed after it was fully downloaded – many early users hated this delay fixed by Netscape.

Other features included email support, basic HTML 2 support, and some HTML 3 functionality, and TCP/IP. A press release offered the following information:

  • “Continuous document streaming, enabling users to interact with documents while they are still being downloaded rather than waiting for the entire document to load.
  • Multiple, simultaneous network accesses, allowing several documents or images to be downloaded simultaneously.
  • Native support for the JPEG image format.”

The Navigator when first launched was the only way to access the internet; there were no competing browsers. The following year, Microsoft introduced MS Internet Explorer and Mozilla released its Firefox Browser. By the late 1990s, Navigator lost much of its user base and was bought by AOL. There it underwent less technological advances and died a quiet death in February of 2008.

Alliance Technology Partners in St Louis, Chesterfield, and surrounding area. is the trusted source for the information you need to keep up with information technology tips, trips, and news. Contact us at (314) 649-8888 or by sales@alliancetechpartners.com.

6 Reasons to Make the Switch to Microsoft Remote Desktop Services

Considering virtualization or a new server approach? Microsoft’s RDS offering is more valuable than ever!

Remote Desktop Services

Microsoft Remote Desktop Services (RDS), once known as Terminal Services, is the system of virtualization and service management solutions for companies with complex organizations and data needs. While there are other options out there for virtualization, there are plenty of advantages to head over to Microsoft’s own solutions first. Let’s take a look at several of the most important reasons why Alliance Technology Partners favors Microsoft RDS.

1. Multiple Solutions for Different Virtual Setup

Microsoft’s current RDS setup provides all the tools you need, no matter what your ideal setup looks like. Hosting, gateways, web access, connection brokers – it’s all managed under one roof, allowing IT to quickly set up new connections and solve problems without getting bogged down in the process. Lately, Microsoft has made improvements to RemoteFX, enhanced the RDS connected to its Azure cloud service, and generally worked to make RDS as broadly applicable as possible. In other words, no matter what specific solutions or setup your organization requires, Microsoft probably has an answer for you.

2. Security Answers to Mobile Uncertainty

If you haven’t considered any type of remote desktop services before, now is an excellent time to explore the virtualization services provided. Virtualization has many on and off-site benefits, but it has grown as a popular and effective solution to security risks in the last couple years. This is especially true in BYOD and other mobile environments where companies can’t do much to control employee behavior or mobile OS vulnerabilities like Zero Day that keep on appearing. It’s too dangerous for companies to house sensitive data directly on mobile devices. Fortunately, Microsoft has included necessary security management options in RDS to help create virtual desktops and other virtual connections that keep data more safely organized on servers rather than spread out on mobile devices.

3. Great Compatibility with Windows Servers

In the business world, the Windows Server continues to be popular: Surveys have shown that nearly 90% of physical servers using by companies depend on Windows Server (unfortunately, many remain on Server 2008, and are really missing out on a lot of improvements). Of course, RDS isn’t required for Windows Server, but there’s definitely a compatibility advantage. It is in Microsoft’s best interest to make sure that RDS functions as smoothly as possible on Server, which is why we’ve seen better interfaces, better speeds, and much more scalability in recent years – especially for larger organizations that need to organize thousands of people at the same time. This is why it’s too bad that many businesses continue to use Server 2008, which while serviceable misses out on certain quality of life improvements Microsoft has been making to later versions of Server.

4. Support for Common Windows Apps

App compatibility is frequently a headache when it comes to server management and in-depth virtualization. Which apps are compatible? Will they stay compatible in the future? As app support grows more necessary in today’s business environments, there’s an advantage to use Microsoft RDS. Microsoft works to support its own Windows apps and other popular apps commonly used in today’s companies. Support for important apps is there when you need it, and Microsoft is nothing if not in this for the long term, so you can expect support to continue for many years into the future when it comes to core Windows apps.

5. Pricing and Installation

Even back when it was Terminal Services, RDS had a reputation for being cheaper to purchase and integrate. This remains true today: While prices naturally vary, you’re likely to save several hundred dollars on subscriptions and maintenance fees, which can be particularly useful for small businesses trying to save money in the long term. The differences may be even more apparent when it comes to installation fees per user, which tends to be low in the current market and can be very beneficial when managing initial costs. RDS also continues to avoid hidden fees as well, which makes it more dependable than some alternatives. In other words, if you are ready to jump into remote services, RDS makes a strong, cost-effective argument.

6. Platform and OS Support

Remote desktop and server solutions aren’t much use these days unless they can operate across a variety of devices. That’s why RDS supports client OSs including not only Windows but also Mac, iOS and Android. This compatibility is provided point by point, allowing you to create your own overall strategy based on what devices and apps are required in your company, an approach we find refreshingly flexible.

If you want to learn more about virtualization options and how they can benefit your St Louis, Chesterfield, and surrounding area. , contact Alliance Technology Partners at sales@alliancetechpartners.com or call us at (314) 649-8888 to learn more about the solutions we offer!

8 Website Tips Guaranteed To Produce Results

Here are eight highly effective guidelines for better website conversions.

Website Conversions

When designing buttons — particularly those for landing pages — it’s important to note a few fundamental principles that will boost your click-through rates and make your responses surge. Here are eight highly effective guidelines for better website buttons:

  • Use Contrast in Your Designs: Buttons need to pop off the page and look different from the rest of your content. Choose colors that stand out and look fresh, not dull or flat. Don’t be afraid to use bold, bright, saturated or even unusual colors. Your button text itself should contrast highly with the button colors so it’s super-readable.
  • Maximize Clickability: Buttons should look like buttons — typically, they should be rectangular and have slightly rounded corners. A 3-D look is also recommended, as is incorporating a rollover effect such as a color or depth change when a user rolls over them. Users should recognize buttons immediately when they see them.
  • Maximize Size: While you don’t want buttons that are as large as your content, don’t be afraid to make buttons big or oversized. If a user can’t find the buttons on your page, they might as well not be there at all! Experiment and see how big you can make buttons without them dominating your content. Remember to still leave white space as described below.
  • Add Directional Cues: Use arrows to point directly to your button and/or your call-to-action. Don’t be afraid to put the arrow right on the button itself or extremely close to it. Studies show that the presence of arrows boosts conversions more than their absence.
  • Use the Right Call-to-Action: The text on your button should describe exactly what the button does; some samples could be “Download My Free Tutorial” or “Request a Sample.” Never use a vague, indirect word or phrase like “Click Here” or “Submit.”
  • Add Supporting Information: Extra information that helps the call-to-action or clarifies the purpose of the button should be added either inside the button itself or immediately below it. It can be in smaller type if necessary. Some examples are “Downloads are always free!” or “There’s no obligation to join!”
  • Communicate Urgency: If you don’t communicate a sense of urgency, many people won’t respond to your offer. Instead, add words that convey a quantity or time limitation, such as “Today” or “Now,” to your call-to-action.
  • Incorporate White Space: Just as design elements grab people’s attention, the use of white space makes them stand out. Not enough white space on a page will make content and buttons all flow together so they’re indistinguishable from one another. Make sure there’s enough white space between your content and your buttons and between buttons themselves so each element is evident.

In general, buttons are as important as your content, if not more so, because they’re what a user employs to interact with your page. It’s critical that they’re useful and are appealing to users, so you can generate the outcome that you’re looking for.

Contact Alliance Technology Partners in St Louis, Chesterfield, and surrounding area. at sales@alliancetechpartners.com or (314) 649-8888 to learn more about effective website buttons that are guaranteed to produce results.

Zero-Day Cyber Attack Could Have Catastrophic Impacts for Microsoft Word Users

Malware attack seeks to disable user systems by targeting Microsoft Office vulnerability

Computer Virus

Microsoft Office users are on edge after being made aware of a new threat that has been targeting fully-patched systems using a zero-day attack. This cyber attack installs malware through an Office vulnerability and can leave user systems damaged or completely disabled. Until a patch to solve this issue has been released, experts strongly recommended that business owners instruct staff members not to open or send Word documents via email.

In the short-term, Microsoft Office has a ‘Protected View’ setting that should be enabled by default. All Office users should ensure this feature is activated before opening any Microsoft Office attachments. If users open a Word document and see a pop-up, it’s a strong indication that the system has been compromised. Microsoft Office is such a fundamental part of almost all modern business operations, so the malware attack has the potential to affect businesses of all sizes and across all industries.

The IT experts at Alliance Technology Partners want to be sure that local business owners are aware of the potential threat and know exactly how to keep team members on their toes. Until a solution is implemented and the problem is fixed, informed staff members are the front line of defense. More than just being wary of Word documents sent via email, there are several other precautions to be taken including:

  • Ensuring team members are aware of this threat and the risk level it presents,
  • Implementing an alternative method to share documents,
  • Making us of email filtering solutions to temporarily block Word documents,
  • Temporarily disabling the Group Policy Object (GPO) in Active Directory systems that allow users to edit flagged files, and
  • Enabling the GPO that uses ‘File Block’ to temporarily block .rtf files altogether.

While there is currently no patch available to correct this vulnerability, Microsoft has assured users that they are working closely on the issue. A fix is expected to be rolled out over the coming days in conjunction with the next batch of Microsoft updates. In the meantime, Alliance Technology Partners is urging local business owners to use caution when opening email attachments, and avoid opening Word files altogether if possible.

Until the update is made available, users should be especially vigilant, keep an eye out for communications from Microsoft, and be sure to install any updates the moment they’re released. If local business owners have specific questions or concerns about the threat, the Alliance Technology Partners team is always available to help. Their cyber security experts can be reached directly at (314) 649-8888.

If you’d like to connect your business-minded audience with more information about this potential threat and how they can stay secure and productive while Microsoft fixes the issue, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.