Why Windows XP and Office 2003 are hindering your business

Microsoft has announced that after April 8, 2014, they will no longer be updating or supporting Windows XP and Office 2003.  XP was a great operating system and had served many of our clients for a long time. Office 2003 had the original menu style that was easy and efficient.

So why should you spend your hard earned dollars to upgrade?

Windows XP was released in 2001 and Office 2003 in 2003. If you’re still a diehard user and have them on your workstation I congratulate you. You have probably had the best return on investment of any one of your previous technology purchases. There are however a few reasons why you should consider Windows 7/8 and Office 2013 as alternatives.

Windows XP

At first glance, XP seems like a lean, mean data input machine. It surfs the web, runs most applications and checks email just fine. There are however a few key features in Windows 7 and 8 that will make your staff’s day to day life much more pleasant:

  • Productivity: Windows 7 introduced Aero Snap. Aero Snap allows you to drag a window to the side of the screen for it to maximize its size to exactly half your screen size. You can then drag another window to the other side and voila, you can work on and view two applications at once. This feature seems like a novelty, but once you start using it you’ll wonder how you lived without it. Both Windows 8 and Windows 7 offer 20%+ performance increases over Windows XP and can be used on the same hardware if you don’t want to purchase a new system. Additionally, Windows XP had a limit of 4 Gigabytes of memory (the stuff that allows you to run multiple applications quickly) which no longer exists in Windows 7 and 8.
  • Compatibility: If you buy a new printer you’ll be hard pressed to find a Windows XP driver. Most new devices support Windows 7 and later. The other thing you need to consider are the applications you use. The newer version are designed for Windows 7/8 and take advantage of their features.
  • Touch screen options: Window 8 opens up the world of touch screens to Windows users. Tablets, laptops and even large touchscreen monitors are now an option for your staff. Many of these devices have reduced dramatically in price compared to the older systems.
  • Security: Not to be fear mongering like most people pushing you to upgrade but there is validity here. Once Microsoft ends updates, the next new exploit developed by a 15 year old hacker will go unrepaired for Windows XP users. Your antivirus provides one layer of protection, but it unfortunately won’t stop an exploit in your Operating System.

Office 2003

  • Compatibility: If you’re on Office 2003, you’re probably having a ton of difficulty sending and opening files from most people. The conversion applications will work for the most part but in some cases your left with a weird looking Word document. Upgrading to Office 2013 will save your staff time trying to find out what file type to use.
  • Save and Edit PDFs: One of my favorite features introduced in Office 2007 was the ability to save your Word document as a PDF. Word 2013 has one upped that feature by introducing the ability to provide light modifications to PDFs.
  • Security: I hate to harp on this point again, but Office is a bigger security hole than Windows in my opinion. Some of the largest security breaches this year have been related to older versions of Office being exploited when user preview a file in an email.
  • Cloud integration: The new version of Office has tight integrations into Microsoft Cloud offering Office 365. You can easily save to the Cloud and sync all your files across all your devices.

One thing I’ve learned managing clients’ IT environments is the IT equipment staff use plays a large role in their daily satisfaction. There’s nothing worse than sitting a new team member in front of an antiquated workstation that will drive them crazy every day. Believe me I’ve made the mistake a few times myself :)

Give high performing people the right tools and you will get the results your are looking for. Can an upgrade save you and your team 5 minutes a day with added features and performance? I think so.

Grade A is here to help. We have years of experience helping businesses modernize their IT. We recommend upgrading as soon as possible so your business can avoid security risks and to improve your staff’s productivity and daily satisfaction.

To learn more about end of support, feel free to contact our IT experts by phone at 613-721-3331 or by email info@gradea.ca.

Post by Mathew Lafrance, President, Grade A

How Can the Right Technology Impact Your Law Firm’s Bottom Line?

It’s amazing how efficient your law firm can be when the right legal software, proper training and IT expertise comes together effectively.

Last November, we sponsored the Thursday night event at the Civil Litigation Conference hosted by one of our clients, the County of Carleton Law Association. We had the opportunity to chat with many of the Litigators from around Ontario, and found that Legal Practice Management Software was a popular topic of conversation. We learned that many law firms seem to be looking for ways to move away from PC Law or better utilize the product.

If you’re trying to decide what type of legal software is right for your law firm, read on for some of our key tips:

  • Rent vs Own: Many applications are switching to a cost per user per month pricing scheme. This makes for easy budgeting, but when examining the total cost of ownership it usually exceeds the traditional purchase option. Try to amortize your purchased option over 5 years and compare it to what you would have paid on a monthly subscription.
  • On Premise vs Cloud: The Cloud is becoming a great option for mobility and scalability while only needing an Internet connection to access your application’s web portal. However, most of the law firms we support do most of their work from the office, making it crucial for fast access to their billing application. Although Internet access is getting faster, nothing beats your local network speeds for access. If you decide to go Cloud, budget for a fast connection with a less powerful backup connection.
  • Accounting Integration: One of the key features in most Legal Practice Management Software is the accounting integration. Some have created their own accounting platforms which will require training. Others tie into Quickbooks and other commonly used applications. Be careful when adopting a non-standard accounting package. Not only can it be cumbersome but it also becomes more difficult when hiring on a new admin/financial person. Make sure their training guides are comprehensive.
  • Reporting and Dashboards: One of the often neglected features is reports and dashboards. A good dashboard can provide your financial and client status in a single view. Many of the newer applications do a fantastic job displaying information in an easy to read format. Always remember that the faster you have accurate information the easier it becomes to make decisions across your firm.

Feel free to download our Legal Practice Management Software Chart where we compare PC Law, Perfect Law, Pro Law, Clio, MyCase and Amicus Attorney in an easy to read chart.

Now I will probably be shunned by the rest of my clients for helping make their lawyers more effective at billing :)

Post by Mathew Lafrance, President, Grade A


Did you know that March is Fraud Prevention Month?

Every year, thousands of Canadians are defrauded. One of the most effective ways to prevent fraud is making sure that you’re equipped with the right knowledge to keep this from happening to you or to those around you. This March marks the tenth year of the nationwide campaign, and Grade A wants to help spread the word!

Fraudsters are really great at fooling people. They go to great lengths to get your money and your private information, and won’t stop at anything. Known to impersonate charities, government agencies and even suppliers, be aware that these people really are out there and are looking to take advantage of you.

Some of the most common scams include*:

  • Business supplies / directory scams
  • Cheque cashing / online classifieds / money transfer job scams
  • Fraudulent health products or cures
  • Prize lottery scams
  • Work-at-home job opportunity scams
  • Antivirus scams
  • Continuity and Premium text messaging scams

*Visit the Competition Bureau website for more information and prevention tips for all scams listed above.

As an IT services provider, we’re well aware of the “antivirus scam”. Some of you might be familiar with this scenario:

“You receive a phone call or an email from someone claiming to work for a software company, maybe even a company you recognize. You are asked if, or informed that, your computer is running slowly and an offer is made to fix it once you grant remote access or download software from a specific website. The vendor seeks to convince you to pay for the service and give your credit card information. The vendor also tries to persuade you to grant remote access to your computer.” – The Competition Bureau

The Competition Bureau explains that, “granting someone the ability to control your computer can open the door to the installation of malicious software capable of capturing sensitive data kept online, including banking and personal identity information. As well, giving the caller your credit card number could lead to charges for a bogus service and the possibility of future charges without your consent. Even just getting rid of the malware may lead to significant charges by a reputable technician”.

Experiencing problems with your computer? Consult a reputable company and avoid giving out your credit card number over the phone when possible. If you are one of the unlucky victims of the many scams out there, make sure to report your experience to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre through its website www.antifraudcentre.ca or by telephone at 1-888-495-8501 so you can stop fraudsters and prevent future scams.

Stay Safe!

Post by Emily Armstrong, Marketing Coordinator, Grade A

Why should kids learn to code?

Forget just French and English, our children all need a foundation in coding if they are going to thrive in the new digital world. Software development will be a key skill as technology continues to expand and become part of our day-to-day lives. I was very lucky to get a taste of application development while in Computer Engineering in University, and I can honestly say coding has provided me some of the best managerial techniques I use as an entrepreneur today.

A few major benefits of understanding software development:

  • Think logically and with a process: When faced with a problem, coding teaches people a structured way to solve a problem. The basic principles help rationalize a problem into its basic components to help you find a solution that you can use again and again.
  • Understand technology/resources: Before you start coding you need to understand the basics of computing (memory, storage, processing, input, output). If people start coding their familiarity around technology increases.
  • Learn how to reuse: Any good coder will tell you they’ve used someone else’s code at some point. The development community has done a great job sharing resources openly to prevent reinventing the wheel every time.
  • Automate and make things efficient: When we started Grade A, one of our business partners was a coder and developed our internal management tool. The level of automation in our organization at the time was amazing. We were turning our business processes into automated tasks making our lives easier and more efficient. As a developer you start to look as manual tasks as painful and will quickly start automating things with your code. Great for any organization.
  • Build things from an idea: My most favorite thing about development is the ability to create. If you have an idea for a website or application (app nowadays), you can literally create it from lines of text. Developers can create things with very little resources, they simply need an idea to fuel their imagination.

If you’re looking to get your kids coding here are a few apps worth trying:

Gamestar Mechanic - Design your own game. Great tools to make the process simple and understandable. I would recommend having kids 8-15 use this application, any younger and it may be too confusing.

Move the Turtle – This is a great little tool that reminded me of the first days using AutoCAD. Kids can build rules to move the turtle to accomplish goal. Great for 5+.

Hopscotch - This application is a great starting point for kids to use variables, create classes and reuse code in scenario driven events. Ideal for children 8+.

The reality is our world is becoming more and more digital. Our entertainment and work environments our continually moving to applications to hopefully improve our lives. Developers will be the architects of the new world, with coding as the building blocks. The key will be getting new generations accustomed to coding as early as possible.

Post by Mathew Lafrance, President, Grade A

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