Tech Tips

Introducing Windows 7

On October 22, 2009 Microsoft officially released its latest operating system Windows 7. Windows 7 builds on the technological advances in Windows Vista, like moving machine level functionality from the kernel to user space that prevents a single nonresponsive process from causing the entire workstation to crash. Windows 7 also adds several new features such as an improved Taskbar, Jump Lists, and Libraries.

The New Taskbar looks like a cross between previous versions of Windows Taskbar and the Apple Dock. The new Taskbar shows currently running applications, and it allows users to add short cuts allowing him or her to open and close applications from the Taskbar.

Jump Lists groups frequently used files and applications in a conveniently located short cut on the Taskbar. Users can add files and applications to the Jump Lists; Winlibrariesdows 7 will also populate Jump Lists based on the frequency accesses a file or application.

Libraries allow a user to store links, files, and applications located in different locations in a central location on his or her workstation. This includes data located on his or her workstation, data stored on network servers, and data stored on the Internet.

The biggest improvement of Windows 7 is how much faster it runs than Windows Vista. We have been testing Windows 7 for just over a month now and have noticed a noticeable improvement in speed.

Versions of Windows 7

Just like Vista, Windows 7 has multiple versions for different users. For the vast majority of users, the choice is simple. For home desktops and laptops, Home Premium is the best choice. Most business users will use Professional. Ultimate, Enterprise, Home Basic and Starter do have their places, but they are for customers looking for very specific features.

Upgrading to Windows 7

So the question is who should upgrade? There are three groups that may need, or want, to upgrade to Windows 7. These groups include users purchasing new workstations, users currently using Vista, and anyone who wants the latest and greatest technology.

If you are in the market for a new workstation it will not be long before your only choice will be Windows 7. This is not necessarily a bad thing. With Microsoft discontinuing sales of XP it won’t be long before all support, including updates, will be discontinued for XP. Lack of security updates is a major concern because of the increase exposure to external threats. Another thing to consider is that future applications, such as Office 2010, are not built to run on XP. If you are buying new hardware it just doesn’t make sense to purchase a workstation loaded with a decade old operating system.

If you are currently running Vista and are having problems, or just don’t like it, Windows 7 would be a great option. As previously mentioned Windows 7 runs faster than Vista and Microsoft suggests that with Windows 7 virtualization mode it can run older applications. Given Microsoft’s track record you should not assume any application will run Windows 7 without conformation from the vendor and/or testing. If you are interested in testing your applications before updating we can provide demo units to allow you to test your current applications before upgrading.

The final potential upgrader is a user who wants all the newest technology. Windows 7 represents the newest and most feature rich version of Windows yet, so it is only natural for power users to want it.

Before you buy a copy there are few more things to consider. First, as with any Microsoft product it is always best to wait until the first service pack is released. This will give Microsoft time to find flaws and fix security issues. You should also consider what it will mean to upgrade. Windows Vista can be upgraded keeping all of your current applications, data, and settings intact after the upgrade. To upgrade from XP, it will require that data be backed up, the drive formatted, Windows 7 installed, applications installed, and data restored to complete the upgrade. The downtime and labor costs of a full reinstall will have to be taken into account to make the move from XP to Windows 7.

If you are interested in upgrading on your existing hardware, you should run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor, published by Microsoft, to insure your current hardware can support Windows 7. Simply follow the instructions at the following link: Window 7 Upgrade Advisor

If you have any questions, or are interested in upgrading to Windows 7 feel free to call our office and we will be happy to help you make the move as seamless as possible.

The Importance of Backups

Can your business operate without the programs on your computer? Can you use your programs without your specialized data? If you answered no to both questions then your better be sure that you have a strong backup solution. I have broken the news to many people that their hard drive has failed, and after it has happened the cost of a backup solution seems small.
Backups are probably one of the most important computer maintenance functions that can be performed, and they are often the most neglected. From a business perspective, backups are as important as filing your taxes. You can get away with it for a while, but eventually it will catch up with you.

When deciding on what backup solution you should choose, you have to look at several factors. Questions that you should get answered are how much interaction will you have to maintain the system? For example, a good tape system will have multiple tapes that will need to be changed daily. If you do not have someone on staff that can reliably change tapes then you do not have a reliable backup.

Another question that you need to answer is how fast will you need to restore your files. Offsite backup is a good solution for companies because it protects your business from fire and natural disasters, however that protection comes with a price. You are limited to your internet speed when restoring files. If you have large databases to restore it could take days to download the file from your offsite backup. A combination of off-site and on-site backups would be a preferable solution for most businesses.

While the focus of EDC’s business is working with other businesses, occasionally we are called to help save an owner’s personal computer. Something important to consider is do you have backups of pictures and purchased music? In a heartbreaking case I was approached to recover a drive for someone whose son had perished in a car accident. Less than a month after the accident the hard drive failed on his computer taking with it hundreds of pictures for which there was no backup. While we were able to recover the pictures, his father could have been spared the agonizing wait if he had a backup.

All hope is not lost if you have a hard drive failure and no backup. While there is a risk for a total loss of data, there is a very good chance that your data can be recovered. The cost of recovering data from a drive that has failed can be very expensive. If the data was just deleted, or the drive was found to be failing early enough to attempt a recovery the cost can be around $200. However, if the drive failed and has to be sent to a data recovery facility, the cost can easily run into the thousands.
In addition to the lost data, there is usually an extensive downtime associated with the recovery. A scanning program that will recover deleted files can take anywhere from 24 – 72 hours to complete a recover scan. If a drive has to be sent to a recovery facility the turn around usually depends on the price paid for the recovery. By paying a higher fee the turn around can be only a few days, but the lower cost recovery can take over a week.