ComTech: IT Support Stirling

Be careful when joining someone else’s Office 365 account

Office 365 is one of the better products to have come out of Redmond over the last couple of years.  For very little money you have access to some of the best enterprise class products and services on the market which can really transform a business.  It is no wonder thousands of businesses have signed up and continue to do so.  There is however one pitfall that I have come across in the last 12 months which quite a few businesses continue to fall into – joining someone elses Office 365 subscription.

Let me explain what I am on about.  Lets say we have a company called A who does a lot of work with a company called B who has an active Office 365 Small Business subscription.  Company A is very impressed with Office 365 and is considering signing up as they feel it would improve their business. Company B suggests that since both  companies work closely together it would be no hassle to add Company A to their active subscription. This is the pitfall. Once company A is added to company B’s subscription company B would have access to all of company A’s emails and any documents stored in OneDrive for Business.  This is even worse if company A stores any data that is not relevant to company B in OneDrive for Business (I have seen this)  as effectively data protection goes out the window.

I have seen IT companies actively encouraging companies to sign upto the same subscription which to me is ludicrous. Yes it makes the IT management simpler but exposes client data to a third party which goes against the data protection act.

So if you intend to subscribe to Office 365 do yourself and your clients a favour and get your own subscription and don’t join someone else’s.

About the Author


Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter


So what exactly are the benefits of switching to Office 365 then?

These were the words used by a potential new client last week during a meeting.  The client has 5 PC’s running Windows 7 with no backup structure in place.  They are also running Office 2003 which they are looking to upgrade.  The owner had read somewhere that Office 365 backed up everything for a small monthly cost and was interested in my opinion.  This is what I told him:

1. Lets take emails first.  With an Office 365 subscription you are getting Exchange which means that you can have shared calenders and Outlook Web App which gives you access to your email folder structure from anywhere. Your contacts and calendar are also shared between your devices.  With Office 365 Microsoft also guarantee 99.99% uptime (please correct me if I have missed off any 9’s) meaning your emails “should” never go down.

2. Office Suite.  If you plump for a small business package at £8.40 per user per month you also get full copies of Office 2013 which each user can use on 5 devices. If you already use Office in your workplace then this might be of interest.  If though you are like me and use opensource software like Libreoffice and Thunderbird (or even Evolution) this will be less of an attractive option.

3. Online storage.  Office 365 gives you £25 GB of online storage per user through Skydrive Pro (about to become OneDrive for Business).  I don’t like SkyDrive Pro as it is basically SharePoint of which I am not a big fan.  Additionally I don’t like the idea of all the company files not being in a central store.  With Office 365 all user files are stored in the users SkyDrive Pro account and not a central company account.  If the users are primarily office based then I would tend to advise something like SkyDrive (not Pro) or Dropbox on a central server which shares files across a network.  This way all the files are in one central store (along with being backed up online) and upper management can access them if required.  I have only used the small business subscriptions so if this is different with the Enterprise packages then I apologise.

4. Overall cost.  Personally I think the smaller the business the more attractive Office 365 subscriptions are.  If you are part of a large organisation with 100’s of employees the costs would be staggering.  For a small business (say less than 10 employees) for only £3.30 per user per month you get the full capabilities of Exchange Server for your emails without having to purchase and maintaining Windows Server 2012 R2 and Exchange 2013.  This in itself is justification for purchasing a subscription.

So to wrap up I think that Office 365 is a really good platform for your emails but it does depend on the size of your business.  The bigger the business the higher the costs.

The client is still trying to make up his mind.

About the Author


Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in Stirling and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter





Should Microsoft abandon the consumer market all together?

Should Microsoft abandon the consumer market all together?

Now that is a question I have thought a lot about lately.  Their mobile phones aren’t exactly flying off the shelf and their tablets are sitting there getting dust (I have tried a Surface RT and was very impressed by the way) and Windows 8 (again I like) isn’t exactly warming the hearts of consumers.

What also hasn’t helpt them is that PC’s in the home are going the way of the dodo and being replaced by tablets and smartphones.  They were late to the mobile revolution and so far they haven’t been able to catch up.

To put it blunt Microsoft is in a bit of pickle at the moment with their newest offerings to the consumer market.

Contrast that with the business environment where Microsoft is so entrenched that it would take something monumental to shift them.  Their server software is used by millions of companies worldwide along with their biggest asset, Microsoft Office.  With the change to their subscription pricing this should fill their coffers even more (consumers on the other hand HATE paying subscriptions for software).  There is also Windows Azure which has been picking up subscriptions left right and centre lately.

Now what would happen if they suddenly decided to cut their losses and concentrate solely on the business market?

In the short term they would lose out on new licences of Windows but since the consumer market is shrinking anyway maybe that wouldn’t effect them to much.  With consumers no longer a top priority Windows could then be redesigned for business users (unlike Windows 8 at the moment) which would make enterprises very happy and entrench Microsoft further. Their services strategy (eg Azure, Office 365 etc) would also have more resources at their disposal which would mean they could offer better services which in turn leads to happy customers which again leads to full coffers.

This is just my opinion but I would be interested to hear what other people think so should Microsoft abandon the consumer market all together?

About the Author


Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter



Microsoft’s big gamble

Ever since the iPhone was released back in 2008 people have wondered when Microsoft would port its productivity suite Microsoft Office to it.  For years Microsoft relented, that is until now.

Yesterday I came across an article on the internet stating that Microsoft was releasing a copy of Microsoft Office for the iPhone.  It is not the version of Office that most people know of (ie desktop) but instead you get Office 365, the monthly subscription version.  Basically you will have to fork out money to Microsoft every month to use it but that is they way their pricing structure has gone so no surprises there.

What is surprising is that they have ported the Office suite at all.  What I mean by this is that in the consumer market Microsoft is becoming less relevant everyday as PC sales slump and people switch to tablets and smartphones.  Microsoft entered this market late with their Windows 8 tablets but they haven’t sold well (the price hasn’t helpt).

Traditionally if you wanted Microsoft Office then you had to have a computer running Windows.  With Office 365 now available on an iPhone (when will the iPad or Android version appear I wonder?) they are giving consumers even less of a reason to purchase a machine with Windows on it, whether it be a laptop, phone, tablet or desktop PC which is going to hurt their bottom line and lose them market share in general.

In the business environment it is not so clear cut as although businesses are adopting iPads and iPhones into their infrastructure Windows is still firmly entrenched on laptops and desktops.

So what is the thinking behind all this? I am guessing (and it is only a guess) that Microsoft has decided they can increase revenue with Microsoft Office to such an extent that losing market share in the consumer space is acceptable.  Their big gamble is that if these devices start entering the business environment in large enough numbers then their market share in the business environment could start to suffer.  If this happens then Microsoft could be in real trouble but I guess we will have to wait and see what happens.

So what do you think is this a big gamble for Microsoft or a really good business strategy?

About the Author


Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more!!




Why the cloud doesn’t always add up

The Cloud.  These two words have been thrown about so much in the last couple of years that it is very hard to get away them. From a distance the advantages of the cloud look great – access your data from anywhere, offsite backups, reduced hardware costs, no upfront software costs etc however there are some drawbacks which I shall outline below.

1. No internet no files

Without a working broadband connection the cloud doesn’t work.  You have no emails and no access to your files.  If you use an online productivity suite (eg Google Docs) you can’t work on your files either.  You may be thinking “everywhere has broadband these days” but I can assure you the speed varies significantly.  For instance I know of a company up in Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland who are trying to run their office off 1 Meg!!  Online file storage would not be an option for them as they don’t have the bandwidth to accomodate it.

2. Where exactly are your files stored?

I know they are online but where? For instance some cloud providers (eg Dropbox) store their clients data across multiple servers in multiple locations (in their case across the US).  If you work for the military would you want your data stored in a different country? Don’t think so!!!  For the small business it may not be such a big deal but it is definitely something to consider.

3. Who actually owns your data and how is it used?

I am guessing that at this point you are thinking “the files are mine so it must be me” however  as it turns out it depends who you store your data with.  Taking Dropbox as an example all the files you store with them are yours – final.  They don’t look at them they just store them. Now lets take Google.  Any files you store with them are still yours however they can use the data you store with them to improve their services.  This is detailed in their terms and conditions.  I bet you didn’t know that did you?

4. Subscription Charges.

Instead of laying out a large sum of money right at the start for software like Microsoft Office the cloud allows you to use online productivity suites for a monthly subscription.  This is designed to help you spread out the costs.  Sounds good but lets dig a little deeper.  For example say you have 5 employees using 5 PC’s each requiring a copy of Microsoft Office 2010 business at a price of £120 and you expect to use it for 5 years.  The total outlay would be £600.  Now if you considered switching to online productivity suites you would probably use either Office 365 or Google Apps (please feel free to correct me if I am wrong).

Lets take Google Apps first.  Google Apps for Business is straightforward in its pricing.  It costs £5/user/month so in our example it would cost 5 * 5*12*5 = £1500 (5 users at £5/month for 5 years) which is considerably higher than the £600 it would have cost to buy 5 copies of Office 2010 in the first place.

Now lets have a look at Office 365.  Microsoft is somewhat more confusing in its pricing but for our example the best package would be Small Business P1 which costs £3.90/user/month.  So for our small business with 5 employees it would cost 3.90*5*12*5 = £1170.  Again significantly higher than purchasing the software.  So why would you pay the higher charges? The answer is mobility.  You can access your files and edit them from anywhere with a broadband connection.  Only you and your business can decide if this is worth paying the extra for.

So to round up the cloud has a hell of a lot of advantages but just be warned it can have some major disadvantages too.

About the Author

Hi I am Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows and Linux based IT Support, laptop repairs and computer repairs to both business and personal clients in and around Stirling.

For a list of what I can offer you why not visit my website where you will find a list of my services, testimonials, blog and much more.






Do you actually need that office?

Here is an interesting thought for you.  With mobile technology advancing as fast as it is and the onset of ‘the cloud’ do you still need that office to do your work in?

Now bear with me and I shall explain further.  Lets take the internet first.

If your laptop / tablet / smartphone has wireless capability (and they all do) then you can access the internet from anywhere there is wifi (e.g coffee shop, own house and even MacDonalds if you so wish!!).

Now lets take your documents.

There are now products like Google Apps or Office 365 which allow you to access and work on your documents from anywhere with an internet connection.  You edit your files and save them online.  They also allow multiple people to collaborate on a document at the same time.  All this comes secure too.

If you don’t like the idea of Google Apps or Office 365 then you could go down the online storage route with something like Dropbox.  All your files are stored online and can be downloaded at any time, edited and then uploaded to the internet.  Anyone with access to your Dropbox account is able to see all the documents too.

Then there is email.  How many small companies actually host their own email server? Using the companies I work with as a reference (1-15 employees) not that many which means that their emails are already hosted online.

So with your documents and emails available from anywhere what is there holding you back? Meetings? These can be arranged to take place in a coffee shop in a relaxing atmosphere (I do this all the time).

Maybe you need to access a central piece of business critical software?  I can see how this might become an issue but using products like Amazon Web Services (AWS) you can now host all your critical business software on a virtual server online and only pay for what you use.

What about the need to look professional and have the business address? This is very important however this can be solved by using virtual offices.  You pay a company (usually on a monthly basis) for an address and telephone number in an existing building (if you’re lucky you might even get a receptionist too!!).  In the Stirling area I can recommend Ceteris for this.

I totally understand that depending on the size and nature of your business the ‘No Office’ solution might not be practicable however if you are a small business with less than 5 employees (or even a sole trader) I would seriously think about it because if nothing else you would save on your office rental costs.

Has anyone already done this?

About the Author


Hi I’m Chris Wakefield the owner of ComTech IT Support. I provide Windows, Mac and Linux based IT Support to small businesses in Stirling, Alloa and Falkirk.

Follow @Comtech247 on Twitter




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