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Posts from the ‘Small Businesses Computing’ Category

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Should I Upgrade to Windows 7?

2009 September 25
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Windows 7 is launching on October 22 with the big marketing blitz already underway. By many accounts it is the best operating system Microsoft has ever produced. So, the question is, “Should I upgrade?” The short answer is, “Not right away.”

For a business owner, there are just too many issues and risks associated with being an “early adopter” of something that can profoundly affect the operation of your business. It is best to take a wait and see approach to these things.

Among the many issues you must address, compatibility with existing computer hardware and with applications you use to run your business are primary concerns.

  • From a hardware perspective, if you are running Windows XP, your hardware probably does not support Windows 7. Even if it does, the upgrade process – Microsoft calls it a “custom install” – is not for the faint-of-heart. You will need to copy all of your files to a backup device, wipe out everything on your hard drive, install Windows 7, copy all of your files from the backup, and then to reinstall all of your applications from their original CDs. If you are running Microsoft Vista, and if you choose just the right upgrade path, you may be able to do an “in-place upgrade” which does not require wiping your hard drive.
  • From an applications perspective, while Microsoft has given software developers ample time to prepare, the norm is for some to be ready and some not. If your software maker is ready, it may require a paid upgrade to get a Windows 7 compatible version. For example, Intuit, maker of QuickBooks accounting software used by many small businesses, is only supporting the just-released QuickBooks version 2010 on Windows 7.

Our advice for most business owners is to wait until you are ready to buy new hardware and then buy it with Windows 7 already installed. Of course, be sure your business applications will run under Windows 7 before you upgrade your systems.

The Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg writes excellent technology columns for non-techies. His Windows 7 upgrade articles are here, here, and here.

In summary, unless you have very new hardware running Windows Vista and your business applications already support Windows 7, do not upgrade.

If you really want to migrate from Windows XP to Windows 7, in most cases you should buy a new computer with Windows 7 already installed and plan on purchasing upgrades to your business applications.

But, we recommend waiting until the initial bugs are shaken out of Windows 7 and until all of your vendors have produced Window 7-compatible versions of their software.

Which browser do you use?

2009 August 27
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Robert Vamosi at Windows Secrets today posted a very helpful (and concise) rundown of things you can do to keep your computing environment safe in the face the continuous threats from internet attacks.  Among the recommendations are to choose a security suite that does not overburden your system, but provides up-to-date protection, choosing the best way to keep your Windows environment up-to-date, and choosing the most secure browser.  I want to expand on this last topic.

In my experience, most small business users rely on Internet Explorer as their browser of choice.  And they often use an older version of IE, leaving them even more vulnerable to attack.  It may surprise you to know that security experts have long recommended alternatives such as Mozilla’s Firefox, Apple’s Safari, and Google’s Chrome, all of which have fewer security vulnerabilities.  The annoying part of this is that some websites are written so that they will only work with IE.  This means you really should have two browsers on your desktop, IE to use only when you really need it and one of the other three for normal use.  One real benefit of the alternate browser choices is they have a MUCH cleaner user interfaces.  This means you get more screen space to view the website you want to see with less of the clutter I see with most IE installations.  (Many IE interfaces I see use up 30-40% of the space on the computer screen with Google bars, Yahoo tools, security add-ons or whatever…annoying.)

Finally, keep your browser up-to-date.  Upgrade from IE 5 or 6 to IE 7 today.  Firefox and Safari will automatically tell you when there is a new update.  For Chrome, you need to manually check for updates.