Software

Productivity Apps Aren’t Just a Fad

Businesses need to maximize productivity any way they can. Some look to software to make this happen. When searching for productivity software, it may seem like you are looking at the same thing over and over again. While we admit that many productivity programs are similar, it’s important that you acquire the software that will give your team the tools it needs to succeed. Let’s take a look at how you can find the right productivity apps for your business’ needs.

Productivity in Software

Productivity software isn’t a flashy item. Every business needs certain apps to do business and most businesses need the same apps. There are a lot of options to choose from, and many of the options might seem pretty similar. What’s important is that you get the tools your business needs. 

Productivity software, which is generally made up of a word processor, a spreadsheet program, a presentation software, note-taking software, and other useful task management tools, isn’t much different from one to another. What is different—and makes a difference—is how the apps are deployed and how they are managed by the developer. It’s fair to say that you get what you pay for, and some productivity apps are just stronger than others. 

What Should You Look For?

When trying to sort out which productivity apps to use, you obviously will want to consult your budget and your needs. As we mentioned above, most word processors are going to do the job you’d expect out of a word processor, but with more innovative solutions, you will get more options that will help your overall productivity. That’s extremely important. Let’s take a look at some variables you should consider:

Reliability 

If your software isn’t reliable, it isn’t worth it, period. Reliability can be measured in several ways. Is it still being developed consistently so you know it isn’t a security risk? Does it have the options you need? Is it easy to use and won’t take a long time to get the hang of? Some apps will promise you benefits that you will never see, but what you can bank on is if the applications cause you a steady stream of problems, you’ve probably made a bad choice. 

Interoperability

If a lot of your team is working remotely on their own computers, you may find that not everyone is going to have the same OS, the same chipset, etc. You will need any productivity app that you choose to work on several different systems. This includes mobile devices. You may think you’re getting a great deal, but if a handful of your workers are working on macOS and the software isn’t compatible with it, you’re going to be kicking yourself. 

Accessibility

As many people continue to work remotely, or in some type of hybrid work system, having apps that work from anywhere is extremely important. Today, a lot of options are available as Software as a Service (SaaS) offerings to help businesses avoid the expense of setting up their own cloud server or remote access tools. Either way, you need to be able to get your remote workers the tools they need to be productive.

Collaboration Features

Speaking of productivity, a lot of businesses are asking their people to do more. We are in unprecedented times and business decisions have to be made down to the dollar. When the productivity software your business uses has collaboration features built-in, it can make a world of difference. Workers can work in the same file, share files, and consistently stay up to date on workflows. A lot of the productivity suites available will also come with some form of project management software. This is a good way to oversee your team’s progress on a project and work right alongside them in real-time. 

If you are looking for the latest software to boost productivity for your business, our technicians can help. Give us a call at 334-834-7660 for more information today. 

 

Tip of the Week: How to Share Documents in Google Drive

Collaboration is something that no modern business can do without, which helps to explain why so many current applications feature it so heavily. Let’s focus on Google Drive and its multitude of collaborative capabilities that so many businesses are now making use of.

Document Sharing

This is the foundation of any collaborative process: the capability to share a file and allow others to edit it. Google Drive provides you a few means of doing so:

● From My Drive, click one of your various documents to highlight it and click on the Share icon in the toolbar at the top-right of the page.

● Right-clicking the document and selecting Share will provide you with the option to do so.

● Google Drive’s assorted applications, like Docs, Slides, and Sheets, each feature a prominent Share button at the top of the page.

Each of these options pulls up the same window: The Share with people and groups panel. Let’s examine the options that this panel provides.

The “Share with people and groups” Panel

This panel allows you to select who can access your document, and what they can do with it afterward. As a result, it is simple to share with anyone from a single coworker to an entire department—all you need to do is type in the appropriate name or email address, add a quick message if needed, and determine the access you’re granting:

● Editor­—Someone with editor-level access privileges can make whatever changes to a document that they see fit, as well as extend permissions to others to share the document in question.

● Commenter—A commenter has much more limited capabilities, as they are not able to directly change the content of a given document or share it out, but they can leave their feedback and suggestions for an editor to review and approve or deny.

● Viewer—A viewer can read through a document but can leave no feedback or send it along to others.

You can also adjust these settings even more, taking away or adding capabilities as you need to (or even taking away permissions entirely). In the Share pane, click the field that specifies the user’s access and make the changes you need to. From there, you can set an expiration date to their access to match your needs.

The Share pane also allows you to generate a link that allows your document to be shared that way. Under Get Link, you can select the option that gives anyone with the link the appropriate privileges, whether that be edit access or the ability to comment. This access can be removed whenever you need it to be.

Determining Which Documents Have Been Shared

Finally, Google Drive also simplifies the process of establishing which documents have had their access shared. A small icon will appear next to the filename that looks like two silhouettes, so long as you aren’t working in Grid view.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of the capabilities that Google Drive offers in terms of collaboration. There are plenty of other ways that your business’ IT can help to facilitate teamwork, too, so give us a call at 334-834-7660 to learn more today.

 

 

 

Prioritizing Security with Your Messaging Apps

If you asked your average person whether they are okay with their personal information being taken and used by businesses, you’d probably come across quite a bit of dissent. Ironically, it seems that people will give it right over via social media programs, but you are beginning to see some pushback when using apps. WhatsApp, the messaging app owned by Facebook, that is known for end-to-end encryption, has told users that they will soon be forced to share their personal data with Facebook.

Today, we thought we would take a few minutes to review the goings on in the social media and messaging space.

Consolidating Facebook 

Back in December, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a lawsuit in federal court against Facebook, claiming that the social media giant has been engaged in anticompetitive conduct and violated antitrust laws. The attorneys general of 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam all cooperated with the FTC in an investigation that states Facebook has been engaged in unethical business by acquiring and running would-be competitor apps WhatsApp and Instagram. Facebook’s actions are being scrutinized as they begin to consolidate the management of data throughout their family of apps. 

Facebook is also accused of restricting third-party software developers from accessing Facebook’s development platform unless they signed legal agreements to only create applications that don’t directly compete with Facebook’s properties. 

Smaller Messaging Apps Thrive

With WhatsApp’s recent announcement that all data sent and received on the application will effectively be considered a part of that person’s Facebook profile, a lot of users are looking to change to emerging messaging applications to avoid the security and privacy concerns. Two options include Signal and Telegram. These two options have seen massive growth. Signal has gained 7.5 million new users in a week’s time, while Telegram became the most downloaded app in the United States, adding 9 million new users.

With WhatsApp now requiring users to share phone numbers, locations, and contacts’ phone numbers with Facebook and its subsidiaries, there is concern about user’s privacy. Facebook has stated that the new privacy policies do not affect messages shared between family or friends, only those messages sent to a business. That fact is largely lost on people who seem to finally be getting a handle on how important their data privacy really is. 

What do you think? Do you agree with Facebook’s move to consolidate their data collection, or do you think that data privacy is too important for such a powerful company to make these drastic moves?

 

Helpful Features Found in Google Docs

Within Google Workspace is Google Docs, a useful word processing solution that can be accessed through your web browser. In case you’re new to using Google’s productivity software, we have decided to assemble a short introduction to some of Google Docs’ most useful tools and features.

Want to check out Google Docs? It’s free for anyone with a Google account, although if you are going to use it for your business, you should talk to us about Google Workspace. 

You can log in at docs.google.com to see how the free version works.

Version History

Undoubtedly, one of Google Docs’ most useful features must be its referenceable version history. Think about it—you could go back and review how people have edited the document and the rate that progress has been made. This not only enables a higher level of accountability in your work, but it also makes it clear who made certain changes and when these changes were made.

As a result, it is far clearer to everyone involved who has contributed their share, and how the status of the team’s efforts currently stands. Accessing this area is as simple as clicking File>Version history>See version history and choosing from the list of dates and times provided.

If you want to restore a file from one of these past versions, it is as simple as clicking the Restore this version button at the top of the screen in the review section when one of the past modifications are selected.

Interacting with a Document

Due to the collaborative nature of Google Docs, the likelihood is high that your documents are frequently shared throughout your organization and amongst your clients. Of course, not everyone who has their hands on these documents necessarily needs the capability to make changes—or even leave feedback at all.

Google Docs enables you to share these documents while also dictating the amount of access that your recipients have—as well as to limit your own capabilities as well, to help you effectively accomplish specific tasks. This can be done by altering how the document is presented, which comes in three modes: Editing, Suggesting, and Viewing.

Predictably, Editing mode enables a user to make changes. However, with the document set to Suggesting mode, the user can only (as the name would suggest) suggest changes to be made. Likewise, Viewing mode only allows a user to view the document—pretty handy, especially when you’re looking for feedback over collaboration.

Mobile Capabilities

Google Docs also comes as a very capable (if limited by the platform) mobile application, enabling your team to potentially make quick reviews and edits while on the move. While we wouldn’t recommend anyone write their next novel from scratch using this method, it can prove handy in a pinch. As you would expect, any changes you make there are reflected to any collaborators you are working with.

Obviously, Google Docs offers many more capabilities that we encourage you to discover for yourself. For assistance in implementing it for your organization, or more information about the other options available to you, give us a call at 334-834-7660 today.

 

 

How to Use Google Drive to the Fullest

For the business seeking out a comprehensive cloud-based content management and collaboration solution, Google Drive is an option that warrants serious consideration. While we don’t want to recommend it over another one of your options, per se, we did want to provide a brief beginner’s guide to putting it to use. That way, any business that does elect to adopt Google Drive—and the associated solutions it comes with—has more information going in.

Getting Started with a Google Account

If you have a Google account, you have access to Google Drive. Using your browser, or either the Android or iOS version of the application, you can log in to see your storage space.

There, you’ll find the root menu, titled My Drive, with options to view items that have been shared with you (under Shared with me) and all Recent documents, ones that have been Starred as important, and those that have been sent to the Trash. You are also provided with an indicator bar that outlines the amount of available storage remaining.

You can also find any files that Google has deemed to be of high Priority, as well as the folders that are shared within an organization in the Shared drives section—presuming that you’re using a business account.

Above those options is the New button, providing the user with the ability to create new folders and files of different types, or upload files and folders into the space. These files can cover a wide variety of formats, from the core Google applications of Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms to many others.

Sharing Documents You’ve Created

There are a few different ways that a document in Google Drive can be shared with another user, whether that’s between sharing access to a folder wherein it is stored, or by sharing the document directly.

Any document you’ve created can be shared from within it, through the Share button. From there, you can adjust editing permissions for those who you have shared it with and send it to them through a link, either by email or copy-and-pasting it as needed. Alternatively, right clicking the file in your Drive itself will present you with a few options, one of which being to share it.

When you and your collaborators are inside the document, you will all be presented to the others involved.

You can also share entire folders via a similar process.

Restoring Older Versions

Unfortunately, there is a lot that can go wrong with many hands on a document. To help resolve this shortcoming, Google Drive also saves a record of the document and any changes made to it for 30 days, or the past 100 revisions. From there, you can revert changes back to an older version if needed.

To do so, access the file and, from the File menu, select Version History. You can then review the saved versions and restore the ones you need.

Searching for Files and Folders

Finally, similarly to Google’s original function, Drive also has a search bar that allows a user to Search in Drive, with the option to add more specific criteria.

 

Consider Google Drive an Effective Business Solution

Depending on your circumstance, Google Drive may or may not be the right solutions for your needs. For more information, or to discuss your options, reach out to Jackson Thornton Technologies at 334-834-7660.

 

Let’s Look at a Few Collaboration-Themed Applications

Boosting collaboration is a central theme to many companies' operational strategies. The more that people can do as a team, the less costly operations have to be. That is a sound business strategy. Today, many businesses are looking to software to build a successful collaborative situation. Let’s take a look at three such apps that, if used properly, will help any business boost their team’s ability to work together. 

Discord

Discord was developed as a video conferencing solution for gamers, and operated in that fashion for a number of years, but over time it gained popularity because of the number of communication options that the software presents. Some organizations have gone so far as moving from more traditional collaboration apps to Discord because it is effective. 

At its base, Discord is basically a conferencing application that is free to use. Users can create their own servers and use them to host several types of communication such as video chat, audio chat, and text messages. You can easily share screens and do it all in real-time. This is the part about Discord that gives it its benefits. Discord offers bots that help keep users focused on a task and offers organizations a great option as a team-building app.

Without the massive list of useful integrations found with titles like Microsoft Teams and Slack, Discord doesn’t provide a lot of the tools built in to those other platforms, but is an extremely useful tool for collaboration nonetheless.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams’ biggest benefit is a direct integration with Office 365. In a single window, users can view their Outlook-based communications and calendars, as well as create, share, and edit work found on the Microsoft Office platform. Shared workspaces are abound in Office 365 from apps such as OneDrive, OneNote and SharePoint. It provides a centralized platform in which to communicate, manage, and delegate work. 

Microsoft Teams also offers a bunch of active integrations that provide third-party applications access, building on this cache of apps regularly. This provides teams with tools that aren’t native to Office 365. More than that, a direct integration with Skype provides meeting capabilities that fuel collaborative endeavors and push initiatives along faster. 

Slack

Slack, much like Microsoft Teams, is an extraordinarily useful tool for teams looking to collaborate. is a collaboration software designed to make project-based management easier. It is set up as a chat program with forum-like resources and a massive amount of integrations available to teams of people. Therefore, users can customize their Slack experience to meet their needs. The platform is used by millions of companies so the application integrations are current and updated with new features regularly. 

In utilizing Slack, companies can work to replace a lot of the other traditional business communications such as email and text messaging and are available on desktop platforms and mobile platforms for continuous communication. 

Is your business looking to add to its collaborative toolbox? Would any of these three work for your needs? Does your organization utilize any of these?  

 

What the Retirement of Adobe Flash Means to Your Business

Once December 31st brings the New Year around, support for the once-popular Adobe Flash Player will officially end. Of course, it isn’t every day that a 24-year-old software is taken out of commission, so it only makes sense to wonder how much this will impact businesses.

With Any Luck, It Won’t

Flash Player and other software based on Flash have been largely phased out over the past decade or so, so ultimately it was just a matter of time before Flash Player was officially retired. Furthermore, Flash has also experienced some security issues, leading to the major players—Google, Microsoft, and Apple—basically leaving it behind as well.

So, while this news isn’t unexpected, it does still warrant saying that Flash was a big part of what shaped the Internet that we know today. However, nostalgia aside, the retired software needs to be removed from all systems to prevent it from becoming a vulnerability in your network.

Just as is the case with any software that will no longer be supported, Flash Player will not be reinforced against any future threats. This will effectively turn it into an exploit that a cybercriminal could use to introduce a larger threat into your business’ infrastructure.

Fortunately, all it takes to avoid this outcome is to properly update your IT away from any Flash-based software.

Jackson Thornton Technologies can help with this, as well as so much more. For assistance with your IT management, maintenance, and security, give us a call at 334-834-7660.

 

 

 

Reviewing Zoom’s Efforts to Improve Its Security

As a communication tool, the video conferencing app Zoom saw a considerable bump in its popularity with both personal and business users as the coronavirus pandemic made other means of meeting no longer viable. However, this sudden increase in its user base also revealed some serious security issues with the platform. Let’s examine what Zoom has done to resolve these issues since then.

Zoom’s 90-Day Security Plan

On April 1, 2020, Zoom announced that it had a 90-day plan to address the numerous security concerns and criticisms that had plagued many users. The crux of the issue was that Zoom links were commonly being shared on social media… effectively opening these meetings to anyone who could find that link. As a result, the concept of “Zoombombing”—unauthorized users hijacking meetings and sharing offensive content—was born.

After numerous attacks were waged against organizations of all kinds, Zoom saw that it needed to make some changes. Therefore, on April 1st, the company announced that it would be pausing any new features to focus specifically on those related to the platform’s security. These include:

● Passwords are now required to access all meetings

● Waiting Rooms (a space where a meeting’s guests had to wait to be approved by the host) are enabled by default

● The default settings only enable the host to share their screen

Furthermore, Zoom’s acquisition of Keybase has enabled them to incorporate end-to-end encryption. Other internal changes are also now in place including a bug bounty program, deeper penetration testing, and other security improvements.

Some Brief Controversy

However, Zoom has not escaped all criticism as it has made these changes. In June, CEO Eric Yuan shared that the end-to-end encryption feature would be exclusive to paying users. Once users and security advocates alike spoke out about this policy, Zoom quickly walked this policy back. While it is still rolling out this capacity, and it may interfere with some other features, Zoom is also actively planning for the future with its next improvements already planned out.

So, is Zoom Safe to Use?

Compared to where it was? Absolutely. However, you may still want to take what you plan on communicating into account when deciding whether to use Zoom for certain conversations, just to be safe. Erring on the side of caution is always the better option when your business communications are involved.

Whatever your business’ technology needs may be, Jackson Thornton Technologies can help you find and implement the solutions to fulfill them. To learn more about what we have to offer, give us a call at 334-834-7660 today.