Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Google Apps vs. Office 365

When it comes to getting work done, everyone has a preferred set of applications for things like email, word processing and spreadsheets. In terms of popularity, the two most preferred suites are Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365. While both platforms are similar in the tools they offer, it’s the capabilities of each platform that makes them more ideal than the other for personal, business, or educational environments.

Because this has become the subject of so much debate over the past few years, we’ll compare the platforms here:

Best For Businessworkstation-405768__180

Even though Office 365 has been around much longer than Google Apps, a number of large companies have already switched to the latter. It really depends on the business.

Google Apps is simpler than Office 365 in almost every respect — from having a simpler pricing structure to offering fewer features. The cost of using both at an entry level is about the same, but things get a little more complicated when you want to upgrade. Microsoft offers six different plans that the user has to go through and decide between, while Google only has two. Plus, Microsoft only offers Office 365 as a yearly subscription, whereas Google Apps is has a month-to-month option.

Google Apps was born in the cloud. Microsoft is showing up to the game a bit later. Because of this, many of the web-based productivity tools offered by Google are more robust than the corresponding Office 365 tools. In addition, Google Apps has a better track record when it comes to uptime. At launch, Office 365 was plagued with outages that kept many businesses holding off adoption until it stabilized. It’s gotten better, but as of February 2013, Office 365 users experienced 113 minutes of downtime for every 1 minute of downtime for Google Apps users.

Depending on one’s perspective, the Office 365’s extra features can seem either like an asset or a drawback. For companies that don’t need much from their applications, having fewer features can make Google Apps easier to learn and use effectively.

Generally speaking, Google tools will integrate more effectively with Apple google-485611__180tools. Microsoft solutions do not always integrate well with Apple operating systems. Due to this, a company might make the email hosting decision based on the type of computers already in use at the business. Apple shops should strongly consider Google Apps for Work. Microsoft-based offices can go either way, but if wanting to have those productivity tools function seamlessly in the desktop environment, then Office 365 will be the better choice.

That said, many prefer Office 365 in the workplace because they are accustomed to using one of the applications within it more than the others, such as Microsoft Word over Google Documents. While Gmail is largely preferred to Microsoft Outlook, Outlook has been around far longer, and many companies have been working with it for years — why switch now?

Most organizations stick with the Microsoft productivity suite because of familiarity. Learning new systems takes time and costs money. That being said, studies have shows that organizations see significant productivity gains by moving over to the Google Apps for Work suite. While it might not be as dramatic a change as the move from fax to email, it’s pretty close.

One thing’s for sure, though: If you’re looking to integrate the both in your business, you’ll have a tough time. They aren’t compatible, and if you try to copy and paste information from one platform to the other you will likely run into a problem. An example would be while attempting to transfer Excel formulas to Google spreadsheets.

Best For Educationhome-office-569359__180

In working with applications for education, both teachers and students need a suite that enables easy collaboration, offers a lot of storage, and supports learning programs. Both Office 365 and Google Apps for Education offer the usual applications that are necessary for basic office functions and can be used anytime, anywhere, and from any device. The two also supply users with a great deal of storage, but the storage for Google Apps for Education is unlimited.

So then it all boils down to the learning programs, a contest that Google seems to have won with Google Classroom. Google Classroom serves as a virtual learning environment that allows teachers to assign work, grade students, add files and upload media, and keep track of progress. At the same time, students are working within it, they can upload documents from their computers or Google Drive, and collaborate with their classmates on assignments.

Best For Personalworking-690680__180

In terms of having an office suite for your own use, it’s all about personal preference, more than anything else. Some people have grown up using Office applications, while others began using Gmail long ago and gradually moved onto using Google’s other applications from there.

Because not much is generally needed from an office suite, when used on a personal level, individuals often juggle whichever platforms are more convenient to use, often using more than one — sometimes using alternatives to Microsoft and Google applications. For instance, a Mac user may prefer Gmail for communicating with friends, Pages for word processing, and Excel for accounting.

It’s worth it to keep an eye on both Office 365 and Google Apps for any or all of your needs. Both companies are constantly working to improve their platforms and make them more user-friendly. The rule of thumb, however, seems to be that Google Apps is simple, while Office 365 is more complex.


Password Management: Top 3 Password Tools to Help Protect You Online

Most of us spend at least half of our waking hours using online tools, whether for business or personal use, making it crucial to protect our accounts from hackers. You might think no one would ever be interested in your email or small business’s records, but you’d be surprised. Having your account hacked can end up being both disturbing and a mess for you and anyone in your contact list. So, do everyone a favor and take preemptive measures to secure your online identity. One of the easiest, most reliable approaches is through password management.

Take a look at these three password tools that are easy to use and effective:


Available for every different device and as an extension across several major platforms, 1Password boasts simplicity and impenetrability. It generates unique, impregnable passwords for every application, service, and site you use. If you’re not sure which passwords need revamping, use 1Password’s security audit, which will review all of your passwords and evaluate them on their strength.

Plus, 1Password saves all your sign-in information behind a single master password, so you don’t have to recall any information whenever you want to log into an account. As a bonus, you can keep other data in 1Password’s secure information vault, such as credit card numbers and addresses, saving you loads of time.

1Password has a number of useful features, such as multiple vaults. If you’re working on a project or need to share select information with others, 1Password gives you the option of creating additional, shareable vaults that can be organized in whatever way works best for you. These vaults are automatically and instantly synched over wifi, iCloud, or Dropbox.

To purchase a 1Password license, visit its creator’s website,


LastPass is another password management tool that creates mind-numbingly complex passwords for all of your accounts, across every different platform. According to its website, 73% of people use the same password for a number of sites, a majority of passwords only contain six characters, and a majority of passwords only take three minutes to hack.

LastPass saves all of your information behind one master password and then fills it in for you as you need it. It allows you to create multiple passwords within its program, so that every member of your team or family can have access to his/her own information.

The tool also enables you to store a great deal of confidential information — such as licenses, passports, images, documents, wifi information, and so on — as attachments to secure notes. Basically, you have the important information you need at your disposal (but not at anyone else’s).

As an added benefit, LastPass sends you security email alerts as soon as the online sites and services you use have been hacked so that you can be vigilant about changing your passwords.

Download one of their programs — free, premium, or enterprise — at


Keepass is a free, open-source alternative to standard password management. Supporting both Advanced Encryption Standard and Twofish algorithms, Keepass encrypts all of your account information — from usernames to notes to addresses to passwords. Advanced Encryption Standard is so secure that it’s been approved by the National Security Alliance for use with top secret information.

All of the encrypted data is either protected behind one master password, a key file, or both. Key files are often regarded as a more secure way to guard your information and can be stored on an external device, such as a USB key, that you can carry around with you — just don’t lose it!

Keepass doesn’t require installation and works best on Windows operating systems. However, if you download Mono (software), it will also run on Linux, Mac OS X, BSD, and other systems.

To download Keepass for free, go to

If you think your dog’s name or favorite color is enough to bar the way between access to your accounts and a hacker, you might want to think a little harder about the consequences of having your information stolen. It’s easy to protect yourself with these simple, yet effective, password tools — all it takes is a few minutes to set them up. Once you do, you can rest easier knowing that your data is secure from even the most clever hackers.


Does Your Business Need a Server? 3 Reasons Your Business Should Upgrade (or not) to Getting an In-House Server

It is more common than ever for offices — especially for larger companies — to possess two different types of computers: a computer on which individuals perform their daily tasks and one centralized computer that stores the resources all other computers on the network can access. The second type of computer is known as a server, and its function is to hold the information that’s on all of the computers, allow and deny access of various files to appropriate parties, as well as to provide a high level of security for the company’s information. While servers are regarded as a must for most businesses, does yours need one? If you think it does, is an in-house server the way to go?

Consider these three reasons as to why you should or shouldn’t upgrade to an in-house server:

1.     The Expense of In-House Serverskeyboard-254582_640

Servers can be costly, depending on which you decide to go with. It’s no secret that larger companies are more likely to have in-house servers than smaller ones. In-house servers often mean investing in expensive equipment and upgrades, as well as office space to store the server. Professionals generally need to be called in to maintain the equipment, or if your business has an IT department, problematic servers can monopolize valuable time best spent on other projects. For this reason, many companies are switching over to Cloud-based servers, which don’t require any physical equipment, but rather just payment for a service subscription. Plus, employers with a number of telecommuters also appreciate the ease with which their employees can access all materials from wherever they are, as long as there’s an established online connection.

2.     How Much Control Do You Want?iphone-macbook-air-man-162

When your server is located in-house, you have complete control over it. While Cloud-based services are known for being secure, some businesses may feel more comfortable having their server in a place they can physically access and safeguard in a way that makes the most sense for their company (there are a few ways to go about this).

3.     Dealing with Crashes and Downtime5528275910_8a11c076d8_o

We’ve all been through it: You’re working on a document, and the computer freezes. You go to restart it, and it shuts off but doesn’t turn on again. You take it in to be repaired, and hope and pray for a good outcome. Alas, all of your documents, including the one you were just working on, are gone forever. What a nightmare. One of the central ideas behind having a server is that all of your saved documents are backed up, all of the time. Thus, when your computer goes down, all hope is not lost.

At iSupportU, our team often recommends clients adopt a cloud-based approach. However, in cases where in-house servers are more fitting, we highly recommend working with such systems as a Network Attached Storage Device (NAS), Windows, and Mac OS X servers, which are simple and easily customizable. Either way, though, having a server is likely to save you both headache and heartache in the long run, even if you’re the only person accessing it. It will safeguard your files, making sharing easier across devices, and securely store information for the whole company. If you’re not sure whether a server — or which server — is suitable for your company, contact iSupportU. We’re here to help!

Smartphone Etiquette: 5 Essential Rules to Follow in the Workplace, at Home, and in Public

Smartphones have permeated every part of our lives. We are absorbed by them even when we’re walking, we check them when we’re waiting in lines, and even consult them the minute we have a question (before trying to remember the answer first). With so much reliance on our phones for everything from social interaction to information gathering, it’s important to establish some ground rules that ensure we don’t spend more time interacting with our phones than the real world around us. After all, our smartphones are meant to be accessories to our lives, not our lives themselves.

Here are some essential rules to help you know how and when it’s appropriate to use your phone in the workplace, at home, and in public:

5 Rules for Using Your Smartphone in the Workplace

  1. 150428-isupportu-smartphone-etiquette-laptop-618177_640Check Your Phone Only on Breaks. When you’re at work, you’re getting paid to…work. Not to spend time playing around on your smartphone. Unless it’s work related, or unless you have an emergency and are waiting to receive a phone call, it’s only fair that you don’t use your phone until you have a break.
  2. Know Your Company’s Privacy Policy. Especially if you’ve signed a nondisclosure, your company might have a privacy policy that precludes you from revealing certain information about procedures or products. So, before you take any pictures or workplace selfies with your smartphone, make sure the frames don’t expose anything your company would consider confidential.
  3. If It’s Not Business, It’s Personal. When you’re at work, you will want to tuck your phone away, even if you’re not checking it. If management sees it out, it’s assumed you’re using it.
  4. Don’t Abuse Smartphone Privileges. Some companies don’t mind if their employees shoot off a quick text message from time to time. The problem is that some employees don’t stop there. Remember that just because your management is lenient about text messages, it doesn’t mean they’ll be okay with you playing Candy Crush between tasks!
  5. Keep Management in the Loop. If you need to make a personal call or have your phone around for an emergency, let your manager know what’s going on. This way, he or she will know you don’t intend to use your smartphone for any reason other than the one you mentioned.

5 Rules for Using Your Smartphone at Home

  1. 150428-isupportu-smartphone-etiquette-iphone-313845_640Don’t Bring Your Phone to Bed. If you’re in a relationship and sharing a bed with your significant other, strongly consider banning smart phones from your bed. You should be cuddling and basking in your lovey-dovey couple’s happiness, not rummaging through social media updates or texting other people. (Even better, relegate your phones to charge overnight in another room than your bedroom.)
  2. Be Respectful. Whether you live with roommates or a partner, know that the home is a place everyone should be able to go to unwind. Make sure not to play games on your smartphone with the sound turned up or answer a call in the same room as someone else is trying to relax.
  3. Don’t Talk in the Bathroom. There’s nothing like being on the other end of the line and hearing the flush of a toilet. No one wants to picture you doing private things while speaking to them about Saturday night’s dinner plans.
  4. Don’t Text Message Someone in the Next Room. If you have something to ask someone who is in the same house as you are, ask them in person. If you send a text message, instead, you may be considered passive-aggressive.
  5. Observe Quiet Time. When other people in your home have gone to bed for the night, turn off the sound on your phone, so as not to disturb the silence. And if you need to take a phone call, make sure you do so in a place where you won’t wake anyone up.

5 Rules for Using Your Smartphone in Public

  1. 150428-isupportu-smartphone-etiquette-smartphone-593348_640Watch Your Volume. Your smartphone has all sorts of alert noises — from notification sounds to those of incoming calls. Think about it: If everyone in your location were to receive alerts simultaneously, each with a unique sound, there would be absolute chaos. An easy way to avoid contributing to this? Switch your phone to vibrate when you’re in public.
  2. Take Your Calls Outside. Whether you’re in a café, restaurant, or at a friend’s house, you should take your phone conversations outside. If it’s not possible to move outside, at least excuse yourself from whomever you’re with and go somewhere where you can speak freely without disturbing anyone around you.
  3. Give Your Friend a Head’s Up. If you’re out with a friend, let him or her know from the outset that your time with him or her may be interrupted. Generally, it’s polite to keep your phone off the table and give your friend your undivided attention, but the importance of an emergency situation might demand an exception. You can simply give your friend a brief explanation as to what’s happening, so that he or she understands why the communication is worth interrupting your time together. Then, when you do receive the phone call or text message, make sure to apologize to your friend before proceeding to respond to it.
  4. Consider Your Location. If you’re in a bus or a train or some other tight space with others, try to avoid phone conversations. No one should be forced to listen to your entire conversation. But if you must speak on the phone, make the conversation as brief as possible and keep the language clean!
  5. Don’t Talk at Checkout. It’s considered exceptionally rude to talk on the phone while you’re making a payment transaction at a place such as a cafe or a grocery store. Some businesses will even refuse a potential customer service if he or she walks up to a clerk while on the phone. Put your phone away for the minute it will take to check out.

When it comes to smartphones, everyone seems to have a different opinion as to what constitutes proper conduct. At iSupportU, we want to ensure your relationship with technology enhances your life and doesn’t detract from it. If you stick with these rules, you’ll at least have some guidelines to follow that aren’t likely to change any time soon, giving you a foundation for proper smartphone etiquette.

How Often Should You Upgrade Your Smartphone?

Nowadays, the smartphone serves so many functions for both personal and business needs that it’s hard not to become dependent on one to navigate through life. Sometimes this dependence becomes an issue, though, as technology advances so quickly that it can be hard to keep up with new systems and devices. When your smartphone becomes antiquated, you’ll find applications crashing more often, software updates won’t be compatible with your system, and you may not even be able to download new applications. So the question is, how often do you need to upgrade your smartphone?

Even though millions of Americans stormed Apple retail outlets September 2014 to purchase the newly released iPhone 6, statistics reported by Yahoo!’s Tech Columnist Rob Pegoraro show that the majority of Americans don’t actually purchase a new phone all that often — they’re actually buying phones less frequently than in previous years. In 2007, the average upgrade cycle for every type of phone — including simpler models than smartphones — was about every 19 months, whereas 2013’s average upgrade occurred about every 23 months.

Four Generations of iPhone: Original + 3G + 4 + 5

Four Generations of iPhone: Original + 3G + 4 + 5

Smartphones are pricey, and it can become overwhelming when you finally upgrade your phone just to learn another version will be released a few months later.  If you pride yourself on having the newest technology in your possession, carriers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon offer frequent phone upgrade plans that allow you to purchase a new phone for less money, at regular intervals. To help keep you current and ease the financial burden, they also have monthly payment plans that allow you to pay off the cost of a new phone over time, so that you don’t have to shell out $600 all at once. However, just because you can doesn’t mean you have to.

Distinguishing Between Your Smartphone Wants & Needs

It’s important to assess what you, as an individual, really need in a smartphone before investing in an upgrade. Even though technology seems to be improving at rapid speed, when you compare one smartphone with the model just before it, not too much typically improves. Generally, tweaking occurs in aesthetics — font sizes and styles might change, along with the overall size, color, and features of the phone. The quality of pictures and security features also tend to get bumped up a notch.

If you’re satisfied with your current phone, these aren’t really sufficient reasons to lay down hundreds of dollars on a new model. If you’re just looking for a phone you can use for jotting down notes, taking pictures, making phone calls and texting, surfing the Internet, and playing a few games, there’s no need to upgrade your smartphone for years.

At a certain point, though, the world will outgrow your device, and your smartphone will no longer be so “smart.” You won’t be able to perform software updates on it or download new applications. And, if you’re looking to buy accessories for them, such as fitness armbands or chargers, they might be harder to come by. Especially if you use your phone for business, as well as for personal reasons, it might behoove you to upgrade more often so that you will always be up to date with your operating system and to ensure everything is always running smoothly.

It’s always nice to have the newest smartphone and latest technology in the palm of your hand, but for a device so expensive, you might want to upgrade at the pace of the average American: every 2 years.  When you do upgrade your smartphone, it’s important to recycle your old device.

Worldwide, hundreds of millions of outdated smartphones are sent to landfills where their toxic metals leach into the soil and water, and hundreds of pounds of precious metals used in those smartphones are wasted. In fact, the EPA estimates that for every million smartphone devices that are committed to landfills, “35 thousand pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium can be recovered.” To properly recycle your old smartphones, drop them off at EcoCycle‘s Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM) facility.