Ask the #Nerdherd: How Fast Is My Internet?

Questions about internet speed have to be up there in the list of most common queries that we get at the Helpdesk, so it seemed like a perfect topic for Ben to address in ‘Ask the #Nerdherd‘.

Have a watch of this video for more details, or read below for a summary:

So, the first thing to understand is how fast your internet is meant to be running?

  • If you are on a business grade internet connection, such as a 10MB ethernet connection, then there is a hard speed that your internet is supposed to be running at (eg. 10MB) and it should be approximately the same for both uploads and downloads.

Go to Google and type in ”Speed test”, and you’ll see a screen that looks something like this:

Run the speed test, and it will test both the download speed and upload speed and then spit you out a result, similar to this:

The numbers you get aren’t ever going to correspond exactly with the internet plan you’re on (eg. 10MB), but they should be pretty close.

  • If you are on an ADSL connection, which many homes and some small businesses are, the A in ADSL stands for “asynchronous” which means the there will be different speeds for uploads vs downloads.

Download speed will be quicker, but usually at a maximum speed of 24MB per second. The upload speed generally won’t go over 1MB per second.

However, with ADSL, it rarely actually goes this fast, and no service provider is going to guarantee these speeds as there are many variables when it comes to ADSL speeds.

As per the business grade connection above, open Google in an internet browser and type in ”Speed test” and see what speeds you’re achieving.

What happens when you run the test and speeds are much slower than they should be?

The first thing to try is to power cycle the router/modem.

(Before you do this, just remember that you are going to take your entire business network offline for about 5 minutes.)

Turn the router off, wait 10 seconds and turn it back on again. Then just wait a bit to let everything reconnect to the internet.

Go to Google and run the speed test again. If the speeds are still slow, the next thing to try is an Isolation test.

Turn off every single device that’s connected to the internet (including the wifi), and just have one single computer or laptop connected. Other devices may be using up the bandwidth and we’re not aware.

Run the speed test again.

As the next step in testing internet speeds and resolving the problem, you may need to look at replacing the router or modem.

This might be a bit more complicated, as you may not have a spare router or know how to configure it.

If you need some extra guidance, call your IT helpdesk or internet service provider (ISP) for further help. Your ISP may also be able to run some line tests, but they will want you to have run through the above checks first before they proceed so it’s good to get them all out of the way before you make the call.

Hopefully this gives you a few handy tips to try the next time you’re feeling frustrated with your internet speeds.

Using Microsoft Flow to sync database to Mailchimp

How we use Microsoft Flow to sync our Client Database to Mailchimp

Using Microsoft Flow to sync database to Mailchimp

Like a lot of organisations, Grassroots IT has a ‘main’ software application that we use to run the business. In our case, it’s a product called Connectwise, which is specifically designed for IT service providers just like us. It’s what we use to manage all service tickets, projects, procurement, CRM, invoicing and so on. We consider it to be the ‘one true source’ of information in our business.  

There’s a lot that Connectwise does really well, but there are some bits that it either doesn’t do at all, or that it doesn’t do very well. For these areas we use other applications that can integrate well with Connectwise. For example, we use Xero as our accounting platform because firstly, Connectwise simply doesn’t have this functionality, and secondly because we can seamlessly integrate Xero with Connectwise so that information automatically flows freely between the two.  

Another add-on product that we use to complement Connectwise is Mailchimp, which we use for all of our email marketing. Unfortunately though there is no native integration between Connectwise and Mailchimp, so keeping information updated in both has long been a manual process. Thankfully though using Microsoft’s workflow automation tool called Flow, we’ve been able to implement realtime two-way sync between Connectwise and Mailchimp to ensure that both databases are now automatically updated.  

What is Microsoft Flow?  

Microsoft Flow is a fairly recent additional to Microsoft’s range, offering similar functionality to existing services such as Zapier and IFTTT. The advantage that Flow has over these other services is it’s deeper integration into the extensive Microsoft stack of products and services, such as Office 365, SharePoint and so on. In fact Flow is embedded right within SharePoint Online already, and is included at no extra charge if you use Office 365.  

Basically Microsoft Flow can be thought of as ‘middleware’, or a service that can sit between two other services. You define a ‘trigger’, and a resulting ‘action’. For example you may define a trigger to fire when a new email arrives, and a resulting action may be that you want any attachments on that email to be saved to a folder on your computer. And the best thing is that (for the most part) you create these ‘Flows’ with an easy to use graphical interface and no need to know any complicating computer coding. 

The list of things that can be connected with Flow is extensive, including services such as Facebook, Twitter, SharePoint, Salesforce and Mailchimp just to name a few. Have a look at the Flow website to browse the full list of available connectors, and see some examples of what can be achieved 

How we connected Connectwise and Mailchimp 

As we started looking at this particular problem we realised that we needed to syncronise changes in Mailchimp and Connectwise in both directions. That is to say that changes made in Connectwise needed to be synchronised to Mailchimp (such as a new Contact being added), and changes in Mailchimp needed to be synchronised to Connectwise (such as someone unsubscribing). The good news is that both Connectwise and Mailchimp have mature API’s available which allowed us to define what’s called a Webhook on each.  

When an item is updated in Mailchimp it sends a Webhook into Microsoft Flow, telling Flow details about what has just happened. Flow then takes that information, and talks to Connectwise to make the corresponding change. There is a similar Webook in Connectwise which sends notifications back the other way through Flow, which then updates Mailchimp.  

For the super-geeks out there, here’s what the first part of one of our Flows looks like. For the rest of you, this isn’t nearly as complicated as you might think! 

Microsoft Flow screenshotThe other cool thing that we were able to do using Flow was to post status updates into a Slack channel each time a Flow runs. This gives us a super quick and easy way of monitor what Flow is doing.  

What could you do with Flow? 

Have a think about your existing business software and  processes, and where some automation could help to either speed things up, or reduce manual handling. What software do you already use that could be better integrated? Do you use Excel? What about SalesForce? Facebook? Email? All of these things can be easily automated and brought together using Microsoft Flow. Honestly, the possibilties are endless.

Ask the #Nerdherd: How do I remember and manage all my passwords?

I’m not sure about you, but I feel like I have about a gazillion logins for online accounts these days. Okay, that may be a slightly made up number, but there are a LOT. And we are warned not to make them too obvious, and to make sure we’re changing them regularly.

So, how on earth do we keep track of all those passwords?

Ben has recorded a handy ‘Ask the #Nerdherd’ video to answer this eternal question. Here are three solutions he’s identified to making password management a little more manageable:

1. Use a pass-phrase instead of a password.

Instead of using a single word, in many cases you can use a pass phrase – sequence of random words and characters strung together to create a password. This can be more memorable for you, but also more complex and therefore harder to hack into. Just be sure to use something nonsensical (eg. “my horses cats brothers teeth are green”), rather than a quote or a phrase that is easily guessed.

2. Use multi factor authentication where possible.

Multi-factor (MFA) or two factor authentication (2FA) has an enhanced level of security because it requires more than one method of authentication from independent categories to verify the user’s identity for a login or transaction. Generally the system works by requiring you to do an initial login (eg. enter your username and password), and then once you’ve successfully logged on to the system, you’ll have to enter a secondary random code which is generated and sent to your mobile phone or appears on a security device, like this key tag from ANZ. If the code you enter (and you’ll only have a brief window of time to do this) is correct, you will gain access to the system you’re logging into.

Many people already use this system for banking (especially on business accounts), but it is becoming more widely used.

3. Use a program like Last pass to keep them all in one place.

A system like LastPass can be a handy tool to store all your passwords in one place, so that you only need one secure master passphrase to access them all. You can download an app so that LastPass can enter all the login details for your accounts on your devices as you need them. They use encryption and multi factor authentication to ensure your password data is kept safe.

With our ability to run our whole lives from a smart phone, it’s inevitable that our list of accounts to access and passwords to remember also increases. But we also need to make sure we’re keeping all those accounts as secure as possible. Hopefully these three handy tips making the ever-growing list of passwords both secure and manageable.

Microsoft (finally) release new OneDrive for Business Sync Client

For those of us who have spent any time at all around Microsoft SharePoint, Office 365 and OneDrive for Business, it has long been acknowledged that the OneDrive for Business sync client has been, quite simply, rubbish. Unless you treat it with kid gloves, the sync would simply stop working, and require manual repair to clear the logjam and get things flowing again. Hardly a robust and reliable business solution.

Ironically, the entirely unrelated yet almost-identically-named OneDrive sync client has been a reliable, robust product, yet aimed squarely at the consumer market.

Well shout hallelujah. After publically acknowledging these shortcomings for what feels like a very long time, Microsoft has finally released a new sync client to address these issues. Not only does it address these issues, but it also merges the functionality of the two previously separate sync clients into one.

Lost yet? I can understand if you are a bit confused. Microsoft has a long track record of confusing product names, and the whole OneDrive vs OneDrive-for-Business thing is more of the same.

So here’s the short version. If you use Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft OneDrive or Microsoft OneDrive for Business, you would do well to check that you are using the new sync client. If you have been holding off using any of these things because of the sync issues, now is the time to jump in and try it out.

Head over to this Microsoft page to check if you have the new client already installed, and if not, get it installed. It is a very easy process but of course, if you do need any help, you know where to find us.

Four Tips to Help you Make the Most of your iPhone

I remember, way back when, steadfastly holding the belief that a phone should be used as a phone and a camera as a camera, and never the two should meet. And now, I am a *rather* <ahem> heavy user of my beloved iPhone as a camera. In fact, is there anything the iPhone can’t do these days? There appears to be an app for everything.

Most of us spend a considerable amount of time on our smart phones, so it makes sense for us to use it as efficiently as possible. After a recent iOs upgrade, I was prompted to swipe through details on some new features of the phone and thought I’d share a few cool tips with you. What can you use the iPhone for these days?

1. Let your phone find your car

When the iPhone is connected to your car using CarPlay or paired using Bluetooth, the Maps app automatically marks where you park. So if you get a bit lost wandering around the shopping centre, tap Parked Car and your phone will help you find your way back to it.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Use your phone as a magnifying glass

Well, none of us are getting any younger and, even if we’re not glasses wearers, sometimes we need a bit of help with the fine print. If there isn’t a magnifying glass at the ready, you can use your phone. Go into Settings > General > Accessibility and turn on the Magnifier. Then whenever you need a closer view, triple click the Home button and your camera will turn into a magnifying glass.

 

 

 

 

3. Let your phone find a photo in your collection

Need to find that shot you took at the beach last month? Just click on the magnifying glass icon, type in ‘beach January’ and the iPhone will magically find you any beach scenes photographed in January. Voila.

 

 

 

 

 

4. Close all your internet tabs at once

If you’ve been on a bit of a Googling frenzy and now have 23 tabs open in Safari, you can now close them all at once. When in Safari, you’ll see a little icon that looks like two squares on top of ech other in the bottom right of your iPhone screen. If you hold that down, you’ll have the option to close either the newest tab or all tabs.

 

 

 

 

Need more tips? If you go into the Collections app on your iPhone (it looks like a little light bulb and, in my phone, it’s in the Extras folder), there’s a whole heap of tips that might help you make the most of your iPhone. You can even keep checking back as they update the collection with new tips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s your favourite feature of your iPhone?

 

Tips for creating a memorable and secure password

Tips for creating a secure and memorable password

Remembering your password can be difficult at the best of times. To add to that, most websites these days require password security so they can store your personal information and keep it secure. So you have all these passwords for countless different website and it can begin to be difficult to remember them all.

To help you create memorable (and secure) passwords we’ve put a lists of tips you can use:

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    1. Base your password around a personal goal and add the date by which you want to reach that goal, e.g.: Europe2019
    2. Make up a visual password by following a pattern on your keyboard, e.g.: cvghyu89
    3. Combine three random words, e.g.: TreeLibrarySound
    4. Include words from a different language. e.g.: VeniVidiVici (I came, I saw, I conquered in latin).
    5. Revere a word or phrase, e.g.: esarhp
    6. Try referencing an unsual word, phrase or quote from your favourite book or movie, e.g.: “May the Force be with you”.
    7. Use the first letter from each word in a quote or saying, e.g.: MtFbwy
    8. Use a phrase that includes punctuation, e.g.: WhySoSerious?

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To add another layer of security for all above instances, why not replace some letters with numbers or symbols, e.g.: 8=B, @=a,$=s, 1=!, 3=E. Or use capitals for the words that normally require capitalisation.

Most passwords requirements are between 6-8 characters, if you’ve chosen a quote that’s a little short, try adding a random number or symbol to increase your password length.

However, avoid using the simple number patterns such as “1234” or your birth date. Find something that holds meaning to you. For example, the first Star Wars movie was released 25th May 1977, so my password would look like this: MtFbwy25577

So, the next time you lock yourself out, why not try one of these examples to make sure you never forget it again. And if you haven’t changed your passwords in a while, maybe it’s time for a refresh to keep it all secure and safe. 😉

microsoft bookings

Microsoft Bookings for Small Business

Small businesses are getting Microsoft Office 365 feature just for them – a full-service system for scheduling appointments for their services over the internet.

Microsoft Bookings is a new service that allows businesses to create a business page on the app with scheduling features, so customers can book appointments online.

Customers will be able to use the app to look up price lists and then schedule a time for an appointment with their selected staff member. Bookings then emails a confirmation to the customer, including a calendar invitation for a reminder.

For businesses used to running the same process through a series of emails, phone calls, or text messages, it will put that time to better use. It works for businesses such as beauty salons, dental offices, law firms, financial services providers, and mechanics.
microsoft bookingsOn the back end, business owners are able to see a calendar of scheduled appointments of each team member that they manage.

Microsoft Bookings has been rolling out its first release to customers in Canada and the US who subscribe to Office 365 Business Premium Plan. They’re planning to roll out all Business Premium customers worldwide in the coming months.

6 apps for a better 2017

6 apps for a better 2017

Welcome back to another year of nerdy fun here at Grassroots IT – let’s kick off the year with some goal setting!

A new year is a fresh start to learn something and to get better at the things we may not be so good at. Often the trouble is sticking to them.

Apps are the new norm and there are thousands of them out there that help us track our day-to-day goals. Here;s a compiled list of  6 apps for a better 2017.

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Get help being organised

Gluru (Android)
Trying to get more done with a to-do list? Why not let AI technology create your list for you? Gluru uses AI technology to dig into your email and productivity apps and create tasks for you. It predicts what you will need to get done next. While this technology is in the early stages, it worth giving it a try!

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Tackle that booklist

Bookout (iOS)
If you’re like me and you love books but you struggle to find time to tick off your reading list for the year. Bookout will help you to set these goals for how many books (or how much time you want to spend reading) and will track your progress throughout the year.

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Learn to code

Lrn (iOS)
Have an interest in learning to code? One of many learn-to-code apps, Lrn breaks up its lessons (HTML, JavaScript and other languages) into small quizzes to get you learning the basics. While you might not be an expert programmer by 2018, you’ll learn to have an understanding of coding and will definitely be on your way to becoming a programmer!

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Discover new podcasts

Pocket Casts (Android/iOS)
We love our podcasts around here and we even have our own, but sometimes it’s fun to mix it up and listen to something new. Pocket Casts is one of the best ways to discover new podcasts from around the world. Great for making better use of your commuting or travel time. Just download them at home for offline listening.

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Learn the language of your dreams

Memrise (Android/iOS)
Avoid those expensive language classes and get learning yourself! Memrise has a range of languages and teaches you the language in a part game/part story process. This would be great if you’re going to another country and would love to learn the basics. To go pro, an optional monthly subscription provides more features and an offline mode.

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Get better cyber security

1Password (Android/iOS)
Forever forgetting your passwords? You and me both. 2016 saw many cyber security attacks, so one of your New Year resolutions might be to be more creative with your passwords and improve your online security. 1Password generates strong, secure passwords and stores them securely. Access your library of passwords with one single password (hence the name).

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Happy goal setting!

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Apple iOS10 Update Breaks PPTP VPN

Apple iOS10 Update Breaks PPTP VPN

Apple have now decided that iOS 10 will no longer support PPTP VPN connections. This means that anyone connecting to their iPhone/iPad hotspot, using PPTP, won’t be able to establish their VPN connection unless they use a different protocol.

Why won’t it connect anymore?

A protocol is a specific set of rules that the computers use to communicate. PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) is a specific type of protocol for a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection. While PPTP has been a default for many users, it has been described as an old, insecure protocol and if possible, users should try to use a different protocol.

Who does this affect?

A VPN connection allows a laptop or computer that is physically located outside of a network to act as if it is a part of the network. This allows people who work remotely to access data and resources that you would normally need to be in the office to access. So anyone who normally works remotely using an Apple device using iOS 10, will no longer be able to connect to their office network.

How do I change VPN protocol? 

Changing the VPN configuration setting to a different protocol on your iPhone or iPad is quite simple.

  1. Go to the Settings app
  2. Scroll down and click on General
  3. Scroll down and click on VPN
  4. Fill in the information

For a more in-depth guide click here.

However the network your VPN connects into must also support a different protocol. Talk to your company’s tech support to work out a solution that best works for you.

Outlook Setup on Apple iOS Devices Fails due to low storage space

Outlook Setup on Apple iOS Devices Fails due to low storage space

We have recently encountered an issue during the initial set up of Outlook for mobile application on iPhones/iPads. Setting up the email account resulted in errors due to low space on the device.

We’ve seen two different cases where one device gave a generic error of ‘Login Failed’ while a couple of others simply jumped back to the start of the setup process without warning. In both cases, an error message doesn’t come up to point to the actual problem of having a lack of free space.

So if you’re having trouble setting up your email in the Outlook app on smart devices, it could be because your device doesn’t have enough free space. Try freeing up some space and try again.

So far we’ve only seen this issue occur on Apple devices, but it may occur on other devices. If you encounter this issue on another mobile device, we recommend following the same steps or talking to your IT support technician for further help.