Posts in Category: Software development

Aspen Software Earns Respected Technology Industry Business Credential

CompTIA IT Business TrustmarkWe are delighted to announce that we have received the CompTIA IT Business Trustmark™, a respected industry credential that signifies our commitment to sound business practices and quality service.

“Earning this credential identifies Aspen Software as a business that meets or exceeds the best business practices the IT industry has to offer,” said John McGlinchey, vice president, Europe and Middle East, CompTIA.

The CompTIA IT Business Trustmark was developed by CompTIA, the non-profit association for the information technology industry, in collaboration with industry experts and leaders, to identify IT companies that follow industry best practices related to service agreements, standard operating procedures and systems and tools for delivering services.

IT Business Trustmark presentation to Aspen SoftwareNeil Smith is pictured receiving Aspen Software’s IT Business Trustmark (centre) from Mark Williams, Chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community (left) and Jim Hamilton, Vice President of Member Communities at CompTIA (right).

Companies that earn the CompTIA IT Business Trustmark have pledged to follow a robust code of practice that meet or exceed industry standard levels of customer service. They’ve also met industry-agreed standards in areas such as data security practices, staff competencies and holding of adequate insurance.

CompTIA’s IT Business Trustmark is a vendor-neutral, business-level credential designed to qualify and differentiate high-calibre solution provider organisations operating in the UK.

We are proud to be part of that community.

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Office 365 UK User Group - Upgrades, Migrations & Projects

Presentation SlidesThe Office 365 UK User Group (O365.co.uk) is a great environment to share information about real world experience of Office 365 with a group of like minded people.  Please click here to download a copy of the slides that supported our contribution to events at the evening session on 17th June 2013.

A big thank you goes to the Office 365 UK User Group team for organising a really useful event.

Update 5th July 2013 – Thanks to everyone for the feedback from the User Group meeting and from the Thames Valley SBSC where we re-ran this on 4 July.  Thank you also to SBSCer John Murdoch for the additional link on Autodiscover and Active Directory, the slides have now been updated to include this information.

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Anti Virus False Positives - AVG and Visual Studio (Technical Note)

It was the telephone conversation that every custom software development business dreads:

"I'm running the installer from your latest update and my anti virus software is telling me that it is infected with a virus!"

As a company developing custom business software, we are in a position of great trust when we produce software to install on our clients' PCs and servers. In fact, we use anti-virus and anti-malware products from four different vendors to maximise protection throughout our company network, so I was confident that we had not shipped infected software.

Back to the conversation...

Whilst we could have suggested temporarily disabling the anti-virus software or setting up an exception so that it would ignore our software and its installer, that really wasn't a viable option or something I would want to do. So we agreed a plan of action with our client.

A quick return to our testing lab enabled us to fire up a new test PC image, install a copy of the anti-virus reporting the problem (in this case AVG) and reproduce the reported problem. Needless to say, all of our other anti-virus products were quite happy with our software.

What to do with our false positive?

Theoretically we could contact the anti-virus vendor, supply a copy of our files and ask them to change their scan signatures to fix the false positive but, in reality, this wasn't a practical option. A quick trawl of the internet revealed that false positives are a common problem and major anti-virus vendors are not keen to accommodate a piece of custom software that may only be installed on a few PCs. So what were our options?

Rebuild & Test

As there was a facet of the executable file that seemed to be confusing the anti-virus, our next step was to rebuild our solution with varying compiler options and retest. Fortunately, an acceptable solution was soon found, simply recompiling the executable with optimisations switched off produced a program that the anti-virus found acceptable. (In Visual Studio 2010 this simply meant unticking the "Enable Optimizations" setting under "Advanced Compiler Options...".)

As, in our case, compiling without optimisation caused no adverse affects in the finished program, we were able to ship the update which our client then installed without any problems.

Solution

Lesson learnt - when trying to resolve an anti-virus false positive, don't forget to experiment with the compiler options.

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Thames Valley SBSC - What's in the Tool Box?

Presentation SlidesThursday 5th July 2012 – my turn to do some sharing at the Thames Valley Small Business Specialist User Group (an excellent peer networking group for IT pros serving small businesses).

Please click here to download a copy of the slides – I hope you find them useful. Thanks go to those who have recommended some of these tools to me in the past.

 

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Your domain, website and email, it’s your brand - Value IT Support

How often do you see a nicely sign-written van or lorry featuring a company's website address?  If you're like me and spend a fair amount of time in traffic jams, I'm guessing quite a lot.  It's a good way of promoting your business and encouraging people to visit your website.

However, I often notice that some organisations who have invested in a professionally produced website, featured it in their advertising and on their vehicles then give a "free" email address as a way of contacting them.  For example you might see something that urges you to find out more at www.acmewashers.co.uk but then the email address they use is acmewashers@gmail.com.  Compare this to the ad featuring www.whizzowashers.co.uk  with an email address of info@whizzowashers.co.uk.  I don't know about you, but Whizzo Washers is already looking like a more professional organisation to me.

When you register a domain name, "mailboxes" that will let you send and receive email aren't normally included in the price.  You typically need to either buy them as "add-ons" or buy a more comprehensive hosting package.  In this situation, I can see why the free email option seems attractive.  I've got nothing against free email addresses, they can be really useful, but if you have gone to the expense of registering a domain name then why not use it with your email address too?  If you use a facility known as email forwarding, there won't be any additional cost.

Nowadays, any domain hosting package worth its salt should include free email forwarding.  This will allow email sent to "your domain" to be forwarded to another email, address – even a free one.  This is exactly what the folks at Whizzo Washers did, they invested significantly less than £10 per year to register their whizzowashers.co.uk domain and then used the inclusive email forwarding capability to forward all email sent to whizzowashers.co.uk to their Gmail address. 

They're even using their whizzowashers.co.uk address for email replies.  (When logged into Gmail, choose the "Settings" option, select "Accounts and Import" and click "Send from another address".  This sets up and verifies the email address to use as the reply address.)

I would suggest that if anyone is producing a website for you and offering you domain registration and website hosting, then they should provide a solution for your email too.  At the very least this should include the email forwarding which I have just described - at no extra cost.  For more "business oriented capabilities" expect POP3 or IMAP mailboxes with webmail capabilities, or at the top of the spectrum, something that includes things such as company-wide shared calendaring, address lists and the ability to access your email using the ubiquitous Microsoft Outlook, webmail, mobile phone or tablet (but more about that later),

Just remember, whatever options you choose for your website. It's your domain and don't forget to use it wherever you can.

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Second Tuesday of the month – should we reboot Russia?

If you have ever written a piece of software and given it to a group of people to use (even an Excel macro), you'll know the buzz from seeing them use something you've created to help make their work easier. I've been in the software development business since the 80's and even today I still get a kick when I visit a customer site and see a group of people working away using software we've written to help them run their company.

You'll also know the sinking feeling you get when you discover a bug in your software. Yes, it happens to everyone – even the best developers..  Then, once you've fixed it, you have the challenge of making sure everyone gets and installs your fix.  All part and parcel of modern software development and all professional development teams have ways of getting fixes out as seamlessly and reliably as possible.

Now, imagine you're part of Microsoft and your software is used on literally millions of PCs across the globe.  The sinking feeling on finding a bug, especially  if that bug represents a security hole, must be so much worse.

Fortunately, Microsoft has an organisation in place to cope with this eventuality.  In true MS fashion it's known as the MSRC (Microsoft Security Response Center) and the person whose job it is to make sure the fixes get to the people who need them, is a gentleman by the name of Dustin Childs.  As well as being technically very able, Dustin is also a great story teller and this video presentation gives you a peek into his world.

It's a world that revolves around the second Tuesday of each month when Microsoft issues their security updates, which in the UK we usually see on the second Wednesday of each month!  An environment where you know that 400 million PCs are on "auto update" and will automatically reboot tomorrow if needed and where you can literally reboot the PCs of a whole country if necessary - reboot Russia anyone?

The systems and processes in place for this are mind boggling and involve incredible amounts of testing before things are issued.  For example a single windows update will involve  testing the fix against over 9000 third party software applications! 

As Dustin freely admits in his blog things are not always 100% perfect all the time, however the efforts they put in to find and resolve problems are admirable.

So next time your windows update asks to restart your PC, think of Dustin and his team.Windows update requesting a PC restart

If you have 25 minutes to spare, I would highly recommend sitting down with a mug of coffee and watching Dustin's presentation and look out for the Microsoft to Facebook telephone call.

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