Everything you need to know about Windows 11

Everything you need to know about Windows 11

Microsoft does not want to lose its, position over Apple and Google. The company has been preparing the launch of Windows 11 for 6 years. In the words of Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, they are facing “one of the most important updates to Windows of the last decade.”

Microsoft’s top priority is to offer an agile, competitive, and up-to-date system. You’ll find a new interface and several new features aimed at enhancing productivity, particularly as more of the world works between home and the office.

What are the biggest new changes? 

For tablets, Microsoft has aimed to improve the experience for touch, with more space between icons on the taskbar, and adding gestures. Windows 11 also adds haptics to your digital pen, so you can hear and feel vibrations as you use it for taking notes or drawing. Finally, the OS introduces voice typing and commands across the system.

Windows 11 touchscreen

What stands out the most is the more modern interface that looking for. The changes, however, go beyond the surface.

More apps, mobile apps

This update also introduces more variety that can be found within the traditional PC ecosystem allowing, the use of Android apps without the need for a mobile device. A touch-optimized experience will allow you to spend more time in front of your computer.

Those are the changes that stand out to us, but here are some other updates that have people talking:

The New Start Menu

Visually, Windows 11 is going to be different from Windows 10. The old start menu, which for years has been located in the lower-left corner, changes position and format at last (let’s just forget Windows 8 for now). The start button and the access to the main applications will now be on the century screen. This change reminds us of the MacOS Dock. However (and thank goodness), if you don’t like it here, you can change it right back.

The next change is that when you click the start button, the taskbar is not “stuck” to the bar but will desktop. The corners are rounded, which seems a significant departure from the almost brutalist square shapes we’re used to.

Thirdly, there are no more animated tiles in the start menu. Microsoft has populated it with recent applications icons, and below shortcuts to recently accessed and suggested documents and files.

Windows 11 menu

Another improvement is in multitasking. Alongside the old Window, snapping is the new “Snap Layouts”, which is a lot more flexible and dynamic.  When it comes to positions and proportions. To avoid having to organize the windows every time you reconnect a monitor, “Snap Groups” allow you to save groupings of windows and reuse them whenever you want.

A related change that really allows you to get more out of the operating system comes with the Windows 11 implementation of virtual desktops. Windows will let you set up virtual desktops like Macs, toggling between multiple desktops at once for personal, work, school, or gaming use. In Windows 10, this was harder to set up and use.

Iconography

In this new Window iconography changes remarkably. There are changes to the Windows logo, which is now without perspective and sports on-theme rounded outer corners. Windows also change the design for application icons and important folders such as Documents, Downloads, or Pictures.

Teams integration

Now we can use Teams natively. Windows has decided to go all-in banking on its messaging platform, relegating Skype even further to the background. Teams get a facelift and are integrated directly into the taskbar, making it easier to access (and a bit more like Apple’s FaceTime). So it sounds like Windows might be a bit of a smoother experience for Teams users, but don’t worry, you’ll be able to access teams on, Mac, Android, iOs, and the rest.

Teams Windows 11

Windows Widgets

The Windows Widgets will allow a much more personalized experience within the new Windows. Powered by artificial intelligence, these widgets will offer us content according to our preferences or our user experience. We’re keen to see just how much more this offers us compared to the current News and Interests feed we know from Windows 10.

Gadgets Windows 11

Moving Games Forwards

But it’s not all about productivity, of course. With Windows 11, games will get a visual boost. Innovations such as Auto HDR support promise a heightened experience.

Games Windows 11

Keyboard and Input

With Windows 11 you can have an on-screen keyboard including direct access to emojis, GIFs, clipboards, handwriting, or Word suggestions. But a few features from the Windows 10 on-screen keyboard, including the ability to show a numerical keypad, are missing.

Keyboard Windows 11

Variable Refresh Rate 

This new feature will help windows users on mobile devices and laptops save battery and work or play longer. Most computers and screens have a fixed refresh rate. That’s how many times per second that the display shows a new image the standard being 60hz (interestingly, gamers love 120hz plus but movies typically run at 24hz). Running at a higher rate can quickly consume power. If you have a supported device, you can turn on the new dynamic refresh rate setting that can will reduce the number of screen refreshes in scenarios where the image being displayed doesn’t really change that often, such as when doing emails.

Better Updates

The roadmap for Windows 11 makes it clear that from now on Microsoft will offer a single major update per year and not two as happened until now. Hopefully, this will mitigate the stability issues that have plagued the biannual release of Windows 10 updates.

Additionally, there will also be improvements in the rest of the “normal” updates, which according to Microsoft officials will be up to 40% smaller in size, which will reduce download and installation time.

Reasons to Upgrade

As we get more details on Windows 11, some doubts begin to arise as to whether it is worth upgrading to the new version from Windows 10, which in retrospect has been one of the best Windows releases ever. Here are a few improvements that have us convinced we’ll be upgrading to the new version, at least to try.

Improved Productivity

Windows 11 will improve user productivity. For example, being able to resume what you were doing after an interruption, even between computer shutdowns. It will also allow sessions to resume on a different computer. For devices with removable screens, Windows 11 will notice when the keyboard is attached, or not, and adjust the input methods, allowing you to continue what you were doing.

Better Security

For years Microsoft has been developing new hardware to power high levels of protection. The company claims Windows Hello that a combination of Windows Hello, device encryption, virtualization-based security, hypervisor-protected code integrity (HVCI), and secure boot, have been shown to reduce malware by 60 percent. That sounds good to us, especially when your computer is mission-critical in your business.

Reasons not to Upgrade

 

Goodbye to Timeline and Cortana

One of the things we’ll miss will be Timeline, even though Microsoft Edge will have similar functions. We’ll also be sad to say goodbye to Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana, who will be gone from the taskbar, although those who use her daily will still be available through an application for those who need her.

 

Higher required storage capacity

To be able to install Windows 11, you’ll need at least 64GB of space, and a computer with a 64-bit CPU with at least two cores at 1 GHz, and here comes the kicker: there will be no support for older 32-bit processors. Although for years most processors have supported x86-64 / AMD64, having no 32-bit option in Windows 11 is a clear step into the future.

You’ll also need at least 4 GB of RAM. For the installation it is also necessary to have a Microsoft account and internet connectivity: it seems that it will not be possible to create local accounts in this new edition which is also a leap forward that is bound to bothersome.

Another key requirement is the need for TPM 2.0. This standard is designed to ensure hardware security through cryptographic keys, and although it has become a common component among PC and laptop manufacturers in recent years, this could pose limitations for many users who bought their computers, even as recently as 2019.

One way to test if our computer has the requirements for the update is through tools such as Microsoft PC Health Check.

How do I update? 

The good news is that for all original licensed Windows 10 users, Windows 11 will be a free upgrade. However, the new version has certain requirements.

It is noteworthy that the current version of the Windows 11 released on June 28, is a beta version that will only be available through the Windows Insider program. The digital trends portal warns that this version still contains bugs, so they suggest waiting for the most stable version to come out. According to Microsoft, this version will be available by the end of this year.

Our advice is not to install this beta release on a business or production machine – only on a computer used for less critical operations.

Windows 11 Date and Availability

Microsoft has indicated that Windows 11 will be available as a free update on new PCs and some existing PCs starting next Christmas.

6 tips for understanding notifications in Teams

6 tips for understanding notifications in Teams

Did you know that if you use Teams, you can control its sounds and notifications? In this article, we are going to teach you 6 techniques for personalising teams.

1. Where are the notification settings?

Access your notification settings by selecting your profile photo in the upper right corner of Teams, then Settings> Notifications.

2. Enable or disable notifications

To choose whether to play a sound with each new notification, select the three dots next to your profile picture in the top right corner of Teams, then Settings> Notifications> toggle between off and on.

In this state, the notification sounds are on.

Note: Currently only Android mobile devices can choose what type of sound is played for notifications.

3. Default settings

By default, you’ll receive desktop notifications and activity feedback alerts for @mentions, direct messages (chat), and all-new conversations and @mentions on the channels and teams shown in your list.

All of these defaults can be changed.

4. Ways to be notified

The activity feed

You’ll find it in the upper left corner of Teams. This is where we’ll let you know what’s happening on your teams and channels.

Then there is chat

This is where group and one-on-one conversations happen. As you receive multiple messages, we will count them for you.

Desktop, also known as Banner, notifications

In Windows, they will be displayed in the lower right corner of the screen and then moved to the Action Center.

On Mac OS, they are displayed in the upper right corner of the screen and then moved to the Control Centre.

Note: If you use Teams on the web, some browsers will only display notifications in the browser tab where you are running Teams.

Windows

 

Mac

5. Email

If you want to use email to keep track of Team conversations as they happen, use the missed activity email. You can choose how often you get them.

For a summary of the day’s activity, please use the summary email. You will receive this email at the beginning of each day.

6. How notifications work in the mobile app.

One of the first things you’ll want to do is choose whether to send notifications to your phone always, or only when you’re not active on the desktop. (you are considered inactive after 3 minutes of desktop inactivity.)

The other thing you’ll want to set up is your quiet hours. To do this, go to More in the upper left corner of the mobile app, then Notifications > Quiet hours. Then, set a specific time of day when you want Teams to hold your notifications. You can also choose full days.

Need more help? More Info.

If you need to know how each of the notifications work step by step, we recommend you read this guide from the Microsoft support blog.

How to suppress noise in calls

A great feature of Teams is AI based noise suppression. This eliminates unwanted background noise from your surroundings. It works by using deep neural networks to analyse audio sources and separate human speech signals from unwanted noise.

How to turn on noise suppression

  1. Click the three dots next to your profile picture in the upper right corner and then select the Settings option.
  2. Choose Devices on the left and then under Noise Suppression, select one of the following options: Automatic (default), Low or High.

It is important to note that your processor must support Advanced Vector Extensions 2 (AVX2) to opt for the “high” setting. Users will be able to change this setting at any time, and once changed, the setting should be retained for the next meeting or call. Alex Eggers, Microsoft MVP, created a video that delves into its inner workings with the settings.

The advent of AI-based noise suppression is important step for Microsoft Teams. This should help limit distractions in a remote work setting. Although Microsoft says the feature will be generally available to desktop users in mid-December, there is no news on whether it will be rolled out on iOS and Android.

7 key steps to redesign your website

7 key steps to redesign your website

If you are thinking about changing your digital strategy, your actions may include the redesign of your website. You’re probably asking yourself whether it makes sense to invest money in redesigning your website. Will this help you attract new customers? What you must do so that people spend more time on the site?

Your website is your digital showcase. Having a good design and easy navigation will not only let customers reach you, but it will also help you position your brand as one that cares about its customers and is on top of usability trends. In this article, we give you to consider as you think about your website.

1. SIMPLE AND MINIMAL 

As a rule, when someone visits your website, they may not spend more than a few minutes browsing it – often as short as a few, seconds. At this time your client must find what they are looking for. So, if your main page is saturated with filler text. Take some time to consider how your key value proposition. Could be better highlighted.

Similarly, think about what you want people to do on this page. This is your call to action. Many websites don’t have a clear call to action or have many conflicting ones, meaning they will be confused. Think about what the one most important thing you want your potential customer to do is.

2. EASY TO CONTACT

That could be as simple as making contact. Whether your business is B2B or B2C, your customer must find an easy way to get in touch with you. That is why tools such as chatbots or calls to action that led to contact pages or phone/email details will give the customer the confidence to do that.

3. COMPLETELY RESPONSIVE

Times have changed and now people will visit your website with their mobile devices. Is yours ready for this? If you haven’t touched it in a while, it may not be. Test it and find out.

This is why it is super important your new design follows a responsive structure and is fully adaptable to the mobile experience. Any website needs to work brilliantly no matter the device used.

In short, if your website is “not responsive”, your competition already has a significant advantage, as Google now gives precedence to websites that.

A great way to check how your web page looks on the different devices is responsinator. If you want to do a quick check, Mobile Friendly will also give you the gist of the mobile experience you provide.

4. SPEED DOES MATTER

Website load speed is a key factor in various aspects of your digital presence, including SEO. If your website is slow, there is a good chance it’s either poorly built or using a slow hosting platform, so maybe it’s time for a change. Internet users are not patient: they expect immediate results, just at the click of a button, so we’d better be giving it to them.

If you want to check the speed of your website, you can use Google’s PageSpeed ​​Insights or GTmetrix.

5. Build and follow a brand

It is important that the visuals, whether video, photography, or graphics, reflect the personality of your business. If one thing gives the impression that you have no brand, it’s inconsistent visual. In general, most people want to seem “cool” or new things. Users who are visiting your website are doing so to obtain more information before making a purchase decision. Whatever that decision, your visual resources can make your brand more human and build a real connection with the user.

To have a visually attractive website, you do not need to spend a lot of money or resort to boring stock images. Photos from your own phone will often do, and customers may appreciate the personal approach. Consider bringing in a professional photographer to capture your workspace.

Don’t be afraid to show your office as it is, your staff as they are, or your products (used by real people). These will have manifold more impact than a stock photo that any company around the world could use, and customers can tell.

6. UPDATE YOUR CONTENT

The internet is full of content that used to be relevant, but as the years went on has become out of date. Your content must get updated to suit the era. Businesses change over time too, so it’s even more important that your content is adapted to your current customers by reflecting what matters to them.

For example, imagine that you create a giving SEO positioning advice. Some of these techniques won’t change, but others will become outdated as the search engines change their methods. New techniques will have also emerged.

If you don’t update that content, it becomes irrelevant or even misleading. Google and other engines value this negatively, so you’re your website will lose its hard-won search engine ranking and ultimately provide you less leads, and revenue.

You must also bear in mind that your content needs, internal and external links, proper use of keywords, etc. If you are missing these elements, it’s time to update it. Link’s a change or disappears over time, so even if you do have them, it’s worth making sure they’re up to date!

7. SEO OPTIMIZATION

One of the most constant and lasting marketing strategies that you will have is your SEO strategy. It is very important to work on your keywords and adapt the content of your website to your SEO strategy. This will bring you organic (free!) traffic and improve your position with the search engine, otherwise known as your ranking. This is how you get to that prized ‘page one’.

Without a doubt, the SEO optimization of your website is vital for it to be a productive part of your marketing strategy.

Here’s a breakdown of the key elements of SEO:

  • The loading speed of the pages.
  • The use of friendly (human-readable) URLs.
  • The inclusion of metadata, especially titles anddescriptions.
  • The addition of an intuitive and navigable sitemap with content that can be easily indexed in search engines.
  • Good site usability achievable with the redesign of web pages, especially the navigation.
  • Optimization and updating of all content.
  • Fixing of possible broken links (these are seen by the search engines and will drag down your ranking).

Considering these tips, these would be the steps you have to take to meet your goals when redesigning your website:

1. Be clear about your goal

Your first step will be to work on your goals. Ask yourself a few questions: What services or products do you want to highlight. What is your target audience? Which pages get the most visitors currently – are these the right ones? What are your competitors doing that you can do better?

2. Step into your customer’s shoes

Now that you’ve thought about what customers use your website for, consider how they’re going to use it. Is it easy for them to visit pages with the information they’re looking for?

3. Information architecture

This will lead you to a review of your information architecture. Typically, websites, follow a classic inverted pyramid structure. That means first showing the most important information first and breaking that into various levels of detail so that a user can follow the thread that matters to them.

4. Find a balance between text and images

Renew images, videos, and photos, making sure they’re up to scratch and on-brand. It is important that all content adds value and isn’t acting as filler. All this really does is make your calls to action weaker.

If the visuals aren’t consistent, it might be better to not have any at all, to protect the integrity of your brand identity.

Remember, less is more on a website. Always look at content from the perspective of your customer. Is it helping?

5. Optimize navigation

Website navigation must be clear, concise, friendly, and simple. Make it easy for a user to jump around your website is how you’ll doubt and convince them you really do have the solution to their problem.

6. Take care of your SEO

Make sure your pages load quickly. Under 5 seconds is a conservative target. Ensure all content is quality and reflects the right keywords. Check and update your sitemap, make sure it adheres to best practice and makes sense. Ensure all pages have the right metadata in their titles, tags, descriptions. Make sure URLs are human-readable (but ensure they redirect to new URLs if you change them).

7. A/B Test 

A/B testing is next-level, but if you’re up for it it can provide invaluable insight into your market.

For example, if you’re not sure which colour, call to action, image or copy is right, run an A/B test. You can run these as long as you like and collect data that will help you understand your customers better and optimize the website for them.

Graphic that explains how to redesign your website.

If you’re still not sure… 

If after reading this article you’re still not sure what to do with your website, please that, redesigning your website is to invest in your most important digital asset.

In essence, a website is a communication tool. If your potential customers cannot communicate with you through your site, you’re missing out on revenue.

We’re here to help. If you need a professional eye on your site, we’d be happy to take a look and let you know what needs attention.

6 Essential WordPress Plugins for 2021

6 Essential WordPress Plugins for 2021

We use WordPress because it’s a perfect blank canvas for any website. But out of the box it’s fairly basic.

We start each new site by adding a set of plugins that have proven to work for many of our customers. Without further ado…

1. SMTP Mailer (aka Postman)

By default, WordPress uses our hosting server to send mail. That is find in many cases, but for professional use it’s ideal to use your own mail server, which means for our clients, their Microsoft Exchange account. It’s not a big deal unless your website is generating and sending emails to clients, as an ecommerce site will do. Postman configures WordPress to send all mail from your own account via the SMTP protocol.

2. Yoast SEO

There are only really two main SEO plugins that have stood the test of time and we choose Yoast because it provides the most insight, and guidance, into a site’s SEO performance. We can see at a glance when our pages and posts aren’t setup the way they should be for maximum exposure to search engines. This allows people who are not the web designer to add content with confidence.

3. LiteSpeed Cache

There are a few good cache plugins freely available for WordPress and LS Cache is the one that works best with our hosting environment. You can try that one for yourselves, or give W3 Total Cache.

4. Really Simple SSL

Having a valid security certificate setup on your website is really important these days. Not only is it a non-optional for ecommerce, it lends trust to your content-only site as well. While many web-hosts give SSLs to their customers automatically, WordPress does not automatically use a SSL address. Really Simple SSL ensures that not only your site’s URL, but all locally linked content such as images, resolves to a secure URL. It won’t give you a SSL certificate, but it will make sure your site is setup to work with the one you already have.

5. Wordfence

While seeing overactive due to the amount it is doing for your website, Wordfence is last but not least. It prevents almost all predictable malicious activity on your site. While the free tier is generously capable, we suggest businesses invest in the premium tier for the most up to date protection.

6. Limit Login Attempts Reloaded

Limit Login Attempts Reloaded will lockout users who use incorrect credentials more than a certain number of times.

Bonus WordPress tips!

  • turn of comments in settings if you don’t really want them, you’ll avoid some spam
  • Use a username other than “admin” for greater security.
  • activate the pre-installed Akismet with a wordpress.com license – it’s an easy process.
Does your business really need branding?

Does your business really need branding?

In this business world we’re often told we need this and that, but let’s face it, you’re already putting in too many hours each day. The last thing you need is another item in your todo list. 

Branding is one of those things that truly, not every business needs. You might already have a great, clear brand that you and your customers agree on.  

Branding, you see, is not your logo or brand colours 

What’s in a Brand? 

A brand is what people think about your business. Branding, as a verb, is your effort to influence this. Everything affects your brand, for example, the tone of your voice in your communications, the look of your site and materialsright down to the font and amount of whitespace – things like that.  

To get that right, you need to know and understand your customer. It’s easy to feel that focusing on one type of customer is limiting. Limiting your market is the last thing you want to do, right?  

But narrowing down a little makes it easy to be consistent and target the people who will be most receptive to your message. And having an angle also only makes you more attractive to people who not only have the problem you want to solve, but also think the way you do.  

As an example, here at KeyTech, we know we’re just one of a few managed IT and communications service providers in town. We think we’re the best, but being the best isn’t really the only thing we value ourselves on. We know it’s listening to our customers, and our dedication to solving their real problems that brings in (and keeps) customers. But not just any customers: customers who value good service and understand that it will save them time and money. Now that’s not every business. But by not being for everyone, we can be a better partner for you 

Our brand is when you know that’s what we’re about. If you don’t’ know it, then we need more ‘branding.’  

Why would anyone need branding? 

The truth is that every business has a brand. Think about in terms of people: whether we like it or not, people’s actions and words paint a picture of that person. That’s this person’s brand. Everyone you interact with is forming an impression of you that could change how they interact with you in the future 

So in terms of your business, there is a huge of opportunity to project a memorable and unique version of your business, even if it’s something you aspire to rather than something you are. And ideally, again, there is an opportunity to craft a brand your customers can relate to (it’s no surprise that any branding process starts with your customers).  

If you don’t think you have a brand, there’s a good chance that your brand is not the best it could be in terms of consistency and impact. 

Who needs branding? 

Branding happens every time a customer interacts with your business, whether you know it or not. If you haven’t got a welldefined brand, the way you present yourself might not be very consistent, and people might be getting mixed messages about your business.  

Now that we know a little about what branding is and how it works, take a look at these questions for yourself: 

  • Do you know what people think about your business? 
  • Does your business have a personality? 
  • If your business had a voice, what would it sound like? 
  • Do your website, printed material and other touchpoints look the same? 
  • Do you have a mission, and have you told your market what it is?

If you struggled with one or two of those, you probably need to put a little effort on your branding.  

Who doesn’t need branding? 

But there are some businesses who really don’t need branding. You might be in this category. These fall into two types: 

The first is a very small business where the brand reflects the strong personality of the founder 

For example, a fellow named Quentin makes coffee up in Paddington, serving throngs of customers all on his own. He’s often scrambling to keep up, but always makes a great cup and asks about your life as much as he can between taking orders. I’ve been there often, but I couldn’t really tell you the name of his business, because to me it’s all about Quentin.  

The second would be any business, but usually a larger one, that has developed a brand and consistently applies it whenever they interact with customers, and ideally, always. The reason these are usually larger businesses is it takes a switched-on marketing department to create a good, lasting brand. Otherwise, it takes enough of a marketing budget to engage branding professionals.   

New Features in Microsoft Teams

New Features in Microsoft Teams

With the massive growth in video conferencing in 2020, Microsoft have added some useful features to Teams, with the promise of more to come. Let’s take a look at some of the new functionality.

Together Mode

Instead of seeing all the users in a square or rectangular grid separately, you can see all of them together in a virtual space. This feature is the new “Together Mode” which is designed to build a virtual live avatar of all members of the team and negate their backgrounds.

Raise Your Hand

During a Microsoft Teams meeting, a participant can use the Raise Your Hand option to get the speaker’s and moderator’s attention.

Thanks to this feature, participants can signal that they want to talk without disrupting the meeting, and the moderator or speaker can see if anyone in the meeting wants to talk.

Raise Your Hand makes meetings more inclusive by encouraging participation from participants, and provides a simple, quick way to take a poll of participants.

Third Party Meeting Join for Microsoft Teams Rooms (MTR)

Microsoft Teams Rooms devices support a one-touch experience for joining third-party online meetings. When enabled, you can use a Teams Rooms device to join meetings hosted on Cisco WebEx and Zoom just as easily as you can join meetings hosted in Microsoft Teams.

Before you can join third-party meetings from a Teams Rooms device, you’ll need to do the following:

  • Configure the Teams Rooms device’s Exchange Online room mailbox to process invites for third-party meetings
  • Make sure your organization doesn’t have any policies that would prevent you from connecting to third-party meeting services
  • Configure your Teams Rooms devices to allow third-party meetings

Breakout rooms


Breakout rooms allow meeting organizers to split up meeting participants into smaller groups to facilitate brainstorming sessions or workgroup discussions. Presenters can choose to hop between breakout rooms, make announcements to all breakout rooms, and/or close the breakout rooms that then bring everybody back into the main meeting.

Custom layouts (coming soon)
Coming later this year or early 2021, custom layouts allow for a more dynamic content viewing experience and enable presenters to customize how content shows up for participants during a meeting. For example, when a presenter is showing a PowerPoint slide, participants will be able to see the presenter’s video feed transposed onto the foreground of the slide they’re showing.

Teams is rapidly adding useful functionality to maintain its place as one of the leading videoconferencing solutions, while maintaining interoperability with other platforms. If your business is looking for such a solution, now might be a good time to hop on the Teams train.