Windows XP – Going, Going, Gone…

Windows XP End of Support

Happy Retirement XP


If you’re running Windows XP, you’ll be familiar with that annoying update that happens when you try and shut down for the day. It takes ages, it means you can’t simply switch off and run out the door, and there’s a good chance you’ll miss your train because of that wretched ‘Updating 1 of 7’ message.

But what if there were no more updates?

What if XP was abandoned by Microsoft? What if it was left to fend for itself in a cold, hostile, update-free world? Well, that’s exactly what’s happening on April 8th 2014.

You’ll miss it when it’s gone…

XP has been one of Microsoft’s most successful operating systems to date. It was relatively bug-free (compared to the truly awful Vista), it’s stable, and the monthly patches from Microsoft made it one of the most robust and safest operating systems known to technosapiens. A lot of people are very, very fond of XP, especially in the home PC sector and SMEs. In fact, SMEs are more likely to be running on XP than almost any other OS. So we’ve become used to those monthly patch updates, even if they do make us late for the train.

But there’s just one more patch to come. After that? Well, you’re on your own.

The Zombie ‘bot Apocalypse is nigh…

Taking away Microsoft’s support for XP is no laughing matter. It’s not just home PC users that could find themselves vulnerable once the support for XP vanishes, either. Businesses, from SMEs right through to multi-nationals, are still using 2001’s finest – which means in just a few day’s time they’re potentially running some huge risks. After the final patch, there’ll be no more updates to protect your system against botnet attacks, DDOS (distributed denial of service) or other Internet nasties.

Hacker groups like LulzSec and Anonymous rely on an open back door that an out-of-date operating system provides them with, and can quickly render your entire system inert by creeping in and uploading a Trojan so ferocious that it would make the Spartans run away and cry. Remember, these are the people who shut down Sony and gave the NSA a run for their money, so it’s a threat that’s worth taking very seriously indeed.

This is just a ploy from Microsoft to get me to upgrade!

The cynical among you may well say exactly that, especially as the only sure-fire way to stay fully protected is to upgrade to Windows7 or above. However, for a lot of XP users that doesn’t just mean upgrading their software, but their hardware too. Many older PCs and laptops simply won’t have the processing power to run W8 or even W7. So, yes, those who are still tottering along using single core processors or even some early dual core set-ups may have to invest in some new tech as well as new software.

Out of MS Office hours

Another reason that this matters is that recent changes to the MS Office suite have rendered XP obsolete. Seeing as this is one of the most widely used business tools both for home businesses, SMEs and even the big players means that the changes in MS Office have had a real impact on the design of upgraded operating systems such as W7 and W8. In fact, it’s been highlighted as major contributing factors to the cessation of support for XP compatible systems altogether. Both Office 365 and Office 2013 are both incompatible with Windows XP, which means something has to give – and in this case it’s XP.

But the main worry is that the consequences of leaving yourself vulnerable could cost you a lot more than the price of a new laptop. A vulnerable system is a hackable system, and believe us, the hackers will sniff you out faster than a bloodhound chasing a Ribeye steak on a string.

Okay, you’ve scared the bejesus out of me. What do I do?

One simple word – upgrade.

Either go for Windows7 or, if you want to future-proof yourself for a little longer, Windows8 (although version 8 hasn’t been as well received as version 7). They’re both capable of supporting Office 365 and 2013, and there’s that all-important support in place for both systems well into the foreseeable future.

Windows7 is probably the most suitable for small business, and it currently commands a healthy 44% of the market. Both run faster than XP, which means less of a drain on laptop batteries. Windows8 is optimised for touch-screen tech, although that’s probably not a priority for SMEs right now. There’s also plenty of room for developing your system to take advantage of apps, and ensuring that your PCs and laptops are compatible with other tech such as smartphones and tablets.

So, what’s the panic?

It’s been shown that it takes on average around 12 to 18 months to fully upgrade an operating system within a business environment – and if you’re a big company you can look towards the top end of that estimate. You’ve got two weeks, tops. That means you need to act. Now.

So whilst we may all have a bit of a soft spot for XP, that withdrawal of support by Microsoft is going to leave around 37% of users vulnerable to cyber attacks, the risk of incompatibility with their customers’ systems, and without any access to all those wonderful applications and touch-screen wizardry. Upgrading isn’t really an option – it’s a necessity, especially if your business depends on your computer OS.

It’s time to say “Goodbye, XP, my old friend!” – and embrace the young pups that are Windows7 and Windows8.

Ready to take the plunge and upgrade to a newer version of Windows? We provide full upgrade support services. Contact us for more information. 

Windows XP Retirement Infographic reveals Microsofts bold vision for the future

We’ve already discussed what the cessation of support for Windows XP means for your business. Deciding whether to upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 has had the Google+ community divided, though one thing is for sure: Windows XP is going to be missed.

Windows XP X-Tinct

To celebrate the success of the operating system, Microsoft is throwing a retirement party in the form of this infographic (click to enlarge).

Windows XP R

Windows 8 – It’s Part of the Plan

Though many have criticised this image as little more than an “8 reasons to upgrade to Windows 8” advert, it clearly depicts Microsoft’s vision for the future.

Like it or not, Windows 8 is the direction Microsoft are headed, and it’s here to stay. The latest OS is steering towards bridging the gap between touch and desktop., not to mention a gentle push towards online collaboration and cloud storage with Office 365 & web apps.

We’ve already noticed a trend in helping businesses make the transition from XP to Windows 7 (read our case studies), and it won’t be long until we see a surge in Windows 8 converts.

The main issue for businesses is that Windows 8 in it’s own words, is a “reimagined version of Windows”. Metro tiles and app stores give the OS a completely new feel and user experience which is sure to upset some, though training on the new OS is surprisingly affordable.

The Windows 8 Masterplan

With an ever-growing trend in mobile working and online collaboration, Microsoft is a successful tablet away from thwarting Apple’s recent dominance. And what better way to get users familiar with your latest tablet than to standardise the experience across all devices, even more so than Apple has done with the iPad, iPhone and Mac.


Powerful tablets that can be docked as static PC’s are how we see the office of the future and Dell seem to think so too with the XPS 18. See this “desk-tablet” over on the Windows website (yes, we coined that term).

It’s a bold move from Microsoft. But they have realised that in the computing world, “if you’re standing still, you’re going backwards”. Innovation and product development is what’s going to take the desktop and tablet war to the next level.

Who do you think will win out of the Windows XP retirement? Windows 8, Windows 7… or Mac OS X? Will the results vary in the long and short run?

If your business needs help with its Windows migration and rollout, Best STL are here to offer expert training and advice to help make the move as smooth as possible. Please get in touch, or find out more on how we can assist with company-wide rollouts. We’ve previously supported large companies while they upgrade Windows and Office simultaneously, including a global pharmaceutical group and a large publishing brand. There are many options to consider to assist your users during a system migration, so talk to an experienced training provider who has been there before.

Read about how we can help you with company rollouts

Download your FREE Microsoft Office Training Manuals Today

Everyone knows the best things in life are free. That’s why we’ve made our entire library of Microsoft Office training manuals available for you to download completely free of charge.

Download free microsoft office training manuals

Our comprehensive resources include manuals for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Project & Visio, ranging from 2003 to 2010 editions.

So, whether you’re looking for a step-by-step guide to a specific problem or just wish to keep the manuals for a time when you might need them, why not download yours today.

We figured that sharing was caring and giving away a few secrets for simply visiting our website wouldn’t hurt anyone. We do of course ask that you provide an HTML link from our training page back to your website or blog, but we think you’ll agree that’s a small price to pay for these invaluable resources.

Download, email, edit and share these manuals with your friends and colleagues. They’re yours now, enjoy.

Our free manuals page is updated regularly with the latest training aids, so be sure to check back regularly for new guides.

Visit the free Microsoft Office Training Manuals page

Why Your Business Must Switch From Windows XP

windows xp support ends

Microsoft’s marketing campaign

Released on August 24th, 2001, Windows XP is widely regarded as Microsoft’s most successful OS, boasting over 400 million active users at its peak in January 2006. Now almost 12 years old, Microsoft have decided to cease support for Windows XP effective April 8th, 2014.

Continued use of the OS after this date runs the risk of being vulnerable to targeted hacking and eventually incompatibility with newer systems.

So what does the future hold for your business post-Windows XP and what is your best option for continuing a relationship with Windows?

A Future Without Windows XP

Recent changes to the Office suite have been highlighted as major contributing factors to the cessation of support for XP compatible systems. Both Office 365 and Office 2013 are both incompatible with Windows XP, leading many businesses to have already made the switch to newer systems including Windows 7 & 8.

Until recently, Windows XP was the most popular Windows OS, being overtaken in August 2012 by Windows 7. This just goes to show how popular Windows XP was and still is among businesses across the globe.

Named XP as a shortened version of the word eXPerience, Microsoft were keen to emphasise the gains that users were to benefit from with the new Windows. This user experience was clearly more favourable than its successor, Vista. In fact, scores of businesses reverted their upgrades from Vista back to XP, citing slower start up and processing speeds.

With support for XP due to cease early next year, many will be questioning why and what’s next. XP users are set to experience some minor compatibility issues when upgrading, for example a number of browser applications written for IE6 won’t migrate over to Windows 7 and IE8. But the benefits that the upgrade will bring should help your business run faster and smoother.

Windows 7 or Windows 8?

Upgrading to either Windows 7 or 8 is relatively straightforward, though the look and feel is certainly much different to that of XP, especially the latter.

Most businesses will likely upgrade to Windows 7. As we mentioned earlier, it’s now the most popular operating system in the World, holding 44% of the market share. Windows 8, the most recent update holds a mere 5.1%, though it’s important to remember that most IT departments will update their systems every 2-3 years and not necessarily as soon as a new OS is released. Windows 8 was released for business in August 2012.

OS Share

Choosing to run Windows 7 will bring with it a number of advantages. Speed and functionality are at the forefront of the benefits. Faster than both XP and Vista, the OS will see a much improved battery life for your portable devices.

Windows 8 on the other hand has been criticised since its launch late last year. Designed with mobile in mind, the OS is optimised for touchscreen technology. Unfortunately for Microsoft, their flagship touchscreen device, the Surface Tablet has seen less than desirable sales and many have questioned the user interface of the desktop system calling it confusing and a far cry from traditional Microsoft OSes.

Both Windows 7 & 8 work seamlessly with Office 365 and Office 2013 as you would expect. This is a major selling point for your company needing to upgrade too. Enjoy complete compatibility with Office Web Applications, SkyDrive and regular updates to your Office suite. Check out our blog on the benefits of Office 365.

Office web apps allow your business to work collaboratively from any location. No longer are your employees restricted to the one PC in the office, now they are free to roam on a number of wireless devices. It’s clear to see where Microsoft is headed with Windows 8 and they’re almost there.

Office 365 could also save your business money in the long term, allowing you to pay only for the subscriptions that you need. You’ll enjoy updates for Office favourites as and when they happen and not just when you purchase a new suite of the box. Here’s 36.5 reasons to join Office 365.

Don’t Lose Touch

windows 8 upgrades

Windows 8 on a variety of devices

Bringing business into the here and now, Microsoft is embracing touch technology in much the same way that many businesses across the globe are too. Company websites need to be compatible with tablets and smartphones and employees aren’t just working out of one location either. Working with Windows 7 or 8 will be a smarter and more efficient way to get things done and is a step towards realising that we’re living in a mobile World.

Compatible with Office 365 & Web Apps, your employees can benefit from their Office suite across five devices. This means that if that Excel document needs updating when an employee is en route to a meeting, they are able to pull out their smartphone and make the changes on Office 365 for iPhone / iPad or Windows Phone.

In Summary

  • Windows XP will be unsupported from April 2014
  • After this time, Microsoft will no longer provide security updates
  • Windows XP also does not support the latest version of Office, 2013
  • Your upgrade choices are the established Windows 7, or the poorly received Windows 8

If your business needs help with its Windows migration and rollout, Best STL are here to offer expert training and advice to help make the move as smooth as possible. Please get in touch, or find out more on how we can assist with company-wide rollouts. We’ve previously supported large companies while they upgrade Windows and Office simultaneously, including a global pharmaceutical group and a large publishing brand. There are many options to consider to assist your users during a system migration, so talk to an experienced training provider who has been there before.

Should I upgrade to Office 365?

In years gone by, the Microsoft Office Suite would come pre-loaded on your PC or laptop. However, due to a host of market influences including increasing demand for cheaper hardware, many products were boxed and customers were invited to pay only for the applications they needed.

One Office 5 Devices / Microsoft Office

In June 2011, Microsoft launched Office 365, a subscription based service set to benefit everyone. With packages available for personal and business use, you can ensure that you’re not paying for any additional programmes that you won’t use. In return, Microsoft receives regular income each month.

First we’ll have a look at the pricing structure then we’ll discuss exactly what you get in a little more detail and whether you should upgrade your Office suite.

Pricing Model

Whether you’re a small, medium or large sized company, there’s a package to suit your needs. Starting from as little as £39.60 per year / user and peaking at little over £100 per year / user, the tech savvy small business could save some serious money on the subscription model.

Price Plan

Advantages of Office 365

It’ll Save You Money!

If you use the complete Office suite, then upgrading to Office 365 could save you a whole load of cash. Out of the box, you could expect to pay close to £400 for everything, when you could be paying as little as £100 per year / user through Office 365. Plus, there are a few bonus features you’ll receive for adopting the subscription model.

Enjoy Anywhere, Anytime Access

For anyone that hadn’t already guessed by the name, Office 365 is available on any computer, all year round. You’re able to download the suite on up to 5 devices, which is great for the modern professional. Integration with SkyDrive allows you to store data on the cloud and use web based applications of your Office from any computer with internet access.

Work Together Simultaneously

The combination of SharePoint technology and Office 2013 allows you to work more efficiently with collaborative work sheets and more in Office 365. Pick up where you left off elsewhere thanks to intuitive syncing and view the latest revisions made by colleagues with a host of new tools and tips. Web apps are almost a mirror image of the desktop versions, with just a few features trimmed (but little you’ll need to worry about).

Enough Storage For An Epic Hoarder

Epic Hoarder

In addition to the 7GB SkyDrive storage that Microsoft is offering everyone. Premium packages come complete with an additional 20GB (27GB in all). That’s a pretty big thank you.

Enjoy the Latest Technology at Reduced Costs

Rather than wait years for all of the updates to come in one package and knock you for six, Office 365 will update periodically, making the transition between newer versions of Office much easier to digest. Not to mention, you’ll be first in line for great new features that others will need to wait for.

IT Departments Love Office 365

Office 365 is managed much the same way as you’d manage an on premises Exchange environment. Active directory allows IT departments to group people and give them a specific set of permissions (access to email / SharePoint etc). We’ll discuss drawbacks to security later, but a massive lure for IT departments is that Microsoft take care of security giving you one less thing to worry about.

It’s Good To (Video) Talk

Enjoy a whole hour of calls to your business contacts across the globe every month with free Skype minutes. Available on Home Office Premium and most Premium Business services, this is a great incentive for signing up to the subscription model.

How Does The Boxed Alternative Stack Up?


Microsoft typically updates their boxed software every three years. Think Office 2013, 2010, 2007, 2003 & 2000.

For £220, you can grab Office 2013 Home & Business Edition. That’ll give you most of the applications that you love, available on one device, including: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote & Outlook. For an additional £170 (£390), you can include Publisher and Access to those already listed (Office Professional)

So, to do the math, for the comparable package to Office Professional on Office 365 (Small Business Premium), you’d be forking out £302.40 over the 3 years as opposed to £390. Plus, if you were happy to settle for web based applications as opposed to desktop versions, you could get the same service for under £120 (Office 365 – Small Business).

You can argue that nobody updates immediately, meaning you’ll get a little extra bang for your buck, but probably not enough to justify the box price. The only time we’d recommend buying out of the box was if you only use a couple of Office applications. In that case the kitchen sink that comes with Office 365 may not be the best option for you.

100% Owned By You

The same as buying a car outright means that there are no direct debits coming out each month, the boxed versions simply incur a one off payment. All you need to worry about is the insurance, tax and price of petrol (or staff costs, electricity and training – check out Best STL‘s training schedule here).

Sure, it can actually work out more beneficial to get one on finance. Continued support and warranty, plus the guarantee of an upgrade after the lease period expires. Ok, you’ll be paying £200 per month for the foreseeable future, but you’ll have a shiny new car and all the support you could wish for.

If It Ain’t Broken…

With your office ticking over just perfectly should you really go changing your software? Although subscription models seem to be the way of the future, surely we can all savour the moment for a little longer?

Is It Easy To Switch?

Energy. Liverpool, North West.

Yes. Making the change to Office 365 is no different to upgrading your existing package from say 2010 to 2013.

There are of course, more noticeable changes than in regular updates, including the ability to work via web apps and collaborate with colleagues via the cloud. It’s recommended that you offer Microsoft accredited training to your employees to ensure that everyone is up to speed with new features and able to get the most from the package.

What About Security Concerns?

Well, you probably shouldn’t worry too much. The Microsoft has a huge team dedicated to the security of your data. But, vulnerable to attacks or not, they are happening:


Eran Feigenbaum, director of security for Google Apps states that “Any online presence that’s saying they’re not seeing targeted attacks is not being forthright or doesn’t have the insight into what’s going on.” Even Google themselves have seen breaches in Gmail security and to believe that Microsoft is immune would simply be naïve.

Stuart McClure, former McAfee Chief Technology Officer makes a bold statement – choosing a safe (cloud based) service can be like “picking a dog with the least fleas”. Sure it’s a tad sensationalist, but his message is clear, “If you’ve got sensitive data that you don’t want compromised, then don’t put it on the cloud” It sort of makes sense, after all, once on the cloud, it’s no longer being hosted in house – who really owns (or worse still has access to) your data?

In my opinion, I’d say that it pays to be mindful of security concerns but not to let this cloud your decision (excuse the pun).


Office 365 is a robust package that really does offer something for everyone. In terms of pricing, the upgrade is a no brainer. Most subscriptions offer desktop versions of Office, available on 5 devices (that alone blows the boxed model out of the water), plus it also boasts additional SkyDrive storage and Office web apps anywhere, anytime.

Security will always be an issue when talking about cloud storage, however, unless you’re dealing with particularly sensitive data, you’re probably in safe hands with Microsoft’s dedicated security team.

Want to use WordPowerPoint or Excel like a pro? Attend one of Best STL’s training courses available London and UK wide.

Read more:

Microsoft Bunny & The Complete List of MS Easter Eggs

For those of you that have been using computers since the 1990’s, you’ll likely remember a number of Easter Eggs embedded into a range of Microsoft applications. But do you remember all of them? This post will take you on a trip down memory lane to a time before the Trustworthy Computing Initiative of 2002, which saw Microsoft stop making the treats.

MICROSOFT BEAR (Windows 3.1 & 95)

More than just a tangible mascot of the team, Microsoft Bear made several appearances throughout Windows applications.

Microsoft Bear

Remember this little guy. His drawing was used as part of the SETDEBUG.EXE & JBGMGR system files.

Windows 3.1 also saw Microsoft Bear make two appearances, first as part of the fictitious file BEAR.EXE and another presenting the aliases of the development team in the About Program Manager: BRADSI, BILLG, STEVEB and of course T-BEAR (bonus points for guessing the other team members’ real names).


That’s right, Windows had more than one Mascot, in-fact they had three in 1995 – two bunnies and one bear. The bunnies were aptly named 16-bit bunny and 32-bit bunny. More than just a couple of nerdy names, they represented Windows 95 being “the transitional OS”.

Typing ILOVEBUNNY32=1 under the Windows section of win.ini unlocked some pretty snazzy features, including full window drag and anti-aliased fonts.



Not so fluffy, Windows 2.1 featured a WordPerfect Monster, a fireworks display and credit list in the About box. Here’s how to get that cool monster on your screen:

OFFICE 4.3 / 95 / 97

Open the “Help” file in any of these versions of Office and be amazed by some random quotes, including:

  • Plaid shirts and striped pants rarely make a positive fashion statement
  • It’s never too late to learn the piano
  • You should never look directly into the sun
  • This is the last tip (Is anyone else singing along?)


Word 97 Pinball

Things got exciting in 1997 and procrastination became an even easier skill to practice thanks to three Easter Eggs designed for game enthusiasts and time wasters Worldwide.

Excel contained a hidden flight simulator for curious minds, whereas Word 97 Pinball was a global hit amongst Office users. Perhaps our favourite though was the magic 8 ball found in Access, so popular that it also made an appearance in Office 2000.


Dev Hunter Screenshot

Dev Hunter, a 3D spy game based on classic arcade racer Spy Hunter, hidden within Excel 2000 wasn’t available to everyone and DirectX needed to be installed for it to run. But if you were lucky enough to have run the program, you’ll have been treated to some bizarre, Office 4.3 style “quotes”, here are a few of them:


For whatever reason, Microsoft seemed to get some sort of kick out of having a completely useless last tip (are you still singing along?).


Great, a list of all the volcanoes in the US, just what we all needed to know. Thankfully, all versions of MS Windows OS preceding XP show this comprehensive list in the 3D text screensaver.

Utah Teapot

What’s better than a list of Win95 developers hidden as an Easter Egg? An animated presentation complete with funky soundtrack of course. Windows 98 also contains a credit screen Egg, sadly it’s not quite as exciting as the 95 version.

Here’s one we bet you didn’t find. The Windows 95 pipe screensaver included the Utah teapot in place of the standard joint bend, of course you had to be pretty specific in the settings. Pipes needed to be multiple and standard style, joint type must be multiple and texture solid.

Windows 2000 / XP

The developers at Microsoft seemed to have a soft spot for the pipes screensaver. An undocumented texture hidden away allowed the pipes to change to barber shop stripes. Hairdressers across the globe must have gone crazy for that one right? Umm, perhaps.

Bored with losing all the time? For those in the know, the pinball game featured in 2000 & XP versions of Windows included some pretty nifty cheats. A series of keyboard shortcuts could see you shoot to the top of the leaderboard or enjoy an endless game, here’s how:

  • “H” – instant high score
  • “R” – increase rank
  • “M” – system memory
  • “Y” – frame rate
  • “1max” – extra ball
  • “gmax” – created a gravity well
  • “rmax” – go up a rank
  • “bmax” – unlimited balls for an endless game


A staple favourite of MS and time wasters everywhere, Minesweeper was also treated to an Easter Egg in 2000 & XP versions. Typing “xyzzy” and pressing enter simultaneously at the beginning of a game allowed you to see where all of the mines were. Black squares represented a mine was underneath and a white one, that there wasn’t. Not the biggest fan of Minesweeper, I can only imagine this was the most boring gaming experience ever.


Super tiny faces of the MS anti-piracy team were included on the surface of the Window’s Vista installation CD. Spotted by the eager eyes of Spanish blogger, Kwisatz, you can read more on this post by Computer World.


Blue Screen of Death High Res

If you were lucky enough to be running IE in the noughties (and let’s be honest – who wasn’t), you could get a kick out of typing “about:Mozilla” in the address bar. A blank blue screen, symbolic of the blue screen of death would appear. Hilarious.


Pictures of everyone involved in the Hover project are displayed upon completing the introductory level of Hover. A game which first appeared on the Windows 95 installation CD and is still going strong 18 years later, wow I feel old.You can still play today, give it a go.

What’s your favourite Easter Egg? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments box below, unless it’s the Minesweeper one, seriously.

We don’t offer training on any of these Easter Eggs but we do offer training on Excel, PowerPoint, Word, Access and more besides. Check our London training courses page for more details.

Office 365

36.5 Office 365 Features That Will Boost Your Productivity

Formerly named Business Productivity Online Suite, Office 365 sees the introduction of a host of cool features that have the potential to increase your company’s productivity.

Office 365

With the ability to take your Office suite and put it onto the cloud, there’s huge scope for businesses to work more efficiently. Your Office can be accessed anywhere on a number of devices, including tablets and smartphones.

So, without further ado, here are 36.5 amazing features that’ll help you get the most from your Office 365  subscription:

1.       Security

Working on the cloud can be a concern for security conscious businesses. With Exchange server hosting, it continually scans for viruses and malware. Now, you can sleep safe at night in the knowledge that your email will not be compromised.

2.       Cost

Office 365 offers a range of packages, designed to fit around your business needs. With everything included, it won’t cost you more than £15 per user, per month (£150 per year).  You’ll probably spend more than that on biscuits for the office.

3.       Everything Included

Included in your £15 per user, per month, you’ll get access to pretty much everything you’d want, including: Subscription to the Office Suite across 5 devices, Office Web Apps, Office Mobile Apps, Hosted Email, Web Conferencing, Public Website, Spam & Malware Protection, and guaranteed 99.9% Uptime.

Microsoft Office 2013 Suite

4.       Work with the tools that you know

That’s right: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher and Lync are all available as web apps.

5.      Compatibility

Regardless of whether your employees prefer using devices running Windows 7 or later, or Mac OS X, they’ll be able to run Office 365.

6.      Cleaner, standardised navigation

Say goodbye to clutter and hello to a smooth user experience. With web apps mirroring much of the desktop application’s functionality, integration is seamless.

7.      Access your suite anywhere, on any device

One Office 5 Devices / Microsoft Office

Although late to the tablet scene and with a relatively small portion of the smartphone market, Microsoft recognises the need for its products to be available and fully functioning on a number of devices. Yes, that includes iPhone, Samsung Galaxy Note, iPad, Surface Tab and many more. Optimised for touch, a number of cool navigation tools are available to tablet & smartphone users.

8.     Great for small businesses

Office 365 offers 5 packages to suit your personal and business needs: Home Premium, Small Business Premium, Pro Plus, Enterprise & University. With up to 50 users able to be registered, small businesses can save money on unlimited packages such as Pro Plus and Enterprise and only pay for the services they need.

9.    Money back guarantee

As mentioned in #3, Microsoft guarantee 99.9% uptime, but if by some miracle, there is a problem with the server which causes more than 0.1% downtime over the course of the year, it’s refund time.

10.    On cloud nine

With no clunky servers taking up space in your office, you can trust Microsoft to safely store the majority of your data on the cloud.

11.    Service Status dashboard

Service Status Dashboard

Your IT manager will have access to a service status dashboard, showing them the performance of your services. If anything goes awry, they’ll be the first to know and can hopefully sort things before catastrophe strikes.

12.    On & Offline Working

Sync your content in SharePoint and save it to your desktop with SkyDrive Pro. With your documents just a few clicks away, you can work both on and offline. Your files will be updated soon as you have an internet connection.

13.   It’s the professional choice

Regardless of the device that your recipient is viewing your content, it’s guaranteed to render beautifully.

14.   24 / 7 IT support

It’s all in the name really, Office 365. But not confined to Office hours, highly trained support staff are on hand in community forums to answer any questions that you may have.

15.   Quickly schedule meetings

It’s never been easier to schedule meetings with the latest updates to Outlook. Save time not asking everyone to check their calendars and increase office productivity.

16.   IM, Video & Demonstrations

Microsoft Lync

Lync offers a Google+ hangout style service, enjoy instant messaging & even give demonstrations showing your desktop.

17.   “Lync” up with more than your colleagues

Invite business contacts via email and start sealing deals with the simplicity of Lync.

18.   Change your presence status with Lync

Much like Skype, but not Skype, you can let your colleagues know whether you’re available for contact. After all, there’s little more frustrating than being interrupted every two minutes when you’re working on a project.

19.   Personalise your profile photo

More than just a profile picture, your Lync display photo is the face of you, your company and all that it stands for.  You can synchronise this with a variety of social networks, online or choose an image from your desktop.

20.   Record a chat session on Lync

A special feature of Lync is the ability to record conversations. Perfect for reviewing a meeting or taking additional notes later on.

21.   Keep tabs on employees with Lync

Twinned with Lync, Outlook offers the ability to check the availability of colleagues and instantly connect with them with Lync integration.

22.   More ways to stay in touch

Aside from Lync, Outlook is a great way to communicate online, especially with the integration of social networks.


23.   Create a team alias

In the Outlook web app, select Home > Options > Groups. Click New under Public Groups I Own. Then under Display Name enter an alias for your team. Add new members by selecting Membership > Add > Select Members.

24.   Rich Outlook functionality

Mirroring the desktop version, the web application offers many of the same features, including right click access to a number of functions.

25.   SharePoint: share your stuff

Upload and publish content to SharePoint and easily share it with colleagues and business partners via a number of channels.

26.   Stay on top of projects


Utilise SharePoint, Outlook and MS Project to the max and ensure that projects are kept in line and that deadlines are met.

27.   Powerful admin page allow support staff to manage SharePoint, Lync & Exchange users

Administrators are able to configure SharePoint online in a number of ways. Giving permissions for external clients to access your account is a great feature.

28.   Sophisticated sharing

Save and Send navigation gives you the option to email, save to web, save to SharePoint, send by IM or (for MS Word) publish as a blog post.

29.   Stay connected with team site

Set up a new team site in minutes and collate your team email, documents, meeting notes and more.

30.   Create a wiki

Capture and share information in one handy place, your team site. With your whole team’s knowledge in one place, productivity is sure to improve.

31.   Build aesthetically pleasing sites

Whether it’s an intranet or an internet site, there’s a set of handy design tools available within team site to help you build great websites.

32.   Smartphone security

Office 365 on Tablet

Putting security first with mobile devices, IT managers can create passwords and control some hardware features for added security. No need to worry when a colleague misplaces their tablet.

33.   Easy to get started

Designed with business in mind, you’ll find no complicated set up processes which means that your team can get to work straight away.

34.   Work together simultaneously on Web Apps

Get things done, quick smart, with multiple users able to access and simultaneously edit using web apps. Great for Excel & PowerPoint documents, where each user can clearly see where another has made changes.

35.   It’s the complete package

no dropbox integration

With everything included in your subscription price, you need not worry about having to download further applications such as Google Drive, Dropbox or Skype.

36.   Upgrade deals

Some upgrade offers are available for those that have purchased previous versions within certain time frames.

Whether you’re familiar with the Microsoft Office suite or not, Office 365 boasts a number of benefits to your company, from simultaneous editing in web apps to 24 / 7 IT support, you’re in safe hands storing your data on the cloud.

36.5   Support 365.25 days of the year

Plus, half a reason to join the Office 365 bandwagon is that its subscription runs for the calendar year, great for leap years – you’ll get an extra day’s productivity.

What’s your favourite feature of Office 365? 

Want to use WordPowerPoint or Excel like a pro? Attend one of Best STL’s training courses available London and UK wide. To see ms+office+version+differences, take a little look at our infographic, What’s In & What’s Out in Office 2013.

Obama on Insourcing

Obama, Insourcing and Your (Microsoft) Office

Passing your spreadsheet and database needs to an external company is all too appealing when looking for quick results at low cost. But, is this economically viable or is outsourcing slowing bringing Britain to its knees? Can the US President’s passion for insourcing make Britain Great again?

Insourcing is the process of bringing operations back from an external company / country and integrating them into your company. Put simply, for anyone that knows outsourcing – it’s the opposite.


Britain spends untold billions of pounds to overseas outsourcing companies every year, with the main loser being the home-grown workforce.

UK unemployment levels remain at 7.7% according to figures released early in 2013. Many jobs that have been taken away from the British workforce include manufacturing, customer service, tech, marketing and more. Perhaps even more worrying is that over 1 million young people aged 18-24 are without employment, not to mention, in ever increasing debt from university courses.

Although the experts claim that we as a nation are moving towards the end of the recession, this does little to instill confidence in the millions of unemployed. But could this be avoided to some part by bringing jobs back home? Tasks the UK market knows how to do; maintaining a database in Access or building financial models in Excel.

The lure of outsourcing sits firmly in the corner of saving money for business. Cheaper labour costs in overseas countries means that wage bills can be cut and profits can increase.

Obama’s Big Idea

Obama on Insourcing

There’s a lot to be said about our friends from across the pond, and whilst Obama may not have realised it, his recent initiative could have just saved a large number of businesses here in the UK.

Early in 2012, Obama sought to tackle the issue of unemployment head on, by setting to reward businesses that opted to bring operations back home. Insourcing was born (or at least publicised) and the world was beginning to listen.

In fact, he even attempted to pass a bill which would see tax breaks for companies that adopted the insourcing initiative. Although this was ultimately unsuccessful in parliament and the bill was narrowly rejected, the idea is still going strong.

A case study: General Motors re-hires 10,000 IT professionals


While GM was one of the early adopters of outsourcing, news late in 2012 seems to be suggesting of a U-turn. Whilst manufacturing looks set to remain offshore, the company plans to bring home 10,000 IT jobs for the benefit of the US workforce. And with the help of a little training, these employees are set to flourish.

Part of GM’s insourcing plan is to open what they call innovation centres. These centres will be based across the US in areas that reflect a substantial amount of industry knowledge. That’s a no brainer right? One such centre will employ 500 people in Austin, TX, matching their skills to the relevant IT roles. Just as the best businesses match their employees skills and knowledge base to the tasks that need to be performed.

Is there a bright future for General Motors? Only time will tell if it’s the best decision for them, but it’s definitely a great move for the US unemployed.

So, what are the benefits of insourcing?

Motivated Employees

  • Lower Cost. It’s true what they say. Teach a man to fish and he’ll be able to feed himself for life. Investing money into training in house can ensure that your current workforce is both upskilled and kept motivated. Both invaluable assets.
  • Increased Control. Many outsourcing companies will have their own methods of working and may not be able to accommodate your ever changing needs at the drop of a hat. Keeping operations together often helps the smooth running of a company.
  • Higher skilled workforce. If the General Motors case study is anything to go by, there’s a knowledgeable group of skilled unemployed people out there – just waiting for this opportunity.
  • Ethics. Huge in modern day business. Customers are ever increasingly concerned with things being home grown, the supporting of relevant charities and the like. Promoting the best of British only stands to benefit early adopters to the insourcing buzz.
  • Simplicity. Reinstating your IT skills within your company is logistically easier than bringing back manufacturing operations.

How could insourcing your Microsoft Office operations benefit business?

Whether you are a huge multi-national or a small to medium sized business, IT is one area that is easy to keep control of in-house. So, rather than outsource your inventory management or data analysis, why not keep complete control and look after things within your business.

Enjoy the rewards that a skilled and motivated workforce brings, all whilst keeping the home economy ticking over. University graduates are potentially a great fit for your company: bursting with knowledge, enthusiasm and willing to get stuck in, you can sleep tight knowing that you’re keeping propelling the economy along.

Financially, upskilling your entire workforce soon pays for itself. A quick brush up on Excel, Word or Access could save you thousands of pounds in the long run. Enhancing your presentation skills could be the difference between winning that tender or not. The unique pricing model of Training courses at Best STL means training can cost less than you think. And, just like your trusty Word document, we won’t let you down – with the promise of never cancelling a training course and a 98%+ satisfaction rating.

Would you consider insourcing your operations, or do the benefits of outsourcing outweigh the costs?

Obama photo courtest of The Big Story

Can you get by with Office Web Apps alone?

We’re constantly looking for ways to increase productivity. The normal 9-5 no longer exists and you find yourself constantly managing content on the move outside of your ‘regular’ working hours. Of course the ability to save documents on a flash drive or locally on your laptop hard drive has been an effective, and mobile, way to edit your content on the move. However its now commercially evident that cloud-based services are growing stronger and becoming more trusted by the day, as seen by Nasuni’s 2013 infographic.

In this article I am going to look at Microsoft’s Office Web Apps and whether or not they are a suitable alternative to editing locally.

State of Cloud Storage in 2013


When on the move the last thing you want is a frustrating interface that makes you want to hurl your expensive tablet down the aisle of the train. So let’s take a look at the interface of Microsoft’s Web Apps.

For those who are sharing a document that needs to be regularly updated, the web app feature that SkyDrive offers is a fantastic solution for those invested in Microsoft’s ecosystem. For example, if you are composing a report at home on your desktop machine using Word 2013 you can easily upload the file directly to SkyDrive. However on the way to work the next day you realise it needs to be updated to take into account an email you received in the morning. By simply logging into your SkyDrive account you are able to open your file and amend it immediately in any browser. 

A screen shot of Word's ability to share.

If you have uploaded an Office produced file you can also input data on the move, which automatically saves for any shared parties to view immediately. The only slight downside however is it’s navigation layout compared to its desktop counterpart. Functionality seems to be completely ignored from SkyDrive’s iOS and Android applications. Although you are able to view and upload content through the application it doesn’t allow users to edit the content directly. You can use the browser in your mobile device, however trying to add data into a tiny field on a small screen is extremely frustrating.

You have the ability to upload and view content but not to edit.

You have the ability to upload and view content but not to edit.

So let’s consider the other side of the coin, using Office desktop software. With netbooks and compact laptops users are taking their home machines with them to work. This allows much more functionality when it comes to using software such as Office 2013. Not only do the desktop versions allow easier navigation but they also allow the user to access more formatting features. There has always been an argument in the digital community as to whether producing content on the move is practical, an example of which can be seen in an interview with the late Steve Jobs on All Things Digital. So I am not entirely convinced many people actually prefer to generate content on the move, as opposed to creating content in their office or at home on the desktop version Office 2013.


How easy is it for a group of people, your colleagues or friends, to edit one single document on a variety of devices? And more importantly do you have to already posses a advanced level of technical knowhow to operate its software or web app interface?

To answer the first question, very. It’s clear that Microsoft have taken the user interface and need for interconnected services very seriously. If you’ve read my previous article on cloud based storage you would have picked up on the Apple’s rival service iCloud’s ability to automatically sync documents to the cloud. When users are operating Office 2013 they clearly have the ability to not only upload their files to SkyDrive but to SharePoint also. This seamless connectivity between desktop and cloud based software blurs the line between any preference most people have between using either or.

Microsoft's SkyDrive Desktop Interface

To answer the second, no. Immediately SkyDrive’s interface is bold, clear and customisable to the user’s preference. Its simple click and edit system doesn’t cause its users to sit around and wait for his/hers PC to boot up the software. Even with a mediocre ADSL connection the web apps load almost instantaneously, it is worth noting however this is variable depending on your file size you are trying to load.

How much of a priority is it though for those working in a commercial environment to work from web apps alone?

This is quite a difficult question to answer as most people will have a varying experience using cloud based software such as Office Web Apps. However let’s go back to the point I made previously about the ‘regular’ working hours of a 9-5, does that even exist anymore? Being continuously connected to online services can be both a blessing and a curse, it will allow you to be able to complete you job in less time but also bring with it the stress of expectation. And by that I mean your boss may, I’m not saying will, expect you to be able to respond to emails and work on documents remotely at any given time. So you can argue that actually yes, being able to utilize the Office Web Apps is extremely important in our professional lives but may come at a cost…

Not only do we have to consider the need to be connected at all times but also the need to work collaboratively on the cloud. From my experience I have often used SkyDrive to upload an Excel file, where others are able to input data for me to check on a daily basis. From copy writing it also provides sub-editors the ability to look directly at a document and adjust any grammatical or syntax errors much quicker than it would be to contact the author directly. These are just a few examples of the requirement to have a collaborative platform, however how this works on a much larger commercial scale is something we would love to hear from you about.

Do you solely rely on using web apps and the cloud to share and edit your content? Or do you think that you can achieve the same results by working directly on the desktop version? 

Want to use Word, PowerPoint or Excel like a pro? Attend one of Best STL’s training courses available London and UK wide.