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My Calendar Tips For Keeping Organized

internationalWomensdayPoster_Final-page-0Earlier this week, I was privileged to be speaking on a panel for International Women’s Day hosted at Innovation Guelph. Each of the panel guests were asked to give a short talk about how they can help the rest of the group. My talk was focused on how technology can make our lives easier.

I presented three tips: using multiple online calendars, using Skype to enable us to work from home, and effectively using a smart phone. The calendar tips generated several comments later in the evening, and I was asked how to use multiple online calendars to keep family and business organized. Here are my tips and tricks for keeping my husband, kids, family, personal, and business schedules on track. My family uses Google’s Gmail, but this same method can be used with Microsoft’s SkyDrive. Both are free, cloud-based, and can sync to multiple devices.

Having too many appointments/events/tasks on one calendar can be too overwhelming, so I recommend a different calendar for each person and/or task. Using individual calendars allows me to focus on one person/task at a time. If I need a big -picture overview, I’ll turn on multiple calendars.

Here is the list of my family’s calendars:

(This list may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s not very complicated.)

Husband – 2 calendars

  • Personal (karate training schedule, dentist appointments, etc.)
  • Work (on-call schedule, travel, etc.)

He shares these two calendars with me, but I cannot modify either of them. He is responsible for keeping his schedules up-to-date. 

Children – 1 personal each. My daughter has an additional school one. They do as they wish and I don’t have access to them.

Myself – 6 calendars

  • Personal – my personal appointments
  • Work – my work schedule including physical addresses of clients. I do this because my phone can read the location and tell me when I should leave to be at an appointment on time, based on my current location; but also for safety. My work calendar is shared with my husband, so if something were to happen, he’d be aware of my location.
  • Family – my husband and I both have edit access to this calendar, and both children only have read access to it. We use this calendar to track family events, such as birthdays, trips, family functions, etc. We all know where we are supposed to be and when. No more “I didn’t know we were going to Grandma’s today”.
  • Banking – all bill due dates, amounts, and other financial reminders are in this calendar.
  • Babysitter/Childcare – although this calendar is no longer used for babysitting purposes, it was used to keep track of babysitting schedules. It was shared with the babysitter, so she always knew when she had to be here. This calendar is now used for Summer camp schedules, ans we can track which child is at which camp and co-ordinate drop-off and pick-up schedules.
  • My public business calendar – tracks all public presentations, seminars, classes, etc. This calendar is automatically updated on my website.

It sounds like a lot to setup, but using separate calendars allows me to focus on a specific task or person. As the kids grow older, and the family becomes busier, this method lets us find each other and schedule time together.

Small Business Server 2011 Essentials & Integrated Office 365 – Big Business Tools for the Small Business

I recently installed Microsoft SBS 2011 Essentials with Office 365 integration and was more than pleasantly surprised with the outcome of integrating the two products.

A Little Background

I have been working with Microsoft Enterprise servers for many years of my career, but moved into the Small business Server space a few years ago as a solution for my small business clients.  Microsoft Small Business Servers are designed specifically with the needs of the small business in mind.

Key benefits of SBS include:

·         Simplified Small Business IT

·         Increased Business Productivity

·         Protect Business Data

·         Reduced IT Costs

For a full list of features visit the Microsoft SBS website.

Microsoft Office 365 was released in June 2011. Office 365 provides Microsofts business productivity products, Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, and Office Web Apps as cloud services.  This reduces the need to host these services on-site, greatly reducing IT costs.

  • Exchange Online: enables the sharing of email, contacts and calendars
  • SharePoint Online: allows the users to securely host their documents from any internet-connected device.  Also included are templates to easily create and host your public facing website
  • Lync Online: a real-time collaboration tool
  • Office Web Apps: a web-based Office suite

Client Details and Requirements

The client, for this installation, has a small office with 4 full-time employees.  They use a custom third-party application that requires a “server” type of installation, which was installed on a Windows 7 computer.  They share files in the office, but email, calendars, and contacts were not easily shared.  They wanted to be able to effortlessly share email, calendars, etc., between staff members and be able to access company documents from outside the office. 

The Solution

We decided to implement Small Business Server Essentials with Office 365.

SBS Essentials is a slick little operating system designed for the small businesses.  It is easy to setup and once configured, very easy to manage.  It provides the security and the basic functionality of its big brother, Microsoft Server 2008; but in an easy to use, slimmed-down package.

SBS Essentials offers:

  • Remote Web Access
  • Data Backup and Restore
  • File and Printer Sharing
  • Easy connection to the Microsoft “cloud”

For more information, please visit Microsoft SBS Essentials webpage. In late 2011, Microsoft provided an Office 365 integration module with SBS Essentials.

The Implementation

We moved all their email and webhosting to Office 365. This provided the sharing required, plus real-time collaboration using Lync and SharePoint for securely sharing documents.  The client can also rebuild and maintain control over their website, which they didn’t have before. 

The Office 365 Outlook integration provided a seamless Outlook experience for the client, whether they were using it on the desktop, laptop or web.

We moved the 3rd party application to the new SBS server, which has increased performance of the application itself, since it is now being hosted in a proper server environment on appropriate hardware.  All the computers in the office are backing up to the server, and file-sharing was enabled.  By far, the most beneficial feature for this client is the Remote Web Access feature (which was very easy to setup).  The client can securely access her desktop from her laptop with a click of the mouse.  She is currently on vacation, easily accessing her office desktop and server.

Final Thoughts

Combine SBS Essentials with Office 365 and now you can leverage some of Microsoft’s most powerful big business tools into your small office.  Your small office can now be on the same playing field as big business without the IT costs and frustrations. Well done Microsoft.

Fixing Corrupted File Systems

You do “Learn something new every day!” After fifteen+ years in IT, I assumed I knew just about every Windows™ utility. I had never heard of the System File Checker (SFC) utility until yesterday. This command line utility can fix corrupted file systems on XP, Vista and Windows 7.

This all started a few weeks ago when my husband started having issues with his Windows 7 HP laptop. The system was slow to start or “wake up” and the hard drive would spin endlessly. He finally had some free time to fix it yesterday. After much searching help, he came across this article http://www.windowsbbs.com/windows-xp/75219-unableto-run-chkdsk-f.html, which explains how to use the command sfc/scannow. After running this utility his hard disk is now working properly.

System File Checker will check protected system files and if a file has been overwritten, the utility will replace the corrupted file with a non-corrupted file.

To use this command go to the Run Box from the Start button and enter sfc/scannow. This will start scanning the protected system files and replace any corrupted files. You must have administrative privilege to run this command.

To learn more about this utility and the additional parameters, go to http://support.microsoft.com/kb/310747 or contact your IT support person.

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