Tag Archive: Upgrade


WhyMicrosoftThe moment I almost forget what a pain Windows 10 is, this message pops up on my PC.  Why did you have to ask me this question again, Microsoft?  Why must you remind me of my suffering?  All the details of what I have experienced are too much to cover in a single blog, so I will do my best to focus on the big issues.  As such, I won’t be whining about Windows 10 not consistently recognizing my finger, but that is a common theme here.

Nor will I spend the time rehashing various feature disruptions associated with forced updates to the degree that they deserve.  Most notably, Bitlocker comes to mind, but I cannot bring myself to go there in any significant detail. Suffice it to say that when I lost access to my encrypted Bitlocker drive due to an update, the documented fix required reinstalling an older version of Windows 10 to recover my data.  I chose to buy another hard drive since it was less complicated and time-consuming.

At one point in January of this year, I estimated that the combined dysfunction of Windows 10 and Office 365 had cost me at least two full days of productivity for my own system, never mind other people that I provide support to.  In that month alone, I personally spent over an hour a day on average dealing with issues that you would never see on a Windows 7 PC running a non-365 version of Office.

As an IT professional with thirty years of experience, I can honestly say that the Windows 10 operating system (OS) may be the most intrusive and unreliable OS ever created by Microsoft.  Computers and operating systems are intended to make our work lives more efficient and less challenging, not less efficient and more challenging.  On a regular basis, Windows 10 and its cohort, Office 365, thwart productivity through seemingly incessant and meaningless updates performed in the almighty name of compliance and security.

artificial-intelligence-155161_640

Even the most basic functionality of turning off your computer is challenged by the HAL-like behavior of this OS.  On my way out for a recent Thanksgiving road trip, I attempted to shut down my PC (four times).  Each time, my PC appeared to shutdown it came back on again.  It was clearly going to do this ad infinitum, which led to a few expletive laden Google searches like, “Windows 10 will not $&%#ing shut down!”

This is not the first time I have seen this particular issue in Windows 10 or similar quirky bugs like the black screen issue, so my patience was tested.  Eventually, I rediscovered and used the “hold the left-shift key and shutdown” method to wrestle my insubordinate PC into submission, then for good measure I actually unplugged it too.  Let’s see you restart now, Windows 10!  Thankfully, it didn’t.

Sure, this OS looks good on the surface, and in some ways it is better than its predecessor, but there are some major drawbacks.  For example, trying to use an app arbitrarily deemed as “not stable” or “incompatible” results in Windows 10 uninstalling that app without users’ permission.  Windows 10 won’t necessarily remove the app as soon as you install it, but when Windows applies updates again, it will remove the offending app and does not notify users.

Want to postpone an update or set the time updates are supposed to occur? … Go ahead.  There are settings for that, but whether you go through the exercise of configuring those settings or not, Windows 10 pretty much seems to do whatever it wants to do when it wants to.  I feel like I have lost control of my computers that run Windows 10.  Microsoft is in charge of them now and decides when and how I can use them.

If you have a critical online meeting, work that needs to be done right now, or a plane to catch, you can almost count on Windows 10 attempting to update or do some other thing that doesn’t need to be done at that exact time.  I don’t know how it does this, but it does.  It could just be that it is always doing an update.  In a nutshell, if you are familiar with the printer in the movie Office Space, Windows 10 is that printer.

Given my experiences, recommending this OS to anyone before they felt that they truly needed to move to it would be willfully irresponsible.  That said, I suspect there is a small contingent of users that Windows 10 helps stay out of trouble.  I know some of those people, but the masses should not have Windows 10 on their computers when there are other more reliable – as defined by computers that do what you want them to do when you want them to do it – alternatives.

Many of my financial services customers have likely moved to Windows 10 or plan to move to Windows 10 in the future.  For those businesses where compliance and security are paramount, staying the course on an aging OS like Windows 7 will become more difficult, given that Windows 10 is widely perceived as being more secure.

Understandably, for corporate use Windows 10 may just be a desktop environment that is used to gain access to a more secure and redundant cloud environment.  As such, the pain points I describe related to Windows 10 could be less of an issue for these users.  However, consigning users to Microsoft’s decisions about how they can use their PCs at any given time is scary.

Ultimately, the path Microsoft is on with Windows 10 is either headed toward total authoritarian rule over personal computer systems, or toward the eventual demise of Microsoft’s stranglehold on the PC OS market in favor of a more agreeable and obedient operating system.

lord-of-the-rings-the-one-ring_800

By way of disclaimer, I am using Windows 10 Professional, but know that Windows 10 Enterprise LTSB, which will soon be renamed to LTSC in 2019, follows the more traditional release policy and is not updated with the frequency of Microsoft’s other versions of Windows 10.  Based on my experience to date with Windows 10 Professional, the Enterprise LTSB product would probably be a much better user experience.  Also, related to Windows updates, my advanced options are set to Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) with the option to defer feature updates by up to 180 days and security updates by up to 30 days.  I realize that I could gain a greater level of reliability and reduce the problems I experience by changing to the straight Semi-Annual Channel, which would delay feature updates by an additional 4 months.  My opinions are the result of using Windows 10 as both my primary desktop and notebook OS for the past two years.


About the Author: Kevin Shea is the Founder and Principal Kevin Shea Impact 2010Consultant of Quartare; Quartare provides a wide variety of technology solutions to investment advisors nationwide.

For details, please visit Quartare.com, contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail at kshea@quartare.com.

sticky-notes-to-do-listAround this same time last year, many of us said our final goodbyes to Windows XP and Exchange 2003.  This year, Microsoft’s latest End-Of-Life (EOL) event – along with good sense – will force most of the firms that are still using Windows Server 2003  to replace it with a newer version of the Windows Server operating system (OS).  July 14th, 2015 marks the end of extended support for the 2003 product line – after that date, there won’t be any more security updates.

For those unfamiliar with the issue this raises, compliance regulation and standards related to private information and security dictate that firms must keep up-to-date with regular patches to the software and hardware that powers their businesses.  Your firm’s Written Information Security Program (WISP) should detail a policy of adherence to these standards, among many others, and in there somewhere you have almost certainly indicated that you are keeping your systems updated with respect to security.

Like Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 has been around long enough and really should be replaced, so there is not much point in delaying the switch.  Most firms have likely changed over to Windows Server 2008 or 2012, but those that haven’t made the change yet should be planning on upgrading their server(s) in Q2 of 2015.

 

rackAlternatives to Windows 2003?

Assuming your firm is committed to Microsoft Server products, you have two choices:

1. Windows Server 2008 r2 (2008)

2008 is a mature operating system, which is still in use at a large number of firms today. However, mainstream support for 2008 ended earlier this year (1/13/2015), and though extended support is available until 1/14/2020, it probably doesn’t make sense to move from 2003 to 2008 in 2015. Firms that have existing 2008 software licenses may not want to incur the additional expense of 2012 licenses, and those with significant compatibility concerns may opt to install Windows 2008 on new server hardware.

2. Windows Server 2012 r2 (2012)

2012 is the latest and greatest from Microsoft. It has a shiny new interface and a bevy of neat features like deduplication. My experience with 2012 has been overwhelmingly positive. Though worries about 2012 compatibility with legacy applications may delay widespread acceptance of this operating system, many firms will ultimately choose to make the switch to 2012.

What happens if we stay on Windows 2003?

Your server will still work, but you will not get any more security updates from Microsoft, and your firm will technically be out of compliance.

What else could happen?

Software companies and other parties your firm interfaces with will assume that you are making these updates.  Your firm’s failure to upgrade to a later version of Windows Server could cause problems that you and your staff may not be able to anticipate.

As an example of this, one of my clients that was slow to upgrade all of their Windows XP systems last year found that the latest version of Orion’s desktop software, which was automatically updated sometime in Q1 of 2014, was incompatible with Windows XP.  Unfortunately for the client, there wasn’t a way to reverse the update or use an older version.

At the time, I was surprised, especially because the customer wasn’t given any notice of the “feature enhancement.”  It didn’t make sense that a software company would launch an update incompatible with existing customer desktops that were still supported by Microsoft.  Thankfully, Orion addressed the issue quickly by providing the users affected with remote desktop (RDP) connections to Orion servers for an interim period.

About the Author: Kevin Shea is the Founder and Principal Kevin Shea Impact 2010Consultant of Quartare; Quartare provides a wide variety of technology solutions to investment management and financial services firms nationwide.

For details, please visit Quartare.com, contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail at kshea@quartare.com.

HourglassWindows XP was a mainstay at many financial services firms for nearly a decade.  In keeping with the Microsoft Lifecycle Support Policy, support for Windows XP and similar aged software must eventually end.  You can learn more about the policy here.

According to Microsoft, extended support for Windows XP is scheduled to end on 04/08/2014.  If your office is using Windows XP, you should be working on plans to phase out XP by replacing those systems with new PCs or upgrading the PCs to a more recent workstation operating system in the next six to nine months.  There is no good reason to wait until or beyond April 2014 to perform these upgrades.

Why should you care?

Most security standards – for instance, 201 CMR 17.00 – require that you apply security patches on a regular basis.  It is the extended support from Microsoft that allows you to do this.  After extended support has ended, there is no guarantee that any security patches will be released for these systems.  In order to stay compliant with security standards, firms using Windows XP will need to upgrade to other systems.

Hasta la vista, Vista!

androide

Currently, we are recommending that business users implement Windows 7 Professional on workstations.  Windows 8 makes sense for home users with touch screens, but we prefer not to implement operating systems before they have become mainstream in the workplace; Windows 8 just isn’t there yet.

Vista extended support is good through 04/11/2017, but Vista has always been a dog, and any business users still using Vista should strongly consider moving to Windows 7 Professional immediately.

Server-based systems affected by the Microsoft Lifecycle Support Policy

Windows 2003 Server extended support is good through 07/14/2015.  Nevertheless, Windows Server 2008 R2 will likely be the most widely used network operating system among investment advisors by the end of 2013.  Windows Server 2012 was released on 09/04/2012 and hasn’t yet been widely implemented among SMBs we are familiar with.

Exchange Server 2003 extended support also ends on 04/08/2014.  The implications of this related to security updates are the same as those detailed above regarding XP.  If you know which version of Exchange is in use at your office, you can check Microsoft’s site here to determine when the end of extended support for Exchange will affect your firm.

Like Vista, extended support of Exchange Server 2007 is good through 4/11/2017, so there is no need to upgrade in the near term future.  Exchange 2010 adds OWA support for Firefox and Chrome.  In addition, Exchange 2010 makes better use of lower-cost disk subsystems, allowing you to get a performance boost over 2007 without spending a premium.  Those are nice features, but not nice enough to push an Exchange upgrade before a normal IT lifecycle replacement demands it.

Exchange Server 2003 will be phased out by many advisors this year, and most will move to Exchange Server 2010.  Though Exchange Server 2013 was technically released in November 2012, it may be premature for the SMBs that dominate the investment industry to adopt Exchange Server 2013 over Exchange Server 2010.  Presently, there is no direct migration path from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2013.  A number of small investment advisors will move to hosted Exchange solutions and no longer keep Exchange servers at their offices.

With this many possible changes slated for the next ten months, now is a good time to make sure your firm has addressed the issues or has a plan to upgrade any systems affected.

About the Author: Kevin Shea is President of InfoSystems Integrated, Inc. (ISI); ISI provides a wide variety of outsourced IT solutions to investment advisors nationwide.

For details, please visit isitc.com, contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail at kshea@isitc.com.

As more and more companies embrace Windows 7 as their new desktop standard, they are faced with the difficulties of getting Axys 3.x to run in a mixed environment of XP, Windows 7 and terminal server.  For those willing to make the leap, upgrading to Axys 3.8.5 is a best practice.  It’s Windows 7 compatible and should take much of the guesswork and troubleshooting out of making Axys work in a mixed OS environment.

A couple weeks ago, I was sitting with some clients, discussing the merits of moving to 3.8.5 now or early next year.  I let them know that Advent would likely announce a sunset of 3.5.1 and 3.6 later this year.  They were still using Axys 3.6 and knew they needed to eventually move to Axys 3.8.5 to stay current.  In our meeting, we reviewed the benefits of making the move, which included the various report updates, as well as compatibility updates for Adobe Acrobat 10, Office 2010, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008.  They decided to upgrade to Axys 3.8.5 immediately.

To learn more about what upgrading may mean for your firm, read my blog titled “What Version of Axys Should Your Firm Use?

As our meeting ended, they coincidentally received an email from Advent announcing the sunset of Axys 3.5.1 and 3.6 support.  According to the announcement, Advent will work with all Axys 3.5.1 and 3.6 clients on migrating to 3.8.5 by May 31st, 2012, at which point they will no longer support Axys 3.5.1 and 3.6.  It states that DTCC 3.5.1 is only compatible with Axys 3.5.1, so DTCC users should upgrade to DTCC 3.8.5 in tandem, and also recommends that DTCC users seek Advent’s assistance to ensure a smooth transition.  Advent encourages Axys 3.7 users to upgrade, but will continue to support Axys 3.7 until further notice.

In our experience, upgrading to Axys 3.8.5 has been relatively easy.  However, since Axys 3.7 and prior versions’ data needs to be converted to 3.8.x format, the process is slightly more difficult and potentially problematic than other recent upgrades.  The data format change can cause compatibility issues with products that interface with Axys, so users should check with their vendors prior to upgrading.  There is no need to do incremental upgrades.  For example, users can upgrade from Axys 3.6 to Axys 3.8.5 directly.

The only difficulty we ran into with this particular upgrade was that the pesky User Account Control (UAC) feature on Windows 7 PCs needed to be disabled – good riddance – in order for Axys to work properly.  In this case, the upgrade was at the upper end of our 2-4 hour estimate, but upgrade times vary based on the amount of data, users, system speed, customizations and possible exceptions.  Though we haven’t run into any unanticipated exceptions yet, it is always good to plan for them.

About the Author:
Kevin Shea is President of InfoSystems Integrated, Inc. (ISI); ISI provides a wide variety of outsourced IT solutions to investment advisors nationwide. For details, please visit isitc.com or contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail at kshea@isitc.com.

In this article, we will take a look at the Axys versions in use today.  Later this month, I will summarize Advent’s other portfolio management products and offer some insight into their value and target market.  Advent offers at least three different portfolio management software products; however, the vast majority of Advent’s portfolio management clients still use Axys.  With Advent’s recent release of Axys version 3.8.5 in mind, it’s time once again to revisit the version of Axys in use at your firm and evaluate the benefits of upgrading to the latest version.

In our day-to-day work with Advent’s Axys clients, we frequently see versions 3.5.1 – 3.8 in use at sites.  Advent historically supports current and previous releases of each of their products, and will likely make an announcement this fall regarding the sunset of Axys 3.5.1 and 3.6.  Though some sources indicate support for these products ended December 31, 2010, Advent’s website does not confirm this.

Below is a summary of the various Axys versions we see in use, as well as our recommendations regarding these releases:

 

Axys v3.5.1 (released June 2004) and Axys v3.6 (released August 2005)

If you are still using either of these versions today, you may have reviewed the list of updates in later versions and failed to find sufficient reason to switch.  Maybe you simply haven’t made the time to upgrade.  Perhaps you are worried about the potential headaches of upgrading, or about compatibility with reporting enhancements.  No matter how your system has been customized, moving to Axys v3.7 shouldn’t be that big a deal, so don’t put it off any longer.

 

Axys v3.7 (released November 2008)

Axys users should be using v3.7 at a minimum.  Axys v3.7 adds compatibility for Acrobat 8, Office 2007 and Vista.  Nearly all versions of Axys, including v3.7, contain a significant number of report updates that are important to many Axys users.  Report updates made after an Axys release are individually downloadable from the Advent Connection website.  A large number of reports were updated after the 3.7 release.  Firms that choose not to upgrade to v3.8 or higher at this time should download these reports.

 

Axys v3.8 (released January 2010)

For many users, the benefits of Axys v3.8 versus Axys v3.7 are relatively small.  Axys version 3.8 is a compatibility update that primarily addresses the Options Symbology Initiative (OSI).  Axys 3.8 also includes support for Acrobat 9 and Internet Explorer 8.

Axys v3.8 is the first release in years that actually requires data conversion, but in our experience, the process of converting is simple, fast and problem-free.  Unfortunately, changing the underlying data format can affect automation and data integration with other products.  If your firm makes use of custom enhancements to Axys or third-party products, you will want to test these items after upgrading and update as necessary.  For firms without these concerns, upgrading should be seamless.  Similarly to v3.7, a considerable number of reports were updated after the release of v3.8.  Firms that decide not to upgrade to v3.8.5 should download the updated reports from the Advent Connection.

 

Axys v3.8.5 (released July – August 2011)

Axys v3.8.5 provides long-awaited support for the 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 r2.  It also offers support for Microsoft Office 2010 and Adobe Acrobat 10.  Advent’s Axys v3.8.5 installation package includes all the catalog reports and standard reports that were updated after v3.8 was released.  Though many have already started using Axys on the latest operating systems, we have strongly discouraged users from doing this prior to the compatibility release.  We do our best to support those users that have upgraded their operating systems without waiting for compatibility releases, but believe that waiting for the appropriate Advent software release is a best practice.

Once again, firms with almost no customization or third-party programs are unlikely to experience issues as a result of upgrading to v3.8.5, but firms with custom enhancements and third-party programs that make program calls to Axys should be realistic, anticipate some initial difficulties, and allocate resources to test and refit integration if necessary.  At this point, many of our clients will likely hold off on this upgrade until November 2011 or later.  Please note that, according to Advent, no releases of Qube and OpenGL are compatible with Axys 3.8.5.

The most compelling reason to upgrade your version of Axys is to be sure that you have the most current reports and error-free systems available from Advent.  Sooner or later you will want or need to upgrade to Axys 3.8 or Axys 3.8.5, but you may want to put it off until a need for OSI or system infrastructure at your firm demands it.  Axys v3.7 is still widely used by Advent Software clients.  Most firms should plan on moving to Axys 3.8 or later by the end of 2011.

About the Author:
Kevin Shea is President of InfoSystems Integrated, Inc. (ISI); ISI provides a wide variety of outsourced IT solutions to investment advisors nationwide. For details, please visit isitc.com or contact Kevin Shea via phone at 617-720-3400 x202 or e-mail at kshea@isitc.com.