Quick Tip: How to Mass-Send Personalized Emails, Via Word

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A few days ago, I confronted a project: the annual update for our 37-person company directory. I knew I wanted something better than the generic, blank form I’d emailed out last year. I also knew there had to be something easier than copying and pasting our existing records – of every single person – in order to individually email them all.

There was!

email mail merge blog - 1I was already quite familiar with Word’s Mail Merge function, having used it for years to convert my personal address database into print-‘em-off, peel-and-stick labels for my Christmas cards. (No, that’s not cheating. It’s efficient time-management.) But I couldn’t find a similar mail merge function in our email software — we currently use Outlook 2010, at work. So I ran a search in Outlook Help. The answer to my email dilemma… was back in Word!

1. I started a new Word document, went to the “Mailings” tab and, from the “Start Mail Merge” dropdown, I selected “Email Messages.” Then I typed up the basic version of the letter I wanted to email out to everyone.
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2. Next, I went back to the “Mailings” tab. This time I clicked the “Select Recipients” dropdown. I already had the old database from last year, so I picked the “Use Existing List…” option and browsed for my file. (Note: in order for this to work, you need to have your recipients’ email addresses as one of your database’s fields. You’ll need it for Step 4.) I added the fields that I wanted personalized in my generic letter. (Dear <<Name>>…,)
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 3. Just like in a regular Mail Merge, with an email merge you can edit your recipient list and preview your results to check for errors. When you’re happy with how it all looks, go to “Finish and Merge” and select “Send E-mail Messages….”
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4. Then, from the dialogue box that pops up, select your database field that contains the email addresses.
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5. When that’s done, click “OK.” Boom. Messages all sent. You’re done!

 

Tech Tips for Techs: Public folders in an Office 365 hybrid environment

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Crash blog - Jan 2014 In this TechTip, I want to address an interesting quirk we discovered in a client’s O365 hybrid implementation back in September. During the process of migrating all of the mailboxes to the cloud, the decision was made to leave the Public Folders on their on-premises Exchange 2010 server. While the migration was going, we discovered that there was a small subset of those migrated mailboxes that couldn’t access or expand the public folder structure. When attempted, they were presented with the following error in Outlook:

Cannot expand the folder. Microsoft Exchange is not available. Either there are network problems or the Exchange server is down for maintenance.

I was able to recreate this same issue on my computer for an account that works fine, as well as for the non-working user. After an exorbitant amount of netsh tracing, Outlook logging, permission verification on the 365 and on-prem sides of the wire, we discovered that there’s an account attribute that get used in the authentication process back to the on-prem Exchange box. It’s called LinkedMasterAccount.

Evidently in a hybrid environment, if this attribute is populated, authentication against an on-prem Exchange server’s public folders will fail with that vague error message I mentioned above. The solution here is a fairly quick and easy one – clear the attribute from the AD account.

In the on-prem Exchange server, fire up the Exchange Management Shell, and run the following Powershell command: Set-User -Identity user@domain.com -LinkedMasterAccount $null Once that’s been run, force a FULL DirSync to run, close Outlook, and try again.

And remember, you can always contact us at info@everonit.com, or reach us at 888-244-1748, for help. We’re available 24/7!

Tech Tips for Techs: Reliability History

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As the year draws to a close, people start thinking about timelines. Let’s talk about those on your computer. Not many engineers know that you can actually view a timeline of event logs on a particular machine that has Windows 7 or Windows 8 OS installed. This feature is great for troubleshooting event IDs for a client.

Say you have a slow machine, and the client complains that between 12-2 pm every day it is basically unusable. What is happening during this time? Use Reliability History to find out! This tool is built into the OS, and all you have to do is type: View Reliability History in your search bar to pull it up. Once you have it launched, you will see a nice GUI for reviewing event logs in a convenient to use time line:

ReliabilityHistoryThe view you see above shows days, highlighted by off-color columns, with the symbols for informational and warning alerts. These alerts directly relate to event logs that happened on these days. In my example I do not have any errors, but if I did, you would see the error symbol on this graph (red circle with a white X in the middle). You can then click on any warning, informational, or error symbols you see, and you will be taken to a view that shows that day, with the various event logs detailed. This makes searching and reviewing event logs MUCH easier.

Reliability2   If you would like to see a longer timeline, you can change the view of the Reliability History from “days” to “weeks” in the upper left-hand corner of the graph. This will break it down now into a few months. In my example, you can now see a few errors that have appeared over the last few months. Reliability3This tool parses the Application and Windows event logs only, so you cannot use it for security events. The blue line above the event logs gives a scale from 1-10 on how stable your OS is. Do not rely on the scale entirely for determining whether you have a truly stable OS. As you can see, my stability plummeted due to Internet Explorer crashes, and although the system was stable after that, it didn’t return to optimal usability for several months. Reliability4If you want to learn more about this tool, it also gives you a link to click (upper right-hand corner), which opens up a nice help document to discuss the tool in greater details. This is a must use tool for any technician working on Windows 7 and 8 environments.

Website Building: Adding Google Analytics to your WordPress Site

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I wrote a blog a bit ago about my professed love for WordPress, after my failure in trying to build a site using DotNetNuke. One of the aspects that really helped me push forward, and is a must for any developing website designer, is Google Analytics.

Google Analytics gives you up-to-date information about how many hits your website generates, the type of traffic it is generating, the most viewed pages, etc. There is a ton of information in here, and to be honest, I haven’t even touched the surface of what it can do. However, installing it was surprisingly easy.

Your first step is to go to Google’s Analytics site and sign up for a free account (there are paid/premium accounts, however I am just using the free account). Once you are signed up, you can now access your Google Analytics page. You will not see any data until you connect it to your website. In order to connect it to your WordPress site, you must download a plug-in called “Insert Headers & Footers.” Once your WordPress plug-in is installed and activated, you are ready to configure the plug-in.

Choose to edit the plug-in, and you will be shown a page similar to this:

HeadersFootersYou will need to enter code that is given to you by the Google Analytics page into this code. The location of the code you need can be found on the GA page, under Admin ->Property ->Tracking Info ->Tracking Code:

TrackingI scrolled to the bottom and inserted my code. Once I posted the tracking code into the bottom of my own code within the ‘Insert Headers & Footers’ plug-in, I clicked Update File, and that was it! If you just want to begin getting traffic tracked for your website, this is all that is needed. But of course, there is WAY more you can do with Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a powerful tool that every beginning web developer needs to consider putting in place, and WordPress makes it VERY easy to set up!

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Can my phone get a virus? Should I use an antivirus on my Android device?

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Hello to everyone reading this, and welcome to another “brain dump” of Tony! :) Today we are going to talk about viruses, malware, and Android devices — how they play together, and my thoughts on antivirus/anti-malware software. This is something quite a few people are curious about: “Can I get a virus on my phone? How would I know if I did have a virus or malware? How would I get rid of said infection? How do I protect myself going forward?”

I have wondered all this myself, honestly, and not until recently had I done research on it. Once I did the research, it really all made sense to me, so I am going to relay my findings, in my own words, and put it into perspective. Like anything else, technology is ever-advancing. With that, so are viruses and malware. When something new comes out, there is always someone breaking apart its code and creating infections that makes everyone’s lives that much harder. That will never change! Since I am a heavy Android user, that’s what I am going to talk about.

When it comes to viruses and malware on phones, is it possible? Yes, it is very possible and is becoming more and more common. When you think of a virus, you think of it in the sense of what you’d experience on a computer. While they have some things in common, they do differ a little bit in behavior. If you happen to get malware on your phone, it would more than likely be in the form of applications that look and act like legitimate apps — they might even look like ones you use on a daily basis. These are the targets, because if people think they’re on their normal apps, then they are more comfortable putting in their personal information. That’s really the sole purpose of malware: stealing information. Also, like Internet browsers on PCs, malware on your phone can come in the form of those pesky popups. And also page redirects. One moment you are browsing your favorite news website, and the next thing you know you are taken to a website trying to sell you something (or worse, an “adult” page).

How would I get this on my phone? That’s a good question. In most instances the Google Play store is the biggest culprit, as that is the easiest way to target most Android users. Google Play is not as regulated as one would think. The process of getting your self-made app into the market is not that extensive. If you have ever just browsed the app store, you can see there are a ton of apps and different versions of the same thing. When you are downloading free apps or purchasing apps, make sure they are from a company that you know, or from the company itself. For example, if you were going to download the Facebook app, make sure it is published by Facebook and not some 3rd party vendor. Beware, some of these apps to which you give permission to use your phone-resources can, in the end, cost you a fortune. They have the ability to do things such as sending out texts without you even knowing. They can send texts to certain numbers that cost more and can rack up a huge bill.

Now that that is out of the way, lets talk about prevention. Of course, the best prevention is always being cautious of what you are downloading and opening. This, ultimately, is best but can also be difficult (because when applications look and act like real apps it’s hard to tell the difference). Next, some people utilize and antivirus/anti-malware software. When it comes to using software like that, my suggestion would be to use a paid version and not a free version. Just as with programs on a PC, the free versions are limited and are lacking in the things that are most important. Also, when using such a program on your phone, be aware of the performance issues that you may face, as well. They tend to run frequently, which slows down your processing power, eats up your battery, and the notifications can become annoying.

In all of this, there are many options to help protect yourself, but the biggest tool you have is knowledge. And a company, such as Everon, to help educate you. If you have any questions about security on your devices, or have a question about an app before you download it, please feel free to reach out to us (888-244-1748 or info@everonit.com). We are always more than happy to help!