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Making the connection: The role of collaboration apps in digital transformation

Whether it’s retailers plying wares online instead of in brick-and-mortar stores, media companies swapping print for pixels or companies looking to empower frontline workers, one theme is increasingly common in business: digital platforms are now fundamental to success — and that success depends on employees who can collaborate in real time, at any time and from anywhere.

With widely distributed employees and and a more mobile workforce, many companies have had to shift gears quickly in recent years to stay competitive. Critical to that effort is the ability to share information and ideas effectively using the latest communication and collaboration tools. The rise of real-time messaging apps like Slack, videoconferencing apps like Skype for Business and online file-sharing apps like Dropbox has given companies a host of tools they can use to underpin corporate growth and connectivity.

In particular, the growing adoption of team-based collaboration software and revamped business processes has helped organizations become more agile.

“Companies that utilize team collaboration applications report having significantly increased group and personal productivity, have faster time to market, and execute projects [faster],” said Wayne Kurtzman, a research director at IDC.

But getting employees to all row in the same direction — and even use the same software to do so — isn’t easy. Corporate execs, fully aware of the importance of modern digital tools to support their workforce, find themselves playing catch-up to match the apps and devices their employees rely on outside the office.

Better connectivity means smarter, more engaged workers

“Consumers now expect one click to buy, two clicks to return. And when those consumers go to work, they expect that same ease of collaboration, communication, and getting things done that they enjoy when they’re at home and working in their communities or their families,” said Kurtzman. 

A report from Deloitte showed that almost 80% of corporate execs rate employee experience as important, but only 22% called their companies “excellent” at creating a productive environment for workers.

That gap indicates where companies are increasingly putting their efforts as they scour the digital landscape for the right tools to keep employees productive — and happy.

Doing so is critical to both attracting and retaining workers. “After all, why should they be able to collaborate more easily at home or for their children’s football clubs than they can at work?” asked Kurtzman. “It makes sense to have the same depth of communication, collaboration and the ability to get things done that they enjoy outside of the workplace.”

The digital experience for workers should match that of customers, Jeffrey Mann, a VP analyst at Gartner, said in a recent research note.

“…All too often, the employee experience is an afterthought for business and application leaders,” wrote Mann. “They ignore the relevance to workers of the proven lessons from marketing and customer relationship management regarding the customer experience. Many of the same techniques used to create happy customers can be applied to encourage productive employees.”

At Valet Living, a residential concierge and amenities service provider, Facebook’s Workplace enterprise social network is now used to connect 6,000 employees — 90% of whom work part-time — across 40 states. The deployment has helped on-board new staff members faster.

“Understandably, it’s been difficult to on-board associates in a consistent and thorough manner until we adopted online collaboration tools,” said Henry Toledo, chief people officer at Valet Living.

Workers can access relevant training materials through a platform they’re already familiar with in their personal lives, said Toledo.

We know it’s critical to arm our associates with the skills needed to succeed and offer a consistent experience to our clients and residents, so we created a library of training resources, including our online training database, Valet U,  giving all new associates the chance to get up to speed quickly and efficiently,” he said.

The ability to connect a disparate workforce using digital collaboration tools — previously impossible via email alone, said Toledo — has led to tangible business benefits and reduced employee turnover.

“As we increasingly collaborate across the organization, we’ve noticed a direct correlation between connectedness and a steady rise in Valet Living’s associate retention rate,” he said. “We saw a 20% increase in associate retention since Workplace was introduced just a year ago — a testimony to our ability to make our associates feel welcomed from the jump.”

At Weight Watchers, company execs found that rolling out Workplace to 18,000 employees worldwide in 2018 helped with internal knowledge-sharing.

“One of the big questions or challenges [we had] was how do we bring everyone together?” Stacie Sherer, senior vice president for corporate communications, said in an earlier interview. “How do we break down the silos between our different geographies, and how do we break down the silos between our corporate head offices and all of the folks who are out in the field, who may only work a few hours a week but want to feel part of something bigger?”

Employees applauded the move, Sherer said. “One respondent said, ‘I feel like I work down the corridor [from] colleagues in other countries — I feel like I know them so well because of the connections they make on here,’” she said. “Because you can craft your own profile and there are groups around personal interests in addition to all the groups focused on work collaboration and communication, you get to know your colleagues in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise.”

A culture of collaboration

Many businesses now realize the need to improve collaboration to stay competitive; not surprisingly, spending on social software and collaboration tools has been on the rise. According to Gartner, it’s expected to reach $4.8 billion in 2023 — almost double the estimated $2.7 billion spent in 2018.

A survey of roughly 40 digital transformations by Boston Consulting Group found that organizations that focused on cultural change as part of their digital transformation projects had a much higher rate of financial success (90%) than those that neglected culture (17%).

Financial software vendor Intuit, for instance, is using its transformation efforts to focus more on innovation, less on managing infrastructure. “Digital transformation is as much a mindset and cultural shift as it is a business and technical shift,” said Intuit CIO Atticus Tysen.

The company has been using Slack’s workstream collaboration app to bolster idea-sharing among staffers, no matter their location. “Slack is one way we connect our global workforce across different sites and locations through near instantaneous messaging, while also creating opportunities for like-minded individuals or teams to have an area for ongoing dialogue that doesn’t require long meetings or multiple emails,” Tysen said.

“Using Slack, we are enabling the mindset and cultural shift of finding more opportunities to work efficiently at scale.”

Another Slack user, data analytics company Splunk, has had similar experiences.

“For us, Slack was the promise of really starting to change the communication culture,” said Fred McAmis, vice president for learning and development, at Splunk.

Before deploying the app, Splunk relied on a variety of different tools to communicate. “Marketing had one tool, while product and engineering had another,” he said. “When our CTO joined, he chose Slack for engineering. It started as a pilot project and quickly spread across the organization.”

Today, short, targeted instant messages help teams push projects along. “It’s real-time, while e-mail is very formal in comparison,” he said.

Improved collaboration processes are also helping the company stay agile as business scales. “At Splunk, our employee base continues to grow year over year, which means it’s imperative to maintain the company experience,” said McAmis.

Clear pathways for professional development help employees stay motivated, he said. And there is a Slack channel for leadership courses that are available to employees at all levels of the business.

“While training is the main event, I believe learning takes reinforcement,” McAmis said. “So we use Slack to supplement the training and offer a way for our people to stay in touch and remind themselves of what they learned. Slack gives us the ability to share knowledge quickly and create knowledge databases.”

The next big push: digital tools for frontline workers

Much of the focus of digital transformation in recent years has been on office workers. But enterprise software vendors are now targeting collaboration, communication and productivity tools at a wider range of employees, such as retail, manufacturing and healthcare staff. These frontline service and task workers represent a burgeoning area of investment for many organizations.

That’s especially true of Microsoft, which has been targeting frontline workers since late 2018. “[Frontline workers are] a massive segment of workers around the world that are currently pretty drastically underserved by technology,” Emma Williams, corporate vice president of Modern Workplace Verticals at Microsoft, argued last year. “What we are delivering is a customizable experience that really focuses on a mobile-first worker based on their role.”

Those comments came as the company added a raft of updates to its Teams collaboration tool to woo frontline workers. Those additions included new mobile app functions, integrations with third-party scheduling apps and an employee “praise” tool.

One company that’s used Teams to successfully engage frontline workers is Virginia-based Ferguson, a plumbing supply company. The company rolled out Teams and sparked a shift to channel-based communications in a way that helped improve customer service with faster, more effective information sharing.

The change was especially important for showroom consultants who must answer customer questions, repeatedly check stock and generally assist with purchases.

“Historically, the showroom consultant would have to get on the phone or walk to the back office for the physical warehouse and say, ‘Hey, I’m looking for this product; do we have it? Can you bring it out?’ Tony Morris, director of business process at Ferguson, explained last year. “That has not been a great experience for the customer — it can take time.”

Using Teams channels, the sales staffers at Ferguson can now quickly send a request for info to the back office using their mobile device, allowing them to better focus on customers. “They can continue to service the customer, but get feedback right through the Teams app, which is nice because they can give that information to the customer without putting the customer on hold or … [leave] sitting around waiting.”

That kind of change can lead to more efficiency, engaged workers — and happier customers.

Although many organizations are just now beginning to invest in tools for frontline employees, more money is likely on the way as the business case becomes clearer. And the evolution of the workplace, already well under way, will continue.

“We’re at the beginning of making every worker a knowledge worker,” said Kurtzman. “The collaboration of an enterprise runs much more efficiently the more ideas that are there, the more ideas that can be acted upon.”

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.



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Microsoft touts Edge’s new tab page connection to Office 365

Microsoft’s not-quite-ready-for-prime-time browser, the Edge built atop Google’s technologies, will feature an enterprise-centric new tab page, one that IT administrators can customize for employees.

The Redmond, Wash. developer outlined Edge’s new tab page capabilities for corporate customers a week after it announced the first release candidate” of the browser.

“When signed in with an Azure Active Directory (AAD) work account, opening a new tab in Microsoft Edge delivers a dynamic and personalized set of your most relevant Office documents, internal web sites, company resources, and other Microsoft 365 content,” Chad Rothschiller, senior program manager, and Matt Betz, product marketing manager, said in a Nov. 12 post to a company blog.

Absent IT intervention through the setting of group policies, Edge in an enterprise will look and work just as on a consumer’s PC, complete with a new tab page fleshed out from a feed of general news. But plug in GPOs (group policy objects) and the browser becomes a front end for Office 365, Microsoft’s productivity software and service subscription.

edge new tab page Microsoft

Office 365 users who log in to Edge through an Azure Active Directory account may see a new tab page integrated with the productivity suite and its services, from IT-mandated quick-click tiles to documents likely to need attention.

Each enterprise new tab page will boast eight thumbnails of selected sites, the first three of which can be set by IT (and set so that they cannot be changed by workers). Those sites might be important intranet pages or mission-critical web apps specific to the company at large, a department or team, or even the individual. The remaining five thumbnails – Edge allows only for one row of eight – will be based on frequently accessed sites or created by the device user, as is typical for other browsers’ new tab pages.

(More information about the NewTabPageManagedQuickLinks policy that sets the first three thumbnails is available here.)

Other areas of the new tab page perform Office 365 landing page duties, the most notable of which, dubbed “Recommended,” culls from recently-worked spreadsheets or collaborated-with-others Word docs or such like from signals derived from the user’s interactions with the productivity applications and others in her company or team. Documents surfaced to Recommended must be stored in OneDrive for Business or SharePoint sites, not surprising since those are the two cloud storage choices for virtually all Office 365 corporate customers.

Below that, other Office 365 content is listed and access to SharePoint’s intranet sites posted. Various views let users filter for pinned files or those, say, that have been received as email attachments.

The whole look and feel is very much akin to what an Office 365 user sees when steering to www.office.com in any browser, Edge included. The fact that Edge offers it on every new tab page makes for one less chore during a workday or, depending on how one sees the ever-present presence of Microsoft in the office, tiresome.

Microsoft, of course, views it as the former. “((The new tab page’s)) Recommended Documents feature is the ‘magic’ that surfaces what you need most,” contended Rothschiller and Betz. “It is the intelligence that monitors all file activity and uses machine learning to produce a short list of files, saving you time and allowing you to pick up right where you left off.”

Also integrated with Office 365 is the search field on the new tab page. When the user logs in to an AAD account, searches bring results of not only the web in general, but also organization-specific information, such as documents (again, those stored in OneDrive for Business or on a SharePoint site), personnel and intranet sites hosting line-of-business web apps.

Rothschiller and Betz called out manageability – no shock there, as that has historically been a strength of Microsoft-made browsers – but didn’t compare Edge with Chrome, the former’s foe as well as its forerunner. It might have been a missed opportunity, as Chrome is not equipped to sport an enterprise-specific new tab page (presumably one linked to its G Suite) nor able to somehow integrate with Office 365.

Edge’s first Stable build – production-ready, in other words – is set to launch Jan. 15. Until then, commercial users and IT administrators can kick the tires of the Beta, which can be downloaded from here for Windows and macOS.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.



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5 Ways to Check the Security of Your Internet Connection

With so many potential weak points in a network, it’s hard to know if everything is properly secured. Is your connection secure, and how would you know where the flaws lie?

Here’s how to check if your network is secure so you can have peace of mind.

1. Test Your Firewall for Weaknesses

The first port of call for checking your internet security is the firewall. The firewall’s main job is to protect the ports on your computer from unwanted visitors. As such, it’s a good idea to test these ports to ensure unauthorized connections can’t creep through.

Fortunately, you don’t need to pay a hacker to attack your firewall. Services such as ShieldUp! prod at your computer’s ports and report back if it breaches your defenses. If your firewall doesn’t protect you, it’s worth trying a more secure one. We covered the top firewall programs for you to consider


7 Top Firewall Programs to Consider for Your Computer’s Security




7 Top Firewall Programs to Consider for Your Computer’s Security

Firewalls are crucial for modern computer security. Here are your best options and which one is right for you.
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, so be sure to check them out if your current one fails you.

2. Test Your Antivirus Strength

Antivirus software secures your downloads to ensure nothing malicious slips onto your system. As a result, it’s a good idea to ensure it’s active and doing its job properly. A poor antivirus won’t catch threats as they appear and will let them infect your computer.

To safely test an antivirus, you can download an EICAR file. EICAR files are harmless by themselves, but antiviruses are trained to detect it as if it were a virus. The EICAR file can be downloaded on its own, or bundled up in layers of ZIP files in an effort to hide it from your antivirus. This makes EICAR files a great way to test your antivirus without exposing your PC to actual threats.

We covered more ways to check in the ways to safely test your antivirus


5 Ways to Safely Test Your Antivirus Software




5 Ways to Safely Test Your Antivirus Software

Is your antivirus software secure and effective? Here’s how to test it and see for yourself.
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. If you’re wondering if your antivirus is up to par, be sure to try some of those methods.

3. Check Your Protocol While Browsing

A URL secured by the HTTPS protocol
Image Credit: Jirsak/Depositphotos

When you send data to a website that uses the HTTP protocol, it’s sent as what’s called “plaintext.” This means there’s nothing that encrypts the data between you and the target server. People can snoop on what you’re sending and note any private information. This makes HTTP dangerous to use on a public network, as you’re never sure if someone is logging your data.

On the flipside, HTTPS does encrypt your data. HTTPS is typically used when you log into a website, so your information is hidden. You can tell if a website uses HTTPS by looking at the URL; it should start with “HTTPS” if your connection is secure. Browsers may also show an icon next to the address bar to let you know your data is encrypted. Google Chrome, for example, will show a little padlock to inform you that it’s using HTTPS.

When you’re logging into a website, be sure to check the protocol. If it uses HTTPS, you’re safe to log in. If you don’t see the lock, the website is using HTTP and is unsafe. If this happens when you visit a popular website, there’s a good chance that malware has redirected you to a fake website that looks identical to the real thing. This is done so the hackers can get your login details and get into your real account on the actual website.

If you’re interested in using HTTPS on as many websites as possible, it’s worth looking at HTTPS Everywhere. This is an addon that’s compatible with most popular browsers and forces HTTPS on every website that supports it.

4. Secure Your Router From Hackers

Your router is the central hub for your home’s internet connection. It handles who can and can’t use your connection, which makes it a key target for hackers. As such, it’s worth securing your router to prevent any headaches in the future.

For one, make sure you’re using WPA2 for your Wi-Fi key. If you received your router semi-recently, there’s a very good chance it has been using WPA2 since you bought it. Older models will use WPA, or worse, WEP. There are plenty of reasons why you shouldn’t use WEP


What Is WEP Wi-Fi Encryption? Here’s Why You Should NOT Use It




What Is WEP Wi-Fi Encryption? Here’s Why You Should NOT Use It

Here’s why WEP encryption just isn’t good enough and why you should stop using it on your wireless routers at home.
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, so be sure to buy a new router if your one uses it.

Is your network secure from password hacking? If you’re unsure, double-check the passwords that your router uses. There are two you need to check: the password to access the network and the password that gives you admin controls over the router itself.

These days, routers use randomized passwords for every model to stop hacks. Older or cheaper models, however, will likely use default usernames and passwords, such as the classic “username: admin, password: admin” standard. If yours has this, be sure to change it immediately!

If you’re feeling paranoid, you can also change the SSID of your router. By default, your router broadcasts a name that gives away what model it is. If hackers find a flaw in your model of router, your SSID will reveal that you’re using a vulnerable router.

Giving your router a fun name hides your model name and makes it harder for hackers to crack your security.

5. Check Your VPN Connection for Leaks

IP Leak Testing a VPN in Spain

Is your internet connection secure from DNS leaks? If you use a VPN, it’s a good idea to double-check if it’s leaking information about your true whereabouts. If the term “VPN” doesn’t mean anything to you, you don’t need to worry about this step. Instead, why not check out some reasons why you need a VPN, and what it means


11 Reasons Why You Need a VPN and What It Is




11 Reasons Why You Need a VPN and What It Is

Virtual private networks can protect your privacy. We explain what exactly they do and why you should use a VPN.
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?

If you do use a VPN, you can double-check that the service is hiding you using IP Leak. This will prod at your traffic to make sure that your VPN connection is secure, and doesn’t “leak” your real details. If you visit the website without the VPN, it will show you all the information it can deduce from your connection.

When you revisit the website after activating the VPN, it should show the VPN’s server details instead of your own. If you see your details, it means your VPN isn’t properly securing your connection.

Keeping Your Connection Safe

There are many ways in which a hacker can compromise your connection. There’s no need to fret, however; by performing some simple tests, you can make sure that your connection is safe to use.

If you want to take this a step further, why not learn some simple tips to secure your router


7 Simple Tips to Secure Your Router and Wi-Fi Network in Minutes




7 Simple Tips to Secure Your Router and Wi-Fi Network in Minutes

Is someone sniffing and eavesdropping on your Wi-Fi traffic, stealing your passwords and credit card numbers? Would you even know if somebody was? Probably not, so secure your wireless network with these 7 simple steps.
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How to Speed Up Your Internet Connection

Man's hands holding a tablet showing buffering video.
Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock.com

Internet connections could always be faster. Whether your downloads are crawling, streaming feels like a slideshow, or you just want to maximize your speeds, here’s how you can accelerate that connection.

Depending on your Internet Service Provider (ISP), you can often get faster speeds by calling them (or visiting their website) and upgrading to a more expensive plan. Your monthly bill will go up, but so will your speed. Before you do that, however, here are some tips that can speed up your connection for free.

Optimize Your Wi-Fi and Local Network

Many issues with local networks, particularly those using Wi-Fi, are to blame for poor Internet speeds. Before looking at your Internet connection, it’s worth making sure your local network is up to par.

The most basic fix for poor network performance is to turn off your router (and modem, if it’s separate), count to ten, and then turn it back on again. This is called “power-cycling” your router, and it can often speed things up.

Choosing a Wi-Fi Channel in a a basic router setup menu.

If you use Wi-Fi instead of wired Ethernet, it’s a good idea to minimize interference from nearby networks, as these can cause speed dips and network drop-outs. If you see a lot of other networks on your devices when connecting to your home Wi-Fi, you’ll likely benefit from picking a Wi-Fi channel that offers the least interference.

If you have a modern router that supports the 5 GHz band, you should use it wherever possible. Using the 5 GHz band results in faster speeds and less interference. If you have an 802.11ac compatible, dual-band router, you will see two networks appear when connecting. You can name them accordingly under your router setup. Most routers have instructions for accessing this interface printed on the side of the device.

Router menu with both 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi bands check marked.

While you’re logged in, it’s worth downloading and installing any new firmware that’s available for your router. Where to find this differs based on the manufacturer and model you’re using, so look for “Software Update” or something similar.

You should not be using an unsecured wireless network. If your network is open, anyone can hop on it and sap your bandwidth. Make sure your network is secured with WPA2 (AES) whenever possible. With this enabled, all devices require a password to connect.

Bypassing wireless entirely and using a wired Ethernet connection offers the best local network performance. You can also try moving your router to a better location, closer to the area where you use your wireless devices most often.

Finally, if your router is old (anywhere from two to five years) consider purchasing a new one. Network equipment rarely gets a break, and problems can arise depending on how hard you use it. Newer routers support faster Wi-Fi standards, like 802.11ac. For the best coverage, you might want to consider a mesh Wi-Fi system.

An old modem can be your speed problem, too. If you’re not getting the speeds you’re paying for, and you purchased your modem outright a long time ago, it might be time to upgrade.

RELATED: How To Get a Better Wireless Signal and Reduce Wireless Network Interference

Test Your Speed

With your local network running optimally, it’s time to test your Internet speed. You can do this using a service like Speedtest.net, Fast.com, or even Google. If possible, run the test from a laptop using a wired Ethernet connection or move the device you’re testing as close to the router as possible.

Be sure to run the speed test while you’re not actively using your connection. If you’re streaming or downloading at the same time, you’ll likely get a lower result.

The results of an Internet Speed Test on Fast.com.

You can run the test a few times to get the most reliable set of results. Now, compare the speed you’re getting with the speed you should be getting. It’s uncommon for real-world Internet speeds to match those advertised by your service provider, but you should get somewhere close during off-peak hours.

Sometimes, poor speeds can indicate a problem that can only be fixed by your service provider. This might involve replacing cables or installing new access points. Before you pick up the phone, though, it’s best to try the processes listed below. This way, you can tell your service provider you’ve tried everything on your end to fix the problem.

Limit How Much Bandwidth You’re Using

Your Internet connection provides you with a limited amount of bandwidth, which must be shared between all devices on your network. The more devices using the Internet at once, the less bandwidth there is to go around. Limiting how much you do at once can vastly improve your Internet speed.

Certain activities consume a lot of bandwidth, for example:

  • Large downloads
  • Streaming content, particularly 4K or 1080p video
  • Wi-Fi cameras and doorbells
  • BitTorrent transfers, including upstream traffic on some connections (ADSL, for example)

Try to isolate any device that might be using more than its fair share of bandwidth. Ask other family members or housemates whether they stream a lot of video or download files over BitTorrent. It could be that you’re getting the Internet speed you’re paying for, but you’re trying to do too much at once on your current plan.

"Download Restrictions" in Steam settings, scheduling downloads between specific hours.

If you suspect this is the case, you can change a few behaviors to try and help. Leave large downloads until late at night when nobody’s awake (you can schedule most BitTorrent clients). Set your smartphones and tablets to update automatically, so they download the files they need at night while charging.

If your router supports it, enable Quality of Service (QoS) on its control panel. This feature shares bandwidth more efficiently and prevents certain activities (like torrent downloads) from bringing everything to a grinding halt.

Change Your DNS Servers

The domain name system (DNS), is like the Internet’s address book. DNS resolves domain names (like howtogeek.com) into the server IP addresses on which data is stored. The speed at which DNS servers operate differs significantly. A slow DNS server means longer delays (more latency) when accessing websites.

Sometimes, your choice of DNS server affects which IP addresses you’re served—particularly when websites spread the load of their traffic using content delivery networks (CDNs).

Changing DNS servers on a Mac.

By default, you use your service provider’s assigned DNS servers. These are unlikely to be the fastest available to you. A better choice is to use DNS servers provided by Google (8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4) or CloudFlare (1.1.1.1). For best results, run a simple test to find the best DNS servers based on your geographical location.

The best way to implement DNS changes is on your router. By changing the DNS server on your network hardware, you’ll see the improvement on every device that connects to it. The alternative is to change your DNS servers on every device you use.

Be Mindful of Software

Software can also cause issues with Internet speed. Something might be heavily using your connection while running in the background.  Windows users can launch Task Manager (Ctrl+Alt+Del) to view a list of running processes. Sort by the “Network” column to see which processes are using your network connection. Kill anything you don’t need.

On a Mac you can do the same by launching Activity Monitor, navigating to the “Network” tab, and then sorting by “Sent Bytes” for upstream or “Rcvd Bytes” for downstream. For both Windows and Mac systems, it’s important to identify the processes so you can understand why the software is using your connection. Search the Internet for any process names that aren’t immediately obvious and decide whether you need that app or not.

Activity Monitor pane on a Mac showing all incoming and outgoing processes.

Malware and viruses can also be the source of unwanted network activity, particularly on Windows machines. Run a virus scan on Windows regularly to protect yourself. Mac users can check out the anti-malware tools designed for Mac. Linux users generally don’t have to worry about malware.

If your computer is slow in general, browsing is likely to be sluggish, too. Limiting the number of tabs you have open simultaneously helps with this. You should also maintain a 10-20 GB buffer of free space on your hard drive at all times. Learn how to create free space on Windows or how to keep your Mac trim.

On mobile devices, Opera Mini delivers a faster browsing experience, especially on older devices.

ISP Throttling You? Use a VPN

“Throttling” is when your ISP limits certain types of traffic. For example, it might try to limit data-intensive activities, like file sharing and video streaming. It can also restrict certain types of traffic (like BitTorrent transfers) or whole domains (like youtube.com).

If performance is especially bad when you do some things online but not others, your ISP might be throttling your connection. For example, you might experience slow streaming when you try to watch videos, but web searches load in a flash. You can easily test whether you’re being throttled by using a virtual private network (VPN) to obscure your online activity.

The drop-down menu to connect to a Virtual Private Network on NordVPN.

Connecting to a VPN will cause your Internet speed to slow somewhat. How much depends on how far you are from the server. You can rectify this by choosing a VPN provider with servers nearest your geographical location.

Try to isolate which activities are causing the slowdown. Connect to your VPN, and then try those activities again. If there isn’t a discernible difference, you’re likely not being throttled. However, if you notice things are running a lot smoother behind a VPN, you might want to have a stern word with your ISP.

When Is it Time to Call Your Service Provider?

If you’re satisfied that slow Internet speeds aren’t your fault, and the speed you’re getting is considerably lower than what you’re paying for, it’s time to speak to your ISP. Similarly, if you suspect you’re being throttled, you should also raise the issue with them.

Let your ISP know you’re unhappy with the level of service you’re receiving. If they aren’t receptive, threatening to leave might persuade them to fix the issue. However, if you don’t get anywhere and have the option of choosing another provider, consider making the switch.





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8 Tips for Fixing Remote Desktop Connection and Screen Issues

The phone rings. You pick it up. It’s Aunty Ethel again. “Just nip around again, young Gavin, the computer is doing that Thing.” Cursing, you look to the sky, wondering if there is an easier way to help. Other than bumping your poor Aunt off. Eureka! You can use a remote desktop connection to fix the computer from the comfort of your own chair.

Remote desktop connections don’t always work how you want. Here are several tips on fixing remote desktop issues so you can continue your role as the family system admin, no matter where you are.

1. You Can’t Connect to the Remote Computer

The inability to connect to the remote computer is a common problem.

First, check your network settings. Do both computers have a network connection? It is always the easiest connection issues that sneak under the radar! If both computers have a network connection, you can move on. The Windows Remote Desktop Connection requires either an IP address or a name for the console you are attempting to view.

remote desktop connection user name

Make sure you have the correct IP address for the remote computer. On the remote computer, you can browse to whatismyip and copy down the address. If you are not with the remote computer, you must ask someone at the location to do this for you, then send you the IP address.

Similarly, to find out the computer name of the remote device, head to Start Menu > Control Panel > System, and view the computer name and workgroup.

2. Remote Connections Not Allowed

You might find that remote connections are disabled on the terminal you are trying to reach. You can alter this setting on the same System page as above. To the right of the computer name and workgroup, select Change Settings to open the System Properties menu. Select the Remote tab.

remote desktop connection properties allow connection

Windows 10 offers the same Remote Desktop Connection options as older Windows versions. Under Remote Desktop, there are two options:

  • Allow remote connections to this computer
  • Allow connections only from computers running Remote Desktop with Network Level Authentication (recommended)

Once you allow remote connections, you also have the option of only accepting remote connections using Network Level Authentication. Network Level Authentication is “an authentication method that completes user authentication before you establish a full Remote Desktop connection and the logon screen appears.”

It provides an additional layer of security from malicious software and users while using fewer resources in the process.

However, if you struggle to create a remote desktop connection after switching Network Level Authentication on, try turning it off.

You can check if your version of Remote Desktop supports Network Level Authentication by clicking the top-left of the dialog box, as seen below, and select About.

remote desktop connection show version

3. Remote Desktop Connection for Windows 10 Home Using RDP Wrapper Library

Windows 10 Home users struggle with Remote Desktop. Why? Because Windows 10 Home doesn’t support incoming connections. At least, not natively. Windows 10 Home users can make an outgoing Remote Desktop connection to a different computer (not running Windows 10 Home!), but not vice versa. Thankfully, there’s a simple, software-based fix that works around the issue: the RDP Wrapper Library.

(Alternatively, check out the 7 best screen sharing and remote desktop tools


The 7 Best Screen Sharing and Remote Access Software




The 7 Best Screen Sharing and Remote Access Software

Sharing your Windows screen has many benefits. Use these free tools to share screens or gain remote access to another computer.
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!)

The RDP Wrapper Library uses the existing Windows Terminal Service and adds new Windows Firewall rules to allow a remote desktop connection. The RDP Wrapper Library also provides an interface to manage remote desktop connections through (as Windows 10 Home doesn’t have an integrated solution.

Here’s how you allow remote desktop connections on Windows 10 Home using RDP Wrapper Library:

  1. Head to the RDP Wrapper Library GitHub Releases page.
  2. Download the RDPWInst.zip file. After downloading, right-click the file and extract the archive to a new folder. For instance, using 7-Zip, I would select 7-Zip > Extract to RDPWrap-v1.6.2.
  3. Open the new folder, then run bat.
  4. After installation, run bat.
  5. Now, run exe to make sure the process is working.
  6. You can use exe to manage advanced configuration settings.

Confused? Check out the following video. It will guide you through the tricky bits of the installation, as well as how to set up your Windows 10 Home RDP Wrapper Library remote connection.

4. You Can’t Copy Text From the Remote Computer

You can use Remote Desktop Connection to copy text from one terminal to your own. If the copy text feature isn’t working, you need to enable the Clipboard redirect function so you can use it on the remote computer.

Open the Remote Desktop Connection dialog box by typing “remote” in your Start menu search bar, then selecting the best match. Select Show Options. Head to the Local Resources tab. Under Local devices and resources, put a check in the Clipboard box. The option should be turned on by default.

5. The Remote Window Isn’t the Correct Size

Incorrect window size is another common Remote Desktop Connection issue. When you create the remote desktop connection, the window is too large, too small, or doesn’t correlate to the settings you input.

You have two potential fixes here.

First, you can force the Remote Desktop connection to use a specific size via the Run function. Hit Windows key + R, then input:

mstsc.exe /h:X /w:X

Where “X” is the height and width of the Remote Desktop viewing window you desire. Remote Desktop will remember your settings for future remote viewing settings.

The Remote Desktop Connection client has a handy screen resolution slider that scrolls from 640×480 up to Full Screen for your screen. Make sure to set the slider to Full Screen if you want a full-screen remote connection for each connection.

remote desktop connection adjust screen size

6. Delete Your Credentials to Reset Remote Desktop Connection Login

At times, Windows Remote Desktop Connection finds your login details confusing. There is also the chance the login details for your system or the remote system are different from your last remote connection. You can remove and replace your existing credentials to try and fix the issue.

In the Remote Desktop Connection client, head to the Advanced tab. Select Settings, then make sure Automatically detect RD Gateway server settings is selected.

7. How to Save Your Remote Desktop Connection Custom Settings

If you regularly connect to several different servers or clients, saving a custom configuration for each Remote Desktop will save time in the future. You can set the optimum width, height, and color settings for each server or terminal.

Open the Remote Desktop Connection dialog, then select Show Options. You will now see the Connection settings options. Select Save As, specify your save location, then select Save to create a custom Remote Desktop Connection file (.RDP).

Now, browse to the Remote Desktop Connection configuration file. You can edit the configuration file using a text editor, such as Notepad or Notepad++. Right-click the configuration file and select Open with…, then select your text editor.

remote desktop connection custom configuration notepad++

The first four lines show your remote connection screen size options (plus whether multi-monitor mode is available). You can edit the screen mode to set whether the remote window session appears full screen. For instance, “id:i:2” sets full screen, whereas “id:i:1” sets the remote connection to appear in a window.

If you set the screen mode to “2” for full screen, the desktopwidth and desktopheight automatically match the screen size of the host client. However, if you are using screen mode “1,” you can use the desktopwidth and desktopheight settings to set a specific window size.

After you confirm your settings, add the following string to the end of the file:

smart sizing:i:1

Smart sizing allows you to dynamically alter your screen settings without messing around with configuration files while the Remote Desktop connection is active. However, you must add the string for each custom configuration you create.

If you want to customize your remote desktop configuration file further, check out Donkz Remote Desktop file setting overview.

8. Handy Remote Desktop Connection Shortcuts

You can boost your Remote Desktop Connection productivity using a handful of keyboard shortcuts. These shortcuts are designed to work when you access Remote Desktop using the Run dialog.

  • Start Remote Desktop in full-screen mode: mstsc /f
  • Start Remote Desktop in Admin Mode: mstsc /admin
  • Matches your Remote Desktop session with the local virtual desktop: mstsc /span
  • Matches your Remote Desktop session to the Client Layout: mstsc /multimon
  • Open the .RDP file for editing—change “connection file” to your file name before running the command: mstsc /edit “connection file”

You can use the following Remote Desktop shortcuts once your Remote Desktop connection is live:

  • Switches your Remote Desktop client between full-screen and windowed mode: Ctrl + Alt + Pause
  • Force the Remote Desktop into full-screen mode: Ctrl + Alt + Break
  • Takes a screenshot of the active Remote Desktop window: Ctrl + Alt + Minus
  • Takes a screenshot of the entire Remote Desktop: Ctrl + Alt + Plus
  • Reboots the remote computer: Ctrl + Alt + End

Resolving Remote Desktop Connection Issues for Windows 10

You can now connect to dear Aunty Ethel’s computer from the comfort of your own home. You are saving yourself time and effort, while hopefully lining you up for another sensational hand-knitted jumper.

Of course, remote connections are not always from a Windows computer to another Windows computer. Here is how you establish remote desktop access to Ubuntu from Windows, and here’s how to access Windows directly from your Mac


Microsoft Remote Desktop: How to Access Windows From Your Mac




Microsoft Remote Desktop: How to Access Windows From Your Mac

Microsoft’s free Remote Desktop tool lets you access Windows from your Mac. Here’s how to set up Remote Desktop on a Mac.
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.

Explore more about: Remote Access, Remote Desktop, Troubleshooting.



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