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July 30, 2013  4:12 PM

In demand courses for 2013….

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I recently wrote an article for Contractor UK showcasing the top 5 in demand courses for 2013. Selection of the Top 5 was based on visits to Firebrand’s Global portfolio of websites for the first half f 2013.

After compiling the results, as you might expect there were few surprises in the current top 5. Here they are in order….

5. (ISC)2 CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) – if you want an Information Security Cert, you get a CISSP.

4. Six Sigma Green and Black Belt – Six Sigma centres around Business Management Strategies.

3. Cisco Certified Network Administrator (CCNA) – no surprises here, anyone looking to start a career in Networking starts off with the CCNA.

2. PMI’s  Project Managment Professional (PMP) – a leading certification in the field of Project Management.

1. APMG PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner – hugely popular Project Management certification originally developed  by the UK Government.

Whilst conducting the research I uncovered several lesser known courses that seem to have risen in popularity as we move through 2013, so I thought I would take a minute to expand on those courses and give you a glimpse of what lies ahead.

The Enterprise Architecture Framework to rule them all…

First up we take a look at the Open Group’s TOGAF certificationwhich is increasingly in demand thanks to the growing adoption of enterprise architecture amongst large organisations.

Enterprise architecture (for those that don’t know) is defined by Gartner as:

“a discipline for proactively and holistically leading enterprise responses to disruptive forces by identifying and analyzing the execution of change toward desired business vision and outcomes. EA delivers value by presenting business and IT leaders with signature-ready recommendations for adjusting policies and projects to achieve target business outcomes that capitalize on relevant business disruptions. EA is used to steer decision making toward the evolution of the future state architecture.”

In order to implement an enterprise architecture you require a framework, a set of tools by which you might develop and govern a broad rancge of architectures. Within this field, TOGAF (the Open Groups Architecture Framework) is the most widely used architecture framework, reflected in it’s adoption by more than 80% of Fortune 500 companies. As the demand for TOGAF grows, so with it does the requirement for IT managers and Architects with expert knowledge of the framework and enterprise architecture.

TOGAF is certainly one to watch in the coming years.

Everyone loves a Scrum…

Next up we take a look at the Professional Scrum Master certification, which is an increasingly popular Project Management certification set to challenge the likes of PMP and PRINCE2.

The Professional Scrum Master course was originally created for developers in the field of software development, though over time the course has evolved and is increasingly adopted in all areas of business as a means by which to manage projects. Scrum’s main function is to optimise productivity and efficiency and has proved hugely popular in recent years due to it’s agile nature and the ability to scale across whole organisations.

For anyone creating, managing or executing projects, this is a great Project Management course for honing skills in managing teams, project ownership, planning, predictability, risk management and reporting all in the sphere of a Scrum framework.

Big Data blows up…

Big Data is one of those terms flying around in 2013, just like BYOD and the ‘internet of everything’. The reason big data is so….well….big, is because it’s changing the way we look at and find insights into our data. Often if you hear the phrase big data, it ends up in the same sentence as Apache Hadoop.

Apache Hadoop is described by IBM as ‘an open source software project that enables the distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of commodity servers‘, much like the case with the TOGAF framework, the more companies utilise and benefit from using Hadoop, the greater the demand for skilled Professionals. Cloudera have responded to that demand by creating the Cloudera Certified Administrator for Apache Hadoop (CCAH) and Cloudera Certified Developer for Apache Hadoop (CCDH) certifications.

Gaining these certifications proves you have the skills to administer or develop Apache Hadoop and will be a coveted skill over the coming years. Those looking to tap into what looks to be a lucrative and expanding market should be looking to take the CCAH and CCDH as soon as possible.

Keep your eyes peeled…

So there we have it, three up and coming certifications you can ponder adding to your portfolio and as we move through 2013 there will no doubt be more, there always are.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. So why not drop us a comment?

About the Author

Ed Jones works for Firebrand Training heading up community engagement within the Marketing department. Ed spends his days thinking up topics for surveys, article titles and concepts for engaging infographics. You can check out a range of his most recent work via the Firebrand Press Page.

July 18, 2013  3:24 PM

A comprehensive guide to Microsoft’s Enterprise Technology

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Microsoft Genesis

1. In the beginning Bill created MS-DOS. 2  Now MS-DOS was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the desktop screen, and the mind of Bill was hovering over the creation of the desktop OS.

3 And Bill said, “Let there be a better OS,” and there was . 4 Bill saw that the OS was good, and he separated the good  from the bad. 5 Bill  called the good “Windows 1.0,” and the bad he called “Mac 1.0.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first Microsoft Desktop OS.

The Journey

Microsoft have come a long way since they launched Windows 1.0 on November 20, 1985. Over the last 30 years the organisation has grown into a Global leader in creation of Enterprise Technology. Following the recent launches of flagship products SQL Server 2014Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2 we decided to pay homage to Microsoft by creating the comprehensive guide to Microsoft’s existing portfolio of business and enterprise technology.

We hope you enjoy it, if you wish to see a large version take a trip to the Firebrand site.

A guide to Microsoft’s Enterprise Technology by Firebrand Training

After finishing the graphic, as the title suggests, hopefully you will have a comprehensive understanding of the full range of Microsoft’s Enterprise Technology.

About the Author: 

Ed Jones works for Firebrand Training heading up community engagement within the Marketing department. Ed spends his days thinking up topics for surveys, article titles and concepts for engaging infographics. You can check out a range of his most recent work via the Firebrand Press Page.


July 15, 2013  12:49 PM

SQL Server 2012 – top 5 information resources

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SQL Server 2012, is the latest in a long line of Microsoft’s successful information database platforms. The current cloud ready platform enables a modern and accessible data-platform, with a user friendly interface which promises to aid organisations in unlocking breakthrough insights and enable Hybrid IT infrastructures to help move businesses forward by unlocking new business models.

As we head ever closer to the launch of SQL Server 2014, information on how to use the server to its full potential is seemingly endless; the internet hosts a wealth of information covering just about any topic regarding SQL servers. This isn’t limited to only the Microsoft servers, but its major competitors, too.

To spare you the task of sifting through it all, Firebrand has put together the Top 5 Resources for answering any questions regarding the SQL Server in its many versions, whether you’re an Administrator or Developer:

1. Microsoft Virtual Academy - http://www.microsoftvirtualacademy.com/topics/product-sql-server-en

Microsoft Virtual Academy’s completely amazing, and completely free, SQL Server 2012 training is geared towards both database administrators and developers, with the purpose of providing training on implementing and managing database solutions.  Its series of highly rated courses covers a range of vital information, including how to implement the powerful reporting features in SQL server and how to gain Mission Critical Confidence.

This website also provides practical Virtual Labs, which can be accessed immediately online, again for free, allowing you to evaluate and test the newest technologies. Worth investigating are the training and certification programs highlighted on this site – the range available promise to prove invaluable to career credentials and professional advancement.

2. TechNethttp://technet.microsoft.com/en-US/sqlserver

As we’ve mentioned before, TechNet provides an invaluable source when researching the latest information on Microsoft Technology; it covers just about everything for both Admin and Developer roles. TechNet provides an assortment of different resources spanning a range of media platforms to help with installing, and making the most of, the SQL server.

For easily accessible information try the variety of interactive aids available, such as the simple Virtual labs which require no complex set up or installation and cover both older and updated versions of the server software.  Also on offer are a series of handy ‘How Do I?’ videos covering specific tasks relating to the SQL server, and, if you’re still stuck on something there are forums and blogs so you can discuss any problems further.

For consistently up-to-date information on what is available, follow @SQLTechCenter.

3. Database Journalhttp://www.databasejournal.com/

As the ‘go-to’ place for database administrators, The Database Journal Series index provides a long listing of articles, which contain more than three instalments. It covers database management and programming news and provides tutorials on all variations of SQL server. All information is categorized in simple, easy to navigate tables, making it completely user friendly.

Tables, tutorials, scripts and tips cover about every eventuality and any question you may have – but still this database acts as a portal to other useful web-information; it helpfully categorises links to where further information can be found online, again minimising your own search time.

4. SQL Server Centralhttp://www.sqlservercentral

With a community of over 1.5 million DBAs, developers and SQL Server users, SQL Server Central provides an efficient collective hub for Server users. Not only does this mean you can interact globally with others in the same position as you, but all article content is based on real world SQL server problems and experiences, encountered by the columnists themselves.

Alongside these articles, SQLServerCentral.com also provides links to articles and resources throughout the internet, popular forums to discuss specific issues, sample scripts, and helpful book reviews. In addition you can also sign up for a daily newsletter which highlights all recent articles, tools, editorials and forum posts which may be relevant to you

Also well worth checking out is the SQL Server Central Webinar Series provided by SQL Server Central and Red Gate Software. Each webinar lasts around an hour and features different topics and speakers.

5. SQL Server Bloghttp://blogs.technet.com/b/dataplatforminsider/

And finally, our last resource comes again from the brilliant TechNet and its aforementioned available blogs.

With Microsoft products being updated regularly and quickly, keeping ‘in-the-know’ about the latest products and technology proves greatly beneficial, especially when it comes straight from the source. This blog provides the official news from Microsoft’s Information Platform, and thus acts as a great starting point for finding latest updates, articles and data regarding the SQL server. The team provide regularly updated information, from articles and discussions, to interviews with the Microsoft VP himself. Following these blogs will keep you informed and current at all times.

 

Final word

So that concludes our compilation of our 5  favourite  ‘go-to’ resources for help or information regarding SQL servers; whether you’re looking to chat to other like-minded people as part of a larger community,  receive one-on-one assistance, or simply to just keep up-to-date with the latest trends and developments.

Discovered something new or got something old, yet noteworthy, you think we’ve missed? Feel free to leave some feedback to let us know.

Ed Jones works for Firebrand Training heading up community engagement within the Marketing department. Ed spends his days thinking up topics for surveys, article titles and concepts for engaging infographics. You can check out a range of his most recent work via the Firebrand Press Page.


July 4, 2013  3:21 PM

Microsoft pull the plug on TechNet subscriptions – bye bye cheap software

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On July 1, 2013, Microsoft announced they are pulling the plug on their World-renowned TechNet Subscription service. Whilst the TechNet Blogs and Customer Support Platforms will continue to operate as before, come August 31 ,2013 Microsoft will no longer accept new subscribers to the annual service. It is though that the service will cease existence as of September 30, 2014, when the last subscriber contract is due to end.

TechNet Subscriptions

The end of cheap Microsoft Software

Since its release more than 15 years ago, the TechNet Subscription has been widely regarded as one of the best software deals available in the market place. IT Professionals / Tech Enthusiasts flocked to the annual subscription service, paying £130-£400 per annum to gain unrestricted access to the purchase and download of a majority of Microsoft’s Desktop and Server software products. The software itself is licensed for evaluation purposes only, that restriction however is part of the license agreement and is not enforced in the software itself.

It was this loophole that made the TechNet subscription so popular, enthusiasts would use the platform to access cheap software then use the multiple product keys to activate everyday  us Windows PCs rather than adhering to the “evaluation only” limitation. This aspect was hugely popular for those partaking in software piracy who would sell on the product keys with counterfeit software at “discount prices”. Despite Microsoft seeking to crack down on piracy through the platform in 2010 and 2012, you need only search Google or any ‘respecting’ torrent site to find these product keys in their thousands.

Google

The finer details

To get you up to speed on the facts of Microsoft’s announcement, you can check out their Subscriptions Retirement FAQ,  with some of the main points summarised below:

  • New subscribers have until August 31, 2013, to purchase an annual subscription.
  • Newly purchased subscriptions must be activated by September 30, 2013.
  • Current subscribers will continue to receive their benefits until their contract ends which for most retail purchases is limited to a year.
  • Existing subscribers with an end date before September 30, 2013, may renew for an additional year as long as they purchase prior to the August 31, 2013, cut-off.
  •  Subscribers with an active Microsoft Certified Training account will continue to access their program benefits until March 31, 2014.
  • MVP’s will still receive a free copy of Visual Studio Premium through an MSDN subscription.
  • The MSDN subscription will remain unchanged.

Time is ticking

It stands to reason that many will be left not only disappointed, but also out of pocket as a direct result of these changes. So with 58 days to go, ensure you make the most of this offer for the final time by renewing or purchasing your subscription before the cut-off date.

It’s August 31, 2013, in case you missed the countless mentions throughout the article.

About the Author: 

Ed Jones works for Firebrand Training heading up community engagement within the Marketing department. Ed spends his days thinking up topics for surveys, article titles and concepts for engaging infographics. You can check out a range of his most recent work via the Firebrand Press Page.


June 25, 2013  9:19 AM

Top 5 resources for SharePoint 2013

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As with the release of any new technology, there tends to be an immediate shortfall in information available to users as they look to get to grips with the new system. Following the general release of SharePoint 2013 in March (it went on release to Microsoft Volume licensees MSDN and TechNet subscribers in late 2012), Administrators and Developers a like were searching the web looking for handy guides, new info and the latest updates on the new instalment.

3 months on as the dust begins to settle and there appears a wealth of information on the Inter Web, Firebrand has compiled the top 5 resources for all thing SharePoint 2013. (nb. IT Knowledge Exchange would definitely be in the top 5 if you weren’t already on their site reading this.)

 SharePoint IT Pro Blog - http://blogs.technet.com/b/tothesharepoint/

An obvious choice, the SharePoint IT Pro Blog is brought to you by the Microsoft Experts who are currently working on SharePoint IT Professional content. The Blog contains a repository of information including the latest updates on all the changes to SharePoint 2013, as well as a comprehensive series of ‘how-to’ guides helping to get to grips with all the features in the new system.

Definitely check out Bella Engen’s current series “How to set up a product-centric website in SharePoint Server 2013”. Bella is currently on Stage 15, wowzer.

TechNet – SharePoint Section – http://technet.microsoft.com/en-US/sharepoint

As with any Microsoft Technology, TechNet should always be high on your list resource pools when searching for the latest information. The platform acts as a portal to a variety of information sources and is arguably Microsoft’s largest collection of centralised information for their enterprise products.

TechNet offers a SharePoint centric section that caters to both Admins and Developers. Not only does it cover SharePoint 2013, but also the recent versions including SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2007. From here, you can access the SharePoint library (where all technical documentation is held) and find learning roadmaps amongst other handy guides, download the latest versions and updates for SharePoint, or simply head to the forums where you can ask and answer questions.

The aforementioned SharePoint IT Pro Blog is also an extension of the TechNet platform.

Joel Jeffery’s Blog – Resident SharePoint expert at Firebrand – http://joelblogs.co.uk/

Another resource that is well worth a mention is our resident SharePoint expert Joel Jeffery. Joel is a SharePoint Architect and Subject Matter Expert for versions 2007 through to 2013, as well as being an official Microsoft Certified Trainer.

Joel’s Blog contains a plethora of ‘how-to’ guides on SharePoint 2013 and 2010, links to other valuable SharePoint resources and the occasional mention of his live support service SharePoint Doctors. Our Joel is also a lyrical superstar when it comes to teaching SharePoint, check out his SharePoint song.

SharePoint - Song

(Nb. Image opens in new window as I couldn’t embed the video)

SharePoint Pro - http://sharepointpromag.com/

SharePoint Pro was designed for both Developers and Admins and is packed with the content and coding required to build, deploy and manage world-class SharePoint sites. The platform is an independent collaboration managed by Penton Media and is supported by SharePoint experts not associated with Microsoft. The site is segmented across 5 clear sections, SharePoint 2013, SharePoint 2010, SharePoint 2007, Administration and Development making it fairly clear cut when you are looking for support.

As well as the latest news and support guides, SharePoint Pro offers a weekly newsletter as well as hosting regular on-line and in-person events to talk about SharePoint matters.

Stack Exchange – http://sharepoint.stackexchange.com/

Our final resource is from popular Q+A platform, Stack Exchange. The site is a network of free to use, community-driven Q+A sites with a sub-section devoted to SharePoint.

Ask questions for which you have no answer to a community of SharePoint enthusiasts and experts. There is of course the risk of being provided incorrect answers, thankfully the community element nullifies this issue, as members can validate or quash answers. Search previous queries, help answer questions and become part of a wider SharePoint community.

Final word

So there we have it, 5 invaluable resources to stick in the bookmarks section whenever you have questions or concerns with SharePoint 2013, or perhaps if you just want the latest gossip or an update patch.

Think we’ve missed a trick? Got a SharePoint resource you think deserves a place in our top 5? Why not drop us a comment and let us know.

Until next time…..

About the Author: 

Ed Jones works for Firebrand Training heading up community engagement within the Marketing department. Ed spends his days thinking up topics for surveys, article titles and concepts for engaging infographics. You can check out a range of his most recent work via the Firebrand Press Page.


June 19, 2013  3:59 PM

How to use Hyper-V Replica in Windows Server 2012

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In this article, we will look at another new feature in Windows Server 2012, Hyper-V Replica. First thing you need to know, it’s like sheep, in the sense that for the plural you don’t add an s on the end. I felt pretty foolish bandying about the term ‘hyper-v replicas’ only to be corrected by one of our Windows Server Instructors, so avoid my mistake and remember it’s always Replica, never Replicas.

Having laboured that point more than enough let’s move on to taking a look at what it is, put simply it’s a disaster recovery solution for virtual machines and comes retrofitted to every version of Windows Server 2012. Essentially the function creates a replica (hence the term) of a live Virtual Machine stored on a remote server, then in the event of any complications you can ‘failover’ to the replica and bring the virtualised workload back online. The system updates changes every 5 minutes so you’ll never be far behind.
Now you know what it is, we’ll teach you how to use it in the following handy infographic. The guide comes straight from our resident Windows Server expert Ed Baker and takes you through the following stages.

1. What you need to get started.
2. How to install the Hyper-V role and create a Replica
3. Repeat the above process for additional servers
4. Cover scenarios in which failover occurs

We’d love to get your feedback on the graphic and if there are other functions in Windows Server 2012 you’d like to familiarise yourself with. Why not drop us a comment?

About the Author: 

Ed Jones works for Firebrand Training heading up community engagement within the Marketing department. Ed spends his days thinking up topics for surveys, article titles and concepts for engaging infographics. You can check out a range of his most recent work via the Firebrand Press Page.


June 18, 2013  3:26 PM

Managing Multiple Servers with Windows Server 2012

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The age of the internet and the expansion of Cloud Computing has largely eradicated the existence of single server companies. The life of a Windows Server Admin is not so simple any more, as depicted by our previous graphic,  a majority of companies now operate multiple versions of Server OS systems simultaneously.  Having to check the performance and monitor for issues across multiple servers can be both tricky and time consuming. Not to mention remoting into 10′s of Servers being both inefficient and annoying.

Those lucky enough to be using Windows Server 2012, dubbed the ‘Cloud OS’, will no longer have this issue. The latest Server OS comes retrofitted with a powerful new function as part of the ‘Server Manager’ interface.

Admins using this Server OS can get a multi-server view of the environment, not only that they can check performance and troubleshoot issues on the fly from a central location. In the following graphic, Windows Server Instructor Ed Baker takes you through the powerful new feature and teaches you exactly how to Manage Multiple Servers in Windows Server 2012.

If you have any questions or want to see other guides for Windows Server 2012, why drop us a comment?

About the Author: Ed Jones works for Firebrand Training heading up community engagement within the Marketing department. Ed spends his days thinking up topics for surveys, article titles and concepts for engaging infographics. You can check out a range of his most recent work via the Firebrand Press Page.


June 10, 2013  1:29 PM

Five steps to protect you and your business from hackers

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About the Author: Edward Jones works for Firebrand Training as a Content Strategist within the Marketing department. Edward spends his days thinking up topics for surveys, article titles and concepts for engaging infographics. You can check out a range of his most recent work via the Firebrand Press Page.

Hacking and cyber-crimes have reached new, scary levels of sophistication. The last two years have seen the likes of Sony, Nintendo, LinkedIn and even the CIA’s security being compromised. From an individual’s point of view, there are a few best practices which help prevent security breaches. While no one can guarantee fail-safe security measures, the following steps will make life difficult for the hacker:

1 – Get a better password

It’s amazing how many still use obvious passwords, which even the most inexperienced of cyber criminals could guess. For example, using your name and date of birth is a very weak combination, since such information is now easily accessible via social media etc.

Best practice for passwords includes:

• Don’t reduce. A mixture of characters, such as the odd exclamation mark instead of the number ‘1’, or ‘&’ instead of ‘8’ makes your password less guessable
• Don’t re-use. Use different passwords for different sites. Having one account hacked is bad enough
• Do recycle. Change your password frequently, and comprehensively.

2 – Get protection

One of the most fundamental steps. You need up-to-date, anti-virus and anti-malware software. There is some brilliant free software available. And switch-on your firewall too.

3 – Keep up-to-date

There are usually frequent updates released for operating systems and other software. These updates often improve security flaws. Hackers will know to target out-of-date versions if a security weakness is identified.

4 – Don’t lose it

Carrying sensitive data on a device is risky – but sometimes it’s needed. Look after your USB stick, external hard drive, laptop and iPhone. And encrypt everything in case the worst happens.

5 – Secure your wifi

Never connect to an ‘open’, untrusted wifi network. When you do connect, ensure you’re accessing the wifi via WPA (Wifi Protected Access). WPA2 – the most modern wireless security standard – is supported by most operating systems, and is difficult to hack.


April 29, 2013  3:46 PM

Windows 8 Refresh and Reset – How to

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About the Author: Ed Jones works for Firebrand Training as a Content Strategist within the Marketing department. Ed spends his days thinking up topics for surveys, article titles and concepts for engaging infographics. You can check out a range of his most recent work via the Firebrand Press Page.

Ok, so in the last two posts we have covered Family Safety and File History in Windows 8. You should now have the power to prevent data loss and protect your kids whilst surfing the web, it’s time to move on to Refresh and Reset. This feature has been designed as an alternative to re-installation of Windows 8.

If you’ve ever had to re-install a Windows Operating Sytstem, that is if you can even find the original OS disk and the access key, then you know it’s a time consuming and often arduous task. Windows 8 has put Refresh and Reset at your fingertips to give you a powerful and quick alternative. So you’ve filled you PC to the brim, its lethargic and that little loading timer is driving you to despair, you now have two alternatives to the re-install.

Refresh – less severe of the two options, Refresh allows you to remove all downloaded applications and games whilst keeping all personal files and Windows Store purchases.

Reset – this is the more severe option, so consider carefully before using. This is a complete factory reset, no files, downloads or purchases, a fresh OS with default system settings in place. Good as new.

So lets learn how to put these features into action with the following infographic created by my colleagues at Firebrand Training.


April 25, 2013  3:28 PM

Windows 8 Family Safety – How To

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About the Author: Ed Jones works for Firebrand Training as a Content Strategist within the Marketing department. Ed spends his days thinking up topics for surveys, article titles and concepts for engaging infographics. You can check out a range of his most recent work via the Firebrand Press Page.

Welcome to the latest instalment looking at the new features in Windows 8. In our last post we took an in depth look at File History, the automated back up feature that allows Windows 8 users to create regular back ups of all files, favourites and contacts to an external device. Today we look at Family Safety, which adds an extra level of security to protect children when using their PC and browsing the web. Family Safety was designed for adults concerned about the type of content their children can be exposed to while surfing the web. Microsoft responded by building in a variety of new control’s that parents can administer to a child’s profile.

Family Safety Features

Lets take a look at some of those protocols in a little more detail:

App Restrictions – worried about your kids purchasing or downloading inappropriate apps, or simply don’t want your PC clogged with the latest version of Candy Crush? This feature allows you to restrict applications being downloaded through the Windows Store.

Game Restrictions – this feature allows parents to protect their children from downloading or installing violent/disturbing games. The system works on ratings from child friendly to 18+ red band games, so you can choose to prevent installation of certain/any type of game.

Time Limits and Curfew – limit how long your child can access their account in a single day or simply set access times, no late night surfing web or playing games till the early hours.

Web filtering – prevent your kids from visitng website deemed unsuitable, or simply logging into eBay and spending all your money on clothes and Xbox games before you get the chance to.

Activity Reporting – keeps tabs on the time your kids access the web and what they’re looking at. Check you out you cyber sleuth you.

Requests – this is a function through which your kids can request access to materials you can then approve or deny.

Learn it

You know what it does, now learn how to use it with this Infographic. The content was written by Gary Fildes, lead Windows and Apprenticeship Instructor for Firebrand Training


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