My ten-person company is not very traditional. We implement technology, like customer relationship management (CRM) systems. We have no offices. We are very spread out. Our overhead is low. To get our projects done and coordinate effectively, we have to collaborate. This hasn’t been easy to figure out. Luckily technology to help connect disparate teams has improved. And we’ve all gotten a little smarter. Here are three things I’ve learned from running a de-centralized business.
There are many great cloud-based tools to help teams collaborate. The ones I have found to be the best are those that provide the most options and features. A few years ago we were working with a handful of these tools. But things have changed. Microsoft Office, for example, has significantly changed. What was once a desktop application for word processing and spreadsheets has now evolved into a cloud-based platform of tools that we are using for email, file sharing, presentations, conferencing, scheduling, note-taking and customer management. Slowly but surely, Office 365 has replaced many of our other collaboration applications and has enabled my team to keep everything in one place under one umbrella. Because the interface is consistent and we’re able to do our work from any device, it keeps getting easier to standardize on this platform. The lesson: I’ve learned to pick a good platform that offers all the collaboration tools I need and invest in it.
I know I may sound old school when I write this, but I close more deals when I meet prospects face to face. I have better relationships with those people that I see in-person more frequently. I am able to manage people more effectively when I’ve met them. A good collaboration platform is critical for my workgroup because we’re running around everywhere and need that one place to do a data dump. We use the technology to remind of us of tasks, alert us when things are coming due and maintain data about projects that no human being can remember. But in the end, we still meet in person. Sure, we don’t have offices. But we all talk on the phone, both individually and in groups. We meet on Skype for Business, where we have the option to talk or even see each other face to face through video chat. We meet at coffee places and for lunch. We take time aside at client locations to discuss projects and even other clients. I’ve learned that technology can do a lot, but human interaction is still really, really important. Find the technology that allows you to blend both.
I’ve found Office 365 to be a very powerful platform to use, and so have many of my clients. But the ones that use this service the best have made an investment in a central person to administer the system. This is not a tech person or an IT firm – it’s usually an administrative person who is smart, confident and willing to learn the software and not afraid to make mistakes. This person is given the responsibility of making sure that all the data in the system is complete and accurate. If you’ve got a workgroup of five or more people this is easier said than done. Minor mistakes are inevitable, but an administrator is tasked with making sure that there are alerts and controls in place to limit these problems and help take action so that they don’t happen again. A collaboration system has many moving parts to it and for it to work effectively one person should be the go-to resource for answering questions and taking responsibility. I’ve learned that investing in this person pays itself back many times over and not having this person significantly increases the risk of my collaboration system failing.
Ten years ago, when I closed my offices, I made a lucky guess. I guessed that I could rely on collaboration technology to help me make up for the fact that I didn’t have an office. Think about how nascent those technologies were back then. It turns out that my guess was right. Given my track record of getting things right, the fact that I predicted this is astonishing. But hey, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Four new Microsoft Office 365 updates aim to help enterprise users collaborate better. The most useful one may be a powerful new capability in OneDrive.
On Tuesday, Microsoft announced four new features that will allow for easier collaboration among users—especially those in the enterprise.
The updates, which include real-time collaboration in PowerPoint and the ability to move attachments to the cloud in Outlook, follow a number of recent steps Microsoft has taken to enhance its enterprise offerings. Earlier this month, it announced a new chat-based workspace, Teams, as a Slack competitor for Office 365 users. It also recently released a scheduling assistantfor Outlook on iOS, and a Power BI data visualization toolset.
The new updates allow Office 365 users to do the following:
Users can now share a PowerPoint slide deck with others, and update the document together in real-time, said Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team, in a blog post. This means you can see what a colleague is adding or changing in a slide deck as it happens.
This addition does not come as a surprise: When Office 2016 launched last year, Microsoft said it was committing to expanding real-time co-authoring to each of the company’s native apps over time. Microsoft Word and Excel have already rolled out this feature.
Real-time collaboration is currently available for PowerPoint on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers in the Office Insider program, and for PowerPoint Mobile on Windows Tablets.
With this update, Outlook users can “easily transform a traditional document into a shared cloud document right within Outlook,” Koenigsbauer wrote in the blog post. While Outlook previously allowed users to attach cloud-based documents to an email, this marks an easier way to send large files and collaborate on those files with others.
Users can upload a file to their own OneDrive or a document library as part of an Office 365 Group, the post stated, and then designate sharing permissions for the email recipients.
This feature is now available in Outlook on the web, as well as for Outlook on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers.
With this update, users will receive mobile notifications when changes are made to shared cloud files in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. “Notifications let you know when changes are being made while you are away from a document, so you can stay connected and know when you need to act,” Koenigsbauer wrote in the blog post.
This feature joins the integrated activity feed available on Windows desktops, to help business users improve collaboration. Users will receive notifications when documents are shared with others, and when they are edited. Koenigsbauer wrote that Microsoft will continue working on this notifications feature “to provide more detail and transparency around activity in shared documents in the future.”
Sharing and editing notifications are currently available for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint users on Android and Windows Mobile for Office Insiders. This feature will be available for iOS users in December, and for commercial users in all Office mobile apps in the coming months.
Microsoft added a Shared with Me Tab in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, to make it easier for enterprise users to find and open documents that colleagues shared without leaving the app you are working in. It will be similar to the feature in OneDrive, the post stated.
Users can also find a Recent Folders list in the Recent tab to help find files faster.
The Shared with Me feature is currently available in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint on Windows desktops and Macs for all Office 365 subscribers, as well as on iOS and Android. It will soon be available on Windows Mobile. And the Recent Folders feature is now available in Word, Excel and PowerPoint on Windows desktops for Office 365 subscribers in the Office Insider program.
Office 365 is now available in 150 markets worldwide, the post stated. Other November updates include built-in accessibility with Learning Tools in the Office apps, and PowerPoint Onlineupdates for education customers.
Want to get started with Office 365? Contact Dorset Connects.
Thanks to Alison DeNisco
With cloud solutions, there’s been some hype about leaving on-premises solutions behind. While that may work for some businesses, we’ve found that for other clients, there’s a great alternative: a hybrid solution.
It would be easy to say it’s a best-of-both-worlds approach. Instead, a hybrid approach is about maximizing cloud and on-premises solutions specific to your applications and needs, helping your operations run more securely and smoothly. So, how does a hybrid solution work?
A hybrid cloud combines some combination of public cloud providers, like Azure, with private cloud solutions using on-premises servers.
Public clouds use shared infrastructure for all users, maintained by the provider.
Users looking to house general data, files, and non-sensitive materials can move these objects into a shared cloud. This is also a good solution for users trying to shed maintenance costs or quickly scale use up or down based on immediate need.
Public cloud storage gives the provider control over your data, so it’s an imperfect solution if you have large amounts of data you need to protect.
Private clouds are portions of servers partitioned to single entities or users.
This is a strong option for those with compliance requirements, regulatory requirements or security concerns. Users can have dedicated services, restrict access, and secure their networks. On-premises servers and cloud servers can also be configured to communicate on a private network.
You can keep your on-premises servers while also gaining the power, accessibility, and flexibility of a cloud solution. If you need to scale up, you can. If there is ever a need for disaster recovery, you have it.
So, what’s the value of a hybrid solution?
Cost and computing power! A mix of both can strike a balance between performance and cost that aligns to your business requirements.
Some applications that don’t need the security of a private cloud benefit from the cheaper cost and flexibility of public cloud. Other applications need the consistent power and security of a private solution.
A private cloud can be your base of operations and security, with the public cloud available for increased demand, short-term changes, and the unexpected.
Whether you’re looking to increase your security, emergency preparedness, flexibility or to decrease overall costs, there is often room for both clouds in your hybrid solution!
If you’re interested in learning more or setting up an assessment, please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn about Office 365 Delve and how it can streamline document sharing in your organization
If your organization uses Office 365 you’ve likely heard of Delve, but may not fully understand its functionality. In this blog we’re going to answer a number of questions we’ve received from some of our enterprise customers related to this new and versatile productivity tool built right into Microsoft’s platform.
Delve is a tool that helps you quickly find the information that is of most value to you, regardless of where it’s located within your organization. It also enables you to easily access data about people within your organization and in turn, those people can find out more information about you.
Gone are the days where you had to know the exact name of a document that you are interested in finding. With Delve, you can quickly see relevant files stored across both OneDrive for Business and SharePoint.
Users are only able to see documents that they already have access to. In addition, other people won’t have access to any documents that are marked as private. For further information about the security of your documents in Delve, Microsoft has published a blog focused on squashing any privacy concerns.
To see what public documents other members of your team are working on, simply:
Click on someone’s name or picture while in Delve
When you locate a document that you’re interested in, you can add it as a favorite or add it to a board to look at later
If you store documents in either OneDrive for Business or SharePoint, they’ll automatically show up in Delve for you, as well as for any of your colleagues who have access to them.
If you’re interested in keeping a specific document private, you can still store it in OneDrive for Business, but you should simply choose not to share it. These documents will not show up in Delve for other people. If you look closely at your private documents in Delve, you’ll see they are marked with a padlock indicating that they’re not accessible by others.
Microsoft has dedicated an entire blog post to explain how Delve assigns relevance, but in short, it’s determined by the Office Graph. This artificial intelligence tool constantly collects data and analyzes all sorts of signals to determine what should be most relevant to you, based on your work habits as well as the habits of your colleagues.
We hope this foray into Office Delve has piqued your interest and will have you exploring this innovative tool within Office 365. For more information about how to use and customize Delve as well as any of the other Office 365 apps, feel free to reach out to Dorset Connects today at 484-845-1600 or email Neal@DorsetConnects.com.
The digital age continues to deepen its impact on businesses of every size. Large companies are routinely challenged by smaller, more innovative competitors. Organizations that have dominated their industries for decades risk being displaced virtually overnight by data-powered business models. And the right technology makes all the difference.
For many smaller companies, traditional ways of managing data make it hard to capitalize on the digital transformation. Simply storing large amounts of data locally can be prohibitively expensive, and implementing the tools to make sense of it adds a new layer of challenges.
There is a better way. By moving data and analytics to cloud-based services, you can spend less time focusing on protecting and storing information, and more time making it work to your advantage. Because you have to pay only for what you need and can avoid managing basic infrastructure, cloud services are the ideal small and mid-size businesses technology platform.
1. Basic data backup: If you’re not backing up your valuable business data because it’s too expensive or complex, you risk losing your key asset in the race to innovation. The cloud makes it relatively easy to back up almost any amount of data, giving you the protection of an enterprise-grade datacenter without the cost or complexity. Microsoft Azure Backup is a powerful, affordable solution that can be simple enough for almost any business to set up and use.
2. Comprehensive data protection: Once you know you have your data backed up securely in the cloud, you should consider how that data is protected throughout your IT solutions. The first step is to make sure you’re running the latest version of Windows on your PCs and devices. For mobile devices, consider a solution such as Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite, which lets you manage a wide range of devices from one service and keep personal and corporate data separate. Enabling employees to get work done from more locations without compromising security can be a key competitive advantage.
3. Scalable data storage: Once you’re committed to gathering and using data to advance your digital business, you may find that there’s a lot more of it than you thought. You need a scalable way to store and manage information—one that integrates with analytical tools that help you make smarter decisions. Azure Storage can scale to any amount of data and can work seamlessly with solutions such as PowerBI and Azure HDInsights.
4. Adaptive IT: To capitalize on disruptive trends, you have to be able to move quickly—something traditional approaches to IT are not known for. By consuming core services such as email and productivity through the cloud (as with Office 365) and virtualizing your server-based business applications in Azure, can help your company to be positioned to respond with agility to threats and opportunities.
Being a small and mid-size business doesn’t mean you have to be left out of the digital revolution. In fact, it could be argued that technology and the smart ways you put it to use have a lot more to do with success today. Learn more about the Microsoft cloud platform and how it can help you succeed with new digital business models.
This article original appeared on the Microsoft Business Solutions blog.
Each day, nearly six million devices connect to the Internet. The International Data Corporation estimates that by 2020, there will be 26 times more devices connected to the Internet than people! With the rapid growth of Internet “gadgets” such as Fitbits, NEST home automation systems, refrigerators that email you a grocery list, and all of the phones and tablets in use, it is easy to understand the explosive growth in the “Internet of Things” (IoT).
As the IoT continues to expand, business owners are struggling to keep up, especially in regard to device privacy and security. These employers must manage any potential risk to customers and vendors arising from the conduct of their employees, while also protecting the employees’ best interests.
The first concern for an employer is to minimize the risk of a data breach resulting from careless or rogue employees. Minimizing this insider risk is often the first line of defense. Although data security is usually seen as an “IT concern”, it is an issue for any business that wants to minimize potential liability. Companies should consider conducting a privacy or security risk assessment, minimizing the data they collect and retain, and testing their security measures before launching their products. As for personnel practices, organizations should train all team members about good security practices.
For companies who process or store IoT data, they should only store necessary records and information for the correct period of time and in the proper format. A business is in a better position in any litigation or government investigation if it can show that it took reasonable steps to protect confidential data within its possession. Most states already impose data breach obligations on companies, and some jurisdictions even require a written information security program (WISP) outlining what they have done to protect confidential data. This process involves using specific policies and employment agreements related to the storage and dissemination of IoT and other electronic data, as well as training of individuals with data access.
Employee training options include:
• Teaching employees about the importance of data security to create a culture of awareness and safety;
• Implementing policies on what data is retained, how long it is retained, and how it is stored and protected;
• Adopting policies addressing employee use of laptop computers and other mobile devices, including bring-your-own-device policies;
• Developing policies on employees using public WiFi while outside of the office and requiring the return of all mobile devices and information from employees upon job conclusion;
• Implementing checklists and procedures to block computer system access for any terminated employee;
• Establishing programs to monitor employee compliance with security, including potential internal attacks to determine employee vulnerability; and
• Developing appropriate password and encryption policies with assistance from IT.
The IoT gives business owners the ability to have a more efficient, productive and healthy workforce. However, prudent businesses will take the necessary steps to not only protect themselves against data breaches caused by employees, but will also take steps to ensure that to the extent an employer obtains employee health data, appropriate steps are taken to protect the privacy and proper use of that information.
If you need help making sure that your business is secure and ready for the IoT, contact Dorset Connects.
As we start accepting the thought of the cloud and Office 365 for our businesses, security and privacy are still on our minds. Though many security breaches happen from within, we often worry when we hear that our content will be somewhere other than our own servers. Especially in the “cloud” somewhere. So what does the Office 365 data protection promise for both security and privacy do to help appease these worries?
If you can get into the servers where any of our content is stored, I’d be extremely impressed. More than impressed in fact. Let’s see…
“As a standard policy, Microsoft does not disclose the location of its data centers. Microsoft operates between 10 and 100 data centers located around the world.”
First, try to find the location for these facilities. They’re not disclosed to the public and finding them will be your first challenge. Let alone finding the one that has the content you’re looking to breach. And if somehow you’ve found them, here are some of the things you have to get through.
You need to be identified as authorized personnel and get passed the multiple layers of physical security… Oh and bypass the biometric as well as motion sensors all under constant video surveillance. I think this sounds closer to a new “thief” movie called “Ocean’s 365” than a likely scenario.
Whether you’re communicating with the various Office 365 experiences or looking at the data being at rest, you’ll see that it’s always encrypted. Disks using BitLocker encryption, SSL over HTTP and even IRM on Document Libraries are a few things that ensure no unwanted eyes can peek at your data.
In Office 365, the way you and your users use the platform isn’t mined for advertising purposes. Though many cloud platforms will use this information to target ads like Facebook and Gmail as examples, this isn’t something you’ll have to worry about here.
With the many preconceived worries on the cloud and security, Microsoft takes a safe approach by making sure none of your data can get exposed.
From an administrator’s perspective as well as an end users’, you can manage what can be seen and by whom on your content. But privacy goes beyond the extensive options we have come to expect from most of these cloud platforms, it’s also about the data collected on the usage of the platform.
Microsoft may use the data to improve the overall experience, but the data will not be shared. And when I mean the data collected, it does not mean they’ll access your actual content. Your mailbox or OneDrive for Business files will never be accessed without your permission. Only data on how you use features to improve the service, not unlike when you look at Analytics of people visiting your website to improve it over time.
On top of that, the Admin Center allows you to audit all access to your tenant information by a Microsoft Employee so you know what’s going on.
Microsoft employs multiple layers of redundancy and backups of information at the datacenter level, so in a rare event where data may be lost or corrupted on Microsoft servers, it can be restored.
Though there is no link I can point you to with a service description for backup and recovery, it’s important to know that it may not be ideal for all organizations. The platform comes with many capabilities from Versioning to Recycle Bins as well as recovery options. However, they are not indefinite. Meaning it may be too late for you to recover the data or the recovery method may not be ideal for you in your scenario.
I know what you’re thinking, “That’s horrible! I don’t want them to keep my data even after I no longer use Office 365”. To give you time to take your data away from a terminated subscription, you have a timeframe which allows you to do so.
“Upon expiration or termination of your Office 365 subscription or contract, Microsoft will provide you, by default, additional limited access for 90 days to export your data.”
More details on data portability can be accessed in the Trust Center.
Though still a concern for some due to legal and regulatory requirements, Microsoft will keep your data in the region specified when the subscription is first created. A region doesn’t necessarily mean a country however, if this is a concern for you then you should look at the details in the Trust Center.
Keep in mind that many worries we have about this are misunderstood. Be sure to understand your requirements before.
Identity is very important in this digital age, it proves you are who you are and often that’s through a password. To make sure a simple brute force attack doesn’t lead to a security breach, Office 365 makes sure users require a strong password.
If you’d like more protection, especially for those users that have a little more power over the tenant or access to extremely confidential information, you can also enable multi-factor authentication. With this turned on, users will have an extra layer of security other than just the password.
Both as an administrator and as a regular user, you can control what is seen and by whom it is seen in your organization. Depending on the organization and culture, not everyone within will be ok with sharing the same data about themselves or on their usage.
The data is often imported from Active Directory or entered manually by users to create a complete profile. It’s often valuable to have as it enabled you to build rich solutions that interact with the data as well as Office Graph to make better connections.
“Microsoft just announced that it is the first major cloud provider to adopt the first international cloud privacy standard developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)” – Microsoft on the Issues
Even privacy authorities across Europe approve Microsoft’s cloud with an official stamp. It’s hard to beat, independently verified, Office 365 is without a doubt much more secure than you could possibly even allow your own servers to be.
It’s unlikely the security breach will happen from the outside
Security concerns will never go away, just change as we transition to a new work model. We use the cloud, experiences from Office 365 to do what we need to do. Recently, I talked about how granting access to External Users combined with a human mistake almost cost us quite a bit if we hadn’t found it in time. And that will continue to be the case regardless of whether it’s On-Premises or in the Cloud.
On their side, Microsoft has put everything into place from regular backups to ensuring your data stays in-region as well as enforcing strong passwords to help you stay protected. Concerns from moving to the cloud in terms of Security and Privacy are normal as we are not used to it, but with the Office 365 data protection seem unfounded. It’s more likely we will cause a breach with our configurations or human errors than someone gaining access to our data.
This Infographic is based on the “Top 10 security and privacy features of Office 365” provided on Microsoft’s website.
We have all seen the news stories: compromised passwords causing many high-profile business security breaches, including Sony Pictures, Apple, LinkedIn, and Target. These breaches happened because most users’ passwords are easily guessed or “phished” by hackers. Even worse, they are sometimes stored in a file that can be easily stolen.
If you want to keep your business’s, clients’ and personal information safe, here are five suggestions to boost password security:
Adding extra symbols and characters to a password will make it tougher to crack. Passwords should appear to a stranger as just a random string of characters, incorporating a good mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and punctuation symbols. Try using a long acronym or partial words from a phrase to throw off any kind of dictionary-based attack.
Short passwords are easy to crack with modern technology; even ones with eight characters can be cracked in a few days. Passwords of at least 12 characters (alphanumeric with special characters) that are completely random present a tougher challenge for event the most sophisticated decryption systems used by hackers.
A password manager is a secure way to generate long, complex and unique passwords without relying on your brain or a piece of paper to remember them. It is easy to import log-in data from all the accounts associated with your email address, and they are encrypted. Highly-rated password manager services include Dashlane, LastPass and Sticky Password. No matter which service you choose, it’s better than storing your passwords on your browser!
Two-factor authentication is an increasingly popular way of tightening security when using web services, such as Amazon, Dropbox, and Facebook. Users can add a secondary authentication method, such as a text message, email, or phone call to verify account details.
Most people have a 4-digit PIN on their cell phones, but if you’re serious about security, use the password setting on your phone to make the PIN longer. It’s also a good idea to differentiate it from your banking PIN.
Dorset Connects’ team of IT security experts can help you make sure that your organization is taking the right steps to keep its data secure.
If you have an Office 365 business subscription that includes Skype for Business, then you already have richer online meetings capabilities, such as the ability to conduct large group meetings for up to 250 people and the ability to Instant Message anyone in your organization at any time—not just during meetings. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conferences in Toronto earlier this month, the folks from Redmond unveiled some exciting new features coming to Skype for Business:
Automatic transcription and translation in Skype Meeting Broadcast should arrive by the end of 2016.
While Skype Meeting Broadcast lets you produce, host and broadcast meetings to large online audiences; these new services will provide live closed captioning of presentations and allow viewers to choose translation into their preferred language from a list of supported languages
While co-authoring a Shared document in OneDrive or SharePoint, users will soon be able to chat in real-time using Skype for business. A new chat icon will appear (next to co-authors in the document) that will let you contact the other co-author in real time. The feature can be tested in personal OneDrive for now
Files you attach to a Outlook 2016 or Outlook on web meetings automatically load into the Skype Meeting document bin as soon as participants join in. Cloud attachments also automatically assign permissions to meeting attendees so as to allow everyone to collaborate during the Skype Meeting
Now Office 365 admins can retrieve user session data for Skype for Business Online using a PowerShell Cmdlet. The new Get-CsUserSession Cmdlet for Skype for Business enables all Skype for Business Online tenant admins to retrieve user session data as it exposes user activities and modalities including registration, Instant Message, Audio, Video, Application sharing, and conference events
These new features make collaboration and communication with your team members quicker and more robust to further enhance your teams’ productivity.
Microsoft’s free Windows 10 upgrade offer will end on Friday, July 29th. After that date, the cost to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro will be $199. The free upgrade is available to qualified new or existing Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 devices. To initiate the upgrade, users just need to click on the Windows 10 pop-up window when it appears on their desktop screen. All of your files will be automatically transferred, but we recommend backing up your data prior to initiation.
If you have been hesitant to make the switch to Windows 10, here are four reasons why you should do so by the 29th:
In addition to Windows 10, Microsoft has stated that all future upgrades will be free, including the 1-year Anniversary Update, which is scheduled for Tuesday, August 2nd.
Now running on more than 350 million PCs, Microsoft expects Windows 10 be running on 1 billion machines by 2018. While most of the first-year adopters have been individual consumers, business users who have completed the upgrade have noticed improved ease of use, improvements in worker productivity, and an increase in cost savings by enabling security features provided by the upgrade, such as Credential Guard and Device Guard.
If you have questions about how to make the most of the Windows 10 upgrade for your business, contact Dorset Connects today at 484-845-1600.