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Why A Hybrid Cloud Model Might Be for You

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: neal.zimmerman@dorsetconnects.com.





Here’s why private and hybrid cloud are here to stay –

When private and hybrid cloud technology first appeared, some pundits predicted that they wouldn’t last. Wasn’t everything going to the public cloud? But last they did, and there are several good reasons why private and hybrid cloud are here to stay.

For one thing, some companies are balking at the cost of maintaining public cloud deployments once their workloads and storage grow into the tens of petabytes. In addition, some vertical markets (financial services, for example) mandate tight internal security controls, so the public cloud is not an option for many aspects of their business. Finally, enterprise customers want to be able to choose the cloud solution that’s best for them, and they don’t want to be mandated to use public cloud if their circumstances dictate otherwise.

Public cloud providers rake in billions of dollars in service fees because using a public cloud is an easy thing to do. With a few mouse clicks, users can activate cloud resources and scale them indefinitely without having to worry about housing or maintaining hardware or developing the in-house expertise to build a cloud on premises. Cloud computing was born as public cloud, and many cloud computing advocates felt that on-premises or co-located clouds were just a fancy name for the same old data centre resources.

Hybrid clouds on the rise

But rather than declining, private and hybrid cloud deployments are growing because these approaches have valid roles within enterprises. In most cases, it’s not an either/or decision between one type of cloud and another. A more likely scenario is that most enterprises will use a mix of public, private and hybrid clouds as IT departments try to balance security, costs, and scalability.

Leveraging a private or hybrid cloud computing model has three advantages. First, it provides a clear use case for public cloud computing. Specific aspects of existing IT infrastructure (storage and compute, for example) can be placed in public cloud environments while the remainder of the IT infrastructure stays on premise. For example, with business intelligence applications, it may be better to keep the data local and do the analytical processing in the public cloud rather than migrating gigabytes of operational data to the public cloud.

Secondly, using a private or hybrid model delivers more flexibility in gaining maximum leverage from computing architecture, considering you can mix and match the resources between local infrastructure (which is typically a sunk cost but is difficult to scale), with infrastructure that’s scalable and provisioned on demand. IT departments can choose where best to place applications depending on their needs and cost structure.

Finally, the use of hybrid or private cloud computing validates the idea that not all IT resources should exist in public clouds today, and some resources may never be moved to public clouds. Considering compliance issues, performance requirements, and security restrictions, the need for local is a fact of life. This experience with the private or hybrid model helps users better understand what compute cycles and data have to be kept local and what can be processed remotely.

Is Hybrid Cloud too costly?

The argument against private or hybrid cloud points to large hardware and software investments required and the depth of in-house expertise needed to make it happen. However, newer cloud platforms address these pain points.

In some cases, cloud infrastructure vendors are offering converged (compute/storage/networking) appliances that can be set up and running in minutes. These appliances provide scalable building blocks to support private and hybrid clouds with ample resources, and they deliver a better ROI than traditional data centre hardware.

Another approach is to use standard OpenStack APIs with a self-healing architecture that reduces the management burden. A few vendors use SaaS-based portals that handle management and operations with complete health monitoring and predictive analytics to prevent problems before they occur. By enabling curated updates through automated patching and upgrades, the end user receives the best possible service experience with minimal effort required of the administrator.

So while private and hybrid cloud once required plenty of in-house cloud-building expertise, it’s not true today. Modern cloud platforms address many of the objections to using private or hybrid cloud, and these architectures can work together with public cloud to give enterprises the performance and cost-effectiveness they seek. Today’s private and hybrid cloud platforms provide the same ease-of-use as public cloud infrastructure while delivering the flexibility, security, performance and control many enterprises demand.

Thanks to CloudTechNews for their contribution.


OneDrive for Business Or SharePoint Team Site?

It’s not unusual to question where your content should be stored in Office or SharePoint On-Premises. It seems these days that you can store your content almost anywhere, but rarely do we realize the impact of our decision. When you’re working with SharePoint, you often have to decide between two places to store your files and that’s either OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Team Sites.

This infographic will try to help you decide between the two.

When Should I Use OneDrive for Business?

OneDrive for Business is meant to be your “me” place at the office. Basically, if you’re trying to compare it to your File Shares, it could be thought as the new “Home Folders” for users or the new “My Documents”.

In terms of technology, it’s often mistaken as just a Sync tool or the new SharePoint My Site, but that simply isn’t all there is to it. OneDrive for Business really is a brand that tells the end user that this is the place you can go to for your files at work, wherever they are.

Yes, you get a personal document library, but you also get an offline sync engine (recently updated), a way to see the files shared with you as well as recently worked on and it also helps you see your Team Sites and their files.

But when we’re thinking about storing files in our OneDrive for Business as a user, we often think about the Personal Document Library within it. What documents go there? Anything you’re not sure should be worked with a team yet or really anything you want to keep sole control over before it moves on to a Team Site.

Not to forget that the OneDrive for Business document library is a lot more limited than the more advanced SharePoint Team Site library. You won’t be able to create metadata or assign workflows either.

Use your OneDrive for Business personal library for the “Me” part of your work, before it moves on to SharePoint Team Sites for the “We” part of the work.

When Should I Use A SharePoint Team Site?

The SharePoint Team Site is meant to be the “We” part of the work for you and your team. In this location, the file isn’t owned or associated to one user, but rather the team itself or the Team Site if you will.

SharePoint Team Sites are a robust solution for enterprise content management, while delivering a simple to use web experience. Within a Team’s site, they can create multiple lists and libraries to store their content as well as enrich it with metadata and more.

There are also many features we don’t find in the personal library of OneDrive for Business, such as workflows, custom views and more. Documents that are owned by the team or project should be stored in your Team Sites. And of course, sometimes documents will first be created in your personal document library and later moved to a Team Site when it grows into a project for example or when more people need to work together on the file.

Use Team Sites for the “We” part of the work and require more advanced content management features for your files.


How To Improve Disaster Recovery Preparedness

If you woke up tomorrow and ran a marathon, how would you fare? It’s highly doubtful that you would successfully run the 26.2 miles without months of training, drills, and exercises.

The same is true for disaster recovery (DR): The chance that you could successfully recover IT operations without having exercised your DR plans on a regular basis is slim at best. The chance that you could successfully recover and meet your recovery objectives is zero. Yet Forrester finds that exercising DR plans is one area in which many businesses continue to fall short.

Although most businesses claim they conduct a full exercise of their DR plans at least once per year, anecdotal evidence suggests that the majority of these exercises are not comprehensive and thorough; businesses – small and large – often just exercise a portion of the plan or a subset of applications. Indeed, many of the organizations Forrester has spoken with know that they need to improve their DR exercise program, but face barriers such as a lack of executive support, limited employee resources and time, and a fear of interrupting vital business processes. If this sounds all too familiar, consider the following 10 best practices for updating and improving your current DR exercise program:

1. Define Specific Exercise Objectives Upfront

Exercising for the sake of exercising is a waste of time. Make sure that there are clear and concrete objectives and goals set up front that will help determine the ultimate success of an exercise. One objective may be as simple as, “Verify our stated recovery time and recovery point objectives.” You could orient other objectives around training, such as, “Familiarize the database administrators with the plans for recovering Oracle.”

2. Include Business Stakeholders

Business owners play a vital role in your DR exercises, and they need to be involved from the start of the exercise until you have recovered all services. All business stakeholders should verify the successful recovery of services. This has the dual benefit of ensuring that you have properly recovered business processes with all of their critical components as well as ensuring that business stakeholders know what to expect in terms of recovery capabilities and performance at the recovery site during an actual declaration.

3. Rotate Staff Responsibilities

It’s important that the person who wrote the DR plan is not the same person who executes the test, as it is unlikely that that individual would be available in a real disaster. Some companies Forrester interviewed went so far as to have employees with little specific knowledge of a system executing those tests, such as a system administrator running the database DR test. An important secondary benefit of a DR exercise is training; by assigning staff to take on new roles during exercises, you are essentially cross-training staff in different areas.

4. Develop Specific Risk Scenarios For Your Exercises

Many companies conduct their DR exercises without specific scenarios; they tell the response team to assume the data center is “a smoking hole.” It is important, however, to define specific risk scenarios even for DR testing for two main reasons: 1) It provides a more realistic situation for the response team to react to, and 2) different scenarios require different actions from the IT staff. For example, the DR plan for a short outage at the primary data center that only requires resuming operations would be different from a long-term outage that requires failover (and eventually failback), which in turn would be different from scenarios where only portions of the IT infrastructure were down.

5. Run Joint Exercises With Business Continuity (BC) Teams

In our research, Forrester found that many BC and DR teams run all of their exercises separately and often fail even to communicate when they run exercises. However, you should aim to exercise the full BC and DR concurrently at least once per year. This is especially important if the data center is in the same location as the head office.

6. Vary Exercise Types From Technical Tests to Walk-Throughs

A common misconception in IT is that walk-throughs and tabletop exercises are not necessary for DR exercises. While it’s true that these types of exercises won’t test the technical capabilities of a failover, they are still critical for training, awareness, and preparedness. Interviewees told us that the majority of the time, exercises that didn’t go as planned actually struggled most with communication and employees’ understanding of their roles during the exercise. Non-technical exercises such as walk-throughs and tabletops will help make these processes go more smoothly.

7. Make Sure to Test All IT Infrastructure Concurrently at Least Once Per Year

Waiting longer than a year risks too much change in IT environments and personnel — you need to bring new staff members throughout the organization up to speed on DR plans. The most advanced firms run full DR tests as often as four times per year. In between full tests, most firms conduct component tests that vary in frequency depending on the criticality of the systems and rate of change in the environment.

8. Identify Members for the Core DR Response Team

The stress of working under time and resource restraints for long hours, often during nights and weekends, is something people cope with in different manners. If you are putting together a core response team to lead IT recovery, it’s important to pick people who can work under extreme amounts of pressure (and sleep deprivation). During an exercise or test, identify those individuals who can remain calm and collected.

9. Learn From Your Mistakes

The point of running DR exercises is to find potential barriers to recovery while in a controlled environment. If you aren’t encountering problems during your exercises and tests, it’s more than likely you aren’t looking hard enough, aren’t testing thoroughly enough, or you have designed scenarios for recovery that are too simple. When you complete exercises and tests and you have identified problem areas, use what you have learned to update plans and create best practice documents.

10. Report Results to Stakeholders

If your business has recently made significant investments in improving preparedness, most likely executives, business owners, and other stakeholders want to know what the return is on their investment — how prepared are you? Reporting exercise and test results regularly and in a timely fashion gives executives and business leaders visibility into your DR program. Remember that the results are not pass/fail but should detail aspects of recovery that went well and areas for improvement.

Rachel Dines is an analyst at Forrester Research, where she serves Infrastructure & Operations professionals.

Originally Published on: CIO


Microsoft Azure: The smart person’s guide

By James Sanders

The rise of cloud computing provides businesses the ability to quickly provision computing resources without the costly and laborious task of building data centers, and without the costs of running servers with under or un-utilized capacity due to variable workloads.

Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, launched in February 2010. In addition to traditional cloud offerings such as virtual machines, object storage, and content delivery networks (CDNs), Azure offers services that leverage proprietary Microsoft technologies. For example, RemoteApp allows for the deployment of Windows programs using a virtual machine, with clients on Windows, OS X, Android, or iOS using the program through a remote desktop connection. Azure also offers cloud-hosted versions of common enterprise Microsoft solutions, such as Active Directory and SQL Server.

This easily digestible introduction to Microsoft’s cloud platform will be updated periodically to keep IT leaders in the loop on new Azure services and ways in which they can be leveraged.

Executive summary

  • What is it? Microsoft Azure is a collection of various cloud computing services, including remotely hosted and managed versions of proprietary Microsoft technologies, and open technologies, such as various Linux distributions deployable inside a virtual machine.
  • Why does it matter? Azure lacks upfront costs or an appreciable time delay in resource provisioning — capacity is available on demand. With a usage-based billing formula, Azure is a compelling option for enterprises transitioning from on-premises Windows servers to the cloud.
  • Who does this affect? Azure can be utilized at any scale, from a garage startup to a Fortune 500 company. Because of the ease of transition, organizations with an existing Windows Server deployment may find Azure to be best suited to their needs.
  • When is this happening? Azure launched in February 2010, with additional services and regional data centers being added continually since launch.
  • How do I get it? New users receive a $200 service credit good for 30 days when signing up for Microsoft Azure; the credit can be applied toward any Microsoft-provided service. Additional discounts and credits are available for startups, nonprofits, and universities.

What is Microsoft Azure?

Microsoft Azure is a platform of interoperable cloud computing services, including open-source, standards-based technologies and proprietary Microsoft solutions. Instead of building an on-premises server installation, or leasing physical servers from traditional data centers, Azure’s billing structure is based on resource consumption, not reserved capacity. Pricing varies between different types of services, storage types, and the physical location from which your Azure instances are hosted.

For example, Storage pricing varies based on redundancy and distribution options. In the Central US region, locally redundant storage (LRS), with 3 copies in one data center, starts at $0.024 per GB. Zone redundant storage (ZRS), with 3 copies distributed across different data centers, starts at $0.03 per GB. Geographically redundant storage (GRS), with 3 copies in one data center and 3 copies in a second geographically distant data center, starts at $0.048 per GB. Read-Access GRS, which allows for read access at the second data center, starts at $0.061 per GB.

In addition to the aforementioned storage, virtual machine, CDN, and Windows-related services, Azure also offers a variety of other services. Azure IoT Suite offers various options for connecting and monitoring devices, as well as providing telemetry and analytics services. Redis Cache is a managed version of the popular open-source Redis data structure server; DocumentDB is a hosted NoSQL database for specific use cases; and Search is an OData-based managed search service. Azure Media Services offers cloud-based video playing, indexing, transcoding, and content protection services.

Why does Microsoft Azure matter?

Azure, like other cloud service providers, offers the ability to instantly provision computing resources on demand. Compared to the laborious task of planning and building an on-site data center, along with the requisite hardware upgrades, maintenance costs, server cooling requirements, electricity costs, and use of floorspace — particularly for offices with associated real estate costs — the savings can add up very quickly.

The benefits of Azure extend beyond cost control, however. The laborious task of administering certain technologies such as Windows Server, Active Directory, and SharePoint can be greatly eased with the combination of Azure and Office 365. This frees up IT staff to work on new projects, rather than spending time on general system upkeep.

Who does Microsoft Azure affect?

Organizations with an existing deployment of Microsoft technologies, particularly Windows Server and Active Directory, will find Azure to be a compelling upgrade. As Windows Server 2008 has reached the end of mainstream support, planning for a migration to cloud-hosted Azure services may be preferable to investments in new server hardware and Windows Server licenses.

As with any cloud service, the cost benefit is more real for cash-strapped startup organizations that lack the capital for provisioning hardware and associated costs of a traditional on-premises deployment, or leasing dedicated servers in a traditional data center. Because the billing structure of Azure is based on resources used, turning to the cloud allows the IT backbone of a given company to scale with corporate growth.

When is Microsoft Azure happening?

The Azure platform was announced in October 2008, and reached general commercial availability in February 2010. Originally called Windows Azure, it was renamed to Microsoft Azure in July 2014.

Under Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Azure has expanded to include support for a variety of Linux distributions available in virtual machines on the Azure platform. Presently, CentOS, CoreOS, Debian, Oracle Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, SUSE Linux Enterprise, openSUSE, and Ubuntu are supported in the Azure platform. Additionally, Azure supports Docker images.

How do I get Microsoft Azure?

Microsoft’s BizSpark program offers $10,000 per month of Azure service credits for users of BizSpark Plus for one year for a total of $120,000. Eligibility is dependent on collaboration with a startup accelerator, with Microsoft partnering with over 150 startup accelerators in 47 countries.

For other organizations, BizSpark is available to privately-held companies less than five years old that earn less than $1 million annually. The standard tier provides up to $750 per month ($150 per month for up to five developers) for three years for a total of $27,000.

Microsoft has also pledged to donate $1 billion in cloud services to universities and nonprofit organizations over the next three years. Eligible organizations can register for free access at Microsoft Philanthropies.

For individual developers, new registrants receive a $200 platform credit applicable toward any Azure service, excluding third-party offerings in the Azure Marketplace. Certified Microsoft Partners, such as Dorset Connects, can help your business evaluate Azure and make the best determination for your organization.



Three Ways the Cloud Protects Your Data

Organizations today are dependent on their need to access a lot of data. More and more, that critical information is moving to the cloud.

Here are three ways that moving to the cloud ensures that you’ll have access to your important files when you need them.

Your Information is ALWAYS Available to You

Moving your data to the cloud ensures that your employees always have access to the information they need when they need it. Whether your company offers flexible work locations for remote workers, or your sales team is on the road and needs access to close a deal, when you move to the cloud, the information is available – at any time and from any device. It saves time and improves your team’s overall productivity.

Your Data is Incredibly Safe

While most people understand the benefits of being able to access their data via the cloud, the most common question we get about the process has to do with data security. At Dorset Connects, we take multiple steps to ensure that your data is completely secure.

In addition to encrypting your data during transfers and employing a multi-factor authentication process, we take another critical step in securing your data by educating your staff. How your team protects your data is frequently overlooked, but integral to an effective data security strategy.

By working with your employees to ensure everyone understands the necessity of the data security measures, everyone becomes a valuable member of the team we have assembled to keep your data safe.

Your Data is Available Even During a Disaster

One of the biggest benefits of moving to the cloud is that regardless of server failures, natural disasters or power outages, you will always have the ability to store and retrieve your most valuable asset: your data. This ensures that you can continue to do business even if you can’t get to the office.

 One client, a regional restaurant chain, used to host their email internally. They faced constant power failures that caused the whole company to lose email access days at a time. Employees would have to resort to using personal email to communicate, causing major disruption to business.

By moving to the cloud, this client was finally able to maintain constant access to their emails, and thereby avoid the hassle that their frequent email outages caused, allowing them to maintain business as usual.

Making the move to the cloud can be a big decision. What it ultimately means to your business is peace of mind, improved employee productivity, and enhanced business agility. Just imagine the ways your organization could evolve if you partnered with an expert company like Dorset Connects to give your employees access at any time, from anywhere, on any device.

Learn more by joining our live breakfast event: Cloud in My Coffee. Register here.


Teledermatology helps improve access to face-to-face care

By Susan D. Hall

A teledermatology program helped improve patient access to face-to-face care in a study at the Mann-Grandstaff Spokane Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center in Spokane, Washington.
Most teledermatology research focuses on specialist visits avoided, notes the report, published in Telemedicine and e-Health. In light of the VA wait-time scandal, these researchers wanted to examine the effect of teledermatology on wait times for specialist appointments.

As a means of dealing with the burgeoning demand for dermatology services, the VA center trained two primary care physicians to perform basic dermatology procedures at its rural clinics. It also implemented a store-and-forward teledermatology program at the rural clinics. Later, it expanded teledermatology at its main Spokane location.

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The center found a significant unmet need for dermatology services, even at the Spokane facility with a full-time dermatologist.

Within six months of implementation, the total number of requests for dermatology services increased by 40 percent. At the same time, the time between a consultation request and its completion dropped from a mean of 64.2 days to 20.3 days, according to the report.

In addition, with the added staff and teledermatology program, the average wait for a patient to have his or her dermatology condition addressed dropped from 60.6 days to 10.3 days.

A study published last month in JAMA Dermatology found that while visits with dermatologists for treatment of acne via telemedicine ease the burden on patients, many are unwilling to pay out-of-pocket for the service. Another study published in the same journal last spring concluded that Google Glass is a feasible mHealth tool for dermatology diagnosis in the emergency room setting.


Skype updates for Outlook for iOS and Android

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Today’s updates to Outlook for iOS and Android make it easy to schedule and begin a group chat and call with your friends and colleagues using Skype. Additionally, we updated Outlook with new calendaring features, improved our navigation for Android and delivered on some of your top feature requests.

Let’s take a look at what’s new.

Skype and Outlook—the best way to schedule and join a call

It can be challenging keeping up with friends, family and colleagues. Finding a time that works for everyone and remembering to show up is difficult enough. And then sometimes technology gets in the way: “How do I find you? How do I invite you? Do you have this app installed?”

Outlook and Skype have solved this problem. When creating a new event on your calendar, Outlook now includes the ability to add a Skype Call. When you tap the Skype Call toggle, Outlook includes a Skype link in the description of the event. When your scheduled meeting time arrives, recipients simply click the link in their calendar to launch Skype and join the conversation.

And with the recent launch of Skype for Web, your friends or family can join the conversation as a guest from their computer and enjoy group instant messaging, voice and video calls. No Skype account or app download required.

New Outlook calendar views and navigation improvements

In addition to the new Skype Call scheduling features, we updated the calendar section of Outlook to give you more ability to manage your personal and professional life on the go.

Managing your schedule starts with being able to navigate quickly to any day. With the new two-week mini-calendar, your events for the upcoming week are just a tap away. If you need to go farther into the future or past, simply swipe in this section to get a full month view.

New Outlook calendar views and natigation improvements

Outlook also now provides a three-day view, so you can see more of your schedule at a glance. In addition, we added the ability to set your week start preference—whether it is Saturday, Sunday or Monday.

Skype and Outlook top features 3

The two-week mini-calendar and ability to select week start preferences features are available today for iOS and are coming soon to Android.

Improved Android app navigation

Outlook for Android now sports a new navigation bar to make moving around the app a breeze. This change brings the Mail, Calendar, Files and People sections to the bottom of the app, within easy thumb-reach, decreasing the time it takes to check your calendar or find that important file.

Skype and Outlook top features 4b

Building a better app, together

We’ve been hard at work improving our app with your suggestions. In the past month, we delivered on several of your top requests, including:

Contact push (20K+ votes)—Outlook now allows you to save your contacts to the default Contacts app for iOS or Android. You can easily see the name of a contact when you receive a call or text message from them and view all of their contact information directly from the default Contacts app. Currently, contact push provides one-way sync from email service to the phone. New contacts or contact changes made in your email service (e.g. Outlook.com, Office 365, Gmail) on the web or in Outlook on the desktop will sync to your contacts on your mobile device. Edits made on the mobile device will not sync back to your email service. We are committed to improving Outlook contact capabilities over the coming months.

If you’d like to remove these saved contacts, you can toggle this switch at any time and they will be removed from your address book. For more information on how contact push works, click the ? next to the feature on your device to access the FAQ.

Save files to your Android device (22K votes)—Outlook now supports the option to save files and attachments from your inbox and cloud services to your device’s local storage.

Set Automatic Replies (11.5K votes)—Forget to set your out of office message before you left? You can now set an automatic reply right from Outlook on your mobile device. Go to Settings > select an account > Automatic Replies. For Office 365 and Exchange accounts, your automatic reply is synced from Outlook on your desktop or Outlook on the web.

iOS calendar widget (6K votes)—With next week’s update, Outlook will provide a widget for the iOS Notification Center, making it easy to see your schedule quickly without opening the app. Set this up by going to Edit at the bottom of the iOS Notification Center.

iOS print (5K votes)—Outlook now gives you the option to print emails using available AirPrint printers.

iOS–3-D Touch (3K votes)—Outlook for iOS now supports Quick Actions using the new 3-D Touch technology available on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. On the Home screen simply press Outlook to begin a new email or view your next event.

We continue to work to deliver amazing improvements in Outlook every single week. We need your feedback to help continue to make Outlook even better! Let us know what you think of our new features in a comment below and suggest and vote on future feature ideas right within Outlook by going to Settings > Suggest a Feature.

Frequently asked questions

Q. Does the new Skype integration work with Skype for Business?

A. The Skype Call button creates a link to join a group chat for the consumer Skype app. We will add support for Skype for Business in an upcoming update.

Q. How does the Skype Call link work? Do I need to know the recipients email? Or do I need to send it to an email address associated with their Skype account?

A. No! They just need to click the link to join your conversation.

Q. Can my recipient share the link with other people who want to join the chat?

A. Yes! Simply copy and share the link however you want—in an email, on Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger or Twitter.

Q. When will this feature be available on Outlook Mail for Windows 10 Mobile?

A. We will deliver this feature in a future update for Outlook Mail on Windows 10 Mobile.

Q. How does the contact sync feature work differently on iOS and Android?

A. Due to the underlying capabilities provided by the platforms, the contact sync feature works slightly differently on the iOS and Android versions of the app.

On iOS, contacts can be saved to your address book for Office 365 and Exchange accounts. If your phone is set up to sync your contacts to iCloud in Settings, the synced contacts will be added as a group in your iCloud account. These contacts will then sync to all devices that are signed in with the same iCloud account.

On Android, contacts can be saved to your address book for any email service that syncs contacts (e.g. any connection but IMAP). To do so, navigate to your account within Settings and tap Sync Contacts.


Making the case for technology in 2016

Cloud, big data and mobility will make significant inroads into the legal sector in 2016

Technology has always been at the forefront of business operation in the legal sector and yet today there is reluctance among legal services providers to adopt some of the latest technologies like cloud and mobility that offer the capability that can make a material difference to their bottom line. These technologies unreservedly offer tangible business benefits. Yes, they also bring with them certain risks, which in reality are no more than those triggered by any other longstanding technology currently deployed.

Despite the ever-increasing regulatory and compliance burden, legal service providers will embrace the cloud:

With reference to the cloud, security is often singled out as the biggest obstacle to its adoption due to the highly confidential nature of the work that law firms undertake in an increasingly regulated sector. This is of course true, but the financial services industry has the same challenges and yet organisations are actively deploying the technology to enhance business efficiency and critically, to improve customer service.

Cloud technology is reaching a tipping point, a result of the significant investment that has gone into its development. Government agencies are working hard to implement the new Safe Harbor legislation, likely to be agreed by February 2016, which should see much stronger and clearly defined checks and balances for secure data transfer between the EU and the US. The recent announcements from Microsoft and Amazon on the opening of the new UK data centers are also a positive development. All of these advancements collectively will spur law firms to embrace the cloud in 2016.

In fact, as law firms investigate the cloud, they will find that the concerns that they had – especially pertaining to security – will be proven groundless if the technology is implemented correctly, and consequently firms will find that the benefits far outweigh the investment cost of getting it right. Already, cloud service providers employ some of the best minds in the industry and they are investing huge amount of resources into building secure offerings – more than any individual end user organisation can ever hope to match.

Mobile application adoption will increase:

Similarly, technology providers are recognizing the growing demand from enterprise for the ability to consume business services from any device, in any location. However, this mandate comes with an imperative need to ensure that these devices are entirely secure in terms of data and from cyberattack. As yet, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of major law firms under sustained cyberattack, but there exists the worrying possibility that those attacks remain undetected.

Apple appears to be the supplier of choice for handsets from a security standpoint – the company’s decision to encrypt all data at ‘REST’ and completely lock down devices gives IT professionals and users alike more comfort. However, with the price point of an iPhone relatively high, the door is open to adoption of Android and Windows devices. Both these vendors need to do more to convince IT and end users of the security they offer. Blackberry of course now just serves as a cautionary tail on how quickly market share can be lost in technology if one does not stay ahead of the curve!

In 2016, expect to see firms actively demanding mobile applications for functionalities such as matter management, CRM and time recording from vendors. These will mark the initial steps to help them change the way they connect and interact with clients. As a result, 2016 may well experience the first ‘Uber’ moment in the legal sector for an enterprise mobile application.

Legal service providers will actively harness big data for business insight:

In the current global and digital business environment, law firms must operate as profitable, enterprises. Consequently, real time insight into operational aspects of the organisation in order to leverage the intelligence to make informed decisions is key. Big data will play an increasing role as legal services providers look to leverage predictive analytics to understand their organisations and the wider market landscape. Driving this trend will be software vendors embedding analytics functionality in their products as standard, recognition and understanding of the benefits of exploiting data and indeed dashboard-style, aggregations tools becoming cheaper, intuitive to use and easily integrated with firm-wide systems.

Software vendors will adopt ‘Continuous Development’:

Similar to the approach that Microsoft has taken with Windows 10, which marks a shift away from the three to four year operating system upgrade to ongoing, incremental delivery of new functionality – vendors in the legal sector will begin to deploy ‘Continuous Development’ practices to the way they develop software. The adoption of this software development methodology will benefit law firms, as it will minimize the downtime and business disruption that comes with traditional, cyclical upgrades. Many other organisations such as Apple and Facebook are already following this kind of agile software development practice.

A continuous development approach will in turn encourage software vendors to open up their systems to allow for easy integration with third party complementary solutions. Consequently, law firms will be able to tap into an ecosystem of technology offerings to create tailored solutions to meet their individual needs. And this will mark a shift in technology adoption away from ‘legal’ specific software to industry-wide solutions such as enterprise resource planning as service providers experience the value of globally recognized business best practice to their organisations.

These are interesting times for the legal sector and 2016 will see it make marked strides in both attitude and adoption of new technologies to support business efficiency and new and innovative ways of delivering customer service.


The impossible task of rapid Disaster Recovery – and how Microsoft Azure can help

The impossible task of rapid Disaster Recovery – and how Microsoft Azure can help

Hurricane Joaquin is bearing down on the East coast and may, or may not, cause serious issues for residents and business ranging from the Carolinas to Massachusetts. While I hate to be reactionary, it is times like this that make me want to shout from the rooftops the importance of having a Disaster Recovery solution in place for your organization.

dr-planDisaster recovery means different things to different people. For some businesses, they may be fine for a week or two without their PCs and access to their business applications. For others, a building or power loss could cripple their business within a day. How would a disaster impact your company?

As the old adage states: “fortune favors the prepared”. Microsoft Azure provides a safe and reliable disaster recovery solution through its Azure Site Recovery service. If your network is running virtualization for its servers through either Microsoft Hyper-V or a supported version of VMWare, then it is easy and relatively inexpensive to replicate these systems to the Azure cloud. Replication can then be configured to update the cloud “mirror” as often as every thirty seconds, ensuring that the replicated systems have the most current copy of your data.

In the event of a catastrophe, businesses have the assurance that their data is safe in the Azure cloud and can turn on the replicated systems to have an operational datacenter in the cloud and be back up and running in a matter of hours instead of weeks.

If disaster recovery is not on your radar, then look at the Storm Trackers being shown on every local news channel to see just how close disaster can be. When you are ready to start planning, contact Dorset Connects and we can help get your business onto the high ground!