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VersaTrust has been serving the Texas area since 1997 , providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Updated Microsoft Teams is set for release

Preceding its general availability, Microsoft has recently rolled out a major update for Microsoft Teams -- Window’s version of the cloud-based team collaboration tool, Slack. The latest bundle of features will kick things up a notch, allowing you to do more than IM your manager about your weekly meeting or ask your colleagues to remove the “view only” setting on Google Docs.

Smarter meetingsThe latest addition to Microsoft Teams is Scheduling Assistant, responsible for finding the ideal time to schedule a meeting. It takes into consideration the schedules of all members, and suggests the best possible time for all attendees. Needless to say, whereas Teams allowed users to schedule only intra-team meetings, Microsoft now supports one-on-one meetings. If you want to steer clear of Skype, read on.

Bots, bots, and more botsWith the latest update, bots are now capable of tapping into conversations happening in a team as opposed to a separate chat. To activate team bots, simply type “@” and begin interacting with the bot from there. Microsoft is also working on adding a Bots tab to Teams. This allows you to keep track of all the bots that have been added to a certain team while allowing you to discover new tabs as well. Other bot-related improvements include:

  • New bot gallery - the gallery displays a complete list of all the available bots on Microsoft Teams. Alongside the gallery is where you can add bots to one of your teams.
  • Discover bots via search - simply click on the search bar at the top and select “Discover bots”. From there click on a bot to start chatting, or click “Add” to add it to a team.
  • Add a bot with an @mention - to add a bot to a channel, simply type “@” in your compose box, then select “Add a bot”
Public teamsWith public teams, anyone from your organization can join the team, unlike the private teams which are open only to specific members. Public teams will show up when a user is trying to join a new team, and you can also turn your existing private team into a public team (and vice-versa).

When it was launched in November 2016, Teams was a relatively minimal service. But in just four months, it’s become a lot more powerful and stable. Microsoft Teams has been available to Office 365 Business Essentials, Business Premium, and Enterprise E1, E3 and E5 users since March 14th. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Introducing Cloud Search for G Suite users

Google Cloud Search is the latest tool launched for business customers that allow users to search across their G Suite products including Drive, Gmail, Sites, Calendar, Docs, Contacts and more. It was previously available in a limited preview, named Springboard, and was described as something similar to Google Now for enterprise workers.

Google Cloud Search is designed for larger corporations where different groups and individuals have access to different files. This search engine respects file-sharing permissions, so users can only access what’s available to them, whether that’s company-wide resources such as a policy manual, team projects or documents only they are able to see.

On top of retrieving work documents, Cloud Search also acts as a directory service that allows users to look for their colleagues’ contact information, while simultaneously viewing the events and files they have in common. When viewing a contact’s information in the search results, users will be able to click and start an email, phone call, or a Hangout.

Much like Google Now, Google Cloud Search utilizes a card-style design that presents information to you, whether you’re accessing the search service through your phone or laptop. Google Search also takes advantage of machine intelligence to highlight information it thinks you need to know. In these “assistant cards”, Google Cloud Search will reveal recently accessed files, meeting reminders, notes and more.

Adding machine intelligence to enhance its productivity tools has been Google’s recent focus; this goes hand in hand with the G Suite rebranding. In fact, the company announced a number of machine-powered features such as “Quick Access” in Drive that predicts which file you need before you even begin typing. According to Google, this reduces up to 50 percent off the average time to locate the right file.

The goal of this predictive search service via Google Cloud Search is to offer a productivity boost for G Suite users. Google notes in this blog post announcing Cloud Search, that workers spend 20 percent of their week searching for and consolidating information; the new service aims to reduce that figure. Google Cloud Search is now rolling out to new customers using G Suite Business and Enterprise editions, Google plans on introducing more features and will integrate with third-party applications.

By knowing how to leverage the latest technologies to your advantage, not only will you get a leg up on the competition, you’ll also streamline work processes and drive greater revenue. For further questions or more information, feel free to give us a call or send us an email anytime!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Moving unified communications to the cloud

Migrating your organization’s unified communications (UC) to the cloud seems like a no-brainer: it’s practical, it’s cheap, it’s the future. Big-name companies such as Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and Verizon now offer Unified communications as a Service (UCaaS), and it’s only a matter of time before it takes over the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) space. Despite that, IT departments of many organizations remain hesitant due to concerns about network stability, service performance, and over-reliance on legacy systems. To alleviate those concerns, here are five tips you can consider when moving your UC to the cloud.

Opt for a gradual transition

Migrating unified communications to the cloud doesn’t have to be done at one fell swoop. You can move UC for departments that can benefit from it, while those with no pressing need for a cloud-based UC, such as a company’s call center, can keep using on-premise systems. This way, users can ease their way into the new system without experiencing network disruptions, which could lead to reduced productivity.

Secure sufficient bandwidth

Issues on speed and performance will inevitably arise, so make sure to cover all the bases before migration. That means securing a reliable internet service provider, checking the stability of your internal network, and having a Plan B. This is a particularly critical point to ponder if you have operations in locations where unstable or slow networks could pose serious difficulties. Determine the level of bandwidth your entire business needs, and get it from an ISP that can deliver.

Test, test, test

Transitioning UC to the cloud may appear seamless, but there may be a few unexpected kinks that would need ironing out long after the migration is declared a success. To soften the potentially costly and time-consuming impacts, test the systems throughout the duration of the migration. Whether you’re testing voice, data, or video, conduct tests, set benchmarks for performance, and predict future usage patterns.

Go live and act on identified problem points

After going live with your cloud UC, consider the overall user experience and availability of support for devices, applications and other components. Are persistent connectivity issues going to cause troublesome conference calls? This and similar issues may prove detrimental in the long-run, so keep them in mind when deciding to keep, enhance, or discontinue a cloud-based UC. Cloud migration should be solving problems, not causing them.

Constantly monitor performance and quality

Don’t be surprised if you encounter a few issues even after extensive testing. Migrating to the cloud simply requires planning and a sustainable strategy, whether your organization is dependent on instant messaging, voice conferencing, or video calling. There’s also a good chance that you will be working with several vendors, so always demand for the best service.

Having your UC moved to the cloud may seem like a daunting move, but with our cloud technology and VoIP know-how, we’ll make sure your unified communications in the cloud precipitates just benefits. Contact us today for advice.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Guide to large-scale AWS cloud migration

We’ll just go ahead and say it: cloud migration is a smart business move and we highly recommended it. The potential for greater efficiency, more manageable storage capacity, and cost savings are all but guaranteed. Virtualization, however, is not a walk in the clouds. It often involves a complex process that requires time and money, so if you’re considering a large-scale migration to Amazon Web Services, read on to be prepared.

Preparation for migration

  • Is everyone within the organization on board with this major move? Are your employees adequately equipped with knowledge about the cloud? And, since large-scale transfers involve big data, would your security framework be able to deal with potential security threats during the transition? Can your company handle the inevitable expenditure that goes with investing in the cloud? These are just some of the points you have to consider when preparing for large-scale migration.

Reasons for migration

  • One of the most compelling reasons to virtualize tech capital is the need to meet your business’s increasing demand for efficiency, which could lead to greater profitability. Other reasons could include change of organizational leadership or a shift in business structure that necessitates storage recalibration. Regardless of your reasons for migrating to the cloud, you as a business owner should have a clear understanding of why you’re doing it, and make sure everyone understands why it is so important.

Size of resources to be moved

  • Using Amazon Web Services’ cloud storage gives you the benefit of eliminating the costs of buying your own storage infrastructure and it introduces an element of anywhere-anytime access to your business’s data and/or applications. That said, you must consider how much you’ll be transferring, and use it as your basis for moving. Knowing the amount of IT resources you’re freeing up lets you allocate more cost-effectively and allows your technology staff to focus on more innovative pursuits.

Migration requirements

  • Which specific data, servers, or applications need to be migrated? Does your company need large-scale migration, or can it survive on moving only a small part of your resources to the cloud? Perhaps, a subsidiary could survive without having to be moved to the cloud. When migrating to the cloud, you’d be remiss not to think of these tiny details.

Impact to the business

  • Temporary downtime is something you have to be ready for. You might need more time or you might need to consider alternatives for the brief interruptions that come with migration, and of course budget can be a major factor in your decision to move. You can save your business from unnecessary obstacles by first assessing its ability to handle these situations.
Recalibrating the management of your technological resources for scalable storage solutions in a cost-saving platform is not without its challenges. Your business and its stakeholders’ call for greater efficiency cannot be ignored. After considering these factors for a large-scale migration, you might realize that despite a few minor bumps, the benefits to your organization will far outweigh the projected costs, and that there’s nowhere to go but up (in the cloud).
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Choosing storage: OneDrive vs SharePoint

Digital Storage options with Office 365 provide business owners with convenient and efficient data management. But with new software added daily, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the variety of options. Keep reading to find out which Office 365 program will be your best option for organizing and sharing information: SharePoint or OneDrive.

Similarities between OneDrive and SharePointBoth OneDrive and SharePoint applications utilize Office 365 to help businesses organize information and share it with employees and company heads. Documents are stored in a cloud drive for security, so employees can track changes between edited versions, as well as make comments and add information when necessary. This real-time collaboration is one of the favorite benefits of online file management. Since data can be synchronized to various forms of technology, it is portable and usable everywhere.

OneDrive provides personal attentionOneDrive uses a SharePoint backdrop in order to run, making the two programs inherently connected. However, there are distinct features that business owners will notice with their OneDrive account. The OneDrive program is utilized by individuals, and control is still maintained by the individual even if it is shared across a department. Changes are synced to a chosen device, allowing departments to work on projects together. As an administrator, you can share the document by way of a secure link, and you can allow some people to edit and leave others in a position to view only.

SharePoint is a wider group share programIf OneDrive is the perfect individualized sharing option, then SharePoint takes a wider stance. An administrator or company head can save a document online, allowing employees throughout the company to view and edit the document. Every change is tracked to give higher-ups an idea of who is contributing to the company projects. SharePoint is a good application to use for human resource surveys or updates that need to be completed by team members in other departments.

Office 365 encourages businesses to increase their employees' usage of online storage and data options. SharePoint and OneDrive are just two of the many programs provided to improve how your business is run. For more information on how online document sharing programs can help you increase your company's visibility and productivity, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Springboard: a unified Google cloud service

Google claims that five million organizations around the world use Apps for Work, which is why their recent announcement regarding the service is such a big deal. If you use more than one of these services, you may love them as standalone apps but probably feel they could use some more cross functionality. Yet again, Google is here to save the day. Let’s take a look at what they have in store for their cloud platform.

Although it has been a long time since we’ve seen a big update from the service, the silence was finally broken when Google unveiled Springboard earlier this month. To understand what this new tool does, we need to get a better idea of the problem it aims to solve. Apps for Work includes ten separate cloud software packages that allow users to create, share and collaborate documents without any local installations. All of these services keep documents in Google’s cloud storage for quick and easy access from any web-based device.

Unfortunately, most of these applications run independently of each other and individual documents need to be shared between each platform for there to be proper cross functionality. In fact, Google estimates that Apps for Work users currently waste nearly one full day each week tracking down and researching information in their Google cloud storage. And that’s exactly what Google wants to change.

Springboard will allow users to connect all of their Apps for Work documents into one file system. Did you schedule a meeting but can’t remember if you used Gmail, Google Calendar, or your meetings spreadsheet? No need to pinball between the different applications until you eventually find it, one simple search will scan all of your Google cloud storage.

As if this simple but vital upgrade wasn’t enough, they’ve also claimed that Springboard will provide recommendations and suggestions for “actionable information”. This suggests that we will see something equivalent to Google Now for our business accounts, where Google will begin to recognize search habits, appointments and requests within the text of your Apps for Works documents and turn them into unprompted recommendations.

Alongside the Springboard announcement was a pretty large update to another Apps for Work service: Sites. This tool allows Google business users to create intranet sites for collaboration and organization, and the update increases the functionality to include more dynamic design tools like automatic mobile optimization, drag and drop frames and live editing on the page. Unsurprisingly, it also showcases a new function to search across all company Apps for Work documents. Almost like a customizable version of Google Drive for your office.

Despite the announcement of these services, Google has refrained from providing demonstrations or screenshots as of yet. Although the Springboard and Sites updates are currently only available to early adopters, companies can sign up to join that group and try it out for themselves.

Interested in signing up to try it out? Or do you currently use the free, less equipped version of Google Apps and think it’s time to make the switch to Apps for Work? We’re experts in all things Google and want to show you what it can do for you -- send us your questions today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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A guide to virtualization and licensing

Software licensing has been a thorn in everybody’s side for as long as we can remember. It’s no surprise that as software begins to help us to consolidate and combine pieces of hardware through virtualization, we’re confronted with this problem yet again. SMBs are often unfortunate victims of licensing models that favor individual or enterprise purchasing, without enough options in between. Why don’t we delve a little deeper to see how your business can tackle virtualization while taking this legal necessity into consideration ?

Why are licenses an issue?

Virtualization is a complex topic, so let’s have a quick review. Most people are starting to work the concept of cloud storage into their everyday lives. Think of virtualization as a cloud where your server(s) store their hardware capabilities and your network computers can pull from that cloud as needed.

In this scenario, let’s assume employee A and employee B have two identical desktop computers with barebones hardware. Employee A needs to perform some basic text editing while employee B needs an in-depth scan of your client database. With the right infrastructure management, both employees will connect to your business’ server for the necessary physical processing power and server-hosted software. That means employee A will request the appropriate amount of processing power to edit text (which is likely very little) from the server, while employee B requests a much larger chunk of RAM, processing and harddrive space for scanning the database.

Understand so far? Because it gets really tricky when we start asking how many licenses are required for the server-hosted software. Licensing models were originally based on the number of physical hard drives with installed copies. However, in a virtualized environment that’s not an accurate reflection of usage. Using the most recent platforms, administrators can divide up their CPU into as many virtual machines as the SMB requires.

What do current virtualized licensing models look like?

Sadly, the virtualization and software industries are still deciding what’s the best way to move forward. The very vendors that sell the software required to manage the creation of virtual machines and segmentation of your server disagree about which model to use.

The company behind the popular VMware software has switched to a per-virtual-machine model after a huge response from customers, while other powerhouse vendors like Oracle and Microsoft have stuck with the per-CPU-core model that is based on server hardware capacity.

In any software selection process there is almost always the option of open source software. Under the open source model there are no licenses and usage is free, and just last month, AT&T committed to virtualizing 75 percent of its office under the OpenStack cloud computing platform by 2020.

What should I do?

In the end, software license considerations and total cost of ownership calculations should be a huge factor in how you plan to virtualize your SMB. When discussing the possibility of an infrastructure migration with your IT services provider, make sure to ask about the advantages and disadvantages of different virtualization platforms compared with their licensing models. You may find that paying more for hardware-based models is worth it, or that open source platforms provide you with everything you need.

No matter which platform you choose, remember to list every piece of licensed software in your office. Find out which licenses you can keep, which ones you’ll need to update and most importantly what the license migration will cost you in the short and long run.

This might seem like too much to handle at first. The process of virtualizing your SMB alone is enough to have you reaching for the aspirin. By contacting us you can avoid the headache entirely; we’ll walk you through all of the steps necessary to guide your organization through this next step in modernizing your business model.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Google Slides Q&A goes interactive

Slideshow presentations are only as good as the tools used to create them. With Google’s recent update to its Slides software, that baseline just got a huge boost. One of the biggest advantages of Google’s Drive software suite are the cloud-based features, and with the newest update to the Slides program you can explore a whole new way to interact with your audience. Keep reading to find out just how great this new feature is.

What is Google Slides?

Google Slides is a free web-based presentation creator. You can create, edit, store and share slideshows via Google’s Drive client that allows for live collaboration and presenting across the internet. Although Slides is most functional when using online desktops, offline and mobile functionality have made it a formidable competitor to more expensive software from Microsoft.

With the most recent update, your mouse cursor even doubles as a presentation laser pointer!

Enabling the Q&A Feature

Earlier this month, Google added an important feature that allows presenters to interact with their audience via their mobile devices. To enable it, click the arrow directly next to the Present button in the upper left corner of the slideshow editor. Next, click the drop-down item marked “Presenter View”. After that you should have two windows open, one that displays your presentation in your original web browser and a smaller “Presenter” that displays a number of options. In the bottom of the "Presenter" screen there should be a Start New button for a Q&A session. If you’re a Google for Education or Google for Business user, you’ll have the option to restrict who can ask questions via the presenter window.

Getting the audience involved

After enabling the Q&A tool, a short and easy-to-type link will be shown at the top of every displayed slide. Audience members can navigate to this page in order to submit questions.

Audience members who open the page will see a simple screen with an “Ask a question…” dialogue on their mobile device. Loading the site will consider them an anonymous user unless they log into a Google account. If they’re logged in, their picture and name will be associated with any submitted questions. However, self-conscious members have the option to abstain from signing in, or they can check the “ask anonymously” box when submitting their question.

Answering participant questions

After a question has been submitted, it will be displayed in both the presenter window you have open, and the communal window displayed on the audience’s mobile site. This gives them the option to upvote or downvote questions submitted by other viewers. When you see a question you want to address, or has too many upvotes to ignore, you can click the Present button in your presenter window and the question will be displayed alongside the author as a new slide. Clicking Hide will take you back to the last slide to continue the rest of the presentation as normal.

If you’re running a presentation with a particularly large number of participants, ask anyone submitting a question to include their email address. The Q&A history can be reviewed under the Tools menu for following up with answers afterwards.

Keeping a presentation interesting and engaging could mean the difference between acquiring a new client and converting your conference room into a place for audience naps. Efficient use of Google Drive software can reinvigorate your collaboration and presentation workflows. Contact us for advice on all things Google in your office!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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How to best utilize mobile tech for staff

Love it or hate it, mobile technology in the workplace is here to stay. While more and more companies are utilizing it as a way to up their productivity, there is a right and a wrong way to go about it. Here are four tips to help you successfully integrate mobile devices into your organization to create a more efficient and productive business.

Use the right tool

Some work tasks just aren’t cut out for mobile use. While using a mobile phone or tablet to send emails is an effective way to work on the go, trying to write long form reports on these same devices is a bad idea. As a general guideline, small tasks such as email, viewing documents, using search engines and project management apps are good for mobile work. Anything that is too detailed is probably better suited for a computer or laptop. Lastly, only train your employees to use and learn the mobile devices and programs that make sense for their role. If you want them to be most efficient, you don’t want to overwhelm them with every mobile tool your business uses.

Communicate face-to-face

Email is undoubtedly a valuable communication tool. But it’s also become the bane of existence for many of today’s employees and business owners. Too many emails kills your employees productivity, overwhelming them. And unfortunately, many times email is simply unnecessary. Instead of sending that email about a question concerning an upcoming meeting, simply go and ask in-person. You’ll likely get a response much quicker and you avoid adding yet another message to the email overflow.

Consider adding a face-first policy in your office. This means that every time your employees consider writing an email, they should question if it’s easier to just go talk with that person directly. If that person is located a quick walk away, then the conversation should take place in-person. This especially makes sense if your employee needs an answer within a few hours, as sometimes emails go unanswered for much longer than this. By enforcing an email policy, your employees’ inboxes are less likely to be overflowing and your communication will take place in a more timely manner.

Set boundaries

There’s no question that mobile tech can help productivity, but it can also hinder it. The problem is that many employees who utilize it have difficulty “switching off”. The lines between work and personal life begin to blur as completing work tasks is always right at their fingertips. While on the surface more work output from your employees may sound like a good thing, in reality it’s far from it. Being “always on” can quickly lead to burnout. And even if it doesn’t, if your employees don’t take time to break and recharge, their productivity will suffer. To demonstrate just how many employees fall into this trap of overworking, the 2015 Staples Business Advantage Workplace Index surveyed 2,602 employees and found that a quarter of them regularly worked after standard business hours, and four out of ten worked on at least one weekend a month.

So how can you resolve this issue as an employer? Simply set boundaries. Create time frames for when work platforms and applications can be utilized and for when emails can be sent and responded to. Also, don’t encourage employees to work on off-hours by sending emails during the weekend. If your concern isn’t urgent, then by all means wait till Monday to send it out.

Be flexible

While it may sound a bit contradictory to the last point, being flexible in your work policy can be a smart decision to boost productivity. By being flexible, we mean the ability for your employees to work at hours and locations of their choosing. Most people work better and quicker at certain hours as they are more focused at specific times of the day. And some people will work better remotely than they do at an office space as there can be less distractions. The Staples survey supported this fact as 59% of the employees surveyed said that flexible schedules had a positive effect on productivity.

Cloud tools like Office 365 and Google Apps can help encourage a flexible workplace. But regardless of how flexible your office becomes, be conscious that parameters on work, mentioned in the last section, should still be in place to prevent employee burnout.

Mobile devices in the workplace can go a long way towards making your business more efficient and employees happy. If you’d like to learn more about utilizing mobile devices in the workplace or how you can leverage technology to make your business more productive, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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How to switch securely to Office 365

It’s easy to see why Office 365 is an attractive solution for small and medium-sized businesses already familiar with the Office interface. More and more companies are making the move to the cloud, but many have yet to complete their transition and still rely at least in part on on-site SharePoint systems. When you’re ready to migrate, the move from SharePoint to Office 365 presents numerous security challenges to prepare for – not least because breaches are far more likely to be caused by localized issues than insufficient protection on Microsoft’s part. Here’s what you need to do to ensure you’ve got security covered when you make the leap to migrating from SharePoint to Office 365.

Identify your company’s sensitive data…

It’s so easy to create sites within SharePoint that businesses often have far more than they realize, covering just about every aspect of their operations. And it’s natural, of course, for at least some of the files housed within those sites to contain sensitive commercial or personal data. The key is ensuring that sensitive information is adequately identified and protected. Do this by conducting a security audit before you undertake your migration.

Your audit should identify the types of data stored in the various parts of your SharePoint network, including which specific information needs extra safeguarding. Be sure to consider everything from trade secrets and contract details to the personal information of your clients.

…and then restrict access to it

Once you’ve worked out where your most precious data lies, you can check who currently has access to it and whether their access is appropriate. After all, it’s not necessary for everyone to be able to get at all the data your company owns; it’s far better to operate on a need-to-know basis, with a reasonable level of flexibility.

Ensure that each of your employees has access only to the data that’s necessary for them to perform their duties. When you make the switch to Office 365, you’ll find that it allows you to conveniently set these different levels of permissions, including for external partners with whom you collaborate.

Trust nobody and suspect everybody

We say that lightheartedly, of course – it would be counterproductive to become so security-paranoid as to suspect everyone is attempting foul play with your company’s data. Nonetheless, it’s wise to consider everyone in your organization when it comes to auditing data access permissions – and that includes system administrators who might be assumed to have master access to every element of your network infrastructure.

A rogue administrator is the stuff of nightmares, since their elevated position gives them much greater leeway to siphon off valuable data without being noticed – or even to allow others to conduct questionable business and bypass the usual built-in security precautions. Overcoming the danger of an all-too-powerful administrator admittedly becomes easier if you have more than one on staff, but even in smaller businesses you can mediate some of the risk by regularly checking on your administrator’s usage and ensuring that their top-level system permissions remain justifiable.

Use machine learning to foresee security breaches

Every action performed by your staff within Office 365 is automatically logged, and with relative ease you can pull reports that allow you to analyze these. But the sheer number of events taking place within Office 365 in the course of your business’s normal operations means that even attempting to identify questionable behavior will be akin to the proverbial needle and haystack. That’s not to say it’s unwise to be on the lookout for anomalies in normal usage – the export of unexplainably large volumes of data, for instance, could suggest that a member of your team is leaking intelligence to a competitor, or that they’re about to jump ship and take your trade secrets with them.

Thankfully, it’s possible to leverage the developing power of machine learning to identify potential breaches before they happen – without the need to wade through unmanageable swathes of perfectly normal data. Graph API is incorporated into Office 365, and allows for the integration of machine learning tools into your security environment to achieve just that. The same tools can also help you avoid being caught out by hackers, by identifying system login attempts from locations that are out of the ordinary; you should bolster this protection by religiously removing inactive accounts and those of departing employees.

By covering these essential security considerations when it comes to your migration, you’ll be one step closer to ensuring you strike the right balance between the powerful collaborative features of Office 365 and the robust safeguards your business’s integrity demands. To find out more about how we can help your Office 365 migration run smoothly, or what other business benefits you can derive from cloud-powered technologies, just give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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The keys to a successful Office 365 migration

Microsoft Office 365 is growing in popularity as more and more businesses make the move to the cloud. However, without proper planning and testing beforehand, you could get stuck in the middle of the migration process, end up with duplicated data, or even have to abort the transition completely. Needless to say, all of these scenarios could result in serious network downtime. But you can easily avoid a migration nightmare by considering these key points before making the switch to Office 365.

Do your research

Researching Office 365 can seem a little overwhelming at first, but it will certainly give you a good idea of how everything will work, and what you can expect before, during, and after the migration process. You should understand and anticipate how your business’s daily operations will change when you make the move to a cloud-based platform. You also need to be aware that traditional Microsoft Office programs and Office 365 applications are completely different in terms of functionality, features, and interface.

Create a checklist

Most businesses fail to create a comprehensive migration checklist, because they tend to focus on the technical aspects without addressing other areas that are critical to the migration’s success. These include elements such as training, informing users, and gathering adoption feedback. You can start by drafting a step-by-step plan that clearly defines the phases of the migration process, and then keep refining the plan until everything is covered.

Check email settings

For a seamless transition, you need to synchronize accounts between your active directory domain and Office 365, by using Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory Synchronization tool. Don’t forget to point your company’s mail exchanger record to Office 365, so new emails will be sent directly to the new mailboxes in Office 365. Misconfiguration of email sync during the migration could flag your organization’s email as spam, disrupting the communication process with your clients and partners.

Choose your migration

Each migration plan looks different, and you should choose the one that best fits your needs. Generally, Office 365 migrations can be divided into three categories:
  • Cutover migration - this is a single provisioning and transfer of mailboxes, users, contacts, and mail groups to Office 365. The cutover process can handle up to 2,000 mailboxes, and the migration time depends on the number of users and mail volume.
  • Staged migration - if you don’t want to migrate all your resources at once, staged migration is a good alternative. It allows you to move mailboxes in smaller batches over a much longer period of time.
  • Hybrid migration - this type of migration is perfect for organizations that need to move more than 2,000 mailboxes and wish to run local Exchange servers and Office 365 simultaneously.

Test everything

Once you have broken down the whole migration into various phases, it will be easy to design a testing procedure for each phase. Standard testing processes include migrating a small amount of data, sending and receiving emails, and application trials, in order to ensure that everything works as expected. The more components you can test before migrating to the platform, the less chance there is of your company facing issues afterwards.

If you’re considering an Office 365 migration, why not let our expert technicians do the job for you? We can migrate your resources seamlessly and smoothly without disrupting your business. Get in touch today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Outlook tips to increase productivity

Outlook is considered one of the most powerful email platforms due to its ability to enable business users to manage emails, contacts, tasks, appointments, and so much more. But most people only use a small percentage of the features available in Outlook, without mastering the shortcuts and advanced features. We highlight some nifty tricks that will help you realize the full potential of Outlook and make the most of your email communications.

Filter emails

We all get bombarded with new emails every day. Finding relevant emails and messages that you really need to re-read can be time-consuming, especially if you have to keep going back to old emails in a huge inbox. That’s where the Filter Email option comes in. With this filter you can instantly sort your mailbox to show only certain types of emails, such as those with attachments and specific time periods. You can also type into the search box to drill down even further in your filtered view.

Write new emails instantly

This shortcut is designed to save you time from switching back and forth between Outlook and other programs. Regardless of what you currently have on your screen, you can create new emails, appointments, meetings, contacts, and tasks easily. Simply right-click on the Outlook icon to open a list containing these direct shortcuts.

Assign categories

If you receive a large number of emails every day, it certainly helps to create categories and assign emails to their corresponding groups. Outlook allows you to create color-coded categories such as green for Done, yellow for Pending, orange for Urgent, red for Due, and so on. This way you can quickly identify the status of each email and prioritize your tasks at a glance. To create a new category, right click on the Categories column and select All Categories from the dropdown list.

Create folders

This is one of the most basic and useful email management tips that is often overlooked. You can avoid cluttering your inbox by creating custom folders for specific emails. While there’s no limit to the number of folders you can create, the general rule of thumb is to create a folder for each client or subject. To create custom folders, simply right click on Outlook’s left navigational panel and choose New Folder from the dropdown list. Moving the emails from your inbox to a custom folder is as easy as dragging and dropping.

Email templates

If you have to send emails that contain the same basic information that is rarely updated, templates can save you a lot of time. Start by writing a new email message, entering essential information that you need to reuse, and leaving a visible blank space for new information that needs to be changed each time you send the message. Then navigate to the Files tab and choose Save As. From the dialog box, change the file type to Outlook Template (*.oft), and save. Whenever you want to use the template, head over to New Items > More Items > Choose Form... and select the template file that you have saved, then begin customizing it.

Outlook is a great email communication software that is included in the Microsoft Office 365 package. For more information about Office 365 and how it can improve your business’s productivity and bottom line, get in touch with our experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Office 365 E4 plan to be replaced by E5

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced they’ll be replacing their current E4 Office 365 suite with the new upgrade - E5. With an unspecified release date for later this year, E5 will have a direct effect on current E4 users and those who are thinking about signing up for a new Office 365 package. Here’s what you need to know about this new version, and how it could impact your business.

What’s included in E5?

According to Microsoft’s Office Blogs July 13th post, the tech giant announced that the E5 plan will include the following new capabilities:
  • Skype for Business services with support for features including Cloud PBX and PSTN Conferencing
  • Analytic features such as Delve Organizational Analytics and Power BI Pro
  • Advanced security features like Customer Lockbox, eDiscovery, Advanced Threat Protection and Data Loss Protection
With these new service offerings, Microsoft believes that business owners will be able to reach new customers and increase value for their existing ones.

The cost?

While Microsoft’s Office 365 current E4 package costs $22 a month in the US, there was no official announcement of the price for the E5 version.

However, since E5 will include services such as Advanced Threat Protection, which currently costs an additional $2 per user/month, as well as Power BI Pro, which is priced at $9.99 per user/month, a price increase seems inevitable - and very well could be significant.

Your options

Because E4 will be retired when E5 is released, that means that current E4 users will have to either upgrade to E5, or change to E3 plus Cloud PBX.

For those who have yet to sign up for Office 365, however, you’ll also have the additional options to choose an E1 or E3 package with available upgrades.

Is it worth it to upgrade to E5?

That all depends on your business, and likely the price of the upgrade. However, the question you need to ask is, “will the new capabilities enhance your organization enough to justify the higher cost? If you need additional help understanding how E5’s new features and capabilities can create value in your business, we’re happy to assist you.

Curious to learn more about the Office 365 E5 package? Get your questions answered, and give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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