30 May

The Cloud: what do you get?

The cloud refers to using off site computing resources and storage to supplement or even replace the use of on-site/in-house resources. Instead of buying hardware and software to support your business, you are basically outsourcing this set of tasks.

Elasticity – With onsite computing, if you need additional capacity you have no choice but to purchase that capacity in discrete steps, which means bearing the costs of being over-capacity for a period of time until growth catches up. Onsite computing also means you must have the capacity to handle your own peak computing and storage demands, and resources may go underutilized much of the time. The cloud allows complete elasticity in the utilization of computing resources. You buy only what you need, as you need it. You can grow or downsize as the business demands.

Pay as you go – On-site hardware involves significant capital expenditures. The cloud allows you to pay for only what you use. The cloud also allows you to benefit from economies of scale that aren’t available using the in-house model. Labor, equipment and maintenance expenses are shared across a vast pool of users.

In the next few weeks, we’ll return to this subject to look at other ways the cloud brings efficiencies to your technology infrastructure that you could never achieve on your own.

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29 May

New SharePoint and OneDrive capabilities accelerate your digital transformation

Earlier in May, Microsoft unveiled a new wave of innovations that build upon the vision they set forth last year to reinvent content collaboration and usher in a new generation of mobile and intelligent intranets. We already know that SharePoint and OneDrive in Office 365 empowers individuals, teams and organizations to share with confidence, transform business process, inform and engage the organization, and harness collective knowledge. These new announcements make it easier than ever for customers to drive such outcomes and accelerate their digital transformation.

Share with confidence

OneDrive lets you share files securely with anyone—inside or outside your organization. Its deep Office integration, which powers rich co-authoring, allows you to collaborate on these shared files with others in real time. And it lets you access all your Office 365 files, including your individual work files and files shared with you by individuals, teams and the organization—regardless of whether you’re on a PC, Mac, an iOS or Android device or a Windows phone.

See all your files in File Explorer with OneDrive Files On-Demand

Files On-Demand enables you to work with all your files in Office 365—both work and personal, across OneDrive and SharePoint—right from File Explorer, without having to download them and use storage space on your device.

 Share files directly from File Explorer on Windows and Finder on Mac

Starting this summer you will be able to share Office 365 files directly from File Explorer on PC and Finder on Mac. The sharing experience has been simplified, so you can share a file or folder with specific people or send a link that enables anyone who needs access, inside or outside your organization. In addition, you can now control how long a link provides access, and you can easily view and modify the permissions you have granted.

Connect SharePoint team sites with other Office 365 content and services

Over the last year, SharePoint team sites were modernized and connected with Office 365 Groups. Some additional enhancements—coming later this year—will further unify collaboration experiences in Office 365, including:

  • The ability to connect existing SharePoint team sites to Office 365 Groups, so you can augment existing sites with shared conversations, calendar and Planner.
  • Support for adding SharePoint pages as tabs in Microsoft Teams so you can add a tab with a news article or your team site’s homepage, for example. This builds upon the existing ability to add tabs for SharePoint document libraries in Teams.

Transform business process

SharePoint enables you, your team and your organization to streamline tasks, automate workflows and integrate processes seamlessly into your work—on any device and from anywhere you work.

Create custom SharePoint forms and digital experiences with PowerApps

Starting this summer, you will be able to use Microsoft PowerApps to easily create custom forms and rich digital experiences that surface right in the context of a SharePoint list or library. Users can then create, view and interact with data using your custom form or experience, rather than default SharePoint forms.

Inform and engage employees

An intranet lets you communicate to people—keeping them informed of news and information. And it enables you to communicate with people—to engage employees and foster open conversation. It is this engagement that is fundamental to driving digital transformation and culture change.

 Find people, expertise and content faster with powerful, personalized search

When you click in the Search box on SharePoint home in Office 365, recommendations appear instantly. You’ll see recent files, making it easy to get back to your work, as well as relevant content, sites and news. When you’re searching for knowledge, it may be found in content such as files, sites and news. And it might also be found through your colleagues. Now, your search results will include people whose skills, interests and projects—part their Office 365 profile—are relevant to your query.

Search results activate people cards, so you can learn at a glance about a person and the content they work on. One more click activates an extended view with richly detailed information from the user’s profile. These enhancements to search will roll out over the next few months.

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25 May

New OneDrive and SharePoint sharing experience

Microsoft has improved the sharing UI on the OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online websites and sync clients to provide easier collaboration and better security.

Share command

The Share command now sends shareable links by default rather than granting permissions to specific people like the old Invite people tab. This better matches user expectations that links sent in email can be forwarded to others by default. In other words, Share does the same thing as Copy link except it enables users to send the link immediately to recipients via email.

Both the Share and Copy link commands are now default to the same permissions and use the same link settings.

Users can change settings on sharing links to one of three possible permission levels:

  • Anyone with this link – this shareable link can be forwarded to others or people might be added to the thread. This option does not require recipients to sign-in and hence is the most convenient for recipients. It can be used for sharing content with others, including people outside your tenant.
  • Only people in [tenant] – users who open the link must sign-in or be signed-in to a non-guest account in the tenant. It can be forwarded to others or people might be added to the thread, as long as these people are inside your tenant. If any external user gets a hold of the link, they will not be able to use it. It can be used for sharing internal-only content.
  • Specific people – this link will only work for people who were granted permission (and others who already have access to the item). If recipients want to send this link to anyone else, they need to ensure those recipients have been granted permission to the resource, otherwise the link won’t work. This option produces behavior similar to the “Invite people” tab in the old sharing UI.

Tenant admins who wish to change the default link permission can do so in the OneDrive Admin Center and the SharePoint Admin Center. Users who want to explicitly grant permissions to an item without sending a link can do so by selecting “Manage access” and then selecting “Add people”.

The new sharing UI will be rolling out in late Spring on the following endpoints:

  • OneDrive for Business on the web
  • SharePoint Online document libraries on the web
  • Windows File Explorer context menu for sync’ed files (“Share” command)
  • Mac OS Finder context menu for sync’ed files (“Share” command)
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23 May

What the cloud means for you–Part II

Recently, we talked about ways the cloud brings value, business protection, and economies of scale to the smaller firm that they could never achieve by themselves. Today, we look at a final benefit of the cloud.

Protection against on-site disaster – If a disaster strikes your physical business location, on-site resources can be damaged, destroyed, or become inaccessible for a period of time. Even if it isn’t a major disaster, if you have a failed server your business could be down for an extended period. When everything occurs in the cloud, you are vaccinated against this type of business calamity. You can still access and use computing resources from anywhere.

In summary, left entirely on its own a small firm just does not have the resources and capital to fully support its own technology infrastructure. The cloud turns that upside down, enabling firms to enjoy the benefits of a fully supported tech foundation without levels of expenditures

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16 May

The Cloud means no more stormy weather

The Cloud means no more stormy weather?,

Many small firms are pretty busy handling their own business, and don’t give much thought to what they would do if a natural disaster from a bad snowstorm to much worse hit their physical location and cut power, or physical access to the building. What if the equipment storing all of your data and software needed to run day to day operations became inaccessible? What would happen to your ability to continue to serve your clients or customers?

Though we call it the cloud, with images of gray skies and rain, the cloud can be a ray of sunshine. It is an excellent and cost effective resource for smaller firms to make sure they maintain 24/7 access even in bad weather. Because everything is maintained off site, you can (1) bypass disruption or damage that may have occurred at your physical site, and (2) access what you need to keep your business functioning from any remote location.

Small firms need to realize they are most vulnerable to business disruptions, as they have less capital and fewer resources to carry them through a bad period. The cloud represents a simple and value driven resource to address business continuity issues that could turn a small firm’s business upside down.

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09 May

Your front door is talking

NPO's and volunteer security nightmare,
If you’ve been following the news, the Internet of Things is getting increasing attention. You’re probably also thinking this is some Silicon Valley fancy thing that will take years to reach the rest of us.Not really. You probably already have some items of your own tied into the Internet of Things.

First of all, what is the I of T? Simply, it is any object that collects data about itself or its surroundings, and then transfers that data across a network to some other object, which can then make use of that data. For example, if you have a baby monitor that sends crib pictures from upstairs to your phone, you’re tied into the I of T.

But what about business people? Where is it showing up in the workplace? You may have security cameras tied to a network where they can be monitored by a PC or phone. A front door lock that can be remotely opened via phone. A thermostat that can changed by the same phone. Internal lights that go on when you phone approach. All of these are part of the Internet of Things.

If you have questions about whether being tied into I of T presents a data security issue or hacking threat, you should contact a service consultant to discuss these issues. Headlines are now appearing about hacking into the I of T for nefarious purposes. It is a good idea to stay ahead of the curve because as a business, data security is a revenue-critical issue. Seriously, you don’t want the front door telling someone your client’s private data.

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02 May

NPO’s and volunteer security nightmare

NPO's and volunteer security nightmare,

Not-for-profits have an unusual issue regarding security. Firms that have trained, paid full-time employees have a strong level of control over the actions of their workers. NPOs, however, may rely heavily on volunteers whose time in the office may be minimal and sporadic. You may feel grateful for their dedication and be less likely to subject them to rigid security training. Also, a threat of punishment for those who make inadvertent errors that create security risks isn’t going to be acceptable in the “volunteer” environment.

Though it may seem a waste of precious volunteer time, you need to consider implementing ongoing training and reminders to all volunteers about what they can do to protect your data and digital infrastructure. The 2 most common human errors are falling for phishing scams and bringing storage devices to your office and introducing them to laptops and other devices. Think of the volunteer who creates a brochure for you in their home office, then downloads it to your office PC. This is an excellent backdoor for a virus or malware to break into your infrastructure.

Remind your volunteers on a consistent basis that no outside storage devices are to be brought into the office for use on the NPO’s equipment. Secondly, provide training on how to recognize phishing scams and the risks of opening unfamiliar emails and links. Finally, for volunteers who work from home, consider using safe shared software platforms like Google Drive or Microsoft 365.

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