Microsoft 365 Apps admin center capabilities for better management

IT administrators are in charge of supervising and securing workflows, devices, and software to ensure optimal user experience while keeping cyberthreats at bay. The shift to remote work — and more recently, hybrid work — has not been a walk in the park for them. The good news is that Microsoft is doing all it can to help them be more efficient at their jobs. Here are some of the new features in the Microsoft 365 Apps admin center that IT administrators can take advantage of.

OneDrive sync health

With the OneDrive sync health feature, maintaining data integrity is easier than ever. IT admins can now readily check for sync statuses or errors by going to the OneDrive sync health dashboard and generating reports for specific administrative purposes. From the dashboard, admins can generate insights ranging from executive summaries to specific sync statuses of given devices, enabling them to filter the information they need so they can take action immediately in case they find sync issues.

Intelligent insights

Intelligent insights include features like Apps Inventory, Add-In Inventory, and Security Currency that allow IT administrators to strategically find and mitigate any issues. With these tools, they can gain an in-depth understanding of the organization’s Microsoft 365 environment and be privy to information such as:

  • What devices are running Office apps and which versions they’re running;
  • What Office add-ins are installed or running; and
  • Which servicing channel each device belongs to.

Knowing all this information can help administrators identify and manage unsupported Office versions and add-ins to ensure security and compliance.

Servicing automation with controls

This feature streamlines and automates Microsoft 365 Apps servicing to eliminate manual deployment and accelerate the rollout of updates and security patches. With this new feature, IT admins only need to apply a specific servicing profile to a set of devices to automatically deliver monthly updates for users or groups.

Admins can also specify exclusion date periods, or when Office apps updates should not run, such as during holidays or company meetings. They can schedule these dates to happen only once or regularly, depending on their organization’s schedule.

Servicing profiles: Roll back to a previous version

For businesses that use a servicing profile, admins can now roll back devices to the previous version if users encounter issues with the most recent version of Monthly Enterprise Channel. For instance, if there’s an issue in Outlook’s latest update that hampers employee productivity, your IT team can revert Outlook to the previous stable version.

IT administrators can also view, pause, and resume updates on a per-device basis. If a user experiences issues during rollout, for instance, administrators can pause that user’s update and restore their software to a previous version while an IT personnel troubleshoots the issue.

Microsoft 365 Apps health

Microsoft 365 Apps health calculates an organization’s overall app health based on three criteria: app reliability, app performance, and supported versions. It also gives pertinent information such as Office app session crash rates and who reported such crashes, making it easier to identify issues and see how well Microsoft 365 apps are running during and in between deployments.

With these new features, administrators can better manage Microsoft 365 apps, and users can count on better experiences and fewer downtimes. If you want to learn more about how technology can increase your business’s operational efficiency, call us. Our IT experts are always ready to help.

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A checklist for avoiding WordPress website issues

Maintaining a WordPress website is not as difficult as it may seem, but there are certain tasks that should be done on a regular basis to ensure optimal performance. In this blog post, we will outline six essential maintenance tasks that all business owners should follow. By following these, you can avoid common problems such as sluggish load times, potential security vulnerabilities, or search engine delistings.

Create complete backups of your website

One of the most important things you can do to protect your website is to back it up periodically. This will allow you to restore your site if something goes wrong, such as a hacker attack or server crash. There are several ways to create backups, including using plugins or manually copying your files and database. But while plugins like BackUpWordPress and hosting servers like SiteGround automate the backup process, performing manual backups may still be necessary to cover all your bases.

Verify your backups

Just because you have backups doesn’t mean they’re doing their job. You should test your backups regularly to make sure they are working properly. This can be done by restoring a backup to a test site or simply downloading the files and checking them to make sure they are complete. The last thing you need is for your backups to fail on the day you need them most.

Perform daily security scans

One of the best ways to stay ahead of potential security threats is to monitor your website closely for any signs of compromise. A good way to do this is to perform daily security scans, which will help you track any changes or suspicious activity. There are a number of different tools and services that can help you with this, and one of the most popular ones is Sucuri. Not only does this plugin carry out inspections, but it also sends an SMS to notify you of any suspicious activity and emails you a daily status report of your website’s security.

Scan for malware

Cyberthreats are growing in both number and sophistication. With every passing day, new strains of malware are developed and released onto business networks and systems. Unless you are a bonafide hacker yourself, detecting malware might be a little tricky. WordPress plugins like Wordfence keep your website safe using the latest firewall rules and flagging the latest malware signatures and malicious IP addresses.

Conduct page speed audits

Slow and steady may be qualities valued by some, but not when it comes to your website. Plugins like Google Pagespeed Insights test how fast your site loads. If it takes more than five seconds, you should consider implementing caching and other measures to speed up your site. Slow sites put off visitors, and that further lowers those sites’ search rankings.

Review your site’s structure and content

Just as you should periodically review your website’s security, you should also take a look at its overall structure and content. Are the pages well organized and easy to navigate? Is the content relevant and up to date? If not, you may want to consider making some changes.

Forbes, National Geographic, and The New York Times are all powered by WordPress, which means you are in good company. By sticking to the checklist, you too can harness the power of this online, open-source website creation tool. Or, instead of signing up for half a dozen services that need daily check-ins, why not have us take care of all of it for you? If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to send us an email or give us a call!

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Why dashboards are vital tools for business growth

People are visual creatures, so we interpret visual data better than written words. That’s why most businesses turn to dashboards to present data in a way that’s easy to understand. Here are some common uses of dashboards across various business functions.

Marketing insights

Your organization’s marketing department analyzes a significant amount of data from various channels. Whether their purpose is to forecast monthly sales, predict trends, or build marketing strategies, marketing specialists use dashboards to compare, sort, and analyze raw data to produce meaningful information presented in an easy-to-understand manner. This helps key decision makers in your organization to formulate better marketing campaigns.

Tracking sales opportunities

Sales dashboards are ideal for tracking your organization’s products and services. They help you identify sales opportunities by monitoring top-selling products and comparing the growth in revenue on a regular basis. Sales dashboards sync to your raw data, so your charts are always up to date. This eliminates the need to manually enter and prepare sales reports and charts.

Social media management

Social media management is more than just posting statuses on your business’s social media accounts. And in most cases, your social media platform’s default dashboard doesn’t give you deep insights into your social media campaigns. What’s more, managing multiple social media accounts can quickly become tedious since you have to use several login credentials. Instead, you can manage all of your accounts through a comprehensive social media dashboard, saving you valuable time and effort.

Financial reports

Presenting financial data is a complex process that often leads to misinterpretation of critical information. Dashboards simplify the creation of financial reports, and financial analysts can take advantage of dashboards to display sensitive data — be it customer invoices, progress toward revenue goals, or business expenses — in an understandable graphical format.

Project collaboration

All businesses require their employees to collaborate on projects, whether on site or online. Project supervisors need to get their teams together to give them project requirements, deadlines, and responsibilities, and to get progress updates. By using project collaboration dashboards, team members will see a project’s complete workflow, allowing for a more efficient and collaborative working environment.

Dashboards streamline the presentation of complex business data and make your team more efficient. If you’re looking to implement dashboards and other cutting-edge tools to make your job easier, contact our consultants today.

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Disable these disruptive Windows 11 settings now

The Windows 11 operating system is growing in popularity among businesses. However, just like its predecessor, it can have some intrusive privacy settings enabled by default. Luckily, you can easily turn these settings off to protect your privacy.

Turn off personalized advertising

Windows 11 features targeted ads as suggestions, recommendations, and tips on your device’s user interface. The operating system personalizes the ads a user sees based on computer activity and browser history. While personalized ads may direct users to helpful content, they can also be a hindrance to their productivity. To remove these distracting ads, here’s what you should do:

  • Click Start > Settings > Privacy & security.
  • Go to Diagnostics and feedback.
  • Find the Tailored experiences menu, and toggle it off.
  • Then, go back to Privacy & security and select General.
  • From there, turn off the “Let apps show me personalized ads by using my advertising ID” option.

You can also remove ads in Windows 11 notifications by doing the following:

  • Go to Start > Settings > System.
  • Select Notifications.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and disable the “Get tips and suggestions when it uses Windows” and “Offer suggestions on how I can set up my device options”.

Disable Cortana

Cortana is a personal assistant that allows users to set reminders, schedule events, and send emails, among other tasks. Every time you use Cortana, it collects information about your computer activity — “learning” it, so to speak — to improve user experience. But if you find this feature intrusive, you can disable Cortana completely with these steps:

  • Go to Settings > Apps > Apps and Features.
  • Find Cortana and open Advanced options by clicking on the three-dot icon.
  • Turn off the Run at log-in option.

Change Microsoft’s Edge settings

The Microsoft Edge web browser is chock full of features, such as web experience personalization and typing prediction. Such features may make you uncomfortable since they all send back data to Microsoft. Here’s how to turn them off:

  • Open Edge and click on the menu icon (three dots) in the upper-right corner.
  • Next, click on Settings > Privacy and services. Scroll down and switch on the “Send ‘Do Not Track’ requests” option.

There’s also a bunch of Privacy and Services settings that you may want to disable, such as tracking services, navigation error resolution, blocking potentially unwanted apps, and more.

For more tips on how to safeguard your security and privacy, drop us a line today. Our experts will be more than happy to help!

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Fileless malware: The invisible threat

Hackers have found a clever way to get around anti-malware software — they’re using fileless malware, a type of malicious software that’s not as visible as traditional malware. This means it can infect your entire infrastructure without you even knowing. Let’s take a closer look at how fileless malware works and what you can do to defend against it.

What is fileless malware?

Fileless malware is malicious software that doesn’t rely on executable files to infect your infrastructure. Rather, it hides in your computer’s random access memory and uses trusted, legitimate processes, such as Microsoft Office macros, PowerShell, and Windows Management Instrumentation.

Fileless malware isn’t as visible as traditional malware. It uses a variety of techniques to stay persistent and can adversely affect the integrity of a business’s processes and the infrastructures that run them. Because there are no files to trace, fileless malware escapes detection by most anti-malware programs, especially those that use the databases of known threats. Most automated sensors cannot recognize illicit scripts, and cybersecurity analysts who are trained to identify them usually have a hard time determining where to look.

What potential damage can fileless malware do?

If it is not detected and removed, fileless malware can do a lot of damage to business systems, such as:

  • Steal or destroy data
  • Modify files without authorization
  • Act as a backdoor for other types of malware
  • Cause system crashes and instability
  • Disrupt normal operations by taking up CPU time or memory

Examples of high-profile fileless malware attacks include the Democratic National Committee hacking in 2016 and the Equifax data breach in 2017.

How big of a threat is fileless malware?

Cybersecurity provider WatchGuard Technologies’s Internet Security Report for Q4 2020 found that fileless malware attacks during the year jumped by 888% from 2019. Worse still, their Q2 2021 report revealed that just halfway through 2021, the number of fileless malware detections originating from scripting engines like PowerShell was already at 80% of 2020’s total script-initiated attack volume.

How can you defend against fileless malware?

Your business should practice defense in depth in which you implement multiple safeguards to reduce exposure and mitigate damage. Such safeguards include keeping your systems updated, limiting user access rights and privileges, cultivating a security-aware workforce, and utilizing advanced security solutions that analyze behavioral trends. Lastly, you should also partner with a managed IT services provider that offers 24/7 network monitoring, security audit, and penetration testing. Call us today to get started.

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Here’s what to look for in health apps and wearable tech

Are you overwhelmed by the many choices consumers now have for monitoring their health? What do you tell your patients when they seek advice on what health app or wearable tech to use? When evaluating these techno-medical innovations, keep the following things in mind.

Begin with the devices and operating systems you’re comfortable with

Perhaps you’re the type of doctor who refrains from making tech recommendations until you know the ins and outs of how something works. Don’t fret — many of your colleagues feel the same way.

To help alleviate your apprehension, focus first on the tech that works on your preferred device and operating system. If you use an iPhone, download and test apps for iOS, not Android. And if you’re already using a wearable device, focus on mastering its features before trying out other gadgets. It’s also possible to have your technology provider arrange a demonstration of these devices and explain how they work. This way, you’ll have a general idea of what they can do and how they can benefit your patients.

Figure out the scope of your recommendations

One thing doctors notice when exploring the world of health apps and wearable technology is just how massive and varied it can be. Your tech options are limited if you’re a specialist, so you’ll have a much easier time figuring out what to recommend to patients. But if you’re a general health practitioner who covers a broader range of medicine, you might become overwhelmed by the breadth of options available today. This is why you must…

…Talk to your patients

By determining what your patients want to get out of their health apps and wearable tech, you’ll narrow down their options to the most useful ones. For instance, if a patient has begun their fitness journey and has set weight and strength goals for themselves, then meal and workout tracker apps would be useful to them.

Remember: just because a particular piece of technology works great for you doesn’t mean your patients will have the same experience with it. Recommend health tech in the same manner that you prescribe treatments — by considering the particular needs of your patients.

Ask a tech expert

Beyond efficacy and ease of use, there are other factors you need to consider when assessing a health app or wearable tech, such as how well it keeps patient information secure. To cover all your bases, consult with our tech experts. Our IT specialists can properly assess technology to ensure that you provide the best care for your patients.

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Choosing between laptops and desktops for your small business

Small businesses like yours often work on a limited budget. This means you have to carefully consider every purchase you make to get the most bang for your buck. When it comes to computers, for instance, you need to choose between laptops and desktops, and decide which is the better option for your business. Here are five things to consider when making that decision.

Portability

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven most businesses to adopt remote work and hybrid work setups. If you’re thinking of implementing a remote or hybrid work arrangement, investing in laptops is the smart move, as your employees can easily take their laptops with them and work anywhere, anytime.

That said, you must not discount desktops altogether. While laptops are light and portable, modern desktop computers aren’t nearly as immobile as they used to be. In many cases, today’s desktop monitors are thin and light, and all-in-one desktops are easy to move around.

Memory and speed

In the past, desktop computers had more memory than laptops, and they were faster because they had bigger processors. This has now changed, thanks to improvements in laptop technology. But until high-powered business-grade laptops become more affordable, desktop computers are going to provide your business with more memory, speed, and power for your money.

How much speed and memory you need depends on the work you do. If your employees’ work mostly entails word processing and emailing, laptops should be enough. But if they need to run gaming software or edit heavy media files, it would be better to invest in desktops.

Security

A desktop computer is more physically secure because it’s often kept in one location, making it easier to guard. And because a desktop’s internet access is often a single source (whether through Wi-Fi or cable), it’s easier to defend it against malware and cyberattacks.

If you choose to invest in laptops, make sure to put in place strict security policies for devices used by remote workers. Don’t let your staff connect to unsecured networks, and deploy encryption tools to protect data from unauthorized access. You must also employ mobile device management software to enable your IT administrator to wipe laptops of data should they get lost or stolen.

Price

Laptops, especially the smaller notebook-style ones, are a lot cheaper than desktops. However, desktop computers are also becoming more affordable through local channels and flexible payment terms. A capable IT services provider can offer cheaper desktop options so you can get powerful machines without going over budget.

Quality

Although laptop computers provide the convenience of portability, they’re prone to battery and charging cord problems. They are also easily damaged, especially if they are dropped or mishandled. By contrast, desktops are generally sturdier. But when they do experience a problem, repairing them can be expensive.

The desktop versus laptop debate is an old one, with supporters on both sides touting the advantages of their choice. A growing company usually needs a combination of both types of computers, especially as their needs evolve.

If you need help choosing the best computers for your business, or if you have any business IT-related question, give us a call today.

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How to keep callers engaged while on hold in a call

If a business’s hotline keeps callers waiting for long periods, many callers may feel frustrated and just hang up. This results in an unpleasant customer experience that turns off current and potential customers. To keep callers on the line, use these Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) features.

VoIP phone systems can help make waiting on the line bearable or even downright enjoyable by sharing fun anecdotes and info, playing on-brand music, and conveying engaging messages.

Messages

Customers who are put on hold are captive audiences for your marketing messages. VoIP systems let you record a variety of messages for different numbers according to the purpose of the caller. For example, if the caller wants to get in touch with the sales department, the on-hold message could inform them of current special offers, promotions, or sales.

“Hold message” scripts that utilize your company’s TV, radio, or online ads might elicit an “I think I’ve heard this somewhere before” response. Conversely, you could put a totally new spin on the usual tone and style of your marketing messages and really get creative with humorous advertisements that make your customers chuckle. A little bit of levity never hurt anybody.

For the service department, you can use messages that assure the customer that an agent is taking care of their concerns. Using a service-appropriate message makes callers feel like they’re getting personalized care.

Information

Providing customers with new information and intriguing anecdotes will keep them from thinking that they aren’t being served when you’re actually doing your best to address their concerns at the other end of the line. You can also initiate a trivia or a guessing game where providing a correct answer once the call resumes wins them a prize.

Music

Callers who hear music while on hold tend to stay on the line compared to those who experience silence. While traditional phone systems also have a music on hold feature, VoIP services enhance this feature and offer more options.

Instead of being limited to legacy tools’ music loops, VoIP systems let you easily upload your audio of choice. Just a couple of tips: use music that suits your brand and take your clientele’s demographics into account. Upbeat music may work for a sporting goods brand, but not for an investment bank.

With VoIP systems, you can customize the frequency and duration of a track and configure whether the music restarts or continues where it left off when a caller is placed back on hold. You can also set the order of different tracks or randomize them for callers.

The rich functionality of VoIP systems allows you to turn the on-hold experience into a positive customer service experience. Make sure to take full advantage of this window of opportunity. Get in touch with us today and we’ll help you increase the odds that your clients will happily stay on the line and continue to do business with you.

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Enhancing IT admin efficiency with the Microsoft 365 Apps admin center

The shift from traditional office setups prior to the pandemic to flexible working arrangements in the post-COVID-19 era has been tough on IT administrators. They have had to juggle multiple tasks, including supervising and securing workflows, devices, and software, and deploying IT solutions within budget while keeping cyberthreats at bay. To help IT personnel fulfill these considerable responsibilities efficiently, Microsoft equipped Microsoft 365’s Apps Admin Center with a number of powerful features.

Office cloud policy service

This feature enables administrators to enforce policy settings for Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise on users’ devices. Even on devices that are not domain-joined, these settings are automatically implemented via roaming the moment their users sign in to Microsoft 365 Apps admin for enterprise. This feature gives administrators better control over how data is handled in users’ devices, providing major benefits to data security.

Microsoft 365 Apps health

Microsoft 365 Apps health enables IT admins to examine how well Microsoft 365 apps are running during and in between deployments. The feature also calculates an organization’s overall app health using three criteria: app reliability, app performance, and supported versions.

Furthermore, Microsoft 365 Apps health shows performance and reliability trends, such as Office app session crash rates, which allows admins to quickly identify issues and take appropriate actions.

Inventory

This feature gives administrators valuable insights into the status of all the Office apps and services installed in devices throughout the organization. Admins can also see more detailed information on specific installations. These include information on the hardware and the device’s operating system, as well as the particular apps that are currently installed.

The inventory feature can also show admins the last user to sign in and which devices are running old versions of Office apps. In these ways, the inventory feature helps them ensure that devices are running optimally at all times.

Security update status

This feature shows administrators which devices in their network have already installed the latest security updates, providing them with information that can help them keep the organization’s environment secure. This reduces the risk of data breaches and other cyberthreats made possible by unpatched security vulnerabilities.

Servicing profile

This feature further reduces the possible danger caused by unpatched systems. This allows administrators to assign servicing profiles to a set of devices. All machines with an assigned profile automatically receive monthly updates starting on the second Tuesday of each month. To prevent the updates from bogging down the devices’ performance, these are delivered in successive batches. Admins have the ability to set deadlines and select which updates will be installed throughout the process.

With these features, administrators can better manage Microsoft 365 apps, and users can count on better experiences and fewer instances of downtime. If you want to learn how technology can make your business more efficient, don’t hesitate to call us. Our IT experts are always ready and glad to help.

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Your SMB will enjoy the flexibility provided by hybrid cloud platforms

Hybrid cloud platforms are a great way to improve a business’s agility and flexibility, as they can be used to host business components in an affordable and low-impact manner. But what exactly is the hybrid cloud, and what are its specific advantages for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)? Read on to learn more.

Hybrid clouds are a combination of private and public clouds. In private clouds, data and applications that require tighter controls are hosted either internally or privately on an off-site facility. Meanwhile, public clouds are managed externally by third-party providers with the express purpose of streamlining a company’s IT infrastructure.

Benefits of a hybrid cloud setup

Here are three significant advantages of hybrid cloud environments.

Adaptability
Having the ability to choose between internally or privately hosted cloud servers and public ones lets you pair the right IT solution with the right job. For example, you can use the private cloud to store sensitive files while utilizing more robust computing resources from the public cloud to run resource-intensive applications.

Cost efficiency and scalability
Does your business struggle to meet seasonal demands? With a hybrid cloud solution, you’ll be able to easily handle spikes in demand by migrating workloads from insufficient on-premises servers to scalable, pay-as-you-go cloud servers whenever needed, without incurring extra hardware and maintenance costs.

So if there are last-minute computing demands that your hardware can’t support, or if you’re planning for future expansion, you can easily scale capacity up or down with a hybrid cloud solution.

Security
Last but not least are the security advantages of a hybrid cloud solution. You can host sensitive data such as eCommerce data or an HR platform within the private cloud, where it will be protected by your security systems and kept under close watch. Meanwhile, routine forms and documents can be stored in the public cloud and protected by a trusted third party.

How to set up a hybrid cloud

The following are the different ways to set up a hybrid cloud model based on your SMB’s requirements and the providers available to you:

  • Employ one specialized cloud provider who offers comprehensive hybrid solutions.
  • Integrate the services of a private cloud provider with those of another public cloud provider.
  • Host a private cloud yourself and then incorporate a public cloud service into your infrastructure.

Our experts can help you transition to a hybrid cloud solution without interruption and huge costs. Contact us today to learn more about the business benefits of a hybrid cloud.

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