The benefits of Microsoft 365’s Bookings feature

Microsoft 365’s Bookings feature is an incredibly useful tool for organizing tasks and events. If you often struggle to keep track of your schedule, then this feature is definitely for you! Read on to learn the basics of how Bookings works and some tips on how to get the most out of it.

Visibility

Bid goodbye to the days of scribbling on Post-its and frantically going through your schedule to find out where you’re heading for lunch. Bookings provides you with a unique scheduling app that is compatible on both desktops and mobile devices. Here, customers can select times and dates based on current availability — simply enter the contact information and then book it. The system then fully automates the process of managing your appointments.

No more rain checks

Cancellations and missed appointments mean wasted time slots unless you’re able to fill them up with new bookings. Avoid lost income by controlling how much advance notice is required to make a cancellation. With Bookings, appointments appear immediately in staff calendars and can be added or revised by customers in their own personal calendars.

Additionally, a confirmation email is automatically sent to the customer, followed by another automatic email reminder before the appointment time. The web page also offers a rescheduling service: customers can simply click on the link on the confirmation email and pick a time that’s better for them.

Synchronization

Once completed, the booking is then synced to a centralized calendar where businesses are given the option to reschedule, cancel, or reassign the appointment to other staff members as they see fit.

Should you decide to reassign a booking to staff members, Bookings offers a nifty feature known as “split view.” This shows which staff members are booked at which times, and lets you compare everyone’s schedules side by side. The appointments are synced not only to your calendar but to the staff members’ calendars as well. Moreover, this versatile system accommodates Office 365, Outlook, and even Google Calendar, so clients and staff can keep whatever calendaring service they prefer.

Double duty

Appointment setting might be the primary function of Bookings, but the system can also be utilized to build your company’s customer list. Once customers input their information into the system, it automatically creates contact entries for those customers. The contact card contains personal information such as your customer’s name, address, phone number, and email address.

And as your company grows, you can add more staff members as well as create additional booking pages for free. Furthermore, staff members aren’t required to have Office 365 subscriptions to be a part of the service.

Efficient tech resources aren’t enough to maintain a successful business anymore. To really stand out from competitors, you need comprehensive appointment management. Give us a call if you need any questions answered or issues addressed. We’re more than happy to help.

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How Microsoft 365’s Bookings keep tasks and events organized

Microsoft 365’s Bookings feature is a great way to keep track of your tasks and events. It allows you to create appointments, schedule meetings, and track deadlines. In this blog post, we will show you how to use the Bookings feature in Microsoft 365, and provide some tips on how to make the most of this powerful tool.

Visibility

Bid goodbye to the days of scribbling on Post-its and frantically going through your schedule to find out where you’re heading for lunch. Bookings provides you with a unique scheduling app that is compatible on both desktops and mobile devices. Here, customers can select times and dates based on current availability — simply enter the contact information and then book it. The system then fully automates the process of managing your appointments.

No more rain checks

Cancellations and missed appointments mean wasted time slots unless you’re able to fill them up with new bookings. Avoid lost income by controlling how much advance notice is required to make a cancellation. With Bookings, appointments appear immediately in staff calendars and can be added or revised by customers in their own personal calendars.

Additionally, a confirmation email is automatically sent to the customer, followed by another automatic email reminder before the appointment time. The web page also offers a rescheduling service: customers can simply click on the link on the confirmation email and pick a time that’s better for them.

Synchronization

Once completed, the booking is then synced to a centralized calendar where businesses are given the option to reschedule, cancel, or reassign the appointment to other staff members as they see fit.

Should you decide to reassign a booking to staff members, Bookings offers a nifty feature known as “split view.” This shows which staff members are booked at which times, and lets you compare everyone’s schedules side by side. The appointments are synced not only to your calendar but to the staff members’ calendars as well. Moreover, this versatile system accommodates Office 365, Outlook, and even Google Calendar, so clients and staff can keep whatever calendaring service they prefer.

Double duty

Appointment setting might be the primary function of Bookings, but the system can also be utilized to build your company’s customer list. Once customers input their information into the system, it automatically creates contact entries for those customers. The contact card contains personal information such as your customer’s name, address, phone number, and email address.

And as your company grows, you can add more staff members as well as create additional booking pages for free. Furthermore, staff members aren’t required to have Office 365 subscriptions to be a part of the service.

Efficient tech resources aren’t enough to maintain a successful business anymore. To really stand out from competitors, you need comprehensive appointment management. Give us a call if you need any questions answered or issues addressed. We’re more than happy to help.

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5 Ways to save money on cloud services

The cloud is a great resource for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) such as yours. It provides a number of advantages, including scalability, flexibility, and cost savings. However, some business owners may not be aware of certain hidden cloud services costs. These costs don’t seem much at first, but they can eventually snowball. Prevent this by implementing these five ways to help you save money on cloud services.

No standalones

Cloud services come in various forms, including standalone platforms with rates that increase over time. If you’re looking to save on costs, it’s best to choose a cloud service provider that offers a suite of products that all work together. This option is often less expensive than investing in several standalone products. Another benefit of working with a cloud provider is that you’ll have a single point of contact to quickly and effectively resolve any issues that you may experience.

Partner with experienced cloud providers

Make sure to hire a trusted and experienced integration consultant to help facilitate a smooth transition. This is essential as integration mishaps can cause serious downtime and also cost a lot of money.

Define and prioritize backups

Unnecessary or inefficient backups waste cloud storage space. Review your cloud storage data by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How many versions of this data do I need to store long term? The more versions I store, the more it will cost me.
  • What regulatory demands do I need to meet? Some data may need to be accessible for up to three years, while other data can be deleted after 30 days.
  • How quickly do I need to access my backups? If it can wait for a day or two, I can archive data to a less expensive service or offline at the provider’s data center.

Regulate users

It’s common practice for cloud service providers to charge per user. If you neglect to regularly manage the list of users, you may end up paying for people who are no longer part of your organization. It’s ideal to schedule a regular audit of users and implement processes that remove them when they leave the company to ensure your cloud user list is always up to date.

Monitor proactively

Ask your cloud provider whether they can proactively monitor your account and notify you of potential issues before these escalate into major problems. This is especially important if you have a pay-as-you-go license that charges based on resource or storage consumption.

Utilizing the right technology resources is vital to your business’s success, and so is knowing how to prevent such resources from racking up an overwhelming monthly bill. Give us a call if you wish to enjoy all the benefits of cloud computing without going over your budget. We’ll be happy to help.

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How can your business benefit from email automation?

Are you looking for ways to improve your email marketing campaign? Do you want to deliver relevant and personalized content to customers and potential clients? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should consider automating your email campaigns.

What is email automation?

Email automation is a tool that allows businesses to automatically send relevant and personalized messages to subscribers at a predetermined time based on specific triggers or predefined criteria. Such criteria include payment reminders, subscriber birthdays, promos, monthly feedback requests, order confirmations, and more.

What are the advantages of using email automation?

Here are the key benefits of email automation.

  1. Adds a personal touch
    Email automation tools let you automatically insert a customer’s name and other details into an email. By using the customer’s name rather than using a generic salutation like “Dear valued customer,” you are able to make the email more personal, potentially increasing the chances that your customer will be more receptive to your marketing messages. According to Experian Marketing Services, personalized promotional emails have a 29% higher chance of being opened compared to non-personalized ones. In addition, consumers were also 25% more likely to engage with personalized triggered emails compared to those that are not.
  2. Helps segment contacts
    Email automation allows you to divide your customers and leads into groups based on their purchase behavior, demographics, and interests. For example, if your company sells mobile devices, you can use email automation to create unique messages for customers who’ve shown interest in either Apple or Android products. Segmenting contacts ensures ‌recipients will only receive messages that align with their interests. This will help keep customers engaged and reduce the probability of them sending unwanted emails to the spam folder or unsubscribing from your mailing list.
  3. Improves productivity
    With email automation, your marketing team doesn’t have to spend too much time compiling email lists and creating and scheduling email campaigns. Email automation systems can automatically send out emails based on triggers, such as signing up for a monthly newsletter, or predefined events like birthdays. This will help free up your team to focus on more critical tasks instead of spending a huge chunk of time emailing clients and leads.
  4. Helps retain existing customers
    Selling to existing customers is easier and more cost-effective than converting a lead, so you need to keep your existing customers engaged. You can do this by sending them exclusive promos, feedback requests, and loyalty rewards via email. This will ensure that you reach more people, especially those that don’t use social media.

When implemented properly, email automation can be a powerful marketing tool that frees up your team to do what they do best. If you want to learn more about email automation, give us a call today.

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Must-try Windows 11 customization features

Windows 11, the newest operating system from Microsoft, is a breath of fresh air for PC users. Designed to provide a personalized experience, it offers many ways to change your PC’s interface, from how windows look to how apps can be accessed. Here are some Windows 11 customization features that will give you more control over your PC settings.

Change your theme

The easiest way to customize Windows 11 is by changing your theme, including your desktop background and lock screen image. Just right-click anywhere on your desktop, then click on Personalize. This will lead you to the Personalization menu, where you can preview and choose different backgrounds and themes. You can even create new themes by using images from your gallery. You can also see more themes in the Microsoft Store by clicking “Browse more”.

Use dark mode

If light or bright colors are not your thing, Windows 11 is here to the rescue. To change your desktop’s colors, right-click on your desktop, choose Personalize, and click Colors. Then, select Dark under “Choose your default Windows mode”. This changes the colors of your taskbar and Start menu. If you want to change the color of your apps from white to black, pick Dark under “Choose your default app mode”. To restore your default settings, follow the same procedure under “Choose your default app mode” but click Light.

Create virtual desktops

Having trouble separating work files from personal files? Try creating a virtual desktop. You can do this by clicking on the Task view icon on the taskbar. This will display all your open windows. Just drag any window to the “New desktop” space on the lower part of the screen to create another desktop. Repeat the process if you want to add more windows to the new desktop. To add more virtual desktops, hover over the Task view icon and click on the + sign. To remove a virtual desktop, hover over the Task view icon and click the X button on the desktop you want to delete.

Try snap layouts

Snapping is not a new feature, but Windows 11 makes it more efficient by letting you snap any app or window wherever you are on your PC. Access snap layouts by hovering over a window’s maximize button or pressing Win + Z. You can then see which layouts are available to you, and pick the one that best suits your needs.

Reorganize your Start Menu

You can also personalize how your apps are arranged on the Start menu. For one, you can rearrange applications by dragging them anywhere around the Start menu. Or, if you won’t be using a particular application, simply right-click the tile and select Unpin from Start. On the other hand, if you want even faster access to your most-used apps, right-click on an app and choose Pin to taskbar

Disable all your notifications

Some people prefer to receive notifications, but some don’t. If you’re one of the latter and wish to never see notifications ever again, click on the gear icon on the taskbar to open Settings. Then, choose System > Notifications. From there, you can switch off whatever app notifications you don’t want popping up on your screen.

Personalize your Windows 11 PC however you like by using some or all of these options. If you want more ways to customize your device or if you need information on anything Windows 11-related, give us a call.

 

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Everything you need to know about monitoring employees online

If you’re managing a remote workforce, you may wonder whether your team is doing their jobs or wasting time watching random videos on the internet. Using employee monitoring tools is a good way to keep track of your team’s productivity. But is this practice ethical? Read on to learn more.

What is employee monitoring?

Employee monitoring is the practice of using digital tools to track employee activity and performance, and the progress of their tasks. The data collected can be used to identify patterns, trends, and correlations across different teams allowing managers to gain insight into various work processes, and how they can be improved.

What are the benefits of employee monitoring?

Here are the key benefits of monitoring your employees online:

1. Improved productivity
Using employee monitoring tools can help you track how much time employees spend visiting non-work-related websites or chatting with friends. If an employee’s productivity goes down significantly because of these activities, you can address the issue by reminding that specific employee about the company’s policy regarding visiting non-work-related websites and/or limiting his/her internet access.

When employees know that their activities are being monitored, they’re more likely to focus on their tasks and avoid inappropriate internet use.

2. Better security
According to Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, 85% of breaches reported in 2020 were due to human error. Monitoring the online habits of employees can help employers track and flag instant messages and emails containing sensitive and private information. In addition, managers can block employees from visiting phishing sites or websites that automatically download malware onto unprotected computers and mobile devices.

3. More efficient project management
Monitoring employee activity provides managers with continuous reports on workers’ progress, allowing them to stay on top of multiple projects. These reports can help managers delegate tasks and adjust schedules to meet deadlines.

What are the disadvantages of monitoring your employees online?

Despite its benefits, employee monitoring also comes with some drawbacks, such as:

1. Trust issues
Employees may feel that their privacy is being violated. This can lead to low employee morale and reduced productivity, as well as distrust between and among colleagues.

2. Legal issues
States and countries may have varying policies on employee monitoring, but one thing is constant ⁠— an employee’s consent is needed before any type of monitoring can be done.Without the consent of an employee, an employer can be charged with privacy violations and discrimination if the information collected is used to harm that employee.

To avoid potential problems that can arise from employee monitoring, employers should explain why monitoring is needed. A written policy should be created explaining how employees will be monitored, what information will be collected, and how that information will be protected.

If you want to learn more about employee monitoring, give us a call today.

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The benefits of cloud computing to patients and healthcare providers

There’s no doubt that cloud computing is revolutionizing healthcare. From improving patient care to making medical records more secure, the cloud is making continues to make a big impact in the world of healthcare. Here are just a few of the benefits of using cloud solutions in your healthcare practice.

Better data backup and recovery

Data loss is a major concern for healthcare practices. For instance, your business continuity may suffer when your office IT suddenly becomes inaccessible. Even a couple of days or even just a few hours of downtime can have serious repercussions for your organization.

But with a cloud storage solution, data loss is not something you should worry about. Nearly every cloud solution stores files in more than one location so backups can be restored quickly if anything goes wrong.

Efficient information access

Updating patient records used to be a manual and time-consuming activity. In the past, doctors had to either lug around reams of documents or spend hours in front of a computer to retrieve health records. But with cloud applications for managing electronic medical records (EMRs), doctors are now able to conveniently access medical records anytime and anywhere with an internet connection.

Improved security and HIPAA compliance

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) stipulates rules and regulations on protecting patient health information. Whether you use a browser-based tool or a mobile app, cloud computing makes it easy to adapt to HIPAA regulatory updates and changes. For instance, a vendor can update its data encryption standards in the cloud. These changes will automatically take effect on all accounts and devices without needing to reinstall programs or manually update certain configurations.

Reduced costs

Implementing a cloud solution can also eliminate the need for on-site hardware, maintenance fees, and expensive one-time software licenses. And in terms of less quantifiable cost reductions, the ability to access work from anywhere at any time boosts productivity and makes your IT department more efficient.

Scalability

Unlike in-house hardware, you can easily scale cloud storage solutions in a matter of minutes. Through the cloud, web-based EMR software enables you to retrieve records in a few seconds, and it also gives you more storage than you can ever need. Scalability combined with efficiency allows you to organize your data in a simpler manner.

Want to learn more about the ideal cloud computing solutions for your healthcare organization? Get in touch with our tech experts today for personalized recommendations.

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Is Wi-Fi slow on your phone? These might be why

If you’re like most people, you rely on your smartphone for a lot of things. You might use it to check your email, browse the internet, or make phone calls. So when your phone has a slow internet connection, it can be really frustrating. In this blog post, we will discuss five of the most common causes of slow internet on mobile phones and tips on how to fix these issues.

Router location

One simple yet overlooked reason why your phone may be experiencing internet lag is because of your Wi-Fi router’s location. Although Wi-Fi has a range of up to 230 feet, the signal gets weaker the farther you are from the router. Large objects like doors and walls situated in between your phone and the router can also weaken the transmission.

It’s recommended to place your router in a centralized location, preferably away from concrete and masonry walls or other big objects like a fireplace. As the router signal radiates from all sides, if it’s blocked by even just one large object, your Wi-Fi signal will weaken significantly and, consequently, impede your phone’s internet speed.

Wi-Fi noise

Electronic appliances typically emit wireless signals at a frequency similar to your router’s, which is 2.4 GHz. So if you live in an apartment complex or have a lot of electronic devices in your home, you may experience interference that can slow down your Wi-Fi. One way to fix this is to place your router in a central location away from other electronic devices.

You can also try changing the frequency or channel that your router is broadcasting on. To do this, you will need to log in to your router’s settings page, then look for a page or tab that says “wireless settings” or “channel.” From there, you can select a different frequency. For most routers, this will be 5 GHz. But before you do this, make sure that your phone supports 5 GHz, otherwise, it won’t be able to connect to the Wi-Fi.

Fluctuating network speed

Another reason for your phone’s slow internet connection could be fluctuating network speeds. To check whether this is the cause of slow internet speeds, ask these questions:

  • How many devices are connected to the router?
  • What are these devices using the internet for?

Increase your router’s internet bandwidth speed if there are many users and all of them are either streaming movies or downloading computer games or software updates. This will allow every phone connected to your network to enjoy faster internet speeds.

Poor VPN connection

Using a virtual private network (VPN) is a great way to improve your security and privacy when browsing the internet. But if your VPN connection is slow, it can also impact the speed of your internet connection. To fix this, try connecting to a different VPN server or switching to a different VPN protocol.

You can also try disabling your VPN. This will make your browsing experience faster, but it will also make it less secure. So only do this if you are connected to a safe network, such as your home or office Wi-Fi.

Full browser cache

Your mobile browser’s cache saves data from earlier searches in order to display faster results of similar searches in the future. Although your phone becomes more efficient for that particular search, it also makes your phone much slower when you do other things that require connecting to the internet.

You can clear your cache manually or use a cache cleaner app to get rid of useless data and optimize your phone’s internet speed. If you decide to download a cache cleaner app, make sure that it is trustworthy so you don’t accidentally download a malware-infected program.

There are many reasons for your phone’s lagging internet speed. If your business relies heavily on a speedy mobile internet connection and you’re unable to fix the problem, call our experts today. We’re always ready to help you.

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A quick guide to VoIP Quality of Service

Every business is looking for ways to save money and improve their bottom line. Because of this, many are turning to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as it offers a number of features and benefits that can help reduce costs while improving communication. However, not all VoIP providers are created equal. When choosing a VoIP provider, look into their Quality of Service (QoS) to ensure that you are getting the best possible value service. In this quick guide, we will provide an overview of what QoS is and some essential QoS-related questions to ask when choosing a VoIP provider.

What is QoS?

VoIP providers and IT experts define QoS as the overall performance of a VoIP system or network. This performance is usually measured by looking at objective statistics like bandwidth usage, transmission delay, call jitter, error rates, and the like. Subjective data, like what end users think of the system’s performance, is also factored in.

Why does QoS vary among providers?

QoS applies not only to VoIP but also to traditional phone systems. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the quality of landline calls is near perfect. This is because all traditional phone network providers invest in physical networks and connections that offer high QoS. This means switching from one provider to another doesn’t affect the quality of the calls.

However, investments in physical networks are expensive, and customers end up shouldering the costs. The high cost of maintaining the transmission network is also why there are only a couple of phone providers in most areas. In other words, it’s just too costly for small companies to invest in a traditional phone network system.

In comparison, VoIP systems are considerably cheaper to set up and maintain, leading to a high number of VoIP providers. And because anyone with capital can set up their VoIP systems without having to adhere to a standard, the QoS amongst providers can vary drastically. To find the provider with the best QoS, ask them these three questions:

1. What level of quality can you guarantee?
The best providers will be able to guarantee a QoS that is comparable to or even better than traditional phone networks. This is especially important for businesses that are looking to switch to a full VoIP solution. Ask your prospective provider to run a few tests on your network and to give you a quality assurance. If the numbers are too low for your business needs, it’s best to look for another provider.

2. How much of the network infrastructure do you own?
Almost every VoIP provider will rely on public infrastructure in order to transmit data. And usually, the bigger the company’s share in the infrastructure, the higher its QoS is. This is because the provider will have more control over the technology. As such, one of the best options is to look for facilities-based providers. These companies own almost all of the network that carries VoIP calls and can therefore offer better services and quality.

3. How much traffic will run over public internet?
Some of the most popular solutions will use almost 100% public internet for their traffic, while other companies will use a mixture of public and private networks. The latter option allows better flexibility as these providers often use public internet for more affordable packages and private internet for high-end users. If you often use VoIP for functions that require heavy bandwidth like conference calling, then you may need to sign up for more expensive packages so the QoS doesn’t drop.

Get in touch with our experts today if you want to know more about how VoIP can benefit your business and how to pick the best VoIP provider.

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How to choose the best Microsoft 365 plan for your business

The different Microsoft 365 plans are packed with various features that often make it difficult for business owners to decide which plan to go with. This article will help youfind out which plan is ideal for your business setup.

Microsoft 365 plans for businesses

Microsoft 365 for businesses comes in four different plans: Business Basic, Apps for business, Business Standard, and Business Premium.

Plan Microsoft 365 Business Basic Microsoft 365 Apps Microsoft 365 Business Standard Microsoft 365 Business Premium
Price $6.00 user/month $8.25 user/month $12.50 user/month $22.00 user/month
Web-based and mobile versions of Microsoft apps Yes Yes, excluding Outlook Yes Yes
50GB email storage Yes No Yes Yes
Microsoft Teams Yes No Yes Yes
1TB cloud storage Yes Yes Yes Yes
Standard online security Yes No Yes Yes
24/7 online and phone support Yes Yes Yes Yes
Microsoft Bookings No No Yes Yes
MileIQ No No Yes Yes
Microsoft Defender for Office 365 No No No Yes
Information Rights Management No No No Yes
Manage and wipe company devices remotely with Intune No No No Yes

How to choose the right Microsoft 365 plan for your business

Now that you have an idea of how much each Microsoft 365 plan costs and what features are included with each plan, it’s time to determine which one is right for your business. Here’s what you should do:

Assess your current hardware and software
It’s important to make sure your employees’ computers are capable of running Microsoft 365 applications before subscribing to a plan. Some features might not work as expected or have limited functionality if their hardware does not meet specific system requirements.

Likewise, assessing your current software and apps is crucial to determining whether they will work effectively with Microsoft 365. Some third-party apps may not be compatible, limiting the usefulness of your subscription.

Consider your needs
When choosing a Microsoft 365 plan, consider your company’s needs and determine which features will offer you the most value. Try answering these questions to get an idea of your requirements:

  • Are you looking for ways to improve collaboration and communication?
  • Will your business benefit by shifting to the cloud?
  • Are you looking for advanced protection from various threats?

Asking questions like these can help you narrow down your options and find a plan that’s tailored to your business.

Plan your budget
When planning a budget for the Microsoft 365 plan of your choice, there are two things to consider: the number of users and the migration cost. For the number of users, try to overshoot your budget slightly to account for new employees. If you have in-house IT staff, you can let them handle the migration process to avoid additional expenses. By taking these factors into account, you can choose a subscription plan that fits well within your budget.

If you’re still unsure about what Microsoft 365 plan you need, you can call our experts for advice or you can answer this questionnaire.

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