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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The difference between Groups, Yammer, and Teams

Yammer, Microsoft 365 Groups, and Microsoft Teams are all Microsoft 365 tools that are designed for sharing files and communicating with colleagues. So what differentiates them from one another, and when should you use which? Let’s find out.

Microsoft 365 Groups

With Microsoft 365 Groups, every member gets a shared inbox, calendar, project planner, notebook, and document library. You can also integrate third-party apps like Twitter, Trello, and Mailchimp to Groups so notifications are sent directly to your shared inbox.

This means all relevant messages and information are sent to one place, so if your organization normally communicates via email, Microsoft 365 Groups is ideal. What’s more, HR and sales departments that communicate with external parties will also find plenty of uses for its email features.

A big downside of Microsoft 365 Groups, however, is email overload. Since all messages and notifications are sent to one inbox, users may become overwhelmed by the number of emails they have to sort through every day.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams, a chat-based collaboration platform, works with Skype for Business, so you can text, call, video chat, and share files with colleagues. Thanks to its seamless integrations with other Microsoft 365 apps, you can even work on shared files without leaving the app.

Unlike Groups, Microsoft Teams is designed for more advanced collaboration, making it great for completing projects with tight deadlines or other tasks requiring immediate feedback.

Yammer

Much like Groups and Teams, Yammer works well with other Microsoft 365 tools like Outlook and OneDrive. However, Yammer is a professional social media app designed to foster open communication and break down barriers between teams.

Yammer serves like a virtual office bulletin board: important files and announcements can be shared with the entire company through this platform. Users can also see the most popular post on their feeds, follow it, and even comment.

Yammer also takes design elements and features from social media apps like Facebook, making it a popular choice for companies with millennials in their workforce.

Although we’ve discussed the fundamental differences between Groups, Teams, and Yammer, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what each app can do. To figure out which apps you need, you must understand how your employees work, how they like to collaborate with one another, and what you want to achieve from such collaborations.

Fortunately, there’s another way to find the right app for your business: ask the experts. Contact us today for an IT assessment!

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What is single sign-on and what are its benefits?

Secure logins are a necessity in business, but managing so many user credentials can get tedious. The good news is that you can simplify your organization’s login processes without compromising security by deploying single sign-on.

What is single sign-on (SSO)?

Single sign-on allows you to use one username and one password to provide secure access to multiple websites. If you’ve ever clicked “Continue with Google” on a non-Google website, you’ve already enjoyed the benefits of SSO. It’s faster, simpler, and more secure. With SSO, small businesses can accomplish the same level of efficiency between their employees and cloud platforms.

Instead of requiring in-office and remote workers to track separate accounts for Office 365, Slack, Trello, and other cloud apps your company uses, you can give them a single set of credentials and manage what they have access to remotely. All employees have to do is come enter their designated username and password, and they’re all set for the day.

Why is SSO more secure?

There are a number of ways to set up a small-business SSO solution, but most of them focus on removing login information from your servers. Usually, you’ll provide your employees’ logins to an SSO provider (sometimes referred to as an Identity-as-a-Service provider) and each employee will receive a single login paired with a secondary authentication — like a biometric scan like iOS’s FaceID, or a one-time PIN (OTP) code sent to a personal device.

Every time one of your employees visits a cloud platform, such as Office 365 or Google Workspace, the SSO provider will verify the user’s identity and the connection’s security. If anything goes wrong, your IT provider will be notified.

Should your network or any of the devices connected to it gets compromised, hackers would find nothing but logins to your SSO accounts, which are meaningless without fingerprints or mobile devices.

How to get started with SSO

The first step is making sure you have a healthy and responsive IT support system. You need a team that’s constantly available to review suspicious alerts and troubleshoot employee issues. If you don’t currently have that capacity, contact us today and we’ll help you out!

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Workplace Analytics: An essential tool for business productivity

Microsoft Workplace Analytics presents a clear picture of employee performance, giving managers and leaders actionable insights to enhance productivity. Learn more about this valuable tool and its benefits to businesses of all sizes across industries.

How does Workplace Analytics work?

A paid add-on to Office 365 enterprise plans, Workplace Analytics extracts behavioral insights from data gathered from emails, calendars, documents, and Office 365 apps. This means any data an employee enters into Office 365 can be used to assess their performance and productivity.

The data from which insights are gleaned are generated by employees themselves — how much time they spend on meetings, who they communicate with, and how much time they spend on productive tasks.

All this data can be viewed on the Workplace Analytics dashboard, where information is sorted using the following metrics:

  • Week in the life provides information on how the entire organization spends time and how employees collaborate with one another.
  • Meetings overview shows the amount of time people spend in meetings.
  • Management and coaching presents information about one-on-one meetings between each employee and their direct manager.
  • The internal networks metric shows how people within your organization communicate and collaborate with one another.
  • External collaboration provides insights into how your employees connect with individuals or teams from third-party organizations.
  • Teams collaboration takes a look at how employees and managers use Microsoft Teams to communicate with their colleagues.

What does Workplace Analytics aim to do?

Workplace Analytics is designed to solve businesses’ most common problems, specifically issues related to productivity and engagement.

Using Workplace Analytics data, business leaders can develop effective productivity strategies for the entire company. For instance, if the data shows that employees spend 60% of their time in meetings, managers can come up with a strategy to make meetings shorter or less frequent so staff can focus on productive tasks. Similarly, human resources personnel can use data on employees’ work patterns to identify the causes of burnout — now a widespread issue across businesses and industries — and make recommendations to address it.

Workplace Analytics can be also used to determine how workers collaborate with internal and external parties. Suppose a member of your sales team frequently works and communicates with certain vendors. The sales team’s manager can pull up Workplace Analytics data and use it to assess whether or not this collaboration is helping the team meet targets, or if it’s causing them to miss out on other, more critical opportunities for collaboration and/or making a sale. Based on this information, the manager can also identify which employees are most likely to meet or exceed their targets and set company-wide standards accordingly.

Finally, Workplace Analytics allows managers to determine an employee’s level of engagement, and whether workloads are fairly distributed among workers and/or departments.

To ensure you get the full benefits of Workplace Analytics, partner with a reputable managed IT services provider like us. Our experts are highly skilled and experienced in implementing and managing Microsoft programs and services, so you can rest easy knowing your business is in good hands. Drop us a line today.

This post was originally published on this site

Workplace Analytics: An essential tool for business productivity

Microsoft Workplace Analytics presents a clear picture of employee performance, giving managers and leaders actionable insights to enhance productivity. Learn more about this valuable tool and its benefits to businesses of all sizes across industries.

How does Workplace Analytics work?

A paid add-on to Office 365 enterprise plans, Workplace Analytics extracts behavioral insights from data gathered from emails, calendars, documents, and Office 365 apps. This means any data an employee enters into Office 365 can be used to assess their performance and productivity.

The data from which insights are gleaned are generated by employees themselves — how much time they spend on meetings, who they communicate with, and how much time they spend on productive tasks.

All this data can be viewed on the Workplace Analytics dashboard, where information is sorted using the following metrics:

  • Week in the life provides information on how the entire organization spends time and how employees collaborate with one another.
  • Meetings overview shows the amount of time people spend in meetings.
  • Management and coaching presents information about one-on-one meetings between each employee and their direct manager.
  • The internal networks metric shows how people within your organization communicate and collaborate with one another.
  • External collaboration provides insights into how your employees connect with individuals or teams from third-party organizations.
  • Teams collaboration takes a look at how employees and managers use Microsoft Teams to communicate with their colleagues.

What does Workplace Analytics aim to do?

Workplace Analytics is designed to solve businesses’ most common problems, specifically issues related to productivity and engagement.

Using Workplace Analytics data, business leaders can develop effective productivity strategies for the entire company. For instance, if the data shows that employees spend 60% of their time in meetings, managers can come up with a strategy to make meetings shorter or less frequent so staff can focus on productive tasks. Similarly, human resources personnel can use data on employees’ work patterns to identify the causes of burnout — now a widespread issue across businesses and industries — and make recommendations to address it.

Workplace Analytics can be also used to determine how workers collaborate with internal and external parties. Suppose a member of your sales team frequently works and communicates with certain vendors. The sales team’s manager can pull up Workplace Analytics data and use it to assess whether or not this collaboration is helping the team meet targets, or if it’s causing them to miss out on other, more critical opportunities for collaboration and/or making a sale. Based on this information, the manager can also identify which employees are most likely to meet or exceed their targets and set company-wide standards accordingly.

Finally, Workplace Analytics allows managers to determine an employee’s level of engagement, and whether workloads are fairly distributed among workers and/or departments.

To ensure you get the full benefits of Workplace Analytics, partner with a reputable managed IT services provider like us. Our experts are highly skilled and experienced in implementing and managing Microsoft programs and services, so you can rest easy knowing your business is in good hands. Drop us a line today.

This post was originally published on this site

How to mitigate Microsoft 365 security risks

Microsoft 365 has transformed the way many organizations work by enhancing workflows, collaboration, and efficiency. But like other cloud-based solutions, this line of subscription services is not immune to security risks. Here’s what your business can do to address these challenges.

Vulnerabilities in SharePoint

Businesses typically use SharePoint Online and on-premises SharePoint sites to store sensitive information like personally identifiable data. Failing to secure SharePoint content against unauthorized users is one way to expose data and your business to malicious actors. This can be critical for companies that are required to comply with stringent data privacy and protection regulations and may face serious consequences for noncompliance.

To prevent this, limit administrator-level privileges and enable encryption. Additionally, set the necessary security restrictions per user for every application.

Unprotected communication channels

Phishing attacks and malware are two of the most common ways cybercriminals infiltrate a system, but there are other paths of attack. Microsoft 365 applications like Microsoft Teams, which can connect to external networks, may serve as a medium for ransomware and other types of attack.

Train your staff to identify potentially malicious files and links. Also, offer guidelines on how to handle and route sensitive files and communication to safe locations.

Security risks in dormant applications

Organizations using Microsoft 365 often won’t use all the tools and services included in the productivity suite. You may use one or several programs like Word, Excel, and SharePoint but rarely use OneDrive. If your business has been utilizing specific programs, note that some dormant applications may be prone to attack. This is why it’s crucial to identify the apps that aren’t being used, and have an administrator tweak user settings to restrict availability on such apps.

File synchronization

Like most cloud services, Microsoft 365 allows users to automatically sync on-premises files to the cloud, such as in OneDrive. This useful feature is not without security risks, however. If a file stored locally is infected with malware, OneDrive will view the file as changed/updated and trigger a sync to the OneDrive cloud, with the infection going undetected.

Office 365 Cloud App Security, a subset of Microsoft Cloud App Security, is designed to enhance protections for Office 365 apps and provide great visibility into user activity to improve incident response efforts. Make sure your organization’s security administrators set it up on your systems so you can detect and mitigate cyber risks as soon as possible.

Cybercriminals will continue to sharpen their hacking techniques, and your organization must keep up to protect your systems, apps, and devices. Call our team of IT experts now if you want to strengthen your business IT security.

This post was originally published on this site

How to mitigate Microsoft 365 security risks

Microsoft 365 has transformed the way many organizations work by enhancing workflows, collaboration, and efficiency. But like other cloud-based solutions, this line of subscription services is not immune to security risks. Here’s what your business can do to address these challenges.

Vulnerabilities in SharePoint

Businesses typically use SharePoint Online and on-premises SharePoint sites to store sensitive information like personally identifiable data. Failing to secure SharePoint content against unauthorized users is one way to expose data and your business to malicious actors. This can be critical for companies that are required to comply with stringent data privacy and protection regulations and may face serious consequences for noncompliance.

To prevent this, limit administrator-level privileges and enable encryption. Additionally, set the necessary security restrictions per user for every application.

Unprotected communication channels

Phishing attacks and malware are two of the most common ways cybercriminals infiltrate a system, but there are other paths of attack. Microsoft 365 applications like Microsoft Teams, which can connect to external networks, may serve as a medium for ransomware and other types of attack.

Train your staff to identify potentially malicious files and links. Also, offer guidelines on how to handle and route sensitive files and communication to safe locations.

Security risks in dormant applications

Organizations using Microsoft 365 often won’t use all the tools and services included in the productivity suite. You may use one or several programs like Word, Excel, and SharePoint but rarely use OneDrive. If your business has been utilizing specific programs, note that some dormant applications may be prone to attack. This is why it’s crucial to identify the apps that aren’t being used, and have an administrator tweak user settings to restrict availability on such apps.

File synchronization

Like most cloud services, Microsoft 365 allows users to automatically sync on-premises files to the cloud, such as in OneDrive. This useful feature is not without security risks, however. If a file stored locally is infected with malware, OneDrive will view the file as changed/updated and trigger a sync to the OneDrive cloud, with the infection going undetected.

Office 365 Cloud App Security, a subset of Microsoft Cloud App Security, is designed to enhance protections for Office 365 apps and provide great visibility into user activity to improve incident response efforts. Make sure your organization’s security administrators set it up on your systems so you can detect and mitigate cyber risks as soon as possible.

Cybercriminals will continue to sharpen their hacking techniques, and your organization must keep up to protect your systems, apps, and devices. Call our team of IT experts now if you want to strengthen your business IT security.

This post was originally published on this site

Which Microsoft 365 plan should I choose for my business?

Confused about which Microsoft 365 plan you should procure for your business? Understandable, given how complicated Microsoft packages their business solutions subscriptions. Read on to get a simplified outlook on the different plans and packages available today.

Information workers or frontline workers?

Microsoft 365 is the obvious choice if you’re running cloud-based business systems, but the main question is which suite will serve your needs best. Microsoft has packaged their Microsoft 365 offerings to fall under two types of bundles: Information Worker plans and Frontline Worker plans. Both of these plans will give you access to Office 365 and file hosting service OneDrive, but there are significant differences between the two.

Under the Information Worker suite, there are two Microsoft 365 plans you can customize as per your needs: E3 and E5. You can expand said suite with specific service sets your business needs, such as a standalone Office 365 system, Enterprise Mobility + Security tools, and even sets of the Windows 10 operating system. Meanwhile, the Frontline Worker suite (F1, F3, and F5) is more compact, with Office 365 F3 being the only available add-on.

Microsoft 365 E3 and E5 plans have unlimited archive and mail storage space. They also come with advanced analytics tools such as Delve, MyAnalytics, and PowerBI, all of which are unavailable on the Frontliner plans. Information Worker plans also include access management, threat protection, endpoint management, and other advanced tools absent in the Frontline Worker suite.

In terms of SharePoint, a collaborative platform and document and storage system, Frontline Worker plans are short on enterprise search, Excel services, and Visio — a diagramming and vector graphics app — features. Frontline Worker plans also do not have unified communications.

With these points in mind, it may seem like Information Worker subscriptions are superior — and in many ways, they are — but Frontline Worker plans are more suited for smaller companies running on a tight budget. Microsoft 365 F1 and F3 cost $2.25 and $8 per user per month, respectively, while Office 365 plans E1, E3, and E5 cost $8, $20, and $35 per user per month, respectively.

As a general rule, only consider subscribing to the Information Worker plans when your employee headcount exceeds 50 people and users require more storage space solutions and advanced analytics. Otherwise, Frontline Worker plans should suffice.

E3 or E5

Once you’ve decided to go for the Microsoft 365 Information Worker plans, you need to choose which plan (E3 or E5) suits your business requirements.

E3 offers basic solutions, such as Outlook, Word, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Excel for $32 per month. It also provides access to SharePoint Team sites, video conferencing, and Yammer for social media for businesses.

E5, on the other hand, provides all E3 features together with unified communications, PowerBI, Microsoft Defender, Application Guard, and Safe Documents. It also comes with more cloud security tools, risk-based conditional access, privileged identity management, and both automatic and machine learning-based sensitivity labels. E5 costs $57 per month.

Small- and medium-sized businesses often select E3 and subscribe to third-party applications for their cloud security and VoIP needs. But for more robust data management and security requirements, the E5 plan is the way to go.

Migrating to Microsoft 365 is not an overnight task, and if you’re still undecided about which plan to opt for, contact us today. We won’t just provide Microsoft 365; we’ll also assess your business to find the best plan that fits your budget and business goals.

This post was originally published on this site

Which Microsoft 365 plan should I choose for my business?

Confused about which Microsoft 365 plan you should procure for your business? Understandable, given how complicated Microsoft packages their business solutions subscriptions. Read on to get a simplified outlook on the different plans and packages available today.

Information workers or frontline workers?

Microsoft 365 is the obvious choice if you’re running cloud-based business systems, but the main question is which suite will serve your needs best. Microsoft has packaged their Microsoft 365 offerings to fall under two types of bundles: Information Worker plans and Frontline Worker plans. Both of these plans will give you access to Office 365 and file hosting service OneDrive, but there are significant differences between the two.

Under the Information Worker suite, there are two Microsoft 365 plans you can customize as per your needs: E3 and E5. You can expand said suite with specific service sets your business needs, such as a standalone Office 365 system, Enterprise Mobility + Security tools, and even sets of the Windows 10 operating system. Meanwhile, the Frontline Worker suite (F1, F3, and F5) is more compact, with Office 365 F3 being the only available add-on.

Microsoft 365 E3 and E5 plans have unlimited archive and mail storage space. They also come with advanced analytics tools such as Delve, MyAnalytics, and PowerBI, all of which are unavailable on the Frontliner plans. Information Worker plans also include access management, threat protection, endpoint management, and other advanced tools absent in the Frontline Worker suite.

In terms of SharePoint, a collaborative platform and document and storage system, Frontline Worker plans are short on enterprise search, Excel services, and Visio — a diagramming and vector graphics app — features. Frontline Worker plans also do not have unified communications.

With these points in mind, it may seem like Information Worker subscriptions are superior — and in many ways, they are — but Frontline Worker plans are more suited for smaller companies running on a tight budget. Microsoft 365 F1 and F3 cost $2.25 and $8 per user per month, respectively, while Office 365 plans E1, E3, and E5 cost $8, $20, and $35 per user per month, respectively.

As a general rule, only consider subscribing to the Information Worker plans when your employee headcount exceeds 50 people and users require more storage space solutions and advanced analytics. Otherwise, Frontline Worker plans should suffice.

E3 or E5

Once you’ve decided to go for the Microsoft 365 Information Worker plans, you need to choose which plan (E3 or E5) suits your business requirements.

E3 offers basic solutions, such as Outlook, Word, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Excel for $32 per month. It also provides access to SharePoint Team sites, video conferencing, and Yammer for social media for businesses.

E5, on the other hand, provides all E3 features together with unified communications, PowerBI, Microsoft Defender, Application Guard, and Safe Documents. It also comes with more cloud security tools, risk-based conditional access, privileged identity management, and both automatic and machine learning-based sensitivity labels. E5 costs $57 per month.

Small- and medium-sized businesses often select E3 and subscribe to third-party applications for their cloud security and VoIP needs. But for more robust data management and security requirements, the E5 plan is the way to go.

Migrating to Microsoft 365 is not an overnight task, and if you’re still undecided about which plan to opt for, contact us today. We won’t just provide Microsoft 365; we’ll also assess your business to find the best plan that fits your budget and business goals.

This post was originally published on this site

Supercharge your office’s chat app

Do the features of your company’s chat application feel limited? With many tasks and people involved in daily work, having a centralized chat app to help you organize your team not only makes you more efficient, but it also saves time. Here’s how you can use a simple app that lets you do much more.

The convenience of chat apps has enabled workers to cut time spent chatting with colleagues and spend more time doing their tasks. What’s more, work-related software is increasingly becoming more mobile- and user-friendly, with apps like Microsoft Teams bringing together several different platforms. Here’s how you can use that to your advantage:

Use SharePoint to store and share files

You might already be using SharePoint to store files and collaborate with your teammates. But did you know that in every Teams channel, you can click the Files tab to share files from SharePoint with team members? You can also access SharePoint files already shared in the channel and use Office Online or Office Desktop to collaborate on those files.

Forward emails into a channel

You get countless emails every day, many of which might be buried in your inboxes. Fortunately, Microsoft makes it easy to forward any email message from Outlook to a Teams channel so they show up in both platforms.

To do this, click the ellipsis (…) next to any channel name and select Get email address. This generates an email address for the channel, which you can copy and use to forward files, documents, and messages.

Stick with a few groups

While you can create as many groups within your organization as you like, going overboard can result in a cluttered messaging interface that overwhelms team members. Instead, you can create groups based on the number of projects and team members involved ー you can always add more if necessary.

Set up audio conferencing

Teams lets you host voice meetings with groups or with just one team member. This is particularly useful when communicating with remote workers or clients, in which case you can give them guest access to your Teams channel. Guest access ensures they’re able to communicate with someone but unable to view private information.

Test communication strategies

Just because some of the features in Teams overlap with other Microsoft platforms, such as Yammer and Skype for Business, doesn’t mean they’re all redundant. Think of it as a chance to test different communication strategies to find out what works best for you. For instance, if most of your clients have a Skype ID, you can use Skype for client calls.

Share conversations with new team members

Teams makes onboarding new hires easy. Rather than forwarding numerous emails and documents to new employees, use Teams to share past conversations and projects with them. This enables everyone to catch up without having to deal with cumbersome documents.

Microsoft Teams and other Office solutions are equipped with plenty of useful features that can take some time to master. But by taking advantage of these tools, you’ll be able to save time and maximize efficiency without having to spend a dime. If you have any questions about Microsoft Office and how it can benefit your business, don’t hesitate to give us a call.

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