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5 Ways Microsoft Office 365 Can Help Your Business

As a Microsoft Partner of nearly 19 years, I have seen several shifts in the way small and medium sized businesses can utilize technology. In 1995 the use of email and websites were just beginning to catch on for many small businesses, and within a few short years became ubiquitous. Over the last few years we have witnessed another extraordinary shift in technology that can give smaller businesses a real edge. Yes, we are talking about “the cloud”, but I never did like that term. We have been using “the cloud” since we sent the first email. I prefer to talk about this shift in more pragmatic terms.

At a simplified level, we are seeing a shift from companies budgeting a significant capital expense with implementing on-premises solutions, toward a monthly operational expenses as they invest in hosting solutions through 3rd party providers. There are many advantages in doing so. You are able to utilize the same technologies accessible to the largest enterprises. You have scale and elasticity to immediately shift resources to meet your demands. You get to reap the reward of feature add-on’s and solution upgrades, without the headache of having to manage those upgrades internally. You have improved remote access and mobility. Finally, you have a fixed, predictable, recurring cost for these services that can be easily managed and tracked.

1. Exchange Online
Exchange Server is Microsoft’s email server product. I built my business in part by supporting on-premises Exchange Servers for my clients, which can be standalone or implemented as a component of Microsoft’s Small Business Server, which is no longer available. I regularly refer to Exchange as Office 365’s “low hanging fruit”. Businesses have and need email, and moving that function to a hosted provider is typically the most obvious technology to move to another provider. Over 90% of the folks we have helped implement Office 365 started with migrating email to Exchange Online.
The migration path to get all your email data from either an on premises Exchange Server or another hosted service to Office 365 can be a challenge, so unless you have internal IT staff who are very familiar with the offering I highly recommend you find and work with a cloud certified Microsoft Partner. Once your data is migrated, however, the experience should be extremely similar for staff who are used to using Microsoft Outlook to manage their email, calendars, and contacts. You may require upgrades to Windows and Outlook if you are on older versions, but core functionality is very similar and recognizable for most.
2. Lync Online
Microsoft used to have two products named Office Communicator and LiveMeeting. Those products were combined several years ago into a product called Lync. Lync provides the ability to collaborate with other people in real time. I have found that while few businesses, particularly the smaller ones, are extremely interested in Lync initially, they soon find themselves asking how they ever lived without it. It can truly change the culture of how your staff communicates and works with one another.
A great thing about this service is that it can simply be purchased and turned on. There is nothing to migrate and very little to configure. End users need some training on this new product, but they become highly effective with it quickly. At the core of Lync, your staff can see presence – whether or not someone else is available at that moment. You can see a presence indicator across the other components of Office 365, including Exchange and SharePoint. You can instantly communicate with people via chat, voice and video. You can share applications or your entire desktop. You can have voice or video conference calls. You can present to prospects or clients. This represents a real shift in the way your staff communicates.
3. SharePoint
SharePoint is at its core an intranet website to share files and collaborate. It is designed for business use with security and management in mind. If you are with a small business and have tried SharePoint in the past you may have come to the conclusion that it wasn’t for you. It was difficult to configure and use, and felt like an enterprise solution. The latest revision of SharePoint Online in Office 365 is far simpler to use. Out of the box, with some basic thought and planning around file structure and day to day use, it’s possible for a small company to have a rich and sophisticated platform from which to share, store, and secure company data and resources.
One of the most interesting features of SharePoint is called OneDrive for Business. This feature allows business users to synchronize data from SharePoint to their individual devices. A very important point to interject here is that there is a significant difference between this solution and the consumer solutions like DropBox, Google Drive, and OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive). Business class products like OneDrive for Business match those features, but add critical business functionality like managed security, backup, and data retention for the business. I should note here that DropBox also has a business solution with centralized management, so if you stick with DropBox instead of Office 365, just make sure your business uses that version, not the consumer version many employees may have installed.
With SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, the files belong to the business, not the individual. Permissions can be set much like you would on a file server, and if an employee is no longer with your company, the files don’t disappear with that individual. Microsoft very recently added OneDrive for Business as a standalone product as well, so you can utilize the OneDrive feature set without the full SharePoint implementation if you are only looking for file synchronization.
4. Yammer
Microsoft acquired a company called Yammer not too long ago and has done an incredible job of integrating the platform with Office 365. It is difficult to succinctly describe what the platform provides, but think of it as social media for your business.

There are various ways to utilize Yammer in your business. I like to break down the ways I see the platform being used into two categories.

First, if your organization has more than about 20 employees you have probably come up with some kind of policy about what kind of email just doesn’t belong in the “all staff” distribution group. For instance if someone on your staff had an interesting personal item to share that is great to build connections, but often feels more like spam when many users send those kinds of messages to everyone’s email. Yammer is the place for shared social interaction, photos, links, etc. to live instead of email, and can be consumed how and when it makes sense. Also if you have more staff or are geographically separate from one another Yammer is an incredible way to build culture. Give each other kudos, get to know each other personally a bit more. It is a fun platform to be used in a myriad of social ways.

Second, there are extremely relevant business uses for the platform. You can create groups, perhaps by project or department, and have conversations, posts, etc. relevant to those groups. Those conversations live in Yammer. They can contain files, links, photos, comments, and more and they are searchable. Microsoft itself has done a wonderful job of creating Yammer groups for its partner and client base. Yammer is now the primary way I learn more about what’s coming from Microsoft. Yes, you picked up on that didn’t you? You can setup groups within Yammer and allow people outside your organization to interact. Subcontractors, clients, etc. can have a platform to interact in a controlled and secured fashion.
5. Office ProPlus

Everyone pretty well understands the traditional methods for purchasing Microsoft Office. You could buy the apps preinstalled on your computer, via retail from a store or online, or you could license them for your business through a partner like Arterian. With Office 365 you now have the ability to simply subscribe to Office ProPlus, which is the Office suite as a downloadable application on up to 5 devices per user account (yes, Office for Mac is included). There are two advantages to this subscription method. First, the cost is very low and there is no upfront cost to acquire the license. Second the applications update, essentially like an app on your mobile phone or tablet. You don’t need a disk or a license key. Other key application providers are shifting to a very similar model. Adobe, for instance, is doing the same with their suite of applications.

Conclusion

Many have heard me say that I’ve never seen a solution so easily sell itself. Office 365 provides such an enormous value at such a low monthly cost per user that the decision to shift to the solution makes sense for nearly all businesses. There are exceptions, but they are few. There are many various cloud vendors providing similar feature sets to each of the items I’ve discussed above, but to have the best of these services all on the same platform with an extremely financially secure company with top notch datacenters makes me infinitely more comfortable with the fact little of my data resides on-premises any longer.

You can learn more about the solution at www.microsoft.com/Office365 and I recommend that if you have concerns about security, uptime or compliance you take a look at www.TrustOffice365.com.

Jamison West is the founder and CEO of Arterian, Inc. Arterian can be reached at 206-284-5927 or info@arterian.com.

Could You Benefit From Managed Services?

d6f4ould-You-Benefit-From-Managed-Services-150x150Managed Services provide enterprise-level IT capabilities without a large initial capital investment for a predictable monthly fee—which can be appealing to small and medium-sized businesses such as yours.

Are you a candidate for Managed Services?
Take our quiz below.

Managed Services checklist

o   We’re having difficulty staffing qualified IT professionals.

o   We’re concerned about the security of our data.

o   We’re concerned about the security of our transactions.

o   We’re concerned about the security of our communications.

o   We aren’t always able to respond quickly to market demands.

o   We need to reduce overhead costs

o   Staying up to date with evolving technologies is difficult for us.

o   Maintaining current hardware and software is time consuming.

o   We need to operate in real time to meet 24-hour demand.

o   We need to deliver services to remote offices or workers.

o   Our growth depends on our implementation of new technology.

o   We need to upgrade our infrastructure.

o   We need to relocate our infrastructure.

o   We’re undergoing a merger or acquisition.

o   The scale of our operations is going to change.

o   We want to expand into new markets.

o   We’d like to focus our efforts on our core competencies.

o   We need to focus only on mission-critical activities.

o   We need to implement a global IT network, but we lack the resources.

o   We’re concerned about our ability to keep up with the latest security threats.

o   We’re affected by privacy or security regulations.

o   We’re experiencing dynamic business growth but have a hiring freeze.

o   We need to maintain our current IT capabilities but are downsizing.

If any of the items apply to you, you may want to consider Managed Services. Bring your completed list to us today, and we’ll let you know how can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Las Vegas Dotes over Disaster and Recovery with Datto!

Arterian attended the 2nd annual Datto Partner Conference held last week at the Aria in Las Vegas. Partners were provided with tools, resources, and connections that promoted Datto’s backup and disaster recovery solutions. Highlighting the conference was the introduction to Datto’s Virtual SIRIS that enables partners to provide customers with business continuity results that don’t involve additional infrastructure. Virtual SIRIS utilizes the hypervisor for virtualization, backing up both physical and virtual machines.

“We’re excited about the virtual space and adapting to the changing market conditions,”
Datto founder and CEO Austin McChord said during a conversation with MSPmentor.

Read more about Virtual SIRIS here.

The conference agenda also included a series of advance training seminars that Arterian participated in to proactively stay updated on Datto technical offerings.

In addition, keynote speakers provided an abundance of knowledge regarding technical aspects and highpoints that will be an added value for customers. On the horizon, clients will have more transparency as to what data is being backed up in conjunction with various reports and audits available for business continuity.

Stay tuned as we “download” all our notes from the conference and provide updates on Datto products…

Arterian ranks in Top 200 MSPs in North America and Top 501 MSPs in the World

Picture1Arterian makes the “Top 200 MSPs in North America” – Arterian’s mantra has always been to “Provide Great Customer Service, Unconditionally” and as a result the company has catapulted into the Top 200 MSPs in North America and Top 501 MSPs in the World according to MSPMentor.net. Arterian’s team adheres to experiential, non-negotiable service standards that are to be executed at EVERY point of contact with EVERY client. That is how Arterian enables their client’s to get “FROM HERE TO NEXT!”

Read more…

Preparing a business for disaster

BCP_Sep09_AFor many countries, August through to October is severe weather season. From wildfires in the western US, to typhoons in Asia, many regions see a rise in disasters during these months. In an effort to increase awareness FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Association) has named September as National Preparedness Month. Are you prepared for a disaster that affects your business though?

When it comes to preparing for a disaster, especially a natural disaster, there are so many things you need to plan for and prep. Frankly, it can be overwhelming. We found that a good place to start is to prepare two aspects of your business: Your employees and your physical assets.

Tips for preparing your employees Many business owners view their employees as the most valuable assets. If a disaster strikes you will rely on them to not only execute any plans you have developed but to also help keep the business running. Unfortunately, if the disaster is big enough your employees will also be affected. With this in mind, you need to ensure that you prepare your staff as well as your business.

Here’s four tips on how you can do that:

  1. Help your employees plan - It is a good idea to provide your employees with information and tips on how to prepare for a disaster and what they and their family should do during this time. There is a wealth of information on FEMA’s Ready site to start with. Beyond that, you should also record contact numbers and if employees need any additional support.
  2. Develop a set of different plans - Disasters come in all sizes and varieties. You should be prepared for this with different plans as to what to do during an actual disaster. Most experts agree that creating an evacuation, shelter-in-place and lockdown plan will cover most scenarios. Regardless of the plan, there should be an identified safe location and information on how to get there.
  3. Implement a warning system - In order for your plans to be effective, employees need to know when to implement them. The easiest way to do this is to develop a warning system. It could be something as easy as an email, phone tree or texts. On top of that, ensure that the building’s warning systems like fire alarms and detectors are working.
  4. Emergency supplies - If you are caught in a disaster and stuck inside your office, you are going to need supplies like water, food, blankets, communication devices and even first aid. Take the time to put together emergency supplies that can be easily accessed and will meet your immediate needs.

Tips for preparing your business and physical assets While your employees are your most valuable asset, they likely aren’t very productive without a physical place to work – your office or business premises. In order for any disaster-oriented plans to truly work, it’s a good idea to take steps to secure your physical assets and safeguard your company. Here’s four tips on how:

  1. Know all about your insurance coverage - In late June many businesses and homeowners in Calgary Canada, were heavily affected by floods. Many of these businesses went on to find out that their insurance didn’t cover floods because they aren’t common to the area. This is a perfect example of why you should review your insurance coverage. You should be careful to check what level of coverage you have and if you are insured for property damage. Then, check with your broker for any recommendations or suggestions.
  2. Assume utilities will be disrupted - During large-scale disasters you can be 100% sure that some, or all, utilities will be disrupted. You should take steps to mitigate the potential effects. For example, look into portable generators for power and gas powered heaters if necessary.
  3. Safeguard the building - There are many stories of businesses that when faced with disaster come out much better than their neighbors. Most attribute this to the fact that they took steps to prepare their physical location. This could be as simple as installing new fire alarms, detectors and even new entrance/exit doors. You should also take steps to safeguard systems – ensure that valuable equipment is secure from unauthorized access and that all safeguards are recorded in case rescue teams or an external party need access.
  4. Keep data and systems secure - Disasters may not physically affect your business. In fact, many disasters are now cyber based. It could be a hacker has managed to access your systems and has stolen or deleted all of your customer data, or a power surge takes out an integral server. You should take steps to ensure that your data and computer systems are secure from external and internal threats.

If you would like to learn more about how to prepare your business for disaster, why not check out these excellent resources on FEMA’s Business Preparedness site. Or, you could always contact us to see how our systems can help ensure you remain operational during any disaster.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.