Blog

March 11th, 2014

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.

Topic Article
September 2nd, 2013

Presented by: Arterian & The Seattle Chamber of Commerce

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Get Ready for 2014 IT Planning & Budgeting

Companies of all shapes and sizes struggle with IT planning and budgeting. Often there’s a basic disconnect — IT staff don’t understand the budgeting process and the finance department doesn’t understand IT. This can undermine your company’s success in the coming year.

Join us to learn why IT planning and budgeting is important, how to map business goals to IT plans, and how to build a budget that provides the right level of technology funding for the coming year.


Date: Thursday, Sep 26, 2013
Time: Noon – 1:30 p.m. (lunch included)
Location: Chamber’s office (in the Microsoft Events Center)
1301 5th Ave., Ste. 1500, Seattle 98101


Register Now

August 1st, 2013

Presented by: Arterian & The Seattle Chamber of Commerce

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Online Security for Small & Medium Businesses

As more and more business documents are sent and stored via the web, it has never been more important to keep up to date on the most recent security methods to keep your information safe and protected. Learn what you need to know to about threat prevention, online risks and safe data storage for yourself and your employees.


Date: Thursday, Aug 15, 2013
Time: Noon – 1:30 p.m. (lunch included)
Location: Chamber’s office (in the Microsoft Events Center)
1301 5th Ave., Ste. 1500, Seattle 98101


Register Now

July 3rd, 2013

Presented by: Arterian & The Seattle Chamber of Commerce

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Get the cloud working for you! Come and find out which applications and services will give you and your business a big productivity boost and streamline day-to-day tasks. Jamison West, Arterian CEO, will take you through a number of extremely useful cloud-based apps that help you to share files easily, collaborate more effectively, streamline meeting scheduling, and electronically sign contracts and documents.


Date: Thursday, Jul 25, 2013
Time: Noon – 1:30 p.m. (lunch included)
Location: Chamber’s office (in the Microsoft Events Center)
1301 5th Ave., Ste. 1500, Seattle 98101


Register Now

June 14th, 2013

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We are pleased to announce that Arterian has been selected as the programming partner for The Seattle Chamber of Commerce Technology Thursdays series. These interactive professional development events, geared towards small to midsize businesses and held monthly at the Chamber’s new Microsoft Conference Center, will delve into the latest technology applications and provide practical tips and tricks that you can start using right away. Attend the next event or visit the website for more information.

Topic Article
June 13th, 2013

Presented by: Arterian & The Seattle Chamber of Commerce

Microsoft Excel can be an incredible useful and time saving tool-IF you know how to use it! Join Arterian’s Jamison West as he delves into Excel 2013 and walks you through some of the best tricks as well as exciting new options to help streamline your processes and spreadsheets.


Date: Thursday, Jun 27, 2013
Time: 8 – 9:30 a.m. (breakfast included)
Location: Chamber’s office (in the Microsoft Events Center)
1301 5th Ave., Ste. 1500, Seattle 98101



Register Now

Topic Article
May 13th, 2013

Presented by: Arterian & the Seattle Chamber of Commerce

You’ve been hearing a lot about the newest version of Microsoft Office, but what does it mean for your business? Join us for this “lunch and learn” event to hear about Office’s latest features, what value can be gained by upgrading and which edition is best for you. Whether your organization is small with limited IT resources and knowledge or is a larger company with advanced IT needs, we’ll share how the new Office can help solve your business challenges.


Date: Thursday, May 30, 2013
Time: Noon – 1:30 p.m. (lunch included)
Location: Chamber’s office (in the Microsoft Conference Center)
1301 5th Ave., Ste. 1500, Seattle 98101



Register Now

Topic Article
April 9th, 2013

Excel 2013 gives you intuitive ways to explore your data with added and enhanced features, inspiring you to get to new insights. In one click, discover new ways to visualize your data, and see your information in new depths. Enjoy working with and analyzing your data – Excel guides you with charts and tables based on your data, and helps you get the job done faster. A new, clean view made as much for the tap, touch, and turn of your fingers as the click of your mouse or keyboard means you can move naturally through your information. With Excel, explore your data at new depths in less time.

Join Arterian CEO, Jamison West, and Microsoft’s Devesh Satyavolu on Wednesday, April 24th, for this free lunch and learn event where you’ll learn how Excel 2013 enhances the way you work with financial data and allows you to see your information in new depths.

Date: Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
Time: 12:00 – 1:30 (Check in begins at 11:30)
Cost: Free Pre-registration required
Location: Civica Office Building (205 108th Ave NE #400, Bellevue, WA 98004)
Parking: Free parking validation

Register today!

Topic Article
October 21st, 2012


Microsoft Small Business Server is no more. Join us at one of our events in November, and learn what’s next in technology for your business. Our Hybrid Cloud solution blends all the features of on-premise infrastructure with all the benefits of the cloud. Space is limited, register now!.

Topic Article
July 23rd, 2012

We are proud to announce that on July 11, 2012 we received the Microsoft West Region Northwest Area Partner of the Year Award. Every year Microsoft presents awards in multiple categories at its Worldwide Partner Conference, with recipients selected for specific awards in alignment with Microsoft competencies and solutions as well as awards that recognize exceptional performance across the board by geographical region.

The West Region Partner of the Year Award recognizes a partner that has exceptional accomplishments in FY12 within the Small to Medium Sized Business space and has delivered best-in-class solutions across various Microsoft technology platforms addressing customer challenges and business needs. This award also recognizes an exceptional level of service above the competition throughout the delivery of those solutions. Arterian’s CEO, Jamison West, was in attendance in Toronto to receive the award and bring it home to our Seattle office. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to all of our clients and staff that helped make it possible for us to receive this recognition.

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