Office 365

SMBs Benefit from Office 365 Business Premium Enhancements

Office 365One of the value propositions we see with Microsoft Office 365 is the aggressive manner in which Microsoft continues to add services, features, and apps to the service without changing price.

This week, Microsoft announced the addition of two new capabilities to the Business Premium license:

Outlook Customer Manager

A simple CRM tool for small businesses, Outlook Customer Manager lets you track your customers, contacts, sales activities, and important events from your Inbox.

Microsoft Bookings

Microsoft Bookings offers convenient, flexible online options that make it quick and easy for customers to schedule appointments with your small business clients. A customizable public webpage allows customers to find available times and book appointments, anytime. A private calendar enables your small business clients and staff to manage their schedules; automatic confirmations and reminders help to save time.

Which Cloud? Let Your “Line of Business” Apps Be Your Guide

Maybe hould your CRM, ERP, or Warehousing system guide which email service you use? Yes, and here’s why …

Many SMBs think of Office 365 and G Suite (formerly Google Apps) as an email service or collaboration tools for emails, files, and chats. Both Office 365 and G Suite are, however, collaboration suites focused on individual and team productivity. Once in place, your productivity cloud becomes the cornerstone of your cloud services and your IT ecosystem.

In deciding which cloud, your line of business systems should guide your decision. Whether you choose Office 365 or G Suite, your productivity cloud will provide the platform that your line of business systems will use to present information and that you will use to view, share, and analyze data.

Born in the cloud, G Suite is built on a cloud-centric philosophy that promotes the use and integration of cloud (ie, SaaS) business apps.  G Suite does not include CRM, project/task management, data analysis apps, or other tools.  With G Suite the expectation is that you will use the capabilities of Google Cloud Platform, other Google services, or third party apps to meet these needs.  The G Suite model centers on your picking “best of breed” or “best fit” cloud-based solutions.

While Office 365 integrates with dozens, of third party, the Office 365 philosophy is to provide an integrated suite of solutions.  Delve, Power BI, Planner, Sway, and Teams are all examples of value-add solutions that Microsoft includes in the Office 365 suite to go beyond basic communication and collaboration.  With the addition of Dynamics 365, you have many line of business, data analysis, and planning functions covered without looking to third party apps.

Where Do Your Line of Business Apps Fit in the Decision Matrix?

If your Line of Business (LoB) systems run on premise with MS SQL Server Database, will run hybrid on-premise and in-cloud, or will continue to run in a Microsoft ecosystem, Office 365 comes with the ability to connect business intelligence, data analysis, reporting, and communications tools directly to your systems.

If you are running, or moving to SaaS-based systems for LoB solutions, your business intelligence, data analysis, and reporting solutions will likely be cloud solutions as well. G Suite provides and ecosystem for pulling these together in a manner.

Both Office 365 and G Suite integrate with on-premise and hybrid cloud solutions.  Both work with many third party solutions.  But Office 365 and G Suite each have their own strengths and philosophies. While you should not be limited by your current infrastructure, the nature of your current and planned LoB systems should, therefore, be an important factor when you decide which cloud is right for you.


For a better sense of which cloud is right for you, get a free assessment and consulting session by completing our Productivity Cloud Questionnaire. The survey takes 30-40 minutes to complete. We will respond with an analysis and recommendations report, and a free Cloud Advisor session to review our findings.

Culture Clash: Office 365 and G Suite

IT preferences can feel like religion. Mac vs PC. Linux vs Windows, iOS vs Android. The same holds true with cloud services. The historical presence of MS Office in our daily work lives makes moving to G Suite feel more like a radical shift than moving to Office 365. And while there is something to be said for familiarity, the way we’ve always done things is not necessary the best way to do them, or the way we should be doing them in the future.

Our work environments are changing from structure and hierarchy to collaboration and teams.

The productivity tools we pick should foster and support the way your team wants to work rather than forcing your team into structures and processes that can stifle innovation, initiative, and productivity.

Both Microsoft Office 365 and G Suite give you the tools to help your team collaborate and thrive. The approaches, however, differ.

The Microsoft Angle

For about two years, Microsoft has focused on “cloud first; mobile first” as its strategy and mantra. The evolution of Office 365 and Azure demonstrate Microsoft’s commitment and enthusiasm for the collaboration economy.

But Microsoft is about rapid evolution, not revolution. Microsoft understand that you have legacy systems and data — from MS Office documents to line-of-business systems — that you cannot replace all at once.  One of the strengths of Office 365 is the ability to integrate the service with existing servers, applications, and data. In doing so, new capabilities work not only with cloud-based systems and data, but with your existing IT systems and services.

Microsoft’s cloud-first strategy is clearly to expand the capability of Office 365, but let you access your on-premise systems and data. Case in point: Power BI.  Power BI is a user-driven data analytics tool in Office 365 that is not part of the MS Office suite.  Power BI lets you connect and include data from Excel, SQL Server, Dynamics, and hundreds of other sources — on premise and in the cloud.

The Google Angle

Google has always been cloud-first — some might say cloud-only — in its strategy.  Yes, G Suite integrates with your local Windows network and with your desktop MS Office suite. But the real power of G Suite is the innate design around collaboration and peer connectivity. Every app — and nearly every feature — supports real time collaboration.  The apps within G Suite are designed to be efficient and “lighter weight” than other productivity suites, focusing on the functionality used by 80-90% of users and relying on third party solutions for the rest.

G Suite assumes, if not expects, you to use third party applications and solutions to build out your capabilities. Google focuses on integration with third parties as much, if not more, than adding major apps and functionality to G Suite. Need a CRM system? Take your pick from dozens of solutions ranging from major players like Salesforce.com and Prosperworks to niche and vertical market solutions like Bullhorn. Need a task management solution? Hive, Smartsheets, and many others are ripe for the picking.

Google’s cloud strategy is clearly to provide a core productivity platform and to empower organizations to pick “best fit” and “best of breed” cloud (SaaS) solutions to fill broader needs and provide line of business functionality.

Culture Clash

Even with a Cloud-First strategy, Microsoft focuses on including and providing a broad range of apps and solution within the Windows/Office365/Azure ecosystem. Yes, Microsoft fosters relationships and integrates with other cloud solutions and apps. Microsoft also integrates with legacy, on-premise systems. Google’s culture is more “all in cloud”. Yes, you can integrate MS Office.  Yes, you can connect to on-premise systems. But your productivity suite will work best when you integrate with third party SaaS solutions.

Which solution — Office 365 and G Suite — is right for you depends on where you are and where you want to go as an organization. The decision is as much about culture, line of business apps, mobility, and other factors as it is about Outlook vs Gmail.  When deciding which cloud, look forward and measure your decision against goals, objectives, and the long term strategy for your business as well as your IT.

 


For more discussion of factors to consider when deciding which cloud is best for your business, check out our recent eBook, Picking Your Productivity Cloud.

Cyber Attack

3 More Reasons You Are an Easy Cybercrime Target

Cyber AttackLast week, we gave you three reasons why you, as a small or midsize business, are a viable and desirable target for cyber criminals.

If those reasons don’t give you enough reason to act, here are three (3) more reasons SMBs, and you, a target for cyber criminals…

SMB data is increasingly networked

  • All of your systems — databases, email, documents, marketing, point-of-sale, and more — are likely running on a single network.
  • Access to one of your systems can lead to access to others. Target’s POS system was hacked using a security flow in the HVAC monitoring system running on the same network.
  • Moving data and systems into secure cloud solutions, and segregating network traffic minimizes the cross-over risk.

SMBs are using consumer products for business data

  • Consumer grade services are often more affordable, but often lack the security and data protection features of the higher-priced, business versions.
  • Separate work and home and use solutions designed for business, and, make sure to configure the security and privacy setting accordingly.

SMBs are often lax when it comes to security

  • Many small businesses operate in an environment of trust; people know and trust one another. This trust can be exploited by a disgruntled employee or an outsider.
  • Keep user identity management and passwords private and secure; Manage administrator and “super user” passwords so that they are unique, complex, and secure.
  • Keep servers and systems with sensitive data/access secure; enforce screen locking and passwords.
  • Educate your staff on security risks and behaviors.

 

Taking cyber security seriously is the first and best step in protecting your business, employees, and customers. Protection need not be overly complex; nor must reasonable protection be a budget busting expense. Reasonable measures balance cost and security.


Interested in ensuring you are protected, contact us for a free Cloud Advisor Session, or learn about our data protection solutions and our privacy solutions.


 

 

 

Cyber Attack

3 Reasons You Are an Easy Cybercrime Target

Cyber AttackAs we’ve mentioned before, more small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are falling victim to cybercrime.  According to HP’s Cyber Security and Your Business report, Cybercrime costs SMBs 4.2 times more per employee than larger businesses, and 60% of SMBs that experience a data breach are out of business in six months.

Why are SMBs, and you, a target for cyber criminals?

SMBs spend less on security while larger businesses are increasing their security protections.

  • Your business is an easier target because you are more likely to lack basic protections. In effect, you may attract cyber criminals because you are an easier target.
  • Budget for, and implement, reasonable protections covering user identities, access controls, user permissions, data loss prevention, and employee awareness and training.

SMBs do not have in-house security expertise.

  • Keeping up with risks and trends is time consuming above and beyond ensuring that your security measures are updated and working on a day-to-day basis.
  • Leverage technology and your IT partners for automated solutions and expertise, as well as on-going management of your security and privacy solutions.

SMBS are moving into the cloud.

  • Using cloud applications and storage makes sense. But, your data is no longer behind a physical or logical “firewall”.  Protecting your data means protecting the cloud systems and services you use.
  • Always select business-grade services over consumer services. Implement all security features, including 2 Factor Authentication. And, when possible, integrate access to cloud services into a single system for managing user identities. And, do not forget to train, and periodically remind, your staff how their awareness and actions can allow or prevent an attack.

 

Start the new year off right with a review of your IT security and data privacy policies, procedures, and systems.  Doing so is an affordable way to protect your business, your employees, and your customers from cyber crime. The cost of prevention is miniscule compared to the cost of a breach.


Interested in ensuring you are protected, contact us for a free Cloud Advisor Session, or learn about our data protection solutions and our privacy solutions.


 

4 Lessons from the Q4 Data Breach Review

Last week, our strategic partner Privacy Ref held their quarterly review of recent data breaches.  In his presentation, Ben Siegel, CIPM, identified 4 lessons learned from recent data breaches, including: Google Android; Hillary Tentler, CPA; Folsom State Prison; and the Internal Revenue Service.

#1: Unauthorized Mobile Apps Create Risk

Issue: Users can download apps from sites other than the Google Play store. These apps are not “vetted” and gain access to tokens used to control users’ accounts.

Lesson: As the threat is outside of Google’s control, you need to put systems in place to prevent unauthorized apps from access your company’s data via mobile devices.

#2: Local Data is At Risk, Too

Issue: In the burglary of an accountant’s home, three hard drives were stolen and only one was recovered during the arrest.

Lesson: Physical devices, when stolen, can result in a serious data breach; While moving 100% cloud is more secure, it may not be a practical option for your business yet. You should ensure any local data is encrypted and subject to regular backup.

#3: Internal Breaches are Still a Breach

Issue: A file including names, social security numbers, and other sensitive data was saved to a shared location accessible to anybody in the organization.

Lesson: You can protect yourself from internal breaches with solutions that use defined business rules to automatically enforce permission restrictions based on the content of your files.

#4: It is Too Easy to Email Protected Information

Issue: Employees were sending emails with personally identifiable information (PII) clearly visible, in violation of regulatory requirements.

Lesson: You should not rely on people to do the right thing all of the time — mistakes happen and can be damaging and costly. System exist that scan and encrypt emails automatically if they contain sensitive or protected information.


Do you need a privacy assessment or a privacy plan review? Are you ready to better protect your data — on premise and/or in the cloud?

Contact us to discuss your needs.


 

Yahoo Mistreats Customers

Yet Another Yahoo! Breach

Yahoo Mistreats CustomersFor the second time this year, Yahoo! acknowledges a major security breach.  This time, the breach occurred in 2013, resulting in the data loss of roughly 1 billion, (Yes, BILLION) accounts.  More than usernames and passwords this breach included security questions and answers.

But, here are the scary facts:

  1. Yahoo! was unaware of the breach until a third party notified them that their user information was for sale on the “dark web”
  2. Yahoo! admits it was unaware of the breach and does not know how it happened

Because Yahoo! accounts are used behind the scenes in multiple services, and you may be using your Yahoo! identity for other sites and apps, the potential impact of the breach is just plain scary.


Maybe it is time to Move From Yahoo!.  Contact us to learn how.


 

Identity Management

3 Reasons to Consider Replacing Active Directory

Identity ManagementActive Directory was designed for on-premise local and enterprise networks.  As the use of cloud continues to move forward, Active Directory has not adapted as quickly as needed to provided robust, unified, identity management.  Here are three (3) reasons to consider replacing (or augmenting) Active Directory.

1) Active Directory is not “Cloud Ready”

According to a survey by security firm BetterCloud, almost 50% of SMBs will be all cloud by 2020, up from 15% today. Even SMBs are using more than one cloud service.

Keeping Active Directory means setting up sync services and other tools across multiple cloud platforms — a complex and expensive solution.

2) Users are Mobile and Working Remotely

Global Workplace Statistics reports that between 20% and 25% of employees already work remotely on a semi-regular or regular basis. And, 50% of employees hold jobs that are compatible with remote work. Since 2005, remote work has grown 103% and continues to grow.

Keeping Active Directory means requiring employees to log into the corporate domain when working remotely, typically by VPN. This is slow and cumbersome for users, and expensive to setup and maintain.

3) The Windows-Only World is Gone

Macs are normal part of the ecosystem; Computerworld reports that 90% of Fortune 500 companies officially support Apple desktops, laptops, and tablets. Chrome devices are starting to move from education to the business market. And, most employees work at least some of their day on smartphones or tablets; iOS and Android are now business operation systems.

Keeping Active Directory means bridging identity management and policies between network operating systems or adding third party products to properly manage users and devices.

The good news is that you do not need to live with the cloud-related limitations of Active Directory. You can run directory services, manage identities, and control access to devices (even when off-network) with cloud-based directory services. These services simply administration and provide a single system of record for user identities.


Want to learn more or give it a try? Contact us and we will show you how.


 

Fast Fact

Fast Fact Friday: Cloud Adoption Trends Up

Fast FactAs reported by CloudTech, a recent survey of more than 500 IT professionals in companies with 50 to 2000 employees …

  • 20% report extensive use of cloud
  • 52% report significant use of cloud
  • 24% report modest use of cloud

And, 56% of respondents indicated that cloud use will increase over time.