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Ensuring Hybrid Work Actually Works

Hybrid Workplace

For most of us and our businesses, hybrid work is here to stay.  In reality, it has almost always been with us.  Salespersons, field technicians, and other out-of-office customer-facing roles have been a part of many businesses for decades.  The mix, however, of who works outside the office has changed.  And while many businesses are still working to figure out how many in-office work days are necessary each week, the underlying assumption is that hybrid work models will remain.

The challenge now is to ensure your model for hybrid work actually works for your business. When remote work was the exception, the solutions could be one-offs, or more complicated, because the impact on users was limited.  The extra effort to connect to the office was acceptable.  Remote work is now part of the norm, whether in a hybrid model or full-time. Connecting is now critical — technically and in terms of communication, collaboration, and culture.

Here are 5 Ways to Help Ensure Hybrid Work Actually Works

 

1 Simplify Access and Accessibility

Ensure your team can connect and work easily.  Each added layer, such as VPNs, adds a layer of complexity and creates another opportunity for something to go wrong. Complexity also impedes performance.

Moving services — applications, files, data — into a central cloud service reduces the need for complex connections from remote users to in-house networks and servers.  Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace, for example, can easily replace traditional file servers.  Using a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) service with remote desktops simplifies access and accessibility to servers and line-of-business applications that do not yet run in the cloud.

2 Create a Single User Experience

If the user experience is different in-office and remotely, team members on a hybrid schedule must effectively navigate two different systems to connect and work. The result is often confusion. File locations and access to printers and scanners become confusing. Configuring oneDrive or Google Drive desktop applications is challenging if you want them to work on and off your office network.

Creating a single user experience reduces the confusion and eliminates potential roadblocks to productivity.

One of the easiest ways to create a single user experience is to use (VDI) and remote desktops.  Rather than having users work “locally” in the office and “remotely” elsewhere, the VDI environment provides remote desktops usable to everybody regardless of location.  All users connect to the service and work within a secure network.

As an added benefit, VDI narrows the scope of your security envelope. VDI reduces the need to manage end user devices, particularly if you allow Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD).

3 Enable Collaboration

The flow of information is different when we work remotely versus together. And while many are more productive working remotely, effective collaboration takes effort.

On average small businesses use only 10% to 15% of the features and capabilities of Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace. There is a high cost to low adoption.

To foster collaboration, your team must be comfortable using the tools that enable the sharing, communications, and relationships. On-going education of capabilities helps team members learn and use collaboration features. Reviewing and updating workflows and processes can improve collaboration within day-to-day activities.

4 Manage Your Managers

Managing people and leading teams is a skill. Many “doers” struggle when they become managers, given the complexities of coaching, mentoring, managing expectations, and dispute resolution across diverse groups of individuals. Managing teams with remote members is even more challenging. Team dynamics will differ, perception biases related to visibility will exist, and managing will need to be against results and expectations rather than visible activity.

Team leaders and managers need education, training, guidance, and mentoring to succeed.  And this need is greater with hybrid and remote teams. Peruse the Ask a Manager blog archives if you want real life examples of unskilled, and outright bad, managers who can damage your business.

Spend some time, and yes, money, to develop management and leadership skills for those responsible for supervising others.  Include guidance and support for issues unique to remote staff and hybrid and remote teams.

5 Include People Intentionally

Remote work does allow team members to focus on their tasks and manage their time. Meetings still happen and team members can use their commute time for other things.

In-person work still has benefits. Unstructured interactions build relationships and connections that enable ideas and innovations to take hold. Granted, “water cooler” chats can be gossipy or give naysayers a channel.  These conversations also enable many to float and test ideas outside of formal meetings. There is a perceived formality when you ask somebody to meet via video, even if it is to just bounce and discuss ideas. The acts of requesting, scheduling, and joining create a structure that differs from catching somebody at their desk, in the hall, or walking back from lunch.

The solution is to create opportunities for casual communications and to set the expectation that they should occur. To do so, your team members need opportunities to interact not only on work, but work-tangential topics, as a means to build relationships and trust.

For your remote/hybrid workers, inclusion is key.

  • As you prepare for meetings, let remote participants know in advance that you will be seeking their input on various topics. Set the expectation for participation without an element of surprise.
  • Create the habit of asking, “Who else should we ask?” when having unstructured discussions. Include them in real-time via chat or video, or message them for ideas or a time to chat.
  • Actively include remote workers in company events.  Team pizza lunch on Thursday?  Move it to a conference room, invite remote team members, and send remote participants lunch (or a credit to order their favorite).
  • Plan company events so remote team members can participate. Activities, like providing the ingredients and preparing a fancy meal guided by a chef, allow people to share a common experience in a group setting, even though participants are not physically together.

Next Step: Cumulus Global Can Help

Making sure that hybrid work actually works for your business requires intent, planning and action. Even small initiatives and steps to support remote staff and teams, and to foster communication, trust, and collaboration, can have a big impact on your business.

Cumulus Global can help you with plan and deploy technologies and servers that enable and support effective remote workers and teams.  With best-in-class remote desktop/VDI services, expert support for both Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace, and affordable Managed Cloud Services, we will help your business thrive and grow.

Click here to schedule a call with a Cloud Advisor or send us an email. There is no cost and no obligation.

About the Author

Bill Seybolt bio pictureBill is a Senior Cloud Advisor responsible for helping small and midsize organizations with cloud forward solutions that meet their business needs, priorities, and budgets. Bill works with executives, leaders, and team members to understand workflows, identify strategic goals and tactical requirements, and design solutions and implementation phases. Having helped over 200 organizations successfully adopt cloud solutions, his expertise and working style ensure a comfortable experience effective change management. 

 

Technology Solutions for Solopreneurs and VSBs

Technology Solutions for Solopreneurs

Entrepreneurs are a unique breed.  Solo entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, even more so.

If you are a solopreneur, or lead a very small business, you face some unique business and IT challenges. One of these challenges is balancing your business and your personal lives.  To do this, you want and need your technology solutions to save you time and energy.

If you are like most solopreneurs and very small business owners, you are probably

  • Paying for duplicate services
  • Unware of features that can improve your productivity
  • Not taking time to explore ways to work more efficiently
  • Missing security and data protections
  • Not getting the guidance and support you need

At the same time, you most likely lack the time, energy, or expertise to research, select, deploy, and learn the right IT services. As a part of our managed cloud services, we offer technology solutions, tools, and apps for solopreneurs that are tailored to meet your specific business needs.

Managed Services are a Technology Solutions for Small Businesses

Often used by larger businesses, managed services provide your information technologies, support, and services as a comprehensive bundle for a set monthly or annual fee. By definition, managed services are designed to offload your IT responsibilities and place them in the hands of experts. These managed service providers should start with guidance, get your systems up and running, administer your services, and provide you with support.  If they are performing their services well, these technology solutions for small business and solopreneurs should also help you identify features and functions that improve your work processes — make you more efficient.

5 Ways How to Move Towards Managed Services as a Technology Solution

Before moving forward with managed services, we recommend taking a step back and assessing how you want your IT services to help you and your business.

1. Start with A Goal and Objectives

  • Your technology and services need to empower you and enable your business.  Regardless of the devices, applications, and tools they use, your IT should:
    • Be easy to use
    • Save you time
    • Secure your data, and that of your customers
    • Keep your business data private
    • Support any compliance requirements you may have
    • Fit within your budget.

2. Focus on the Benefits

  • Discuss which capabilities will help you work more efficiently, more productively
  • Avoid the technology trap. Instead of thinking, for example, about email, calendars, and file sharing, think about automating appointment scheduling, protections for confidential information, and one-click video conferencing.

3. Define Your Baseline Services

  • Map your benefits to technologies
  • Base your IT decisions on your prioritized needs and wants
  • Define the minimum set communications, collaboration, and security tools to run your business
  • Explore and leverage ways to work more efficiently

4. Add / Enhance as Needed

  • If your business must be compliant with legal or industry regulation, add the technologies and services you need to meet these requirements.
  • If you find ways that technology can improve productivity, determine if the gains are worth the investment.

5. Managed Cloud Services

As the name implies, Managed Cloud Services are managed service that, whenever practical, leverage cloud services and solutions. Cumulus Global has the expertise and experience to move your business to managed cloud services. By leveraging cloud solutions, baseline services and foundational security are affordable and can easily be tailored to meet specific business needs.

Learn More About Our Technology Solutions, Tools, and Apps for Solopreneurs and Small Business

To learn more about our IT solutions that are tailored to meet your specific business needs, get in touch or view our additional resources below.


Microsoft 365 Enhances Meetings and the User Experience

One of the benefits of Cloud is the ability to add features and capabilities without complex, technical rollouts.  To enhance collaboration, communications, and the user experience, Microsoft is adding features to Microsoft 365.  Here are a few new features you should know about.

PowerPoint Live in Microsoft Teamssales analysis

Enhance your ability to present and collaborate in Teams meetings.  In addition to a robust presenter view and tools, PowerPoint Live supports co-presenters with seamless transitions.

Customize how your video feed and content appear to your audience, including the ability for the audience to see you in front of your presentation. Create interactive presentations with hyperlinks and videos. Interactive presentations improve attention and allow attendees to move at their own pace.

Learn more about PowerPoint Live in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Whiteboard in Teams Meetings365 enhancement

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Participants in your Teams meetings can collaborate on a shared digital canvas with Whiteboard. Whiteboard integration in Microsoft Teams meetings is powered by Whiteboard for the web. Participants of Teams meetings collaborate with text, graphics, notes, videos, and other content.

Learn More About How to Use Whiteboard in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Viva Insights

Microsoft Viva Insights provides personalized recommendations to change how you work to do your best work. Get insights to build better work habits. Improve follow-through on commitments made to collaborators. Protect your focus time for uninterrupted, individual work. Insights summarize your Microsoft 365 data – data that you already have access to – about emails, meetings, calls, and chats.

Insights for individuals are completely personal and private. Personal insights are for your eyes only; neither your manager nor system administrators can see them.

Larger File Size Upload Limits

Gain more flexibility with 250 GB file size support.  Optimized file upload performance helps reduce upload times for files moving into SharePoint, Teams, and OneDrive.

Insights to Improve Your User Experience

Microsoft Productivity Score can help you improve your user experience with better endpoint boot times, app reliability, networking, and Microsoft 365 Apps health.

To learn more about these new features, to arrange an immersive, hands-on, demo experience, or to discuss how Microsoft 365 might help you achieve your business goals, contact us and schedule a complimentary Cloud Advisor Session.

Google Workspace Storage Policy Changes Impact Business Subscribers

Earlier today (April 15, 2021), Google announced changes to Google Workspace storage policies for Google Photos and the suite of collaboration apps.  For Google Workspace subscribers on the Business Starter, Standard, and Enterprise licenses, these changes will impact how your data counts against your storage limits.

Policy Changes:

Effective June 1, 2021

  • All new high-quality photos and videos uploaded to Google Photos will count towards your storage limit. Any photos or videos uploaded prior to June 1, 2021 will not count towards your storage limit.

Effective February 1, 2022

  • Any new files created in Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drawings, Forms, or Jamboard will count towards your storage limit.
  • Existing files that you modify after this date will also count towards your storage limit.
  • Existing files that are not modified will not count towards your storage limit.

Impact

Depending on your use of Google Photos and the suite of collaboration apps, these changes to the storage policies means more of your files will count towards the storage limits in the Google Workspace Business tier licenses.

Business Starter

Storage limit: 30 GB per individual user

  • Prior to June 1, 2021: If you have users that regularly use Google Photos, review their usage and determine if/when they might reach the limit.
  • Prior to Feb 1, 2022: Review usage reports to assess how quickly individual users may reach the individual 30GB limit.

Action: Upgrade specific users to Business Standard or Business Plus, as needed to ensure they have the capacity they need.

Business Standard

Storage limit: 2TB per user, aggregated across the domain.

  • Understand your storage limit. Storage is aggregated, calculate your limit by multiplying the number of Business Standard users by 2TB and the number of Business Plus users by 5TB.  As an example, if you have 10 Business Standard users, your storage limit is 10 x 2TB = 20TB.
  • Prior to June 1, 2021: Review your use of the Google Photos in the aggregate across your domain. Project the rate of growth over the coming year to assess if or when the use of Google Photos may cause you to hit your storage limit.
  • Prior to February 1, 2022: Review your use of the collaboration apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc.) to estimate your rate of growth and file modifications.  With this estimate, you can project if/when you might approach your storage limit.

Actions: Running Business Standard licenses, you have options: (1) You can upgrade specific (higher activity) users to Business Plus, giving those users higher aggregated storage; (2) You can upgrade your entire domain to Business Plus, increasing your storage available to all users at the 5TB per user level; or (3) You can upgrade your service to a Google Workspace Enterprise license, giving your team unlimited storage.

Business Plus

Storage limit: 5TB per user, aggregated across the domain.

  • Understand your storage limit. Storage is aggregated, calculate your limit by multiplying the number of Business Plus users by 5TB.
  • Prior to June 1, 2021: Review your use of the Google Photos in the aggregate across your domain. Project the rate of growth over the coming year to assess if or when the use of Google Photos may cause you to hit your storage limit.
  • Prior to February 1, 2022: Review your use of the collaboration apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc.) to estimate your rate of growth and file modifications.  With this estimate, you can project if/when you might approach your storage limit.

Actions: As you cannot mix Business and Enterprise tier licenses, you will need to upgrade your service (all users) to an Enterprise subscription. This change will provide unlimited storage.

Next Steps

Contact us if you would like help assessing your usage patterns, planning your utilization, or assessing your options. We will schedule a meeting with one of our Cloud Advisors or members of our Service Team.

5 Strategies for How Technology Can Improve Collaboration in the Workplace

A work environment that doesn’t encourage teamwork and collaboration is one of the top 5 reasons people quit their jobs, according to research by Ernst & Young. Many businesses face growing workplace collaboration needs with aging technologies, making it vital to ask the question, how can technology promote collaboration and teamwork?

We need modern technology for team solutions — secure, reliable, scalable, and cost-effective — that make workplace collaboration efficient, effective, and enjoyable.

Here are 5 Technology Strategies to Help Improve Workplace Collaboration

Workflows can be improved by digital collaboration in the workplace in a variety of ways. Here are five proven strategies how technology can improve collaboration in the workplace.

1. Use a Chat-Based Workspace to Improve Collaboration

Team members often get stuck waiting for the feedback and sign-off they need to drive a project forward. Back-and-forth scheduling for conference calls burns up time and energy. When they finally do get on a call, edit documents, and send out the revised versions, they’re often stuck waiting again for sign-off.

Workplace productivity changes when your team can quickly get coworkers and decision-makers on group or private chat, or in an online meeting with co-authoring. Teams can review, discuss, edit, and approve documents in real time, and workplace collaboration will vastly improve.

2. Improve Online Meetings

Technology mishaps should be a thing of the past, especially struggling to participate in virtual meetings.  Too often, difficulty with connections or the joining process interrupts and delays meetings. These problems discourage people from working together and creates a barrier for our increasingly mobile workforce.

Empower employees to have better meetings with a single meeting application that integrates with the rest of your collaboration and productivity software.

online meetings can improve workplace collaboration

A positive meeting experience produces positive results for you and your organization, which is another benefits of modern workplace technology for team collaboration.

3. Break Down Work Silos and Improve Collaboration

All too often, team members are heads-down in their work and unaware of the knowledge and efforts elsewhere in your business. Lack of information and duplication hurt morale and have a material cost to your business.

Using a social network tool brings conversations online. Your team uses social networking in their personal life; bringing social tool into your business provides a means for your team to share ideas, information, and interests. With remote and hybrid workers, you can encourage and capture the informal conversations that foster collective intelligence, collaboration, and innovation.

4. Simplify File Sharing

Haven’t we had enough of emailing files and waiting for feedback and revisions.  The process of juggling messages and multiple copies with edits is an inefficient relic from the days of typewriters and routing slips.

Take advantage of the collaboration features of cloud-based file services:

  • Access documents anywhere, whether online or offline
  • Collaborate in a single document that’s always up to date
  • Seamlessly share large files
  • Use built-in chat functionality to discuss edits within a document
  • Control permissions of contacts inside and outside the company

5. Move from a Patchwork of Apps to a Productivity Suite

In our new mobile society, we are accustomed to downloading apps at home and in the office. The result: a hodge-podge of applications that all do different things, have different sign-ins, and may not deliver the security and compliance you want and need. By utilizing productivity tools, you will be better prepared for changing work environments and will be able to collaborate more effectively with the assistance of modern technology.

Conclusion on How Technology Can Improve Workplace Collaboration

Moving to, and fully utilizing, a productivity suite gives your team the right digital tools to get their work done, the resources to communicate and collaborate, the integration to eliminate duplicate data and effort, and the security to protect your information, your people, and your business. Do not just deploy technology and hope for better workplace collaboration; help your team understand the apps, tools, and features they can use to be more efficient, productive, and successful.

For more on the topic, check out the eBooks and whitepapers in our Library. Better yet, schedule an introductory call and connect with our team of Cloud Advisors.

4 Approaches to Better Meetings and Effectiveness

Without a doubt, meetings remain an essential part  of running your business. They ensure your teams stay on the same page with the information they need to get things done; they connect you with your customers; they help build stronger relationships. Unfortunately, meetings can also waste time and resources—ultimately costing your business.

Here are 4 Ways How to Make Meetings More Effective

1. Define the need

The first step for how to make meetings more efficient comes down to defining the need. If you’re approaching meetings without a clear agenda they will often be unproductive.  In order to improve workplace meetings, ask yourself these 6 questions to determine whether a meeting is necessary.

  1. What is the action item of the meeting: decisive or informing?
  2. What is the size of the meeting?
  3. Is the meeting simply to inform a handful of people, can a memo or email share the information?
  4. Will the meeting solve a problem?
  5. Is there a better alternative, such as using a tool with real-time chat or team announcement features?
  6. Will canceling a meeting negatively impact your employees’ abilities to complete their work?

Once you’ve determined the answers to the six questions above, you’ll be one step closer to better meetings.

2. Simplify Meetings for Success

A positive meeting experience produces positive results for you and your organization.

  • Follow a clearly planned agenda to minimize distraction from your primary purpose and keep your meeting on track
  • Make your expectations crystal clear, and this includes expectations for meeting participation
  • Keep meetings short to improve how employees do their jobs and help steer tangential discussions back on track
  • Ensure all members understand their role to create accountability and produce better meetings

3. Meet like a pro

Lessons learned help improve success, particularly with growing use of inclusive and modern meeting technologies for collaboration. Below we describe approaches to planning meetings for more effectiveness.

  1. Provide a clear agenda
  2. Keep time in mind: start and end on time
  3. Ease the burden of not-taking by recording or capturing a transcription of the meeting
  4. Provide visuals to help members follow along
  5. Send a post meeting recap: Reiterate key discussions and decisions; thank members for participating
  6. Define clear action items and outcomes

Another strategy that you can use to meet like a pro is educating employees on what the 4 P’s of effective meetings are. Purpose, Product, People, and Process are the four Ps required to run an effective meeting. These serve as an excellent model for making meetings more effective and successful.

4. Manage online meetings

Online meetings are here to stay, and are a key way to improve work from home if you have any remote workers. If managed well with a proper approach, online meetings create new possibilities for involving team members and sharing information through digital collaboration.

  • Ensure everyone has the right technology, invites, and call-in info.  Make sure attendees will be able to see, hear, and speak clearly
  • Keep attendance focused on those that need to be there, avoiding unnecessarily large meetings
  • Welcome members and outline how you plan to manage interactions, who speaks when, and use of the chat window
  • Use the mute features to minimize distractions
  • Keep your meeting secure using passwords and other features
  • Reduce uncertainty by recording the meeting or keeping a transcript for future reference

Conclusion on How to Make Meetings More Effective

Meeting attendees will follow your lead, so make sure it’s a strong one. By continuously honing your meeting strategies and skills, monitoring what does and doesn’t work, and actively pushing to convert decisions into action, your meetings will become more effective over time.

For more on the topic, check out The Ultimate Meeting Guide. To review your meeting tools, conference room setups, and methods, schedule an introductory call and connect with our team of Cloud Advisors.

Modern Workplace: Benefits and Challenges

The modern workplace brings together teams, information, and processes to empower our teams and enable our businesses. Powered by Microsoft, Google Cloud platforms, getting the most out of our systems requires more than simply moving from one system to another. Managing adoption and ensuring users understand how to use tools effectively increases individual and team productivity and efficiency. Below, we look at the most notable modern workplace benefits, as well as three major challenges to overcome.

5 Modern Workplace Benefits

Most of our businesses realize benefits when we create our modern workplace with Microsoft, Google, and other key solutions.

1 Faster and more reliable communication
The modern workplace improves our ability to communicate. Beyond fast Internet connections, the integration of voice, messaging, audio/video conferencing, file sharing, real-time collaboration, and other tools lets us work together and share information in the ways that work best for us. Secure access from virtually anywhere enables us to work where we are most productive.

2 Enhanced efficiency and productivity
The modern workplace ushers in efficiency and productivity in many ways. Automating tasks and workflows, improved access to files and information, and embedded AI help users complete work more effectively.

3 Lower costs; Higher profits
Technology-driven increases in efficiency and productivity decrease operating costs. Reduced travel, faster time to market, quicker customer response times, and faster and more effective decision-making all result from the reliability, mobility, and productivity of a modern workplace.  These benefits save time and money, and drive revenue and profits.

4 Greater transparency and interconnected operations
You can replace complex, bureaucratic processes when you match access to data and information with updated processes that take advantage of integrated, secure applications, tools, and services. Whether simple file sharing or ensuring you have one record of customer information across your systems, the modern workplace helps connect, streamline, and simplify.

5 Improved security
Modern workplaces are more secure. Integrated, layered security is embedded into the architecture of cloud infrastructure services, designed and built to meet your security and data privacy needs. Beyond the traditional focus of protecting physical computers in specific locations, security for the modern workplace protects the systems, networks, applications, data, and processes. You also protect your people with identity and access management that removes the physical boundaries of security.

3 Challenges of the Modern Workplace

Moving to a modern workplace, like any, change comes with challenges.

1 Resistance to Change
Even when they understand the objectives and benefits, some members of your team will hesitate to embrace change. Helping team members understand how the changes will benefit them individually —  how it will enable them succeed — improves buy-in and acceptance. Offering tools to help them learn and apply new features and capabilities supports their personal growth and overall adoption of new apps, tools, and processes.

2 Inadequate Training
Turning on a new app, tool, or process is not enough. “One and Done” sessions are not effective.  To fully benefit from your modern workplace investments, your team needs to understand your apps and tools as they use them. Individuals retain and apply learning best when they have time to use what they have learned. Adoption plans that provide training and support relevant to a person’s role and responsibility in small, manageable doses, over time are most effective.

3 Mismatched Technology
Technology for the sake of technology leads to disaster. Picking the best technology that is not the best fit creates problems. Start your selection process by defining your business goals and objectives. Identify the types of technologies you need and want to support your objectives. Then select the specific technologies that match your prioritized needs and wants.

Contact Us to Learn More About Modern Workplace Tools & Solutions

Email us or complete our contact form to discuss how a modern workplace, including Microsoft, Google, and other key tools, can help your business thrive and grow.

The Business Case for Teamwork Solutions

CollaborationHow our teams work, and our businesses run, continues to evolve. Teamwork — communication and collaboration — brings people together to share information, work together, and accomplish common goals and objectives. When you have a place to create and make decisions, you empower your team to achieve.

Market Dynamics

Finding secure, easy ways to connect across teams and locations is a high priority if you want to create a competitive advantage in today’s quickly changing business landscape.

83% of knowledge workers depend on technology to work together

72% of workers will work remotely, full or part time

35% of knowledge workers still collaborate on documents using email

 

Cloud Forward teamwork solutions enable you to customize your workspace, keep your team secure, and communicate more effectively.

Challenges You Face

Most businesses see the value of Cloud Forward solutions, but migrating to the cloud does not ensure results. Real value requires changing some of the ways you work, leveraging features, and enhancing individual and team productivity and effectiveness.

Communications: How can you bring teams and resources together?

  • Enable real-time communication
  • Provide secure mobile access
  • Empower teams to work remotely

Mobility: How can you enable employees to work from virtually anywhere, on any device?

  • Enhance mobility within your company
  • Reduce overhead, and save money on office space, as employees work remotely

Secure Sharing: How can you make it easier to connect with customers, co-workers, and others?

  • Secure and preserve company data when sharing information with others
  • Distinguish between the information external users can and cannot access
  • Keep track of who has what information

Solutions that Drive Success

Adopting Microsoft 365 means more than migrating emails and files. Adopting Microsoft 365 involves managing change; educating your team on ways to use the teamwork technology to:

Get more done

Teamwork technology embedded in Microsoft 365 enables productivity solutions that:

  • Streamline teamwork
    Integrate team chats, meetings, and files in one place; increase productivity
  • Enable real-time teamwork
    Make it easy for teams to work together on documents; rapidly advance ideas and innovation
  • Connect applications
    Provide the tools and services customers use every day to collaborate; connect people, information, and ideas

Work better together

Microsoft Teamwork solutions enables collaboration solutions that help you:

  • Improve security
    Strengthen your overall security posture and improve compliance and reduce your use of unsecure apps
  • Work from virtually anywhere
    Use digital tools to empower teamwork across your mobile workforce, no matter where your people work or what devices they use

Build your business

Microsoft 365 makes it easier to set up and manage users, devices, and data within a highly secure, cloud-based productivity platform.

  • Use an integrated solution
    Save time, money, and the headache of managing multiple vendors and technologies for security and team solutions
  • Reduce costs
    Microsoft technology provides a nearly 80% cost savings over similar technologies provided by third-party vendors

Partner for Success

We understand that change is challenging. We also see that the results outweigh the effort when teams embrace and adopt new capabilities and improve how they work.  Empowering your team enables success.  Through our Managed Cloud Services, we co-manage your IT services and provide on-going education and support to help your team adopt and leverage new capabilities.  We help your employees succeed at their jobs; we enable your company to achieve your desired results.

Contact us or email us to learn more. Or, schedule a complimentary Cloud Advisor Session and discuss your goals, challenges, and opportunities.

Google Workspace: The Marvelous, the Meh, and the Money

Last week, Google made one of the biggest announcements in the 12 year history of its business productivity suite history.  G Suite is now Google Workspace. More than a name and branding change, Google Workspace represents a wholesale realignment of the productivity suite. Offering Business and Enterprise product tiers, each with multiple licensing and package options, Google Workspace is structured to match the way businesses are running today, and expect to run in the future.

With any major change, the opportunity and the impact of Google Workspace varies by business.  As we focus on small and mid-size enterprises, in this post we take a look at the Marvelous, the Meh, and the Money of Google Workspace Business editions.

The Marvelous

Google Workspace Business editions align well with the features and capabilities used by businesses with 300 or fewer employees.

  • Business Starter: This edition is a continuation of the former G Suite Basic service.   Users have 30GB of email, document, and photo storage, up to 100 participants per meeting in Google Meet, support for single sign-on, and basic device management, reports, and audit logs.
  • Business StandardThis edition increases storage to 2TB per user, allows up to 150 participants in Google Meets, and adds Shared Drives with advanced permissions, approvals, and metadata.  Business Standard also includes internal Cloud Search, advanced Drive auditing and reports, and the ability to record meetings and save them to Drive.
  • Business PremiumThe Business Premium edition is the most similar to the current G Suite Business subscription with 5TB of email, file, and photo storage per user, Shared Drives, and Vault for email and IM eDiscovery and Archiving. Users can include up to 250 participants in Google Meets. This edition also includes secure LDAP services and a set of advanced endpoint management services.

With this realignment, you can now mix licenses within your domain.  Doing so lets you optimize capabilities and costs to the needs of individual users and teams.

Google is focusing on the collaboration and work environment support most businesses need. The ability to manage document approvals and create custom metadata labels and fields in the Standard and Premium subscriptions are the types of features we expect businesses to use to improve collaboration, work flows, and efficiencies.

The Meh

For organizations currently on G Suite Business, moving to Workplace Business Standard and Premium Editions means losing unlimited storage.  While the vast majority of small and midsize businesses do not need more than 2TB or 5TB of storage, respectively, some businesses may need to move up to the Enterprise tier.

Most of our customers on G Suite Business need Vault archiving for regulatory compliance or to comply with and manage internal policies.  These organizations will need to move to Business Premium or will need Business Standard with Vault as an add-on.

As with most changes, customers will have decisions to make about when to move to the new subscriptions. While you can choose to move to a Google Workspace subscription at any time, the current G Suite subscriptions will only remain available through March 2021.

  • If you are on the monthly flex plan, you can continue to use your current G Suite service until the end of March 2021.  You will need to select and move to a Google Workspace subscription before March 31, 2021.
  • If you are on an annual plan and your renewal date is before March 31, 2021, you can either renew your current service for 1 year or switch to a Google Workspace subscription.
  • If you are on an annual plan and your renewal date is after March 31, 2021, you will need to move to a Google Workspace subscription upon renewal.

The Money

While moving from G Suite Basic to Workspace Business Starter does not impact your costs, moving from G Suite Business to Workspace Business Starter and Premium Editions will increase costs for most G Suite Business subscribers.

For G Suite Basic subscribers, your cost of $6/user per month ($72/year) remains the same with Workspace Business Starter.

For G Suite Business subscribers, your cost of $12/user per month ($144/year) may change as follows:

    • Change to Workspace Business Standard at $12/user per month ($144/year) PLUS the cost of Vault for users requiring Archive/eDiscovery coverage
    • Change to Workspace Business Premium at $18/user per month ($216/year) for complete Vault coverage and the additional features
    • Remain at $12/user per month ($144/year) if you no longer need or want Vault coverage

In April 2019, Google changed and increased pricing for G Suite Basic and Business editions.  To mitigate the financial impact, Google authorized promotional discounts for upgrades and for renewals extended term commitments. For many businesses that took advantage of these upgrades, you saw a modest price increase in 2019, an expected step to standard G Suite pricing in 2020, and may not face another increase in 2021. We are sensitive to the budget impact and are offering options to avoid or mitigate the additional costs.

Your Next Step:

Your best next step is to contact us and schedule a Cloud Advsior session. We will review your current subscription and usage, discuss your options and costs, and recommend a preferred solution that best fits your business’ needs, priorities, and budgets.  For most, the choice will be which Google Workspace subscription is best. For some, particularly those still using MS Office desktop applications, switching platforms to Microsoft 365 may provide a better alternative.  Our team is here to listen, understand, guide, and execute. Let our expertise inform your decisions and support your actions and goals.

Work Life Post COVID-19 Will be Different

As reported by the Boston Business Journal, a recent survey conducted by the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, with help form several regional business groups, found that businesses are projecting that 47% of employees will continue to work completely or partially from home post-Covid. If this is the case, the number of remote workers will jump 2 1/2 times from the pre-Covid rate of 18%.

While this survey’s focus was looking at the potential impact on the commercial real estate market in the metro Boston area, we can expect these results to be somewhat similar for metropolitan areas across the country.

A significant, permanent shift in the percentage of remote workers will impact how businesses operate.

To adapt, you will want to eliminate issues that are “inconveniences” when temporary, but should not be allowed to hurt productivity or efficiency in the long term. Some of the changes we have seen and helped businesses deploy include:

  • Changing your infrastructure (and using cloud services) to provide users with secure, direct access to applications and files, eliminating the need for remote desktop or VPN connections to on-premise networks and systems
  • Expanding your use of social communication tools, like Google Chat and Microsoft Teams, to enable the casual and incidental conversations that occur in office
  • Incrementally automating common tasks and work flows to simplify and monitor processes
  • Giving your staff the ability to manage inbound and outbound calls through the company’s voice service, ensuring
    • Call flows, through ACD and IVR menus, work properly
    • Team members can transfer calls to others
    • Staff do not need to use personal phone numbers and voicemail
  • Ensuring your calling groups, like those for help desks, function well regardless of a person’s location
  • Updating threat protections for users, data, and applications outside your physical offices.
  • Selecting video conferencing services that are secure and that provide your team with useful features and controls, such as:
    • Controlled and secure access
    • Ability to share desktops, windows, and browser tabs
    • Privacy tools, such as alternate backgrounds
    • Captioning and transcription capture

As many of these improvements can be accomplished with the tools and systems you already have in place, the cost to ensure productivity is manageable.


Complete this form for a free, no-obligation assessment, or contact us to schedule an introductory call with one of our Cloud Advisors.

Webcasts

Productivity Suites: Google and Microsoft Revisited

(5/18/2021) – Take a fresh look at Google Workspace and Microsoft 365 and how each might best serve your business. Rather than a feature-by-feature comparison, we take a strategic look at positioning, architecture, services, subscription options, and integrations.

Next Normal: WFH and Remote

(4/20/2021) – We explore how Work From Home and remote workers alters your IT service needs. Taking a holistic view, we look beyond using apps and accessing files, discussing factors that protect your business and support productivity

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Google Workspace Security

eBook | Source: Google —
Google started in the cloud and runs on the cloud, so it’s no surprise that we fully understand the security implications of powering your business in the cloud.

Make it Work: The Future of Collaboration and Productivity

eBook | Source: Google —
The future of work is here – it’s just not evenly distributed. This report identifies three changes businesses  can make to work in the future

Unblocking Workplace Collaboration

eBook | Source: Microsoft —
Poor workplace collaboration is 1 of 5 top reasons people quit their jobs. Break down collaboration blockers so that teams …

Google Workspace Migration Guide

eBook | Source: Google — What are your goals, and what makes one technology solution the best fit? Here are some insights that can help facilitate a smooth transition to new workplace productivity tools at all stages — with specifics on Google Workspace — from decision to preparation to deployment to upkeep.