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Remote Learning + (Privacy x Access) = New IT Needs

While schools, teachers, and families want schools to safely re-open, the reality is that in most areas of the country, remote learning will be part of the plan this coming school year.  In addition to ensuring student access and adapting teaching methods, the move to remote learning creates new communication and privacy issues.  Working with schools and districts across the US, we see new requirements for voice services, such as:

Full Access

  • Even schools with Voice over IP phone systems may not have a way for staff to receive and make calls remotely.  More than forwarding an extension to a home or cell phone, staff should be able to answer, transfer, and initiate calls.  Additionally, unanswered calls should go to the school, not personal, voice mailbox.

Hotline / Service Desk

  • With staff working remotely, provide the ability for managed call groups with either “ring many” or “round robin” features to ensure staff are able to answer student calls quickly.
  • In addition to IT help lines, these service desks can help librarians assist student with research, enable counselors provide better coverage, and ensure calls to administrative offices are answered or routed when staff are working remotely.

Privacy for Personal Phone Numbers

  • Not all staff have school phone numbers that they can use to call, and receive calls, when out of the office.
  • Special education teachers, aids, liaisons, and coordinators, and other staff that need to communicate one-on-one with families, should not have to make calls from, or disclose, their personal home or cell phone numbers.

Cloud VoIP solutions can augment and fill gaps in your current phone services so you can fully support remote teachers, staff, and learners.

With cloud VoIP services, we can easily tailor incremental and point-solutions to your needs while managing per-user and total costs.  Capabilities include:

  • Individual direct dial numbers or extensions
  • Soft phone apps for mobile devices, laptops, and desktops, providing:
    • Ability to make and receive calls on any device without disclosing personal phone numbers
    • Access to all phone service features
    • Access to system voicemail services
  • Single or multi-level call direction menus
  • Service Desk / Agent Pools that provide:
    • Ring many, round-robin, or prioritized inbound call assignment
    • Ability to mark self available or unavailable
    • After-call work period before receiving next call to allow for documentation/transition

Depending on the features and functionality you need, we can deploy native Microsoft and Google voice services or bring in third party services designed to work with G Suite for Education and Microsoft 365.

Please contact us to discuss your needs and explore your options.

Managing Chrome the Education Upgrade Price Increase

On January 22, 2020, Google is informing all Chrome Education Upgrade (aka Chrome Management Service) users that that perpetual per-device license price is increasing from $30 to $38 dollars, effective March 9, 2020.

While Google is not unreasonable in raising prices to ensure continued innovation and feature expansion, the timing of the increase is problematic for many schools.  With fiscal years starting July 1, schools and districts have drafted or completed their budgets for the upcoming year.  The timing of the increase impacts purchases planned for the end of this fiscal/school year as well.

Cumulus Global will help you manage the price increase.

You can order your Chrome Education Upgrade / Management licenses now, before the price increase.  Based on your quantity, we are offering discounts up to 10% or more off the current $30 price.  If you are unable to purchase the licenses now, you can also request a binding quote and receive similar discounts off the $38 price through August 31, 2020.

Please complete the form, below, and request your quote.


Request your quote …

What You Don’t Know Can’t Help You

I expect you have heard the old saying:

“What you don’t know won’t hurt you.” — Anonymous

In the cloud-y world of IT services and solutions, the lesson is better expressed as:

“What you don’t know, can’t help you!” — Allen Falcon

For a long time, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) moved to the cloud to replace existing services with more efficient, secure, and accessible cloud services. This was good for a while, but the landscape has and will continue to change. Now, when we talk to SMBs like yours about current IT services and the cloud, we talk about your business objectives and priorities. We talk about your growth opportunities, challenges to overcome, and how we can help you and your business succeed.

Today’s cloud services reflect your need for business results.

Cloud services, like Microsoft 365 Business, include a range of additional apps new to Office and, in most cases, unique to the cloud.  These apps give you access to value-add tools designed to help your business, such as:

  • Outlook Customer Manager: A simple contact manager and CRM tool that integrates with your existing inbox, calendar, and contacts
  • Bookings: An app that allows customers to easily self-schedule appointments from available time slots
  • Listings: A marketing app to build online pages and presence on Facebook, Google, and other platforms
  • MileIQ: Automated mileage tracking app for expense reports and/or tax filings
  • Connections: An easy-to-use app for simple email marketing tasks and campaigns
  • Flow: Automate processes, work flows, and approvals

These apps are joined by low-cost add-on services that let you to consolidate and simplify your IT environment — and save money.  For example, in Microsoft 365, adding PSTN conferencing gives you a standard telephone bridge for any Skype for Business or Teams conference call.  You can replace paid conferencing and web meeting services like WebEx, Zoom, and GoToMeeting with a tool that truly integrates with Outlook, your inbox, and your calendar.  At a cost of only $4 per user per month, and the ability to limit your purchase to users with a defined need, you can dramatically lower the cost of audio and video conferencing while providing a better experience for organizers and attendees.

Clearly, Microsoft 365 is not simply “Office in the Cloud.”  The value-add apps, low cost add-on services, and more than a half dozen additional security features in Microsoft 365 create a more robust ecosystem for productivity, efficiency, and growth.

The Challenge is Adoption.

Adding value only happens when your team is aware of, and knows how to use, the broad range of capabilities in services like Microsoft 365.  Getting your team from Point A to Point B, and then Point C, takes effort.

Here are some ideas to help you empower your team and enable your business:

  • Don’t Overwhelm:
    • Presenting too many capabilities, or too much training, all at once can overwhelm your team. Instead of understanding how they can do their jobs more efficiently, they may feel lost.
    • Not knowing where to start leads to paralysis.
  • Start with the Familiar:
    • Even the traditional Office applications (Word, Excel, etc.) have features that are unique to the Microsoft 365 versions and ecosystem.
    • Refresh your team’s knowledge of the apps they already use and know, adding these incremental productivity features into the mix.
  • Focus on Capabilities Specific to each Role:
    • Not every person needs every app or feature.
    • Focus on matching specific features, apps, and capabilities to the people on your team that will benefit the most.
    • Lessons and learning should be relevant to each team member’s job.
  • Provide Continuous Learning for Continuous Improvement:
    • Make learning an on-going activity that happens in small, manageable events.
    • 3 to 5 minutes per day, less than 20 minutes per week, can provide team members with ideas and insight they can put to immediate use.
  • Create a Culture of Learning:
    • Incent participation to set clear expectations and establish value for the learning process.
    • Monitor team member participation and progress.
    • Provide feedback and encouragement, particularly to the “leaders” and “laggers”.
    • Encourage team members to share their knowledge with peers.

Getting more value from your existing IT and cloud solutions starts when your team understands what is there for them, and how to use it to their advantage.  Improving adoption improves results, and need not be a major cost or time commitment.


Cumulus Global offers a self-paced, video learning system that tailors content to roles within your organization.  For more information, contact us for a brief call with one of our Cloud Advisors.


 

Myth Busting

Myth Busting Monday: Cloud Migration is Too Much to Manage

Office365-Logo-and-textMany SMBs, when considering a move to the cloud, feel overwhelmed by the prospect of migrating.  Considering the amount of data and the capabilities of platforms like Microsoft Office 365, we understand your apprehension.

You Can Be Up and Running Quickly with Your Data in Place.

You do not need to go it alone. Our job is to help you every step of the way with information, expertise, experience, and tools.  We map out your migration, mitigate downtime and disruption, and provided the level of assistance you want and need.

For many organizations, we manage the entire migration project. For others, we assist with the planning and provide tools, training, and support as your team moves the data and on-boards your users.

We can also help with adoption, ensuring your team will be working effectively on day-one. Our live and self-paced learning tools get your team up and running and highlights the potential that comes with new and connected apps and services.

With the right level of expertise and support, your cloud migration will not be an overwhelming exercise. Your users will learn, adapt, and excel as you simplify your IT and expand your horizons.


This is the fifth of a multi-part series designed to help companies better asses the opportunity and value of cloud-based solutions. Contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation Cloud Advisor session to discuss your priorities and plans.


Study Confirms: Education Faces Highest Risk of Ransomware

As reported in EducationDIVE and Information Week, a recent study of 20,000 organizations by security firm BitSight found educational institutions suffered ransomware attacks at rates 2 to 10 times higher than other sectors of our economy. 10% of educational institutions have been attacked, compared with 6% of government entities, 3.5% of healthcare organizations, and 1.5% of financial institutions.

Ransomware by Sector (Source: BitSight)

Ransomware by Sector (Source: BitSight)

With the rate of ransomware attacks continuing to rise, schools and districts need to enhance their protections. Beyond traditional endpoint protection, user education and communication, web filtering, protection for advanced persistent threats (APTs), and tools/processes for recovery need to be in place.


Our Business Guide to Ransomware eBook provides valuable information covering the types of threats, protections, and recovery systems you should consider.


 

 

11 Great YouTube Channels for Teachers

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As headlined in the Sept 11th edition of our very own Education Resource Daily,  this article from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning highlights some great resources for teachers.

 

 

Classroom Results Improve with Google Apps Professional Development

Eduscape Logo
Cumulus Global and Eduscape Learning Partnership Delivers Certified Educator Training

Following successful participation at last week’s FETC 2014 conference, Cumulus Global today announced a strategic partnership with Eduscape Learning, offering comprehensive professional development programs for schools and districts using Google Apps for Education.  The partnership combines Eduscape Learning’s existing professional development services and Google Apps Certified Trainers with Cumulus Global’s experience and “Google Guides” peer resource program.  Beyond basic use of Google Apps, the firms offer a multi-track curriculum that focuses on the needs of teachers, administrators, and student interaction.

“We provide professional development to teachers and administrators, giving them a practical path to facilitate technology integration into the curriculum, including Common Core Standards,” noted Alex Urrea, Managing Partner Eduscape Learning. “Our workshops, delivered by former educators, provide classroom teachers with useful strategies to create engaging lessons for 21st century learners.”

Instead of relying on canned digital curriculum offerings which take creativity and differentiation out of the teacher’s hands, Eduscape Learning’s workshops help teachers facilitate collaboration and communication in the classroom to support curriculum outcomes.

In addition to Eduscape Learning’s proven courses and workshops, more schools and districts have access to Cumulus Global’s “Google Guides” program.  Google Guides is a peer-to-peer resource program for schools and districts that want to leverage best practices in support of successful adoption of Google Apps during and after deployment. The Google Guides program improves the migration and adoption process by providing advanced education to tech-savvy faculty and thought leaders within the school.

“Moving to Google Apps for Education and deploying Chromebooks is not the end point,” stated Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global.  “Once in place, Google Apps is a platform that facilitates improved learning outcomes.  The key to success is empowering faculty and administrators to leverage the collaborative features of Google Apps.”

Cumulus Global and Eduscape Learning deliver workshops in a blended format using an onsite, face-to-face model combined with web-based offerings that increase and support teacher adoption.

About Eduscape Learning
Eduscape Learning is a company whose primary goal is to advance 21st Century Skills in the classroom. Comprised of primarily educators, we make classroom technology relevant for students and teachers by taking a curriculum-driven approach to professional development.

 

Creative Solutions Help Schools Deploy Chromebooks and Google Apps

Schools looking to engage students and deploy one-to-one technology programs face many challenges, including limited budgets, annual budget cycles, and the need to select technologies and services that integrate with curriculum goals and objectives. To overcome these challenges, schools are turning to creative funding solutions like those offered by Cumulus Global through its strategic partnership with First American Education Finance. By offering deferred initial payments, flexible payment schedules, short term rentals, and lease rates as low as 0%, the newly announced alliance offers schools more ways to fit Chromebooks, Google Apps for Education deployments, and related services into their curriculum and their budgets.

“Chromebooks make a great choice for student computing as they enable web-based learning and enhance student-teacher interaction,” notes Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global. “Chromebooks also work well for schools as they cost half to a third of laptops and tablets, and as much as 80% less for administration, management, and support.”

Adding value beyond traditional financing services, First American Education Finance provides a web-based asset management system that reduces a school’s cost of tracking and managing devices, device assignments, and refresh cycles. Cumulus Global and First American Education Finance will also help schools dispose of older technology, applying funds to new purchases and lease payments.

“We are uniquely positioned to help schools acquire and deploy Chromebooks while saving them time, effort, and money,” added Falcon. “Schools can obtain equipment now, and pay for it as their budget cycle allows.”

Chad Wiedenhofer of First American Education Finance echoed Falcon’s statements. “As a finance company committed to the education community, we are excited to make Chromebooks more easily available to Cumulus Global customers. We are committed to developing innovative finance solutions that help schools to acquire leading classroom technology.”

Schools interested in Chromebooks for Education and financing options can contact Cumulus Global for more information at http://www2.cumulusglobal.com/Chromebook_funding.

About First American Education Finance
First American Education Finance is dedicated to bettering your student’s lives by providing your school with the resources to succeed. First American provides competitive leasing, financing and asset management solutions that help schools budget and manage new technologies. First American is a City National Bank Company.

About Cumulus Global
Cumulus Global (https://www.cumulusglobal.com) is Cloud Solutions Provider and a Google Apps Premier SMB Reseller helping small and mid-size businesses, non-profits, governments, and educational institutions move from in-house systems to cloud computing solutions. We align technology with our clients’ goals, objectives, and bottom lines. In addition to Google Apps, Cumulus Global offers a range of cloud-based security, storage, and server solutions.

Tech in the Classroom: Cool or School?

Attending the Massachusetts Computer Using Educators (MassCUE) conference this week is a great experience.  While we are excited to help some of the most innovative teachers and administrators learn more about using Google Apps and Chromebooks in the classroom, we are just as pleased to learn from them.

Schools are struggling to develop comprehensive plans for classroom computing.  Carts, one-to-one programs, and “bring your own device” (BYOD) programs are all in the mix. Beyond the technology selection, schools must address budget limitations and ensure fair access to solutions across the economic boundaries of students and families.

The “Cool” Factor

Add to the challenge: community pressure to use a “cool” technology.  School boards, administrators, and parents in many districts want to see new, cool technologies even if those technologies do not best meet the needs of the students or the educational program.

The most common example we have heard has been pressure to use iPads.  We agree, iPads are very cool.  With a wide array of apps, iPads bring the web, books, and video to life in a dynamic way.  They are lightweight, portable, and easy to use.

Easy to use, that is, until you need create content.  For all it’s strengths, iPads are not an efficient device for writing and editing.  Without a keyboard and with limited software options, iPads are not designed for serious data entry.  Typing a five paragraph essay or a term paper is not really feasible.  Educators and administrators discuss the difficulty in managing sync servers to get data off the devices, and that students given iPads still have a need for another device — laptop or desktop — to get their work done.

The perception, however, that iPad’s are a step forward and laptops are a step back creates pressure on schools to pick a technology that falls short of students’ needs.

Some New Options

Fortunately, schools are finding other options that may just meet the “cool” criteria. New tablets with attachable keyboards blend the touch screen, “post-PC”, experience with capabilities of a more traditional device.

Chromebooks, which lack the “touch” experience, are specifically designed to meet the challenges of web-based learning, one of the fastest growing trends in classroom computing.  They give students and teachers access to real-time and managed collaboration, video and multimedia capabilities, thousands of educational web sites and apps, and legacy applications via virtual desktop services.  Chromebooks, Chrome OS, and the Chrome OS Management Service also provide an ease of administration that can reduce administrative costs by 60% or more.  Pretty cool.

Picking a Path

The responsibility of selecting a student computing platform and program is not one to be envied.  Those making the hard decisions are making multi-year plans and committing large sums of money.  They deserve our support and the freedom to pick the best solution for the students and the school system.