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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.


 

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

Should 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.

Picking the Right Productivity Cloud: Look Beyond Familiarity and Cost

News from Cumulus GlobalWestborough, MA — It is no longer a matter of “if”, but “when” small and midsize businesses will move to the cloud. For most SMBs, the first decision they make will be on which productivity cloud to use– MS Office 365 or Google G Suite. As noted in Cumulus Global’s most recent eBook, Picking Your Productivity Cloud, SMBs are wise to consider more than familiarity and cost when making this decision.

“SMBs that rely on inertia and simply go with the cloud ecosystem that is most familiar often find themselves hitting roadblocks or underutilizing the service over time,” note Cumulus Global CEO Allen Falcon. “Picking the right cloud for email and productivity tools becomes the foundation of your cloud ecosystem. A broader perspective is needed.”

Picking Your Productivity Cloud looks at six critical factors to consider when choosing between Microsoft Office 365 and Google G Suite.  Beyond cost, the eBook discusses the impact of other IT systems and applications, company culture, and business goals. The ebook is available for free in our Resource Center Library.

The Best Unknown Add-on for Office 365

MS Office 365Microsoft Office 365, from the entry level Exchange Online plans through the Business and Enterprise plans, includes a robust infrastructure for spam/virus protection. As we have blogged about on numerous occasions, cyber attacks continue to get more sophisticated and are using social engineering to trick and trap more people than ever.

Advanced Threat Protection

Advanced Threat Protection (ATP), a little know add-on for Exchange Online and Office 365, offers additional protection against cyber attacks. Using a secure “sandbox”, ATP tests and validates links within email messages and tests attachments for malware and other threats before the message makes it to your inbox. With minimal latency, ATP can block messages or strip them of the offending item(s).

With the increasing threats of ransomware and identity theft, ATP is well worth the nominal per user fee.


If you want to add ATP to your ecosystem, please contact us.


 

Myth-Busting Monday: On-Premise is Safer Than Cloud

Office365-Logo-and-textJust because you can see it and touch it, does not mean it is safe and secure. With the number of successful ransomware attacks up more than 400% in the past year, it is increasingly clear that on-premise systems are not inherently more secure than they would be in the cloud. Many companies are hacked and remain unaware for weeks or months, as the use by cyber criminals of advanced persistent threats continues to rise.

Microsoft Office is secured with technologies and resources beyond the reach of nearly every small and mid-market business.

Large enterprises know that security is a full-time job, requiring a team of expensive experts and advanced technologies. And while large enterprise can afford to make this investment, most small and mid-size businesses do not have the resources to prevent, detect, and mitigate security issues.

Moving to Office 365, you enter an environment designed for security, backed by a team of security experts, industry leaders in regulatory compliance, and the latest security technologies and methods. Office 365 complies with the latest rules and regulations, including but not limited to:

  • HIPAA
  • Sarbanes-Oxley
  • Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA)
  • ISO 27001
  • European Union (EU) Model Clauses and U.S.–EU Safe Harbor framework
  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
  • Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)

And, with this security, you get a 99.9% uptime guarantee.

Thinking of going cloud — or expanding your cloud use — and remain concerned about security and data privacy, give us a chance to assess your needs and map out a solution.


This is the third of a multi-part series designed to help companies better asses the opportunity and value of cloud-based solutions.  Contact Us for more information or a free Cloud Advisor session.


Myth-Busting Monday: Cloud Means Less Control

Office 365 CloudCloud adoption continues to grow. Many business and IT leaders still have the misconception that moving data into the cloud means giving up control of your data or your technology.

In fact, when you move into Office 365 and other cloud services, you still have control over your IT environment. You have the admin tools to control the who, what, where, when, and how of your information and systems.

The role of your IS team shifts from technical issues to business issues.

When you move to the cloud, you give up most of the time spent maintaining hardware and upgrading software.  You no longer need to focus on maintenance, repairs, daily admin tasks, and upgrades. You free up the time you need to focus on improving business operations, developing new analytics and insights, and launching new and agile initiatives.

When you move to the cloud, you stop spending ever-increasing capital dollars on servers and storage while trying to match capacity with need.  Cloud solutions let you focus your IT spend on specific capabilities for specific roles and needs within your organization.

Moving to the cloud lets you think strategically and select solutions that support and respond to the needs of your managers and staff.

Think about how you want to improve your business, and contact us; we will help you select and deploy the cloud solution that can make it happen.


This is the second of a multi-part series designed to help companies better assess the opportunity and value of cloud-based solutions.  Contact Us for more information or a free Cloud Advisor session.


Be Able to Recover

Backup Man
Accidents will happen. And while accidents that damage or destroy data are more common, malicious attacks will happen as well.  The rate of ransomware is on the rise and large companies are not the only targets. Whether by phishing attack, advanced persistent threat, or other means your company is seen as having data valuable enough to extort a ransom, you are a target.

In short, if you are reading this, you are a potential target.

While improving your endpoint protection and educating users can greatly minimize your risk, no malware solution can provide you with a guarantee against ransomware. So, if you are hit, you need to be able to recover.

For your on-premise systems, you most likely have a backup/recovery solution. In the event of ransomware, you can delete the encrypted files and restore from a point in time prior to the attack. Yes, you lose data, but a solid backup plan can minimize the loss and the impact.

Your cloud data needs the same protection. You want the same recovery process.  

Traditional and cloud backup services can be installed and connected to cloud servers in much the same way as they work for on-premise servers. For cloud file services, like Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive, traditional backup solutions will not work as they cannot connect to the service. The same holds true for data in SaaS applications like Salesforce.com.  You need a specialized solution.

Our Recommendation

For most of our Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 clients, we recommend Backupify as our preferred solution for several reasons:

  • Multiple backups per day for some or all users
  • Unlimited backup space
  • Unlimited backup retention
  • Multiple admin accounts with delegation
  • Powerful search
  • Fast restores
  • The ability to archive data for past users (Google Apps)

Our Offer

Try Backupify for free for 21 days. If you like what you see, we can save you money on license and support.  If not, we discontinue the service.

Interested? Let us know.

SMB Cloud Pioneer Cumulus Global Takes on Microsoft Cloud

Microsoft 0365 icon
A pioneer in cloud computing solutions for small and mid-size businesses, Cumulus Global (www.cumulusglobal.com) announced today the addition of Microsoft Cloud Solutions to its portfolio of solutions. The addition of Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Azure services expands the range of cloud platforms, services, and applications that Cumulus Global provides directly to its customers.

“We are excited to have Cumulus Global join our partner network,” stated Jennifer Heard, vice president, Worldwide Corporate Account and Partner Sales at Microsoft Corp.  “As a born-in-the-cloud solutions provider, Cumulus Global understands that any successful migration to the cloud depends on user adoption of enhanced collaboration and information access capabilities. This opens up massive opportunities for partners and helps our mutual customers realize the true value of their solutions.”

In addition, the company is an authorized Microsoft Surface reseller, offering the tablet-based devices as a replacement for traditional desktops and laptops.

“As a cloud solutions provider, we have always focused on giving our customers solutions that help them succeed, directly or as a broker,” notes Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global, “Our relationship with Microsoft empowers our customers with a broader range of solutions that we can directly design, plan, migrate, manage, and support.”

Beyond email, file services, and collaboration, Cumulus Global is offering platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a- service (IaaS) solutions. The company has existing relationships in place to assist with integrated CRM solutions.


For more information, or a free consultation, contact us today.