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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.

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.

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: Office 365 Updates Will Break our Business Applications

Office365-Logo-and-textYour business depends on your employees being able to use business-critical applications.  You want and need your applications to be available and reliable, and the integration with Office needs to work.

Office 365 is Designed to Work with Your Business Applications

Microsoft is committed to Office 365 compatibility with the tools you use every day. They do this by:

  • Using one worldwide standard for desktop applications with the familiar tools you use and love, including Word, Excel, and Powerpoint.
  • Minimizing object model and API changes in updates and fixed that might interfere with other applications. Chances are, if your business application works with Office 2010, 2013, or 2016 today, it will work with Office 365.
  • Closely collaborating with leading software vendors, providing them with tools, and helping them test and maintain compatibility with Office 365.
  • Providing you with best-practice guidance for update management and software development.
  • Allowing side-by-side installation of Office 365 ProPlus with older versions of office, giving you and your software vendors time to address any issues.

With a clear commitment backed by action, Microsoft lowers the risk of compatibility issues with Office 365 in ways that exceed their historical support for MS Office.


This is the ninth post in a multi-part series designed to help companies better assess 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.


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.


Myth-Busting Monday: Office 365 is not just Office “Online”

Office 365Even with the growing adoption, many still see Microsoft Office 365 as “Office in the Cloud”.

In fact, Office 365 is an entirely different suite of services.  Yes, Office 365 Business Premium and Enterprise licenses include the MS Office apps we know and use — Outlook, Work, Excel, Powerpoint, and more.  But Office 365 is not just a suite of productivity tools.

Microsoft Office 365 is a business communication, collaboration, and information management ecosystem.

Office 365 licenses can include:

  • OneNote – Multimedia note taking from any platform
  • SharePoint – Collaboration platform for file sharing, intranets, document management, workflows, and information management
  • OneDrive – Personal and shared file storage
  • Skype for Business – Voice, secure IM, video meetings, and presence management
  • Yammer – Social collaboration for business
  • Power BI – Wizard driven business analytics
  • Sway – Web 2.0 publishing to tell your story
  • Planner – Project and task management

As important as the suite of tools, Office 365 can change the way your team works together.  With your data secure and in the cloud, you share information rather than attaching files to endless chains of emails. Your team has the ability to work anytime, from anywhere, from nearly any device. Your people are connected because the data and information they use is connected.

So if you haven’t moved into the cloud, stop thinking of Office 365 as hosted email and some apps. Start thinking about how you want to improve your business. Then use Office 365 to make it happen.

Already on Office 365 and feel like you’re not using it to its fullest potential? Ask us about our adoption and engagement programs.


This is the first 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.


 

Verizon Acquires Yahoo! — Trouble for Business Subscribers?

Yahoo SignWith Verizon’s acquisition of the Yahoo! core business services underway, subscribers to Aabaco Small Business — the business email solution from Yahoo! — face uncertain times. While there is no indication of what Verizon may do with the Aabaco Small Business services, the focus of the Verizon acquisition is clearly Yahoo! services that Verizon can roll into its upstart digital media business.  As reported by The Wall Street Journal and others, Verizon is acquiring Yahoo! for the content and audience.  Business email and ecommerce services are clearly not top of mind.

Priced from $34.95 to $119.40 per year, Aabaco’s email service is as a basic webmail solution. The service includes spam/virus protection, filtering, and forwarding, although the web interface is simple and the service only supports POP email clients (no IMAP service). The service does not include calendar, IM/Chat, video calling services, file storage, and other services typically found in more robust email and communication suites.

Many Aabaco customers may choose to wait and see how the acquisition plays out and, therefore, how long they can continue to get support and service on an aging platform that lacks competitive features.

For many others, the acquisition is a great time to explore other solutions for cloud-based services. Both Google for Work and Microsoft Office 365 expand upon basic email services with robust communication and collaboration features and tools, and both integrate with a variety of marketing and ecommerce platforms.

For those with Aabaco websites and ecommerce service subscriptions, exploring Shopify, ProStores, and others may offer more robust, modern, and cost-effective solutions. The migration, however, is more complex as it involves multiple services.

We recommend that Aabaco subscribers begin looking at alternatives.  Whether or not you make a change now or in the future, understanding your options along with the relevant merits and costs, empowers you to make better decisions. You can also be ready to make your move if/when the time is right.


Are you an Aabaco customer interested in exploring alternatives?  Offering both Google for Work and Microsoft Cloud solutions, our Cloud Advisors can provide you with an unbiased assessment of your options. Contact us for a free consultation.


 

 

Email Encryption is Not Compliance

Security Key
While providing a reasonable level of protection from inappropriate access to your data, the built-in encryption is not sufficient to meet information privacy regulations. Laws such as the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), and industry regulations including the Personal Card Information (“PCI”) standards require more than data encryption.

Privacy laws and regulations typically include three components:

  1. Policies and procedures that, when followed, provide appropriate data protections
  2. A means to monitor compliance, with the ability to detect and mitigate potential violations of the policies and procedures
  3. A defined response and resolution procedure in the event of a breach

As explained in our eBook, Email Encryption in Google Apps, Technology can support the implementation of these three components, but does not offer a full solution on its own.


Contact us to assess your email encryption needs and to define an affordable solution.