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Coronavirus: Prep Instead of Panic

Updated Mar. 23, 2020. (new content in italics)

Coronavirus is in the news with broad localized impact.  The Centers for Disease Control is urging everyone to prepare for a major public outbreak of COVID-19 will strike the United States. Here is a high level update:

  • Extensive “Community Outbreaks” have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), with confirmed cases rising at a sharp rate in several areas of the country.
  • Several states, counties, and local governments are issuing lock-down or “shelter-in-place” orders, severely restricting business and personal activities.
  • Many states and local governments restricting meetings and services.
  • School are closing for extended periods of time. Government facilities are closing to the public
  • Employers are restricting travel and meetings
  • Employers are telling employees to work from home
  • Restaurants and bars are restricted to carry-out and delivery only
  • Mandatory quarantines are in place in some areas

What does this mean for us and our businesses?

Experts currently agree that potential for wide-spread outbreaks exists and there is an urgent and critical need to minimize the spread of the virus.  That said, we should expect, and be prepared, to address localized issues.  These can include:

  • Employees being quarantined at home, or while traveling, due to possible exposure or systems.
  • Closing offices to facilitate social distancing
  • School closings, requiring employees to remain home with children.
  • Localized building shutdowns, including government offices, courts, etc.
  • Impact on, or hesitancy to use, public transportation; reduced public transportation schedules
  • Cancellation of conferences, meetings, and events.
  • Hesitancy to travel, or restrictions on travel destinations.

Each of these feels manageable if the inconvenience is only for a limited time. But with quarantines running 14 days (or more) and concerns that the virus might live on surfaces for as long as nine days, these disruptions may create serious challenges.

Question to Ask and Consider

  • Have we communicated a policy to employees that “Safe is better than Sorry”
    • Do employees know to stay home and avoid meetings if they are not feeling well?
    • Should your business alter or halt normal operations?
    • Should you close your facilities to some or all employees?
  • Can your employees easily and efficiently work remotely?
    • Does this include employees who normally work at the office?
    • What materials, documents, or services might they need?
    • Will functions, such as customer service, function properly with remote users?
    • For employees that don’t normally work at home:
      • Do they have sufficient Internet bandwidth?
      • Do they have the software needed to use your VoIP phone service?
      • Do they have an appropriate device (personal or company-provided)?
      • If using personal devices, do they have the necessary software and versions?
    • Can you extend business phone service to workers at home? If so, are you comfortable
      getting this setup?
  • Do you have the ability to replace travel and on-site meetings with video conferencing?
    • Are enough of your conference rooms equipped for conferencing?
    • Is your team comfortable using the equipment and services?
    • For employees who do not normally work remotely or use audio/video conferencing:
      • Do they have access to audio/video conferencing services from their devices?
      • Do they understand how to use the services from their computers or phones?
      • Are they comfortable with using these services?
  • What functions can be scaled back or delayed with minimal impact to operations, cash flow, customer service, etc.?
  • Which functions are critical to your business continuity?
  • Will supply chain issues disrupt your business?
  • How might the evolving economic fallout impact your business?

Steps to Take

As you consider and answer the above questions, and others, you can better understand how to prepare.  For some, enabling more remote work may be as simple as a temporary cloud file service or migrating files from on-premise file servers to cloud file services.  Other businesses might consider ensuring team members have suitable computers at home or company laptops available if needed. Now might be the time to add Teams Meeting or Hangout Meet hardware and services to your conference rooms and huddle areas. And some businesses may want to expand remote access to business systems or relocate applications to cloud servers.

The good news is that you are not alone.  As you monitor events, assess your risks, and plan, we are here to help.

Please:

  • Join our Open Office Hours on Wednesday March 18, 2020 at 2:00 pm ET.
  • Contact us and take advantage of our expertise and, if appropriate, our services.

We are in this together.

Thank you,

 

 

Allen Falcon, CEO and Pragmatic Evangelist

The Curse and Blessing of Office 365 Licensing

Office 365If you ask IT pros about Office 365 licensing, they are likely to roll their eyes.

If you ask which license is right for you, the conversation will likely start with a heavy sigh. Microsoft has 6 primary Office 365 license options for business, several add-ons, a number of special-purpose licenses, and over a dozen stand-alone and value-add products.

The Curse is Confusion

Between the number of options and the frantic rate of new features and updates, we are not surprised when companies complain that picking the “right license” is confusing. You end up bouncing between tabs and browsers, comparing feature lists that never seem to have enough detail. You struggle to find which add-ons work with each license type. You may not even know where to look for specialty licenses that can save you money. And with the rapid growth of features and functions, you wonder if the web pages you scour for information reflect the latest updates and options.

The Blessing is Customization

You can escape the confusion. And, in doing so, you can customize your Office 365 licensing plan to best meet your needs. With “too many options”, you can mix and match licenses to the needs of your users. You can tailor the feature sets for groups of users and lower your average cost per user at the same time. You can decide when to rely on built-in features or third party solutions to meet specific business requirements. You can decide which users get add-ons and which do not.

The Key is Understanding

The good news: with guidance and understanding of the Office 365 and Microsoft 365 licensing structures, you can plan and implement subscriptions that meet your organization’s needs at the most affordable cost. By looking beyond Microsoft-only options to select third party tools, you can mix in lower cost licenses without sacrificing compliance, threat protection, telephony, and needed features. You can map out a strategy that enables hybrid computing and services and capabilities move to the cloud over time. You can integrate your cloud an on-premise environments into a seamless service.

The better news: you do not need to gbecome an expert.  Our Cloud Advisors, backed by experts from Microsoft, are ready to assess your needs, explore alternatives, and design solutions options. You gain understanding and select the option that best fits with your needs, priorities, and budget.

Your Next Step is ….

If you haven’t settled on a Office 365 or G Suite as your cloud suite, or if you think you should change from one to the other, your next step is our Which Cloud Analysis.  You complete a comprehensive survey and we provide a formal report that assesses your needs and environment and provides specific recommendations. We will also schedule a Cloud Advisor Session to review and discuss our findings and recommendations.

If you have decided, or currently use, Office 365, contact us to schedule a Cloud Advisor Session to review your environment and needs.  We will help you assess, plan, and implement a solution that delivers the value you want and need.


 

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 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.


What is Your Workload?

cloud workload icon
As any new technology takes hold, our vocabulary inevitably changes. New terms and phrases, or new meanings, take hold and our vernacular grows and changes.

When you talk to technologists about cloud, the term du jour is Workload.

Talking cloud, workload refers to any measurable utilization of cloud services. The more technical use refers to processor, memory, storage, or network loads. Workload often refers to a “package” of cloud use. The package may be part of an application, a full application, or a set of integrated applications.

Email is a workload; a file sync-and-share service is a workload; a back-end database is a workload; website analytics is a workload. The challenge, of course, is that your business does not think or run on technology components. You have people, processes, systems, and services.

When planning your cloud presence, think of workloads in terms of business functions and systems. Yes, email may be a workload. But so may be your “communication services”, or your “customer service” function, or you “analytics services”.  By looking at workload in terms of your business, you will be less likely to fragment your cloud and on-premise systems. Building and managing the hybrid environment will be simpler and more effective over time.


To discuss your workloads and which may be best in the cloud, contact us for a free and no obligation consultation.


 

 

 

Moving to the Cloud: Integration with Legacy Systems

 

Green_GaugeThis post is the sixth in a series addressing concerns organizations may have that prevent them from moving the cloud-based solutions.

Very few businesses go “all-in” when moving into the cloud.  Most businesses start their move into the cloud with specific applications and services.  For small and mid-size businesses, the trend is to go cloud with critical core services, such as email and calendaring, and/or applications, such as CRM.  Over time, businesses add additional applications and services, such as file services, and hosting of legacy applications and servers.

The result:  Most businesses have a hybrid environment of on-premise and cloud solutions.

For many businesses, this creates a new need to integrate existing systems with new cloud-based applications and services.

While this may seem overwhelming, the scope of the integration depends, in large part, how well your in-house systems integrate today.   For most small and mid-size businesses (SMBs), legacy application integration focuses on a few key features:

  • Email / Messaging:  Legacy applications and systems should be able to send notifications, alerts, and other messages.
  • Shared Storage:  Legacy applications may need to use cloud-based storage for data storing and sharing.  Depending on the need, direct access may be preferred to a sync solution.  Also, business applications often need locations in which to deliver reports and other automated output.  Still others may need to be able to link to documents saved in the file service.
  • Contacts:  Legacy applications, particularly those responsible for customer relationship management (CRM) functions (sales, support, service, marketing) will need to synchronize contact information in a way that does not result in duplicate data or data loss.  The same holds true for Enterprise Resource Process (ERP) and Professional Service Automation (PSA) systems.
  • Calendars / Events:  CRM, ERP, and PSA systems may also look to sync or manage calendars and events.  As with contacts, avoiding duplication and lost data is critical.
  • Data Import/Export:  Legacy systems may have the ability to import/export data from/to other systems.  In some instances, the import/export is manual or scripted to occur at specific intervals.  Some systems support automated synchronization or provide an interface for real-time data exchange.

When looking at cloud solutions, take a moment to research your current environment and needs:

  • What integration exists today?  Does it help or hinder?
  • What integration capabilities do legacy applications support that are not currently in use?  Would these be useful/helpful/meaningful?
  • What integration do you need, or want, to make your business more efficient?
  • What capabilities does the proposed cloud solution have for integration?  Can you leverage these to your advantage?  Is the cost of integration worth the potential benefits?

With a short assessment, organizations can determine if, when, and how to best integrate new, cloud-based solutions with legacy applications and systems.  As with any IT project, the focus should be on resulting business value.

Next Post in the Series:  Regulatory Compliance

Previous Post in the Series:  Lock-In