5 Mistakes Companies Are Making in the Digital Workplace

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The pandemic has been a reality that companies around the world have shared. It required major changes in how they operate. No longer, did the status quo of having everyone work in the office make sense for everyone. Many organizations had to quickly evolve to working through remote means.

During the worst of the pandemic, it’s estimated that 70% of full-time workers were working from home. Even now that the pandemic has hit a new waning phase, remote work is still very much a reality. 92% of surveyed employees expect to still work from home at least 1 or more days per week.

This transformation has forced companies to rethink the tools and policies they use. Many have also needed to completely revamp how they work. They’ve had to switch to a cloud-based digital workspace to enable a hybrid team.

This transition has brought newfound benefits, such as:

  • Lower costs for employees and employers
  • Better employee work/life balance
  • Higher morale
  • The same or improved productivity
  • More flexibility in serving clients

But, the transition to a digital workplace has also brought challenges and risks.
These include:

  • Vulnerable networks and endpoints
  • Employees feeling disconnected
  • Communication problems
  • Difficulty tracking productivity and accountability
  • Increased risk of data breaches

20% of organizations experienced a breach during the pandemic due to a
remote worker.

Overcoming the challenges and reaping the benefits takes time and effort. It also often takes the help of a trained IT professional, so you avoid costly mistakes.

Below are some of the biggest company mistakes when building a digital workplace. For the statistics, we referenced IGLOO’s State of the Digital Workplace report.

1. Poor Cloud File Organization

When companies go virtual for their workflows, files live in a cloud-accessible environment. If those cloud storage environments aren’t well organized, it’s a problem. It can be difficult for employees to find the files they need.

About 51% of employees have avoided sharing a document with a colleague for this reason. They either couldn’t find it or thought it would be too hard to find. It’s notable that this is the highest percentage recorded for this stat in the IGLOO report. Meaning that this problem is getting worse.

Some tips for making shared cloud storage files easier to locate are:

  • Keep file structure flat (2-3 folders deep)
  • Create a consistent hierarchy and naming structure
  • Don’t create a file for fewer than 10 documents
  • Archive and delete older files monthly to reduce clutter

2. Leaving Remote Workers Out of the Conversation

No one likes to hear people start talking about something at a meeting and realize they’re lost. They missed an important piece of an earlier conversation. Many companies haven’t yet overcome in-person vs remote communication challenges.

In fact, nearly 60% of remote workers say they miss out on important information. This is because colleagues first communicated it in person. Efficiency suffers when in-office workers make decisions without regard for remote colleagues.

Managers and bosses must lead the way in changing this culture. While old habits do take a while to change, mindset can transition to be more inclusive of the hybrid world.

3. Not Addressing Unauthorized Cloud App use

Unauthorized cloud app use (also known as Shadow IT) was already a problem before the pandemic. That problem escalated once people began working from home. Which is often using their personal devices.

Over half (57%) of employees use at least one unauthorized app in their workflow. When this happens, organizations can suffer in many ways.

Some of the risks of shadow IT include:

  • Data leakage from non-secured apps
  • Data privacy compliance violations
  • Redundancies in-app use that increase costs
  • Unprotected company data due to a lack of visibility
  • The employee leaves and no one can access the data in the unauthorized app

4. Not Realizing Remote Doesn’t Always Mean From Home

Remote employees aren’t always working from home, connected to their home Wi-Fi. They may also be working from airports, hotels, a family member’s home, or local coffee shops.

Companies that don’t properly protect company data used by remote employees, can be at risk of a breach. Public networks are notorious for enabling “man-in-the-middle” attacks. This is where a hacker connects to the same public network. Then, using software can access data transmissions from others on that
network.

It’s advisable to use a business VPN for all remote work situations. VPNs are fairly inexpensive and easy to use. The employee simply enables the app on their device. The app then reroutes their data through secure, encrypted servers.

5. Using Communication Tools That Frustrate Everyone

Are virtual meetings giving your team problems? As many as 85% of remote workers say that they’ve had 1-2 meetings interrupted by technology. It’s getting so you can hardly have a virtual meeting without someone having a technical issue.

Communication is the oil that makes the engine of a digital workplace run. Effective cloud-based video calls, audio calls, and chats depend on the right technology. This facilitates a smooth experience.

Don’t rush to use just any communication tools. Take your time and test them out. Get help optimizing settings to improve your virtual meetings. Additionally, ensure your remote team has tools to foster smooth communications. This includes headsets, VoIP desk sets, webcams, etc.

Boost the Productivity of Your Hybrid Office

Reach out today to schedule a technology consultation. We can help you improve the efficiency and productivity of your digital workplace.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Get More Unplugged Laptop Time with These Battery-Saving Hacks

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One of the big draws of a laptop computer is that you can use it anywhere. You don’t need to have it plugged in all the time because it has an internal battery.

Your laptop may start out with several hours of battery life when you first buy it. But the lifespan can get shorter as time goes by and battery health takes a hit. Sometimes this can be due to a lack of PC maintenance. Other times, it’s due to the environments the laptop is subject to (such as a hot car).

Seeing your laptop’s battery capacity shrink can be frustrating. But there are several things you can do to increase the time you can go without needing to plug it in.

Lower the Display Brightness

The brighter your display is, the more battery power it’s taking. Have you ever hit the automated low battery mode on a laptop? Then you know you immediately notice a difference in brightness. This is because that setting turns down the brightness. It’s one of the ways to reduce battery consumption.

You can turn down the brightness of your screen in your display settings. You can also use the brightness keys that are usually in the top row of keys on a laptop keyboard.

Reduce PC Battery Use in Power/Sleep Settings

Here’s one way to increase the time you can use your unplugged laptop without a power source. Adjust some of its power and sleep settings.

Power Settings

If you’re using Windows, open the search on the Task Bar. Type in “power settings.” This directs you to the power, sleep, and battery settings in your system settings.

Look for any tips at the top for increasing battery longevity. Such as, making the time your screen goes dark after inactivity and the time it goes to sleep the same.

Then review the settings, such as Screen and sleep, and Power mode. Find the ones that will reduce your PC’s battery consumption. This will extend the time you can go without a new charge.

Power & Battery

Enable Battery-Saver Mode

You don’t have to wait until your PC hits 10% for it to go into battery-saver mode. You can control this and enable it yourself in your system settings.

Do you know you’re going to be without a power source for a while? Put your PC in power-saver or battery-saver mode right away, so you can extend the charge as long as possible.

Use the Manufacturer’s Battery Calibration Tool

Manufacturers will have their own PC maintenance tools installed. You can use for battery calibration. Sometimes calibrating the battery can correct an issue with a battery life. Especially if life has gotten shorter than when you first purchased your laptop.

Look for a manufacturer’s built-in maintenance app. It will usually be on the Task Bar unless you’ve hidden it. When you open that, you may find that you need to do a calibration or other maintenance task.

Battery Calibration Tool

Get a Computer Tune-up

If you have processes running in the background it can sap your battery life. Processes that aren’t needed can often run anyhow. Getting a computer tune-up from your IT provider can solve a lot of different issues. This includes such as computers that get sluggish, and often, the battery life too.

Consider Using Microsoft Edge Browser for Its Efficiency Settings

If like most people, you keep a lot of browser tabs open while you’re working on your PC. They could be sapping your battery power.

Consider trying Microsoft’s Edge browser. It has been gaining in popularity ever since it incorporated the Chromium engine. This is the same one Chrome uses.

The browser has several power-saving features that you can enable in your settings. Search “sleeping tabs” in Edge settings to find these. They include:

  • Enable efficiency mode (choose from the available options)
  • Enable Sleeping Tabs and fade them when asleep
  • Choose when you would like to put inactive browser tabs to sleep to conserve battery power.
Microsoft Edge Browser Features

Turn Off Unnecessary Apps Hogging Battery Power

Check the apps that are running on your PC in the Task Manager. Do you really need them all to run when you’re unplugged and trying to conserve battery power?

Often processes that aren’t 100% necessary all the time will be running. Such as an update service or cloud storage syncing app. Close the apps you don’t need to use at that time to lengthen battery life.

Keep Your PC Out of Too Much Heat or Freezing Temps

Both excess heat and freezing temperatures can be bad for a computer. This includes shortening the battery life.

You should never leave your laptop in a car on a hot day or when it’s freezing outside. Also, it might not seem particularly hot to you, but if it’s sunny, the inside of a vehicle can heat up pretty quickly. Be aware of the temperature extremes that your laptop is subject to.

Looking for a PC Tune-Up or Battery Replacement?

We can help you with a full system tune-up or a laptop battery replacement if needed. Don’t struggle with short battery life when you can have that fixed in no time! Give us a call today and let’s chat.


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5 Exciting Ways Microsoft 365 Can Enable the Hybrid Office

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“Hybrid office” is the new buzzword you’ll hear used in business discussions. It’s the mix of having employees both working at the office and working from home. This has become more than a buzzword and is now the reality for many companies.

There was a survey of employees with remote-capable jobs. The survey found that as of February of 2022, 42% of them were working a hybrid schedule. And 39% were working from home full time.

The global pandemic brought on this hybrid office transition. It forced companies to operate with teams that could no longer safely come to the office. During this time, employers and employees experienced the benefits of hybrid work firsthand.

These benefits of remote teams included cost savings for both workers and employers. It also allowed the company to operate with more flexibility. Improved worker morale was another advantage.

One fact surprised many employers that feared remote work would tank productivity. It actually increased in many circumstances.

63% of high-growth companies use a “productivity anywhere” hybrid work approach.

In order for hybrid teams to be productive, they need to stay connected. No matter where they work, the right technology tools should enable them.

One of the leaders in this space has been Microsoft. The company plans to add several exciting updates this year. These will provide more tools for companies to enable their hybrid teams.

Here are some of the ways you can use Microsoft 365 to optimize a productive hybrid office. Note, that some of these features are already out, and others should release later this year.

1. Microsoft Teams & Expanded Features

Microsoft Teams is much more than a team messaging app. The application combines the best features of virtual video meetings and messaging channels. It brings them together into a platform designed to be a secure online work hub.

MS Teams has come a long way in the last five years. And the company continues to add more features to enable hybrid offices. Some of the recent feature updates include:

  • The ability to do webinar registration
  • Presenter modes that provide a more professional virtual presence
  • Increased security through features like smart links and smart attachments
  • A full business VoIP phone system add-on
  • The addition of a “metaverse” component called Mesh for Teams

2. New Meeting Options for RSVP in Outlook

One of the challenges, when everyone isn’t working in the same place, is how to know when to “clock in” and “clock out.” As well as how to let colleagues know whether you are working at home next week or the office.

To help hybrid teams better coordinate, Outlook is getting an update. It will allow users to RSVP to meetings. This can let team members know whether they are attending virtually or in person.

3. Better Framing for More Engaging Meetings

One thing that can distract from the purpose of a meeting is someone’s background at home. Positioning of the camera can also be problematic. One person might have their face taking up 80% of the video screen. Another may only take up 20% because they’re sitting farther away from their PC’s camera.

A new Surface Hub 2S Smart Camera will allow for better face framing. This will affect when people are meeting virtually in Microsoft Teams. Features include adjusting the room view so people’s faces will be clearer. As well as having more consistent sizing.

The video display will also automatically adjust as people join or leave a physical room.

4. Get Better Control of Your Video Using PowerPoint to Present

People often share a screen in a video call and present a PowerPoint presentation. It can be difficult to keep everyone as engaged as when you’re presenting in person.

For example, in person, you can maintain eye contact. People can clearly see your facial expressions as you emphasize various things. That’s not always the case when presenting virtually. The app may push your video feed into a tiny box.

There’s a new upcoming feature for Teams called Cameo. It will allow you to seamlessly integrate PowerPoint with MS teams. You can decide exactly how you want your video feed to appear in relation to your presentation.

Another addition is Recording Studio. This new feature for PowerPoint allows you to record professional-looking on-demand videos. You can do it right inside the app.

Cameo
Cameo in PowerPoint & MS Teams

5. Get Help With Your Presentation Skills

Microsoft has poured a lot of AI capabilities into Microsoft 365 over the last several years. One that will soon help you deliver better virtual presentations is Speaker Coach.

This is a private and personalized coach. It can help you hone your presentation skills. This improves your switch to the differences between presenting online versus in person.

Some of the feedback it can provide include:

  • Use of repetitive language
  • Use of filler words (Ummm)
  • Speaking pace
  • Pausing for input
  • Intonation
  • Speaker overlaps
  • And more

Ask Us About Improving Your Hybrid Office Capabilities with Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 has a ton of helpful features. But it does help to have an expert guide to help you navigate these capabilities. Contact us today to set up a chat about how Microsoft 365 can help your business grow.


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Are Two Monitors Really More Productive Than One?

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When you see those people with two monitors, you may assume they do some specialized work that requires all that screen space, or they just really like technology.

But having the additional display real estate that a second screen provides can benefit anyone, even if you’re doing accounting or document work all day.

We get used to being boxed in by the screen size we have. This can lead to us struggling when trying to fit two windows next to each other or continuously clicking between layers of windows on the desktop.

Most of us have experienced clicking around to find the window we actually need in a layer of different applications. This is one of the things that eats up time during the day and that using dual screens can help eliminate.

According to a study by software developer Mavenlink, 73% of surveyed businesses say they spend over an hour per day on average just switching between different apps.

Productivity Research on Dual-Screens

So just how much can using a second monitor improve productivity? Probably more than you realize.

Jon Peddie Research looked at the benefit of using two screens connected to a desktop computer or laptop for several years. It found that overall, employees in all types of jobs can improve productivity by an average of 42%.

From three studies conducted over 15 years, it also found that between 2002 and 2017, there’s been a significant rise in the use of two monitors, with a compound annual growth rate of 10%.

The company’s namesake put it simply saying, “The more you can see, the more you can do.”

What Are the Advantages of Adding a 2nd Screen?

Do More in Less time

The biggest advantage to using a second monitor is that you can do more in less time because you’re not struggling to get to the windows you need when you need them.

With an additional monitor, you can keep programs like email always open on one screen while you work in other programs on the second screen. You’re able to work more fluidly, getting to all your apps when you need them.

Expands Screen Space for Laptops

Laptops are great for portability, especially when traveling or moving between home and work (as many employees do these days). But the more portable the laptop, the smaller the screen space.

One big drawback of using a laptop is that they will have a smaller monitor. There is also the difficulty in positioning. When using them on a desk, people will often try to prop them up, but the person is still staring down at the screen in most cases.

Connecting your laptop to a monitor can significantly improve the experience and make it like working on a normal desktop PC. You can either choose to mirror your entire screen or still make use of the laptop screen for some activities while using the larger screen for others.

Side-by-Side Comparisons Are Easier

There are a lot of tasks that require looking at data in two windows. You may be editing and comparing a finished design with the original instructions. Or you may have to pull details from notes to include in a PowerPoint presentation.

Trying to get two windows up on a single screen side-by-side can be frustrating. You may try to resize the windows just so, only to have your configuration lost when you have to maximize a screen to click a menu item or scroll.

With two monitors, you have the screen real estate you need to fully open both windows and have them right next to each other so you can easily do your work.

More Freedom During Video Calls

Have you ever been screen sharing on a video call and needed to check an email or review notes? It’s difficult to do that when everyone can see your screen. We often “sanitize” our screens (like turning off alerts, etc.) before we go into a meeting to ensure nothing that should not appear is popping up.

With dual screens, you can choose which screen you want to share during meetings, and still have apps open on the other screen that no one can see. This is a big advantage if you need to check for an email or message someone while you’re sharing your screen.

Fairly Inexpensive Productivity Booster

Purchasing another display is a fairly low investment when looking at technology. A monitor can be purchased from anywhere between $125 to $250 on average. And with a 42% average productivity boost, it can have a pretty sweet ROI.

There is also no big learning curve with this upgrade. Once the monitor is plugged in and the PC is set to see the additional screen, it’s good to go. Users can simply drag apps and documents from one screen to another as if they had one large screen.

Need Help Improving Productivity?

There are several productivity boosts that you can get using the right technology tools, and they don’t have to cost a fortune. Ask us how we can help you!


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What Are the Best Ways to Give an Older PC New Life?

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Purchasing a new computer is a big investment. Many small businesses and home PC owners end up struggling with older systems because they want to get as many years out of them as possible.

Have you found yourself banging on your keyboard in frustration? Have you tried every tip and trick you found online, only to still struggle with a slow PC? 

There are some promising upgrades you can do that will cost much less than the price of a new computer, while making your PC feel like new again. 

Here are some of the options you can try to improve the performance of an older computer.

Upgrade to a Solid-State Drive (SSD)

Prices for solid-state drives have come down quite a bit in the past few years, making them an affordable upgrade that can breathe life back into an older PC that might be slowing down.

Unlike hard disk drives (HDDs), SSDs do not have any moving parts and use a flash memory that allows for a quicker response time. You can improve your time to boot and your experience when searching files, opening applications, and other activities. 

Some of the advantages of upgrading your computer’s hard drive to SSD include:

  • SSD read/write speeds up to 2500 MB/second compared to HDD at up to 200 MB/second
  • SSD access time of 0.1ms as compared to HDD at 5.5-8.0ms
  • SSDs use between 2-5 watts of energy compared to HDD at 6-15 watts

Increase the RAM (Memory)

One upgrade that is very low-cost and can mean a significant increase in performance is a memory upgrade. If your PC was one of the cheaper ones that only had 4GB of RAM when you bought it, you likely have trouble opening too many tabs in your browser or using any graphics-heavy program.

Upgrading your RAM, if your PC has available memory slots, to 8GB or 12GB can make it seem like you have an entirely new computer due to the big increase in speed.

Upgrade the Graphics Card

If you play computer games or work in any type of video, imaging, or 3D software, an outdated graphics card can ruin your experience. 

Instead of replacing your entire computer, just upgrading the graphics card to a more robust model can improve your PC’s performance and give you several more useful years from it.

Replace Your PC Cooling System

Heat is an enemy of your computer’s internal parts. If your cooling system is getting worn out and not working the way it should be, then excess heat can be building up inside your device.

When this happens things can get strange, with programs crashing or your system rebooting on its own.

If you suspect excess heat may be an issue, have your computer’s fan and cooling system checked out to see if it needs replacing.

Connect an External Monitor to a Laptop

If you’re working on a laptop and having a hard time multi-tasking due to limited screen real estate, consider getting an external monitor rather than replacing your entire PC.

Monitors are just a fraction of the cost of computers, and having a screen twice the size of the one on your laptop can make all the difference in the world and improve productivity due to the additional screen space.

Replace Your Keyboard

Older keywords can stick, lose keys, and have the writing rubbed off the keys, making it more difficult to tell a “prt screen” from a “delete” button. If the performance of your PC is hampered by a frustrating keyboard, an upgrade can be a very inexpensive way to improve your equipment.

Get an External Hard Drive

Computers can slow down and be more difficult to use when the hard drive fills up with data. Over the years, files build up, and many users never take the time to go through and delete those that are unnecessary.

Buying an external hard drive can allow you to offload files that may be slowing you down, while still keeping them easily accessible.

Another benefit of an external hard drive is that it’s portable and can easily be carried between home and work and used in both places.

Get a Professional Computer Tune-Up

Those free PC cleaner tools you find online aren’t going to give you the type of tune-up that a professional IT provider can give. We will go through things like the Windows Registry, duplicate system files, internal errors, and more to clean up your system and remove all the “junk” that has built up over the years.

We can also do a maintenance check for things like failing parts, and provide expert guidance on your most impactful upgrade options. 

Get Help Improving Your Computer’s Performance Today!

Don’t struggle with an older PC! We can help you with cost-effective upgrade options that will fit your system and budget perfectly.


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Microsoft Teams Plan Comparison: Free vs M365 Business vs Teams Essentials

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The shift to remote work over the last two years has caused companies to realign their digital tools. Now, many meetings default to being via video conference rather than in person, and working from home has become commonplace.

Seventy-seven percent of remote workers say they’re more productive working from home (a big reason is fewer distractions). Plus 85% of surveyed managers expect that having teams with remote workers will be the new normal.

But for remote working to work without employees feeling disconnected and customers feeling you’re hard to reach, you need to use cloud communication tools. One of the most popular, which has skyrocketed in popularity, is Microsoft Teams.

Between April 2020 and April 2021, the Microsoft Teams daily active users count rose from 75 million to 145 million

Teams is an all-in-one communication platform, providing more than just video conferencing or chat. It combines several capabilities into an online work hub for collaboration and communication. 

Some of the key features of MS Teams include:

  • Video and audio calls
  • Webinar registration & attendance reporting
  • Channeled team chat
  • File storage and sharing
  • In-app collaboration in Word, Excel, PPT, and more
  • In-app collaboration in 3rd party applications
  • Tabs that allow teams to link apps and websites inside a channel
  • Status notification and alerts
  • Use on all devices

MS Teams Evolution

Originally, Microsoft Teams was available only through a Microsoft 365 Business subscription. Then, to improve the popularity of Teams and compete with video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft brought out a free version with fewer features in 2018.

This helped the service increase its user base, however, there was a wide gap between the capabilities of the paid version with a Microsoft 365 subscription and the free version. Such as much less support, fewer features, etc.

Microsoft noted that it was missing a vital audience, the small business. Small business owners had a more difficult time fitting into either the free model, with very limited group meeting timing, or the paid model, which required a full M365 subscription.

So, in December of 2021, it brought out the third plan for MS Teams that it is hoping is “just right” for smaller companies that need the same collaboration and communication tools as everyone else. This plan is called Teams Essentials, and you don’t need to sign up for Microsoft 365 to get it.

Comparison of Teams Essentials vs Teams Free vs Teams with an M365 Business Plan

Next, we’ll go through the differences between these three MS Teams plans so you can identify the one that may make the most sense for your company.

Microsoft Teams Free Version

The free version of MS Teams was really brought out to reach the residential and home user crowd. An audience that had been completely missing from the Teams userbase up to that point.

This plan has the following capabilities:

  • Unlimited group meetings for up to 60 minutes
  • Up to 100 participants per meeting
  • 5GB of cloud storage per user
  • Unlimited chat
  • File sharing, tasks, and polling
  • Data encryption for calls, files, meetings, chats
  • Co-authoring capabilities
  • Ability to add tabs inside group channels

The biggest drawback of using the free version for your business is the 60-minute limit on group video meetings. The 5GB cloud storage also can be limiting for business use of Teams.

Microsoft Teams Essentials

Teams Essentials is $4/user/month and was designed specifically for small businesses that may not want to subscribe to M365, but still need a good cloud collaboration tool to keep their team connected and productive.

This plan has the following capabilities:

  • Everything in the free version, plus:
  • Unlimited group meetings for up to 30 hours
  • Up to 300 participants per meeting
  • 10GB of cloud storage per user
  • Anytime phone and web support

The additional group meeting time (up to 30 hours) is more than enough to fill any type of meeting need, even those that go on all day. Additionally, users get double the cloud storage space, and the phone and web support ensure your staff has help using the app when needed.

Teams with Microsoft 365

The version of Teams with Microsoft 365 is available with any business plan. The lowest cost plan is $6.00/user/month ($2 more than Essentials). However, the Basic package does not come with downloadable Office apps (Word, Excel, etc.), only the web versions.

The next step up would be M365 Business Standard at $12.50/user/month, which is quite a bit more than the price for Teams Essentials. This one does include the downloadable Office apps.

These plans have the following capabilities:

  • Everything in the Essentials version, plus:
  • Office applications (either web or web & downloadable)
  • All the many M365 cloud apps (OneDrive, Forms, SharePoint, OneNote, and many others)
  • 1TB of cloud storage per user
  • Webinar hosting
  • Customer appointment management
  • Premium security features

If you are planning to use Microsoft Office software and other applications, then it makes sense to get Teams along with an M365 subscription. However, if your business already owns the offline version of the Office suite or does not need it, then Teams Essentials offers a lot of capabilities with a lower price tag.

Need Help Getting MS Teams or Other Cloud Tools Set Up?

Today’s hybrid offices and remote teams need robust collaboration tools to compete. Contact us if you need help getting started with MS Teams or another cloud tool. We’ll be happy to facilitate a custom setup to ensure your staff can hit the ground running.


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4 Interesting Cloud Storage Trends to Watch for in 2022

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One area of cloud computing that is used widely, but often isn’t as flashy as the software side is cloud storage. Storing files in the cloud to make them easily accessible and shareable from anywhere was one of the very first uses of the cloud that was adopted widely by many users.

As advances like automation and AI come to other types of cloud services, like team communications and business apps, cloud storage is not being left behind. The industry also continues to evolve to make storing data in the cloudless complex, more reliable, and better secured.

It’s estimated that in 2021, 50% of all company data was stored in the cloud. This is an increase of 15% from just five years earlier. With today’s hybrid teams that may be working from home and be hundreds or thousands of miles away from co-workers, it’s important to centrally locate files in cloud systems that can be accessed by everyone.

What can you expect to see in the cloud storage market this year? Here are some of the most interesting trends to keep an eye on.

1. Built-in Ransomware Defenses

Ransomware can impact data no matter where it is stored. Whether on a computer, server or in a cloud storage platform, this malware can encrypt the information and make it unreadable to the business that owns it.

In 2021, the average ransomware payment increased by 82% and ransomware incidents rose 64% during the first half of the year. A survey of CISOs found that over the last 18 months, 98% of organizations suffered a cloud data breach.

To combat ransomware, you’ll begin seeing cloud storage services offering ransomware recovery protection. This involves sophisticated systems that can help prevent files from being encrypted by code as well as those that take a copy of files and store it securely away, so files can be restored at the click of a button.

With ransomware showing no sign of stopping, this is a welcome addition in the cloud storage arena.

2. “The Edge” Becomes More Key in Cloud Storage

One of the new buzzwords of the last few years has been “Edge” or “Edge computing.” This means bringing data applications and storage resources geographically closer to the user that needs to connect to them.

As reliance on cloud storage and other cloud applications has increased, so has the need to improve response times from user to server. When data must travel across large distances, it becomes more difficult to quickly and economically deliver the best user experience. Thus, cloud service providers have been moving to an Edge computing model.

What this means for you is better reliability and faster response when accessing or searching on files because your provider is going to work to provide your service from one of the company’s cloud servers that is geographically closer to your location.

For companies with offices spread out around a country or throughout the world, this means that you’ll want to keep service location in mind when signing up for cloud storage and have a discussion with the provider about distance and how Edge computing factors in.

3. Expect More Help from AI and Machine Learning

AI and machine learning are making just about every area of technology smarter. Microsoft Word and text message apps now predict what you might type to help you fill in the blanks and type faster. Programs like Photoshop can crop around a person in an image in seconds using AI.

AI is also going to become more prevalent in cloud storage this year. You can expect help with automatic organization of your files based on your cloud storage patterns. 

Look for features designed to eliminate manual or repetitive tasks to free up more time. This includes AI helping to automate things like provisioning, obtaining, and importing data (known as “ingesting”), managing data retention, and more.

4. Legacy Vendors Begin Offering More Cloud Options

2022 is going to bring more cloud storage options coming from legacy technology providers. For example, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise recently introduced a new Data Services Cloud Console, and Dell Technologies just announced a new APEX multi-cloud design that it is working on to improve the cloud ecosystem.

More cloud storage options mean you may need more help deciding which model will work best for you, as pricing will vary widely. You don’t want to end up with more storage than you need or be paying a lot for a smaller amount of space.

It pays to keep on top of new offerings and understand that every new cloud storage option might not be a fit for your organization’s specific data storage needs.

Get Help Optimizing Your Cloud Storage & Backup Environment

Your business data is what runs your company, and it needs to be stored securely and in a way that’s accessible. Find out how we can help you optimize your cloud storage to improve cost efficiency.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

What Are the Most Helpful Features of Windows 11?

person using Windows 11 computer on lap

Windows 11 has been out for a few months now, beginning rollout in October of 2021. It has been largely well-received and seen as stable with very few bugs noted.

One of the reasons that Windows 11 has been welcomed with open arms for both home and business computer upgrades is that it isn’t a dramatic experience difference from Windows 10. This upgrade is mainly focused on helping users do tasks faster and find things more easily.

If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to upgrade to Windows 11, we’ll go through several of the most helpful features below that might make you want to upgrade sooner rather than later.

And if you have already upgraded your machine to Windows 11 or purchased a new PC with the OS installed, you’ll want to look over these features to make sure you haven’t been missing out on some productivity enhancers.

Snap Layouts

One challenge that tends to be universal across multiple users is the struggle with trying to work in more than one window at a time on your PC screen. You can end up spending time resizing the windows just right, then need to open a window to full size to reach a scroll bar and end up back at square one.

Many users will app-switch, meaning they switch between one app window that is fully open and another that isn’t. This is also time-consuming.

In a study of user productivity, it was found that 56% of app users said that switching between apps makes it difficult to get essential work done and costs them at least 30 minutes per day.

Enter… snap layouts in Windows 11.

This feature is designed to solve this problem by providing the user with several options for window arrangements that snap windows into place. The view is designed so you can reach all scroll bars and menu items in a particular app window.

This is one of the most time-saving features of the new operating system and it’s very intuitive and easy to use.

Texting & Video Calls from Teams on the Desktop

If you’re one of those people that hates typing out texts on a tiny smartphone screen only to have it altered by a rogue auto-correction, then the new Teams integration in Windows 11 is going to be a welcome change.

Teams is now natively integrated on the taskbar, there is no application you need to install. Setup only takes a few minutes and involves you putting in your name and a mobile phone number.

Using the Microsoft Teams icon from the desktop, you can instantly begin connecting to people via SMS or video/audio chat. You can even share a screen during your meetings.

The To Do Widget

One of the new features in Windows 11 that doesn’t look fully finished is the widgets panel. This feed has a few basic applications in it at the moment, and more are expected to come, which will make it even more useful.

You get to this panel through an icon on the taskbar, and the widget feed can be tailored with local weather, traffic, news, and more.

One of the helpful features you can use right now is the To Do widget. It allows you to quickly create a task list and check off those tasks without having to open another application.

The widget can be added in seconds to your panel and can be quite a time-saver because of the easy access right from your desktop.

Streamlined Start/Search Menu

If you’re still using your file explorer to search for documents, you can save a lot of time by using the Start/Search menu instead. Click the Windows icon on the taskbar (which has now been moved to the middle instead of far left) and type your search keyword at the top.

This is a master search that will bring up documents, settings, applications, and even web pages. Searching using the Start Menu is faster than trying to find a file in the Explorer.

The newly streamlined interface also reduces the clutter of the old Windows Start Menu making it easier to get where you need to go.

Task View

Task view is the virtual desktop feature that had been introduced in Windows 10. This remains a very handy feature for separating the different areas of your work to stay focused.

You can use the task view icon on the taskbar to create a different virtual desktop with different open applications and documents. For example, you could keep your email open on one virtual desktop and then use another when you’re in a video call and sharing screen.

Get Help with a Smooth Upgrade to Windows 11

An upgrade of an entire company to a new OS can be time-consuming. Save time and skip any downtime by working with an IT professional to roll out a smooth upgrade and get users trained on the new features.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Lead Your Business More Effectively by Implementing Unified Communications

Unified Communications Technology Consulting Dallas Texas

Unified communications are a go-to solution for business owners looking to streamline their businesses and increase employee productivity in the long term. See how it benefits your business.

Providing high-quality communication channels is crucial for any company. After all, it promotes cross-department collaboration and faster exchange of ideas. 

Since phones often don’t suffice for this, many business owners turn to unified communications. 

But what exactly is unified communication?

This article explains just that. Read on to discover the main concepts of this approach and how you can use it to help your business achieve success. 

What Is Unified Communications?

Unified communications is an all-in-one platform that unifies phone, video, screen sharing, chat, and file management into a single space. It’s a ready-to-use system that allows for seamless communication in numerous ways. 

The system operates as a cloud, making it easily accessible to all team members with access to the internet. 

But why should anyone consider switching to unified communications?

There are several reasons, but this is the most crucial: 

Business leaders who adopt it would be able to impact their business every day and make it seamless for employees to interact with each other. 

That said, we’ll list 5 of the key features of this concept to help you better understand how it can help you scale your business. 

The 5 Features

Feature #1. Mobility

When connected to unified communications, all employees can stay connected at all times and from all locations. It doesn’t matter whether they’re working from home, vacationing on a remote island, or sitting in the office. They’ll still be able to chat, receive calls, and more.

Feature #2. Unified Messaging

This allows employees to handle different message types using a single tool. They can easily switch communication modes, depending on their needs. 

Feature #3. Conferencing 

Whenever you need conferencing tools, you’ll have them in the palm of your hand. You can allow a group of teammates or customers from outside your organization to connect and speak via video or audio from different locations. 

Feature #4. Fax Support

Faxes received through unified communications appear as email attachments. This way, users can also receive faxes on their desktops and smartphones. 

Feature #5. Presence

This feature lets other users know each other’s status. That means you’ll be able to see when someone is online (Active), busy (Do Not Disturb), or away (Out of the Office). 

How Unified Communications Help Business Leaders

So, what are the benefits of using unified communications in your business? 

Let’s explore 6 of them below. 

Benefit #1. Higher Team Productivity

It’s important for a business owner to boost their team’s workflow and eliminate bottlenecks. Because once they get to do so, productivity will drastically improve. 

This can be done thanks to unified communications. 

This type of communication makes it easier for team members to save time on various tasks, including:

  • Faster file sharing that gets rid of email threads for teamwork
  • Ability to receive calls from any location
  • Ability to receive voicemails and faxes directly in the email
  • Single-click video meetings for emergencies

Teams with access to such technologies can be more effective and get more tasks done in a single day. It also helps get rid of communication challenges. 

Benefit #2. Lower Communication Costs

Legacy phones and on-site communication tools often cost more than your IT budget should allow.

On the other hand, unified communication relies on the internet for all its activities. This means your phone system turns to Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) and integrates with the rest of the tools. This approach eliminates the need for server and hardware infrastructure creation. 

Unified communications also make it super easy to add new users. You can simply do so via an easy-to-use dashboard without having to make service calls. 

Finally, the cost of unified communications is the same every month. There won’t be any surprises to your budget. 

Benefit #3. Enhanced Customer Service

Whether or not a company is successful greatly depends on the quality of its customer service. 

With unified communications, your employees can provide great customer service easier. After all, they can respond to client queries regardless of their location. It’s because all chats, incoming calls, and emails are visible from any device. 

You can also integrate all your CRM software on the platform for added benefits. 

For example, when a person contacts your business, the person in charge can see all the necessary information and notes related to that client. In the end, they can help them solve issues faster.

Benefit #4. Empowering a Remote Workforce

Thousands of companies have switched to remote work over the past few years. There are plenty of benefits to this approach after all. 

However, a constant concern here is ensuring that remote workers have all the tools they need for work. 

Thanks to unified communications, all communication aspects are included in a single platform. This means that all your remote worker needs is a stable internet connection to get access to your network and all the features, just like the rest of the team. 

Benefit #5. Increasing Organizational Agility

When you increase your team’s productivity, the same follows for the entire organization. The organizational agility reflects the strategic value of unified communications. And the results you achieve impact your business as a whole. 

So, to see how this approach benefits your work, you must view unified communications from the management side as well. 

Sure, communication has a utilitarian role for management. But when that communication drives productivity, streamlines workflow, and leads to enhanced business outcomes, it’s where you really get to see its value.

Benefit #6. Enhanced Security

The security aspect is crucial for every business. And unified communications enhance the security of a business by integrating all applications into a single platform. 

As a result, it becomes straightforward for the IT team to apply specific security policies across all apps. It’s also easier for them to manage security patches and compliance updates since all applications share the same protocols. 

Realizing the Power of Unified Communications 

Streamlining the processes inside an organization is extremely important in improving the overall performance of its employees. And unified communications allow you to do just that. 

With it, you can boost your customer experience and make your team more efficient by integrating your whole communications system into a single platform. 

Unified communications will let you and your team make calls, host conferences, send emails, receive faxes, and chat from a single, unified space to make your job (and life) easier. 

If you’d like to learn more about implementing unified communications in your business, we’d be happy to help. Reach out to us and we can have a 10-15-minute chat to discuss this topic further. 


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

These Google Search Tips Will Save You Tons of Time!

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Over 2.4 million searches happen every minute on Google. It’s often the first stop people make when they go online.

We search daily for both personal and work needs, and often searching out the right information can take a lot of time if you have to sift through several irrelevant results.

One study by consulting firm, McKinsey, found that employees spend an average of 1.8 hours daily, or 9.3 hours each week, searching and gathering information. This can be a productivity sinkhole as more web results keep getting added to the internet every day.

One way you can save time on your personal and work-related searches is to learn some “secret” Google search tips. These help you narrow down your search results and improve productivity by helping you find the information you need faster.

Search a Specific Website Using “site:”

Sometimes you need to find information on a specific website. For example, you might need to locate a government statistic that you know is out there but can’t seem to bring up on a general search.

You can use Google to search keywords on a specific website by using the “site” function.

In the search bar use the following:  site:(site url) (keyword)

This will bring up search results only for that one specific URL.

Find Flight Information Without Leaving Google

When you need to access flight information, you’re often on the go. Either getting ready to head to the airport or waiting for someone to arrive. Having to load multiple site pages in your browser can take valuable time. Instead, get your flight results directly from Google.

Just type in the flight number and the name of the airlines, and you’ll get a listing of flight information without having to click to another page. You can even tab to choose flight info for that same flight on different days.

Look for Document Types Using “filetype:”

If you’ve just been tasked with coming up with a presentation on sustainable energy, it can be helpful to see what other people have done on the same subject.

Searching websites can give you a lot of details to sift through but searching for another PowerPoint presentation can provide you with even more insight into how others have distilled that information down into a presentation.

Google has a search function that allows you to search on a file type, so instead of webpages showing up in your results, files of the file type you searched will appear.

To use this function, type in the following: filetype:(type) (keyword)

In the case of wanting to find a PowerPoint on sustainable energy, you could use the following in the search bar: filetype:ppt sustainable energy.

All the results will be PPT presentations.

You can also use this function for other file types, such as:

  • DOC
  • PDF
  • XLS or XLSX
  • SVG
  • and more

Narrow Down Timeframe Using the “Tools” Link

One frustration is when you’re looking up something like a population or cybersecurity statistic and you end up with results that are too old to be relevant. You can spend valuable time paging through the search results, or you can tell Google what time frame you’d like to search.

To narrow your search results by a specific timeframe, do the following:

  • Enter your keyword and click to search.
  • Under the search bar, click the “Tools” link.
  • Click the “Any time” link.
  • Choose your timeframe.

You can choose from preset timeframes, like past hour or past year, or you can set a custom date range for your results.

Locate Similar Sites Using “related:”

When you’re researching a topic online, it’s often helpful to find similar websites to the one you are viewing. Seeing related sites can also be used if you’re trying to find a specific product or service online and want to do some comparison shopping.

Google can provide you with a list of related websites when you use the “related” function.

In your search bar, type the following: related:https://website.com

One more way that you can leverage this search tip is to look for competitors by entering your own website URL in the search.

Get Rid of Results You Don’t Want Using “-(keyword)”

Non-relevant results are one of the main timewasters of online searching. You have to page through results that have nothing to do with what you really want to find, just because they use a related keyword.

For example, say you were searching the Ruby Slipper Cafe in New Orleans. But in your search results, you keep getting pages related to the movie the Wizard of Oz. You could eliminate those irrelevant results by using the negative keyword function.

Just type: (keyword) -(keyword)

Basically, you are just putting a minus sign in front of a keyword that you want to exclude from your search. In the example above, you would type: ruby slippers -oz.

Looking for More Ways to Boost Productivity & Save Time?

IT consultants aren’t just for large projects, we can also help you boost productivity in your everyday workflow to make your life easier.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.