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News, opinions and updates from the Virtuoso team.

Jan
23

Office 365 vs. Google Apps: Why More Businesses Are Choosing Office 365

Small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs are accustomed to having to do more with less. Budgets are tighter and available resources are limited at best. Thankfully there is scalable new technology available to help today’s SMEs remain competitive against businesses with deeper pockets and a more robust technology infrastructure. 

Microsoft Office 365 - a cloud-based office productivity suite – is one product being leveraged by SMEs today to reduce costs, streamline operations, and bolster collaborative efforts among employees. 

Many SMEs are fearful of the cloud, but the term itself is basically industry jargon for off-site file hosting. Nowhere near as ominous as it sounds or is made out to be. 

Microsoft Office 365 brings the familiar Office desktop suite into the cloud creating web-based versions of widely used Microsoft software like Word, Excel, Outlook and Powerpoint. Everything from documents, spreadsheets, slideshows, emails, websites, conferencing tools, and storage space reside off-premises in the cloud rather than on an employee’s hard drive or an on-site server. This allows for anytime/anywhere remote access, easier filing sharing, and more collaborative approaches to editing. 

In this blog, we will discuss eight benefits of moving Office documents into the cloud and address the most common concerns that SME owners or Chief Information Officers (CIOs) have about migrating to Office 365. The goal of this blog is to help SMEs better understand the basic fundamentals of Microsoft Office 365 so they can make a more informed decision as to whether or not this solution best accommodates their current needs and circumstances. 

Office 365 - History

Prior to Office 365’s introduction, many businesses were migrating to the cloud-based Google Apps for Business. Microsoft was starting to be perceived as the old stalwart when it came to business email and communications software. Meanwhile, Google was garnering a reputation as the young upstart in the industry.  Since Google was fully utilising the cloud, small businesses and organisations were turning to Google Apps for Business to eliminate the need for an on-site server and to facilitate communications and sharing among an increasingly dispersed workforce in the BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Device) era. 

This meant that many businesses were bypassing the expensive licenses of the Office desktop suite for the more mobile and affordable Google Apps for Business. “Send us a Word attachment” suddenly became “Put that in a Google Doc and share it with us on the Google Drive.” 

Rather than lose a share of their marketplace to a competitor, Microsoft opted to introduce a cloud-based suite of their own targeting enterprise customers, small businesses, non-profits and the education market, all of whom were being priced out of the desktop Office 2013 suite. 

After several missteps, Office 365 was introduced. Here are the four key components that make up Office 365’s cloud-based services. 

The Distinction between Office 365 & Google Apps

You’ll note different names, yet very similar capabilities, during a quick side-by-side comparison of Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Business. This is because Google basically developed their software to be cloud-based replicas of the already established enterprise-grade Microsoft Office products. The following table is a breakdown of each comparable function between Office 365 and Google Apps. 

Despite the old adage of “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” Microsoft versions have been around for quite some time and are much more refined than Google’s offerings. 

For instance, while many appreciate the simplicity of Gmail for personal use, a much larger percentage of workers are likely to be more familiar with Outlook for business email. 

Anyone who has ever used Google Docs has likely experienced formatting nuisances and understands that the software’s format and layout options aren’t always WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get). 

Eight simple reasons SMEs are choosing Office 365

 

1.  Ensured Privacy and Better Security 

Whenever cloud migration is suggested, security is one of the first subjects to come up, as many SMEs fear their data is less secure in the cloud. However, only a very small number of security breaches have been linked to data stored in the cloud. In fact, the cloud offers SMEs a level of consistently updated security that many otherwise can’t afford. Here are a few ways Office 365 keeps your business information private and secure: 

  • Not only does the data reside in a well-secured state-of-the-art data centre, but data encryption and frequently updated antivirus and spam protection also offer greater protection.
  • Microsoft’s privacy policy states your data WILL NOT be scanned and given or sold to third parties. In contrast, Google’s Privacy Policy states that any data they collect CAN BE used for advertising purposes. Make no mistake about it; Google’s cash cow is Google Ads. Google crawls your data in search of specific keywords to trigger ads from paid advertisers. Its important to read all fine print as many businesses, particularly those that must adhere to industry regulations, may run into a compliance conflict with Google Apps. Office 365 protects against data crawling and adheres to its privacy standards at no additional cost beyond its base price.
    • Microsoft provides detailed documentation on their privacy policy and security measures.
  • Microsoft has long been regarded as one of the most cooperative cloud-service providers when it comes to signing a liability agreement committing to HIPAA compliance. 

 

2.  Work from Anywhere at Anytime 

Although Google has enhanced its capabilities offline, there are still limitations to its offline app. Meanwhile, Office 365 allows users to access documents, spreadsheets, Outlook, etc. from virtually any device with a Wi-Fi connection and a web browser. Here are a few reasons Office 365 is strengthening productivity. 

  • In addition to the web-browser based Office suite, most Office 365 plans include desktop installations of Microsoft’s software for up to 5 PCS/Macs per user. Otherwise, anyone who needs to create, review or edit documents without a Wi-Fi connection can still get work finished using software installed on his or her laptop or Macbook.
  • Office 365 offers a consistent experience across online and offline platforms regardless of the device used. 

 

3.  Ease of Use Both Online and Offline 

Office 365 users can get started immediately with a minimal learning curve because Microsoft’s products are widely recognized and have been used in workplaces and homes for decades. The same tailored experience is applied across all platforms – mobile, online and desktop applications. 

Anyone that has already used Microsoft Outlook and desktop Office has an instant familiarity with the products that should help them smoothly transition to the cloud. 

4.  Effective Integrated Solutions 

Familiarity goes a long way and more people are proficient at using the Microsoft software than its competitors. The cloud enhances the Microsoft Office Desktop suite experience because it facilitates greater collaboration. Office 365 allows SMEs to: 

  • See real-time presence and calendar availability 
  • Initiate a web conference within Office applications or Outlook, Sharepoint or Skype for Business. 

Google on the other hand relies on third parties for features like video conferencing and many of its core services. 

5.  A Uniform Look Regardless of Device 

Have you ever opened a Word document in Google Apps only to see disheveled formatting or a missing table of contents, headers, footers, watermarks, page numbers and tables? 

It’s pretty common. Office 365 preserves formatting whether documents are edited using a desktop version of Microsoft Office or a mobile device in the cloud. 

This gives you the confidence of knowing that the documents you’re sending to customers, clients, or prospects look just the way you intended. 

6.  Flexible Solution 

Office 365 offers a hybrid environment allowing you to easily do business both in and outside of the cloud. If certain parts of your business operations aren’t necessarily “cloud-ready”, they can stay out of it. Users of Google Apps can’t experience this kind of hybrid deployment. 

Additionally, Google also has very limited management and administrative capabilities in comparison to Office 365. With Office 365, you will know exactly who has access to your data and control their conditions and privileges. 

7.  Financially Backed Service-Level Agreement 

The most successful SMEs are confident that their business critical operations are optimally running at all times. Not only does Microsoft provide a Service Health Dashboard that lets you see the current status of their online service, but they are also one of the few cloud-service providers to offer a financially backed service level agreement (SLA) any time their service availability drops below 99.9 percent. 

Meanwhile, Google offers a less transparent approach to system availability. They only begin to count downtime when at least 5 percent of their users are affected. This doesn’t work very well for any business relying on meaningful performance metrics to assess productivity. 

8.  No Surprises 

SMEs get exactly what they pay for with Microsoft - ready-to-go features that are fully supported with predictable pricing and no hidden fees or gotchas. Office 365 is also flexible enough that it allows SMEs to change or remove services based on their needs. Office 365’s technology roadmap means no surprise updates. Advance notice accompanies any significant update. 

Office 365 offers a tried-and-true business standard in a new technology environment. Although it may seem to be priced slightly higher than Google Apps, the enhanced security, superior MS Office software, and better flexibility actually make it a more cost-efficient solution for SMEs. Since Office 365 allows for a hybrid deployment of both cloud and on-premise servicers, Office 365 also allows SMEs to gradually move to the cloud with less anxiety. 

For even more support transitioning to an Office 365 environment, an expert managed services provider that has successfully deployed SharePoint, Exchange and Skype for Business both on-premises and in the cloud can help minimise the administrative burden of Office 365; helping you achieve a greater ROI on your Microsoft investment. 

Find out how we can help you implement the right solution for your business

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May
31

Virtuoso launch Local Government IoT platform and Mobile Citizen Engagement Solution

PSS-LDN-2018

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Jan
26

6 Tips For Managing an Office Efficiently

As an Office Manager, it usually falls on you to keep the office running as efficiently as possible. But when you combine a company of people with different personalities, multiple pieces of office equipment and software media, and a never-ending list of distractions, managing an office efficiently can get a little tricky at times. But all this chaos shouldn’t prevent you. In fact, it should be motivation to keep your office in good form!

If you want to manage an office efficiently and develop your management and leadership skills, here are some office management tips to keep things running easily.

Prepare rather than react.

If you take the time to prepare for your day then you are ready for what happens rather than reacting to the situation when you are in it. Planning for the next day can take some of the stress and guesswork out of your daily life and may help you prioritise tasks more efficiently.

Help yourself out

Writing lists for each area that you cover can be a useful way to make the day seem less daunting. We love Todoist, which is a simple and easy tool for list-making and checking off.

https://en.todoist.com/

Having a schedule will help with planning the day and prioritising your to-do’s. You’ll be more aware of deadlines and make sure nothing is missed off. Make sure you schedule in some breaks too.

 

Set up a filing system that works for you

Most filing is digital now but you still need to be on top of what is stored and where. If the online system is baffling, figure out a more suitable method of filing and put it into place. Make sure that others understand the system too so that everyone is filing correctly.

Minimalise interruptions!

As an Office Manager, you will undoubtedly be answering a million questions at once whilst trying to keep on top of your regular tasks. Having a schedule will help organise your time and will actually help minimalise interruptions as you will be best placed to deal with queries at certain times according to your schedule when you can give it your full attention. Make sure that the times when you know will be quietest are used to their advantage. Turn your phone off, close the door, avoid unnecessary distractions.

Ask for feedback

Having a relationship that is based on openness and honesty within the workplace can do wonders for employee efficiency. Ask for feedback from other staff members and more crucially, respond to it with either a discussion or an active change to acknowledge that their feedback has been taken seriously. TinyPulse is an employee engagement platform that gives leaders online tools to measure and improve company culture.

https://www.tinypulse.com/

Delegate.

It’s hard to hand over responsibility when you know (or think) that it might just be quicker for you to do it. But it may well be a waste of your precious time and if you don’t get out of the habit of taking on too much, you’ll burn yourself out. For example, with computer system administration, make sure that one person is responsible for the security of your computer software and keeping track of passwords etc. Using cloud-based systems is an ideal solution for some and we can help by assuming the day-to-day tasks of your operations and delivery, with a strong focus on rigorous IT governance, quality and operational excellence. role.

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Jan
08

How to Successfully Onboard New Employees

It can always be a major challenge finding the right person to fill a newly vacant position. If you’re the person who has to organize the hiring and subsequent onboarding then there’s a lot more to the work than simply offering the lucky candidate the job and clunking them at a desk with a computer.

A mistake many companies make is thinking that as the candidate has proved themselves suitable through an often gruelling interview process, they will be just fine to be thrown into the position and given minimal supervision, as after all, didn’t they just sell themselves on their quick-learning and adaptability? Employers need to remember that it is THEIR role to ensure that the onboarding process is carried out thoroughly, efficiently and with the proper levels of communication with the new employee(s).

We are going to break down the key parts of the onboarding process and the best practices and key things to remember from each.

Employee Onboarding

First Steps: Don’t wait for your employee to start before you begin outboarding! There are many things you can do beforehand to help ease the transition and take some of the stress out of the first day. Create a checklist to ensure all documentation that they are expected to fill in is ready for them, and ensure that their manager or colleague are briefed as to the onboarding process and able to answer any questions the employee may have. Make sure that the new employee’s work area is set up and all technical equipment is working correctly and ready to be logged on with a new user. And lastly, it won't hurt to provide the new employee with any reading material about the company that they can read ahead of time to help familiarise themselves with the history of the company and/or the role.

What your new employee checklist should contain:

  • A review of company policies.
  • An introduction to their team and key colleagues.
  • A tour of office and workspace.
  • A review of general position information.
  • Assistance getting and setting up equipment, including computers.
  • A review of their upcoming schedule.
  • Ensuring that all necessary forms are filled out.
  • A review of work hours.

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.Tech know-how

It can be easy to forget that whilst you and your team may have been using the Super-Mega-CRM-3000 for the last 15 years and are all well versed in its quirks and technical specs, for a newbie it may be completely different to the system they are used to and will take some getting used to. Providing clear and thorough training on using any tools and tech that the role requires will speed up the adjustment process, getting your new employee confidently up and running in no time.

.Don’t forget the social side!

When a new person joins your company, obviously the key essentials in ‘orientation’ will include the legal bits and bobs such as contracts, HR documentation, and equipment or tech handover and finance info. However don’t forget that a happy employee is a good employee, with research proving that happy employees are 12% more productive than unhappy ones.

So to ensure that your new employee starts off as a happy one, ensure that they become oriented in the other important aspects of the company such as its values, culture and people. It is important for new employees to be involved in socializing within the company whilst they are receiving training. This will help them feel comfortable and secure within their new position and company and will help them understand more about the different roles within the business and the people that perform them.


What are the benefits?

It shortens the learning curve. Companies with an effective onboarding process that provide on the job training give new employees a safety net. Starting a new job can be terrifying and as an employee you may find that aspects of the company culture or workload are not quite as you expected. Let alone a new environment, workmates, location… It can really be quite daunting. By providing training for new employees you give them the chance to get to know the company and its workings better and with familiarity comes happiness. And of course, the more training you provide, the quicker the new employee gets up to speed and is confident in his or her new role.

Provides useful feedback

The more training a company does, the quicker and easier it becomes to see how efficient the training program is and thus further refine it. Getting an employee up to speed may take some time in training that the company may feel it doesn’t have enough of, but without feedback the employee can become disengaged and that’s a bad place to start a new working relationship!

Socially integrates new employees

Being the new person at work can be isolating and stressful. Companies must make a conscious effort to introduce new employees to other staff as soon as possible and encourage the working relationship between them where appropriate and relevant. The quicker a new employee feels comfortable with his or her peers, the quicker they will feel comfortable asking for help or offering it if that is the case. Employee engagement and productivity go hand in hand, 22% of employees are less engaged at work because of workplace conflicts.

On-the-job training and providing mentors can prove to be a successful and efficient way of ensuring employee engagement and happiness.

Finally

So your new employee is clued up on the tech, has met everyone in the office, filled out all the forms and feeling confident and happy to continue work with less supervision. Great stuff! One more thing though… everyone knows that problems and unusual situations can arise with no warning, it is key that you make sure that your new employee knows where to access support when they need it. If they have a mentor that is a great person to provide this level of support and trust for them, as they will hopefully have a long and positive working relationship with them. But also make sure that they have access to resources that they might need for specific tasks that haven’t cropped up yet.

Making sure that you follow a comprehensive and thorough onboarding process can ensure that your new employee integrates into the company quickly and happily.

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Feb
03

Whitepaper: Backup vs. Business Continuity

SMEs in general don’t have the same IT budgets and staffs as larger enterprises. Yet just like larger organisations they need to protect their data—and make sure they can get back to business rapidly after a disaster or other event that compromises their data and systems.

In this white paper, we’ll discuss what’s at stake when it comes to not just protecting, but also managing, your data (hint: your business). We’ll explain why it’s important to think in terms of business continuity rather than simply data backup. And we’ll look at how to calculate the all-important Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO) so that you can get what you need from your business continuity vendor.

 

Datto Whitepaper: Backup vs. Business Continuity

 

 

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