The world has experienced many changes over the last few years, and this has been mirrored in the work setting with a massive increase in remote working. This huge rise – due to the global pandemic – has caused the popularity of communication platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom to grow into household names. Initially business owners were drawn to Teams by their need to implement a video conferencing solution to keep remote workforces connected, but they soon recognized that Teams is so much more than a video conferencing/instant messaging application.
Teams is a relatively new product to the Microsoft Suite of tools. Now regarded as one of Microsoft 365’s core platforms and integrating seamlessly within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem, Teams provides a base for the collaboration of your entire team, a place for sharing files, coordinating tasks, and scheduling meetings – it keeps everyone working from the same script, giving you the guarantee that everyone is working as efficiently to the same common goal.
Teams within Microsoft Teams
To use Teams effectively, you will first need to build-out a digital footprint of your business within the Teams architecture. Grouping access to files, folders, and other associated resources within Microsoft Teams all takes place within sections, identified as – yes, you’ve guessed it – ‘Teams’.
You can create Teams by functional departments such as Sales, Marketing or Purchasing, by client or by project – or any combination mix that best suit your requirements. How you do this all depends on the DNA of your business and how you choose to run things. To enable access, each team will have only appropriate users assigned to it, in the process keeping files and ‘the conversation’ related to that individual client, project or department ring-fenced to the users that require it. This ring fencing is important – you wouldn’t, for example, want a new trainee having access to a sensitive conversation/ file regarding an upcoming merger or perhaps regarding an appraisal of one of their colleagues.
A Channel is a subdivision of a team and a place for more focused conversation on a less broad subject. Channels can be made accessible to all team members, or you can choose to make an individual channel private. This is useful for implementing the ‘need to know’ principle.
When you create a Team within MS Teams, a corresponding SharePoint Site is automatically configured. Subsequently, creating a Channel within the Team will automatically launch a corresponding subfolder within the associated SharePoint site. In less technical terms, what you create within Teams is effectively mirrored within SharePoint, thus saving you the hassle of having to configure each platform separately.
The permissions granted within Teams are carried over to SharePoint. This means only those with access to a particular Team or Channel will have access to the corresponding file libraries within SharePoint.
Roles and Permissions – Managing Access to Your Files
Assigning ‘roles’ to individual members of a group or team is the easiest way to manage file permissions within 365. As Microsoft Teams and SharePoint are so heavily linked, assigning a role within Teams will affect an individual’s ability to access, edit and manipulate content in the corresponding SharePoint site. There are three types of role you can assign:
Owners have full administrative control. Within SharePoint, Owners can edit, add, and remove content, and also have the ability to manage access, change the site layout, and configure settings. They are usually the most trusted and highest ranked of your employees.
Members by default are able to view, edit, and contribute to the contents of the SharePoint site. Members don’t have permission to configure the layout of a site or change any settings.
Visitors are the ones with the most restricted access. They only possess the ability to view documents and other content on the site.
Teams and Channels – Keeping Collaboration Organized
Navigating your Files within Teams
It is simple accessing the associated SharePoint site once you create a Channel within a Team site.
Click on the Channel and then navigate to the ‘files’ tab at the top of the Teams interface.
From here you have a number of options for accessing and managing your Teams files.
Open Files within Teams
Clicking directly on your files from this location will open the document within the Teams app – either the desktop app or web variant. While this method is a quick and easy way to make changes to a document, the in-Teams versions of the Office apps usually feature limited functionality. You may want to open the file in an appropriate desktop app by clicking on ‘open in desktop app’ to get the full effect.
Sync Files to Your Local Storage
Always Sync your file storage locations to your computer, so you can access them when you don’t have an internet connection. Syncing effectively creates a backup. This can be done from within Teams by selecting ‘sync’ at the top of the files tab in the selected Channel.
This makes the chosen file library accessible via file explorer at any time – regardless of whether you have an internet connection.
Open File Libraries within SharePoint
Teams provides the option to open file libraries within SharePoint …
Additional access management
In addition to Owner, Members, and Visitor classifications, SharePoint gives content owners the ability to define access permissions at folder and individual document level too. You can allow everyone access to the entire system but only have permissions on particularly sensitive files and documents. If you want to control access to a folder, navigate to the chosen folder within SharePoint and select ‘manage access’.
A pane will then appear on the right of the window, allowing you to specify folder-specific access restrictions.
This same process can also be carried out for individual files.
In our previous article we explored the price increases that Microsoft has planned for 2022. In this article we will explore the tools that you are using now alongside the Microsoft alternatives that will help you get full value from your subscription regardless of the increase in price.
Microsoft Tools and their counterparts
Google Sheets is a spreadsheet program included as part of the free, web-based Google Docs Editors Suite offered by Google. Its popularity is growing, and its functionality is very good.
We have all heard of Excel. Microsoft Excel is a spreadsheet developed by Microsoft for Windows, iOS, macOS, and Android. Excel is very similar to Google Sheets apart from two key details: it has macro programming language as standard, and it will integrate with other tools in the Microsoft suite. If you are using large amounts of data and doing in-depth analyses in house it is highly recommended.
DropBox is one the most popular Cloud storage systems available today. It is very simple to use and lets users store files without too much additional learning being required. The problem is it is not designed for business use and is not as secure as others. Also, it can be very difficult to implement access permissions on. This – alongside the fact that it isn’t cheap – makes it a bad choice (in our opinion).
OneDrive offers one place to store, share, and sync your work files. OneDrive allows you to authorize access to files and data, meaning you can work on them simultaneously with other members of your team. Not only this, but it also allows you to access your files from any internet connected device (be it a computer, laptop, or phone).
Trello is a simple app. It offers a place to organize your day (which can be done from a smartphone, tablet, or computer).
Microsoft To do
Microsoft To Do is a Cloud-based task management app. You and your team can manage their tasks from a smartphone, tablet, or computer. To Do and Trello are both rated highly, so if you already have a Microsoft subscription and aim to get more value from it then To do will be your best option.
Automation 360 and Blue Prism
Automation 360 is an AI-powered, cloud-native, web-based platform. It provides you with the capabilities to start and scale your automation.
Microsoft Power Automate
Power Automate lets you create automated workflows between your favourite apps and services to enable you to synchronize files, get notifications, and collect data, allowing you to make decisions that are best for your business. Power Automate integrates with other tools in the Microsoft suite, meaning that your work is all inter-connected, in turn enabling you to make them complement one another.
Cloud storage and collaboration
Google G Suite
The Google G Suite includes tools like Hangouts, Calendar, and Docs/Sheets, and encourages you to work with members of your team in different locations. However, it does, unfortunately, lack in security features, so if you handle particularly sensitive information this app is not the one for your organization.
SharePoint can be used as a secure place to store, organize, share, and access information from any device. This can all be done on a web browser (such as Edge, Explorer, Chrome, and Firefox). Again, it works in conjunction with all other Microsoft applications therefore allowing your workflow to run smoothly.
Zoho is a word processor that allows you to type out documents and save them for later use. It comes with a variety of different fonts and styles to assist you in writing effectively and is very similar to the world-renowned Microsoft Word.
Microsoft – Word
Microsoft Word is a word processing program that users utilize for typing out documents. It allows you to create and save them and, like other word processors, it has helpful tools to create documents (such as different fonts and styles, writing formats, and editing and review tools). Word is one of Microsoft’s tools that we are all familiar with, as most of us already use it every day or at the very least have in the past, so your team will probably need very little training to work on it effectively.
Slack is messaging software designed to create good level collaboration among users in the office and those working remotely. Its capabilities include instant messaging and the coordination of tasks.
Microsoft – Kaizala
Microsoft Kaizala – one that you most probably aren’t familiar with – is still a good tool. It isn’t too dissimilar to Slack, but it can be used in conjunction with other tools in the Microsoft Suite.
Zoom or Skype
Zoom and Skype – we have put these together because they are so very similar and are both very popular choices on the market – for home use there aren’t many better options out there. We have all become familiar with them throughout the pandemic, and to some they were the only link between family and friends over the last year, so understandably they hold a place in many users’ hearts. But, in reality, they are not capable of performing at the levels needed for business use.
This is the newest and – in our opinion – one of the greatest additions to Microsoft’s suite of tools. Teams features allow your organization to boost the levels of collaboration, communication, and productivity that your team are able to achieve. Popularity doesn’t necessarily mean quality but, with a daily active user average of over 250 million people worldwide in over 181 countries, there must be something to be said for its capabilities.
These two articles have, hopefully, highlighted the fact that there is a Microsoft alternative to practically every app that you have in your business. Implementing them will ease the annoyance of the price increase and ensure you are getting full value and benefit from your subscription and the tools you have at your disposal.
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The Microsoft 365 price increase will go into effect March 1, 2022. While price increases are never welcome, bear in mind that this is Microsoft’s first substantial increase since the launch of their Microsoft Office suite over a decade ago. Over that time, the functionality and suite of business tools have increased dramatically. So, the best way to make this price increase work for your business, is to make sure you’re getting all the value you can from Microsoft 365.
How to Get More Value from Microsoft 365
Microsoft has justified the price increase by touting the value they are delivering, but that is no good if you’re not using those tools to achieve the optimum benefits.
Look at this change as an opportunity to improve your efficiencies. You have several months before the price increase, so this is a good time to take stock of the Microsoft tools at your disposal and assess your team’s use of them. It’s very likely that the majority of your employees are underutilizing the functionality of the apps they use every day and are not even aware of some newer apps that are available.
Most Microsoft customers are using as little as 20% of the tools at their disposal – for example, the classics such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Publisher. Many are now using Teams, but Microsoft’s range of tools goes far deeper than just these. You may not have even heard of To do, Power Automate, SharePoint, or Kaizala. You may be using alternatives instead, when it may be better to have all that functionality in one inter-connected bundle.
At the bare minimum, it’s important to be familiar with the main tools that you and your team are frequently using to be sure you’re getting the full potential. It would be eye-opening to have your team share with each other how they use their apps. Some may be doing things “the hard way” while others may have found efficiencies no one else knew existed.
Once you’ve assessed your current use of Microsoft 365, and explored the newer apps, you can change your plan with Microsoft so that it’s cost effective for you. If you run into a snag, communicate with Microsoft. They will not leave you with tools that aren’t doing the job they are advertised to do. They may provide you with a better alternative for specific tasks.
There is practically no business in the world that can eek value out of every single tool that Microsoft offers, but using the right tools in the right way will increase productivity and minimize the impact of their higher cost.
In the next article we will look at the apps you may be using within your organization and explore the Microsoft alternatives that can do the same job within your subscription.
Do you use Microsoft Teams on a device running iOS? You should know that in October of this year, Microsoft will drop support on any versions below iOS 13. Any phones running iOS 13 will still be able to use Microsoft Teams after October, but they won’t receive any updates. This also includes important security updates. In addition, you will not be able to reinstall the build from the app store if you uninstall Teams or reset your device.
What you need to know:
Microsoft Teams will no longer support iOS 13 or older after October 2021.
Phones running iOS 13 will still be able to use Teams after the cutoff but won’t receive any new updates.
Users should upgrade to iOS 14 where possible
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Your organization needs IT support from professionals with experience in the legal sector. How can your law firm can benefit from Managed IT Services? Are technology-related struggles becoming part of the daily challenges of running your law firm? They don’t have to be.
Why Should technology Be A Priority For Your Law Firm?
The previous decade has proven that managed IT services provide the best model for addressing the IT needs of law firms like yours. Rather than taking a break/fix approach to IT, managed services set you up with a comprehensive stack of proactive solutions, productivity tools, and risk mitigation strategies.
What challenges will arise without fully-managed it?
Frequent support calls
When your IT support charges by the hour, it doesn’t benefit them if your tech is working the way it should. With no motivation to minimize service call volume, you could find yourself repeatedly calling them to help with a problem that never quite gets resolved.
A minor computer problem can quickly turn into a disaster if left unchecked. Take ransomware attacks as an example; What starts out with just one malicious email can spread throughout your entire network, locking down your data, and bringing your operations to a halt.
High Cost Of Downtime
A non-managed IT service will only start working after something has broken — and the clock on downtime has begun.
This is why so many law firms are opting for managed support, which can be best delivered by an IT company with experience in the legal sector. Providers like us are familiar with the needs of law firms, as well as the relevant compliance standards and increased security needs that are involved.
How Will Your firm Benefit From Managed IT Services?
Much of what a law firm does is reliant on technology, whether it be maintaining records, scheduling court dates, or communicating by email. The state of your technology directly impacts your firm’s success. Fully managed IT services are generally considered the best option for keeping your technology working, your staff productive, and your data secure.
In practice, instead of waiting for something to go wrong and stepping in to correct it, an IT company that provides IT services takes on all the responsibilities of a traditional in-house IT department. This means working to prevent issues from happening in the first place.
Protect Your Firm
Security is one of the most important aspects of modern technology. As the role of tech evolves and the depth of data expands, the number of ways your IT network can be compromised increases. Protective measures must be put in place, and your security constantly monitored.
Working with a managed IT services company, you’ll have access to cybersecurity technologies and best practices that were once only available to large enterprises. Whereas affording enterprise anti-virus solutions, advanced email security software, and end-user awareness training would be cost-prohibitive on an independent basis, doing so with a managed IT services company is extremely cost-effective.
Your IT system is a complex — and often expensive — investment. From budgeting to installation to ongoing maintenance, operating the hardware and software necessary to support a business is a daunting task. It also involves choosing and managing large numbers of hardware and software vendors.
The research for external service alone is enough to frustrate anyone that would rather just have their IT infrastructure meet their business needs without all the hassle. You also need to communicate with vendors in other areas of your firm (copiers, alarm systems, phones, etc.) to address all of your needs.
As their technologies integrate into your IT environment, you need to make sure they’re being managed properly. Your IT support should make use of every industry connection they have in communicating with third-party vendors on your behalf. Whether they are software developers, Internet service providers, copier or telephone companies, your IT company should work on your behalf to get the best solutions, products, and services for your business.
improved Efficiency and productivity
Downtime is extremely harmful for businesses of all types. Small businesses with up to 50 million in annual revenue reported last year that just a single hour of downtime cost them $8,600. The main cost of downtime is not remediation, it’s the loss in your firm’s productivity. If an IT-related or natural disaster occurs and takes critical systems offline, employees will be unable to complete their tasks, yet your normal business expenses will carry on.
During downtime, you will incur all the expenses of running a firm without the revenue you would usually generate. Even if downtime does not bring your entire operation to a halt, some of your staff will have to divert themselves from their normal work to mitigate the problem resulting in wasted hours. While your systems are down, it’s almost certain you can’t deliver services, conduct research, or communicate effectively with clients.
The fact is that downtime is often the result of poorly supported IT. The best way to approach downtime prevention is proactively – you need to keep an eye out for minor issues that could spiral into total stoppages. You should implement and test backup solutions to minimize losses from outages. You need to enhance your cybersecurity to protect against cybercrime.
Clearly, that’s a lot of IT to handle on your own, especially when you have other work to focus on. This is exactly why Managed IT Services companies have become so popular in the legal space. They’ll provide 24/7 active monitoring of your systems, enact business continuity best practices, backup solutions, and cybersecurity services that will keep costly downtime at a minimum. Managed IT providers are simply the easiest, fastest way to turn your technology into an asset instead of a hassle.
For more information, call mPowered IT at 678-389-6200 or visit mpoweredit.com.