The top ten technology concerns for the SMB:

1.    Data

2.    Digital Transformation

3.    Cybersecurity

4.    Compliance

5.    Integration

6.    Cost

7.    Talent Scarcity

8.    Scalability

9.    Choice

10. Adoption

========================================================

1.    Data: Management, Analysis, Utilization, & Storage

Where do I put it all? How? What is it doing for me? How do we find it? Do I have capacity to store it all?

OneDrive, SharePoint and Azure Storage are the three storage technologies from Microsoft that can respectively provide personal, team, and organizational data repositories. Power BI can provide greater insight into your data. And connect to a wealth of resources with Microsoft Graph. Use Microsoft Teams as a ‘filing system’ and Azure Information Protection to classify and then share documents without worry for where any company data might be stored or located.

2.    Digital Transformation: Paperless Office | Remote Workforce | Keeping Up with Moore’s Law | Recognizing the Value of New Technologies (IoT, AI, AR, VR)

Everything is happening online. Can I avoid it? How can I determine the best investment?

Scan your paper documents with OneDrive right from your mobile device. Leverage the power of the cloud to speed up processes. AI is built into Windows 10, Microsoft Teams, and every other Microsoft application. Add LTE or 5G redundancy to your current internet access. And include WiFi probes to diagnose network performance and receive alerts to significant events or intrusions.

3.    Cybersecurity: Reducing the Attack Surface | Recognizing the Human Element

Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection helps with Safe Links and Safe Attachments. Multifactor Authentication reduces the risk of infection by a whopping 99%. Windows Defender AV is now a world-class antivirus solution, competing with the rest for the top spot in recent reviews, and now coming the MacOS. The best solution is a holistic one – don’t break up your security defenses into disparate services, but instead use the entire synergistic Microsoft ecosystem of security tools with industry best practices.

4.    Compliance: Abiding by Laws and Regulations | No GDPR in the USA – Not Yet | Govt. and Industry Regs

If you engage in business with any other business under the mandate of GDPR, then your business must comply, as well. And it’s only a matter of time before GDPR (in some form) comes to the US. Already we have HIPAA and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, so we must take measures to comply. If not, then the business can be fined heavily to the extent that it can possibly affect the longevity and integrity of the business.

5.    Integration: Will It Work with Existing Tech? | Connecting Widgets

The biggest mistake is to buy software the old-fashioned way – to supposedly ‘own it’. But these conventional and static versions of Office 2016/2019 do not keep current with continuous upgrades as they do with the Business and Pro Plus versions that come with Office 365 licenses. Keeping within a holistic ecosystem can avoid integration pitfalls. Use Intune and Windows AutoPilot Service to deploy new or existing devices to remote workers.

6.    Cost: Technology Is Not an Option | Average Tech Budget is 40 Percent

In today’s world, a business without technology is not in business. The average spending budget for SMB’s is 40% of overall operating costs. Using the cloud and subscription-based technologies such as Office/Microsoft365 reduce high capital expenses by leveraging lower monthly operating expenses instead.

7.    Talent Scarcity: Finding the Right Provider | Is Your IT Provider Skilled with the New Ways of the Modern Workplace?

This is a topic that confounds me. Too few of my peers are proficient with Office/Microsoft 365 as a single cohesive platform – most only see it as a perpetual expense for the MS Office software suite alone. But an IT provider must understand how to harmonize the entire Office/Microsoft 365 platform.

8.    Scalability: Ability to Grow Up or Down | Seasonal Peaks or Growing Pains

A CPA firm might need more resources during tax time and less afterward, or a new business might experience unexpected and exponential growth. Office/Microsoft 365 licenses can be added or removed, as needed.

9.    Choice: Which Tech to Choose? | So Many Vendors of Similar Tech

Again, it is my best recommendation to stay within the ecosystem of Office/Microsoft 365. In most cases, you will find an integrated solution that works with the rest of your Office applications. For example, build your own PowerApps application to enable your unique mobile force.

10. Adoption: Will My Employees Embrace New Ways? | If I Build It, Will They Come?

It’s got to be fun. It has to become part of your business culture. You can produce a thousand videos or online courses, but if they don’t watch them, then they don’t learn. There has to be a human element of enthusiasm when an engaged champion brings their excitement for apps such as Microsoft Teams to their peers. Who’s the next hero in your firm?

Toward the end of 2008, a bit more than ten years ago, I shut down my previous business on Cape Cod, shut down the old Microsoft Small Business Server 2003, and shut down a few other servers for the last time. Instead, I went to the cloud. Ironically, I became certified with Microsoft as a Small Business Specialist in mid-2008, the same year that I abandoned Small Business Server for myself.

To replace the email functionality of SBS 2003, I went to Microsoft’s Hosted Exchange, actually provided by a Canadian company, SherWeb, who is still very much in business and still a Gold Microsoft Partner. For only a few dollars (I think it was $10-12) a month, I had all the features of the on-premises server-based Exchange, as well as document storage in the cloud with SharePoint, which came with the subscription as part of the packaged bundle.

For my two line-of-business (LOB) IT management tools, I elected each of their cloud-based versions. Same with the phone system – the IP PBX was now placed in the cloud.

I kept running QuickBooks locally for some time, although the data file and the backup file were both stored in SharePoint. Inuit doesn’t recommend this, but I was solo at that point, so there was no sharing of the working QuickBooks file. Eventually, though, I moved to QuickBooks Online.

Microsoft Office 365 was officially launched in late June 2011. I stayed with Microsoft’s Hosted Exchange for about six months but then moved to this new platform in January of 2012. That was over 7 years ago.

Since then, I have been introducing Office 365 to my customers, and no one is left that isn’t subscribed to this cloud-based platform.

When I first started with Office 365, what is now OneDrive for Business was then called SkyDrive Pro. I can’t tell you what improvements I’ve seen since then. What an evolution that I’ve experienced first-hand.

And now I use Microsoft 365 Business, which is a bundle of Office 365 Business Premium, Windows 10 Pro, and Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS). EMS is the umbrella for several Microsoft technologies, such as Intune for device management, Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection, Azure AD, and Azure Information Protection. My subscription was a break-even upgrade from Office 365 Enterprise E3, which was also $20 per month.

I also have an Office 365 Enterprise E1 account for support@resolute-it.com, which is more closely related to the Hosted Exchange account I had long ago with SherWeb. But with this Enterprise account, I can associate my Phone System and Calling Plan subscriptions. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s VoIP offering cannot be added to Microsoft 365 Business, but only available as an add-on to an E-level plan. I have to say that after using many VoIP systems in the past, I am very pleased with this Office 365 and Microsoft Teams-integrated phone system.

It’s been a long ride and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

 


From Wikipedia: “Form follows function is a principle associated with 20th-century modernist architecture and industrial design which says that the shape of a building or object should primarily relate to its intended function or purpose.”

The form that your IT infrastructure takes on or manifests also relates to the functions of your business. Your company might have frontline workers that share a computer, or you might have people that have a dedicated workstation, as well as they have a mobile device or two.

An aspect to consider here is the trend for organizations to extend their presence beyond the four walls of their primary HQ building, perhaps in the form of branch offices, home offices, or co-working spaces such as WeWork and other office sharing locations offer.

Just like in architecture, many business structures are cookie-cutter in nature, but these generic plans fail to address the unique needs of every business. Likewise, IT managed services are often offered as generic Bronze, Silver, and Gold packages, but not every organization fits perfectly into one slot of the other. And certainly, not every company fits into a one-size-fits-all scenario, such as where your IT provider multiplies the number of your users or devices by a certain amount to determine a monthly fee.

In architecture, before a building is designed there must be a site plan developed to understand the landscape and how a structure might best fit. Similarly, in businesses we see a wide terrain of varying operating systems, differing machine vintages, line-of-business applications that are respective to your industry, and unique end-user abilities. And as email hosting, identity management, and file storage are all moving to the cloud, then less on-premises servers will determine the size and cost of your telco closet.

Culture is another consideration in both architecture and technical solutions. Societal culture can be defined as an evolving set of collective beliefs, values, and attitudes, while business culture is related to behavior, ethics, etiquette, etc. For example, a current trend in new office spaces is for architects to include ‘huddle rooms’ for teams of 3-6 enthusiastic people rather than traditional conference rooms fit for a dozen staid board members. Huddle rooms must be outfitted with technology to fit the smaller collaborative group with WiFi, digital whiteboards, webcams, and multiple or side-by-side displays.

Before you choose a metal-colored package, please consider that your firm is a unique entity and environment. Design your technology to harmonize with your business’s own culture, its own spirit, and its own purpose.

 


This is something that has happened to me both in Mac and in Windows versions of MS Office. I try to open a file and then dialog boxes show an authentication process in progress, but the authentication process eventually fails after several repetitions.

In both cases, this is caused by corrupt login credentials stored in your operating system. In Windows, these credentials are held in the Windows Credential Manager. In Mac OS, these credentials are held in the Keychain Access app.

The cure for this is to simply delete your old credentials. As a best practice, I usually delete every credential that relates to Microsoft, Office, or any of the related services, such as Exchange, OneDrive, etc.

The Windows Credential Manager is found by going to All Control Panel Items > Credential Manager. The Keychain Access app is within the Applications section; go to Finder > Applications > Utilities > KeyChain Access.

Of course, the caveat here is that you are now going to have to log in to your applications as if for the first time, so you must be prepared with proper passwords and perhaps other means of authentication, like app passwords or multifactor authentication prompts.

Maladies such as this are a fact of life – corruption happens.

Now if this were a corruption of a file itself, then what? If it happened recently, then you can always go to OneDrive online and find a previous version to restore. But if you need to restore a corrupt file to a good-working version over a month old or after 500 versions, then I hope you have a backup system in place. That said, you *can* set your data to be governed by a retention policy and thereby held without deletion indefinitely, however, finding and restoring such data can be daunting. This is why we include cloud backup with single-click restore as part of an all-inclusive bundle of products and services when quoting an IT management arrangement for your company.

About 15 years ago, I had another Managed Services Provider (MSP) practice in another state. Our primary offering was Small Business Server 2003. This might sound familiar to you if you were in business then because almost everybody got on that ‘SBS train’.

The server would provide email services, as well as it would act as the file server. It did a lot more, but these two were the most common uses. The client would buy hardware, software, and client-access licenses, and we would be hired as the MSP to maintain all of that on a proactive basis, including an on-premises backup system set up to back up the on-premises data.

All that has changed. The 2019 version of that on-premises server scenario is now a bundle of cloud-based services, mostly consisting of Office 365 or some other version of it, such as Microsoft 365 Business. The email services are still Microsoft Exchange, but the Exchange server sits in a data center somewhere. The company documents still sit on a server, but that also sits in the data center. Backup still happens, but it’s a cloud-based service.

Microsoft is still the big vendor that it was then, but they’ve turned the small business technology paradigm on its head. For example:

  • As mentioned, Exchange is still the king of email services. Just like in the old days, the server synchronizes your email from server to devices. Whatever is deleted on the server gets removed from your devices and vice versa. The same goes for contacts, calendar items and tasks within Outlook.
  • In some cases, you were provided a space on the server for personal documents – those that were ‘works in progress’ before sharing them to the company repository. Now we have OneDrive for Business as our personal document storage and SharePoint as the common library for published documents.
  • Identity and security services were another function of the on-premises solution in the form of Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS). Your password was verified on the local server, which determined your access to specified files or folders.
  • Now it’s Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) that authenticates your identity, but there’s a new kid on the block for data protection, and that is Azure Information Protection (AIP).
  • AIP secures your documents at the document level; each document is unique to its creator and abides by the way that it’s been classified or labeled. It doesn’t matter where your document is stored (OneDrive, SharePoint, DropBox, or thumb drive) because the permissions of the document travel with the document. Whenever there’s an attempt to open a document, it ‘calls home’ to find out who has the rights that have been specified. But ‘calling home’ now means the Azure AD server and the integrated AIP services, not a local AD server.
  • Backup still happens from one disk to another, but now those disks sit in separate data centers. And as much as Office 365 inherently backs itself up, there is purging that happens on a regular basis at Microsoft, so if the version of a document is needed from 11 months ago, then our third-party cloud-backup service can be there for restoration functionality from archives.

In most cases and depending upon your unique needs, we provide a bundle of monthly services that includes your Office 365 licensing, as well as the backup seats. Of course, there is 24/7 helpdesk available and we will manage your devices, too. But ongoing training is also part of the deal.

At Resolute IT, we are resolute – we are not just there for you in the times of emergency, but we are on your side and acting on your behalf to ensure that you’re leveraging your technology most effectively.

 

Business Agility with Teams
One of the buzzwords heard often in business circles is ‘agile’ or more specifically, ‘business agility’.

Its origins lie in a group of software developers from the early 2000’s that strived to innovate with a more dynamic approach. They formed a manifesto that is described by the following concept and quoted here in its entirety:

“We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan
That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.”

Manuel Palachuk describes business agility in today’s world as “highly accountable teams [with] more action than mantra.” He says, “It is managing the work, not the people.” He promises to cover this more in his upcoming book: Agile Service Delivery – The Secret To Making Work Flow

This modality screams of Microsoft Teams to me. What better way to dynamically accomplish tasks for the greater good than when sharing the fun within Teams? As a Teams member of a team, you can collaborate with colleagues on projects by co-authoring Word or Excel documents simultaneously. Communication happens anytime from anywhere by either chat, voice, or video calls. And it’s not just about working within the confines of the organization as Teams allows guest users. As Microsoft describes it, “Microsoft Teams is the hub for teamwork.”

A paradigm shift within the Microsoft Office 365 ecosystem has been the adoption of Microsoft Teams as the new voice platform; Teams is taking over where Skype for Business will eventually leave off. I’m currently using the Phone System and Calling Plan from Office 365 as my business telephone system. I run Teams constantly on my computer, however, I keep it running as an app on my mobile phone, too. When a call comes in, I hear it ringing through my Bluetooth headset that’s connected to my iPhone. But aside from mobile devices, the new IP desktop phones from Poly and AudioCodes are sporting large displays without a physical touchpad – the screen *is* the touchpad, as well as it displays your colleagues’ smiling faces during an online meeting. Put any of these telephony devices in the hands or on the desks of your home-based end-users and they’ll become virtually down the hall, not only to you as the leader, but to other Teams members and yet reachable by the outside world.

But back to agility – I see a trend. I see businesses leaving the concept of even having a building or headquarters any longer. Workers can remain productive from home or they can stake out some co-working space such as offered by WeWork and many others. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t hear of a fellow IT consultant who has been tasked with the challenge to accommodate remote workers due to the downsizing of a company’s workspace. More often than not, I listen to them agonize as they attempt to bring legacy ways to the modern world. But again and with the fundamental need to feel the presence of fellow collaborators, what better way to keep connected with the rest of the team than with Teams?

I might not describe ‘business agility’ with the insight and clarity as Mr. Palachuk might within his upcoming book, but it’s become overwhelmingly evident that Teams will be there as the ideal platform when you want to become an agile company.

policy as change

 

Over the past few years, Microsoft has been conducting a marketing campaign that proposes the “Modern Workplace”. The premise is described as working within teams, but as geographically dispersed groups from anywhere at any time. But it seems that there’s been a bit of metamorphosis as they now refer to this movement by the generic term, “intelligent workplace”, especially with the advent of AI. The Microsoft 365 General Manager, Lori Wright, used this term in her recent blog post in celebration of the two-year anniversary of Microsoft Teams.

The article cites eight new features coming to Microsoft Teams, including:

1.    Customized backgrounds

2.    Content cameras and Intelligent Capture

3.    Microsoft Whiteboard in Teams meetings

4.    Live captions & subtitles

5.    Secure private channels

6.    Information barriers

7.    Data Loss Prevention (DLP) in chats and conversations

8.    Live events in Microsoft 365

 

But no matter the terms or the latest features, I’ve developed a passionate affirmation that Microsoft Teams is rightfully experiencing exponential growth and success as the new platform for collaborative teams. As a matter of fact, I now use Microsoft Teams as my support platform – end-users can break into a one-to-one chat with me at any time (from any device), which might become a 1:1 meeting, which might also include bringing on an additional meeting member whose presence we would find as available within Microsoft Teams by a green presence checkmark within their avatar; and I might share my desktop or an application with both of them to illustrate a point

Unfortunately, there are some organizations that refuse to embrace such pioneering changes as they are truly happening already in today’s intelligent workplaces. So I stand by a new policy – I cannot support any backward notions or static protocols – it goes against my impassioned principles to accept the old ways until the end of time. Without change, there would be no butterflies, only fossils.

And I repeat from my LinkedIn profile:

“To work with me means that you’ve decided to take your business to the next level. You don’t want to purchase, support, or worry about another on-premises server. But keeping your employees securely connected and productive regardless of location is invaluable to you.”

Even Satya Nadella’s “mobile-first, cloud-first” vision has evolved. He recently said, “It’s no longer about being device-first, it’s about putting the human first and it includes all the devices in their lives.” He goes on, “Computing is embedded in our world in every place and in everything,” he said. “There’s computing in every industry – oil and gas, retail, agriculture, financial services. And there’s computing in everything from connected cars to connected refrigerators, smart surgical tools, and even smart coffee machines.” Not a word about the Windows 7 machine on your desk because the computers in our lives have transformed.

 

microsoft 365 businessThe Microsoft 365 Business subscription is a bundle of three core technologies: Windows 10 Pro upgrade licenses; Office 365 Business Premium features; and the Enterprise Mobility + Security suite.

  • The first part mentioned includes upgrades to Windows 10 Pro from earlier Pro versions of Windows 7, 8, and 8.1. With the approach of Windows 7’s end-of-life, this is now critical.
  • A key component of Microsoft 365 Business is the inclusion of Office 365 Business Premium features, such as: desktop, web, and mobile versions of Office software; document storage; business-class email; and Microsoft Teams chat-based workspace.
  • And it includes Enterprise Mobility + Security, including: remote device deployment and remote wipe of devices; message encryption; multi-factor authentication; Safe Links and Safe Attachments; data loss prevention policies; document and message archiving; and controls like “Do not forward” and “Do not copy”, as well as the ability to classify documents as confidential.

Beyond Microsoft 365 Business are the Enterprise and Education bundles. Enterprise plans, for example, allow for Phone System and Calling Plans to enable public calling within Microsoft Teams on the desktop, from the mobile app, or from IP phones and other devices designed for Teams.

 

SharePoint Description
I’d like to call SharePoint the ‘mother of all file storage’, but that might technically be Azure – we won’t go there. Within SharePoint are hidden document libraries that we know as our personal OneDrive repositories, primarily for ‘works in progress’ by individuals within the organization. But the files kept in SharePoint have been published by individuals from their OneDrive location, and now reside within the shared SharePoint space as commonly available to all members of that particular SharePoint team site.

 

What is a ‘team site’?: A ‘team site’ can be created as opposed to a ‘communications site’ in SharePoint. A ‘communication site’ would be where a company might post news or relevant information for the greater good. A ‘team site’ is more of a collaborative workspace with many features, one of which is a ‘document library’, which is the common document library that we might have synced to our computers for published items.

 

When you create a team in Microsoft Teams, a SharePoint team site is automatically created for members of the team to share their files. So now you would have another team site in SharePoint named after the Team’s name. You can jump to that SharePoint team site while within Teams by going to the Files tab in Teams and clicking on Open in SharePoint.

 

OneDrive for BusinessProperly known in this context as OneDrive for Business (just plain OneDrive usually means the consumer product), it serves as the file repository for end-users when storing their files that are ‘works in progress’ or files that only pertain to them personally as an individual member within the organization.

These files can be shared with people inside and outside of your organization, either specifically with certain users or with anyone that has a link to the file. Encryption keeps your files safe when at rest and while in transit.

The capacity of each person’s OneDrive  is normally 1TB, but some  Office365  plans offer unlimited storage. Files kept in this cloud location can be synced to the user’s device with various options to keep the files fully downloaded and available at all times (cached) or merely as placeholders for the occasional download to save space on the local drive  FilesOnDemand. If files are deleted by accident, they can be restored within 30 days of deletion.

OneDrive is included in every Office 365 and Microsoft 365 subscription plan. OneDrive is also a feature-rich app for iOS and Android.