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.

Microsoft TeamsI posted an article yesterday about the two-year anniversary of Microsoft Teams. My guess was that there were well more than 400,000 organizations using Teams now. This morning, Microsoft posted the infographic above to prove my guess as correct – over 500,000 organizations are onboard with Microsoft Teams.

The graphic also shows that Microsoft Teams has grown to 181 markets using over 44 languages. And it states that 150 organizations have more than 10,000 active users under their respective tenants.

But the one statistic that I would speak to is the 91 of the Fortune 100 companies who are using Teams. And yes, it once again shows that Microsoft Teams has established a massive presence within the enterprise sector of business. But what about small to medium-sized businesses (SMB)?

If the SMB market can learn anything from the enterprise, it must that Microsoft Teams within the Modern Workplace is the new norm. Enterprises still represent a massive hulk when it comes to their ability to adapt to technological change, but smaller businesses are more agile. For example:

  • The nonprofit can now get Microsoft 365 Business for $5 per user per month, as well as they can obtain Office 365 Enterprise E1 licenses for $0. These $0 licenses enable peripheral individuals within the organization to remain involved with improved communications not only with Exchange-based email accounts, but by using Microsoft Teams chat and real-time conversations, one-to-one ad hoc meetings, and scheduled group meetings (such as board meetings). These peripheral members can also access SharePoint and OneDrive documents that pertain to their team within Teams, as well as they can create and store their own data with Office Online (Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, Teams).
  • Many small businesses are consulting organizations with individual consultants located across the US, as well as abroad. They often have little to no staff within their HQ location. But Microsoft Teams enables these associates to remain connected to the parent organization and all of its digital resources. Sales meetings can happen as scheduled events or new agents can be mentored by colleagues as if they were down the hall. And with Phone System and Calling Plan within Teams, they can use traditional IP desk phones or use their mobile devices as softphones with the Microsoft Teams mobile app for Android or iOS.

So it shouldn’t be considered that Microsoft Teams is only for enterprise – there are many ways that the SMB can leverage the power of the cloud.

Skype was purchased by Microsoft in 2011 for $8.5B, and the company announced in 2015 that it would replace its Lync unified communications product.  In March of 2016, Microsoft was considering the purchase of chat-based Slack for $8B, but its founder Bill Gates felt that they should be improving on its Skype for Business product. On March 14th, 2017 two years ago, their own chat-based Microsoft Teams was launched with very close ties to Skype for Business and Microsoft’s objective for Intelligent Communications:

“Intelligent communications delivers immersive experiences that help organizations boost productivity. People can work more efficiently across teams and stay connected wherever they are, on any device. You can make the most of this opportunity by offering integrated messaging, calling, and meeting solutions built on Microsoft 365.” – Microsoft

A little over a year later, Microsoft announced that 200,000 organizations were using Microsoft Teams. By September of 2018, that number was up to 329,000. That number could now be well north of 400,000 in March of 2019, especially as it has officially become interoperable with Skype for Business in Q1 of 2019, and new launches of Skype are discouraged by Microsoft. As these Skype for Business organizations transition to Teams, the adoption numbers will continue to blossom.

Microsoft Teams has become an integral part of Resolute IT. Each of our clients maintains an RIT Support Team within their own Office 365 tenant, while I am a guest member of each of these Teams. We can chat back and forth, or we can begin an ad hoc meeting where I might share my desktop or vice versa.

And now, we’re pleased to say that Resolute IT has moved to the full-fledged capability of Microsoft Teams as a business telephone system, so we can place or receive phone calls over the public switched telephone network (PSTN) using only internet access and Voice over IP (VoIP). And it doesn’t matter whether we’re using an Android phone, an iPad, a Mac or a Windows PC as a device; and it makes no difference whether we remain within the confines of the office – or not.