Category: Microsoft

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Everything You Need to Know About Microsoft Viva Sales

Data entry can be a real drag for salespeople. The time they spend on administrative tasks is time away from customer interactions. But that data is vital.

It’s important to capture customer orders, quotes, needs, and more. Lead and sales reporting help sales managers know where to direct their attention. Analytics also help drive more efficient ways of closing the deal.

Microsoft has taken up the mantle of this challenge. It is about to launch a new digital experience for sales teams. Microsoft Viva Sales is part of the “Viva” line of applications. These include things like Viva Insights for improved staff wellbeing. As well as Viva Learning for staff development.

The Viva apps natively integrate with MS Teams and the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. They include automation designed to eliminate boring tasks and enable more work engagement.

Viva Sales is a “CRM helper” application. We’ll go through some of the most asked questions about the app, its features, and when you can get it.

What Is Microsoft Viva Sales?

Viva Sales is an application that will provide sales and lead insights. These insights populate throughout Office 365 and Microsoft Teams. The focus of the app is to cut unnecessary manual entry to give sellers more time to sell.

How Does Viva Sales Work? Is It a CRM?

Viva Sales is NOT going to replace your normal CRM platform. Instead, it connects to your CRM and other sales-related apps. It leverages the data from these connections. This makes it easier for salespeople to get the prospect data they need to enable their work.

Salespeople spend approximately 34% of their time on administrative tasks.

Viva Sales Basics

Some of the core advantages of Viva Sales are:

  • Eliminate Forms: Data entry for sales professionals is greatly reduced. This frees them up for more customer relationship building.
  • Powerful Data Leveraging: Viva Sales connects to several platforms. This includes non-Microsoft programs and CRMs. The integration allows salespeople to cross-reference data points and gain valuable insights.
  • AI-Driven Help: Salespeople will get prompts that are AI-driven. These suggestions and reminders help them along in the sales process with a lead.

Interconnected Interface

Microsoft Viva Sales provides sales-specific insights throughout the various M365 applications. Salespeople natively see important customer details, wherever they are. Including in their Outlook Calendar or when in their Microsoft or non-Microsoft CRM.

Microsoft Viva Sales
Image courtesy of Microsoft

Viva Sales Features

Tag to Capture Sales Interactions

Tagging is also known as using someone’s “@name” to get their attention. Tagging is a popular software integration used throughout many cloud-based apps. It’s also used within Microsoft 365.

Salespeople can use the familiar tagging function. They can use it to capture data from another M365 application for a prospect or customer. This includes adding someone to a list of customers by using a tag for their Viva Sales name. The system will capture the contextual information on the lead or customer.

Collaborate

Viva Sales makes it easier than ever to collaborate with your team on a sales prospect or customer. You don’t have to chase down information to copy/paste into a message. Use that tagging function to populate lead information from Viva Sales in seconds.

Viva Sales Feature - Collaborate
Image courtesy of Microsoft

You can also easily edit or open a lead/customer record. No need to look for and open another app. The process gets you where you need to go in as few clicks as possible.

Call Summaries & Integrated Data

One thing that customers and salespeople hate is a lack of understanding. For example, when a salesperson doesn’t know about a recent customer interaction.

This can happen when company communication systems store data from different sources separately. Such as phone call messages being in one place and a customer’s website chat session being in another.

Viva Sales brings all that customer engagement data together into a single view. This allows the salesperson to see call summaries and capture call action items.

Download & Customize

Salespeople that prefer an Excel view of their contact list can get this from Viva Sales. Download lead and customer lists. Customize the application per the organization’s needs.

When Will Viva Sales Be Available?

Microsoft has announced that Viva Sales will be “coming in Q4 2022.” There is no exact date for the launch yet, but you can be sure that we will keep an eye on this!

In the meantime, you can watch a video explaining the application on Microsoft’s site here.

Take Advantage of Microsoft Viva Automation

Microsoft built the Viva suite of digital experience apps for productivity. These apps help employees find information faster, feel more connected, and work more productively.

Now is the perfect time to explore those that have already launched and get ready for Viva Sales.

Contact us today for a free consultation to improve your team’s digital experience.


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

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7 Pro Tips for Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 is the most popular of all major office productivity software. It has 48.8% of the global market share, just edging out Google’s apps, by a couple of percentage points.

It’s used by individuals, small & mid-sized businesses, and larger enterprise organizations. It does everything a modern office needs. Including from word processing and spreadsheet work to cloud storage and video conferencing.

Because Microsoft 365 is such a vast platform, with over 20 apps in total, it can be easy to miss helpful features. People tend to stick with what’s familiar. But this often causes them to miss out on time and money-saving bonuses in M365, beyond the core apps.

Some of the many apps you get, depending on your subscription plan, include:

  • Excel
  • Word
  • Powerpoint
  • Outlook
  • To Do
  • OneDrive
  • Teams
  • Forms
  • Defender
  • SharePoint
  • Yammer
  • Lists
  • Access
  • Bookings
  • Intune
  • Planner
  • Visio
  • And more

Want to get more value from your subscription? We’ll go through some of the most helpful apps and features in Microsoft 365 that you may now know about.

Get More Out of M365 With These Tips

1. Skip the Menu Bar by Using Search to Find Functions

We’ve all been there at one time or another. You know there is a way to do something in an app, but you can’t find it in the menu. For example, trying to change your margins in Microsoft Word to give you more space on the page.

You can stop wasting time clicking through one tab after another, and instead, use the search box at the top. It’s not just for searching for help topics. You can use a search to quickly jump to settings like margins, page orientation, and many more.

Search

2. Leverage the Free Stock Images, Icons & Videos

Most businesses need to have nice-looking images from time to time. They’re used on websites, brochures, and presentations. But finding good business images can be expensive.

You can’t just do a Google search to find them because they may be copyrighted. You need to have images that you can use commercially without any problems.

Inside Word, Excel, and PowerPoint you have a treasure trove of images. These are free to use in your marketing. You also have videos, icons, and even 3D models, all there for the picking.

Find them by going to Insert > Pictures > Stock Images

Use the tab at the top to tab between the different media. Then, click to insert it directly into your document, spreadsheet, or presentation.

Stock Images

3. Save Time by Using Data Types in Excel

Researching things like the population of a city or the nutrition value of a new menu can take days. Did you know that inside Excel you have access to several databases?

You can leverage facts and figures stored inside Excel’s “data types.” They include topics on everything from chemistry to yoga poses. Use data types to populate tons of data in seconds for various topics.

  • Start by adding your list (e.g., a list of menu items)
  • Highlight your list.
  • Then, click the Data tab.
  • In the Data Types window, choose the type of data it is (e.g., Food, Plant, etc.).
Excel Data Type
  • Next, click the small database icon that appears at the top of the list.
  • Choose the type of data you want.
  • The details will populate into the next open column on the right for each list item.
Excel Data

4. Save Time on Customer Surveys with Microsoft Forms

Microsoft Forms is one of the best-kept secrets of M365. This cloud-based survey and form builder makes it simple to send out surveys to people. You get the results back as soon as they click “submit” on the cloud-based form.

You can even download the results directly to Excel. Using them for graphing or uploading them into a software template.

Microsoft Forms

5. Use PPT’s Presenter Coach to Improve Your Skills

Do you worry when it comes time to give a presentation to clients or your own team? Not everyone feels comfortable about public speaking, even if it’s virtual.

PowerPoint can help with a handy AI-powered feature called Presenter Coach. Turn this coach on when practicing your presentation. It will give you tips on your pacing, use of filler words (e.g., umm), repetitive language, and much more!

Look for the “Rehearse with Coach” option on the Slide Show menu.

6. Save Recurring Email Text in Outlook’s Quick Parts

Do you have certain emails you send to customers that have the same paragraphs of text in them? For example, it might be directions to your building or how to contact support.

Stop retyping the same info every time. Outlook has a feature called Quick Parts that saves and then inserts blocks of text into emails.

  • Create a Quick Part by highlighting the text to save in an email.
  • On the Insert Menu, click Quick Parts.
  • Save Quick Part.

When ready to insert that text into another email, just use the same menu. Then click to insert the Quick Part.

Outlook Quick Parts

7. Create a Keyboard Shortcut to Paste as Unformatted Text

Keyboard shortcuts are great for saving time. But there’s not always one there when you need it. One handy keyboard shortcut to add for MS Word is to paste as text only. This method removes any formatting that copied text might have had so your document isn’t messed up.

Here’s how to make a keyboard shortcut for this:

  • In Word, click File> Options.
  • Click Customize Ribbon.
  • At the bottom of the panel, next to Keyboard shortcuts, click Customize.
  • Scroll in the left pane to All Commands.
  • Look for “PasteTextOnly”
  • Type your keyboard command, then click Assign.
Keyboard Shortcut
PasteTextOnly

Need Help Optimizing Microsoft 365?

Microsoft 365 has many security-enhancing, time-saving, and dollar-saving features. Learn how else we can help by scheduling a consultation today.


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

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What Is Microsoft Defender for Individuals & What Does It Do?

When you hear about Microsoft adding security apps to M365, it’s often the business versions. But the pandemic has changed the way that we see the workplace. It’s now a hybrid world. One made up of several connected “mini-offices” located in employee homes.

The outsourcing market has also contributed to the change in company networks. Freelancers are often contracted to work the same hours as employees. This means less overhead and taxes to pay. Approximately 68% of large consumer products companies outsource a part of their workforce.

What we’re getting at is that the need for home devices and network security has never been greater. Company data is now at the mercy of employee devices, situated in homes across the globe.

55% of employees use their own devices and software to work from home.

Microsoft has been at the forefront of this huge shift in the work environment. Its latest release is another example of how it has positioned its products to address new needs.

The latest security offering by Microsoft is not for business plans. It’s for Personal and Family users of Microsoft 365. The company announced Microsoft Defender for Individuals on June 16, 2022. This is a brand-new digital home security tool.

The Basics of Microsoft Defender for Individuals

Microsoft Defender is a new app that Microsoft 365 subscribers can download. Anyone with a Personal or Family plan can access it for no extra cost.

According to Microsoft, there was a main driver for offering Microsoft Defender. It was to protect the digital life of small businesses and families. Small companies will often use consumer Microsoft 365 plans. This is because they are less expensive than the business plans.

This app brings many digital protections together into one dashboard. These include the following.

Online Security Visibility

Most families have several devices connected to their network. This includes computers, tablets, and smartphones. It can be hard to know which are vulnerable before a hacked device infects the others.

Microsoft Defender gives you visibility into the security status of your devices. It does this in a single place. So, you could see if that new phone of Sally’s has antivirus enabled. You can also easily add or remove devices.

Device Safeguards

The app includes extra protections from online threats. These are in the form of help from antivirus and anti-phishing protection.

You can use it to continually scan devices for threats, both new and existing. You also gain control of scanning customization. For example, you can note certain apps as safe and tell Microsoft Defender what to scan.

Real-Time Alerts & Recommendations

Hackers use automation and AI to unleash their attacks and help them spread. This means that it’s often a race against the clock to stop a breach from getting worse.

To react fast, you need to know something is wrong. Microsoft Defender helps you by giving you real-time alerts. These also come with recommended actions. So, you not only know something is wrong, but you also know what to do about it.

What Else Should You Know?

Here are a few other important things you should know about using Microsoft Defender for Individuals.

Where Can You Download It?

You can download Microsoft Defender for Individuals from Microsoft here. You need to have a Microsoft 365 subscription to either the Personal or Family plan.

What Devices Can Use It?

You can use Defender to secure and monitor the following devices:

  • Windows: Windows 10 version 19041.0 and higher
  • Mac: Intel Macs from Catalina 10.15 and higher, and Apple silicon-based devices from 11.2.3 and up
  • iPhone: iOS 13.0 or later
  • Android: Android OS 6.0 or later

How Many Devices Can You Add?

Microsoft Defender allows you to watch the security of many of your home or work devices. The M365 plan you have will dictate how many.

  • If you have Microsoft 365 Personal plan, you can receive protection on up to 5 devices at the same time.
  • If you have Microsoft 365 Family plan, you can receive protection on up to 30 devices at the same time. (5 devices per person, 6 people total)

What Are the Key Differences Between the Personal & Family Plans?

Both plans can access the many different Office and other Microsoft applications. The main difference is how many people and devices can use the Microsoft 365 services.

  • Microsoft 365 Personal: $69.99 US/year, 1 person, 5 devices
  • Microsoft 365 Family: $99.99 US/year, 6 people, 5 devices per person

So, if you want to sign up even 2 people, you’re saving quite a bit with the Family plan. Even more, if you have six people total using the service.

What’s the Difference Between Microsoft Security on Windows & Microsoft Defender?

Most Windows users are already familiar with the Microsoft Security app. It comes pre-installed on Windows. Microsoft Defender differs from this app in several ways.

Microsoft Defender:

  • Is not pre-installed on Windows. You must download it.
  • It’s a cross-device application used on many different devices
  • It includes features for online security
  • It includes alerts and security tips

Learn More About Defender & Microsoft 365 Today

Are you looking to get more from your Microsoft 365 subscription? We can help! Reach out today to schedule a technology consultation with our M365 experts.


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

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Internet Explorer Has Lost All Support (What You Need to Know)

After being the main entry to the internet in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Internet Explorer (IE) is gone. As of June 15, 2022, Microsoft dropped the web browser from support.

IE ushered in the age of connection to the world in 1995 and held a majority of the browser market share for many years. But the release of newer technologies like Google Chrome made it less relevant.

In 2014, Internet Explorer still held about 59% of the global market share, with Chrome at 21%. But just two years later, IE lost its top spot to Chrome and trailed behind another newcomer, Safari.

In 2015, the writing was already on the wall when Microsoft released a new browser, Edge. With Edge destined to take IE’s place as the official browser installed on Windows systems.

It’s inevitable, the longer technology is driving work and home life, that we’re going to lose some of our favorites. Adobe Flash Player is another technology that used to be widely used and is now gone.

So, now that IE has reached its end of life (EOL), what happens next?

Microsoft Will Redirect Users to IE Mode in Edge

According to Microsoft, now that IE is officially out of support it will redirect users. Over the next few months, a new experience will happen. Those opening this outdated browser will instead land in Microsoft Edge with IE mode.

To ease the transition away from Internet Explorer, Microsoft added IE Mode to Edge. This mode makes it possible for organizations to still use legacy sites that may have worked best in IE. It uses the Trident MSHTML engine from IE11 to do this.

When in IE mode, you’ll still see the Internet Explorer icon on your device. But if you open it, you’ll actually be in Microsoft Edge.

Microsoft Will Be Removing Internet Explorer Icons in the Future

Microsoft isn’t yet getting rid of the IE icons that appear in places like the taskbar and Start menu on Windows. But it will in a future update. Users can expect to see those removed at some point.

Edge Will Import Browser Data from IE

What about your favorites, saved passwords, and other settings that you have in IE? Microsoft Edge will import these from Internet Explorer for you, so they’re not lost. This will include things like your browsing history and other data stored in the browser. You’ll then be able to access these in the Microsoft Edge’s settings area.

With IE Retired, What Do You Need to Do Now?

Uninstall the Browser

It’s risky to keep older technology that is no longer supported on your system. Cybercriminals love to exploit older tools that are not receiving any security updates. This leaves an open invitation to breach your network. Manufacturers are never going to address these because they retired the software.

Outdated technology costs enterprises approximately 47% more when they suffer a data breach. As compared to those with updated tools.

You should transition your stored information to Microsoft Edge (or another trusted browser). Then uninstall IE from your device or devices.

Ensure Employees Know How to Use IE Mode in Edge

A scenario that businesses want to avoid is what happened to many organizations in Japan. Several government and corporate users weren’t prepared for the retirement of IE.

It was reported that IT and engineering departments received many calls for help. This was due to unpreparedness for the browser’s demise. Although it came with warnings, it was a shock to many that used legacy sites that need IE to work. This included the customers of government agencies, financial institutions, and other organizations.

This left them scrambling to try to figure out what to do at the last minute. They still needed access to employee attendance management, and other online tools.

Of course, with IE mode in Edge, this transition didn’t need to be so chaotic. But without communication or training, more than 20% of affected users hadn’t figured out what to do.

Make sure you communicate with your team what to do. Companies can automate IE mode for their users so that it launches automatically.

Train Employees on Microsoft Edge Features

Microsoft Edge has a lot of benefits over IE and other browsers. It’s faster and more responsive than Internet Explorer. It also has comprehensive security controls (including password breach monitoring). And has unique features such as “collections.”

But with all new tools, if you want employees to use them proficiently, they need to have a chance to learn them. Take the time to transition right, and have your employees trained on Edge.

Need Help Upgrading Your Digital Tools?

You don’t have to panic when a technology you use retires. We can help you upgrade well ahead of any deadlines. Reach out today to schedule a technology consultation.


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Microsoft Productivity Score Overview

Productivity can be challenging to track, no matter where employees are working. How do you know they’re using their tools as effectively as possible? How can you enable them to adopt best practices?

These are questions that managers often ask themselves. If they’re looking at the wrong things, it can get in the way of empowering their team. For example, you can’t grade productivity simply by “clock in/clock out” times.

In today’s hybrid and mobile offices, the value and work product an employee brings is a better gauge. But you also must look at what may be getting in the way of great employees doing great work.

Technology tools can slow down dedicated workers if they’re not familiar with them. Employees may be doing things the way they always have been, and not realize there is a better way. A faster way.

But productivity can be a tricky area to address. You don’t want to invade a remote employee’s privacy by tracking their every keystroke. Nor would that likely help with positive forward motion.

What’s the answer?

If your company uses Microsoft 365 then you have a tool you can use to find nuggets of productivity gold. This tool is Microsoft Productivity Score.

What Does Microsoft Productivity Score Do?

Microsoft Productivity Score looks at some core areas of your employees’ workflow. It also looks at them in aggregate. Because it’s looking at your team as a whole, you avoid issues with employees feeling personally spied on.

The tool gives you helpful insights that you can share with your staff. These insights help to boost their performance. It also includes hardware-related information. You can use this to see if your company tools are holding people back.

MS Productivity Score looks at the following areas.

People Experiences

This category looks at how people work. Are they using best practices for collaboration or are they doing things the hard way? Do meetings go on forever? Are employees still emailing attachments instead of using shared cloud storage links?

One example of an insight from this category is as follows. Each employee can save an average of 100 minutes per week by collaborating with online files. Productivity Score can show you where your team stands in this metric, and many others.

Saving 100 minutes per week is equal to approximately 86.6 hours per year. That’s over 2 full workweeks!

People experiences
All Productivity Score images are from Microsoft.

The subcategories within people experiences are:

  • Communication
  • Content collaboration
  • Mobility
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork

Technology Experiences

Technology experiences look at the health and performance of your devices. Do you have hardware and software on endpoints that are causing issues? Is it slowing your team down? Are there network connectivity problems? Are apps updated as they should be?

This category will look at the technology that your team works with and let you know of any risk areas. When technology is not functioning well or isn’t secure, it can slow your business down.

You’ll find these three subcategories in the technology experiences area:

  • Endpoint analytics (You need Intune for these)
  • Network connectivity
  • Microsoft 365 apps health

Special Reports

Besides the people and technology experiences, there is more. Microsoft Productivity Score has a special reports area. It provides details on business continuity.

This report can show you how employee collaboration and other activities are changing. It looks at these as your company goes through transitions. Such as when you transition to remote working or back to in-office work. This report tells you how these changes impact your team’s productivity.

Special-reports

How Productivity Score Helps Your Company

Automatic Metrics Tracking

Microsoft Productivity Score tracks your team’s use of Microsoft 365 applications automatically. It then will provide you with helpful information on how staff use their digital tools.

These metrics give you a good picture of whether employees are using best practices. Often, they simply need guidance to learn a more efficient way of doing something.

Insights to Understand the Data

The tool provides you with helpful insights to understand the data. You won’t only get the metrics; you’ll get the context. This allows you to educate yourself. Then you can educate your employees on things that improve workflow and save time.

For example, getting a response quickly to a question saves time. But you may not realize that using @mentions can help achieve that. Productivity Score will tell you how many people use @mentions in team communications. And also, how much this increases the response rate.

Insights to understand the Data

Recommended Actions to Take

The third piece of guidance you gain is what to do about the information. Productivity Score will give you actionable recommendations to improve a metric. This helps you to improve productivity.

The combination of the metric, insight, and recommendation make this a comprehensive tool.

Would You Like to Get Started with Microsoft Productivity Score?

We can help you get your organization started with this great tool. And provide solutions to increase company productivity. Give us a call and let’s chat!


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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the key features of MS Teams include:

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

MS Teams Evolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

Microsoft Teams Free Version

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

This plan has the following capabilities:

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

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

Microsoft Teams Essentials

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

This plan has the following capabilities:

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

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

Teams with Microsoft 365

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

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

These plans have the following capabilities:

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

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

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

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


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What Are the Most Helpful Features of Windows 11?

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

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

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

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

Snap Layouts

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

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

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

Enter… snap layouts in Windows 11.

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

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

Texting & Video Calls from Teams on the Desktop

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

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

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

The To Do Widget

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

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

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

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

Streamlined Start/Search Menu

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

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

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

Task View

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

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

Get Help with a Smooth Upgrade to Windows 11

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


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

Is Updating From Windows 10 to 11 Worth It? Here Are the New Features in the OS (And Some Missing Ones)

Getting used to Windows 11 shouldn’t be too challenging. On the contrary, the OS comes with several intuitive features to enhance productivity.

Microsoft recently introduced Windows 11 as the company’s latest operating system. And compared to Windows 10, this OS has various features that can increase your productivity and provide a better user experience.

As soon as you start using Windows 11, you’ll see a marked improvement over its predecessors.

For example, it has refined several household features, such as video conferencing and video management. You also get enhanced note-taking, data input, and a user-friendly interface that should help you complete your duties more efficiently.

Many other features can help boost your productivity, and this article will talk about them in detail. We’ll also look at some features Microsoft didn’t include in the new version.

WINDOWS 11 – WHAT’S NEW?

FEATURE #1. NEW TASKBAR

Previous Windows versions feature an iconic taskbar, but it can sometimes get clunky. Windows 11 deals with the cruft and provides a streamlined solution.

The new taskbar is perfect for expediting work, as it can contain a list of recent cloud and local files. You can also pin various apps to improve access and utilize a search bar that allows for convenient web browsing.

Another highlight of the taskbar is clean lines and widgets that display essential information (e.g., weather, photos, and news).

This should be a tremendous upgrade from the busy display of Windows 10.

FEATURE #2. WINDOWS GROUPING AND SNAPPING

The enhanced Snap Group and Snap Layout features allow you to resize and manage windows more easily. You also get to keep essential apps grouped to maintain high productivity.

Using the feature is relatively straightforward: Just hover the mouse over the maximize button on the desired app to reveal your layout options. You can choose between several arrangements, such as four-app grids and side-by-side layouts.

And if your team needs to perform basic window management, they can still grab and pull windows to the edge of their screen.

This feature improves desktop organization, which is especially useful for people working with two or more monitors. They can reduce clutter rapidly, enabling them to focus on their tasks.

FEATURE #3. IMPROVED ACCESSIBILITY OPTIONS

Windows 11 follows in the footsteps of many smartphones to simplify setting changes and make them easily accessible. Pulling up your control panel now only requires one tap or click in the taskbar coroner, replicating Apple’s Control Centre.

Furthermore, Windows 11 apps feature aesthetic, curved corners, and your Settings incorporate more options you can tweak. For instance, blind or vision impaired users can take advantage of cutting-edge audio cues. There are also desktop themes to help reduce eye strain, which is essential if you work long hours.

On top of that, the new operating system has revamped voice typing. You can activate this with a simple keyboard shortcut. This feature supports most major languages, including English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, and Portuguese.

Windows 11’s better accessibility means your team will no longer have to keep relying on your IT service provider to set things up for them.

FEATURE #4. BETTER APP STORE

Many apps can enhance workplace productivity, but you’ll first need to find them on your PC’s app store. Fortunately, Windows 11 came up with an organized and coherent platform to make the search easier. 

Besides universal apps, you can check out the applications compatible with your devices. The platform can also handle programs from third-party stores and manage app installation on the internet. 

FEATURE #5. SMOOTH NOTETAKING

If you’re using a touchscreen device, taking notes in Windows 11 should now be highly satisfying. This feature offers haptic feedback to generate physical sensations when drawing lines on the screen or checking boxes with your pen. 

Moreover, the Ink Workspace allows you to add preferred apps instead of using the standard snipping tool and Whiteboard. It gives you easy access to creativity tools the moment you pull out your pen.

WHICH FEATURES WERE LEFT BEHIND? 

Overall, Windows 11 should work great for your business. But bear in mind that Microsoft left out some features that were a staple in previous versions:

EXCLUDED FEATURE #1. TASKBAR CUSTOMISATION

Windows 10 users can move their taskbar from the horizontal position to the left, right, or upper part of their screen. In contrast, the Windows 11 taskbar is fixed at the bottom of the display, and you can’t customize the dimensions. 

The taskbar customization feature would have been helpful because it would let you use space more efficiently. 

Another significant change is that you can no longer move the Time and Date on your taskbar. Windows 10 didn’t have this problem since you could toggle off the Clock feature in your Settings. 

The default taskbar layout might be fine, but some users prefer higher customizability than what Windows 11 offers.

EXCLUDED FEATURE #2. DRAG-AND-DROP FEATURES

Windows 10 and some earlier versions allowed you to drag several items to change their position. For example, you could drag a Word document onto your Word icon on the taskbar to open it. 

This function is disabled in Windows 11. There’s no way to drag and drop or save any program or file onto your taskbar.

EXCLUDED FEATURE #3. CORTANA 

Cortana is a voice assistant counterpart of Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. Many people are used to it and may be disappointed to hear that it’s not a part of the Windows 11 system setup. You can’t even locate it in your start menu. 

The good news is that the Cortana application can still be found – it’s just hidden away. And you can enable it by visiting Settings and navigating to Apps & Features.

A WISE INVESTMENT

While Windows 11 isn’t perfect since it removed many valuable features, it’s still an excellent platform to help increase your productivity.

 Whether you need to organize your desktop more conveniently or take enjoyable notes, the OS won’t let you down. Plus, you get a revamped taskbar and powerful Voice Typing compatible with most major languages. 

Overall, Windows 11 can be a terrific asset for your business.

If you want to find out more about incorporating this new OS to boost productivity in your organization, contact us today. We can have a 10-15-minute chat to help you address key productivity issues in your company with the help of Windows 11.

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

How Microsoft 365 Defender Can Shield Your Company From Phishing Scams

Phishing can lose you a lot of money and expose sensitive information. Microsoft 365 Defender can dramatically mitigate this risk with several features. 

Phishing attacks are a severe threat to your business. These fraudulent actions can cause your team members to accidentally share financial, customer, and account information with cybercriminals. 

How does this happen?

The issue is that the attackers seem credible since they’re impersonating trusted sources and high-level executives. As a result, your team members may not even have second thoughts about distributing sensitive personnel or corporate data. 

Despite the attempts to raise user awareness of this fraud, phishing emails are still widespread. 

They’re the starting point of most hacking activities and can make organizations lose millions of dollars. In addition, the victim may face legal action, diminished reputation, reduced customer confidence, and business disruption. 

That’s why protecting your business from phishing attacks is paramount. 

Numerous safety mechanisms are available, but Microsoft 365 Defender might be your best option. It comes with various security layers to safeguard against successful phishing attempts.

This article will list the seven key features of Microsoft 365 Defender that can help protect your business from phishing. 

THE SEVEN KEY FEATURES

FEATURE #1 – PHISHING EMAIL PROTECTION

The most dangerous type of phishing scam involves emails whose sender seems to be an actual entity. The attacker often uses cunning tactics, like referring to the victim by their name or nickname. Sometimes, they can even use real accounts and use them to trick businesses. 

Using machine learning, Microsoft Defender 365 lists the contacts you regularly communicate with. Then, it uses advanced tools to differentiate suspicious from acceptable behavior. The result is more accurate detection of phishing emails. 

FEATURE #2 – MALWARE DEFENSE

Different types of malware can spread through phishing emails. 

For example, ransomware locks your files and systems until the attacker receives a ransom. 

Spyware can be even more dangerous. It steals your information by copying clipboards, taking screenshots, or recording keystrokes. 

Microsoft Defender 365 addresses such malware with robust safety mechanisms, namely: 

  • Layered malware defense – The platform comes with multiple malware scan engines to help diagnose potential threats. They provide a robust heuristic inspection to shield your system even in the earliest stages of an outbreak. This type of protection is superior to using just one anti-malware program. 
  • Real-time response – During outbreaks, the platform provides your team with instant access to devices, allowing you to investigate and contain threats in real-time. It also enables your team to collect data and proactively tackle malware. 
  • Rapid definition deployment – The Microsoft 365 Defender team maintains a close relationship with anti-malware engine developers. Consequently, users of the platform receive malware definitions on time. Plus, the company checks for definition updates every hour to help protect you against the latest malware. 
  • Common attachments filter – Some file types aren’t meant for emails, such as executable documents. With that in mind, the common attachment filter lets you automatically block them without any scanning. Some of the file types it can remove include .ace, .exe, .app, .ani, and .scr. 

FEATURE #3 – SPAM BLOCK

Another common culprit for phishing campaigns is spam emails. Blocking them is an excellent way to shield your organization from attacks. 

Defender boasts powerful anti-spam technology to address spam emails by examining the source of the message and the contents. If the email comes from untrustworthy sources or contains suspicious information, it automatically goes to your spam folder. 

On top of that, this feature examines your team members’ activity to help make sure they don’t send spam emails to other users. 

FEATURE #4 – SAFE LINKS

Phishing emails don’t only contain attachments. They can also include URLs to lead your team members to a fraudulent website. 

These web pages often look legitimate, but they generally require the victim to provide some information. Furthermore, they can lead to websites that install or download malware on your computers. 

Safe Links shield your system from malware transmissions using URL detonation. It scans email links and checks for suspicious behavior. 

Microsoft Defender 365 warns you not to visit links that open malicious websites. Otherwise, you can open your destination URLs normally. It’ll also rescan the service sometime later and look for any security problems. 

Another great thing about this feature is that it scans email links from all personnel within your organization. Moreover, it works great on documents uploaded to SharePoint and Microsoft Teams. 

FEATURE #5 – SANDBOX ISOLATION

Some users, especially if they’re reckless, commonly open malicious email attachments without second thoughts. They can expose company data to prying eyes as a result, which can ruin your reputation and give your competitors the edge. 

Defender can reduce this risk by opening all email attachments in a sandbox. It serves as isolation, meaning that malicious files can only affect the sandbox rather than your system. 

Once the program isolates malware, it’ll warn you not to open it. But if the attachment is safe, you’ll be able to use it normally. 

FEATURE #6 – ENHANCED FILTERING

Enhanced Filtering is perfect for enterprises that route emails to on-premises environments with third-party services before sending them to Microsoft 365. 

The platform comes with inbound connectors that verify whether your email sources are trustworthy. The higher the complexity of the routing scenario, the higher the chances are that email connectors don’t reflect their real source. 

What’s more, this feature preserves the authentication signals that may have disappeared while routing emails. It enhances the filtering capabilities of Microsoft 365, allowing it to detect phishing and spam emails more effectively. 

FEATURE #7 – USER SUBMISSIONS

Microsoft Defender lets you set specific mailboxes where you can send any threatening emails. 

This feature allows you to determine the criteria for safe and malicious email while identifying the mailboxes that will store these messages. Thus, your administrators have more control over flagging emails and reporting them to Microsoft. 

MICROSOFT 365 DEFENDER IS A SURE-FIRE SOLUTION

Phishing attacks can spell disaster for your company. To neutralize the threat, integrate your office’s computers with Microsoft 365 Defender. 

This platform can keep your system intact with dependable security measures. It can also detect malicious activity on time, enabling you to address it before it spreads and compromises your privacy. 

Using Microsoft 365 Defender is just one part of your cybersecurity. If you’d like a non-salesy chat to help determine other potential risks in your network, reach out to us today.  

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

Enhancing Office Productivity With Google Chrome: The 12 Best Extensions To Improve Your Workflow

Working from your computer or smartphone is convenient, but it can also be distracting. To maintain productivity, you should install effective Google Chrome Extensions. 

Google Chrome is arguably the most popular browser on the planet. It’s best known for allowing faster loading of websites, optimized performance, and an intuitive interface. As a result, it can help your team complete their daily duties much faster. 

However, it raises the same concern as other browsers – ample room for distractions. 

Your team members can easily switch to YouTube videos or social media, lowering their productivity. And it can often get out of hand, preventing your staff from meeting deadlines and reducing customer satisfaction. 

That said, you can help your employees get back on track and maintain productivity. All you need to do is incorporate practical extensions into your browser. 

This article will list the 12 best Google Chrome extensions that can help increase office productivity in your business.

THE 12 EXTENSIONS

EXTENSION #1 – BLOCKSITE

BlockSite can enable your team to stay focused by blocking harmful or distracting websites. This extension is perfect for team members who tend to drift away due to all the online activities that seek their attention. 

Some of the web pages you can block access to with BlockSite include social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But if you don’t wish to block them completely, you can limit access to them during breaks. 

EXTENSION #2 – ADBLOCK

AdBlock is one of the most widely used extensions for Google Chrome. More than 10 million users rely on it to remove most ads by preventing them from showing up on their screens. 

It can also help your team avoid malware-ridden ads, improving their experience in turn by increasing browsing speed. 

EXTENSION #3 – LASTPASS

Remembering your passwords can be extremely challenging. Thankfully, LastPass can provide an efficient solution. 

LastPass is an effective alternative to your browser’s built-in password manager, generating new passphrases whenever you log into a web page. 

In addition, the extension can synchronize passwords across various devices, providing easy access to accounts, credit cards, and form filling. 

EXTENSION #4 – EVERNOTE WEB CLIPPER

Although Chrome has a convenient bookmark feature, Evernote might be even more powerful. You can use Evernote Web Clipper to save your internet content for later viewing.

This extension enables you to easily save your web content and transfer it to your account. With just a few clicks, you can obtain images from any website, create summary links, save a distraction-free version of web pages, and make annotations. 

EXTENSION #5 – POCKET

Another effective way to track your online content is through Pocket. This extension can also let you save articles, web pages, and videos for later use. 

Whenever you come across interesting content, hit your Pocket extension and you’ll automatically save it on all your devices. You’ll then be able to access it whenever you want, even if you’re offline.

EXTENSION #6 – MOMENTUM

Momentum isn’t a standard extension. Rather, it’s a custom-made page to replace your default landing page. 

It has a robust, personalized dashboard with a beautiful scenic background, inspirational quotes, weather reports, widgets to favorite sites, and to-do lists. Therefore, it doesn’t just help enhance productivity – it can also motivate your team members to keep grinding. 

EXTENSION #7 – GOOGLE KEEP

Google Keep is a powerful extension that can allow your team to organize their data neatly. Its primary purpose is to help users create to-do lists and take notes. It also works great for saving pages, images and adding notes to them. Plus, it can make voice memos to simplify notetaking. 

To further improve note organization, users can market them with colors and labels. This way, there’s no time wasted when looking for crucial notes. 

EXTENSION #8 – CLOCKIFY TIME TRACKER

Monitoring workplace performance is critical, and Clockify Time Tracker is the ideal extension for this. 

As the name suggests, it tracks time spent on specific activities. Your staff can later use the results to analyze their productivity levels and determine their weaknesses. 

The extension lets users schedule break intervals, operate in pre-set work periods, detect idle time, set reminders, and integrate with more than 50 business apps. 

EXTENSION #9 – STAYFOCUSED

If you want your team to stay away from distracting websites but don’t want to remove them altogether, StayFocused may be the answer. 

This extension can help your employees avoid distractions by limiting the time they can spend on them. 

What’s more, StayFocusd comes with a handy Nuclear Option. It sets the time during which your team can’t access certain websites. Once you activate this option, there’s no way to deactivate it until the time expires. 

EXTENSION #10 – NOISLI

The main purpose of Noisli is to enhance your team’s productivity. It allows you to select the sound combination your staff finds most inspiring. This can include falling rain, storms, wood noises, wind, crickets, fire crackling, and coffee shop chatter. 

Noisli can be particularly useful if your team works in open offices where background noises often cause distractions.

EXTENSION #11 – HYPERCONTEXT

Hypercontext is an extension that can help teams maintain high performance by combining engagement measures, quarterly priorities, and weekly meetings. 

The platform enables you to create collaborative, one-on-one meetings, access conversations starters, and elicit feedback from each team member. You also get a feature that can help limit social media distractions and encourage your staff to prepare for their meeting.

EXTENSION #12 – TODOIST

Todoist is a straightforward yet helpful task manager. It can help users monitor their projects and tasks by delegating or organizing them from your browser. 

This extension is a terrific option for tracking multiple deadlines. After all, it can set due dates and help you prioritize specific tasks accordingly. 

TAKE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY TO NEW HEIGHTS WITH GOOGLE CHROME

Streamlining office productivity isn’t just about providing your team with cutting-edge computers and advanced software. It also has to do with installing appropriate extensions on your web browser. 

We’ve given you many options for Google Chrome with this article. It’s now up to you to decide which ones work best for your company. Remember that by incorporating them into your business, your workforce should become more efficient. 

Give us a call if you want to find out other tips to help boost employee productivity. We can have a non-salesy chat about it.

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

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