Category: Microsoft

iphone screen with icons on screen

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.


Featured Image Credit

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

person using Windows 11 computer on lap

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.


Featured Image Credit

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.

Cosaint Technologies ©2022