Following on from a blog post last month on what is the cloud, we are taking a look at Microsoft’s 365 cloud services and provide you with some useful information to help you make the decision on whether 365 is right for your business.  Microsoft 365 can help you to become more productive in the new work from home environment we find ourselves in and take us through to the future hybrid working offices with more people continuing to work from home for a percentage of their working week.

Microsoft 365 is a cloud based productivity solution software which is subscription based.  This means you pay a monthly fee per user and you get the latest version of the Microsoft Office software. There are different levels of license which you can choose to purchase depending on what you require.  Microsoft 365 allows you remain connected and stay productive while working remotely, by allowing collaboration on work projects with colleagues and allowing you to store your company data which all employees can access without the need for a server or remote access to PCs in your office.  The subscription service also keeps your business agile and if you need to increase in size, you are not limited by your current IT hardware and infrastructure and require large capital costs for new servers and software, simply add a Microsoft 365 license and install it on the new device for the new employee!

There are 4 main packages to consider: Business Basic, Standard, Premium and Apps for Business.

  1. Business Basic – this gives you business email, access to Microsoft Teams, web based Office apps and cloud storage. This is perfect if you just need the ability to communicate with colleagues and clients.
  2. Business Standard – this also includes access to the desktop versions of the Office apps on top of the Basic offering but does not include the device management and advanced security options.
  3. Business Premium – this includes all of Basic and Standard, but with the added Advanced Security and Device Management and this makes it perfect for SME use and the product we recommend if you require more than the basic email address.
  4. Apps for Business – if you simply require the desktop versions of the Office suite, apps for business is designed for just that. Always have access to the latest version of the Office suite.

Another question we are often asked is how reliable is Microsoft 365.  To help our clients understand we explain that if your on premise server were to go down, you’d be without your data until we could resolve the issue or recover your data from your backup to get you running again.  However, with Microsoft 365 as they have a large cloud network of servers around the world, if there is an outage on one server it will move to another server in that data centre.   Then if the data centre fails, it would fail over to a secondary location.  So it would be rare that you would not be able to access your data due to an outage on the cloud server side.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to adjust your thoughts onto paying a monthly cost per user when previously you would have a capital outlay in one payment.  What is important to remember and to consider is that you are shifting from working with what will become outdated technology at the end of its life before you invest in new equipment to always having access to the latest software and technology.  So, rather than the unknown of what a future upgrade project might cost, you can now budget and plan for the known cost of your 365 subscription each month for the latest software and cloud technology that works to make your business more efficient.

The migration to Microsoft 365 from your server based operations can be a daunting thought.  However, the switch is a sensible choice if you are looking to increase your flexibility and allows you to move away from the need to make capital investments in servers to store your own data or run Exchange.  Microsoft 365 offers you flexibility to change your IT requirements to fit with your growing business month by month if required.  Your Managed Service Provider (MSP) will be able to talk your through and plan your migration to 365 to ensure that you experience minimal downtime and migration work is scheduled for out of hours.  Downtime cannot totally be avoided, however with the right planning and teamwork with your MSP minimal disruption can be achieved usually less than an hour downtime in total.  This is what we strive for at MJD in our 365 migrations, each stage is planned with you to best suit your current business activities to ensure the impact on your business operations is minimal.

This blog post will help you to begin to consider and decide if 365 is right for your business, but the Team here at MJD are always happy to discuss your options and make sure you are choosing the right solution to make IT work for YOU!

A password manager is a fantastic software tool to add to your IT kit to help increase the security of your passwords without the main issue of how to remember and store your details securely.  A password manager is a software tool that allows you to store your passwords securely and easily access them across your devices such as your PC, tablet, laptop and even your mobile.  They also have auto-generation tools to create secure passwords for you.  No more having to think of a random phrase and insert numbers and symbols! A password manager when used across the company can provide warnings if staff are using weak passwords or repeating their passwords thus giving you confidence that your business is not being left vulnerable due to staff weak passwords.

Everyone here at MJD would and probably could not go back to managing their passwords without using a password manager since we implemented them several years ago.  You can even have 2FA setup on your password manager to make it even more secure.  In addition, the autofill features are extremely useful when it recognises a login page on your device and fills the details in for you before you can even think “What email is registered to this account?”  It really is an essential tool to managing and maintaining secure passwords for all your accounts.

Another useful business function of a password manager is when setup within your organisation you can give permission to other users who need to share a login with you securely.  This can also facilitate everyone being able to update the password when it needs to be reset without the need to send the information in an unsecure format such as an email or post it notes.

Here at MJD we recommend the password manager Keeper, which also has a feature called Breachwatch which will scan your records and advise which passwords are at high risk and should be changed to be made more secure.  This can be extremely useful when you initially move to using a password manager to help you work through and change existing passwords to ones generated within your password manager.

If you are interested in getting a password manager please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

We all work with the cloud every day, but do we all understand what it means and where the cloud is?  Today we are going to demystify the term “The Cloud”!

The Cloud is a network of servers which are located across the globe which store the data and software which we operate in cloud services.  It facilitates the internet to allow you to access data and software from any internet connected device at any geographic location that you have an internet connection.  The Cloud will find your data or services through its network of servers and deliver it when you need it.  A few examples of cloud services are Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Apple iCloud and Netflix.

Using cloud computing allows us to lower the specification needs of our devices as they do not run the software and services directly.  It also means its very easy to increase your storage limits with cloud based, without having to upgrade your devices HDD and then requiring to carry out reinstalls and data transfers.

However, there are disadvantages to the cloud, being that without an internet connection you have no access to your data or services/software.  So, when considering a cloud-based solution, you need to evaluate the quality of your internet connection and whether you need to upgrade this to cope with a cloud system.  The other consideration is that there can be a risk to store your data online but no worse than the risk locally if your security is not up to standard, with sufficient security and procedures in place the cloud is as secure as locally stored, depending on your provider of services some can be more secure.  While all cloud services have security measures in place, it is always worth considering what data you want to store online and what data you keep on your own device.

You may be wondering why the term “The Cloud”?  It is likely that it developed from the use of a cloud-like shape to denote a network on telephony diagrams.  This was used when the specifics of how endpoints, your computers and/or devices within your network, were connected was not relevant to the diagram.

If you are interested in discussing the merits of cloud-based services within your organisation and IT network please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

This week we wanted to highlight a free resource on Microsoft’s website that is an incredibly useful resource for experienced and new users of Microsoft Office alike!  These videos can be useful to set as training to a new employee who may be unfamiliar with any of the Office applications.  The videos cover Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, SharePoint, Teams, Yammer and Access.

There are a variety of resources from video tutorials to cheat sheets to PDF guides as well as tips and tutorial templates to download and work through to test the skills you learn in the resources.  The home page for the Microsoft 365 training page can be found here:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/training

The video tutorials are particularly useful if you can’t quite remember how to do a specific task within a program or you’ve updated Office package and guess what, the button isn’t where it used to be.  We’ve all been there, and it can be extremely frustrating when something that used to be second nature must be relearnt!  These videos can help you to overcome that frustration quicker as they take you through the mouse clicks and you watch the desktop of the trainer.  No more searching for the function through trial and error, just learn how to go directly to it again!

Let’s have a quick tour of how to explore the wealth of information and resources within the Microsoft 365 training portal.  Let’s look at the Excel section for this example:

We’ll then see boxes representing the sections of training within Microsoft Excel:

Let’s look at Formulas and Functions:

We’ve highlighted the selection pane on the left hand side to show you where further more specific and detailed resources on individual formulas can be found.  Most of these articles have their own video and written information, so depending on how you learn best you have a variety of resources at your disposal.

Hopefully this will have highlighted an extremely valuable free training resource that you can put to work in your organisation to help make your IT work for YOU!  If you have any questions on Microsoft Office or Microsoft 365 please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD.

Here at MJD, we have always strived to look for increased efficiencies and improvements that can be implemented to better the experience for our clients.  With everyone’s increasing awareness on their impact on the environment as you’ll probably be aware MJD started using electric vehicles almost 3 years ago.  We decided we’d take our environmental activities to the next step so let us take you through some interesting and thought-provoking ideas that you can incorporate into your IT usage to decrease your impact on the environment and how the way we operate helps reduce our clients IT environmental impact.

Have you ever considered the environmental impact of your email inbox?  That’s right, we mean your inbox where you receive your emails on a daily basis.  It is a common misconception that it is harmless to store every email and send a quick email, because it doesn’t take up physical space and is so easy to file away.   However, did you ever consider the energy used to send that email or to store that email in your file archive?

A recent BBC article (link below for further reading) explored this and reported that if every person in Britain simply sent one less thank you email we could save 16,433 tonnes of carbon a year!  The carbon footprint of an email, comes from the electricity used by all the devices required in the process of sending an email.  The server that sends the email, the server that receives the email, the router in your network, each PC receiving the email.

Now, each individual email has an extremely small impact, but this sparks the discussion of how our behaviour with our IT infrastructure can affect the environment.  It is the same for storing an email, this takes up space on your PC or server, and maybe also space on your back up device.  This means it’s one more file to store and back up, which if you combine this with everyone in your organisation, equates to more electricity used to store and back up the email, this can also save you money in the cost of your backups as they are often determined by storage requirements.

In the grand scheme of things, a reduction in the emails you send has a relatively small effect on the countries overall carbon emissions.  However, there are more impactful ways we as businesses can contribute to making a difference through extending the lifetime of our devices.  Here at MJD, we always strive to make sure our clients get the most out of the investment in their devices, however, sometimes it no longer becomes economically viable to repair a machine.  In this instance, we always offer device recycling and we work with a local charity, ReBoot who repurpose the PC for less intense situations or break down the equipment to their individual parts and repurpose what can be used and recycle what can’t.

We want to take this a step further and work with our clients to actively seek out opportunities earlier in the devices lifetime to help extend its life and therefore the need to purchase new equipment and recycle the old.  We will be getting in touch with our clients over the coming months to discuss with them potential areas for improvement now which would extend the life of the device to try and help our clients increase the return on investment of their devices further while also doing their part for protecting the environment. This in the long term will also save capital costs on renewing devices, the only exception would be where a device is inefficient and needs to be replaced.

Another option can be using refurbished devices, now stock and availability of certain types of devices and specification vary daily therefore, if this is an option you wish to explore with us, we will find out what our suppliers have available and offer you options at the time.  This is also a viable option and we can discuss how this would match your requirements both specification and environmental factors to see what options we can find for you.

In addition, at MJD we’ve always taken the approach with our vehicle fleet and site visits of scheduling with the view of combining site visits into geographical areas to maximise time and fuel efficiency.  This keeps the services we provide for our clients efficient and also helps us to reduce our impact on the environment.  We also have currently operated with two electric company cars for over 3 years and find that the range and useability of these cars more than fits our needs.  It has been our intention that when we require to replace one of the vans in our fleet we will be seriously considering an electric option, to further expand our electric fleet as the mileage range has increased and the need for site visits reduced with improvements in remote connections and functionality as such they are now a contender for a van replacement.

As a company and a family, living and working in the beautiful countryside of the Moray Firth, we are always looking for new ways big or small to help reduce our impact on the environment, from collecting crisp packets for recycling (when we were all working in the office pre-COVID19!) to investing in electric vehicles to increasing our use of video conferencing for meetings to avoid travel. Let’s make IT work for YOU and the environment!

Link to BBC Article:  Climate change: Can sending fewer emails really save the planet?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-55002423

Today, we are going to create a guide to the most common features you may want to use within Teams and highlight some of our most used and favourite ones within MJD.

To begin with, we’ll explain what Teams is and how it is setup.  Teams is an online communication tool created by Microsoft to allow groups of people, teams, to communicate and collaborate easily.   It also aims to do this all within one window for you, minimising clutter in your taskbar.

First off, you will need to setup your “Team”, you can have multiple Teams within the programme which can have different collaborators, so you may setup each department of your company as a Team for example.  Within each Team, you can have different channels.  So for example, within your Engineering Team you may have the following channels; Projects, Drawings, Workshop or you could have your company as a Team, then each department as a Channel.   This is where you can completely customise the setup to what will work best for your company.

When any new message or activity takes place within a channel, you will receive a notification and the channel will become bold with a red number next to it for how many new notifications in that channel.  You can set your notification settings differently for each channel.  When you are in the channel you wish to set your notifications for, click on the three left dots on the top right-hand corner and go to “Channel notifications”.  You can then chose to turn them off or have all notifications or set customised notifications.

To see all the most recent activity within your Microsoft Teams, you can use the activity section on the left-hand side.  This will show all the most recent activity within your own teams and you can navigate between the updates in the panel on the left-hand side.

To chat to an individual colleague in one of your teams, the chat section is where to do this.  You can then chose your colleague and chat/share files.  You can also share your screen to demonstrate or show your colleague something you are working on.  It can be really useful when showing a colleague how to carry out a task when we are now working from home.

In each conversation, whether that be with your team or an individual colleague, you will see there are a few tabs.  The Files tab will show you all the files you have shared within this conversation or channel and allow you to move, open, edit and work together on the files.

You can add tabs to each channel which allows you to collaborate on a variety of apps.  The most common one you may wish to add is OneNote to allow you to create a Notebook for that Team so that you can save notes that everyone may need to access, for example, meetings minutes, task lists etc.

Another useful feature to be aware of and make use of is your status.  This can be changed by clicking on your profile picture and then choosing a status from the menu.  It is worth noting that in the Do Not Disturb status you can setup whose notifications can still make it through to you.  This means you can still ensure any high priority messages get through to you, without general and lower priority messages disturbing you.

We can also get Teams to let us know when a team member becomes available, to do this we right click on the Team Member and chose “Notify when available”.  Teams will now tell us when their status changes to available by a notification in the bottom left-hand section of the screen.  Much like an email notification when you receive a new email.

Hopefully this will help you to get started in Microsoft Teams and get you confident to explore the features but any questions on Microsoft Teams please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team here at MJD and we’ll be more than happy to help make IT work for YOU.

 

With us now moving towards working models where we may be a flexible mix of working from home and working on site and in our offices, the ability to takes notes and have them on our person where ever we are has become increasingly important. And with the requirement to reduce the amount of our own things we take into spaces where they could pick up contamination of COVID-19 from communal spaces, we need to think about maximising our use of technology.

We want to introduce Microsoft OneNote to any users out there who do not already utilise the programme. Or if you are aware and already use, hopefully we can share some handy tips and functions within the programme to maximise your usage of OneNote.

OneNote is a flexible electronic notebook, which you can access from your phone, PC, tablet, laptop etc so long as your notebook is linked to your Microsoft account. If you have 365 you will already have a Microsoft account you can log in with. If not, it only takes a few minutes to setup and link your OneNote notebooks too. This means the notebooks will be stored in the cloud so from any device which you have the app installed on it will sync and update your notebooks.

One of the key ways you can make OneNote really work for your business, is sharing notebooks between team members. This allows everyone to see the information held within them, to action tasks on check lists etc. Your imagination is the limit for the uses a shared electronic notebook has! It encourages collaboration and can be used during meetings for everyone to have access to the notes, tasks can be added to a To Do List as the work day progresses or can be used as a handover tool when people are out of the office, those covering have access to shared notes that may help them cover the work in their colleagues absence.

Within OneNote you can setup your notebooks in very much the same way as a physical notebook. You can have separate notebooks, sections within the Notebook and then different pages within your sections. Your sections can be colour coded and each page can be given a title. I find this personally much more organised than a paper notebook as I can easily find the notes I want from the title of the page, rather than numerous sticky tabs with small handwritten titles that wear off and disappear over the course of a working day!

Within a page, you can have text notes, use a pen tool, format your notes to have headings and layout different boxes to highlight particular information for yourself. A particularly handy formatting function that I use is the check box. I have a separate section just as my To Do Lists using the check box function which allows me at a glance to see tasks still to complete. There is also a dictate feature within OneNote if you are on the go and need to quickly add some notes. The audio record function can be useful when in a training or a meeting which you’d like to take more detailed notes from later, given that everyone in the room is happy for you to record. The sound recording is then embedded in that page in your notebook for review later. This was a handy feature while at university, to further augment the notes for studying later from lectures.

A handy automatic feature, is when you copy and paste text, images, content from online, OneNote will automatically include a link to the source in the Notebook for you. So gone is the issue of trying to remember where you read the information or searching through your browser history to locate the source. A useful tip for anyone at university and writing essays!

One feature that may be useful if you prefer to handwrite notes on your tablet or mobile with the Ink function, is the “Ink to Text” function. This means you can use the Lasso tool and select your handwritten notes and it will do it’s best to turn this into text. Obviously, this depends on how clear your handwriting is!

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the features of OneNote but just a few highlights we find useful ourselves here at MJD. Hopefully this has been insightful and sparked some ideas about how you can use this Microsoft Office offering to help in your daily working routine. If you have any issues or would like some further help in setting up OneNote please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us, we’d be more than happy to help. We have included a small run through video below as a visual aid to where some of the features above are located within OneNote.  Lets make your IT work for you!

 

 

Key Timings in Video:

Share Function – 00:27.30

New Sections and Pages – 02:37.36

Change Section Colours – 04:08.46

Search Function – 04:22.20

To Do Lists – 05:31.00

Dictate – 06:14.20

Ink to Text – 07:00.50

Automatic Source Copying – 08:25.83

Audio Recording – 09:04.93