IT Support

Microsoft 365: 7 Tricks to make you more productive

Mastering the latest Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) productivity tips and uncovering new Microsoft Office 365 hacks are a really useful way to, firstly, get the most out of your Office 365 experience – but more importantly, to work smarter and be as productive as possible when working from home.

Here are 7 tips and tricks to use when using Microsoft 365 for work:

Learn Microsoft 365 as you work:

1. Make use of ‘Tell Me’

Are you feeling like a Microsoft 365 newbie? Then you need to use Tell Me – a text field where you can enter words and phrases about what you want to do next, and quickly get to features you want to use or actions you want to perform.

When editing a document, spreadsheet or presentation in Office Online, you can access Tell me by tapping the light bulb to the right of the tabs as seen in the image below:

Collaborate effectively:

2. Co-authoring in documents

One of the best features in Microsoft 365 online, is the ability to collaborate and edit documents with your colleagues – no matter where you are.

By saving your files to OneDrive or SharePoint, you can instantly share them with your co-workers and track their changes as you work toward a finished project or document. Work together on contracts and Excel Workbooks from the comfort of your home office. Find out more about how you do this here:

3. Attach files with Sharepoint

Rather than going through the laborious process of attaching files via e-mail, use the Share+ function in Sharepoint to add a shareable link to your emails). This saves valuable space in your inbox and shaves minutes off a task – giving you more time for other responsibilities.

4. Create groups

Creating Office 365 Groups allows you to maintain communication with specific departments and colleagues in your business, using the parameters you set. Once you create a group, you can share a calendar between members, exchange files, and of course, conveniently chat.

Continue signing agreements & contracts:

5. DocuSign

Did you know that you can get any document in Word or Outlook signed without bothering with a print-and-scan process? DocuSign allows you to Sign, send, and manage documents anywhere on any device, and they are also secure and legally compliant.

Save valuable inbox space:

6. Scheduling assistant for meetings

Instead of emailing back and forth for half an hour to find a convenient meeting time, take advantage of Microsoft Scheduling Assistant. When you’re sharing your calendars, you can use Scheduling Assistant to come up with a time to get together.

How to do this: Create an event on your calendar and add the people you want to invite. Then, use the Scheduling Assistant time picker to drag and drop to a time on the calendar that turns green. That means everyone’s available. Done!

Teamwork over the internet:

7. Mention someone to get their attention

One of the things that people really miss working from home is not being able to pop over to someone’s desk to get their attention, or when we’re working in the office alongside someone, we can say “Hey, John!”

To help with this, use Outlook’s @ mentions. If you @John in an email message, the recipient will see they’ve been called into the conversation and are expected to pay attention or respond. Not only this but when other people @ mention you, the inbox displays the relevant sentences around your @ mention directly in your message excerpt. This feature lets you know at a glance what you need to heed.

These tips will help you adapt to being as productive as possible whilst working from home. Do you have any Microsoft 365 tips and tricks? Let us know!

WebMicrosoft 365: 7 Tricks to make you more productive

Office 365 becomes Microsoft 365 – What you need to know

Starting April 21, Office 365 will be called Microsoft 365. More than just a name change, this is a move that illustrates the company’s desire to shed the stuffy image of the Office branding, and position it as a people first suite of apps.

The changes come at a time when Microsoft apps are more important than ever as the coronavirus outbreak forces people to work from home wherever possible. Apps that aid productivity whilst people negotiate this ‘new normal’ are fast becoming vital for SMEs.

The good news for small and medium sized businesses is that there are no price or feature changes for the subscriptions and there are no changes to the Office 365 for Enterprise or Education product names.

So, what do you need to know?

Microsoft Teams for Everyone:

In the blog post announcing the rebrand, Microsoft said the new names were meant to indicate that Office is more than Word, Excel, and PowerPoint; it also includes new apps like Teams, Stream, Forms and Planner.

Teams has seen significant growth over the last year, with Microsoft announcing a burst in popularity – the app went from 20 million business users in November to 44 million in April this year. Approximately 12 million users joined the service between March 11 and March 18 as more people around the world began working from home due to coronavirus lockdowns.

Microsoft’s move to bring more functionality to its productivity suite of apps comes as the company’s software is forced to contend with more competition – such as Google, and Slack.

Word and Powerpoint get an AI Boost:

The company will also be significantly expanding its AI-powered editors in Microsoft 365.

The Editor software will help you improve your writing by offering suggestions to make your text more concise and grammatically correct. There will also be a plagiarism checker in this software that will let you know if what you’re writing is a duplicate of content that is already out there – as well as a feature that will eliminate by potential bias by, for example, changing the word policeman to police officer.

PowerPoint also gets an AI boost, with a feature that listens to your voice before you give a presentation and can offer suggestions for how to adjust the pitch to ensure you don’t sound monotone.

Excel’s new ‘Money’ feature:

Excel is also gaining a new financial feature so it can rival online apps like Plum and Cleo: the Money feature will give users means to track spending in the spreadsheet app. Money will allow you to import your financial data from participating banks and credit unions, and provide you with information including how much you spend on certain categories like groceries, and whether recurring payments for services have increased.

You will see the new name for the services start to appear on your invoices after April 21st and all name changes in the service will be delivered by Microsoft, there is no need for you to do anything.

WebOffice 365 becomes Microsoft 365 – What you need to know

5 Tips for Developing a Robust Disaster Recovery Plan

A Disaster Recovery Plan is essential to any business. In the past few weeks we have seen the devastating effects that flooding can have on a business – Storm Dennis hit more than 1,000 homes and businesses in Rhondda Cynon Taf alone after heavy rain last week.

From devastating floods to recent growing cyber threats, power outages, hardware failure or human error, there’s a lot that can go wrong in your organisation; much of which is out of your control.

Regardless of the cause, downtime is expensive. Sungard AS’s research found that the average cost to a business of unplanned downtime was just over £1.4m. It also found as many as 70% of managers believe they need to spend more on business continuity. But no amount of spending will be effective unless it is backed by an effective plan. We outline 5 steps you can take towards developing a robust business continuity plan should the worst happen to you.

Tip 1: Always be prepared: Business risk analysis

This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many organisation do not conduct an in-depth risk analysis of their business. The first stage in any disaster recovery project should be to assess the risks facing the organisation. Managers should link risk assessments to a business impact analysis. It is only by looking at risk and impact together that allows a director to scale your organisation’s priorities, and also to decide on the type of protection measures needed.

Some risks will be so great, and the impact so high, that only a formalised business continuity plan will reduce them. For others, a staged recovery plan might be acceptable.

One example in is planning for cyber threats, where businesses have invested in: perimeter security to ensure continuity; a backup and recovery plan to protect data, including against malware; and cyber insurance to cover the most serious incidents. ITCS provide a free IT Security Audit so that you can assess the risks facing your business.

But a really robust disaster recovery plan goes further, and considers threats such a disrupted access to buildings – which can be caused by something as mundane as a burst water main – to disruption to staffing from public transport problems or weather disasters.

You should also consider supply chain risks. A supplier is likely to have its own business continuity arrangements, but its priorities and recovery objectives might not align with your own

You can’t protect against every possible threat, but the key is to have the most comprehensive picture possible of the risks facing the business and an understanding of their likelihood, how deeply they affect the business, and how long it would take to recover from them.

Tip 2: Break down IT Risks

IT failures remain a significant source of outages for businesses. Industry analyst IDC calculates that half of organisations would not survive an outage that takes down their central IT systems “for an extended time”. But it is not easy to predict which parts of a system could fail, and the impact of the failure.

Directors need to adopt a similar approach to IT risks as they do to environmental, human or infrastructure risks. Experts should examine the likelihood of failure across all components of core systems, whether these are on-premise, outsourced or in the cloud.

IT teams should not just look at hardware, but at the risks posed by data loss and data corruption, including through cyber attacks or malware, and of application unavailability. They should then be able to rank systems in terms of how critical they are and how easily they can be restored or recovered.

Tip 3: Set recovery objectives

Your IT System audit will, in turn, set the key objectives for your Disaster Recovery Plan. This includes an understanding of acceptable periods of downtime, and their cost – something that can only be calculated in discussion with the business.

The disaster recovery plan is likely to consist of resilience, availability and business continuity measures, along with backup and recovery strategies and a degree of managed failure.

This might include contingency plans, such as staff working from home using cloud-based applications and mobile phones, through to access to high-end business continuity locations. Fortunately, cloud-to-cloud backup of application data and backup of on-premise data to the cloud are both helping businesses of all sizes to become more resilient.

Tip 4: Set your response strategy

Disaster recovery is the archetypal “people, process and technology” challenge. Unless the outage is brief enough to get by on cloud-based services and through remote working, the business will need to consider alternative working locations and how to move staff and technology there.

If the outage affects a data-centre and systems fail-over to a secondary site, IT will need to work to restore the primary location or find a new one, as well as ensure that the now single fail-over site is backed up too.

The main way to contain a disaster, and to ensure effective recovery, is to maintain good communications. The business should, in advance, appoint a person to lead the disaster response. This person does not have to be the person who wrote the DR plan, but does need to be familiar with it.

The disaster response team should include experts from outside IT, including HR, as well as representatives from business operations. Crucially, the team should have a way to communicate in an emergency and, ideally, take part in any DR exercises.

Tip 5: Test the DRS Plan

Testing your Disaster recovery or business continuity plan through an exercise can be disruptive, but they are necessary. A DRS exercise will test if the plan needs to be reviewed or updated.

It is only by testing that a firm will know whether the plan works, and whether it is resilient enough to perform under pressure. Simulation, and testing the communications systems, is the best way to expose any weaknesses. Teams can then feed insights gained from the testing phase back into the risk assessment and business impact analysis, fine-tuning the plan as they go.

In Summary:

The unfortunate reality is that it is impossible to prevent every business risk, and that no matter how much you prepare, there are still risks. However, being proactive now also means you, and your business will be better able to react rapidly and intelligently when something does happen.

For more information, guidance, and support on making sure your infrastructure is as secure as possible, get in touch with one of our engineers.

SOURCES:

https://www.computerweekly.com/feature/Five-essential-steps-to-a-sound-disaster-recovery-plan

https://searchdisasterrecovery.techtarget.com/Risk-assessments-in-disaster-recovery-planning-A-free-IT-risk-assessment-template-and-guide

https://www.dynamicnetworksgroup.co.uk/resources/news-and-views/may-2019/what-counts-as-a-disaster%E2%80%9D-in-it/

Web5 Tips for Developing a Robust Disaster Recovery Plan

Vacancy: Senior IT Support Engineer Wanted

Who We Are:

ITCS (UK) Ltd is a specialist IT and Telecoms company servicing businesses throughout England and Wales. The company is growing at a rapid pace and looking to recruit fresh talent. The company delivers a wide range of IT solutions including Consultancy, Support, Procurement, Web & Software Development and Training. ITCS specialise in flexible IT computer solutions, providing anything from the support of small networks, through to the development and installation of multi-site operations.

We are seeking an innovative Senior IT Support engineer to join our expanding web department in Bridgend.

Do you think you could fit into our Web team? This is what we are looking for:

Responsibilities and Duties:

  • Dealing with support requests from the 1st and 2nd line team
  • Establishing networking environment by designing system configuration, directing system installation, defining, documenting, and enforcing system standards
  • The design and implementation of new solutions and improving resilience of the current environment
  • Maximizing network performance by monitoring performance, troubleshooting network problems and outages, scheduling upgrades and collaborating with network architects on network optimisation
  • Undertaking data network fault investigations in local and wide area environments, using information from multiple sources
  • Securing network system by establishing and enforcing policies, and defining and monitoring access
  • The support and administration of firewall environments in line with IT security policy
  • Updating job knowledge by participating in educational opportunities, reading professional publications, maintaining personal networks and participating in professional organisations
  • Reporting network operational status by gathering, prioritising information and managing projects
  • Upgrading data network equipment to latest stable firmware releases
  • Configuration of routing and switching equipment
  • Configuration of hosted IP voice services
  • Configuration of firewalls
  • Remote support of on-site engineers and end users/customers during installation
  • Remote troubleshooting and fault finding if issues occur upon initial installation
  • Capacity management and audit of IP addressing and hosted devices within data centres
  • Liaising with project management team and service desk engineers on a regular basis
  • Speaking with customers via email and phone for initial requirement capture

The Ideal Candidate:

Candidates must be able to demonstrate an excellent knowledge and understanding of the following areas:

  • Networking Knowledge (DHCP, DNS, TCPIP)
  • Windows Server Administration 2008 through to 2019
  • Microsoft Exchange Administration
  • Wireless Networking
  • VPN Technologies
  • Cloud Solutions
  • Cisco/CCNA (Advantageous)

If you think you’d fit into this role, please contact Matt Mutlow, Operations Director, with a CV and covering letter by following the link below:

WebVacancy: Senior IT Support Engineer Wanted

Signs It’s Time to Review Your IT Service Provider

Having a good relationship with an IT provider is integral to your business success.

As an SME, the quality of service you get from your suppliers affects everything from your internal operations, to the quality of your customer service.

Lost data, recurring downtime, IT security glitches, poor response times – these can all damage your business reputation.

According to CompTIA, a world leading tech association, reasons for leaving IT Providers usually fall into the following categories:

  •     Poor response times 
  •     Feeling neglected
  •     Too high cost
  •     Lack of innovative solutions
  •     Lack of expertise
  •     Difficult to work with

Here are some of the main tell-tale signs that you need to be considering your IT Provider options:

1. Lack-Lustre Pro-activeness:

Related image

Poor response times are one of the most popular reasons that SMEs search for a new IT Provider. Besides responding to requests quickly, your IT partner should be proactively informing you, and preventing problems before they occur. Routine monitoring and maintenance is imperative, and you have a right to expect this of your IT partner.

With digital innovation continuing to drive business growth, and with ever-evolving cyber-security changes, your need for a proactive approach to your business IT support will be increasing. If you don’t feel that your current provider is providing you with proactive IT Support, you should really think about changing providers.

 

2. Cost:

Image result for business cost

Any business owner worth their salt understands that lowest isn’t always the best value for money. With that being said, high costs alone shouldn’t be a reason to change supplier. However, you pay your current provider to keep your network up, running, and problem free.

If you are doubting whether you are getting real value for your money, you can arrange a free site audit with us. One of our engineers will call out and examine your current systems, then provide a report completely free, and with no obligations.

 

3. Recurring Issues:

Image result for phone frustrated business

Let’s face it; IT will never work like a Swiss watch. There are simply too many variables in business that are beyond your IT provider’s control. However, the entire reason you invest in an IT Partner / IT Department is to avoid day to day business disruption. You trust that your provider will keep downtime to a minimum and keep your data safe. If you feel a bit like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, facing the same issues repeatedly – despite being told that the problem has been fixed – it’s quite clear that your IT provider is not doing everything within their knowledge to discover the cause of the problem and address it properly.

 

4. No Understanding of your Industry:

Image result for one size fits all business

Yes, perhaps it’s a lofty expectation for your IT provider to have a full understanding of every product / service you sell, but your IT provider should certainly have a sound understanding of the function of your business. A good IT Partner will be able to provide its’ services on a general business level, and be able to tailor its’ services to the specific needs and goals of your own operation. They should have a solid knowledge of how the technology and digital processes you use impact productivity and efficiency.

 

5. Can they Protect you from disaster?

Related image

When disaster strikes, downtime can be expensive, and your hard earned reputation can be damaged. Disaster Recovery as a Service is designed to prevent this. Your IT partner should be able to clearly spell out how they fit into your business continuity plan and if they can’t it is a sure sign that it is time to look for a new provider.

 

Here at ITCS, we believe in building open, lasting, trusted relationships with all of our clients. If that’s what you need and you’re ready to change IT provider – or if you identify with any of the concerns in this article, call us for a chat. We’d love to see if we can help.

 

WebSigns It’s Time to Review Your IT Service Provider