Make the most out of your O365 subscription

It may seem as if Office 365 is merely Microsoft’s way of joining the online subscription bandwagon, but that’s not the case. O365 is Microsoft’s way of upgrading its ubiquitous Office suite by augmenting it with cloud features.

Office apps and the files you create with them are accessible wherever there’s an internet connection, but that is actually the bare minimum that O365 offers. If you go for either the Premium or Essentials bundle, you’ll gain access to communications and collaboration apps that you can use to increase your organization’s productivity. Here are some of the specific ways you can do this:

Build an engaging intranet using SharePoint

Unlike the internet, which is a megalithic network spanning the entire world, an intranet is basically a private network built for your employees’ exclusive use. It began as a repository for basic company information, then it evolved into a document management system, an HR portal (where staff can file leaves of absence), a platform for knowledge-sharing and discussion forums, and a social media platform where users are both consumers and pushers of company-centric content.

If you use Microsoft Word and Excel to create work files, SharePoint is the platform where your team can keep and share such files. Build forums that bolster collaboration, information libraries that help staff leverage collective knowledge, and message boards that inform and invite staff to engage with the goings-on inside the company.

Enjoy continuous collaboration with Teams

Microsoft brings collaborations up a notch with Teams, a tool that allows you to build shared workspaces. In a Teams workspace, each team member can share files as well as comment on and work on one another’s files. Imagine doing all of that via email — you’ll most likely weave a nightmarish tangle out of multiple threads and attachments.

Additionally, Teams has communications facilities such as web conferencing, group chat, and live online meetings. Since Teams can be used on desktops, laptops, and mobile devices, workers can share information and connect frontline staff such as factory machine operators and sales clerks.

Coordinate your efforts with Planner

If Teams is O365’s communications hub, then Planner is its Kanban board — a project workflow visualization tool that lets you categorize tasks according to their progress status. A physical Kanban board is limited by the size of sticky notes used, but with Planner, you can assign tasks to team members, attach relevant files to them, and discuss tasks without leaving the app.

Automate tasks with Flow

There are tasks that promote critical thinking, but there are also tasks that are tedious and repetitive. An example of such a task is preparing an income statement. This usually involves emailing a finalized income statement to your superiors and archiving it. Automating the archive step alone would significantly ease this workflow.

With Flow, you can easily create detailed workflows that accomplish tasks automatically once you fulfill certain triggers. You can also make different apps “talk” with one another (e.g., have new OneDrive files be copied to your Dropbox account), provided that integrations allow them to do so. Imagine not having to shift between so many apps anymore — this will save your staff plenty of time and mindspace to do more worthwhile tasks that add more value to your company.

Let your staff step up from being mere individual Office suite users to being members of synergistic teams! Contact us to learn more about how you can squeeze every drop of value from your Office 365 subscription.

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Better ransomware protection with Windows 10

In 2018, ransomware was the biggest malware threat to businesses worldwide. Experts say it’s not likely to go away soon. But thanks to Windows 10’s beefed-up security features, you can easily secure your business from the dangers of ransomware.

Controlled Folder Access

This feature allows you to list certain documents and folders as “protected.” Only whitelisted programs can access and edit these folders, while any attempts by malicious apps to change the folders are blocked by Windows Defender.

In theory, this should slow down a ransomware’s ability to encrypt critical information. Some reports suggest that this feature can also prevent other threats like malicious file macros and viruses.

You can access the feature by going to Windows Defender Security Center and then enabling “Controlled folder access.” From there, you can choose which folders will be protected and what apps are allowed to access them. To save you time, common Microsoft applications are trusted automatically, but you can remove them from your whitelist whenever you want.

Application Guard

Windows Defender Application Guard is designed to prevent intrusions by using Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtual machine technology to detect and isolate compromised applications from the rest of your system. So if someone on your staff accidentally downloads a virus from their web browser, Application Guard will contain the threat before it infiltrates the rest of your company’s devices, apps, data, and network.

Device Guard

Similarly, Windows 10’s Device Guard feature, which is also found in Windows Defender Security Center, minimizes your PC’s exposure to malware by using advanced threat detection policies. It blocks all apps that are not considered to be trusted, ensuring that only approved code is running throughout the system. It also adds an extra layer of defense between your firewall and antivirus software.

Want to know more about how you can protect your business from ransomware and other cyberthreats? Call us today to get expert cybersecurity advice.

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Windows 10’s anti-ransomware features

The recent global outbreak of ransomware attacks such as WannaCry and Petya has made Microsoft sit up and pay attention to the need for better security features for Windows 10. Here are some of the new ones Microsoft has come up with to help keep PC users safe.

Controlled Folder Access

This feature allows you to list certain documents and folders as “protected.” Only whitelisted programs can access and edit these folders, while any attempts by malicious apps to change the folders are blocked by Windows Defender.

In theory, this should slow down a ransomware’s ability to encrypt critical information. Some reports suggest that this feature can also prevent other threats like malicious file macros and viruses.

You can access the feature by going to Windows Defender Security Center and then enabling “Controlled folder access.” From there, you can choose which folders will be protected and what apps are allowed to access them. To save you time, common Microsoft applications are trusted automatically, but you can remove them from your whitelist whenever you want.

Application Guard

Windows Defender Application Guard is designed to prevent intrusions by using Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtual machine technology to detect and isolate compromised applications from the rest of your system. So if someone on your staff accidentally downloads a virus from their web browser, Application Guard will contain the threat before it infiltrates the rest of your company’s devices, apps, data, and network.

Device Guard

Similarly, Windows 10’s Device Guard feature, which is also found in Windows Defender Security Center, minimizes your PC’s exposure to malware by using advanced threat detection policies. It blocks all apps that are not considered to be trusted, ensuring that only approved code is running throughout the system. It also adds an extra layer of defense between your firewall and antivirus software.

Want to know more about how you can protect your business from ransomware and other cyberthreats? Call us today to get expert cybersecurity advice.

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How Windows 10 features keep ransomware at bay

The ransomware threat isn’t going away anytime soon, which is bad news for computer users everywhere. Fortunately, Windows 10 has built-in security features to keep you from falling victim to ransomware.

Controlled Folder Access

This feature allows you to list certain documents and folders as “protected.” Only whitelisted programs can access and edit these folders, while any attempts by malicious apps to change the folders are blocked by Windows Defender.

In theory, this should slow down a ransomware’s ability to encrypt critical information. Some reports suggest that this feature can also prevent other threats like malicious file macros and viruses.

You can access the feature by going to Windows Defender Security Center and then enabling “Controlled folder access.” From there, you can choose which folders will be protected and what apps are allowed to access them. To save you time, common Microsoft applications are trusted automatically, but you can remove them from your whitelist whenever you want.

Application Guard

Windows Defender Application Guard is designed to prevent intrusions by using Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtual machine technology to detect and isolate compromised applications from the rest of your system. So if someone on your staff accidentally downloads a virus from their web browser, Application Guard will contain the threat before it infiltrates the rest of your company’s devices, apps, data, and network.

Device Guard

Similarly, Windows 10’s Device Guard feature, which is also found in Windows Defender Security Center, minimizes your PC’s exposure to malware by using advanced threat detection policies. It blocks all apps that are not considered to be trusted, ensuring that only approved code is running throughout the system. It also adds an extra layer of defense between your firewall and antivirus software.

Want to know more about how you can protect your business from ransomware and other cyberthreats? Call us today to get expert cybersecurity advice.

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Tips to monitor employee activities online

There are a lot of pros and cons when it comes to monitoring your employees online. We’ve put together an honest and transparent list of arguments for and against this practice. And if you decide it is something you want to pursue, we’ve provided some tips for a smooth implementation process.

The case for monitoring

There are a number of reasons why monitoring your employees’ activities on company devices is a good idea. Doing so can help you:

  • Protect your organization from data theft or harm – because careless or disgruntled employees may leak or steal your data.
  • Ensure you have a harassment-free workplace – because cyberharassment (sexual or otherwise) happens among employees.
  • Ensure staff are complying with policies – such as not downloading illegal programs or spending time on websites with illegal or hostile content.
  • Provide evidence in case of a lawsuit – heaven forbid this happens, but if an employee participates in illegal activities using your business’s computers, monitoring can provide evidence of who was involved.

The sad fact of the matter is that many business owners who begin monitoring their employees often end up discovering that their staff members aren’t focused solely on the company’s success.

Arguments against employee monitoring

Of course, there are some potential downsides to monitoring that you should be aware of as well. These include:

  • Productivity loss – monitoring can put a damper on employee morale and you may see the distrust lead to productivity losses.
  • Lost privacy and lawsuits – you’ll likely learn personal details of your employees that you would’ve never known about had you not monitored them. You may discover their political or religious views, sexual orientation, or medical problems. This could potentially open up your business to privacy or discrimination issues if you or your management team acts negatively based on any of this information.

Monitoring guidelines to follow

If you decide to monitor your employees, here are a few tips you should follow.

1. Create written policies
When you decide to monitor your employees, ask yourself: Am I doing this for security purposes? Is it to ensure your employees aren’t wasting time on social media? If your monitoring policies are too strict, you could create an atmosphere of distrust.

Set guidelines for acceptable use of email, social media, web browsing, instant messaging, and downloading software and apps. Also, make sure to include how monitoring will be carried out and how data will be secured or destroyed.

2. Tell your employees
It’s important to inform your employees about the scope of your monitoring policies. If they find out you’re doing it without their knowledge, you could face legal issues. By being transparent and open, you may actually see a boost in productivity by deterring employees from wasting time on the web.

When you tell your employees, explain why you’re doing it and the risks your business faces from misuse of digital assets. Reassure them you’re not doing it to spy on their personal life, but to create a compliant and law-abiding workplace. Because their activities will now be less private, encourage your staff to keep their personal communication to their smartphones. Also, provide a copy of your written policy to employees to read and sign.

3. Get the right technology tools
You don’t need to know every little employee activity, so look for apps and software that alert you of the most relevant problems so you can focus on more important tasks.

If implemented correctly, employee monitoring makes your business more secure and productive. For more information about security and other IT support tools, get in touch with us today.

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Should you monitor your employees online?

To monitor your employees, or not to monitor them, that is the topic of this blog post. If you’ve ever considered checking in on your staff’s online activities, you may have hesitated about whether or not it’s the right decision. We’ve listed the pros and cons of monitoring your employees, and some tips to make it a success if you go through with it.

The case for monitoring

There are a number of reasons why monitoring your employees’ activities on company devices is a good idea. Doing so can help you:

  • Protect your organization from data theft or harm – because careless or disgruntled employees may leak or steal your data.
  • Ensure you have a harassment-free workplace – because cyberharassment (sexual or otherwise) happens among employees.
  • Ensure staff are complying with policies – such as not downloading illegal programs or spending time on websites with illegal or hostile content.
  • Provide evidence in case of a lawsuit – heaven forbid this happens, but if an employee participates in illegal activities using your business’s computers, monitoring can provide evidence of who was involved.

The sad fact of the matter is that many business owners who begin monitoring their employees often end up discovering that their staff members aren’t focused solely on the company’s success.

Arguments against employee monitoring

Of course, there are some potential downsides to monitoring that you should be aware of as well. These include:

  • Productivity loss – monitoring can put a damper on employee morale and you may see the distrust lead to productivity losses.
  • Lost privacy and lawsuits – you’ll likely learn personal details of your employees that you would’ve never known about had you not monitored them. You may discover their political or religious views, sexual orientation, or medical problems. This could potentially open up your business to privacy or discrimination issues if you or your management team acts negatively based on any of this information.

Monitoring guidelines to follow

If you decide to monitor your employees, here are a few tips you should follow.

1. Create written policies
When you decide to monitor your employees, ask yourself: Am I doing this for security purposes? Is it to ensure your employees aren’t wasting time on social media? If your monitoring policies are too strict, you could create an atmosphere of distrust.

Set guidelines for acceptable use of email, social media, web browsing, instant messaging, and downloading software and apps. Also, make sure to include how monitoring will be carried out and how data will be secured or destroyed.

2. Tell your employees
It’s important to inform your employees about the scope of your monitoring policies. If they find out you’re doing it without their knowledge, you could face legal issues. By being transparent and open, you may actually see a boost in productivity by deterring employees from wasting time on the web.

When you tell your employees, explain why you’re doing it and the risks your business faces from misuse of digital assets. Reassure them you’re not doing it to spy on their personal life, but to create a compliant and law-abiding workplace. Because their activities will now be less private, encourage your staff to keep their personal communication to their smartphones. Also, provide a copy of your written policy to employees to read and sign.

3. Get the right technology tools
You don’t need to know every little employee activity, so look for apps and software that alert you of the most relevant problems so you can focus on more important tasks.

If implemented correctly, employee monitoring makes your business more secure and productive. For more information about security and other IT support tools, get in touch with us today.

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Monitoring employees online: Is it right?

The choice to monitor your employees’ computers or not is a tricky one. While part of you may think it’s unethical, it could end up saving you hours of lost productivity or preventing a data breach. Here are some pros and cons of employee monitoring, and some tips to handle it fairly if you decide it’s right for your business.

The case for monitoring

There are a number of reasons why monitoring your employees’ activities on company devices is a good idea. Doing so can help you:

  • Protect your organization from data theft or harm – because careless or disgruntled employees may leak or steal your data.
  • Ensure you have a harassment-free workplace – because cyberharassment (sexual or otherwise) happens among employees.
  • Ensure staff are complying with policies – such as not downloading illegal programs or spending time on websites with illegal or hostile content.
  • Provide evidence in case of a lawsuit – heaven forbid this happens, but if an employee participates in illegal activities using your business’s computers, monitoring can provide evidence of who was involved.

The sad fact of the matter is that many business owners who begin monitoring their employees often end up discovering that their staff members aren’t focused solely on the company’s success.

Arguments against employee monitoring

Of course, there are some potential downsides to monitoring that you should be aware of as well. These include:

  • Productivity loss – monitoring can put a damper on employee morale and you may see the distrust lead to productivity losses.
  • Lost privacy and lawsuits – you’ll likely learn personal details of your employees that you would’ve never known about had you not monitored them. You may discover their political or religious views, sexual orientation, or medical problems. This could potentially open up your business to privacy or discrimination issues if you or your management team acts negatively based on any of this information.

Monitoring guidelines to follow

If you decide to monitor your employees, here are a few tips you should follow.

1. Create written policies
When you decide to monitor your employees, ask yourself: Am I doing this for security purposes? Is it to ensure your employees aren’t wasting time on social media? If your monitoring policies are too strict, you could create an atmosphere of distrust.

Set guidelines for acceptable use of email, social media, web browsing, instant messaging, and downloading software and apps. Also, make sure to include how monitoring will be carried out and how data will be secured or destroyed.

2. Tell your employees
It’s important to inform your employees about the scope of your monitoring policies. If they find out you’re doing it without their knowledge, you could face legal issues. By being transparent and open, you may actually see a boost in productivity by deterring employees from wasting time on the web.

When you tell your employees, explain why you’re doing it and the risks your business faces from misuse of digital assets. Reassure them you’re not doing it to spy on their personal life, but to create a compliant and law-abiding workplace. Because their activities will now be less private, encourage your staff to keep their personal communication to their smartphones. Also, provide a copy of your written policy to employees to read and sign.

3. Get the right technology tools
You don’t need to know every little employee activity, so look for apps and software that alert you of the most relevant problems so you can focus on more important tasks.

If implemented correctly, employee monitoring makes your business more secure and productive. For more information about security and other IT support tools, get in touch with us today.

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How to boost your SMB’s social media presence

Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) nowadays are more competitive than ever. As an SMB owner, you’re probably constantly looking for ways to boost your social media presence, outdo your competitors, and increase profits. Here are some ways to do that.

Create buyer personas

Social media data is a great tool to gather information about your potential customers, and in doing so, create buyer personas. Buyer personas are comprised of generalized characters that help build an ideal picture of your business in the market. Key demographic information includes age, location, and even reasons for buying and product-related concerns.

Come up with and implement a media crisis management plan

It’s normal for businesses to go through a crisis or two. Avoid embarrassing public relations nightmares by having a social media crisis management plan in place and ready for implementation.

Track the impact of your content marketing

When it comes to content marketing efforts like blogging and social media, it’s essential to have a system to measure results. You can measure how these efforts impact your brand awareness by using metrics such as social media reach, brand mentions, media mentions, and branded searches.

Integrate user-generated content on social media

Businesses can use social media to interact with consumers. This includes sharing some of consumers’ content on your own channels. Not only is user-generated content more cost-efficient, but it also shortens the customer’s path to purchase.

Use Hootsuite to manage Twitter chats

A Twitter chat happens when you use Twitter to talk about a common interest with others during a preset time. It’s like an online chatroom where you add to the discussion by tweeting. Efficiently managing tweets and responses is integral. Fortunately, applications like Hootsuite simplify the whole process. Hootsuite easily monitors, searches, and saves Twitter chats onto the Hootsuite dashboard for future reference.

Create better live broadcasts

Livestreaming on social media platforms such as Facebook, Periscope, and Instagram is quickly gaining popularity. Before starting a livestream for your business, take time out to practice and prepare an outline before you roll the cameras. Don’t forget to promote it prior to the broadcast, and make sure you come up with a short and catchy video description.

All SMBs are fighting for the same thing: the consumer’s attention. Business owners can’t afford to just blend into the background; if you don’t make a good, lasting impression, you might lose out on an opportunity to make money. And if you’re relying on social media and content marketing strategies to help you, make sure you are doing it right. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us!

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Stand out on social media: Tips for SMBs

Many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) know that making an impression on consumers isn’t easy. That’s why they develop in-house marketing teams or hire experts to make sure their online presence pops. These social media and content marketing strategies may be just what you need to stand out.

Create buyer personas

Social media data is a great tool to gather information about your potential customers, and in doing so, create buyer personas. Buyer personas are comprised of generalized characters that help build an ideal picture of your business in the market. Key demographic information includes age, location, and even reasons for buying and product-related concerns.

Come up with and implement a media crisis management plan

It’s normal for businesses to go through a crisis or two. Avoid embarrassing public relations nightmares by having a social media crisis management plan in place and ready for implementation.

Track the impact of your content marketing

When it comes to content marketing efforts like blogging and social media, it’s essential to have a system to measure results. You can measure how these efforts impact your brand awareness by using metrics such as social media reach, brand mentions, media mentions, and branded searches.

Integrate user-generated content on social media

Businesses can use social media to interact with consumers. This includes sharing some of consumers’ content on your own channels. Not only is user-generated content more cost-efficient, but it also shortens the customer’s path to purchase.

Use Hootsuite to manage Twitter chats

A Twitter chat happens when you use Twitter to talk about a common interest with others during a preset time. It’s like an online chatroom where you add to the discussion by tweeting. Efficiently managing tweets and responses is integral. Fortunately, applications like Hootsuite simplify the whole process. Hootsuite easily monitors, searches, and saves Twitter chats onto the Hootsuite dashboard for future reference.

Create better live broadcasts

Livestreaming on social media platforms such as Facebook, Periscope, and Instagram is quickly gaining popularity. Before starting a livestream for your business, take time out to practice and prepare an outline before you roll the cameras. Don’t forget to promote it prior to the broadcast, and make sure you come up with a short and catchy video description.

All SMBs are fighting for the same thing: the consumer’s attention. Business owners can’t afford to just blend into the background; if you don’t make a good, lasting impression, you might lose out on an opportunity to make money. And if you’re relying on social media and content marketing strategies to help you, make sure you are doing it right. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us!

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Social media tips for your small business

Is your small- or medium-sized business (SMB) using social media and content marketing strategies to boost profitability? If not, it’s about time you do. Your competitors are already doing the same, so you have to find ways to make sure you rise above the crowd. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Create buyer personas

Social media data is a great tool to gather information about your potential customers, and in doing so, create buyer personas. Buyer personas are comprised of generalized characters that help build an ideal picture of your business in the market. Key demographic information includes age, location, and even reasons for buying and product-related concerns.

Come up with and implement a media crisis management plan

It’s normal for businesses to go through a crisis or two. Avoid embarrassing public relations nightmares by having a social media crisis management plan in place and ready for implementation.

Track the impact of your content marketing

When it comes to content marketing efforts like blogging and social media, it’s essential to have a system to measure results. You can measure how these efforts impact your brand awareness by using metrics such as social media reach, brand mentions, media mentions, and branded searches.

Integrate user-generated content on social media

Businesses can use social media to interact with consumers. This includes sharing some of consumers’ content on your own channels. Not only is user-generated content more cost-efficient, but it also shortens the customer’s path to purchase.

Use Hootsuite to manage Twitter chats

A Twitter chat happens when you use Twitter to talk about a common interest with others during a preset time. It’s like an online chatroom where you add to the discussion by tweeting. Efficiently managing tweets and responses is integral. Fortunately, applications like Hootsuite simplify the whole process. Hootsuite easily monitors, searches, and saves Twitter chats onto the Hootsuite dashboard for future reference.

Create better live broadcasts

Livestreaming on social media platforms such as Facebook, Periscope, and Instagram is quickly gaining popularity. Before starting a livestream for your business, take time out to practice and prepare an outline before you roll the cameras. Don’t forget to promote it prior to the broadcast, and make sure you come up with a short and catchy video description.

All SMBs are fighting for the same thing: the consumer’s attention. Business owners can’t afford to just blend into the background; if you don’t make a good, lasting impression, you might lose out on an opportunity to make money. And if you’re relying on social media and content marketing strategies to help you, make sure you are doing it right. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us!

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