New productivity tools to try in Microsoft 365

Microsoft has unveiled some new and improved Microsoft 365 features. These upgrades, introduced during this year’s Microsoft Inspire conference, are more relevant than ever and were designed with the needs of the hybrid worker in mind. From third-party integrations in Teams to nifty tricks in Outlook, here’s a quick guide on what to expect from the latest version of Microsoft 365.

Work seamlessly with Windows 365

Windows 365 is a cloud service that allows users to experience a more powerful and more agile version of Windows 10 or 11. Also called the “Cloud PC”, Windows 365 will enable you to access your entire PC — including personalized apps and settings — from any device. This means Windows 365 users can start working from anywhere right away, which is especially useful when finishing an urgent task or getting the most out of a productivity streak.

Windows 365 eliminates logistical complexities and security concerns that often get in the way of efficient hybrid working. With a Cloud PC, you can start working on your office computer, pick up where you left off on your tablet during your commute, and jump right back in on your desktop if you’re working from home the next day.

Experience a more powerful Teams app

Teams is now loaded with new apps that are sure to make Microsoft’s communication platform even more collaborative. One of the new apps coming to Teams is Confluence Cloud by Atlassian, which allows users to take notes during a Teams meeting. The notes can be formatted as action items, mentions, tables, and the like to make the salient parts of the meeting more digestible. On top of this feature, the notes are also easily shareable in the Teams channel, allowing everyone to immediately access a copy of the minutes of the meeting.

Salesforce will also be available for Teams. With the Salesforce for Teams app, you can integrate Salesforce records into different chats, calendar meetings, or channels so you can access and refer to the documents during discussions.

There’s also a new Q&A app that will help improve question and answer sessions in meetings or webinars with a large number of participants. Attendees can now ask questions and reply to other participants’ questions throughout the meeting, and organizers can moderate discussions by filtering responses, marking the best answers, and pinning posts. This gives the Q&A more structure and makes it easier for everyone to search for relevant information.

Get better organized to improve productivity

It’s easy to get disorganized when you have several things on your plate. With Microsoft 365’s new features, it is a lot easier to prioritize tasks, organize events, and take necessary breaks in between.

For one, you can now pin emails to the top of your inbox so you can readily find important emails later. Message reminders in Outlook will also help you stay on top of your tasks by nudging you to take action on emails that you might have missed.

There’s also no need to sift through thousands of documents to find the right files to attach to your plan in Microsoft Planner. The app can now show you a list of files related to your agenda that you might want to attach, helping you save time and effort.

What’s more, a new setting in Outlook lets you schedule meetings early or late so you can carve out essential breaks between back-to-back engagements. Scheduling breaks between meetings gives you and your employees time to breathe and prevents you from feeling overwhelmed or burned out.

We’ve only just scratched the surface of Microsoft 365’s newest features. If you want the latest updates on this topic, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our tech experts are always ready to answer your queries.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Gmail: Manage your emails better with these 5 simple tricks

Security, ease of use, and free service are just some of the main reasons why many businesses use Gmail. But despite the email service’s ubiquity, there are still plenty of ways for users to improve their Gmail experience. Gain better control over your inbox — and your workday — with these tricks.

Undo Send

In the fast-paced world of business, mistakes happen. And because everybody deserves a second chance at writing that email, Gmail has provided a way to recall sent emails — as long as you do it immediately after hitting Send.

To rescind your email, simply click on Undo or View Message > Undo beside the “Message Sent” prompt at the bottom left of your screen.

Gmail templates

Gmail templates, formerly known as canned responses, are pre-written email formats that you can use as is or as the starting point of a fresh email. These are great for regular messages that follow a specific template. Instead of writing the same lines of text over and over again, you can simply choose any of the customizable templates with a few clicks.

Make sure the feature is enabled by clicking on the gear icon at the top-right corner of the screen and then See all settings. Go to the Advanced tab, and select Enable in the Templates section before clicking the Save Changes button at the bottom.

Once this feature is enabled, you can access your Gmail templates by composing a new email and clicking Templates > Insert Template.

Send large attachments with Google Drive

Need to send a high-resolution RAW image to a client but Gmail’s attachment size restrictions won’t let you? You can simply upload your files to Google Drive and click on Share to get a sharing link you can send to your client or your boss.

Alternatively, you can click on the Google Drive icon at the bottom of your email composition window and choose the files you wish to send.

Turn on Priority Inbox

The Priority Inbox feature organizes your messages by importance using machine learning. You’ll be able to divide your inbox into five categories, where the messages will be displayed in the following order:

Important and unread messages
Starred messages
[Customizable category]
[Customizable category]
Everything else

Enable advanced settings

Configuring Gmail’s Advanced Settings is an excellent way to increase email efficiency. Some of these features include Multiple Inboxes, Preview Pane, and custom keyboard shortcuts. Access them by going to Settings > See all settings > Advanced.

Spending the right amount of time with emails while managing other crucial business areas is a balancing act many business owners find difficult. If you have questions or need further assistance regarding Gmail or IT in general, feel free to contact us.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Why is it important to have a business continuity plan?

Many small- to medium-sized business (SMB) owners fail to prepare for major crises like flood and ransomware attacks. Disaster events can cause downtime, which can result in lost revenue and lower profits. In addition, SMBs that fail to recover quickly from disruption face the risk of losing their customers to their competitors. To prevent this from happening to you, it’s important to have a business continuity plan (BCP) in place.

What is a BCP?

A BCP is a predefined set of protocols on how your business should respond in case of an emergency or natural disaster. It contains contingency plans for every aspect of your organization, including human resources, assets, and business processes.

Key threats to business continuity

Various types of threats can affect SMBs such as:

Natural disasters: These are natural phenomena such as floods, storms, earthquakes, and wildfires.

Man-made disasters: These include cyberattacks, intentional sabotage, and human negligence.

Equipment and utility failures: These include unexpected power failures, internet downtime, and disruption of communication services.

How to build an effective BCP

If your company does not have a BCP in place, now is a good time to create one. These steps will help you formulate an effective BCP that will ensure your company keeps running even during a major crisis.

Perform a risk assessment
To create an effective BCP, it’s important to identify the risks to prioritize. Start by identifying potential threats that may impact your daily operations. List down as well industry risks, geographical area, rising trends, and issues that your stakeholders may encounter. Next, categorize the risks based on the level of impact, likelihood of occurrence, or other criteria.Once risks have been identified and a plan has been developed, carefully identify any possible gaps. Collaborate with your team to identify any weak points in the plan, and make changes as necessary.

Perform a business impact analysis (BIA)
A BIA will help you determine how a disruption can affect your company’s current functions, processes, personnel, equipment, technology, and physical infrastructure. IT will also help you calculate the potential financial and operational loss from each function and process affected.

Identify your recovery options
Identify key resources for restoring your business to minimum operational levels. Some recovery options you can take include using data backups, allowing employees to work from home or operating from a secondary location.

Document the plan
Make a record of the BCP and store the document in a secure location, preferably an off-site one to reduce the risks of loss or damage in case of a disaster.

Test and train
Once your BCP is in place, your continuity team needs to perform tests regularly to identify gaps and make necessary changes to ensure the plan’s effectiveness. They also need to conduct regular employee training so that everyone knows their respective roles should a disaster strike.

Having an effective BCP is a great way to ensure your business can quickly recover after a major disaster. If you’re thinking about creating a BCP for your company but don’t know where to start, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Think your password is secure? Think again

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) created many of the password best practices you probably loathe, including using a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. The NIST now says those guidelines were ill-advised and has changed its stance. Find out why and what this means for you.

The problem

The issue isn’t that the NIST advised people to create easy-to-crack passwords, but their previous advice inadvertently made people generate weak passwords using predictable capitalization, special characters, and numbers, like “P@ssW0rd1.”

Such a password may seem secure, but the string of characters it’s made up of could easily be compromised by hackers using common algorithms.

Furthermore, while the NIST also recommended that people change their passwords regularly, they did not specify how and when to change them. Without proper guidance, many people assumed that this meant adding or changing one or two characters every year or so.
The NIST essentially forced everyone to use passwords that are hard for humans to remember but easy for a hacker’s algorithm to crack.

Eventually, the institution admitted that their recommendation creates more problems than it solves. The NIST has then reversed its stance on organizational password management requirements, and is recommending banishing forced periodic password changes and getting rid of complexity requirements.

The solution

Security consultant Frank Abagnale and Chief Hacking Officer for KnowBe4 Kevin Mitnick both see a future without passwords. Both security experts advise enterprises to implement multifactor authentication (MFA) in login policies.

MFA requires a user to enter one or more valid credentials aside from a password to gain access to an account. This could be a physical security key, a login prompt on a mobile device, or a facial or a fingerprint scan. Without the additional security requirements, hackers’ attempts to crack passwords would be futile.

Moreover, Mitnick recommended implementing long passphrases of 25 characters or more, such as “recedemarmaladecrockplacate” or “cavalryfigurineunderdoneexalted.” These are much more difficult to guess and less prone to hacking. Simply put, passwords should be longer and include nonsensical phrases and words that make them almost impossible for an automated system to crack.

What’s more, the NIST recommends making screening of new passwords against lists of common or compromised passwords mandatory. This is because a complex, 25-character password is already considered weak the moment it has been compromised.

Finally, you should also enforce the following security solutions within your company:

Single sign-on – allows users to securely access multiple accounts with one set of credentials

Account monitoring tools – recognizes suspicious activity and locks out hackers from the network OR keeps hackers from accessing the network.

When it comes to security, ignorance is your business’s kryptonite. If you’d like to learn about what else you can do to remain secure, just give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

The importance of updating firmware

Businesses today are aware of the importance of regularly updating the different software they use to keep these running optimally and protected against cyberthreats. However, they often overlook the firmware of their computers and other devices. At best, firmware is only updated if there’s an issue with the hardware. But it’s actually a good idea to always keep firmware updated, and here’s why.

What is firmware?

Firmware is a basic type of software that is embedded into every hardware component in computers, computer peripherals (e.g., keyboards, mice), printers, mobile devices, and Internet of Things devices. It’s also found in some household appliances and gadgets such as TV remote controls, as well as everyday objects like traffic lights.

Essentially, firmware controls the device it’s installed on, sending instructions for how the device communicates with its different hardware components. It is only compatible with the make and model of the particular hardware it is installed on, and it cannot be uninstalled or deleted.

Why is updating firmware important?

According to Microsoft’s 2021 Security Signals report, firmware attacks are on the rise. These attacks involve injecting malware into computer systems to tamper with the firmware on motherboards or hardware drivers. From there, cybercriminals can do any number of things to the infected computers, including remotely controlling the devices, disabling the antivirus software, exfiltrating data, and blocking access to the devices and the data they contain.

Experts recommend installing firmware updates as soon as these become available to effectively protect against firmware attacks and other threats to your business’s cybersecurity. Users will also enjoy increased speed and enhanced performance with a firmware update.

How to install firmware updates

The method for updating firmware differs from device to device. For instance, you can simply download and install firmware updates on both iOS and Android devices. However, for devices such as routers, you will have to apply firmware updates from the manufacturer’s website or administrative console.

Keep in mind, however, that updating firmware can be tedious and time-consuming. In some cases, a firmware update can reset your devices and restore factory settings, causing you to lose custom configurations on your computers, routers, and the like. And if you fail to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter, you risk damaging your systems.

It’s therefore best to leave the installation of firmware updates to the experts. For more information about firmware security and how to safely install firmware updates, or for any questions related to business IT, give our specialists a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Why you should implement single sign-on for your business

Password creation and management can be a bothersome process, with different websites imposing different password parameters and the like. Multiply that by all the online services you use and it all starts to look overwhelming. Fortunately, a simple tool called single sign-on can make all of that much easier.

What is single sign-on (SSO)?

Single sign-on allows you to use one username and one password to provide secure access to multiple websites. If you’ve ever clicked “Continue with Google” on a non-Google website, you’ve already enjoyed the benefits of SSO. It’s faster, simpler, and more secure. With SSO, small businesses can accomplish the same level of efficiency between their employees and cloud platforms.

Instead of requiring in-office and remote workers to track separate accounts for Office 365, Slack, Trello, and other cloud apps your company uses, you can give them a single set of credentials and manage what they have access to remotely. All employees have to do is come enter their designated username and password, and they’re all set for the day.

Why is SSO more secure?

There are a number of ways to set up a small-business SSO solution, but most of them focus on removing login information from your servers. Usually, you’ll provide your employees’ logins to an SSO provider (sometimes referred to as an Identity-as-a-Service provider) and each employee will receive a single login paired with a secondary authentication — like a biometric scan like iOS’s FaceID, or a one-time PIN (OTP) code sent to a personal device.

Every time one of your employees visits a cloud platform, such as Office 365 or Google Workspace, the SSO provider will verify the user’s identity and the connection’s security. If anything goes wrong, your IT provider will be notified.

Should your network or any of the devices connected to it gets compromised, hackers would find nothing but logins to your SSO accounts, which are meaningless without fingerprints or mobile devices.

How to get started with SSO

The first step is making sure you have a healthy and responsive IT support system. You need a team that’s constantly available to review suspicious alerts and troubleshoot employee issues. If you don’t currently have that capacity, contact us today and we’ll help you out!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Simplify note-taking with OneNote

OneNote, the hidden gem of Microsoft Office, has your digital note-taking needs covered. This software is essentially a digital notebook that allows you to organize or visualize your ideas using text, video, audio, and other multimedia sources. Here’s how you can get the most out of this powerful app.

Organize your digital notebook

While both Microsoft Word and OneNote let you create text-heavy documents, they store and display saved information differently. Word displays one document at a time, while OneNote can show you all your documents at once.

When you open the desktop version of OneNote for the first time, it shows you a default Notebook called “My Notebook.” If you want to create another Notebook, click on the < button beside the name of your current one, then choose +Notebook at the bottom of your screen.

You can customize a Notebook by separating it into subcategories called Sections, which are like dividers in a physical notebook. For instance, you can dedicate one Section for notes regarding a particular client or product. Sections are shown as color-coded tabs along the top of the screen, next to the name of your Notebook. You can add more sections by clicking on +Section at the bottom left of your screen.

You can add individual pages to a Section by clicking +Page, and you can use this feature to separate information. For example, you can add pages pertaining to a client’s contact details, project statuses, and billing information.

You can rename your Notebook, or any Section or Page, by right-clicking on it and choosing the rename option.

Start experimenting

There’s no hard-and-fast rule to enjoy OneNote because each person’s note-taking habits are unique. It’s best to try out all the features and decide which are most useful for you. Here are some things you can try:

Add tags to your notes so you can search for them efficiently.
Instantly turn your drawings into shapes or text using the Ink to Shape and Ink to Text functions, respectively.
Solve equations by using the Ink Math Assistant (which can help you graph or solve math problems).
Use Immersive Reader to read texts out loud.
Write on a web page in Microsoft Edge and save your annotations to OneNote.

Keep in mind, however, that these work only in OneNote for Windows 10. If you’re using an older version of the app, you’ll need to upgrade to the latest version to enjoy these features.

Share your OneNote

So you’ve created a detailed plan for an upcoming event complete with visual pegs and handwritten instructions and you want to share this with your team. That’s as easy as pie with OneNote. Just go to the upper right corner of your ribbon, click on the Share button, and type in the email addresses of the people to whom you wish to send your notes. You can also set the sharing permissions to either “can view” or “can edit,” giving you more control over your data.

OneNote has numerous features and it can take months for you to master all of them. Call us today, and we’ll make sure you’ll get the hang of OneNote in no time.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Easy tips to design an effective website

In a recent survey by Vistaprint, 42% of the 1,800 participants said that it was “very unlikely” for them to purchase from “ugly” websites. That’s not so surprising, given that there are plenty of visually appealing and user-friendly competitors’ websites that they can visit instead. If your business website fails to make a critical good first impression, it could trigger high bounce rates — which then translates to missed opportunities and lost revenue. You can avoid this by improving some of your website’s elements.

Photos

From product shots to team photos, high-quality images are arguably the most attention-grabbing element you can have on your website. Blurry, outdated, or irrelevant pictures tell site visitors that you don’t care about their browsing experience. In-house photos are the best option, but stock images shouldn’t cause any problems as long as they are optimized for mobile viewing and relevant to your content.

Navigation

Aside from having subpar images, linking to nonexistent pages is one of the best ways to turn site visitors away. Make sure site navigation is a breeze, and remove outdated or irrelevant pages. You can’t sell 404 pages to customers, and if that’s all visitors can find, your chances of making a sale will be close to nil.

Copywriting

It’s important to keep all of your product or service descriptions as straightforward as possible — the last thing you want to do is to confuse your customers. If what you’re selling has detailed information such as dimensions or technical requirements, make sure that the item descriptions are clear and concise. They should also be easy to find but not obtrusive.

Promises to site visitors

Any website that ships products should make its returns policy as visible as possible. This establishes trust early on in the buyer’s journey. Explicitly stating terms of return is also important because some online shoppers make purchase decisions based solely on the clarity of a return policy.

Even if you don’t run an eCommerce site, you still need to prominently display privacy commitments, such as those mandated by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

About Us page

To further create a connection with your site visitors, your brand needs a relatable story behind it. Every company website should have an About Us page that describes its team, culture, and what sets the business apart from the competition. Some customers buy products and services based on a business’s mission or vision, and some make decisions according to their impression of the people behind the business. Whatever your story is, make sure your About Us page is accessible from any page on your site.

The bottom line

With more revenue coming in from online channels, small- and medium-sized business owners can’t afford to overlook the importance of creating a fully functional, aesthetically pleasing, and easy-to-navigate website. If your budget is tight, there are DIY site builders specifically geared toward small businesses. With a relatively low monthly expenditure, you can also hire a managed website provider who will design and maintain your site for you.

Your website’s overall look and design can make or break a sale. For more information on building a modern website, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Protecting Your Business From Data Disasters

Data is everything to a small business in this day and age – which means if you lose access or control of your data, you lose everything.

As dramatic as that might sound, the data backs that up. According to several sources, 93% of companies, no matter how big they are, are out of business within one year if they suffer a major data disaster without having first formulated a strategy for combating it. And since 68% of businesses don’t have any sort of plan for that worst-case scenario, that means losing data would be a death knell for most of the businesses in the country.

Fortunately, your business does not have to be one of them. By taking the following steps, you can ensure that you have a rock-solid disaster recovery plan in place.

Step 1: Know How A Disaster Recovery Plan Is Different From A Business Continuity Plan

The main difference between these two types of plans is that while business continuity plans are proactive, disaster recovery plans are reactive.

More specifically, a business continuity plan is a strategy by which a business ensures that, no matter what disaster befalls it, it can continue to operate and provide products and services to its customers. A disaster recovery plan, on the flip side, is a strategy by which businesses can back up and recover critical data should it get lost or held for ransom.

So, now that we have a clear, concise understanding of what constitutes a disaster recovery plan, we can dive into the steps necessary to create one.

Step 2: Gather Information And Support

In order to get the ball rolling on your disaster recovery plan, start with executive buy-in. This means that everyone, from the CEO to the entry-level employees, needs to be brought in on executing the plan in case your company suffers a data disaster. When everyone is aware of the possibility of a data disaster, it allows for cross-functional collaboration in the creation process – a necessary step if you want to prevent breaches in all parts of your systems.

You need to account for all elements in your tech systems when you’re putting together your disaster recovery plan, including your systems, applications and data. Be sure to account for any issues involving the physical security of your servers as well as physical access to your systems. You’ll need a plan in case those are compromised.

In the end, you’ll need to figure out which processes are absolutely necessary to keep up and running during a worst-case scenario when your capability is limited.

Step 3: Actually Create Your Strategy

When everyone is on board with the disaster recovery plan and they understand their systems’ vulnerabilities, as well as which systems need to stay up and running even in a worst-case scenario, it’s time to actually put together the game plan. In order to do that, you’ll need to have a good grip on your budget, resources, tools and partners.

If you’re a small business, you might want to consider your budget and the timeline for the recovery process. These are good starting points for putting together your plan, and doing so will also give you an idea of what you can tell your customers to expect while you get your business back up to full operating capacity.

Step 4: Test The Plan

Even if you complete the first two steps, you’ll never know that you’re prepared until you actually test out your disaster recovery plan. Running through all the steps with your employees helps them familiarize themselves with the steps they’ll need to take in the event of a real emergency, and it will help you detect any areas of your plan that need improvement. By the time an actual data disaster befalls your business, your systems and employees will easily know how to spring into action.

So, to review, these are the quick actions that you and your employees will need to take in order to make a successful, robust disaster recovery plan:

Get executive buy-in for the plan.
Research and analyze the different systems in your business to understand how they could be impacted.
Prioritize systems that are absolutely necessary to the functioning of your business.
Test your disaster recovery plan to evaluate its effectiveness.

Complete these steps, and you can ensure that your business will survive any data disaster that comes your way.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Consider these points when purchasing antivirus software

If you think cybersecurity protection is only for large enterprises, think again. More and more cybercriminals are targeting small- and mid-sized businesses because of their lack of proper cybersecurity solutions. Viruses, ransomware, and other types of malware are also becoming more dangerous. This is why using antivirus software is more important than ever. If you’re buying one, here’s what you need to know.

Cost

There are free antivirus programs in the market, but they only offer basic protection that advanced malware can easily evade. There’s also a risk that they contain adware, which collects data and sells them to third parties. Antivirus companies may even bundle potentially unwanted programs to generate revenue.

Speed and performance

Antivirus programs are notorious for consuming a lot of system memory, resulting in sluggish computer performance. Thanks to new technology, however, this problem has been addressed. Still, remember that antivirus performance is more important than device speed. What’s the point of a fast computer if it’s quick to succumb to hackers and malware?

Compatibility with multiple devices

Most people these days use or own more than one device, such as smartphones and tablets. Look for antivirus software that can protect all your devices, regardless of their operating system or date of purchase. It’ll be inconvenient and expensive to have different security software per device.

Comprehensive protection

Your antivirus should protect your devices from a wide variety of cyberthreats. These should include popular malware and phishing attacks, as well as malicious downloads, denial-of-service attacks, cryptojacking, and other damaging threats.

Customer support and service

Take the time to learn more about the antivirus software manufacturer. Does the company have a good reputation? Do they actively discover zero-day vulnerabilities and new cyberthreats? And are they at the forefront of developing cybersecurity solutions? If they tick all the boxes, you’re sure that their products and services are worth your investment.

Cybersecurity is not a luxury but a necessity for all businesses. If you’re looking for the right antivirus protection, then let our experts help you. We’ll provide you with the robust security your devices and network need.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.