Success stories

Our customers come in all shapes and sizes.

We work with organisations from all walks of life, with different ambitions and requirements. Explore how we’ve helped them reimagine everyday, and align technology with their culture and business goals.

Choosing the right Microsoft 365 subscription for your non-profit

Microsoft 365 has six subscriptions offerings for non-profits, presenting affordable options to improve productivity. With that many options, how do you decide which plan is right for you? Our latest blog breaks down each of them to help you find your golden plan >
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3 ways Microsoft 365 Education can change remote learning for the better

Here’s how Microsoft 365 Education can provide huge benefits to students without compromising your budget or security.
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3 easy ways to improve your flexible working strategy in 2021

Covid-19 has forced many organisations to create flexible working strategies on the fly. As we begin 2021, it’s time to focus on these three areas to achieve long-term success.
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Small business IT priorities 2021

Looking to 2021, SMBs need to set their IT priorities and leverage technologies to regain efficiency. We’ve listed those priorities here >
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microsoft 365 shortcuts

5 simple Microsoft 365 shortcuts

Here are 5 simple Microsoft 365 shortcuts that will boost your productivity and help you get more from your 365 apps.
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microsoft cloud assessment

Why book a Microsoft Cloud Assessment?

Learn more about our Microsoft Cloud Assessment service and how it can help you become the business you want to be.
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What the modern workplace should look like in 2020, and why it doesn’t

What should the modern workplace look like in 2020? Like a stock photo illustrating productivity, collaboration and agility? Click here to learn more.
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difference Office 365 and Microsoft Azure

What’s the difference between Microsoft Azure and Office 365?

In this post Chad Stigant explains the difference between Microsoft Azure and Office 365, what they do and whether you need both.
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Video: 5 Office 365 Apps You May Not Know About

In our latest video, we discuss some Office 365 benefits you may not know about and show you how you can increase your productivity with Office 365 apps.
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Are my Office 365 files at risk of infection by Ransomware?

Cyber attacks have been on all of our minds since the recent WannaCry ransomeware on the NHS. However, it is important to remember that ransomware attacks can affect any size business and cause a multi-plus of problems. Infected data can become inaccessible and pave the ransom fuel for further attacks of this nature. In this post we will look at the risks when storing file data in Office 365 and what can be done to protect your Office data. Book a free Cyber Security Health Check to learn how to protect your business. Click here > Where is my data stored in Office 365? There are various options for storing file data in Office 365. The majority of this data resides in a SharePoint farm that Microsoft host and you connect to via the internet, but the front end that users interact with could be OneDrive for Business, Office 365 Groups/Microsoft Teams or a SharePoint site. What files does Microsoft scan for Malware? Microsoft does scan for malware for files over 25MB as they are uploaded to Office 365 and if identified, it sets a property flag against the document. Microsoft do however say “These antivirus capabilities in SharePoint Online are a way to contain viruses. They aren’t intended as a single point of defence against malware for your environment.” How can ransomware infect office 365 files, particularly SharePoint Online or OneDrive? Ransomware must run on a local computer or server, it cannot run in the Office 365 service. This means ransomware can infect files stored in Office 365 in two ways. If you use the ‘open with explorer’ feature to map network drives to document libraries in Office 365 – the ransomware can scan for connected drives and will infect all files it finds. If you synchronise files from document libraries using the OneDrive sync client – these files are a copy of the online files sitting locally on your PC/Mac, the infected files are then synchronised to Office 365. What does the end user see when an infected file is downloaded? Microsoft adds additional warnings when there is an attempt to download a file that is infected, however there is no way an administrator can get an overview of files that have been flagged as containing Malware and users can override this warning and still download the file. The OneDrive client will also fail when trying to sync an infected item and show an alert in the system tray.  What backup and recovery options does Microsoft offer? Microsoft backs up data from SharePoint Online every 12 hours and retains this data for a period of 14 days. The options for restoring this data are limited, for example you can only restore data at site collection level and the data restoration is in place, meaning it will overwrite any data currently sitting in the Site Collection or OneDrive for Business site. These days site collections support up to 25TB. Can I use version history to recover non-infected files? If versioning is enabled on your document libraries then you may be able to recover the data. First you will want to disconnect the mapped network drive or stop syncing the data from the devices that are infected. The ransomware that has infected your files may only have infected a single version, this provides the opportunity to delete the current version and revert to a previous copy which is not infected. The only way to achieve this for all files in a library or OneDrive would be to script this process or use a third-party tool. Recovery by version history may not help in all cases as it is possible that historical versions of files have been infected also. What can I do protect my Office 365 data from infection? To fully protect your Office 365 data from being affected by a crypto locker virus you would need to disable the ability to sync files and only allow users access files using ‘Open with Explorer’ but not permit the mapping of SharePoint Online as a network drive. This would mean that files are always accessed via an https address either through a web browser or file explorer. Backup Solutions Backing up data to another service from Office 365 is the only way to empower you to quickly and easily recover files at a granular level and to alternate location from the original. There are various options offered by third parties including: AvePoint – Cloud 2 Cloud backup – 1GB of backup storage per user included – Minimum 3 Year Subscription – Includes a suite of management and audit tools for managing permissions, structure, content. – Subscription licensing SkyKick – Cloud 2 Cloud backup – 5GB of backup storage per user included – Subscription licensing CloudAlly – Cloud 2 Cloud backup – Unlimited retention – No minimum subscription – Subscription licensing Metalogix – Cloud 2 on-premises backup while maintaining file formats/file level access – Requires setup and Infrastructure to run the software – Perpetual licence – Support cost is optional After the WannaCry Cyber attacks on the NHS, cyber security has been on all of our minds. That’s why we’re offering a free cyber security health check to help inform the important decisions about your IT system. Click here or below to find out more.
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lotus notes to office 365

5 steps to a successful Lotus Notes to Office 365 Migration

At Cloud Business, we have managed the Lotus Notes to Office 365 migration for thousands of users. This has allowed us to codify our approach into a 5 step procedure. This approach can make a complex migration procedure straightforward and means there are no nasty surprises or down time and lots of happy users! Here’s an overview of our 5 step migration procedure: Step 1   Discovery Together we work through  our comprehensive 180 point check list to discover everything we need to know to plan a successful migration for your organisation. Step 2   Planning We piece everything together from the discovery phase to produce a detailed plan with timings, activities and a budget. Step 3 Preparation We work with you to put everything in place for migration, including software, servers and user communications. Step 4 Migration After a pilot, we can begin migrating users either in a big bang or batched strategy. Step 5 Remediation & post go-live support There are always niggles. Our team are experts in resolving these as quickly as possible. In the majority of cases, clients prefer to use our fully-managed integration. Whilst there are tasks that can be completed internally, it’s likely that this migration will only occur once, so there’s little to be gained from training your staff to complete the move themselves. Ready to start your migration? If you’re thinking about migrating your company to Office 365, book a 30 minute discovery call with one of our Office 365 migration consultants. This scoping call is a free opportunity to speak with us about your needs and concerns regarding your migration to Office 365. Because you’ll be speaking with one of our experts – not with a salesperson – you can be sure that you’ll get a thorough technical assessment.
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Accountants guide to delighting customers with Office 365 in 2016

When Accountex surveyed 14,000 accountancy clients, these were named as the biggest challenges. Biggest Challenges for Accountants in 2015/2016 Survey from Accountex April 2015 Survery. Do any of these sound familiar? The good news is there are some easy steps you can take with relatively low cost technology to make your business stand out and delight customers. Step 1 – Collaborate – Share spreadsheets and documents securely Emailing spreadhseets back and forth can become really painful for all parties. Revisions, updates and changes can quickly become out of sync. Storing that spreadsheet in Office 365 allows you and your clients to work on the same files, see updates and restore to a previous version at anytime. No more emailing attachments with passwords etc! It works the same for word documents and presentations. Just create a secure site for your client, invite them  to join and away you go! Did you know – the use of personal cloud storage accounts such as personal Dropbox etc is likely to break your employment policies, data protection duty and ultimately the trust of your clients! Step 2 – Security – Everything you need to know, and tell your clients Do you store client files on your PC or USB memory keys?  Do you ‘hope’ that your server is secure and protected? Is it difficult to security background check your staff? If you answered yes to any of these… then read on…  Protect. Protect. Protect. Your clients’ most sensistive data is in your hands. Storing their data in Office 365 is one of the most secure ways to keep it safe. Below we have laid out some of the technology and process benefits of Office 365, however your staff can also be checked… we will take you through this in the strategy session. Microsoft invest millions in the latest protection and smart detection systems, so you don’t have to. Here are a just a few of the standards and featues in place that you can show your clients. ISO 27001 ISO 27018 HIPAA BAA EU Clauses Model Auditing eDiscovery Data Loss Prenevtion Step 3 – Electronic Signatures – no more printing and scanning and last but not least ….Signing documents can be a real pain for clients and colleagues. Why not stop right now and go paperless? When all of your documents are stored in Office 365, a fantastic tool to add-in is DocuSign. Select who needs to sign the document, send them a secure email, they can review the document and sign it from their PC, phone or tablet within seconds. Then a copy is sent to all parties ! Need Help – We will set this up for you for for free, you just buy the licence!  This is just a small selection of how we can help you develop your business IT.
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Choosing the right Microsoft 365 subscription for your non-profit

As software companies look to penetrate new markets, the breadth of solutions targeted at non-profits has increased substantially. Aware that charities face a high degree of budgetary scrutiny, software providers offer generous pricing models and customisations to suit non-profit organisations. When combined with government funding that is increasingly available, now is a great time to adopt technologies to enhance productivity.

Microsoft 365 is a key solution that non-profits are embracing. With the shift to remote work, organisations are seeing large communication improvements thanks to Microsoft’s suite. With tools like Microsoft Teams offering real-time, remote collaboration, non-profit employees are able to easily plan fundraising efforts, hold virtual meetings, and host live informational events.

Microsoft makes this possible through numerous charity-specific SKUs designed to improve operations and IT. However, in this lies a conundrum: how do you choose the right 365 subscription plan for your organisation when there are so many available?

Book a discovery call with one of our 365 experts, and we’ll take you through the options available >

365 subscriptions explained

First and foremost, choosing the right Microsoft 365 subscription requires an understanding of the benefits they provide. Only then, and with a deep understanding of your organisation’s needs, can you ensure your budget is spent in the best way.

Microsoft Business Basic, Standard, E3, and E5

The first thing to know is that Microsoft’s non-profit subscriptions, like its enterprise offerings, are tiered. As you’d expect, each jump in price offers access to more apps and features, with some key differences to be aware of.

For many small non-profits, the free Microsoft 365 Business Basic offering will be attractive. Charities who meet the requirements will gain access to Exchange email services, 1 TB of OneDrive storage, and video and chat services via Microsoft Teams.

It’s worth noting, however, that the Business Basic plan does not provide access to Microsoft’s suite of productivity apps, Office 365. Non-profits won’t be able to take full advantage of the real-time collaboration SharePoint offers, nor will they gain access to the powerful productivity features of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. This is primarily for organisations with workers who are primarily frontline, or those who have an existing productivity solution in place.

For those who do need the apps within Office 365, a paid subscription is the only option. All paid non-profit subscriptions include the suite, with the cheapest being Business Standard, which additionally provides the services of Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, and Teams from the basic tier. At £2.30 per user/month, it’s a no-brainer for most non-profits with under 300 employees.

Larger non-profits will need to consider an Office 365 enterprise plan to get past that 300-user limit. Office 365 E1 is the free tier, providing the same services as the Business Basic Plan, but for unlimited users and with additional compliance and auditing tools. E1 users can run virtual meetings for up to 10,000 participants and access 50GB per user of business-class email, calendar, and contacts storage.

Microsoft 365 E3 comprises the same apps and services as the Business Standard plan but comes with some notable additions. As well as removing the 300-person limit, it bundles in 100GB per user of email storage, additional OneNote features, and unlimited personal cloud storage. It also provides IT departments with apps to manage software and information while providing data loss and rights management tools for email. Finally, organisations can make use of self-service business intelligence to visualise and analyse data with Excel. This all comes in at a respectable £4 per user/month rather than the £17.60 a commercial business pays.

Finally, there’s Microsoft 365 E5. It’s more than double the price of E3, and that’s because it ties in a ton of extra functionality. As well as everything from the previous tiers, it throws in various analytics tools to power data-driven decision making. eDiscovery enables predictive text and coding analytics, while Power BI and Microsoft MyAnalytics provide personal and organisational insights.

This alone makes E5 a wise choice for large non-profits, but it also brings significant upgrades to a company’s communications and security infrastructure. For £12.30 per employee/month, organisations can:

  • Join audio conferences in Microsoft Teams via landline or mobile phone
  • Make use of a cloud-based call management system to make, transfer, and receive calls from a wide range of devices.
  • Be better protected via Microsoft’s advanced security offering, which automatically protects against zero-day malware and virus threats while better safeguarding messaging systems.

Microsoft 365 has a plan for any type of non-profit, and we’ve covered the basics of them in this blog to help you understand what’s available. If you’re still not sure what subscription plan is right for your business, give us a call. We’ll give you a detailed rundown of which is best suited to your non-profit and how you can get the most for your budget.

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3 ways Microsoft 365 Education can change remote learning for the better

The past year has seen a transition to remote learning on a scale never seen before. According to a YouGov survey, 43% of teachers surveyed in 2020 believe their institution is now properly prioritising digital education, versus 4% five years prior.

The pandemic-induced uptake in remote learning might be more than just a fleeting trend though. While higher education institutions have been offering virtual education for some time, they are now able to test it at scale, while primary and secondary schools get to grips with it for the first time. 51% of teachers now believe that remote education is a sustainable way of offering high quality learning in the future.

Find out how we support Little Heath School with their IT needs >

As a result, even after the pandemic subsides many education leaders are planning to retain some or all of their institutions remote learning infrastructure. Schools are considering the use of video lessons to provide teacher cover or education during holidays and snow days. Many are considering a hybrid infrastructure – teaching some students from home and some in the classroom simultaneously to match their preference.

To whatever degree schools look to continue offering remote education, tools like Microsoft 365 Education can offer them a serious step up. Educators are able to save up to 200 hours a year through Microsoft’s suite, which combines virtual collaboration tools with classroom-style aids, offering huge gains in productivity and efficiency.

Getting remote learning right

A strong remote learning set-up is hard to achieve without the right investment and mind-set. Educational institutions have been rooted in their physical infrastructure since their inception. 86% of teachers say their workload has increased since remote education was implemented, while 34% aren’t confident in their ability to teach online. There are also valid concerns from parents about their children’s engagement and lack of contact with classmates.

As a result, many educational institutions want to know how they can provide an experience that matches or even exceeds physical teaching without compromising student development, budget, or learning goals. This is particularly true in creative subjects such as art, resistant materials, and ceramics.

IT departments, meanwhile, are in the difficult position of needing to get to grips with remote-enabling technologies, maintain good levels of cybersecurity, and manage devices. They must also figure out how to provide students with a level playing field whilst they are using a wide range of devices.

Microsoft 365 Education combines Office 365 with security tools, cloud infrastructure and creative apps to provide three core benefits that address these challenges:

1. Enhanced creativity

Apps such as Paint 3D and Minecraft keep students engaged and creative despite the home learning environment. Students can create artwork digitally and bring their designs to life in 3D with ease.

2. Powerful collaboration

Thanks to Microsoft Teams, teamwork and remote collaboration can be achieved with ease. Students can connect with each other and collaborate in real-time through chat, voice, and video for communication. Tools like Microsoft Whiteboard can be added to video calls for more visual brainstorming and collaboration.

3. A safe learning environment

Microsoft 365 Education, coupled with device management tool Intune, allows schools to manage students’ identities, enforce conditional access policies, and protect apps and devices with modern security solutions based on machine learning.

Microsoft offers a ‘student use benefit’ for educational institutions, which means that implementing Microsoft Education 365 is very budget friendly. At the core of this deal, Microsoft offers forty free student licenses for each staff license purchased. Licensing is simple and easy, and establishments with over 1,000 users gain access to Microsoft’s FastTrack services for expert advice.

When you consider the incredible licensing savings, expert support, and ability to solve most remote education pitfalls, Microsoft 365 becomes a no-brainer for educational institutions. With its value stretching far beyond remote learning environments, it becomes a safe investment regardless of whether or not schools transition back to physical teaching.

To get the best value out of the offering, however, schools, colleges and universities alike may want to consider partnering with a Managed Service Provider (MSP). An MSP can provide full, expansive support, managing the entire adoption process and providing ongoing guidance. With many IT departments currently overworked, this allows them to better focus on supporting students and staff in this difficult period.

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3 easy ways to improve your flexible working strategy in 2021

2020 marked a rapid shift for organisations as they were forced to undergo complex digital transformations in a matter of weeks and months. For many companies, that meant getting workers up and running remotely in the quickest way possible – with short-term fixes rather than long-term strategies.

As we enter a new year, it’s becoming clear that make-shift remote set-ups need to be replaced with more permanent and definite options. Organisations are looking to regain lost productivity, and that means building a long-term remote and flexible working strategy that aligns with their business values. For many, developing a strong strategy means investment in two key areas: cloud infrastructure and security. More importantly, though, businesses should be focusing on 3 key actions:

Flexible working strategy: key actions

1. Cultivate company culture

All strategic decisions should be made with employee happiness in mind. Creating an environment in which workers feel valued and content is key to long-term effectiveness and success. Using Microsoft Teams integrations or more bespoke AI solutions, enterprises can keep track of employee engagement and ask for feedback when problems are noted.

They can also dive into Azure Application Insights or Microsoft 365 usage analytics to determine whether employees are overworking. This analytics-based approach should be combined with empathetic and open-minded action to ensure employees feel supported, rather than spied on.

2. Accelerate with automation

Repetitive administrative tasks are dull in any workplace, but they can create more conflict when employees are working from home without a support network. Fortunately, in many cases, these tasks can be fully or partially automated.

Microsoft Power Automate is one solution that can be used to automate processes and tasks. A business can design a process from start to finish using intuitive flow diagrams and deep integrations. With if-this-then-that thinking, they’re able to receive notifications, sync files and collect data when a certain action occurs. A library of templates lets an employee easily and automatically save Outlook email attachments to OneDrive or post in Teams when a new Planner task is created.

3. Create virtual collaboration opportunities

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, organisations should enable their employees to collaborate and communicate seamlessly regardless of location. Whether they’re in the office or at home, provisions should be made so that inclusivity is felt by all employees.

Microsoft Teams is has taken the remote working world by storm, with daily active users jumping from 20 million in November 2019 to 115 million in October 2020. For the first time, many companies are realising its power to unlock company-wide collaboration using a single, communicative hub.

In addition to Teams’ popularity, the features of Microsoft 365 as a whole offer huge value for flexible working. Users worldwide are clocking up to 30 billion minutes using the software in a single day. A SharePoint deployment is one area where companies can really provide value to their employees, enabling real-time collaboration, sharing, and editing across all documents in the Office suite.

Covid-19 regulations have helped businesses realise that flexible working can provide value even in industries where it has previously been thought impossible. To truly capitalise on the productivity improvements flexible working offers, however, you need more than just a remote desktop; companies should be focusing on developing a strong company culture and leveraging automation wherever possible. It’s also imperative that employees are offered the right virtual collaboration methods to enable them to connect quickly and easily; as they would in the office.

Infographic: 3 easy ways to improve your flexible working strategy

Here’s a visual summary of the key actions that will support your organisation’s flexible working strategy:

Click here for a PDF of this infographic >

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Small business IT priorities 2021

Small businesses are poised to enter a new year that, for the first time, is focusing on creating fewer in-person connections with customers, rather than more. The rapid digitalisation of the past year has created an environment where SMBs must adapt to remain competitive.

The priorities of small businesses are shifting as a result, towards the creation of secure remote work environments and the necessary adoption of cloud technology. As part of this digital transformation, small businesses must consider several more priorities as they move into a new year.

1. Low-cost artificial intelligence (AI) technology

After the sudden technology adjustments forced upon companies in 2020, many small businesses will need to make up for lost productivity. With additional resources unlikely to materialise, low-cost AI will become even more of a requirement.

A solution like Microsoft Azure offers affordable computer vision, face recognition, and conversational AI services – many of which are built-in to the business offerings. As the digital era progresses, SMBs should start to take greater advantage of these AI opportunities in order to remain resilient; subsidising customer support departments with chatbots, for example.

Another business area AI can have the biggest impact on is logistics. Small retailers could utilise the technology to gain AI-driven insights from their data. Warehouses could predict stock shortages and delivery drivers could benefit from AI-driven knowledge regarding delivery routes.

2. Increased use of data virtualisation technology

Businesses will also look to regain efficiency via data-driven insights. Tools like Microsoft Power BI can make data more useful and actionable. Simple dashboards of customer and sales data enable analyses which ultimately help SMBs focus on the aspects that will have the most impact.

3. Mainstream adoption of cloud collaboration and calling solutions

Microsoft Teams usage increased by 70% to 75 million active users in April, mainly due to the mass shift to home working. Even as workers return to the office, however, that usage has remained steady. As of October 2020, its daily active users had reached 115 million.

Much of this continued growth may be attributed to a shift in mindset, predominantly by smaller businesses. As IT managers realise the efficiency of cloud-based communication and collaboration tools, they become open to investing in those solutions long-term. In addition to efficiency, cloud solutions like Microsoft Teams and Teams Calling solutions, offer flexibility in both in costs and global calling requirements – perfect for SMBs who want to start small and scale.

4. Streamlining the remote onboarding process

Even with the roll out of COVID-19 vaccines underway, SMBs will continue to work remotely until government guidance suggests otherwise. Though organisations have been onboarding remotely for many years, the coronavirus pandemic has increased the volume of workers than need to be brought online in a short period.

As a result, it’s now time for SMBs to prioritise the creation of a remote onboarding strategy that’s efficient, engaging and focused around the benefits that cloud technology can offer.

5. Support remote workers with the right cloud IT support

Cloud productivity apps like Office 365 and Teams come with excellent Level 0 IT support. Knowledge banks and chatbots provide self-service cloud IT support so that users can troubleshoot common problems and access ‘how to’ style content.

However, remote workers also need human IT support in the form of a 1st and 2nd line service desk to keep productivity levels high. Responsive cloud IT support can also boost user adoption of new technologies and new ways of working, ensuring you get good ROI from digital transformation.

Remote workers often feel isolated so it’s really important to have open lines of communication between them and your service desk. As well as ensuring they can contact IT support using their preferred channels (email, phone, support portal etc.), consider introducing engagement feedback tools too. Personalised surveys can help you better understand what support users need to improve the remote working experience.

If you would like to discuss any of the subjects or technology covered in this post, please get in touch. Our Digital Productivity team and Microsoft experts are happy to share their knowledge and experience. Likewise, our Operations team are available to share best practice for supporting your remote workers and providing effective cloud IT support.

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microsoft 365 shortcuts

5 simple Microsoft 365 shortcuts

In this post Technical Architect, Ben Owens, shares some simple Microsoft 365 shortcuts to help you increase productivity and get more from Microsoft 365. In the videos below, he provides a walk-through demonstrating each hack:

1. Quickly start multiple app instances

Sometimes you need more than one instance of an application. Instead of navigating back to the start menu to find the icon each time, you can quickly start another instance by pressing and holding the Shift Key and then Left Click on the app’s icon in the taskbar, or middle click the mouse to open another app instance.

2. Rename an Office 365 file directly in your desktop app

Here’s the modern way of renaming an Office file without creating a duplicate or exiting and then renaming the file in Explorer:

3. Get your clipboard history

Have you overridden saved items on your clipboard by using Ctrl V? It’s frustrating when you need to retrieve that item and paste it again. Instead switch to Win + V instead of Ctrl V and save a history of items on your clipboard:

4. Move bullets points up and down in Microsoft Word

Do you need to reorder a list? You can easily move bullet points up and down by using Shift-Alt Up/Down:

5. How to use Snip and Sketch to take screenshots in Windows 10

Use the Snipping Tool to take screenshots and make changes or notes, then save, and share. Simply press Win + Shift + S.

5a. Enable print screen key to launch screen snipping in Windows 10

Don’t want to remember the key combination? Make this even easier by assigning the PrtScn key to carry out the action. Here’s how:

We hope you find the above shortcuts useful. If your teams need support getting the most out of Microsoft 365, get in touch with our digital productivity experts here at Cloud Business to see how we can help.

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microsoft cloud assessment

Why book a Microsoft Cloud Assessment?

Discovery workshops are an important part of any cloud migration or digital transformation project at Cloud Business. Workshops like our Microsoft Cloud Assessment are designed to lay the foundations of a migration project and set organisations up for success. Investing time at this stage of a project is rewarded time and time again throughout the process, and continues to deliver value as your users get the benefits of the Microsoft modern workplace. 

What is a Microsoft Cloud Assessment? 

We’ve developed a 2 day service that gives you and your team access to our Office 365 experts*. They will tailor the service to your needs and what you want to achieve from digital transformation, deliver the workshop and then provide a migration roadmap for getting there. 

To start with, our approach is to take a step back from the technology. You may have decided that Office 365 is for you but our first question won’t be “when do you want it?” Instead we’re interested in what’s driving this decision, so we can really understand what you want to achieve. We’ll also encourage you and your colleagues to look at your requirement with fresh eyes – inviting you to Reimagine everyday. By taking a holistic view we can ensure the technology is aligned with your business strategy, infrastructure, users and culture. 

The Microsoft Cloud Assessment explores your cloud readiness, where you are today, critical business considerations, what products you have and what you don’t, and what’s required for a painless implementation. We identify challenges and determine next steps.  

The output from the assessment is a report fully illustrating how your Office 365 tenant will be produced for you. This report includes recommendations for increasing security, optimising licensing, user adoption, governance, cost management, and detailed costs for implementation. 

Whether or not you decide to go ahead and engage our team, the report effectively provides you with a roadmap for a successful Office 365 migration.  

What is the structure of a Cloud Assessment workshop? 

We’ve refined our service over the years to deliver maximum value to our customers, whatever their challenges and business objectives. Cloud Assessments are tailored to your specific needs, but normally look like this: 

Briefing call: a 60 minute Microsoft Teams call with introductions, background to the organisation and understanding priorities and knowledge across the service. We can then ensure the workshop day is aligned with your requirements. 

Day 1 – Onsite or Virtual Workshop: a deep dive into Office 365, your technology environment and what you want to achieve. A typical agenda includes: 

  • An introduction to Digital Productivity in Office 365 
  • A ‘Day in the life’ demonstration illustrating modern ways of working based on some common scenarios. 
  • An overview of popular productivity apps in Office 365 and use cases 
  • Infrastructure review and current challenges 
  • Demonstration of the capabilities of Azure 
  • Licensing 
  • Security and governance 
  • User Experience and Adoption strategies 
  • Discuss options and priorities 
  • What is needed to get started 
  • High Level Plan and example Architecture 
  • Summary and next steps 

Day 2 – Decision Support: we document notes and research from Day 1. You will receive a detailed overview of the session including: 

  • Analysis of existing infrastructure 
  • Recommendations and steps for moving your business to Office 365 and Azure* 
  • Current challenges affecting your business and how these may be offset by cloud migration 
  • A roadmap for a successful Microsoft cloud migration 
  • Our experts are also available to provide support on key decisions 

For a more detailed overview of the Microsoft Cloud Assessment structure and output, please download the information sheet here > 

Are you ready for the Microsoft Cloud? 

It is not uncommon for an organisation to embark on a cloud migration and discover that they’re not actually ready. As a result they might struggle to get the ROI from the technology deployed, the user benefits, or achieve their digital transformation goals.  

A successful cloud migration involves detailed discovery and planning, and cloud readiness is a vital factor in this. A Microsoft Cloud Assessment can help you decide if you’re ready, and if you’re not it will provide you with the next steps to get there.  

To see whether the time is right, our Cloud Readiness Worksheet will give you an idea. Download it here to see > 

If you would like to discuss booking a Microsoft Cloud Assessment workshop please get in touch. You can email hello@cloudbusiness.com or  book an initial online meeting here > 

*we can also deliver an Azure Cloud Assessment workshop with a similar structure to the one above. 

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What the modern workplace should look like in 2020, and why it doesn’t

You may have noticed that we’ve re-energised our blogging recently with more content about the digital workplace, and increasing productivity, collaboration, agility and all those wonderful benefits digital transformation can deliver.

Find out how to turn your organisation into a digital workplace fit for 2020 by downloading our guide here >

Every time we publish a blog we need to find a photo to illustrate the article, something that will inspire people to click on a link, and something that reflects the modern workplace. Here are a few examples of the kind of imagery that comes up when you search for ‘digital workplace’, ‘productivity’, ‘collaboration’ and other buzzwords. 

modern workplace 2020 digital transformation

Stock libraries are full of photos of people fist bumping and high-fiving each other as they seamlessly collaborate on projects, using multiple devices and drinking lattes in their supercool offices. The reality for many ‘modern’ workplaces is very different, it’s not so easy to find photos that reflect this experience but they’re usually of someone with their head in their hands staring at a laptop screen. 

modern workplace 2020 tech problems 

If this is a more accurate reflection of your office experience, it doesn’t have to be this way.  

While you may not have breakout areas, hotdesking, brainstorming spaces and other office interior design features that make your office worthy of a stock photo shoot, you can still have a productive and collaborative workplace with staff high-fiving each other over their laptops.  

The modern workplace is a digital workplace where your office exists in the cloud as well as in your premises. The digital element can overcome many of the physical challenges you may face that are barriers to productivity and collaboration. Such as an office that doesn’t have space for colleagues to work together on projects without having to book out a conference room or go off site. Or an office that can’t support your employees’ multitude of working styles, with some requiring total silence for specific tasks and others thriving in a busy and noisy open plan space. 

Digital transformation, in the form of migrating your documents, communication and systems to the cloud, can create workspaces for all these requirements – and resolve many of the productivity, communication and collaboration issues businesses face. 

Here a few common ones that you’ll probably be familiar with: 

Them and us: many departments within the business exist in silos where staff have no visibility of how they’re all contributing towards the business’s goals and all play a supportive role in helping other departments function. The ‘them and us’ mentality results in poor communication between different departments and employees, and a focus on individual targets not the overall business strategy. 

Communication and collaboration tools like Microsoft Yammer can provide a platform for employees to engage across the entire organisation.

Employee satisfaction: when systems aren’t joined up or the workplace isn’t fit for purpose your employer satisfaction rates can take a nosedive. Giving employees the right tools to perform at their best improves engagement and retention. So if your sales director can’t access the data they need from finance to set targets for next quarter, or if you’re Millennials and Gen Z employees are frustrated that they can’t use their own devices at work; you’ve got a problem.  

Conflicted versions: another bugbear for many employees is when they update a spreadsheet, document or system to get an error message that there’s a conflicted version. Then they must compare both versions and update manually, deleting one copy while praying that they’re not deleting the wrong one. Frustrating. Even worse is when you don’t know you’re using an out-of-date version, such as when you receive the ‘latest’ version from a colleague who then fails to copy you in when a new version is created. The impact of that could result in clients receiving the wrong information, erroneous brand content being shared in the public domain, and systems becoming increasingly conflicted without anyone knowing. 

Time wasting meetings: let’s face it, many meetings take too much time. Even when they’re constructive, on a personal level attending a meeting can take you away from other work for a significant chunk of time. Travelling to the meeting, waiting for the coffee order to be distributed around the boardroom table, comfort breaks or trying to dial into the legacy conferencing system can all waste time. 

Firefighting IT issues: many IT departments feel overwhelmed by the amount of firefighting they do and lack of time and resources they have to invest in more strategic work. Providing IT support for everyone else in the organisation, and customers, is a significant drain on the IT department and one that can be reduced by migrating to cloud solutions. Of course, people will still make mistakes, forget passwords and have other IT issues, but the cloud migration does reduce your maintenance burden – with the cloud company monitoring, maintaining, upgrading and patching their applications.  

Digital transformation can help address all the problems highlighted above, making your workplace look a bit more like this: 

modern workplace 2020 digital transformation-2

Cheesy I know, but if you would like a few more happy faces and a productivity boost in your office, get in touch to discuss how we can help transform your organisation into a digital workplace. Or download our free guide below to learn more about the benefits of digital transformation. 

difference Office 365 and Microsoft Azure

What’s the difference between Microsoft Azure and Office 365?

For many businesses, Microsoft products and services are integral to the smooth running of IT systems. Microsoft has been a reliable provider of software and solutions for decades, with many sectors still picking them over Apple or new competitors.

Microsoft, along with the rest of the technology sector over the last couple of decades has been moving core services into the cloud. Office, for example, used to come on a disk, with businesses able to purchase as many licenses as a company needed, depending on staffing levels. Now you can access those same suite of services – such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel – through Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365), a cloud platform for business.

Is your organisation ready for the Microsoft Cloud? Download our cloud readiness worksheet to find out. Microsoft Azure is another enterprise cloud platform, with a much wider range of capabilities. Unlike Office 365, which is a software as a service (SaaS) product, Azure has IaaS and PaaS components. To understand the difference between Microsoft Azure and Office 365 we need to understand what each of these cloud platform terms mean.

Cloud Platforms: SaaS, IaaS and PaaS explained

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Even if your company doesn’t use Office 365, you will almost certainly have several SaaS subscriptions. From finance software to customer relationship management (CRM) systems, SaaS solutions are everywhere.

Instead of downloading software (applications), or uploading it from a disk, you can pay a monthly subscription – often depending on the number of users that need access – to use a piece of software. The majority of SaaS products are cloud-based, which means users can login anywhere in the world, on any device.

Office 365 is designed to be as convenient and powerful as possible, with the full suite of services that includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. Businesses can either pay monthly or annually, and part of the convenience of SaaS products is they’re not tied to a particular device. You can use Office365 on Apple Macs or other devices; you don’t need to have PCs to run the software.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) 

IaaS is a little more complex. With Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), companies can scale-up and down computing powers without needing to invest in hardware and servers. IaaS gives companies an almost instant computing infrastructure, such as data centres, security applications and servers, managed over the Internet.

Instead of managing all of this themselves, companies can pay Microsoft a monthly subscription for Azure, creating and deploying as much or as little cloud computing power as needed. From web hosting to solving big data challenges to providing storage, backup and security solutions, IaaS is an integral part of many companies IT infrastructure.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)

Platform as a Service (PaaS) environments makes it possible to run SaaS solutions, such as Office 365. Developers can manage the infrastructure, with the advantage that this secure environment gives companies more control over operating systems, software and the way you can configure software for the unique needs of your business. Everything is managed in the cloud, giving you the flexibility to scale solutions up and down as required. 

Depending on what your business needs, Microsoft Azure is PaaS and IaaS. Azure includes Compute, Data Services, App Services, Networking and Store services. Companies can create and configure everything they would need in a secure cloud environment, which is something a dedicated IT partner can help with. Designing flexible, scalable, cloud solutions within a cloud platform gives businesses a great deal more control and computing power than many could access when these systems and platforms were on-site. 

As you can see it’s not a question of either using Azure or 365, they both do very different things. But combined these cloud platforms can provide most businesses with the IT infrastructure, development framework and software they need for business operations. 

Migrating your IT infrastructure and applications to the cloud makes good business sense. Instead of being tied to legacy hardware and systems that are often inflexible and costly to maintain, cloud platforms give businesses scalable solutions that flex with their business’ requirements.

If you are thinking about migrating to Microsoft 365, our Microsoft Cloud Assessment service will help. This 2 day service explores your cloud readiness, aligns digital transformation with business outcomes, and provides you with a roadmap for transitioning to Microsoft (Office) 365. Sessions are tailored to your organisation, IT infrastructure and objectives. We also run this service for organisations interested in Microsoft Azure. Further details can be found here >

microsoft cloud assessment

Video: 5 Office 365 Apps You May Not Know About

There are lots of Office 365 management tools that can help you increase your productivity and embrace digital transformation. In our latest video, we take a look at some of the Office 365 apps which are empowering users to work more efficiently. 

So, if you’ve ever felt that you could be getting more out of Office 365, or found yourself asking ‘Should I upgrade to Office 365?’, take a look at the apps you can use to create a more effective workplace. 

 

We hope you enjoyed our Office 365 benefits and tips. 

If you need further support please don’t hesitate to contact our team. Book a call with a Microsoft 365 expert below: 

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Are my Office 365 files at risk of infection by Ransomware?

Cyber attacks have been on all of our minds since the recent WannaCry ransomeware on the NHS. However, it is important to remember that ransomware attacks can affect any size business and cause a multi-plus of problems. Infected data can become inaccessible and pave the ransom fuel for further attacks of this nature. In this post we will look at the risks when storing file data in Office 365 and what can be done to protect your Office data.

Book a free Cyber Security Health Check to learn how to protect your business. Click here >

Where is my data stored in Office 365?

There are various options for storing file data in Office 365. The majority of this data resides in a SharePoint farm that Microsoft host and you connect to via the internet, but the front end that users interact with could be OneDrive for Business, Office 365 Groups/Microsoft Teams or a SharePoint site.

What files does Microsoft scan for Malware?

Microsoft does scan for malware for files over 25MB as they are uploaded to Office 365 and if identified, it sets a property flag against the document. Microsoft do however say “These antivirus capabilities in SharePoint Online are a way to contain viruses. They aren’t intended as a single point of defence against malware for your environment.”

How can ransomware infect office 365 files, particularly SharePoint Online or OneDrive?

Ransomware must run on a local computer or server, it cannot run in the Office 365 service. This means ransomware can infect files stored in Office 365 in two ways.

  1. If you use the ‘open with explorer’ feature to map network drives to document libraries in Office 365 – the ransomware can scan for connected drives and will infect all files it finds.
  2. If you synchronise files from document libraries using the OneDrive sync client – these files are a copy of the online files sitting locally on your PC/Mac, the infected files are then synchronised to Office 365.

What does the end user see when an infected file is downloaded?

Microsoft adds additional warnings when there is an attempt to download a file that is infected, however there is no way an administrator can get an overview of files that have been flagged as containing Malware and users can override this warning and still download the file.

The OneDrive client will also fail when trying to sync an infected item and show an alert in the system tray. 

What backup and recovery options does Microsoft offer?

Microsoft backs up data from SharePoint Online every 12 hours and retains this data for a period of 14 days. The options for restoring this data are limited, for example you can only restore data at site collection level and the data restoration is in place, meaning it will overwrite any data currently sitting in the Site Collection or OneDrive for Business site. These days site collections support up to 25TB.

Can I use version history to recover non-infected files?

If versioning is enabled on your document libraries then you may be able to recover the data. First you will want to disconnect the mapped network drive or stop syncing the data from the devices that are infected. The ransomware that has infected your files may only have infected a single version, this provides the opportunity to delete the current version and revert to a previous copy which is not infected. The only way to achieve this for all files in a library or OneDrive would be to script this process or use a third-party tool.

Recovery by version history may not help in all cases as it is possible that historical versions of files have been infected also.

What can I do protect my Office 365 data from infection?

To fully protect your Office 365 data from being affected by a crypto locker virus you would need to disable the ability to sync files and only allow users access files using ‘Open with Explorer’ but not permit the mapping of SharePoint Online as a network drive.

This would mean that files are always accessed via an https address either through a web browser or file explorer.

Backup Solutions

Backing up data to another service from Office 365 is the only way to empower you to quickly and easily recover files at a granular level and to alternate location from the original.

There are various options offered by third parties including:

AvePoint

– Cloud 2 Cloud backup

– 1GB of backup storage per user included

– Minimum 3 Year Subscription

– Includes a suite of management and audit tools for managing permissions, structure, content.

– Subscription licensing

SkyKick

– Cloud 2 Cloud backup

– 5GB of backup storage per user included

– Subscription licensing

CloudAlly

– Cloud 2 Cloud backup

– Unlimited retention

– No minimum subscription

– Subscription licensing

Metalogix

– Cloud 2 on-premises backup while maintaining file formats/file level access

– Requires setup and Infrastructure to run the software

– Perpetual licence

– Support cost is optional

After the WannaCry Cyber attacks on the NHS, cyber security has been on all of our minds. That’s why we’re offering a free cyber security health check to help inform the important decisions about your IT system. Click here or below to find out more.

lotus notes to office 365

5 steps to a successful Lotus Notes to Office 365 Migration

At Cloud Business, we have managed the Lotus Notes to Office 365 migration for thousands of users. This has allowed us to codify our approach into a 5 step procedure. This approach can make a complex migration procedure straightforward and means there are no nasty surprises or down time and lots of happy users!

Here’s an overview of our 5 step migration procedure:

Step 1   Discovery

Together we work through  our comprehensive 180 point check list to discover everything we need to know to plan a successful migration for your organisation.

Step 2   Planning

We piece everything together from the discovery phase to produce a detailed plan with timings, activities and a budget.

Step 3 Preparation

We work with you to put everything in place for migration, including software, servers and user communications.

Step 4 Migration

After a pilot, we can begin migrating users either in a big bang or batched strategy.

Step 5 Remediation & post go-live support

There are always niggles. Our team are experts in resolving these as quickly as possible. In the majority of cases, clients prefer to use our fully-managed integration. Whilst there are tasks that can be completed internally, it’s likely that this migration will only occur once, so there’s little to be gained from training your staff to complete the move themselves.

Ready to start your migration?

If you’re thinking about migrating your company to Office 365, book a 30 minute discovery call with one of our Office 365 migration consultants. This scoping call is a free opportunity to speak with us about your needs and concerns regarding your migration to Office 365. Because you’ll be speaking with one of our experts – not with a salesperson – you can be sure that you’ll get a thorough technical assessment.

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Accountants guide to delighting customers with Office 365 in 2016

When Accountex surveyed 14,000 accountancy clients, these were named as the biggest challenges.

Biggest Challenges for Accountants in 2015/2016

challenges for accountancy firms

Survey from Accountex April 2015 Survery.

Do any of these sound familiar?

The good news is there are some easy steps you can take with relatively low cost technology to make your business stand out and delight customers.

Step 1 – Collaborate – Share spreadsheets and documents securely

Emailing spreadhseets back and forth can become really painful for all parties. Revisions, updates and changes can quickly become out of sync.

Storing that spreadsheet in Office 365 allows you and your clients to work on the same files, see updates and restore to a previous version at anytime. No more emailing attachments with passwords etc!

It works the same for word documents and presentations. Just create a secure site for your client, invite them  to join and away you go!

Did you know – the use of personal cloud storage accounts such as personal Dropbox etc is likely to break your employment policies, data protection duty and ultimately the trust of your clients!

Step 2 – Security – Everything you need to know, and tell your clients

Do you store client files on your PC or USB memory keys? 

Do you ‘hope’ that your server is secure and protected?

Is it difficult to security background check your staff?

If you answered yes to any of these… then read on… 

Protect. Protect. Protect. Your clients’ most sensistive data is in your hands. Storing their data in Office 365 is one of the most secure ways to keep it safe.

Below we have laid out some of the technology and process benefits of Office 365, however your staff can also be checked… we will take you through this in the strategy session.

Microsoft invest millions in the latest protection and smart detection systems, so you don’t have to. Here are a just a few of the standards and featues in place that you can show your clients.

  • ISO 27001
  • ISO 27018
  • HIPAA BAA
  • EU Clauses Model
  • Auditing
  • eDiscovery
  • Data Loss Prenevtion

Step 3 – Electronic Signatures – no more printing and scanning

and last but not least ….Signing documents can be a real pain for clients and colleagues.

Why not stop right now and go paperless?

When all of your documents are stored in Office 365, a fantastic tool to add-in is DocuSign.

Select who needs to sign the document, send them a secure email, they can review the document and sign it from their PC, phone or tablet within seconds. Then a copy is sent to all parties !

Need Help – We will set this up for you for for free, you just buy the licence! 

DocuSign for accountancy firms

This is just a small selection of how we can help you develop your business IT.

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