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July 2nd, 2014

Office365_June30_CMicrosoft Office 365 is one of the most popular cloud-based solutions for small to medium businesses. With a bevy of powerful features and apps that are immediately familiar to anyone who has used Microsoft's Office apps, utilizing Office 365 is almost a no-brainer. In mid June, Microsoft announced a new program - Office 365 roadmap - that allows you to keep track of upcoming updates.

The Office 365 roadmap

Earlier in 2014, Microsoft announced that they would be moving to a faster rollout schedule for their popular software solutions like Office 365. This means that we can expect to see updates for some software being introduced on a fairly regular basis.

Because of this, it would help to know exactly what Microsoft is working on and when you can expect an update or introduction of new features. To cover this, Microsoft has recently announced an Office 365 roadmap that covers what the company is doing in relation to the business oriented version of Office 365.

You can view the roadmap on this Microsoft website which has been designed to showcase the status of features based on:

  • Launched - Features that have been completed and implemented in various Office 365 apps. These features should be accessible to all Office 365 for Business users.
  • Rolling out - Features that have finished development and are ready to be implemented to the various apps but are not accessible to most users at this time, but will be in the near future.
  • In development - Features that Microsoft developers are working on or testing, but aren't ready to be implemented.
  • Canceled - Features that have been canceled; developers are no longer working on these, and they won't be implemented into Office 365 apps.
When you visit the roadmap site, you can click on the different sections and see the recent features that are relevant to each. For example, if you click on Launched, the recently launched features will drop down. Click on one to see a brief overview of the feature, along with a link to learn more.

This can be a useful site for businesses, especially if you rely on Office 365's features and are interested in which new ones will be introduced. We should stress however that the features listed on the site are relevant only for Office 365 for Businesses and Enterprises. Private and Home users may not necessarily see these features introduced.

Office 365 First Release program

For those users who look at the Rolling Out section of the roadmap site, and would like to have access to fully tested and supported features that are just about ready to roll out, Microsoft has also introduced a new program called First Release.

This program allows Office 365 for Businesses and Education users to sign up and gain access to upcoming features two weeks or more before they are introduced. If you would like to sign up for this program, you can do so as long as you are the admin of your account. If you are the admin for your Office 365 accounts, you can enable First Release by going into the Service Settings area from your management console. You should see an option to enable First Release, which you need to tick to turn on.

Once this is enabled you should be notified within a month letting you know that the first batch of early features is ready to implement. Microsoft has noted that the features implemented early via First Release will apply to the Office 365 user experience, SharePoint Online and Exchange Online. At this time, other apps like Lync Online will not be part of the program, but you can probably expect this program to expand to cover other apps in the coming months and over the next year.

Both the roadmap and First Release features could prove useful for power users of Office 365. If you are looking to learn more about these concepts and how Office 365 can be used successfully in your business, contact us today to see how we can help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

June 4th, 2014

Office365_June02_CReports to be finalized hold you captive in your office; business meetings keep you in the conference room all day; and the ritual of exchanging ideas with your business partners keeps you locked up in your workplace. Break free and boost productivity outside of your office with Microsoft Lync, a messaging tool that allows you to escape your office and still perform all your duties just as effectively.

Get immediate response with instant messaging

Sending emails is a fast and standard way to communicate in business. However, there are times when you have to convey or get hold of some important information in the soonest time possible. Stashing your message in a pile of emails might not cut it and this is when you can switch to Lync’s instant messaging feature. Your message will be sent immediately, with a pop-up also appearing on the recipient's device to flag the message so you know it will most likely have been seen. It’s fast, efficient, and by cutting to the chase, a real time saver.

Hold meetings with HD video conferencing

Reporting can be done with ease through Lync’s HD video conferencing capabilities. This enables you to gather your associates from anywhere in the world, whether to present specific data or deliberate a decision. Not only does this allow communication with several people at the same time but also transmits clear videos to the other end of the line with its 1080p HD quality.

Brainstorm with your team through application sharing

Online meetings sometimes prohibit the sharing of files. With Lync’s application-sharing capabilities, you can easily exchange ideas with your team. You can share PowerPoint presentations, documents, images, Web pages or your desktop with your team to stimulate conversation based on your input and what you have to report. Lync supports all animations and features of Microsoft PowerPoint, letting you create an engaging presentation without the restriction of your location. If you choose to share your desktop instead, you can select which part of your screen you’d like to show your clients, eliminating the unimportant clutter flashed on your monitors. You can also share a virtual whiteboard that allows you to collaborate with your team as if you were stood in the same room. Online communication has become today’s trend for conducting business meetings. However, the choice of which application to use to accomplish tasks requires knowledge of the key features of specific programs. Through Lync’s online communication system, companies have minimized expenses allotted for reserving third-party conference areas, business trips, and in purchasing expensive communication systems. Lync supports Windows, iOS and Android systems. What could it support, enhance, and boost in your business?
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 24th, 2014

Office365_May19_CThere are a number of analytical tools businesses can use and using trendlines can present a clear picture of trends in your business by connecting a number of points on a graph. What is revealed is a possible downturn or upturn in the direction of the group of values identified in the data. Understanding how to use trendlines can help reveal what might happen in the future.

Predicting the future

Trendlines allow businesses to see the difference in various points over a period of time. This helps foretell the possible path the values will take in the future. This can help reveal performance, value, and competitiveness of specific products and services, along with the relevant business departments, such as sales.

By knowing how to add a trendline to your presentation, you can create a graphical representation of the values you have computed. This will enable the user to easily comprehend and analyze the message you are trying to imply.

Add a trendline to your Excel chart

If you use Office 2013, you can create a trendline to complement your reports by right clicking the data series (e.g., the information that has been graphed to charted) in the chart you created. This will show a drop down menu where you can find the option to Add a Trendline. This will open another window where trendline types are available. You can choose the one which suits the chart you created.

Another option is to click your chart and look at your Excel menu bar. Head on to the added tab, Chart Tools, and in the Design tab, click Add Chart Element where another drop down list will appear. At the bottom part of this, you will see Trendline, click this for a list of options that will best fit your data.

  • Exponential trendlines: This creates an uneven arc that is more curved at one side than the other on charts with values that fluctuate. It cannot be used when you have a zero or a negative value in your chart.
  • Linear trendlines: Most common when the values in your chart create a straight line. This shows a continuous rise or fall trend that indicates a path it will steadily continue in the future.
  • Logarithmic trendlines: Where there is a sudden increase or decrease in the chart, which then continues on to become level.
  • Polynomial trendlines: Used for larger set of data with fluctuating values. If the direction of your values continuously changes, then this option could suit you best.
  • Power trendlines: Almost the same as exponential, only in this, the arc is more symmetrical.
  • Moving average trendlines: Used when your points seem to have too many ups and downs. This levels out the extreme fluctuations for easier trend analysis. Depending on the number of periods set, this option gathers the values together and computes its average which is then used as the trend point.
Whatever your reports, it is easier to spot the direction of values when you use graphical tools to show data. This ensures that reports are easily understood, along with the trend at which your values are headed as a result of the lines appearing in the chart. The ability to fully grasp the value and use of trendlines and other Excel functions will allow you to use your computer programs to unlimited use. Want to know more? Get in touch!
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office 365
May 8th, 2014

Office365_May06_CIt is an established fact that Office 365 can immensely help your business run smoothly but choosing the best plan to fit your business needs and goals can become a mental tug-of-war. This article aims to identify a clear winner for your business goals by arming you with the features of each plan. You can then decide which one would best fit your business needs.

The world can’t seem to get enough of the options that Office 365 offers. However, the variety of subscription plans can challenge your decision-making skills. Arming yourself with good research and knowledge allows you to gain more confidence in making wise business choices. You are off to a good start by reading about this article's comparison of the different Office 365 subscription plans.

Choosing the right subscription should start by identifying your business size. Whether you are running a small enterprise or a business empire, Office 365 has the subscription plan to fit every business need. In Microsoft standard definition, a business with 1-10 employees is considered small-sized. A medium-sized business has between 25-300 employees. Anything beyond is deemed to be a large-scale enterprise.

Office 365 for small businesses

If you anticipate having more than 25 employees in the near future, it is highly recommended to skip to the medium-scale subscription. If you are certain about your business size and you don’t have plans to expand, you can choose from two small business subscription plans.The Office 365 Small Business has all the standard features as follows: hosted email, Web conferencing and hosting, spam protection, 24/7 phone support, guaranteed uninterrupted service, SharePoint and file management via Web browser. The other subscription plan is The Office 365 Small Business Premium which comes with three additional functions on top of the standard features, namely the ability to download desktop versions of office applications, site mailbox access and mobile functionality.

Office 365 for midsize businesses

For medium-size businesses with up to 300 users there is a plan that has all the inclusions of the Small Business Premium Plan but provides reinforcement for your business IT infrastructure through better management of user permission credentials. If your business uses a huge chunk of Excel spreadsheets, this plan is for you as it has the Excel add-ons, with Power Query, Powerpivot, Power View and Power Map from multiple sources. In addition, this plan also includes a desktop version of Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2013.

Office 365 for large businesses

The high rollers in the business realm can choose from three plans, namely E1, E3 and E4. E1 has more or less the standard features of the Office 365 Small Business Plan and can support an unlimited number of users, plus it has the feature of user credential management, Yammer integration and access to a site mailbox. With E3 and E4 you can install the desktop version of the office applications. The only difference is that E4 has call capabilities via Lync Online calling, which is ideal for companies in countries where there are no VoIP prohibitions.

There are a lot of productivity tools in the market today and it can be a challenge to choose between the sea of options. In the realm of business, critical thinking should be observed, whether for small or big decisions, as any one of these choices could impact the success and productivity of your business. These decisions can range from low-impact, such as deciding which productivity tool to use for your day-to-day business functions, to high-impact, such as your long-term business plans.

Choosing the right productivity tool to use in your business needs to be taken seriously as this can take create a lot of difference. A good productivity tool makes a better organized work style and this can only mean a business that is easier to manage.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office 365
February 27th, 2014

Office365_Feb24_CMicrosoft Excel continues to be a desktop favorite even in modern business. With its recent introduction into the world of Web apps, it has made productivity-on-the-go possible. The extension of Excel’s reliable functionality to the Web is indeed a great addition to a complete Excel 365 experience. If you are planning to use this program, there are a few tips it's worthwhile knowing about first.

Thumbs up for the ease of familiarity

The basic shortcut keys are pretty much the same across all Microsoft applications, regardless of the platform. If you’re already familiar with the shortcut keys, the Excel Web App is going to be a breeze for you.

Those who need a refresher will find some helpful shortcuts as we go along. Keep in mind that when collaborating on a file, you need to check the share settings and make sure that you have permission to edit that workbook or many of the shortcuts may not work.

Commonly-used shortcuts

The familiar Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V still work for copy and paste respectively. While Ctrl + Z and Ctrl + Y work for undo and redo. Ctrl + X moves an item from one cell to another.

Remember that when you copy the contents of a cell and paste it into another cell within the same workbook, the characteristics or formatting of the source will also be copied into the destination cell. Whereas, if you paste an item from outside the Excel Web App, the item is inserted as plain text and you will have to apply formatting.

Tables and hyperlinks can also be inserted into Excel. Ctrl + K inserts a hyperlink, while Ctrl + T inserts a table.

The arrow keys remain the same, allowing you to move from cell to cell e.g., right, left, up or down.

There is also no change with the formatting shortcuts such as Ctrl + B for Bold, Ctrl + I for Italics, and Ctrl + U for Underline.

A tip for spreadsheet presenters

If your spreadsheet involves charts and visuals, you might want to consider using the Excel Web App version as the visuals appear sharper. While there isn't a huge difference, even a little boost in visuals can make a huge difference to the overall effectiveness of a presentation.

Using the Web versions of Office programs is a great way to stay on top of your game beyond office hours, as workload necessitates. What can Excel and Office 365 do for your productivity? Get in touch and we'll show you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

February 13th, 2014

Office365_Feb10_CMicrosoft Office 365 is an online service developed especially for businesses, to help them consolidate their office software into one perfectly organized cloud platform. This cloud version of Microsoft Office aims to provide a set of top-notch features that cater to the special needs of different business establishments through the acquisition of subscription plans.

What is Office 365?

Office 365 is an online subscription-based suite of Microsoft's popular Office programs. After users pick a subscription plan, they just have to connect online, set up a secured account, download the files they need, and roll on to work. In order to get the most out of Office 365, there are some features you should definitely know about.

Exchange Online

Exchange Online is available as a stand-alone install - you don't need to purchase a full Office 365 subscription - or can be a part of Office 365. It’s a hosted version of Exchange Server, Microsoft's messaging platform, which provides businesses with the essential digital communications they need.

This feature allows businesses to run email, instant messaging, calendars, address tracking, and more. It also allows you to connect to your version of Microsoft Outlook from any Web browser. Furthermore, you can access your email and edit your Outlook based calendars and contacts from your smartphones.

SharePoint Online

SharePoint Online is Microsoft’s new version of document sharing. It's available in many Office 365 subscriptions and allows users to find, analyze, manage, and share information, as well as collaborate on projects.

In addition, SharePoint online offers more social features, such as sharing your timeline in a Facebook-style status post and on your calendars. It has its own version of local syncing of data and HTML-based applications that you can also build or purchase.

Lync Online

Microsoft Lync Online, formerly known as Microsoft Office Communicator, is an instant messaging service that has replaced Windows Messenger for Exchange Server. The advantage of Lync Online is that it allows users, especially business owners, to be collaborative with a multitude of other users in real-time.

Getting everyone to be involved in a conference or meeting is easy because all of your contacts entered in Microsoft Outlook can be synced with Lync.

Office Web Apps

Office Web Apps are simply a Web-based version of the Microsoft Office Productivity Suite. Basic Web-based versions of Office include Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Note.

This feature is free of charge for SkyDrive users and comes with every Office 365 subscription. While it is useful for basic document creation and editing, the Web apps are missing some of the more advanced features of the installed versions.

If you want to know more about Microsoft Office 365 and its existing features, connect with us first.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 29th, 2014

Office365_Jan27_CThe office productivity suite has become an essential tool in every business, with many owners and managers choosing to rely on Microsoft's products, including Office 365. With some of the most popular programs included in Office 365 users can create a nearly endless amount of documents. In order to do so they can rely on templates. A common issue with templates though is that they are often not understood properly or avoided completely.

Are you using Office's templates effectively? Here are five tips to make sure.

1. Understand the template concept

Templates can be quite helpful in certain situations, and in order to use them effectively, you should understand the whole concept behind the templates included in the various Office programs.

The idea behind the template is that it is a guide or model that can be reproduced. When it comes to Office, templates are basic documents with some elements like formatting and even content in place. Their main purpose is to help you get started, or take the time out of beginning certain tasks.

2. Avoid big changes to the default template

When you open a new document, spreadsheet, or presentation, you are usually presented with a blank workspace. While this may not appear to be a template, it actually is. When you create a new document, the program will apply what most know as the blank document, but this is really just the 'default template'. That's why you always get the same font type and size, etc. when you open each new document.

The default template, like other templates, is actually customizable. While this may seem a plus point, it can have negative consequences. Any changes to the template e.g., a text box halfway down the page, will always show up when you open a new document. Because of this it is a good idea to limit how many changes you make to the default template. Go ahead and change the default font type and size, and even alter document margins and width, but it is not a good idea to change much more.

3. Know the best way to create new templates

There are a number of ways you can create new templates. Most users prefer to lay a blank document out in a template format, often using placeholder text in place of actual content, then saving this file as a template. This is a pretty good way to create templates, but you should be sure that the format, including the hidden formatting, is exactly what you want for each particular template. Once you are satisfied, press the File tab, select Save As, name the file, and click on the File Type drop-down menu. Select Template option e.g., PowerPoint Template (.potx) and press Save. This will save the template for future use.

The main problem arises when you come to troubleshoot or fix one of the templates, as this can be prove tricky. Instead, try going through the new document creation menu (File followed by New and then Document or Template).

4. Apply the template before content

If you are going to use a template you should apply it before you start creating the content. The reason for this is because the template dictates how the content will look and be arranged when added. If you try to apply a template on top of content, you will find yourself copying and pasting a large amount of data, and even going so far as to format it.

If you have already created content and would like to apply a template to it, you can do so by opening a new document and applying the template there, then copying the content from the old document over to the new one.

5. Know how to apply templates

Because templates aren't used all of the time it is easy for users to either know know how to apply them or to have forgotten how to do so. To create a new document based on a template you should:
  1. Open the program of choice e.g., if you are creating a presentation, open PowerPoint.
  2. Click on the File tab followed by New.
  3. Select a template from the options below the Blank Document section.
  4. Click Create or Download.
If you are looking to learn more about using the various programs included in your Office 365 subscription contact us today.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 15th, 2014

Office365_Jan13_CMany small to medium businesses rely on Microsoft's vast array of products in order to function. One of the more popular platforms businesses are turning to is Office 365 and SharePoint. Together these two platforms allow businesses to create documents, collaborate, store files, create social networks, and more. One particularly useful program included with SharePoint and Office 365 is SkyDrive Pro.

What is SkyDrive Pro?

SkyDrive Pro is a cloud-centric library that allows you to store documents. Pro is available for users of Office 365 and companies with on premise versions of either Standard or Enterprise SharePoint 2013.

Users of the Office 365 version get 25GB of storage which is hosted in the cloud and accessible through an app or your Web browser. Companies that have SharePoint hosted on premise can set how much storage each user gets.

Because this is a business-centric product, collaboration and sharing is a large part of this platform. Initially, files uploaded or stored in SkyDrive are private, but there is a shared folder you can store files in which allows all users on the network to access them. You can also choose to share files with individual users or groups.

SkyDrive Pro can be accessed from your Office 365, SharePoint portal by clicking on SkyDrive, which is usually at the top of the page you are looking at.

The best way to think of this app is as similar to the hard drive on your computer - you can open, add, move, and delete files - only the files, or 'library' as Microsoft calls the structure, are stored on a server that is usually stored within or managed by your company through SharePoint.

How does it differ from SkyDrive?

Despite the same name and essential idea, there are two major differences between SharePoint and SharePoint Pro
  1. SkyDrive is personal - This personal cloud-based service is free to all users with a Microsoft or outlook.com account. Microsoft suggests that users store personal files like pictures, movies, personal documents, etc. Users are free to decide how they use it, and what they store on the service.
  2. SkyDrive Pro is for business - This service is similar to the personal version of SkyDrive - it's an online storage system - but this is managed by your company and is business oriented. The company sets what you can do with your account, from collaboration to how much storage space you receive. It also requires either SharePoint 2013 or an Office 365 business account.
The key point to note is that with SkyDrive, you own your files and can control how they are stored and used. With SkyDrive Pro, you upload files to a library that the administrator allows you to access. Sure, these may be files you have created, but they don't 'live' on your computer and if you leave the organization, they will still be available to other users.

If you would like to learn more about SkyDrive Pro or how Microsoft SharePoint combined with Office 365 can help your company, contact us for a chat today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

January 3rd, 2014

Office365_Jan02_CThe office productivity suite is among the most important business tools. From the word processor to spreadsheets, Microsoft's cloud-based Office 365 has it all, and businesses are adopting it in greater numbers. In order to provide businesses with the software they need, Microsoft relies heavily on plans. While these plans are great, upgrading to a new one isn't always as easy as it could be - an issue Microsoft recently set out to fix.

Microsoft recently introduced the Switch Plans feature has to the business versions of Office 365, which makes it easier for some users to upgrade.

What is Switch Plans?

As you can probably guess from the name, the idea of the Switch Plans feature is to allow business users the ability to change plans. While this has always been an option, many businesses let Microsoft know that it was tougher than it should be to actually upgrade their plans.

To make switching easier, Microsoft introduced the ability of plan administrators to switch plans directly in the admin center of Office 365, using the Switch Plans Wizard.

Can every business user Switch Plans?

This feature only applies to companies who currently use the business versions of Office 365 e.g., Office 365 Small Business Premium. In other words, this should apply to almost all companies using the suite.

There is one caveat you should be aware of before considering using this feature to upgrade: You can only upgrade using the Switch Plans Wizard. If you want to downgrade, say from Mid-Size Business to Small Business Premium, you will have to make the change manually. Your current plan also needs to be eligible for an upgrade. For example Office 365 Midsize Business users can only upgrade to:

  • Office 365 Enterprise E1
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3
  • Office 365 Enterprise E4
Office 365 Small Business users can upgrade to:
  • Office 365 Small Business Premium
  • Office 365 Midsize Business
  • Office 365 Enterprise E1
  • Office 365 Enterprise E3
  • Office 365 Enterprise E4
If you would like to upgrade to another plan that isn't on the list above, or the full list located here, you will have to upgrade manually.

How do I switch plans?

If you are an admin and would like to upgrade the plan your company is currently subscribed to, and the upgrade is on the list in the link above, you can do so by:
  1. Logging into your Office 365 account. You should be able to do so directly from your main Office 365 portal e.g., mail.companyname.com, or mail.office365.com.
  2. Pressing on Admin, which is located in the top menu bar if you are an admin, followed by Licensing or Manage and purchase licenses.
  3. Click on Switch plans under the Plan Options field for the account you would like to upgrade.
  4. Select the plan you would like to upgrade to in the window that opens.
  5. Click Next and follow the on-screen prompts for checkout.
  6. Select Status on the Order Completed page to finalize the upgrade.
Your accounts should be upgraded to the new plan within 10 minutes, but may take longer if there are any issues to resolve. Before you do anything, or if you have any questions, it would be a good idea to contact us. We can help ensure that your change of plans goes smoothly.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

December 18th, 2013

Office365_Dec17_CWhen it comes to digital security, many businesses employ measures that keep their systems largely secure. One area some may struggle with is ensuring that their communication, primarily email, is secure when it leaves the company. In an effort to enhance email security, Microsoft has recently introduced an update to its email encryption system, available to Office 365 users.

In late November, Microsoft introduced Office 365 Message Encryption, which allows business users of Office 365 to send encrypted emails. This is actually a new version of an existing encryption service called Exchange Hosted Encryption (EHE).

The idea of EHE and the new version, Message Encryption, is that it allows businesses to send secure communication in the form of an email. The new version includes some interesting features that not only make sending encrypted messages easier but also more secure. The two biggest features introduced are:

  1. The ability to send encrypted emails outside of the organization - If you need to send sensitive information outside of your business, you will be able to do so, regardless of what email service the recipient uses.
  2. The ability to apply your company's branding to messages - When you encrypt a message, it is sent as an attachment, with a note telling the recipient that it is encrypted and how they should open it. You can add your company's name to the message so the recipient knows it is legitimate.

When will Office 365 Message Encryption be available?

According to Microsoft, Message Encryption will be available for purchase in the first quarter of 2014. If your company already uses EHE, you will receive the update at some point in the first few months of 2014. Businesses that use E3 and E4 versions of Office 365 will receive the update for free, while other users can purchase it for USD$2 a month per user.

If you don't use Office 365, but have a system that runs on Microsoft Exchange Online servers, you will also be able to purchase and install Message Encryption.

How will this work?

If you choose to implement Message Encryption, your administrator will have to select and apply the level and type of encryption and related rules they want to apply to emails. When you send an email that meets the set rules or requirements, it will be automatically encrypted.

Your email will be encrypted as it leaves your email system and before it is delivered. The recipient will receive an email with the body of the email you sent attached. There will also be a set of instructions on how to access the email. This will usually open the email in a new window that looks like the Outlook Web App. If the user replies to the email or forwards it, the encryption will remain in place.

If you are looking to learn more about how this service can be used in your business, or other ways you can keep your communications secure, please contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.