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How to make IT in your business more flexible

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we need to be flexible and adjust to a changing environment.  Many people are now working from home and businesses have had to adapt and get employees set up so that they can continue to work and be productive without any issues.

There are some steps that you can take to make the IT in your business more flexible.  Let’s look at these:

Moving to a cloud-based phone system:

Users can take handsets home or use softphone apps on their phones or computers.  Ilkley IT can get set this up for you through one of our partners.

Moving files to a cloud-based system such as SharePoint:

Having your files on a cloud-based system is a secure place to store, organise, share and access information from any device.  It helps you to manage content, knowledge and applications to empower teamwork, quickly find information and seamlessly collaborate across the organisation.

It provides enhanced security and removes the need for a VPN. We have written previously about the benefits of using Microsoft SharePoint, read our blog post here.

Using Microsoft Teams for keeping communication going between staff members:

Teams is becoming an integral part of our day-to-day working life, from conference calls, holding team meetings to online collaboration.  It is the perfect platform to use to communicate with colleagues and can really help departments to continue to work effectively.  There are always new features being introduced in Teams, all focused on improving productivity and efficiencies.

Investing in laptops instead of PCs:

Buying laptops rather than PCs provides more flexibility for staff and businesses.  It will allow staff members to easily work from home if they have to. Laptop docks and monitors can still be used when in the office.

Move to Cloud Software:

Many software companies have cloud-based software products, such as CRM (HubSpot or SalesForce) and Accounting and payroll packages (Xero).  Cloud-based products can be accessed at any time from any location, whether you are working remotely or from the office.  Accessing tools in the cloud is very secure and provides a huge amount of flexibility.

Moving away from physical servers completely:

It might be time for you to seriously consider swapping your physical servers for virtual ones in the cloud.  All elements of your server infrastructure can be moved to the cloud.  There are many benefits to using Microsoft 365 Premium, all the products are becoming intrinsically linked to improve efficiency and productivity across your business.

If you have been thinking about making changes in your business and wondering how to make your IT more flexible, then get in touch with Ilkley IT.  Our experienced team can help you every step of the way with all the aspects mentioned and so much more.  We can implement the changes and get you up and running in no time with minimum disruption to you and your team.  We would love to hear from you and learn more about your systems and understand your business needs so we can find the best solution for you.  Get in touch today on 01943 601601.

Using technology to look after your mental wellbeing

With us all back in Lockdown for the next month, it is important now more than ever to protect our mental wellbeing.  2020 has certainly been a year that will not be forgotten any time soon.  It has been a trying time even for the most resilient of people and it is so important, now more than ever, that we take care of ourselves.

In a previous blog post, we talked about using technology to help our productivity and wellbeing, and we touched on a number of apps available to support our mental health.  Let’s take a closer look at the top 7 Best Mental Health Apps of 2020:

Moodfit

This app helps you to understand your mood which is the first step to improving it.  It allows you to set daily goals designed to improve your mood.   There are a number of tools in the app which include positive messages, practicing gratitude, breathing exercises and many more.

MoodMission

This app is designed to empower you to overcome feelings of depression and anxiety by discovering new and better ways of coping.  When you tell MoodMission how you’re feeling, it gives you a tailored list of 5 simple, quick, effective, evidence-based Missions to improve your mood based on scientific research.

Talkspace

This app is an online therapy platform that provides users the confidential support of a licensed therapist through an easy-to-use platform.

Sanvello

This app offers 4 types of support, self-care, peer support, coaching and therapy.  Easily find the strategies and resources you need, and access expert advice day or night. With Sanvello coping tools in your pocket, managing symptoms, and tracking your progress is easy.

Headspace

This is an app which offers guided meditations.  You can download the basic course for free to learn how to meditate and then if you subscribe, you will have access to an enormous number of different mediations on different themes.  Meditation will help to equip you with the tools to overcome the feeling of stress and anxiety so that you can feel calm and in control of your life.

Happify

This app brings you effective tools and programs to help you take control of your feelings and thoughts.  Happify is all about playing games which are science-based activities meant to reduce stress, build resilience, and overcome negative thoughts.

Depression CBT Self-Help Guide

The natural management of depression involves understanding depression and the factors that contribute to the symptoms. Learning to manage stress in your life and engage in self-care behaviours can improve your symptoms and your mood.  This app contains a depression severity test, audios, articles, a cognitive diary, and a motivational points system that help you learn how to do this.

Shine

This is a female-focused, self-care app that aims to help users “rest, heal and grow through difficulty.” Its focus is self-improvement, and it delivers motivational messages through text and audio. The app provides meditations, a gratitude journal, and a daily mood tracker.

There are also many other great resources available online that can help if you are experiencing feelings of stress, anxiety and overwhelm.  Make time for exercise, go for a walk and get some fresh air whilst making a call, do a short yoga practice or stretching or do a quick workout, whatever your favourite activity is, plan that into your day.  Always remember you are not alone; speak to someone you trust.  Sharing a problem is often the first step to feeling better.

If you would like to discuss any of this content further, then please get in touch, we would love to hear from you.

Exciting New features in Microsoft Teams

Microsoft has announced a number of new features, some have already been introduced and some are being introducing in the next few months.  With working from home becoming the ‘new normal’, it is important now more than ever, to make sure you are properly set up on Microsoft Teams and using it to its full potential.

Here is a summary of some of the new features in Microsoft Teams:

Together Mode

This is designed to make people feel like they are in the same meeting.  Using “AI Segmentation technology”, multiple video feeds are digitally placed in a shared background.  This scales up to 49 people at the same time.  Currently there is “together mode in auditorium” and “together mode in coffee shop” available, with more “room” types to follow.

Large Gallery View

This shows up to 49 meeting video feeds.

Live Captions now with Speaker Attribution

When someone is speaking, it will now show the name of the speaker and live captions of what they are saying.

Live Transcript in Meeting

There is a live transcript of what’s being said in the meeting which is also available for review after the meeting.  This is very useful to be able to refer back to in case you missed something during the meeting or need to check back on something like an action point.

Microsoft has recently moved from having 250 active participants to 300 and their intention is to move to 1000 participants in the future.  If you use the Whiteboard facility in your meetings on Teams then you will soon be able to enjoy improved collaboration including faster loading times, sticky notes, text and drag and drop capabilities to give you better organisation of your whiteboard.  This will also enable team members who don’t have access to a touchscreen device to participate in whiteboarding sessions too.  Microsoft has also announced some exciting new features relating to staff wellbeing.  To find out more, watch this great video.

In a previous blog post we told you about the benefits of using Microsoft Planner with Teams, one of the exciting new features introduced by Microsoft this month is that SharePoint lists are now available in Teams.  This enables you to create lists to manage work and collaborate with your team by adding the list to a channel in Teams.

Teams is becoming an integral part of our day-to-day working life, from conference calls, holding team meetings to online collaboration, all the Microsoft 365 products are becoming intrinsically linked to improve efficiency and productivity with Teams being the cornerstone.

Ilkley IT Services want to make sure you are getting the most out of your Microsoft 365 products and we understand how confusing it can be.  We will talk you through every aspect of the various products within the Microsoft 365 range, how these will benefit you, and also how the products work together to ensure improved productivity, efficiency and collaboration for you and your team.  Get in touch with us today, we would love to hear from you!

Microsoft 365 Spotlight focus: SharePoint

Microsoft 365 has so many different products that users often feel overwhelmed with not knowing which ones to use and how to use them and then end up not using many of them at all. In this blog series we will spotlight each of the Microsoft products and break them down to show you the benefits of using each one and how you can incorporate them into your business to help you to work more efficiently.

Microsoft SharePoint is primarily a document management and storage system, but it is also highly configurable. It is a secure place to store, organise, share and access information from any device. It helps you to manage content, knowledge and applications to empower teamwork, quickly find information and seamlessly collaborate across the organisation.

Let’s look at the main advantages of using Microsoft SharePoint:

Saves you money:
Having a total cloud solution as part of your Microsoft 365 subscription, which you are already paying for, eliminates the costs of a separate cloud account and data storage plan. Also, simplifying your operating systems, can prevent you from spending additional money on fixing issues.

Enhanced Security:
Security is an everyday concern for businesses. Using SharePoint can prevent some of those security issues. Your teams can share vital information without revealing any sensitive information in documents through SharePoint real-time collaborations. Hosting your information on a single platform also reduces your risk of attacks. You can monitor user behaviour to help ensure compliance with any internal policies you might have.

Collaboration:
SharePoint is a platform which makes it easy to create and share business information from a single location. It can seamlessly connect employees with documents and information.

Easy Information Exchange:
Easy information exchange goes hand in hand with improving collaboration. Simplifying access to business information for everyone enables collaboration and keeps everyone informed and up to date. Also, users won’t have the same version control issues that are experienced when storing files on a server, you can maintain a single document, allow multiple users to continuously update it, all with a record of the changes and the ability to revert back to an earlier version if needed.

Better productivity:
Microsoft SharePoint makes it easier to transmit data, track information, work on documents and group projects and so much more without confusion or delays.

A more productive workforce means better business efficiency and profitability. Using Microsoft SharePoint can transform the way you store information and your team works and collaborates. If you are not using Microsoft SharePoint yet, it is worth seriously considering starting to use it within your business.

If you feel overwhelmed by the various features of SharePoint, and are confused about how to set it up to use it to its full potential, our team at Ilkley IT can help you to customise it for your organisation. We will talk you through every aspect of SharePoint, explaining each feature and how it works to ensure you are up and running in no time!  Contact us today, we would love to have a chat with you!

Microsoft 365 Spotlight focus: Planner

Microsoft 365 has so many different products that users often feel overwhelmed with not knowing which ones to use and how to use them and then end up not using many of them at all.  In this blog series we will spotlight each of the Microsoft products and break them down to show you the benefits of using each one and how you can incorporate them into your business to help you to work more efficiently.

Microsoft Planner is an easy-to-use mobile and web-based application that comes with most business subscriptions.  With Planner you and your team can create project plans, assign and collaborate on tasks and see the team’s progress.  Planner allows you to create Kanban boards (a workflow management method which helps you visualise your work, maximise efficiency and become more agile) using content-rich task cards with files, checklists, labels and more.

Microsoft Planner is very easy to use, each project is stored as a card that can be accessed easily from your dashboard.  You can move things around and easily edit them.  It is the ideal solution for a team who are looking for a basic task management app.

There are many advantages to using Microsoft Planner, particularly when using Planner and Teams together.  Microsoft has integrated Planner with Teams so you can add a Planner tab in one of your Team’s channels.  This allows your team to create and organise tasks with Teams.  Tasks can be launched and assigned within the Microsoft Teams platform, eliminating the need to switch back and forth between platforms.  All tasks can be viewed through Microsoft Teams as well as Microsoft Planner, making it less likely employees could potentially miss a vital task they need to complete.

If you are not using Microsoft Planner yet, it is definitely worth seriously considering starting to use it within your business.  It can transform the way your team works together and manages projects.  If you feel overwhelmed by the various features of Planner, including its integration with Teams, and are confused about how to set it up to use it to its full potential, our team at Ilkley IT can help you.  We will talk you through every aspect of Microsoft Planner and Teams, explaining each feature and how it works to ensure you are up and running in no time!

 

Why you should be using a Password Manager

Do you use the same, easy to remember password or a variation of it for every account login you have?  You are certainly not alone!  We are constantly being told to use strong, unique passwords to protect our information online but how on earth are we supposed to come up with complicated passwords and remember them with the volume of login details we have!  It is a challenge!

The answer is a Password Manager.

A Password Manager will store your passwords in an encrypted form and also help you with generating secure random passwords.  The password manager will have a password to allow you to access it so you will only need to remember one password.   You will then easily be able to access your passwords without having to remember them.

The risks of using the same password across many sites are enormous.  Passwords are stolen all the time.  If you have a weak password and use it multiple times and a hacker got hold of it, that means that they could log into other sites with that password.  With cybercrime continuing to be on the increase, hackers are constantly looking at new ways and fine-tuning their techniques to crack users’ passwords.

One thing to be careful of is using browser-based password managers – Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer etc, all have integrated password managers.  Chrome and Internet Explorer store the passwords on your computer in an unencrypted form.  These built-in password managers are not ideal and cannot compete with a dedicated password manager product.

There are a number of password managers available on the market:

Myki:  can be used by teams and single users but has also been developed for the MSP market.  Myki securely stores and manages internal and customers’ passwords offline, away from the cloud.

Keeper:  can be used to protect your business as well as your personal passwords and private information.

Dashlane: is a safe and easy way to manage business and personal passwords.  It enables you to keep all of your passwords, usernames, payment card details, and secure notes in one safe place.  Dashlane is also packed with other features, making it more than just a password manager.

LastPass:  is a cloud-based password manager with a browser extension and mobile app for all the browsers and operating systems available.

Once you have chosen a password manager to use, it is good practice to change all your passwords to more secure ones.   If you would like to learn more about any of these products or would like help with choosing the most suitable one for your business, Ilkley IT can help you.   Contact us today to find out more.

Microsoft is ending support for Internet Explorer

This week Microsoft has announced its timeline for ending its support for Internet Explorer 11 (IE 11) by this time next year.  In the article by Microsoft, they have said that on the 30 November 2020, the Microsoft Teams web app will no longer support IE 11 and on the 17 August 2021, the remaining Microsoft 365 apps and services will no longer support IE 11.

This means that after these dates, customers will have a degraded experience or will be unable to connect to Microsoft 365 apps and services on IE 11.   If you still choose to use IE 11 with a degraded experience, new Microsoft 365 features will not be available or certain features may cease to work when accessing the app or service.  Microsoft have said that they know the change will be difficult for some customers, they believe that customers will get the most of Microsoft 365 using the new Microsoft Edge.

Although over the years IE became the dominant web browser that everyone used, enjoying 90% of the market, and has been around for 25 years, it may surprise you to know that it is not very secure.  Over the years, Microsoft ignored web standards and continually missed essential updates and did not follow the guidelines set by the World Wide Web Consortium (the organisation that establishes standards for web technologies).  New features were only added to IE as part of a major product release, which often took years to be implemented.  This continual lack of updates leaves you as the user exposed and unsafe when browsing the internet using IE11 and more vulnerable to being targeted by cyber-attacks.

Naturally, competitors started to appear online and in 2004 Mozilla introduced Firefox and then in 2008 Google Chrome was introduced.  Interestingly, in the 10 years since Google Chrome was launched, it was updated 70 times, meanwhile Internet Explorer was updated only 4 times between its eighth version and its final one (version 11).   Of course there is also the new Microsoft Edge, this is based on a Chronium codebase which is the same as the foundations of Google Chrome but currently this has less than 2% of the market whilst Google’s browser has 65% of the market.  With so much of our information freely available when we search online, you might be looking for more privacy when browsing the internet.  Try out Brave, it provides unmatched speed, security and privacy by blocking trackers.

Modern web browsers have the ‘edge’ offering better security, speed, compatibility and plugin options.  Now is the time to check if the sites you regularly visit will still work, for example many banking sites don’t work in anything other than IE so it would be worth contacting the owner of the site to let them know.   There is still time to do this, rather than being caught out at a later stage with a site that doesn’t work.

Another old technology which is going end of life at the end of the year is Adobe Flash Player.  Adobe will stop distributing and updating Flash Player after 31 December 2020.

Technology does not stand still or nor should we.  We have to keep moving with the times and it is important to make sure we are not left behind using old versions of products which don’t work properly and are no longer supported which poses a security risk to us online.  If you would like more information about anything in this article or feel baffled about which browser is right for you and what action you should take, then contact Ilkley IT, we would love to have a chat about how we can help you.

Microsoft 365 Spotlight focus: OneDrive

Microsoft 365 has so many different products that users often feel overwhelmed with not knowing which ones to use and how to use them and then end up not using many of them at all. In this blog series we will spotlight each of the Office products and break them down to show you the benefits of using each one and how you can incorporate them into your business to help you to work more efficiently.

OneDrive is the Office cloud service that connects you to all your files. You can store and protect your files, share them with others and access them at any time of the day from any location and from any device. You can share photos, Office documents, other files and entire folders.

One of the biggest benefits to your business is OneDrive’s file sharing and collaboration. This can transform how you work in your business, particularly now that most of us are working remotely and from home. You will no longer have to email large attachments or try to keep track of multiple versions, you can simply save your file to OneDrive, share the file with the relevant people and you will always have the most up-to-date version. This will eliminate any worries of not working on the latest version. There is also an option to view the version history and restore older versions of files if needed at any point.

There is also real-time co-authoring on documents saved on OneDrive, meaning you can work on files at the same time with colleagues and external people. You will be able to see their changes and they will be able to see yours, as you make them. This will increase productivity and will really help to speed up the length of time it takes to get work completed.

If you are worried about keeping your information secure, the files and folders you store in OneDrive are private until you decide to share them. OneDrive files and folders can be shared with colleagues in your business as well as externally, but again, this is completely within your control as you can see who a OneDrive file is shared with and stop sharing any time. You can also restrict the level of access.

OneDrive can also be used to connect you to your files in Microsoft SharePoint and Teams, which we will also cover as part of this series.

If you are not using OneDrive yet, it is definitely worth seriously considering starting to use it within your business. It can transform the way you work with your team and external people. If you feel overwhelmed by all the different features of OneDrive and are confused about how to use it to its full potential, our team at Ilkley IT can help you. We will talk you through every aspect of OneDrive, explaining each feature and how it works to ensure you are up and running and using OneDrive in no time!

Contact us today, we would love to have a chat with you!

Skype for Business (End of Life) – 31 July 2021

Mark the 31 July 2021 in your calendar, a year today is the date that Microsoft announced Skype for Business Online will be retired.  From the 1 September 2019, all new Office 365 customers have been onboarded directly to Microsoft Teams as the default for chats, meetings and calls.

Microsoft Teams has been available now for a number of years and has been gaining favour with users by offering much more functionality than before.  During this recent period of lockdown, Microsoft Teams has really come to the fore with many people relying on it for daily communication and collaboration with their teams and customers.  This is likely to continue with many people continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future and wanting to stay connected with colleagues and customers on a regular basis.

Here are a few pointers on how the functionality of Teams will be of more benefit to you and your business than Skype for Business:

  1. In Teams, the chat log is “persistent” and will be retained for as long as you need it. In addition to the chat itself, all images, files, and links that are sent are kept within the app which makes referencing that data much easier to find in one place.  In Skype for Business, at the end of the day, when the chat is closed, the conversation is no longer available within the app and all archives are kept in Outlook or Exchange.
  2. Team messaging is currently available within both Teams and Skype and both allow multiple contacts to join a group chat. Teams has expanded this functionality and you can now create different “teams and channels” where you can organise chats and shared files by department, project etc.  This provides a very useful searchable archive of all relevant information that users might need to access at some point in the future.
  3. One of the key functions of both applications is the ability to host video conferences. The primary features of Skype for Business Online are all included in Teams, such as call recording, screen sharing, and file uploading.  Teams have added some useful options:
    • Background blur and virtual backgrounds for video
    • Live captions
    • Full meeting recording
    • Live events with access available to users outside of Teams

One of the biggest benefits of Teams, which is key and has proven to be transformational for businesses, is the integration of 3rd party apps and custom power app flexibility. With this functionality, all your daily work functions can be consolidated into one place and be completely streamlined within Teams.

Also, within Teams you can edit documents such as Word or Excel files without having to open those applications separately.  This allows you to collaborate on documents together in real time in the cloud, rather than emailing documents back and forth and saving local copies on machines.  This makes sharing of information and data simple and easy.  All files that are worked on will be added to a collaborative SharePoint site which will allow all the benefits of SharePoint to be deployed in one location.  If you are still wondering about the benefits of moving your business to the cloud, read our blog post here about how the cloud can help your business.

And finally, on Teams, you can give users temporary guest access even if they don’t have Teams and you can also add users who use Teams in external organisations.

Ultimately, Teams includes all the functionality that Skype for Business offers and so much more.  Don’t wait until the 31 July 2021 and be forced into a situation of having to use Teams with no experience of it or any idea how to use it.  If you have been using Skype for Business for a long period of time, it can all seem a bit overwhelming making sure Microsoft Teams is set up correctly and knowing how to use it.  Ilkley IT know all the tips and tricks to help you to set up Teams so that you can use it effectively.  They will take you through each step to ensure that everything is configured correctly so that you use Teams to its full potential.

There is still time to get fully up and running on Teams, but don’t leave it until the last minute, if you are still unsure about switching (before you are forced to!) and want further information on how Teams can be used effectively by each department in your business, read our blog post about it here.

Contact us today, we would love to have a chat about how we can help you get fully set up and operational using Microsoft Teams and in plenty of time before the Skype for Business retirement date!

Just how important is Email Security?

Cyberattacks are rapidly increasing every day with hackers becoming more and more sophisticated and the scams more elaborate than ever before.  It is reported that in 2019, around a third of businesses in the UK identified at least one breach or attack each month. The most common types are phishing attacks comprising 80% along with impersonating emails, viruses, spyware or malware including ransomware.

Let’s look at the jargon being used surrounding these attacks so we can really understand this threat.  Malware is a word used to describe any type of malicious software which usually piggybacks on an email or document containing links, Ransomware is typically spread through phishing emails and Phishing is the use of technology to lure victims into providing sensitive and personal information.

5 ways to identify a phishing email:

  1. If the email asks you to confirm personal information, such as banking details or login credentials, information that you would not usually provide.
  2. The web and email addresses do not look genuine – at a quick glance these might look correct but on closer inspection, they will be slightly varied but intended to look genuine. Hover over any links in the body of the email as these might be malicious.
  3. It is poorly written – if the email is full of spelling and grammatical errors, there is a strong possibility it is a phishing email. Legitimate emails from companies will be written professionally and checked for spelling and grammatical errors.
  4. There is a suspicious attachment – it is always good practice to scan attachments using antivirus software particularly if you receive an email out of the blue with an attachment that you weren’t expecting.
  5. The email is designed to make you panic – it is common that phishing emails will incite panic in the recipient as it will ask for immediate action to be taken on personal items such as bank accounts.

Office 365 has a solution to help protect your emails, files and online storage.  Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) protects your mailboxes, files, online storage, and applications against new, sophisticated attacks. It offers protection for all the major Microsoft apps such as Microsoft Teams, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business.

Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) offers the following benefits:

  1. Safe Attachments: ATP protects you against unsafe attachments and provides you with a malware-free, cleaner inbox.
  2. Safe Links: ATP blocks users from clicking on malicious links.  If a link they click on is unsafe, the user will either be informed that the site’s been blocked or warned not to visit it.
  3. Spoof Intelligence: This detects when a sender appears to be sending an email on behalf of one or more user accounts within one of your organisation’s domains.  It enables you to review all senders who are spoofing your domain, and then choose to allow the sender to continue or block the sender.
  4. Quarantine: Messages identified by the Office 365 service as spam, phishing mail or potentially containing malware can be sent to quarantine.

The impact of a cyberattack is not only time consuming but costly. One accidental or careless click by an employee has the potential to compromise your entire network.  Office 365 Advance Threat Protection offers industry-leading, comprehensive protection, can your business really afford to be without it?

No one is safe from these attacks, all businesses are a potential target and need to remain vigilant, don’t wait until you have been the victim of a cybercrime to take action.    Ilkley IT Services can help you to get the protection you need so that you can have peace of mind and get on with running your business.  Contact us today to find out more.