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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!

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!

Using Microsoft Teams in each Department

With many of us continuing to work from home, and the likelihood of this carrying on into the future, the use of video conferencing software such as Microsoft Teams has become a daily occurrence.  Also, for people who are going back to the office and having to follow social distancing regulations, using Teams really helps departments across companies to continue to successfully collaborate and continue working effectively.  If you have never used Teams before or have perhaps only used the chat facility, it can feel overwhelming to make the transition to using all the different parts of the software.

Let’s have a look at how Microsoft Teams can help each department individually and improve team collaboration:

Marketing

Marketing teams need to create and collaborate with many groups of people both within the company and outside of it.  Teams provides a shared workspace for all conversations, files and third-party services.  Teams makes it very easy to manage marketing campaigns, social channels, collaborate on content creation and plan events.

Top Tip: Add Adobe Creative Cloud Directly into Teams: https://appsource.microsoft.com/en-us/product/office/WA104381222?tab=Overview

Sales

Teams can help sales teams to deal with enquiries and quickly build quotations and proposals with input from different stakeholders.  Collaboration, reporting, and knowledge sharing can happen in one place, helping sales professionals everywhere – in the home office and the field – work together to meet sales objectives.

Top Tip: Use with PowerBI to create a dashboard for data relating to forecast and actual sales https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/

Finance

Finance teams need to collaborate on aggregating and reporting on data while conducting business reviews on a regular basis. Teams provides a central hub in which all files, data, conversations and meetings can happen in a single place, safely and securely.

Top Tip: Use file sharing to share monthly or quarterly reports with management or company owners.

Human Resources

Teams can help the HR team to manage recruitment and employee onboarding activities, including sharing CVs and interview notes, keeping track of candidate information, communicating employment decisions, and sharing new employee documents.

Top Tip: https://www.simpleinout.com/ and https://www.attendancebot.com/ are great addons to Teams that help keep track of your team.

IT

Teams provides the IT team with a single hub to collaborate, plan, execute, and manage all phases of infrastructure deployments and rollouts.  It is a very useful tool to help drive transformation and change management across the organisation.

Top Tip: Utilise the chat feature to answer questions your team may have about new systems.

Engineering

Engineers move quickly between ideas, development and deployment of a concept when delivering new features. Teams is integrated with developer tools, enabling continuous discussion across a distributed team to keep projects on track.

Top Tip: Utilise Planner to manage projects and OneNote to organised notes.

Project Management

Project managers often use a myriad of planning, meeting, and communication tools and services. Teams enables collaboration in one central hub with all the tools to organise and share project files, manage stakeholder meetings, and track progress for multiple projects.

Top Tip: Use Microsoft Planner to better manage projects within your team https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/microsoft-365/business/task-management-software

If you would like more information about how Teams can be used within your business, download this helpful guide.

It can all seem a bit overwhelming making sure Microsoft Teams is set up correctly, but 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.

Contact us today, we would love to have a chat about how we can help!

5 Top Tips for Working from Home

With the events of the last 3 months, it feels as if almost overnight everything changed.  Businesses have had to be flexible and adjust to the changing environment.  Many people found themselves, for the first time, having to adjust to working remotely and from home.  If it is the first time you are working from home or even if you have worked from home before, but now it is for an extended period, how can you make sure that your workspace is set up effectively to enable you to be the most productive, stay connected with your colleagues and to manage your time efficiently?

Here are our 5 top tips for working from home:

Set up your physical workspace:

This is the most important tip – choose a designated workspace specifically for where you will work, separate from personal space, this will minimise disruptions for you.  This space should have good ventilation and lighting and a proper desk and office chair.  It is important to sit at your desk correctly and have your screen as close to in line with eye level as possible and to have the correct posture.   You will need a secure, password-protected Wi-Fi network and when using a wireless connection, you will need to consider your distance from the router as this may affect the quality of your connection. If you do have the space in your workspace, extra monitors can really increase productivity and help you to get more work done.

Set up your virtual workspace:

Working in the cloud allows you to collaborate and stay productive online from wherever you are working.  Microsoft has products such as OneDrive, OneNote, PowerPoint, Excel and Word which make collaborating with colleagues and syncing documents very easy.  With these tools you can make your documents virtual and accessible on the web across all devices.  Always make sure you back up the documents you are working on in the cloud.

How to stay focused:

For many people it is the first time you are working from home and so it might feel very strange and take a while to get used to it.  It is important to create a routine, wake up at the same time every day and give yourself enough time to do everything you need to do before starting work.  Set an ‘end time’ and finish work at the same time every evening so that you can relax before going to sleep.  Tidy up after the day and create to-do lists for the next day.  Block off time for specific tasks.  If you find it difficult to concentrate, try working in 25-minute chunks.  There are many ways to do this, one such app is the Pomodoro Technique (https://bit.ly/2MW5vib) which you can use to manage your time.

Look after your wellbeing:

Have a lunch break and regular screen breaks.  Make time for exercise whether it is 10 minutes or 60 minutes.  Go for a walk and get some fresh air whilst making a call.  It is easy to keep snacking during the day but plan healthy and nutritious meals and stick to designated mealtimes.  Celebrate your achievements throughout the day, for example if you tick something off your to-do list, celebrate it, if you complete a difficult task that you have been putting off, congratulate yourself.  This will keep you motivated to keep powering through your to-do list!  Why not try meditation, this technique can really help to keep you calm, manage stress levels and sleep better.

Remote communication:

It is easier now more than ever to keep connected to your colleagues and clients using one of the many video conferencing platforms such a Microsoft Teams.  Make it a habit to connect frequently with your colleagues either daily or weekly.  Looking specifically at the platform Microsoft Teams, it allows you to record a presentation to a client or training with colleagues, which you can then share afterwards, it also gives you the facility to share your screen during meetings and facilitates  collaboration through the chat facility, making it easy to send a quick message or share a document, updates etc.  Using a camera on video calls helps you to connect with colleagues and clients, read our 5 Top Tips for Successful Video Conferencing for more about this topic.

If you need help with adjusting to working from home, setting up a secure workspace and solving Wi-Fi or printer issues, then the team at Ilkley IT can help you to make sure you are set up to work effectively and productively.  Ilkley IT can also offer advice and recommendations on the Microsoft Products mentioned and get you up and running and using them very quickly and easily.  Contact us today, we would love to have a chat about how we can help!