Typing Out Loud: Business Messaging Apps

Typing Out Loud: Business Messaging Apps

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in Blog, IT News

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When the first human being had something worth saying, there’s a good chance that they didn’t say it very well. In the 21st century, quality communication still isn’t second nature to us. It’s a challenge for some organizations, maybe a bit simpler for others, but even that is dynamic. What works today may not work for a different team tomorrow. Or even the same team once personnel promote, or change roles. However, humans love to talk. So how do we do it better?

In the early days of the internet, AOL instant messenger gained huge traction, based solely how easily it brought people together to discuss anything and everything, from video games to history to music. One could type a quick message, rather informally, and receive a quick message back. The conversation continued almost in real time. It is neither time-consuming, nor complicated. This paradigm eventually that gives rise to SMS text messaging, and now anyone can choose from an array of images to convey everything from love to sarcasm, that much quicker.

How does this work in the modern business climate? As millennials occupy an increasing share of the workforce, so too does the number of people who still use phone calls as the primary method of communication. This can be reflected too in the quantity of emails sent every day: 205 billion, or more easily stated as 29 emails daily for every man, woman and child on Earth. Email has many advantages, but for quick, internal communication, those advantages don’t work. Email isn’t seen as immediate, often causing delays & bottlenecks in decision making when more and more of the workforce doesn’t occupy the same space.

Enter the team chat apps.

These apps encourage quick, brief messages to transmit messages on a total ‘opt-in’ basis. Even in a group chat, you can parse what you need and get back to another task, or contribute to the conversation as you see fit. If someone specifically needs an individual, there are ways to alert them through the app to get their attention. Also, messaging apps create an ongoing and persistent conversation among multiple contributors simultaneously, either based on need or topic.

Slack, Microsoft Teams, HipChat, and Google Hangouts have grown in popularity primarily for the need for instant communication that was missing in the workplace. And while each one has their advantages and disadvantages, they all provide a baseline of instant communication with varying features, depending on an organization’s operations. Software development teams tend to use Slack, or HipChat, because of their seamless integrations with other applications & tools that developers use often. If you already have Office 365, depending on your plan you already have Microsoft Teams available, and that is useful to almost any business for instant chat communication, from retail stores to supermarkets to doctor’s offices.

If you’d like to know more about which app is right for you and your business, talk to our expert engineers today.

Office 365- The Best Option for Business Email

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in Cloud Hosting, IT News

Since the early 1980s, Microsoft is the premier choice in business software. Certain industries might use proprietary software specific to their products or services, but it’s almost impossible to find a company that doesn’t use a word processor, spreadsheet or presentation planning software in their daily operations.

On-premise servers have been a significant barrier to entry for smaller organizations that required a stable and secure email platform that was also easy to use and familiar to current and new employees alike. Another server was needed to share files and folders to everyone in the company, along with other essential services. This is no longer the case with Office 365. However, Microsoft makes it a bit difficult to understand the exact difference between the packages it offers, by constantly improving and expanding its business functions and security features.  Sorting through the available options to find the ones essential to your business can be a daunting challenge in of itself.

 

Here’s a brief breakdown of the packages available:

 

Office 365 Business Essentials: $5 per user per month.

 

Includes:

  • Web based version of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook & Access)
  • Web based services (Exchange, Sharepoint, OneDrive, Teams & Skype)
  • There are no additional security features offered at this level.

 

Office 365 Business: $8.25 per user per month

 

Includes:

  • Web based version of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook & Access)
  • Web based OneDrive & Teams (Free Tier)
  • Desktop downloads of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook & Access)

 

Office 365 Business Premium: $12.50 per user per month

 

Includes:

  • Web based version of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook & Access)
  • Web based services (Exchange, Sharepoint, OneDrive, Teams & Skype)
  • Desktop downloads of Microsoft Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook & Access)
  • Additional Security features such as two-factor authentication, and secure encryption in transit

 

Determining which of these plans fits your business best begins with assessing factors like the number of users you have, which features those users will need on an individual basis, and just how beneficial some of the newer Microsoft products might become.

 

Another huge benefit to Office 365 is the ability to upgrade at any time, so it makes sense to start with a smaller plan with fewer features to be decisively cost-effective as your business needs change or your organization grows. Along with the feature to subscribe to small business focused apps like Microsoft Invoicing or Connections, which are included in Office 365 Business Premium, this is truly a robust platform that gives control of services and pricing back to the user.

 

SOS helps thousands of users across the nation get the most from Office 365, and ensuring that migrations to the platform occur seamlessly with as little downtime as possible. If you’re thinking of making the jump, contact us today to consult on getting the most from your IT services.

Staff Augmentation: A New Take on Outsourcing

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in IT News

When thinking of a managed IT service provider, the small to medium business comes right to mind. MSPs offer an amazing value to SMBs, providing robust IT support for a significantly reduced cost compared to having their own IT staff. As your business grows, operations typically demand permanent in-house IT staff for support and maintenance. Even with new in-house IT staff, is it time to divest from an MSP?

 

Absolutely not.

 

Growing an enterprise is the epitome of success, but with transition comes change, and change can always be uncertain. New IT directors and management find themselves spending hours documenting, learning about infrastructure and equipment, and more on-boarding task, leaving the day to day IT support to newer, less experienced personnel going through the same on-boarding process. This is where staff augmentation can help your business thrive.

 

For example, Company A has decided to create its own IT department after years with an MSP because of tremendous growth in their market. But their budget doesn’t allow for the 10 person staff actually needed to manage and support their infrastructure this year, they can only hire 5, including management. The additional new hires will have to wait until the next fiscal year. But in the meantime, they still need the support, so what can they do?

 

The MSP can work alongside in-house IT staff, typically taking tiered responsibilities away from the client, for a fraction of the cost of full-time employees. The MSP will handle front line help desk on basic issues, the most time consuming and routine, so that Company A’s IT team can focus on working efficiently with the burden of being of understaffed removed. Working this way, managed services providers become a force multiplier for the client’s dedicated IT team, allowing them to work as they need knowing that the organization’s employees are still having their IT needs supported, while staying within budget and resource constraints. The MSP becomes a strategic partner for the customer, supporting them through whatever situations may arise.

 

Are your IT needs outgrowing your current team’s bandwidth? Don’t let IT employees burn themselves out with overwork. Consider staff augmentation with SOS Technology Group, and partner with us at every stage of your business.

Disaster Recovery: Is your Business Prepared?

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in IT News, Technology

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Disasters take many forms. It’s not just catastrophic events such as hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes, also cyber-attacks & equipment failures that can be classified as disasters.

Companies and organizations can the impact of disasters with plans that detail actions to take and processes to follow to resume operations quickly with minimal loss.

 

In the IT space, disaster recovery focuses on the IT systems that help support business operations. The term “business continuity” is often associated with disaster recovery, but the two terms aren’t completely the same. Disaster recovery is a piece of business continuity, which focuses more on keeping all aspects of a business running in spite of a disaster. Because technology is so critical to the success of modern businesses, disaster recovery is critical for business continuity.

 

Economic and operational losses can overwhelm unprepared businesses. One hour of downtime can cost small companies as much as $8,000, midsize companies up to $74,000, and large enterprises up to $700,000, according to a 2015 report from the IT Disaster Recovery Preparedness (DRP) Council.

 

Even if your business has a disaster recovery plan of some sort, a thorough review of that plan is needed. If your company doesn’t have one, and if you’ve been handed the task of coming up with one, the first step is a risk assessment. It’s important to identify key vulnerabilities to your infrastructure and where things could go wrong, and when they do go wrong, how your operations are impacted.

 

This phase is where a managed service provider can help. We can assess your network & infrastructure, and provide a custom disaster recovery plan tailored to your specific operations, and you can rest assured your business is protected in a disaster situation. Talk with us today.

Common IT Pitfalls for SMBs

Written by Scott Hall on . Posted in IT News

Small business owners face a lot of pressure to keep overhead low and profits as high as possible to keep their businesses thriving. When it comes to IT, it’s hard to see where little mistakes can cost you more than you budget for, in both the long and short terms. Here’s just a few of the oversights we can help to correct.

 

Price Shopping for the Least Expensive Option

As a managed services provider, we work with many SMBs, and see the following situation very often. A small business owner needs to purchase new computers, multi-function devices, printers, etc. They also have a need for remote access, and want to streamline their IT solution to be as efficient as possible, and to give their employees as many resources as they need to get the job done. . So, the Small Business Owner does his due diligence and obtains multiple proposals. Company A promises to fix all his problems and charge him a nominal monthly fee for their ongoing support services. Company B suggests upgrading outdated hardware and installing new software to optimize his current investments. Company B’s initial overall investment is more expensive as is their monthly service plan. When only looking at short term budget requirements, Company A looks like a slam dunk.

However, when price is the only determining factor it’s really the small business owner who pays the ultimate price. Invest your IT budget in a reliable managed services provider, one who has the credentials to present all your options, and advise you on the best way moving forward.

 

Investing in Technology Only When it breaks

Waiting until hardware is completely broken is the worst time to replace it. An unknown quantity of down time and lost productivity means lost revenue and profits. While no one can predict the exact time hardware will fail, we can tell you that the more critical the device, the harder its loss will impact your business. We advise our clients not to wait to invest in equipment and software, and don’t wait for it to fail to consider your replacement options. Put a transition plan in place when reaching hardware end-of-life.

If you invest wisely now and optimize your systems correctly with a trusted partner, you’ll run into fewer problems later which ultimately means spending less in the long term.

 

Not Having a Comprehensive and Tested Backup and Recovery Solution

How will your business handle a lengthy power outage, due to a storm? How will it handle a ransomware attack? Or an organized breach and theft of data? Or even just accidental deletion? With the robust business continuity and backup solutions in the market today, there’s no excuse not to be covered. A small investment in these systems now can keep you not only protect, but actually operational, in the event of the worst-case scenario. No one beats the odds forever.

 

Cut-off from Your Business When You Are Out of the Office

Constant access is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for business of all sizes. Your employees, and clients need access to you and your data instantly regardless of location. Clients and prospective clients will no longer wait for you to get back into the office to address their questions or concerns; if you can’t supply what they need when they need it, they’ll move onto the next organization who can. In the current business climate, we’ve all come to expect instant attention to our own questions, and in turn we need to be able to give that expectation right back to our employees and customers.

 

Not Having a Second String QB

We find that SMBs try to manage their networks with limited staff. Pulled in too many directions already, it’s usually the business owner who bears the brunt and winds up managing IT along with everything else. Working with a trusted managed services provider, one who has the training,  experience, and manpower will free up your time to focus on more important issues, like running your business.

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