Company Documents Disappear and are Lost Forever

lostDocuments Lost!

A client recently decided to upgrade all equipment to Windows 10.  In the process, all important data had to be backed up. Due to traditional and old practices, it was inevitable that some documents where lost in the process. Documents were kept in places other than “My Documents” and the external hard drive which was used to do backups, suddenly did not have all the documents it was faithfully backing up.  Does this sound familiar to you?

This could have been easily avoided.  These days it is very easy to get a cloud sync client.  A cloud sync client is a tool that allows you to keep your files where you like them, and also keeps a copy online as a backup. You can also access by any other device with internet access.  The players in this space are:

Sync Clients

  1. Dropbox
  2. Onedrive/Onedrive for Business
  3. Googledrive
  4. Box

Once the sync client of choice is loaded, it needs to to be configured to sync the folders you choose to sync to the cloud storage facility.  Most of the modern clients allow you to sync selective folders. This means that once you have backed up all your documents to the cloud storage facility, you can then selectively sync only certain folders.  This allows you to save on bandwidth costs and access documents you have archived when you need to.  Day to day documents can sync more regularly.

For those who are not office bound, most of the usual suspects also have phone and tablet sync clients as well.  This is convenient for those requiring to access documents on the go.  You can do a quick edit before sending to colleagues or clients.

Privacy and security of your data

Note, however, that the free clients come at a price.  Once uploaded to a free facility, those documents are not guaranteed to be in your sole possession.  Sometimes this is OK for the small businesses just starting out.  It beats having your documents disappearing due to a bad backup and only having restricted access.  However when you need to practice good corporate governance and comply with POPI, you need to have a professional service such as Office 365 by Microsoft.  The others also have a professional secure service for file storage and access, however we have found that the package offered by Microsoft provides best of breed tools for all your needs. It is what you are familiar with.

Here is a video on how document management and sync works.  Please maximize the youtube video to full screen for clarity.

Give us a call to help you with your document management – contact us below:

 

Access to company information

company information secureCompany Information.

What happens when you need access to company information across the company? Read an amusing and thought provoking article on one of my favorite technology sites. An administrator posted a situation where he was asked to provide password’s to everyone’s computers by the boss of the company.

https://community.spiceworks.com/topic/1629883-boss-wants-everyone-s-passwords?source=start&pos=6

Have a read on the contributions. Quite enlightening! In my experience though, this method of gaining access is not the most practical. There is a better way…

In my opinion, what is actually required would be the communication information that the company receives, generates and sends out. Typically this will be email and documents. Maybe chat as well, if the company is using this to communicate with suppliers and clients.

There is one platform which provides a unified way to audit and secure communication – Office 365!

When setup correctly, all communication are audited and kept on hold for future reference.  You even have the ability to prevent certain information from leaving the company via email and documents.  And all of this can be securely accessed at your very own computer.

Company Information SecurePractical cases:

  1. Employee is on leave and the team needs access to email for that time.
  2. Company/department announcements via email not meant for outside communication can be restricted to company/department – no forwarding, copying or printing of the email message – you can even time bomb the message!
  3. Documents needed to be secured – Management, HR, Finance sensitive documents.

The list goes on.

The electronic communications act of South Africa states that electronic communication including emails can be presented in court as legal communication.  It therefore makes sense to have some form of governance on company information generated by company employees via email, documents and chat.

Let us help you get your communications to the next level!  Contact us below.  Look forward to hearing from you.

Free Office365 for NPO’s

free

Did you know that Office 365 for NPO’s is free? As in Mahala, Zip, Nada! Just like Google Apps is free, Microsoft came on board to provide non profits the ability to have their email and documents hosted on Office 365.  See here: https://products.office.com/en-us/nonprofit/office-365-nonprofit.

What you get for free:

All of Office 365 online benefits(Up to 300 users):

Microsoft Exchange

Email platform which connects to all the features of your Outlook program.  This means email which does not run out of space, is protected from malware and viri, can be archived online and can be accessed than more than one person. Everyone in the organisation can do proper calendar sharing and scheduling.  Microsoft has also come out with free programs for your Apple and Android phones which mimic Outlook.  So you can see Email and Calendar(s) on the move and when you get back to the office, your Outlook reflects what you read and sent on your phones!

Microsoft Sharepoint and Onedrive

This is the de facto standard for Document backup and collaboration. Backup your documents on this platform.  Securely share these documents with who you need to and ensure that the format of the document remains true. Even with the free Word and Excel applications on your phones and tablets.

This really saves you time and money for a free product.  All you need to do is apply for this benefit – we can assist you with this!

Now you may ask if there are any gotcha’s here.

This is what you need to know:

In order to get yourself onto this platform, you need your domain to be configured to point to the Microsoft servers. Your old email and documents will need to be transferred to the new platform.  Your Office package will need to be configured to point to the new email server and documents automatically saved online.  There will also be a need for some hand holding in the beginning to get used to the system and start using the benefits as they should be.  As part of our efforts as good citizens, we would be willing to put in some hours for free.  So give us a call! We are here to help and be part of your mission to provide assistance.

 

 

Document Management in Office 365

Document Generation
Document Generation

Electronic Document Generation is standard in any business now.

Documents such as letters to suppliers, quotations, budgets on excel spreadsheets and presentations on PowerPoint for the sales person.  Traditionally, a document is emailed back and forth when worked upon.  If you have a formal IT service, you may have a server in which you store documents in folders. These are shared with relevant team members.  Nowadays, it is convenient to use a service such as Dropbox to backup and share documents with staff and external contacts.

Most companies require:

  1. a reliable and secure means of backing up their documents.
  2. having a simple way of searching for relevant documents. This includes content contained in the document.
  3. document organisation that makes more sense than using traditional folder structure.
  4. security and protection of company sensitive documents.  (NOT Dropbox!)

Traditional means of working with documents wastes valuable company time. There is a cost effective solution!

Office 365 by Microsoft allows you to address all the requirements above at a reasonable price.  There a many additional features which contribute towards better teamwork and collaborative environment.

Delve:

Delve Teamwork Collaboration Documentation
Teamwork and Collaboration

This utility allows everyone on the Office 365 platform to truly collaborate with each other. You can keep in touch with any document generation in your company.  Permissions are strictly enforced – only documents which are accessible can be viewed.

Planner:

Similar in function to Microsoft Projects, Planner is a simplified version of a project management tool – think about several people working on a project requiring common documentation, tasks, calendaring and common email.

https://products.office.com/en-us/business/office-365-planner

In terms of productivity and teamwork, the Office 365 stack is a great tool to use in your organisation.  Try out Office 365 for your organisation – contact us below and we will get back to you to set up an appointment to demonstrate features and listen to your requirements.  Look forward to hearing from you!

Procedures and Documentation – Eeeeish!

Having been in this sector for a looooong time, I’ve grudgingly come to appreciate documentation.

I diligently scan articles in my company sector and came across this article: Great Way to Document Procedures and Policies

This ties into a book I read recently, The E-Myth, Revisited.  The basic principle is that if you want to scale your business and provide a predictable and comfortable experience for your customer, you must ensure that you have procedures and policies in place.  This should be in a central and easily accessible documentation repository.  This ensures that your business provides a consistent and superior service.

One of the biggest challenges in our field is understand how the environment works, what it took to get there and if the doodoo hits the fan, what to do to REMOVE THE FAN! Then see what you can do about the doodoo….

Documentation

Each customer’s environment has its quirks and special sauce.  A common occurrence is that only the Technician that fixed the problem, rarely documents the procedure taken to fix this problem.  This is endemic in our field of work – its actually cultural.  Ours is traditionally a break-fix mentality.  It if works, leave it alone and move on to the next one.  Pray that it does not break, and if the Gods have a sense of humor on the day, react the best you can.  A technician’s sole purpose is to fix the problem.  However this does not work for a Managed Services environment and for those of us that want to provide a long term valued service!

What we have started using is Onenote stored on Sharepoint for Office 365.  This ensures that we can add video’s, audio, pictures and doodles in Tech speak.  We also have the ability of sharing a Knowledge Base or Wiki with our customers so that they too can also help themselves.  Using the Office 365 platform also affords us the ability of using Rights Management (excuse spelling mistakes in this article – author explains very simply what Rights Management is) to provide secure access to sensitive content like passwords to equipment.

Over the long term, this will build a good knowledge base for new technicians to familiarize themselves with. It will also give us the edge on avoiding issues or solving them in record time.  Met EEEEISH ya….:-)

Terminals and Office 365 for Education

More benefits for our client – Terminals and Education Pricing!

We recently implemented an updated solution at a training center for an 18 seat computer laboratory. We had to use existing infrastructure with terminals and ensure the customer’s budget was respected.

Cost savings on correct Microsoft Licensing and Terminal Setup

Most Educational Institutes, in our experience, are unaware of the benefits of using terminals vs traditional computers. Significant cost savings are also obtained from Microsoft Educational pricing.  This combination allows the organisation to obtain the benefits of running terminals with the added advantage of saving on licensing costs normally applied to such a design.  A business organisation would pay several times more for the same solution!

Multipoint Server Magic!

We licensed the client for the latest Microsoft Multipoint Server.  That is, Multipoint Server 2012 Premium, on Educational Microsoft Volume licensing. This afforded the trainer several advantages which come with Multipoint 2012:
Disk  Protection – when the server reboots, sessions go back to defaults . In a student environment, if USB sticks are allowed or the student downloads malware, all that needs to be done is reboot the server.  All issues are resolved as the server reverts back to defaults.
Control of Student Sessions – see what is happening on each students screen on a dashboard, project teacher or select student screen to every other student for teaching purposes, lock keyboard and mouse, restrict internet access, chat to one or several students at once and so much more.

We managed to get this done on hardware that was past support for latest system.  Multipoint Server 2012 with some creative fiddling on driver support allowed us have everything working as stable as can be.

Office 365 Education Terminals
Office 365 Pro Plus

The added benefit is that we licensed the school on Microsoft Office 365 Student Advantage – free Office Pro Plus software for Students. Educational institutes qualify for this if they are properly licensed on Educational Volume licensing – we made sure they are.  So Students can work on ANY terminal, log out, work on any terminal again and pick up where they left off in their Word document with the added benefit of doing the same at home!!! Students can load office on their home computers as well! Winner 🙂

At the end, the training institute saved a significant amount of money using existing infrastructure, using terminals to provide students with a computer session and using education licensing.  The school also provides the students with the latest legally licensed Microsoft Office, so that they can work from home.

Customer and students are happy.  And so are we!

Using Onenote for Shared Information and Collaboration

Our client had a typical challenge of receiving email on to their admin employee from suppliers and customers etc.  In order to get to these attachments and correspondence, you would traditionally need access to this person’s computer or open their email on your Outlook and search.  With Office 365, there’s a much better way.  Every-day scenario’s for every small business are the following:

  1. Statements. credit notes etc from Suppliers
  2. Emails sent and received on a small project
  3. Emails that need to be brainstormed using different media – audio recordings, link to internet resources, various attachments etc.

Several ways to deal with this on Office 365.

  1. Groups feature on Outlook.
  2. Forward to a shared email
  3. Onenote

Each method has pro’s and con’s.  As the customer’s requirements was a secure shared resource that included the email message, was searchable and with the added bonus of being able to collaborate on, Onenote won the day.

Basically, you use the feature in Outlook to send email to Onenote – choose the notebook and section to send to.  Onenote automatically syncs for all who are connected and authorised to do so.

This will work perfectly for small business who possibly generates a few records per day and who’s attachments are not ‘huge’. Most of us are in this position though!

Company Outlook Address Book

Outlook Address Book
Company Address Book

In my years of running my businesses, I’ve regularly come across this challenge facing most businesses – silo’s of information restricted to only some members in the organization – a typical example of this is the company address book.  This is not by design but just due to traditional means of communication and tools.  In the case of a common address book, this is kept by someone, say a PA, in a book or at best, in an excel file which is not shared efficiently.  Similarly, the buyer has his own hoard of addresses.  I think you know what this leads to! Fortunately, we have managed to address this problem with one of the features of Office 365 – a common and shared Company Outlook Address Book. As usual, there are many ways to skin the cat, pardon the cat lovers!, however we have found this method is the most convenient way to implement this.

This involves the following mojo:

  1. Creating an address book on Sharepoint team site with the necessary permission rights
  2. Syncing this address book to Outlook of the people who have been granted access and configuring address book for easy reach.

The benefits of the shared outlook address book are the following:

  1. Secured shared address book and notes to your whole organization
  2. Anyone given permission can edit and change content.
  3. Automatic backup and easy restore of deleted/modified contacts.
  4. Easy search for contacts.

Scenario:

Your business, at one time had an issue that only one supplier was able to fix – say your exclusive coffee maker for VIP clients(and yourself 🙂 ).  Its years down the line, it breaks down at a critical point in time and nobody can remember who the repairer was as there was only one person who dealt with this company.  She has left the company and nobody can find the contact!  Sound familiar?

Easy Peasy! Since you set up the company outlook address book in Office 365, and had added the details there in the notes, all you do is search for the word ‘Coffee’.  Abracadabra!  The details come up and Office 365 magic saves the day.

What this cannot do:

  1. As yet, Sharepoint contact lists cannot sync with your phone.
  2. However you can bookmark a direct link to this outlook address book on your phone browser and login to Office 365 this way.  Bit of an inconvenience for phones with small screens though!

My interest in finding ways to share information was inspired by reading this article:

https://www.successfactors.com/en_us/lp/articles/using-technology-to-increase-your-business-productivity.html

Hope this provides value to you too!  Please feel free to contact us below for assistance on setting this feature up for your company.

Office 365 – Why choose this for your Business?

Office 365
Office for all your devices

Office 365 is good for your business!  Being in the computer support business since the beginning of my career(about 20 years now) has given me some insight into the usual challenges facing business on a daily basis.

As a small business, you have limited resources – not enough TIME in the day and, budget. You just cannot afford for things to go wrong – it costs soo much more to get back to work if something happens!

Computers are a part of this – gone are the days which you get away with just faxing and calling clients and suppliers on the phone.

EMAIL!

Love or hate it, its here to stay! Microsoft Outlook is the de-facto standard for reading your email. And with email are electronic documents like your Excel and Word documents. Every business has to have this as basics at least. And as the days of faxing and traditional voice calls are going the way of the dinosaur, so too is the old way of emailing and document management.

  • Email down? Used to be that this was tolerable for clients and suppliers. Now? Happens often enough, they’ll just go to your competition.
  • Not responding to email fast enough? Ditto!
  • Documents getting lost or in the wrong format? You get a frown from the recipient – too many and you in danger of the same.
  • Can’t access email and documents while on the move? There goes that client who needs someone to respond fast.

This article provides a good analysis of the impact of email downtime.   Needless to say, your facilities need to current, reliable and most of all, MANAGEABLE!

Office 365 to the Rescue….

Office 365 by Microsoft offers you all of this. It is provided by the company which has provided you with the products since the day you started on computers. Now all they have done is taken what you use, made it much better, taken the need for you to have a server onsite and shifted it to their computer centres. As long as you have a reliable internet(and even if not) you can access all services securely and reliably, which is guaranteed to have a 99.9% uptime. You have the latest software and features normally reserved for big enterprise at a fraction of the cost. Office 365 is a bouquet of powerful pieces of software and services which when used well, can increase the efficiency and productivity of your business significantly.

Watch this video to get an idea on what Office 365 does:

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