What Is Microsoft Defender for Individuals & What Does It Do?

When you hear about Microsoft adding security apps to M365, it’s often the business versions. But the pandemic has changed the way that we see the workplace. It’s now a hybrid world. One made up of several connected “mini-offices” located in employee homes.

The outsourcing market has also contributed to the change in company networks. Freelancers are often contracted to work the same hours as employees. This means less overhead and taxes to pay. Approximately 68% of large consumer products companies outsource a part of their workforce.

What we’re getting at is that the need for home devices and network security has never been greater. Company data is now at the mercy of employee devices, situated in homes across the globe.

55% of employees use their own devices and software to work from home.

Microsoft has been at the forefront of this huge shift in the work environment. Its latest release is another example of how it has positioned its products to address new needs.

The latest security offering by Microsoft is not for business plans. It’s for Personal and Family users of Microsoft 365. The company announced Microsoft Defender for Individuals on June 16, 2022. This is a brand-new digital home security tool.

The Basics of Microsoft Defender for Individuals

Microsoft Defender is a new app that Microsoft 365 subscribers can download. Anyone with a Personal or Family plan can access it for no extra cost.

According to Microsoft, there was a main driver for offering Microsoft Defender. It was to protect the digital life of small businesses and families. Small companies will often use consumer Microsoft 365 plans. This is because they are less expensive than the business plans.

This app brings many digital protections together into one dashboard. These include the following.

Online Security Visibility

Most families have several devices connected to their network. This includes computers, tablets, and smartphones. It can be hard to know which are vulnerable before a hacked device infects the others.

Microsoft Defender gives you visibility into the security status of your devices. It does this in a single place. So, you could see if that new phone of Sally’s has antivirus enabled. You can also easily add or remove devices.

Device Safeguards

The app includes extra protections from online threats. These are in the form of help from antivirus and anti-phishing protection.

You can use it to continually scan devices for threats, both new and existing. You also gain control of scanning customization. For example, you can note certain apps as safe and tell Microsoft Defender what to scan.

Real-Time Alerts & Recommendations

Hackers use automation and AI to unleash their attacks and help them spread. This means that it’s often a race against the clock to stop a breach from getting worse.

To react fast, you need to know something is wrong. Microsoft Defender helps you by giving you real-time alerts. These also come with recommended actions. So, you not only know something is wrong, but you also know what to do about it.

What Else Should You Know?

Here are a few other important things you should know about using Microsoft Defender for Individuals.

Where Can You Download It?

You can download Microsoft Defender for Individuals from Microsoft here. You need to have a Microsoft 365 subscription to either the Personal or Family plan.

What Devices Can Use It?

You can use Defender to secure and monitor the following devices:

  • Windows: Windows 10 version 19041.0 and higher
  • Mac: Intel Macs from Catalina 10.15 and higher, and Apple silicon-based devices from 11.2.3 and up
  • iPhone: iOS 13.0 or later
  • Android: Android OS 6.0 or later

How Many Devices Can You Add?

Microsoft Defender allows you to watch the security of many of your home or work devices. The M365 plan you have will dictate how many.

  • If you have Microsoft 365 Personal plan, you can receive protection on up to 5 devices at the same time.
  • If you have Microsoft 365 Family plan, you can receive protection on up to 30 devices at the same time. (5 devices per person, 6 people total)

What Are the Key Differences Between the Personal & Family Plans?

Both plans can access the many different Office and other Microsoft applications. The main difference is how many people and devices can use the Microsoft 365 services.

  • Microsoft 365 Personal: $69.99 US/year, 1 person, 5 devices
  • Microsoft 365 Family: $99.99 US/year, 6 people, 5 devices per person

So, if you want to sign up even 2 people, you’re saving quite a bit with the Family plan. Even more, if you have six people total using the service.

What’s the Difference Between Microsoft Security on Windows & Microsoft Defender?

Most Windows users are already familiar with the Microsoft Security app. It comes pre-installed on Windows. Microsoft Defender differs from this app in several ways.

Microsoft Defender:

  • Is not pre-installed on Windows. You must download it.
  • It’s a cross-device application used on many different devices
  • It includes features for online security
  • It includes alerts and security tips

Learn More About Defender & Microsoft 365 Today

Are you looking to get more from your Microsoft 365 subscription? We can help! Reach out today to schedule a technology consultation with our M365 experts.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Internet Explorer Has Lost All Support (What You Need to Know)

After being the main entry to the internet in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Internet Explorer (IE) is gone. As of June 15, 2022, Microsoft dropped the web browser from support.

IE ushered in the age of connection to the world in 1995 and held a majority of the browser market share for many years. But the release of newer technologies like Google Chrome made it less relevant.

In 2014, Internet Explorer still held about 59% of the global market share, with Chrome at 21%. But just two years later, IE lost its top spot to Chrome and trailed behind another newcomer, Safari.

In 2015, the writing was already on the wall when Microsoft released a new browser, Edge. With Edge destined to take IE’s place as the official browser installed on Windows systems.

It’s inevitable, the longer technology is driving work and home life, that we’re going to lose some of our favorites. Adobe Flash Player is another technology that used to be widely used and is now gone.

So, now that IE has reached its end of life (EOL), what happens next?

Microsoft Will Redirect Users to IE Mode in Edge

According to Microsoft, now that IE is officially out of support it will redirect users. Over the next few months, a new experience will happen. Those opening this outdated browser will instead land in Microsoft Edge with IE mode.

To ease the transition away from Internet Explorer, Microsoft added IE Mode to Edge. This mode makes it possible for organizations to still use legacy sites that may have worked best in IE. It uses the Trident MSHTML engine from IE11 to do this.

When in IE mode, you’ll still see the Internet Explorer icon on your device. But if you open it, you’ll actually be in Microsoft Edge.

Microsoft Will Be Removing Internet Explorer Icons in the Future

Microsoft isn’t yet getting rid of the IE icons that appear in places like the taskbar and Start menu on Windows. But it will in a future update. Users can expect to see those removed at some point.

Edge Will Import Browser Data from IE

What about your favorites, saved passwords, and other settings that you have in IE? Microsoft Edge will import these from Internet Explorer for you, so they’re not lost. This will include things like your browsing history and other data stored in the browser. You’ll then be able to access these in the Microsoft Edge’s settings area.

With IE Retired, What Do You Need to Do Now?

Uninstall the Browser

It’s risky to keep older technology that is no longer supported on your system. Cybercriminals love to exploit older tools that are not receiving any security updates. This leaves an open invitation to breach your network. Manufacturers are never going to address these because they retired the software.

Outdated technology costs enterprises approximately 47% more when they suffer a data breach. As compared to those with updated tools.

You should transition your stored information to Microsoft Edge (or another trusted browser). Then uninstall IE from your device or devices.

Ensure Employees Know How to Use IE Mode in Edge

A scenario that businesses want to avoid is what happened to many organizations in Japan. Several government and corporate users weren’t prepared for the retirement of IE.

It was reported that IT and engineering departments received many calls for help. This was due to unpreparedness for the browser’s demise. Although it came with warnings, it was a shock to many that used legacy sites that need IE to work. This included the customers of government agencies, financial institutions, and other organizations.

This left them scrambling to try to figure out what to do at the last minute. They still needed access to employee attendance management, and other online tools.

Of course, with IE mode in Edge, this transition didn’t need to be so chaotic. But without communication or training, more than 20% of affected users hadn’t figured out what to do.

Make sure you communicate with your team what to do. Companies can automate IE mode for their users so that it launches automatically.

Train Employees on Microsoft Edge Features

Microsoft Edge has a lot of benefits over IE and other browsers. It’s faster and more responsive than Internet Explorer. It also has comprehensive security controls (including password breach monitoring). And has unique features such as “collections.”

But with all new tools, if you want employees to use them proficiently, they need to have a chance to learn them. Take the time to transition right, and have your employees trained on Edge.

Need Help Upgrading Your Digital Tools?

You don’t have to panic when a technology you use retires. We can help you upgrade well ahead of any deadlines. Reach out today to schedule a technology consultation.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Microsoft Productivity Score Overview

Productivity can be challenging to track, no matter where employees are working. How do you know they’re using their tools as effectively as possible? How can you enable them to adopt best practices?

These are questions that managers often ask themselves. If they’re looking at the wrong things, it can get in the way of empowering their team. For example, you can’t grade productivity simply by “clock in/clock out” times.

In today’s hybrid and mobile offices, the value and work product an employee brings is a better gauge. But you also must look at what may be getting in the way of great employees doing great work.

Technology tools can slow down dedicated workers if they’re not familiar with them. Employees may be doing things the way they always have been, and not realize there is a better way. A faster way.

But productivity can be a tricky area to address. You don’t want to invade a remote employee’s privacy by tracking their every keystroke. Nor would that likely help with positive forward motion.

What’s the answer?

If your company uses Microsoft 365 then you have a tool you can use to find nuggets of productivity gold. This tool is Microsoft Productivity Score.

What Does Microsoft Productivity Score Do?

Microsoft Productivity Score looks at some core areas of your employees’ workflow. It also looks at them in aggregate. Because it’s looking at your team as a whole, you avoid issues with employees feeling personally spied on.

The tool gives you helpful insights that you can share with your staff. These insights help to boost their performance. It also includes hardware-related information. You can use this to see if your company tools are holding people back.

MS Productivity Score looks at the following areas.

People Experiences

This category looks at how people work. Are they using best practices for collaboration or are they doing things the hard way? Do meetings go on forever? Are employees still emailing attachments instead of using shared cloud storage links?

One example of an insight from this category is as follows. Each employee can save an average of 100 minutes per week by collaborating with online files. Productivity Score can show you where your team stands in this metric, and many others.

Saving 100 minutes per week is equal to approximately 86.6 hours per year. That’s over 2 full workweeks!

People experiences
All Productivity Score images are from Microsoft.

The subcategories within people experiences are:

  • Communication
  • Content collaboration
  • Mobility
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork

Technology Experiences

Technology experiences look at the health and performance of your devices. Do you have hardware and software on endpoints that are causing issues? Is it slowing your team down? Are there network connectivity problems? Are apps updated as they should be?

This category will look at the technology that your team works with and let you know of any risk areas. When technology is not functioning well or isn’t secure, it can slow your business down.

You’ll find these three subcategories in the technology experiences area:

  • Endpoint analytics (You need Intune for these)
  • Network connectivity
  • Microsoft 365 apps health

Special Reports

Besides the people and technology experiences, there is more. Microsoft Productivity Score has a special reports area. It provides details on business continuity.

This report can show you how employee collaboration and other activities are changing. It looks at these as your company goes through transitions. Such as when you transition to remote working or back to in-office work. This report tells you how these changes impact your team’s productivity.

Special-reports

How Productivity Score Helps Your Company

Automatic Metrics Tracking

Microsoft Productivity Score tracks your team’s use of Microsoft 365 applications automatically. It then will provide you with helpful information on how staff use their digital tools.

These metrics give you a good picture of whether employees are using best practices. Often, they simply need guidance to learn a more efficient way of doing something.

Insights to Understand the Data

The tool provides you with helpful insights to understand the data. You won’t only get the metrics; you’ll get the context. This allows you to educate yourself. Then you can educate your employees on things that improve workflow and save time.

For example, getting a response quickly to a question saves time. But you may not realize that using @mentions can help achieve that. Productivity Score will tell you how many people use @mentions in team communications. And also, how much this increases the response rate.

Insights to understand the Data

Recommended Actions to Take

The third piece of guidance you gain is what to do about the information. Productivity Score will give you actionable recommendations to improve a metric. This helps you to improve productivity.

The combination of the metric, insight, and recommendation make this a comprehensive tool.

Would You Like to Get Started with Microsoft Productivity Score?

We can help you get your organization started with this great tool. And provide solutions to increase company productivity. Give us a call and let’s chat!


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

5 Exciting Ways Microsoft 365 Can Enable the Hybrid Office

“Hybrid office” is the new buzzword you’ll hear used in business discussions. It’s the mix of having employees both working at the office and working from home. This has become more than a buzzword and is now the reality for many companies.

There was a survey of employees with remote-capable jobs. The survey found that as of February of 2022, 42% of them were working a hybrid schedule. And 39% were working from home full time.

The global pandemic brought on this hybrid office transition. It forced companies to operate with teams that could no longer safely come to the office. During this time, employers and employees experienced the benefits of hybrid work firsthand.

These benefits of remote teams included cost savings for both workers and employers. It also allowed the company to operate with more flexibility. Improved worker morale was another advantage.

One fact surprised many employers that feared remote work would tank productivity. It actually increased in many circumstances.

63% of high-growth companies use a “productivity anywhere” hybrid work approach.

In order for hybrid teams to be productive, they need to stay connected. No matter where they work, the right technology tools should enable them.

One of the leaders in this space has been Microsoft. The company plans to add several exciting updates this year. These will provide more tools for companies to enable their hybrid teams.

Here are some of the ways you can use Microsoft 365 to optimize a productive hybrid office. Note, that some of these features are already out, and others should release later this year.

1. Microsoft Teams & Expanded Features

Microsoft Teams is much more than a team messaging app. The application combines the best features of virtual video meetings and messaging channels. It brings them together into a platform designed to be a secure online work hub.

MS Teams has come a long way in the last five years. And the company continues to add more features to enable hybrid offices. Some of the recent feature updates include:

  • The ability to do webinar registration
  • Presenter modes that provide a more professional virtual presence
  • Increased security through features like smart links and smart attachments
  • A full business VoIP phone system add-on
  • The addition of a “metaverse” component called Mesh for Teams
Mesh for MS Teams
Mesh for Microsoft Teams

2. New Meeting Options for RSVP in Outlook

One of the challenges, when everyone isn’t working in the same place, is how to know when to “clock in” and “clock out.” As well as how to let colleagues know whether you are working at home next week or the office.

To help hybrid teams better coordinate, Outlook is getting an update. It will allow users to RSVP to meetings. This can let team members know whether they are attending virtually or in person.

3. Better Framing for More Engaging Meetings

One thing that can distract from the purpose of a meeting is someone’s background at home. Positioning of the camera can also be problematic. One person might have their face taking up 80% of the video screen. Another may only take up 20% because they’re sitting farther away from their PC’s camera.

A new Surface Hub 2S Smart Camera will allow for better face framing. This will affect when people are meeting virtually in Microsoft Teams. Features include adjusting the room view so people’s faces will be clearer. As well as having more consistent sizing.

The video display will also automatically adjust as people join or leave a physical room.

Surface Hub 2S Smart Camera
Images are from Microsoft

4. Get Better Control of Your Video Using PowerPoint to Present

People often share a screen in a video call and present a PowerPoint presentation. It can be difficult to keep everyone as engaged as when you’re presenting in person.

For example, in person, you can maintain eye contact. People can clearly see your facial expressions as you emphasize various things. That’s not always the case when presenting virtually. The app may push your video feed into a tiny box.

There’s a new upcoming feature for Teams called Cameo. It will allow you to seamlessly integrate PowerPoint with MS teams. You can decide exactly how you want your video feed to appear in relation to your presentation.

Another addition is Recording Studio. This new feature for PowerPoint allows you to record professional-looking on-demand videos. You can do it right inside the app.

Cameo
Cameo in PowerPoint & MS Teams

5. Get Help With Your Presentation Skills

Microsoft has poured a lot of AI capabilities into Microsoft 365 over the last several years. One that will soon help you deliver better virtual presentations is Speaker Coach.

This is a private and personalized coach. It can help you hone your presentation skills. This improves your switch to the differences between presenting online versus in person.

Some of the feedback it can provide include:

  • Use of repetitive language
  • Use of filler words (Ummm)
  • Speaking pace
  • Pausing for input
  • Intonation
  • Speaker overlaps
  • And more

Ask Us About Improving Your Hybrid Office Capabilities with Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 has a ton of helpful features. But it does help to have an expert guide to help you navigate these capabilities. Contact us today to set up a chat about how Microsoft 365 can help your business grow.


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Should I Consider Switching to Microsoft’s Edge Browser? (Top Features)

One of the most important applications we choose is our internet browser. When on a computer or a mobile device, we work in that most of the time because many applications are now cloud-based, so accessing them means going through your browser.

Over the years browsers have come and gone. A little over a decade ago, Internet Explorer was the head of the pack, and now that browser is retired, Google’s Chrome has been in the top spot for several years.

But just because a browser is number one today, doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way. One browser that has steadily been making its way up in popularity since its release in 2015 is Microsoft Edge.

Edge is the replacement for Internet Explorer, but it’s taken a while for it to become mainstream. It seems that now is its time.

Microsoft Edge recently surpassed Firefox in worldwide desktop browser market share and is now the #3 Desktop browser in the world behind Chrome and Safari. And it’s less than one percentage point behind Safari, so it is poised to jump into second place soon.

Current desktop browser market share:

  • Chrome 64.8%
  • Safari 9.77%
  • Edge 9.6%
  • Firefox 9.46%
  • Opera 2.88%
  • Internet Explorer 1.14%

Why has Edge become so popular in the last few years when it seemed to be slow out of the gate? One big reason is that it adopted the Chromium framework in 2020. This is the same background framework that Chrome uses.

This sped up the browser considerably, plus multiplied the number of extensions and add-ons that could be used with it.

Should you switch to Edge? You’ll have to decide that for yourself, but here are several great features that might make you want to give it a try.

Collections for Storing Sets of Pages

All browsers have some form of “favorites” or bookmarks to save webpage links. And these lists quickly become long and unorganized, making it hard to find what you’re looking for after a while.

Edge has a very nice feature called Collections. This allows you to save web pages in a sidebar and group them by topic. For example, you could create a topic called Vacation Planning and then save all the web pages from your trip research inside.

If there is an image on the page, that will show up to help you recognize the site. And collections are easy to access by using the “+” icon at the top of the browser.

Collections are also easy to delete once you’ve finished with them, so you won’t end up with endless webpage links, as tends to happen with bookmarks.

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Coupons

You don’t have to add a coupon app to your browser to get site coupons anymore. Edge will do this for you automatically.

If it detects that there are coupons for a site you’re shopping on, you’ll get a popup and can click to automatically try any coupons available for that site.

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This saves you from having to take the time to search for coupons on your own and ensures you don’t miss any potential savings out there.

Price Comparison

Another way that Edge helps you get the best deal when shopping online is through its pricing history and price comparison information. If you’re shopping on a website and the product that you’re viewing is cheaper on another site, Edge will let you know.

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It’s also going to provide you with a price history so you can see if this product is at its highest or lowest price related to the site you’re viewing.

This is very handy for saving money and ensuring you’re not missing out on savings by ordering the same item from a different retailer.

Security Features

There are several built-in security features to help you avoid phishing sites with malware as well as intrusive 3rd party advertising trackers.

There is a password monitoring feature that will let you know if any passwords you have stored have been involved in a breach.

You’ll also get Microsoft Defender SmartScreen protection for keeping you away from sites known to have malware or to have been used in phishing scams.

Google is sometimes criticized for lack of privacy, and Microsoft is trying to go in another direction on this. In Edge, you can choose from three tracking prevention settings to prevent as much of your personal information from being captured by advertisers as possible.

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Web Capture for Quick Screenshots

It’s easy to do screenshots and mark them up in Edge. In the browser menu, you just choose Web Capture, which will allow you to drag a rectangle across any region you like or to take a full shot of the screen, then bring that into a window if you’d like to add additional notes.

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Is Your Internet Security Where You Need It To Be?

Online security is important both at home and at work. Need some help ensuring you have the right safeguards in place? Give us a call!


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Pros & Cons of Using the Windows 365 Cloud PC

While many companies have moved most of their workflows to the cloud, there is still a key component of office operations that is location-based. This would be employee computers.

Most companies still rely on desktops and laptops to allow employees to access critical software and as their main workstation.

This can become inconvenient if you’re doing work from one location. For example, if you work both at the office and home, in one of those places, you’ll be without your “main computer.” This can be a real problem when it comes to needing to access certain files or possibly working from a slower device than you’re used to.

Many technology companies, such as Microsoft, have an answer for this – put your computer workstation in the cloud. This is exactly what is being touted as the next big thing when it comes to Windows 365 Cloud PC.

What is Windows 365?

Windows 365 is a cloud-based PC. Your entire operating system and everything that sits on it (settings, files, software, etc.) is loaded on a cloud server instead of your own device’s hard drive. You can then access this through an online portal, and the interface will load onto your device (desktop, laptop, tablet, etc.).

Microsoft’s Windows 365 Cloud-based PC

Like other cloud-based services, Windows 365 works from a subscription plan and has different levels. Here are the current options for the business plans:

  • $31/user/month: 2vCPU, 4 GB RAM, 128 GB Storage
  • $41/user/month: 2vCPU, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB Storage
  • $66/user/month: 4vCPU, 16 GB RAM, 128 GB Storage

Windows 365 can be accessed through any type of device, from anywhere, just like other cloud services. You can install applications, personalize your desktop, and do all the things you normally do on a computer. The main difference is that the computer operating system is now in the cloud.

Windows 365 Pros

Access Your Computer Anywhere

The biggest advantage is being able to use your “main computer” no matter where you are, without having to drag it around.

This can be a big advantage when traveling because you don’t have to worry about a laptop being damaged, lost, or stolen and losing vital data. You still have your PC and files safely stored in the cloud and can easily get to it from another device.

Perfect for the Hybrid Work World

Hybrid work is the new normal. Since the pandemic, there’s been a shift with more employees than ever working from home. Now many companies are planning to keep a mix of office and remote working.

74% of U.S. companies are using or planning to implement a permanent hybrid work model.

The Windows 365 cloud-based PC makes it easy to enable employees to work from home, work, or both.

Better Access to Device Security & Administration

When employees are working remotely, ensuring all their devices are properly updated can be a problem. And what happens if an employee quits suddenly and has a lot of sensitive work data on a device located in their home?

Using cloud PCs gives a company complete control of its PC assets and data. Employees log in from anywhere, but the “computer” itself is located in a cloud environment, making it easy to do things like push security updates and restrict access.

Windows 365 Cons

You Can Only Use It Online

The obvious drawback of a Windows cloud PC is that you can only use it online. You won’t have access to any data, files, or programs if you don’t have an internet connection.

This may not be as big of an issue for many people since most work is now reliant on cloud applications anyhow.

A Slow Connection Ruins the Experience

If you have a slow internet connection, then the frustration can be multiplied. Not only would this slow down a cloud app you’re trying to access but also the cloud computer you’re trying to access it from.

There is a risk when using a computer in the cloud of experiencing lag time, making it difficult to work.

There is a Danger of Service Outage

You’re reliant on the cloud provider – in this case, Microsoft – to always have the service available. Even large companies can have outages from time to time, in which case you will not be able to access your computer or any of your data stored on it.

Being too reliant on one cloud vendor is also a risk to business continuity. One way to mitigate that risk would be to ensure all data stored in Windows 365 is being backed up separately in a 3rd party backup solution.

Is a Cloud PC Right for Your Business?

There are several instances when Windows 365 offers big benefits to a company. If you’re trying to figure things out, call us for a chat. We can help you consider all angles.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Microsoft Teams Plan Comparison: Free vs M365 Business vs Teams Essentials

The shift to remote work over the last two years has caused companies to realign their digital tools. Now, many meetings default to being via video conference rather than in person, and working from home has become commonplace.

Seventy-seven percent of remote workers say they’re more productive working from home (a big reason is fewer distractions). Plus 85% of surveyed managers expect that having teams with remote workers will be the new normal.

But for remote working to work without employees feeling disconnected and customers feeling you’re hard to reach, you need to use cloud communication tools. One of the most popular, which has skyrocketed in popularity, is Microsoft Teams.

Between April 2020 and April 2021, the Microsoft Teams daily active users count rose from 75 million to 145 million

Teams is an all-in-one communication platform, providing more than just video conferencing or chat. It combines several capabilities into an online work hub for collaboration and communication. 

Some of the key features of MS Teams include:

  • Video and audio calls
  • Webinar registration & attendance reporting
  • Channeled team chat
  • File storage and sharing
  • In-app collaboration in Word, Excel, PPT, and more
  • In-app collaboration in 3rd party applications
  • Tabs that allow teams to link apps and websites inside a channel
  • Status notification and alerts
  • Use on all devices

MS Teams Evolution

Originally, Microsoft Teams was available only through a Microsoft 365 Business subscription. Then, to improve the popularity of Teams and compete with video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft brought out a free version with fewer features in 2018.

This helped the service increase its user base, however, there was a wide gap between the capabilities of the paid version with a Microsoft 365 subscription and the free version. Such as much less support, fewer features, etc.

Microsoft noted that it was missing a vital audience, the small business. Small business owners had a more difficult time fitting into either the free model, with very limited group meeting timing, or the paid model, which required a full M365 subscription.

So, in December of 2021, it brought out the third plan for MS Teams that it is hoping is “just right” for smaller companies that need the same collaboration and communication tools as everyone else. This plan is called Teams Essentials, and you don’t need to sign up for Microsoft 365 to get it.

Comparison of Teams Essentials vs Teams Free vs Teams with an M365 Business Plan

Next, we’ll go through the differences between these three MS Teams plans so you can identify the one that may make the most sense for your company.

Microsoft Teams Free Version

The free version of MS Teams was really brought out to reach the residential and home user crowd. An audience that had been completely missing from the Teams userbase up to that point.

This plan has the following capabilities:

  • Unlimited group meetings for up to 60 minutes
  • Up to 100 participants per meeting
  • 5GB of cloud storage per user
  • Unlimited chat
  • File sharing, tasks, and polling
  • Data encryption for calls, files, meetings, chats
  • Co-authoring capabilities
  • Ability to add tabs inside group channels

The biggest drawback of using the free version for your business is the 60-minute limit on group video meetings. The 5GB cloud storage also can be limiting for business use of Teams.

Microsoft Teams Essentials

Teams Essentials is $4/user/month and was designed specifically for small businesses that may not want to subscribe to M365, but still need a good cloud collaboration tool to keep their team connected and productive.

This plan has the following capabilities:

  • Everything in the free version, plus:
  • Unlimited group meetings for up to 30 hours
  • Up to 300 participants per meeting
  • 10GB of cloud storage per user
  • Anytime phone and web support

The additional group meeting time (up to 30 hours) is more than enough to fill any type of meeting need, even those that go on all day. Additionally, users get double the cloud storage space, and the phone and web support ensure your staff has help using the app when needed.

Teams with Microsoft 365

The version of Teams with Microsoft 365 is available with any business plan. The lowest cost plan is $6.00/user/month ($2 more than Essentials). However, the Basic package does not come with downloadable Office apps (Word, Excel, etc.), only the web versions.

The next step up would be M365 Business Standard at $12.50/user/month, which is quite a bit more than the price for Teams Essentials. This one does include the downloadable Office apps.

These plans have the following capabilities:

  • Everything in the Essentials version, plus:
  • Office applications (either web or web & downloadable)
  • All the many M365 cloud apps (OneDrive, Forms, SharePoint, OneNote, and many others)
  • 1TB of cloud storage per user
  • Webinar hosting
  • Customer appointment management
  • Premium security features

If you are planning to use Microsoft Office software and other applications, then it makes sense to get Teams along with an M365 subscription. However, if your business already owns the offline version of the Office suite or does not need it, then Teams Essentials offers a lot of capabilities with a lower price tag.

Need Help Getting MS Teams or Other Cloud Tools Set Up?

Today’s hybrid offices and remote teams need robust collaboration tools to compete. Contact us if you need help getting started with MS Teams or another cloud tool. We’ll be happy to facilitate a custom setup to ensure your staff can hit the ground running.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

What Are the Most Helpful Features of Windows 11?

Windows 11 has been out for a few months now, beginning rollout in October of 2021. It has been largely well-received and seen as stable with very few bugs noted.

One of the reasons that Windows 11 has been welcomed with open arms for both home and business computer upgrades is that it isn’t a dramatic experience difference from Windows 10. This upgrade is mainly focused on helping users do tasks faster and find things more easily.

If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to upgrade to Windows 11, we’ll go through several of the most helpful features below that might make you want to upgrade sooner rather than later.

And if you have already upgraded your machine to Windows 11 or purchased a new PC with the OS installed, you’ll want to look over these features to make sure you haven’t been missing out on some productivity enhancers.

Snap Layouts

One challenge that tends to be universal across multiple users is the struggle with trying to work in more than one window at a time on your PC screen. You can end up spending time resizing the windows just right, then need to open a window to full size to reach a scroll bar and end up back at square one.

Many users will app-switch, meaning they switch between one app window that is fully open and another that isn’t. This is also time-consuming.

In a study of user productivity, it was found that 56% of app users said that switching between apps makes it difficult to get essential work done and costs them at least 30 minutes per day.

Enter… snap layouts in Windows 11.

This feature is designed to solve this problem by providing the user with several options for window arrangements that snap windows into place. The view is designed so you can reach all scroll bars and menu items in a particular app window.

This is one of the most time-saving features of the new operating system and it’s very intuitive and easy to use.

Texting & Video Calls from Teams on the Desktop

If you’re one of those people that hates typing out texts on a tiny smartphone screen only to have it altered by a rogue auto-correction, then the new Teams integration in Windows 11 is going to be a welcome change.

Teams is now natively integrated on the taskbar, there is no application you need to install. Setup only takes a few minutes and involves you putting in your name and a mobile phone number.

Using the Microsoft Teams icon from the desktop, you can instantly begin connecting to people via SMS or video/audio chat. You can even share a screen during your meetings.

The To Do Widget

One of the new features in Windows 11 that doesn’t look fully finished is the widgets panel. This feed has a few basic applications in it at the moment, and more are expected to come, which will make it even more useful.

You get to this panel through an icon on the taskbar, and the widget feed can be tailored with local weather, traffic, news, and more.

One of the helpful features you can use right now is the To Do widget. It allows you to quickly create a task list and check off those tasks without having to open another application.

The widget can be added in seconds to your panel and can be quite a time-saver because of the easy access right from your desktop.

Streamlined Start/Search Menu

If you’re still using your file explorer to search for documents, you can save a lot of time by using the Start/Search menu instead. Click the Windows icon on the taskbar (which has now been moved to the middle instead of far left) and type your search keyword at the top.

This is a master search that will bring up documents, settings, applications, and even web pages. Searching using the Start Menu is faster than trying to find a file in the Explorer.

The newly streamlined interface also reduces the clutter of the old Windows Start Menu making it easier to get where you need to go.

Task View

Task view is the virtual desktop feature that had been introduced in Windows 10. This remains a very handy feature for separating the different areas of your work to stay focused.

You can use the task view icon on the taskbar to create a different virtual desktop with different open applications and documents. For example, you could keep your email open on one virtual desktop and then use another when you’re in a video call and sharing screen.

Get Help with a Smooth Upgrade to Windows 11

An upgrade of an entire company to a new OS can be time-consuming. Save time and skip any downtime by working with an IT professional to roll out a smooth upgrade and get users trained on the new features.


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

How OneNote Can Streamline Team Collaboration (And Four Tips to Make the Most of This Program)

OneNote is a digital note-taking tool that comes with plenty of benefits for users. But what you may not have realized yet is how powerful this app can be for enhancing team collaboration.  

Note-taking.

This is an essential part of day-to-day operations for many business owners, managers, and teams. After all, people can’t rely on their memory alone to recall everything that gets talked about each day. Especially when it concerns important matters. 

When it comes to note-taking, traditional methods such as pen and paper are effective but take too long. But modern-day businesses need something that allows them to work faster. That’s why they opt for digital solutions like OneNote.

OneNote is a productivity tool that leverages cloud and Microsoft technologies to make information capturing, storage, and sharing a breeze. 

Think of OneNote as a hub for all notes that allows you to organize them in many ways. It even allows pinning multimedia documents next to simple text. 

So, if you’re looking for a robust digital note-taking tool, OneNote may be the solution for you. 

Keep reading to discover the numerous ways in which this tool can be helpful for you and your business. 

Why Should You Rely on OneNote?

OneNote is not just a powerful tool for note-taking. It’s also a useful tool that allows you to perform various functions for easy information processing. 

Some of its main benefits include:

Benefit #1. Promoting Real-Time Collaboration

OneNote is part of Microsoft’s fully-cloud based Office 365 suite. This means OneNote users can share files with other team members or clients in real-time. Multiple people can view and edit their notes simultaneously, allowing for a seamless collaboration anytime. 

A great thing about real-time editing is that you can track all changes to the file. You can even restore the previous version of a document in case of accidents.

Businesses that run in multiple locations can benefit from this feature as well. It’s because people located across the country can work on the same project without affecting team collaboration. 

Simply put, there’s no need to trade emails and waste time waiting for responses – managers can have an easy time collaborating with their team instantly without ever leaving the office. 

Benefit #2. Securing Sensitive Information

Doing business online and sharing sensitive data comes with security risks. This is especially true for notebook software. Fortunately, OneNote comes with a set of security features that protect your data from being exposed to third parties. 

For example, you can lock specific sections with passwords while having all your information secured with 3DES encryption at all times. And if your password-protected documents remain inactive for a long time, the software will automatically lock them to prevent data leaks. 

Benefit #3. Integration With Other Software

Like other Office 365 suite apps, OneNote has great integration abilities. You can sync your OneNote with Outlook to send email information directly to the app and vice versa. 

What’s more, you can integrate this software with non-Microsoft apps as well. Some notable plugins include Zapier, Slack, Trello, Evernote, Dropbox, Salesforce, and many others. And all your essential apps will be synchronized, allowing your team to be more productive each day. 

Benefit #4. Project Management

OneNote has dozens of uses for general business. However, it’s especially suitable for project management. 

Project managers often deal with issues such as team member misunderstandings, communication delays, or project bottlenecks. But thanks to Microsoft’s note-taking tool, many of these issues are quickly alleviated. 

Project management can become more straightforward. It’s because OneNote makes it easy for the manager to track each team member’s achievements. They can update timelines, check off completed tasks, or assign new ones with ease. 

Take OneNote to the Next Level 

If you have never used OneNote before, you may be interested to learn about some tips to help you get the most out of the software.

Tip #1. Creating Quick Notes

Quick Note is a great feature that lets you write down a thought when you’re out having lunch or away from the office. 

Imagine being in the store and remembering you haven’t responded to an important email. You can take your phone, open the One Note app, and create a Quick Note reminding you of this task. 

The next time you open OneNote on your computer, you’ll see the message there. 

This feature is similar to Sticky Notes, as it lets you jot down any idea or thought in a matter of seconds. All your notes will be saved in the “Unfiled Notes” section of your “Quick Notes” notebook, a place where all your notes are saved by default. 

Tip #2. Searching Across All Notes

Searching for notes becomes more challenging as time passes. If you’re an active user, you can find yourself storing hundreds of notes in a matter of months. But don’t worry, as there are tons of options to organize your notes as well as search for it. 

OneNote has a built-in search option to make note finding easier. 

All you need to do is click on the magnifying glass or hit “Ctrl” (or “Command” for Mac) + “F” on your keyboard and look for a phrase or word. The software will go over all your typed, handwritten, and even picture notes. 

You can further narrow the search by selecting the drop-down arrow and choosing the desired option. You’ll see all matching results highlighted in your notes. 

As you find the note you needed, you can close the search by pressing “X” on the right-hand corner. 

Tip #3. Using Pre-Made Templates

OneNote is designed to have a blank canvas for each new note. And it’s what gives users a whole lot of flexibility. However, you can find this approach to be too basic sometimes. So, why not add some style, structure, and color to the app?

Thankfully, there are tons of pre-made templates to choose from. You can download a template with decorative backgrounds, to-do lists, planners, and more. 

Note that you can use the templates only on new OneNote files. The ones that already contain text won’t work since most designs require content to appear in a specific place on the page. 

If you need to add a template to your existing note, simply create a new one, then copy the existing text over. 

Tip #4. Scanning Documents from Your Smartphone

Do you need to take notes from a scanned document? That’s not an issue for OneNote. You can use the Microsoft Lens: PDF Scanner App (available for Android and iOS) to take high-quality scans of multiple documents using your phone and upload them to OneNote. 

Become the Master of Note-Taking

Digital note-taking tools have helped thousands of workers and managers become more productive. OneNote is one such software that seems to have it all – abundant features, flexibility, and ease of use. 

Whether you’re a business owner who wants to boost your team’s performance or a project manager that needs better tracking of the project timeline, OneNote has something in store for everyone. 

If you’d like to learn more about how this powerful tool can help you make your business better, feel free to reach out to us. We can have a 10-15-minute chat about this topic. 


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.

Is Updating From Windows 10 to 11 Worth It? Here Are the New Features in the OS (And Some Missing Ones)

Getting used to Windows 11 shouldn’t be too challenging. On the contrary, the OS comes with several intuitive features to enhance productivity.

Microsoft recently introduced Windows 11 as the company’s latest operating system. And compared to Windows 10, this OS has various features that can increase your productivity and provide a better user experience. 

As soon as you start using Windows 11, you’ll see a marked improvement over its predecessors. 

For example, it has refined several household features, such as video conferencing and video management. You also get enhanced note-taking, data input, and a user-friendly interface that should help you complete your duties more efficiently. 

Many other features can help boost your productivity, and this article will talk about them in detail. We’ll also look at some features Microsoft didn’t include in the new version. 

Windows 11 – What’s New?

Feature #1. New Taskbar

Previous Windows versions feature an iconic taskbar, but it can sometimes get clunky. Windows 11 deals with the cruft and provides a streamlined solution. 

The new taskbar is perfect for expediting work, as it can contain a list of recent cloud and local files. You can also pin various apps to improve access and utilize a search bar that allows for convenient web browsing. 

Another highlight of the taskbar is clean lines and widgets that display essential information (e.g., weather, photos, and news). 

This should be a tremendous upgrade from the busy display of Windows 10. 

Feature #2. Windows Grouping and Snapping

The enhanced Snap Group and Snap Layout features allow you to resize and manage windows more easily. You also get to keep essential apps grouped to maintain high productivity. 

Using the features is relatively straightforward: Just hover the mouse over the maximize button on the desired app to reveal your layout options. You can choose between several arrangements, such as four-app grids and side-by-side layouts. 

And if your team needs to perform basic window management, they can still grab and pull windows to the edge of their screen. 

This feature improves desktop organization, which is especially useful for people working with two or more monitors. They can reduce clutter rapidly, enabling them to focus on their tasks. 

Feature #3. Improved Accessibility Options

Windows 11 follows in the footsteps of many smartphones to simplify setting changes and make them easily accessible. Pulling up your control panel now only requires one tap or click in the taskbar coroner, replicating Apple’s Control Centre. 

Furthermore, Windows 11 apps feature aesthetic, curved corners, and your Settings incorporate more options you can tweak. For instance, blind or vision impaired users can take advantage of cutting-edge audio cues. There are also desktop themes to help reduce eye strain, which is essential if you work long hours. 

On top of that, the new operating system has revamped voice typing. You can activate this with a simple keyboard shortcut. This feature supports most major languages, including English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, and Portuguese. 

Windows 11’s better accessibility means your team will no longer have to keep relying on your IT service provider to set things up for them.

Feature #4. Better App Store 

Many apps can enhance workplace productivity, but you’ll first need to find them on your PC’s app store. Fortunately, Windows 11 came up with an organized and coherent platform to make the search easier. 

Besides universal apps, you can check out the applications compatible with your devices. The platform can also handle programs from third-party stores and manage app installation on the internet. 

Feature #5. Smooth Notetaking

If you’re using a touchscreen device, taking notes in Windows 11 should now be highly satisfying. This feature offers haptic feedback to generate physical sensations when drawing lines on the screen or checking boxes with your pen. 

Moreover, the Ink Workspace allows you to add preferred apps instead of using the standard snipping tool and Whiteboard. It gives you easy access to creativity tools the moment you pull out your pen. 

Which Features Were Left Behind?

Overall, Windows 11 should work great for your business. But bear in mind that Microsoft left out some features that were a staple in previous versions: 

Excluded Feature #1. Taskbar Customisation

Windows 10 users can move their taskbar from the horizontal position to the left, right, or upper part of their screen. In contrast, the Windows 11 taskbar is fixed at the bottom of the display, and you can’t customize the dimensions. 

The taskbar customization feature would have been helpful because it would let you use space more efficiently. 

Another significant change is that you can no longer move the Time and Date on your taskbar. Windows 10 didn’t have this problem since you could toggle off the Clock feature in your Settings. 

The default taskbar layout might be fine, but some users prefer higher customizability than what Windows 11 offers. 

Excluded Feature #2. Drag-and-Drop Features

Windows 10 and some earlier versions allowed you to drag several items to change their position. For example, you could drag a Word document onto your Word icon on the taskbar to open it. 

This function is disabled in Windows 11. There’s no way to drag and drop or save any program or file onto your taskbar. 

Excluded Feature #3. Cortana

Cortana is a voice assistant counterpart of Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant. Many people are used to it and may be disappointed to hear that it’s not a part of the Windows 11 system setup. You can’t even locate it in your start menu. 

The good news is that the Cortana application can still be found – it’s just hidden away. And you can enable it by visiting Settings and navigating to Apps & Features.

A Wise Investment

While Windows 11 isn’t perfect since it removed many valuable features, it’s still an excellent platform to help increase your productivity.

 Whether you need to organize your desktop more conveniently or take enjoyable notes, the OS won’t let you down. Plus, you get a revamped taskbar and powerful Voice Typing compatible with most major languages. 

Overall, Windows 11 can be a terrific asset for your business.

If you want to find out more about incorporating this new OS to boost productivity in your organization, contact us today. We can have a 10-15-minute chat to help you address key productivity issues in your company with the help of Windows 11. 


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This Article has been Republished with Permission from The Technology Press.