Microsoft 365 or G Suite: which one is right for you?

Microsoft 365 or G Suite: which one is right for you?

Suites, bundles, packages… You know the right tools will work wonders for your productivity and business growth—but which ones are the right ones?

The two biggest competitors for your business are Microsoft 365 (known until recently as Office 365) and G Suite. At first glance they might seem similar, and in many ways, they are. However, you should consider their key differences before deciding which one to go for. Media Hosting Services is here to help you make the right investment!

What’s included

Microsoft 365

It’s the applications you know, and then some. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook—the gang’s all here. And they’re available in both web and desktop versions for those of us who still like access to local copies of their documents.

For video calls and messaging, there’s Teams, a sleeper hit of the Great 2020 Work-From-Home Revolution. This tool is very user-friendly and allows up to 250 participants per call.

Also included is SharePoint, the ultimate collaboration application. It provides a secure environment for employees to work on the same document, store and share files.

G Suite

Google’s brand authority is undisputed. Their communication and data management solution includes popular applications such as Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sheets and Slides. Chances are you‘re already familiar with some of these!

Video calls are possible via Hangouts. While the maximum number of participants might be lower (only 25), the overall experience is smooth and seamless.

For storage, there is Google Drive. Widely regarded as the benchmark of cloud storage solutions, it offers superior data security.

Keeping your data secure

Microsoft 365

ISO27001, ISO27018, SSAE 16, FISMA, HIPAA BAA, EU Model Clauses, and Cloud Security Alliance. Yes, Microsoft 365 complies with all of these standards. On top of that, there are server-level encryptions.

The features don‘t stop there, however. An additional layer of security is provided thanks to two-step verification.

G Suite

Nothing to scoff at, either. In addition to being HIPAA compliant, G Suite also boasts SO 27001, ISO 27018, EY Point, and AICPA/SOC certifications. Two-step verification is also available.

And if all the spam and phishing attempts drive you crazy, we have good news: G Suite features special protection to ensure these annoyances will soon become but a distant memory.

Accessibility and storage

Microsoft 365

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sure, Microsoft 365 offers subscription-based access to online apps, but if you like things a bit more conventional, the offline functionalities are still very much available. No internet connection necessary!

For storage, you get 1 TB of space with the Business Essentials plan. That’s plenty, but you can always buy more if needed.

G Suite

Although known for being entirely cloud-based, some G Suite apps are accessible offline—it just takes some configuration. Administrators can manage and set policies for offline access for various users, but there are a few limitations to consider such as having to use Google Chrome, for example.

While that may sound worrisome, if you do not envisage issues with staying online, chances are it won‘t even matter to you. Basically just less stuff to download and manage on your laptop!

Storage options depend on the plan you choose. With the Basic plan, you get 30 GB including email space. But if you buy more than five user accounts under the Business plan, each user gets unlimited storage. It’s up to you to decide how much space you need and which plan works best.

How much?

Microsoft 365

Ah, yes, the all-important question. With Microsoft 365, there are options to suit all budgets.

Business Essentials, Business, and Business Premium are plans intended for companies with fewer than 300 people. The difference between Business Essentials and Business plans lies mostly in the fact that the Business plan also comes with the desktop versions of the applications.

For large companies, there’s the Enterprise option with various plans available.

G Suite

There are three plans for you to choose from: Basic, Business and Enterprise.

All include the essential communication tools, but the Basic plan comes with a storage limit. The Enterprise plan, on the other hand, includes handy features such as data loss prevention for Gmail and Google Drive.

Which one’s for you, then?

When it comes to productivity and streamlining, both Microsoft 365 and G Suite are solid options. Can you go wrong? Perhaps not, but you want to make absolutely sure you go right! To summarize:

Microsoft 365 is for you if…

  • you have a few hundred employees
  • you regularly need to work off a native computer
  • you are a more conventional organization that prefers tried-and-tested methods of productivity management
  • you have been using Microsoft Office applications for a while
  • you have a well-established IT infrastructure

G Suite is for you if…

  • you are a startup
  • you are a relatively small company
  • you are looking to keep costs low
  • you want branded email through Google’s Gmail
  • you need an easy-to-handle, hassle-free solution

Of course, you’re free to mix and match as you see fit. More and more companies opt to use both suites to streamline their operations. One thing is for sure—to grow your business, you need to suit(e) up!

5 things to consider when integrating a phone system with Microsoft Teams

5 things to consider when integrating a phone system with Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a unified communications platform offered by Microsoft to help enable those who work for businesses and organizations to easily collaborate and communicate in a variety of ways. Teams allows intelligent communication via chat, email, video meetings, file storage, and app integration from anywhere, so team members can keep in touch no matter where they are.

Having said that, one of the most common forms of communication between co-workers is still the traditional phone. Phone calls are still needed when a more detailed discussion of a subject is required or when a more personal level of communication must take place. And because a lot of business communication happens over the phone, Teams can also integrate with Voice over IP (VoIP) systems, which might just make your work life even easier.

Become an expert VoIP reseller with our UCaaS Insights Series

What will happen to my phones?

Microsoft Teams can now connect office PBX systems, which means that anyone can place and receive internal and external calls with anyone at anytime, anywhere. This is a system that makes telephony easy for your clients, even if they are working from a different office, while on the road or at home.

Benefits of calling with Teams

Several fantastic benefits come with integrating a phone system with Teams. Here is the best of them:

  • Streamlined communications and collaboration in one window
  • Less expensive
  • Works for remote team members and those working from home
  • Offers flexibility to choose the feature set you need (Teams, Microsoft Business Voice, UCaaS)

This is all done from within the Teams app, whether it is on a laptop, desktop computer, phone, or tablet, and can be used with any Teams-compatible headset conference room collaboration bar or desk phone.

How to set up calling services in Teams

Telephony in Microsoft Teams is available as an add-on to Microsoft 365 plans. When you go into Teams, you can access the telephony service by doing one of the following:

  • Use direct routing to leverage the telephony engine you want and connect it to the Microsoft environment
  • Enabling phone systems and calling plans with Microsoft

This being said, when it comes to making the best use of calling in Teams, you may face some unique challenges. With this in mind, there are some important things to take into consideration when integrating business phones with Teams.

Five things to consider when integrating a phone system with Teams

In general, our team of experts can make calling integration with Teams fairly straightforward for you. However, there are some specific considerations worth noting regarding where employees are working, the equipment they are using, and how phone numbers work.

1. VoIP with your current phone system

One thing to think about when it comes to VoIP via your PBX system is what happens when team members don’t have access to their desktop phones.

It’s possible to link your existing PBX system to Microsoft Teams with the help of Media Hosting Services Teams connector, which will provide the necessary middleware and hardware to bridge the two systems.

2. Which phones should I use

With calling integration with Teams, in most cases, you can use your existing phones. This means no additional costs in terms of replacing your equipment. If you have SIP phones, integration is easy to accommodate. There are two ways to accomplish this:

  1. Adding Teams-certified hardware (phones, collaboration bars, headsets, etc.)
  2. Using your existing hardware (BYOD) with the help of Media Hosting Services team

3. Working remotely

There are times when you will rely heavily on enabled remote communications. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 is a prime example of this type of situation. With so many people working from home, the deployment of communications and collaboration tools becomes a critical aspect of operations. It can also come with a few challenges, particularly when it comes to connectivity. For this reason, you should take the following into account:

  • The quality of the network connection matters: Ideally, it should be a high-speed, low latency connection with little to no packet loss. Perform a soft deployment, and test calls to verify how everything sounds.
  • Make sure you can remotely connect back to the phone system.
  • Make sure you can remotely connect back to the phone system.

4. Faxing and local conference calls

Faxing documents is still an important way to stay connected and share information. Fortunately, with our UCaaS solution, we offer fax-to-email and email-to-fax services as part of your plan.

Perhaps even more important is the use of conference calls for when you need to hold important team meetings. This is possible, too, provided you have the conferencing add-on with your licensing (which is included in all Microsoft 365 Business Voice plans). This will provide you with a regional number (available in most countries) that your team members can use to connect to the call.

5. Finding the easiest way to get VoIP up and running

Whichever way you choose to integrate a phone system with Teams, it is made easier by having someone do it with you. With our UCaaS solution, Media Hosting Services comunications and collaboration. This leaves you time to focus on what matters most—your business growth. Give us a call to learn more about our solutions.

UserVoice – How your feedback influences our decisions

UserVoice – How your feedback influences our decisions

As a long-time cloud provider, Sherweb realizes the concerns you may have had with trusting a third-party hosting provider like us with your data migration.

While many others also claim to be the best at servicing their clients, we truly live up to that promise at Sherweb.

We believe our partners made the right choice when they decided to work with us. With the constantly changing business environment we live in, our passion for serving you grows even stronger.

Not only do we offer the best overall value with our technical knowledge, but our customer-centric approach, proven infrastructure, and flexible plans are also a part of a culture where customers come first.

See your feedback in action with our partner portal integrations

Transforming our business model from transactional to consultative has helped us understand our partners’ needs and stand at our partners’ side for a truly symbiotic relationship that ensures a successful business journey for all our stakeholders.

This means your voice matters to us.

And that’s where UserVoice comes in.

With UserVoice, we interact with our partners and measure their feedback for our services. Not only can our partners make suggestions for new features and vote on others, but UserVoice also enables us to prioritize your concerns and develop our services further.

With UserVoice, we aim to engage our partners and service them better.

UserVoice initiatives that enhance the Sherweb partner experience

The features you see below are some of the result of our partners’ initiatives to enhance the Sherweb experience. These ideas came through UserVoice; since then, these ideas are helping all our partners serve their clients better.

PSA Integration

Sherweb uses PSA (Professional Services Automation) software to manage our personnel and equipment for your projects. From ticketing, billing estimates and invoices, to marketing and reporting – PSA integrates and syncs the available data to ensure a stellar customer experience for your clientele.

Our integration lets our partners simplify billing through centralized platforms. Streamline your financial processes by syncing with Sherweb prices and offers.

To help our partners keep abreast of new developments, we use PSA to access the most up-to-date information – anytime, anywhere. Through our centralized system, we process your sensitive data most securely.

MFA

Cybersecurity is one of the most highlighted topics in the MSP arena. At Sherweb, safeguarding our partners’ data assets remain our foremost responsibility. As we continue to find ways to improve your experience, we implement MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) to secure your confidential data.

MFA is an added security measure we use to authenticate access to your sensitive data. In addition to passwords, MFA requires your personal information, such as your phone or any other MFA device – which generates a token so you can gain access to your resources.

Open API

Sherweb uses Open API (Application Programming Interface) to allow our partners to integrate their platforms to our portal with ease almost instantly.

Consequently, we aim to simplify future integrations into the Sherweb portal with other products – so you never have to worry about complicated solutions, and can focus on helping your business weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moreover, the UserVoice API enables us to produce custom integrations for some partners that require specialized integration processes. With open API, Sherweb opens the door to our end-user portal, so that our partners’ clients can complete their own specific tasks.

How UserVoice feedback works

With UserVoice, Sherweb captures, tracks, and organizes the feedback we receive from our partners to build a service that scales with your needs.

UserVoice site

UserVoice works like a mood board, where our partners can up-vote and prioritize ideas to reflect our partners’ needs better. Our partners can submit feedback via the Sherweb Feedback Page, or they can submit ideas through the partner portal.

We regularly update our partners on the progress of their ideas and the changing status of their subscriptions. This ensures greater transparency and awareness of project status.

With the aggregate data we collect through UserVoice, Sherweb can also reach out to our partners to better understand their needs and feature requests – and how Sherweb can fulfill them with the utmost precision. Rest assured, we hear your concerns during this time and are working to implement the functionality you need.

Collect feedback across your customer base from end-users directly and through your sales, support, and internal teams who talk with customers every day.

Surveys

Sherweb uses NPS (Net Promoter Score) to survey our partners’ needs regularly so we can keep improving our service. By identifying problem areas, Sherweb can quickly correct them and identify services our customers like – so we can continue fulfilling your needs.

NPS is a metric based on customer feedback to ensure our service is up to the highest standards. How are the scores measured? NPS scores are measured from single question surveys, reporting a number from -100 to +100.

A higher score indicates that our partners are satisfied with our services and thus is more desirable. Respondents rate our offerings on a scale of 0 to 10 in these three categories:

1.     Promoters

A score of either nine or ten lets us know that our partners affirm that our services meet their quality standards and are satisfied with our work.

2.     Passives

When our partners respond with a score of seven or eight, we surmise that you are content with our services, but there’s still more we can do to better your experience.

3.     Detractors

When Sherweb sees partners responding with scores between zero to six, we realize something is wrong and that you’re unhappy with us. Not only do we do our best to remedy the situation, but we also assess where we may have gone wrong and work to improve the Sherweb experience for you.

Final Thoughts

With the COVID-19 situation impacting businesses, Sherweb understands the confusion your clients are experiencing – and the pressure it can put on your business.

The Sherweb team always has your best interest in mind as we look for better and smarter ways to support our partners – and it all starts when you come forward and tell us what troubles your business.

As we strive to incorporate new initiatives to improve your Sherweb experience, we rely on you to guide us on how we can serve you better.

Contact Media Hosting experts today for more information on how we service our partners so that they can fulfill their client’s needs.

Remote work on masses: the good, the bad and the surprising

Remote work on masses: the good, the bad and the surprising

Due to the current pandemic crisis, remote work has increased by leaps and bounds. Time Magazine calls it “the world’s largest work-from-home experiment.”

For many of us, it has become the new normal, and we’re all learning as we go.

Even before the public health crisis struck, remote work was increasing in the U.S. Over the last five years, the number of people working remotely has grown by 44%. At the beginning of this year, 3.4% of the population was working from home. Since the start of the pandemic, nearly two-thirds of Americans work remotely.

After two months of confinement, we’re starting to notice different remote work trends shaping up.

In this article, we’ll take a close look at the positive, negative, and remarkable aspects of the current mass remote work environment and how it will shape the future of work.

The work environment is changing, make sure your clients have everything they need with Microsoft 365

The good 

The first thing the world noticed is that many businesses can succeed when employees don’t come into the office every day.

Here are the positive aspects of working remotely that have been documented:

#1. Better for the environment

Pollution over major metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Chicago, and Atlanta, has dropped since the lockdown. Not using our cars to commute to work reduces our carbon footprints and their adverse effects on climate change.

#2. Reduces costs

Research from Harvard Business School shows that companies could spend less on office spaces, as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office estimated that, thanks to many of its employees working remotely, it saved more than $38 million in 2015 by not using as much office space.

#3. Accelerates cloud adoption

Microsoft’s total revenues increased by 15% over the first quarter ending March 31, with Dynamics products and cloud services revenue increasing by 17%. Since the pandemic, they’ve got 12 million new users on Teams, its group-collaboration platform. Microsoft expects COVID-19 to accelerate digital adoption and investments in cloud computing, AI, and cybersecurity, as well as more capital spending later this year.

#4. More time with our families

While almost all parents can’t wait for the day schools and nurseries reopen, at least we can appreciate more time spent with our families.

#5. No more commuting

The American commute increases depression, divorce, obesity, and fossil-fuel emissions. Research shows that people who drive to work spend 54 hours per year stuck in traffic. Working remotely—whether at a coffee shop, in a co-working space, or on a couch—is a win for work-life balance and the biosphere.

The bad

The mass switch from traditional office work to remote work brings along several challenges. But with problems, there also are solutions and actions managers can take to ease the transition.

#1. You may not get your answers in a flash

One thing about working remotely is you can’t just turn around to ask your colleague a question. But you can chat with them on Teams (or whatever collaboration tool you use).

#2. Solitude is a bummer

Humans are hard-wired for connection. Many people work in an office because they crave social interaction. Isolated work makes people feel lonely and disconnected. Make sure employees know what’s happening on their teams, and keep feelings of isolation at bay by communicating frequently and having touchpoints so there are no unaddressed frustrations. Dedicate time to sharing stories and getting vulnerable with each other.

#3. Sarcasm can be misunderstood

Humor works great in person. However, office teasing, bad jokes, and sarcasm are difficult to detect in texts and emails because there are no facial cues or vocal tones involved. Use emojis when you need to highlight something that was meant sarcastically.

#4. Harsh times for working parents

Most working parents are not having a blast at the moment with working, homeschooling, and taking care of their kids at the same time. Companies can make things easier by allowing parents to have more control over their schedules. Also, to help with the transition, Microsoft shared the Work From Home with Children guide they created for their employees.

#5. Creativity suffers

For many, remote work blocks the creative sparks we get when interacting live with people. Teammates working together in the same room tend to solve problems more quickly than remote collaborators. Organizing regular company retreats, allowing employees to schedule “virtual coffee breaks” with their peers, and having the option to work on flexible schedules can help.

The surprising

#1. Increased productivity

recent survey by YouGov, USA Today, and LinkedIn on professionals aged 18–74 shows that the pandemic has had a positive effect on 54% of workers’ productivity. The reasons given by the respondents were the time saved from commuting (71%), fewer distractions from co-workers (61%), and fewer meetings (39%).

#2. Fully remote teams are more engaged than teams separated in multiple offices

Disengagement is a risk when managing teams across multiple locations. Team members divided into multiple offices are not close to the manager, which can lead to unconscious bias creeping in, as well as information imbalances. One such example is what Darren Dahl calls the “out-of-site-out-of-mind syndrome”: when things get busy at your primary location, it can be hard to give your employees based at other locations the time they deserve.

One benefit of working in a fully remote team is that everybody becomes equal, which has democratized remote meetings. This is an important aspect we should all learn from once we go back to the office.

#3. A new economic reality

There’s no news that we’ve been heading into an economic downturn. Jared Spataro, CVP of Microsoft 365, thinks the healthiest thing we can do is to “take a step back and think about how we can emerge from this stronger than we went into it; recognize we will have to cut costs in some places and rethink our business.”  This is an opportunity to move your resources around and make sure you’re prepared for the new reality.

Imagining life after lockdown

Will the future of work after COVID-19 be a mix of breakfast in bed, pajamas, and Microsoft Teams?

Perhaps.

According to Gallup, “three in five U.S. workers who have been doing their jobs from home during the coronavirus pandemic would prefer to continue to work remotely as much as possible, once public health restrictions are lifted.”

Some will want to keep working from home, while others will rush into the offices without looking back.

When the time for us to go back to the office comes, it won’t all happen in one day. It’s going to be a gradual shift, moving through different phases.

Long story short, we need to acknowledge there will be a before and after the crisis that will affect the way we work in the future. It’s our job to make sure we keep The Good and The Surprising to make the future of work better.

Azure AD Premium P1 for Microsoft 365 Business, great news for SMBs

Azure AD Premium P1 for Microsoft 365 Business, great news for SMBs

Microsoft recently announced that it will be adding its Azure Active Directory Premium P1 license to Microsoft 365 Business subscriptions. This is great news for small and medium-sized business (SMB) customers. The Azure AD P1 license—we’ll just call it P1 to keep things simple—brings a powerful set of enterprise security, identity, and access control tools into what will now certainly be Microsoft’s flagship cloud offering for SMBs. And it does so at no added cost.

Microsoft is adding the P1 license to new subscriptions now and will be rolling it out to existing subscribers over the coming weeks. This is particularly great news for clients grappling with long-term remote work planning.

The features in P1 are designed to facilitate secure access to work applications from anywhere. Microsoft Business 365 plus Azure AD P1 will let you transform your clients’ modern workplace into a work-from-anywhere workplace.

Learn how to resell Microsoft 365 and help your client’s digital transformation with our guide

Expanding the toolset for SMB clients

Microsoft will also be renaming the 365 Business plan to Business Premium when the P1 license is added. This is part of a wider renaming of all their small and medium-sized business-focused offerings. The Business Premium plan is still intended for small and medium-sized businesses with 300 users or less.

Some of the free Azure AD features were previously available in Microsoft 365 plans, the most important being Multi-factor Authentication (MFA), self-service password resets, and conditional access policies. Adding the entire P1 license is part of Microsoft’s efforts to help SMBs establish more secure remote work conditions for the current COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

What does Azure AD P1 add to 365 Business?

P1 licenses will give Sherweb Partners and their clients access to advanced group, identity, and access control policies for more granular control over how users and their devices access cloud resources. P1 also offers a few key enterprise-level features we wanted to highlight:

Cloud App Discovery

It was hard to keep track of BYOD devices and consumer cloud app usage even before remote work became the new normal. Now, contending with these security risks is something practically every business faces. This just amplifies the challenge of protecting your client’s cloud infrastructure against data breaches and the unwanted effects of shadow IT.

The Cloud App Discovery tool analyzes your client’s cloud traffic logs. Any activity in their environment coming from a list of over 16,000 different cloud apps is flagged and scored for risk level. You can access reports that measure and rank app usage by traffic volume, number of users, individual user, or number of outbound web requests by app.

This helps you identify and prioritize what data is at risk, what shadow IT systems might have access to your client’s data, and the relative risk those shadow systems pose to your client’s data integrity.

Application Proxy

Businesses that rely on critical on-premise applications have been particularly challenged by the sudden increase in remote workers. Many clients and Sherweb Partners have figured out reverse proxy or VPN solutions that are good enough, but the Azure Application Proxy now available with P1 licenses can be a superior choice. It’s a lightweight software agent that gives access to specific on-premise apps without exposing larger segments of a client’s network.

Remote users use their standard Azure single sign-on (SSO) account to access the Application Proxy. This will grant them access to both authorized on-premise apps and their cloud apps, like Teams, SharePoint, other Office 365 apps, and Remote Desktop.

Using the Proxy for remote access also mitigates the need to open inbound connections on the client’s firewall. And it’s often more cost effective than a VPN or other proxy setups, as it doesn’t require any local infrastructure or network changes.

Dynamic Groups

Any Partner who’s used dynamic groups to manage an enterprise client knows what a time saver they can be. Dynamic AD groups allow you to automatically add and remove users from security groups based on user or device properties (though an Office 365 group can only be a user group).

For example, you can define a “Guest” dynamic group that automatically collects all guest accounts spread around the tenant so you can centrally manage them. Also, any time a user or device attribute changes, Azure AD runs all dynamic group rules and automatically updates membership accordingly.

Password-less authentication

Password fatigue is real. Perhaps you’ve seen an uptick in password-related support requests since people have shifted to working from home. There’s a whole range of personal laptops and mobile devices now trying to authenticate against client resources. Thankfully, the P1 license lets you enable password-less authentication for your client’s cloud apps.

Password-less authentication replaces passwords by performing multi-factor authentication against something users have with them, against information they know, or against biometrics. Azure AD currently supports three different password-less authentication options:

An opportunity to deliver more value

Most notable for resellers is that the addition of P1 to Business Premium subscriptions lets you offer more enterprise-grade features to your customers at a lower cost than Office 365 E3 licenses.

Beyond the features listed above, the addition of the P1 license lets you offer your SMB clients many other enterprise-grade features on a Business plan, like:

  • Customized branding for your clients’ sign-on pages
  • Password protection, including access to global and custom banned password lists
  • Advanced self-service password reset tools
  • MDM auto-enrollment for increased device security
  • Many other identity and access control tools

Bring enterprise tools to your SMB clients

The addition of Azure AD Premium P1 to Business Premium is definitely welcome news for Sherweb Partners looking to offer more value-added services to their clients. It’s great to see Microsoft make these enterprise-grade security tools available to even more organizations.

In particular, we think password-less authentication is a great security feature to implement. It can greatly simplify user authentication while improving security at the same time. And Azure’s Application Proxy is another great tool to support Partners pushing the Zero Trust security model.

Don’t forget, Sherweb is available whenever you need a hand with Azure AD setup and implementation.

Why using the Zero Trust security model will make you a better MSP

Why using the Zero Trust security model will make you a better MSP

Cyber security has undergone constant changes, but I believe the greatest changes have come in the last few years. The rapid, widespread adoption of new cloud and IoT technologies have created many new attack surfaces. Security practices are only now catching up to these threats.

At the front of a new wave of security thinking is the Zero Trust Security (ZTS) model. I think that applying the principles of this model to secure networks is the best way for MSPs to serve their customers going forward.

Worried you missed a spot in your clients’ security? Take our security assessment and build your offering on the right foundation

Attacks are on the rise

IBM’s 2019 Cost of a Data Breach report clearly shows that attackers have the edge right now. In 2019 for the first time, a majority of all data breaches—51 percent—resulted from malicious or criminal attacks. This is a 3 percent increase from 2018 and an overall 21 percent increase since IBM first tracked this statistic in 2014. They note that nearly three-quarters of attacks succeeded by exploiting privileged credentials or identities.

Not only are more breaches than ever caused by directed attacks, but the attacks are going undetected for longer. Breach lifecycles—the time between when a breach occurs and when it is contained—jumped noticeably between 2018 and 2019. Average breach identification time in 2019 was 206 days, and the average time to contain a breach was 73 days. That is 279 days in total.

The 2018 average was 266 days, which means we saw a 4.9 percent increase in the average breach lifecycle in just one year. Clearly, traditional network security practices aren’t working, and attackers know it.

Why is this happening?

Network security has stuck to some principles from the early days of the Internet for too long. From the beginning, openness was encouraged in network design. This was a good way to enable collaboration and sharing, but it also enabled bad actors.

In the past, security has been strongest at network perimeters. Once users or processes were on a network, the default was trust. In the world of 2020, when remote users, overlapping multi-cloud environments, and the Internet of Things deepen the reach of networks, there are now functionally no more network perimeters—only assets that we need to protect individually. We need a new approach.

What is Zero Trust security?

ZTS shifts the focus away from where you are (on the network or at the perimeter) to who you are (your identity or individual device). This makes network-based interactions much easier to monitor and manage. As the name “Zero Trust” implies, every interaction with those resources must be challenged and authenticated.

A combination of technology and policy is needed to deploy a ZTS model effectively. Multi-factor authentication is one of the primary tools used to ensure legitimate access. Access management tools, encryption, network monitoring, file system permissions, and network micro-segmentation are also key tools.

As for policy, under ZTS user provisioning, access requests should be governed by the principle of least privilege. This can help prevent compromises from occurring and minimize the amount of damage done when they occur.

What are the challenges of deploying ZTS?

Because a very particular set of modern security tools are used, applying ZTS to legacy infrastructure can be challenging. Trying to retrofit existing systems and practices can sometimes be overly disruptive to customers for limited security gains.

In those cases, I believe the best approach is to make ZTS part of a security strategy looking forward. For example, businesses can incorporate ZTS principles as legacy systems are retired in favor of cloud resources. This is an area where partners familiar with ZTS can step in to deliver real value for customers.

How to implement Zero Trust security

The exact process will be different depending on each customer’s network resources, but there is a general strategy to follow.

1.    Audit their network to evaluate attack targets

You can’t protect it if you don’t know it is there. Start by performing a top-to-bottom assessment of every application, device, and endpoint that might be a target for attack. This will help you understand what is most valuable to the business and help you drive a more strategic conversation around security.

2.    Use Multi-Factor Authentication on the most sensitive assets

Any resources that control roles and identities need the highest level of security under a ZTS model. Directory services, domain controllers on local networks, and related management systems all should be secured with multi-step authentication.

3.    Authenticate Privileged Accounts and Associated Applications

If an attacker can compromise a privileged account, then they become indistinguishable from a trusted user. That means in addition to improving account authentication on privileged accounts, you also need to restrict the applications of accounts that can access your customers’ networks.

4.    Monitor Privileged Activity

You shouldn’t treat account authentication as “the new perimeter,” though. Work from the assumption that privileged accounts will be compromised eventually, which means all activity still needs to be monitored. Monitor the health of all endpoint devices that privileged accounts can access to ensure that applications are updated.

Changes in account or application behavior can be a sign of a compromise. This means having good network visibility helps prevent both attackers and internal bad actors from expanding the scope of their attack.

on top of all this, make sure you do constant reviews of all profiles, policies and permissions.

Are you looking for easy security management for Microsoft 365? Learn how Office Protect makes security management simple 

You can move customers toward better network security

After an assessment, you’ll realize that no network is 100% secure. This is why deploying a Zero Trust Security model is now the best way to ensure that your customers’ multi and hybrid cloud networks stay secure. Since this model ensures that every individual asset is secured through authentication and authorization controls, we can rest assured that we are doing a better job of securing what modern cybercriminals are targeting, rather than the main targets of yesteryear.

Take a look at our security solutions to see what you can use to apply Zero Trust Security for your customers.

Bring your data together with Microsoft PowerApps

Bring your data together with Microsoft PowerApps

Business in the 21st century has become more complex than ever. Data is at center stage, business operations and data storage are moving to the cloud, there is an app for everything under the sun and employees are working from multiple locations and on multiple devices. What businesses need more than ever is technology that will tie all these disparate pieces of the larger puzzle together into a cohesive unit that functions as a whole. This is precisely what Microsoft PowerApps offers.

Microsoft is at the leading edge of creating technology that makes business easier and more intuitive. PowerApps is part of Microsoft’s Power Platform, and it is one of the most innovative and versatile products Microsoft has come up with. This Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is designed to be used on traditional web browsers or on mobile devices, and it provides business owners and employees alike the opportunity to create the apps they need to get the job done.

We don’t just help you navigate Microsoft apps, check out all our value added services with the Media Hosting Services guide

What is Microsoft PowerApps?

Microsoft PowerApps provides a single, intuitive platform from which custom apps can be built by anyone at a moment’s notice. This is because it is a low-code option, something Gartner predicts will comprise 65% of app development by 2024. And this technology couldn’t have come at a better time.

Traditionally, app development is a lengthy and expensive process, with the average hourly rate to create a cross-platform app in the U.S. at $125. At the same time, apps are in high demand, and developers are in short supply. This has resulted in 65% of organizations experiencing an app development backlog, something that can be eliminated with Microsoft PowerApps because it is so easy to use.

In addition to its ease of use, PowerApps also comes with the ability to:

  • Build artificial intelligence (AI) into apps
  • Store and manage all your data in one place
  • Facilitate more collaboration and promote innovation and creative thinking throughout your organization

Microsoft PowerApps is for everyone

Microsoft PowerApps allows you to create apps at every level, no matter what your organizational needs are. You can:

  • Tailor an out-of-the-box solution, including dashboards and forms, in order to maximize the use of business data and increase productivity
  • Create customized task-oriented and role-based apps

This can all be accomplished with the two options PowerApps offers to design and build apps. The first of these is called Canvas Apps. This is a method of design that allows you to drag and drop design elements onto a canvas and create your app without the need for code. With this method, you have complete control over the app layout.

The other design option is called Model-driven Apps. This method bases app development on a combination of the app components you select and your unique business processes and data models to determine the optimal layout. Thus, you have less control over the layout of the app, but it is customized to your specific business needs.

Benefits of PowerApps

The benefits of being able to create mobile apps via Microsoft PowerApps are significant. One of the most notable is the fact that PowerApps saves you the cost required to develop a single app for multiple mobile operating systems. Instead, you will develop and run all your apps through the PowerApp application, which automatically accommodates multiple mobile operating systems. Other benefits of PowerApps include the ability to:

  • Create custom apps in just a few hours without the need to write code
  • Access a variety of easy-to-use templates
  • Seamless connectivity to all Microsoft cloud services
  • Create apps to suit any need whenever they are needed
  • Connect with over 200 sources of business data (including on-premise data) and services to empower businesses to make the most of that data
  • Integrate with Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Azure
  • Access full administrative control with enterprise-grade security and governance
  • Scale as needed

Plus, the single platform makes it easy to bring together everything a business user needs to work effectively. This includes combining PowerApps with workflow and business intelligence to empower users.

PowerApps Licensing

Microsoft PowerApps is available with certain Microsoft products and plans. This provides you with flexibility when choosing the plan that will work best for your situation. Licensing can happen in one of four ways:

It’s included in Microsoft 365 – There is no additional charge when it is included with certain plans (only for Microsoft 365 data as part of the plan), including:

  • Business Premium
  • Business Essentials
  • The F1 Plan
  • The E1–E5 Enterprise Plans

It’s included in Dynamics 365 Enterprise applications – There is no additional charge for the PowerApps service, and it comes with full support (only applicable for Dynamics 365 data as part of the plan).

Want help with Dynamics licensing? Take a look at our simple guide

You pay $10 per user per app – This is suitable for a small business with a minimal need for PowerApps. It comes as a two-app package, and you can purchase more than one if you have multiple apps.

You pay for unlimited users – This is suitable for a business that requires a larger number of PowerApps (i.e. eight or more).

Cross-industry and cross-organization optimization

Microsoft PowerApps can empower organizations across multiple industries, such as healthcare, education, technology, retail, manufacturing, and transportation. At the same time, small and large businesses and non-profit and government organizations can also benefit. This is a Microsoft product that truly opens up avenues of creativity and empowerment for everyone.

Contact Media Hosting Services today to learn more about Microsoft PowerApps and Power Platform.

QuickHelp as a powerful change management tool

QuickHelp as a powerful change management tool

The success of any cloud deployment depends on much more than just the technology itself. If your client’s users aren’t engaged in the process and trained on how to use the new system, it will be met with indifference at best, and flat out opposition at worst.

This is why change management is so important. Following a change management process ensures that your client’s entire organization is able to make smooth transitions to new technologies. For new cloud platforms to be properly adopted, users need to know both how to use their new applications and why switching to them matters.

Sherweb’s QuickHelp learning platform is an excellent tool to make sure both of those things happen.

See how QuickHelp can help your clients’ change management strategy, request a demo today!

Change management for cloud tech can be difficult

One of the biggest strengths of cloud platforms like Microsoft 365 is that they can constantly receive new features and functionality. But these newly developed tools only generate value for your clients if they’re actually used. And the regular updates that IT people like us see as a strength are often seen as a negative by business users.

Users don’t like change. In fact, the Harvard Business Review noted that more than 70% of all new business initiatives fail because project leaders don’t properly get users to buy into the process. Over time, change management methodologies, like Prosci, have become an integral part of IT projects to combat this problem.

But you don’t necessarily need a full-fledged methodology like Prosci to get Microsoft cloud services deployed for small business clients. Applying a few basic change management principles with the support of tools like QuickHelp can help you ensure new systems take hold.

Basic change management

1.    Teach them why

Sometimes users will flatly resist change, but often it’s merely indifference to new tools that prevents them from being adopted. It’s not enough to jump straight into teaching users how to use a new service. They are more likely to use a new, unfamiliar cloud platform if they first understand why it’s valuable to them and the business. In other words, you should teach them why they should use a new service before you teach them how to use it.

Leadership is important here. Business leaders and supervisors need to buy into the new initiative and demonstrate their support. Be proactive and get easily digestible videos and tutorials in front of users that help them understand how everyone will benefit from the new technology.

2.   Show them how

Once you’ve established buy-in across the organization, you can begin actually instructing users on how to use the new cloud technologies. Different people learn in different ways, so don’t try to force a one-size-fits-all training program onto an entire business. Consider different users’ needs, their experience levels with cloud technology, and their roles within the organization.

Getting everyone into a classroom for presentation-style training is increasingly difficult and expensive in modern workplaces. Schedules frequently don’t line up, and it can be downright impossible if you’re working with a distributed workforce. It’s much easier to move training online and break it up into small, easily digestible learning modules. You need modules that can be presented on a schedule or called up by users on demand when they want self-service help on a particular topic.

3.   Turn knowledge into action

The ability to provide on-demand training right when it is needed is key to supporting ever-changing technologies like Office 365. Change management for cloud tech is an ongoing process, not a one-off event.

As users get more familiar with the system, make sure to get feedback on training to help keep it relevant. This feedback can take the form of basic surveys or direct polling, but it can also be generated through more interactive methods, like gamification rewards programs. Have users test their familiarity with new platforms in a fun competition with coworkers—they have an opportunity to build team unity, and you get data on user familiarity with different systems.

You can then update their learning platform to be as relevant as possible to their particular level of technology adoption.

QuickHelp is an ideal tool to support this kind of personalized three-step change management process.

So what is QuickHelp?

QuickHelp is a highly customizable learning platform designed to give users the exact information they need in short videos or interactive training modules. It is easy to adapt to individual clients and even each of their individual users. QuickHelp can deliver a personalized learning portal custom-tailored to each user’s specific needs on new cloud platforms.

There’s also a QuickHelp ribbon add-in for Office 365 that makes it easy for users to access the tool on demand whenever a question arises. And yes, it includes a gamification system where users can compete for badges and completion records with their coworkers.

QuickHelp helps your clients drive active use of their new Microsoft cloud products. It slots neatly into change management processes to guide user behavior in organizations of any size. For example, you can use it to steer users towards a single new platform to reduce redundant applications. Or you can encourage the adoption of mobile app usage that will make users more productive during travel time or other downtime in the workday. You can also target making specific behavioral changes, like encouraging users to switch from inefficient email use to more comprehensive communication tools like Microsoft Teams.

More than just a training tool

QuickHelp is more than just a simple support tool. It’s a powerful change management tool that organizations can use to improve performance and drive faster adoption of new cloud technology platforms. And when cloud technology becomes a valuable part of your clients’ businesses, it becomes a reliable revenue stream for you.

QuickHelp can turn skeptical users into full-throated advocates of new technology and help their organizations get the most out of those platforms. If you’re gearing up for a new Microsoft cloud migration, consider deploying QuickHelp to help ensure the new service sticks.

Contact Media Hosting today to get your clients working more effectively with QuickHelp.

look on the bright side of Outlook scheduling

look on the bright side of Outlook scheduling

We all know what a great email application Microsoft Outlook is. But have you ever explored its scheduling and calendar functions? That is what we will do in this article. So, let’s get started. We will be using MS Outlook 365 for all tasks.

Learn how to transform your MSP and your clients’ businesses with Microsoft 365

In Outlook’s Home tab, select the arrow beside the New Email menu (if you select New Email, you will get the new email dialog). Select a new Appointment or Meeting from the drop-down list.

Appointments and meetings are very similar, so we will use an appointment as an example.

1. Select Appointment from the menu.

2. You can enter a lot of detail here, such as a title, time and date, location, whether it is an all-day appointment, and whether you want the appointment to recur in the future.

And that’s just for starters! Take a look at the Appointment ribbon:

3. Here you can invite other individuals to join by email, set reminders to yourself, mark your calendar as busy during the appointment, and categorize the appointment as you wish.

Here is an example of inviting others to join. Outlook checked your availability and also inserted the appointment details into the email. When you invite others, you can designate them as required attendees, or they can attend if they wish (optional).

4. Once you have filled out the necessary information for the appointment, select Send.

Your Calendar Page

So now that we have an appointment scheduled, let’s talk more about the Calendar feature. Select the Calendar icon on the bottom left of Outlook:

Here is a typical calendar page. It looks a bit complex, but we will go into further detail.

Let’s start from the left pane.

Outlook provides an interactive display of the current month and the next month. You can select the next and previous arrows to change the month. If you choose a specific day, the calendar view in the main window opens up to that date.

This is a quick and easy way to check appointments or meetings for a specific day.

Further down on the left pane are all the available calendars that you may view.

You can view your calendars, those shared with others in your organization, calendars from outside the organization, and calendars created for groups you are in. When you select the checkbox for calendars, they display side-by-side for ease of viewing.

If you do not wish to see the left pane, select the right arrow to hide it or the left arrow to show it.

You can also pin the left pane to display all the time if you choose.

Calendar Ribbon

Next, let’s look at the Calendar ribbon:

The ribbon allows you to:

  • Create new appointments, meetings, or Microsoft Teams meetings
  • You can view your calendar in many ways:
    • Today – highlights today no matter what other views may be displaying
    • Next 7 days – shows the next seven days
    • Day – shows today by the hour
    • Work Week – shows the days of the current workweek (no weekends)
    • Week – shows the days of the current seven-day week
    • Month – shows the days in a monthly view
  • Select the Schedule View to see your appointments day-by-day. Schedule View is an alternate method of viewing calendars that lets you easily see when events overlap and where there is free time between those calendars. Schedule view is especially helpful when planning meetings between multiple people.
  • Create a blank calendar or share calendars from other sources like your list of contacts or the internet using the Add
  • Share your calendars with others using the Share

Below the Calendar ribbon is another row of options.

You can select the left or right arrows to have the previous or next month displayed in the main window.

You can change the location by selecting the down arrow. In addition to changing the location and time zone, the weather displays for that location. That is helpful if your appointment or meeting is outdoors!

Adding Events

So we have seen the many different ways you can view your calendar events. Outlook also makes it easy to create events “on the fly.”

Right-click on a day and the following drop-down list displays to let you enter a new event.

Searching

Beside this section is the Calendar Search text box.

A calendar search looks in the following fields in the Events Details form:

  • Subject
  • Location
  • Body (where you type notes)
  • Attachments
  • Organizer (who sent the invitation to a meeting)
  • Attendees (people invited to a meeting)

To search, enter your desired text. The results display:

As you can see, you can filter search text even further by selecting KeywordOrganizer, or Subject filters.

In addition to showing the results, Calendar also displays a Search Tools ribbon.

The first drop-down list lets you choose which folders to review, such as the All Calendar ItemsCurrent FolderSubfolder, or All Outlook Items.

Other ways to filter include:

  • By Organizer
  • By Subject
  • Has Attachments
  • By Category

Status of Requests, for example, Accepted AppointmentsTentative Appointments, or Requests Not Responded To.

You can view recent searches by selecting the Recent Searches drop-down list. You can further refine your searches using other parameters.

So as you can see, the Calendar feature has a lot going for it. Check it out next time you are in Outlook. And contact us today if you need help with your Microsoft environment.

Microsoft 365 with Office Protect’s forwarding block

Microsoft 365 with Office Protect’s forwarding block

We’ve talked before about how to flag any outbound spam leaving your organization, which is essential to prevent someone who’s just starting from sending spam or one-off emails that might go out.

But what happens if, as often happens with spam, someone decides to send out spam emails automatically, en masse? Obviously, it would be helpful to know that it happened after the fact, but if they’ve already emailed everyone on your client list, the damage is done.

Fortunately, Office Protect still has you covered. With the setting “Enable Client Rules Forwarding Block,” you can stop spammers before they start.

Learn how Office Protect helps keep your Microsoft 365 tenants safe with our e-book

How outbound spam works

Phishing scams occur when hackers get someone to open a malicious email by pretending to be a trustworthy source. They often use tactics such as fake domain names or enticing subject lines to get people to take the “bait.” v

Outbound spam is essentially phishing on the receiving end – people are more likely to open emails from someone they know and trust. Except this time, in their eyes, the email is from someone they know and trust, so it’s even more undetectable.

This works especially well in businesses. After all, we swap emails with important attachments back and forth every day. Hackers take advantage of this, particularly with the use of invoices. In fact, 26% of all phishing scams include fake invoices.

Once the recipient opens the attachment, malware is downloaded into their system. Hackers have successfully taken your good name and exploited it for their own gain.

So what is malware, and what damage does it really cause? Malware is a catch-all term for any software spread specifically to be malicious. It can come in many forms, but the most common are listed below.

What is malware?

Ransomware – While ransomware is declining due to advanced security measures, it can still wreak havoc on your organization. Ransomware is designed to lock you out of your systems or take your data hostage until your company pays the hackers a set amount for them to give back access. Ransomware often targets small businesses, and the amount is usually small enough to warrant just paying it rather than risking weeks or days of a lockout by involving the police.

Spyware – The sneakiest type of malware, spyware is installed without the user’s knowledge. It can run in the background of your system, slowly collecting and transferring your data out of the organization for weeks or even months until it is discovered.

Keyloggers – Like spyware, keyloggers can run undetected in the background, but they are specifically designed to log every keystroke the user enters. This is a great way for hackers to gain usernames and passwords to allow deeper access to your most important data.

Virus – The most common type of malware, viruses spread by “infecting” files on your computer, often one after the other until the machine overloads and shuts down completely.

The danger of mass spam emailing

If hackers gain access to your network, they can send out an email from your inbox to all your contacts almost instantaneously, and the consequences of that quick action for them can be far-reaching and long term for you.

So what’s the worst that could happen? Well, if you are a managed service provider or reseller, malware in your system could give hackers access to all your clients. Malware on one client’s system could infect all your other clients sharing the same server or cloud space.

Once your clients realize that you allowed malware into their systems, that could cause a major breach in trust, which is vital in your line of work. If clients lose confidence in you, they will be very unlikely to continue to use you for their data and IT services. They could even discuss what happened with colleagues from other companies, costing you future business and your professional reputation.

Even in a best-case scenario where outbound spam reaches all recipients but they do not open it, your reputation will take a hit. If nothing else, you’ll be marked as someone who sends out annoying spam emails. And it’s very likely that at least one of the spam emails will be opened. Research shows that about a third of email attachments in phishing emails are opened.

Office Protect’s Enable Client Rules Forwarding Block setting

Fortunately, Office Protect is here to ensure that mass spam emails never come from inside your organization. With the setting ‘Enable Client Rules Forwarding Block’ turned on, you can rest easy knowing your company is safe from this particular attack.

When turned on, this setting allows security control to create a transport rule to stop external, auto-forward type messages from leaving your tenant. The following criteria must be met for this rule to engage:

  • Sender is located ‘inside the organization’
  • Recipient is located ‘outside the organization’
  • Message type is ‘auto-forward’

If all these criteria are true, the system will reject the message and let the user know that it was rejected due to ‘external mail forwarding via client rules not permitted.’ This will allow any user that legitimately needs to use this feature to understand what happened and request the permissions necessary to complete their task.

How to use it

So how do you turn this setting on? Just go into the settings on your dashboard and flip the toggle menu to “on,” and you will be all set! You will also see the security impact (high) and user impact (low), which is the best combination. Why would you not want to apply a setting with little to no effect on end-users that has maximum effect on your security? It’s a win/win!

Contact your Sherweb representative today to learn how this setting and more can help protect your IT environment with Office Protect.