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As we are all still trying to understand what the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will be, many organisations are taking a hard look at their operating costs and looking for potential cuts. Protecting cash flow is vital right now. At Sensible we want to help you implement strategies that can help reduce your IT costs and set you up with a system flexible enough to support your business through the many changes (or pivots) you might be making to position yourselves to thrive through it all. We want to offer you guidance and support through these times, and potentially help you save some money.

Step 1- Do an Internal Audit

Take a look at your current technology solutions. Take stock of everything you are paying for and ask yourself these questions:

• Is this the right system for my business? Does it accomplish all I need it to?

• Are we currently utilising all the tools we are paying for? Can we cut any?

• Do we lack internal processes? Are there ways I can improve efficiency and save our employee’s time?

Step 2- Cut Any Redundant or Unnecessary Services

The easiest way to reduce costs is to get rid of what’s not working. Many companies have a habit of purchasing a new tool or service to meet an immediate need. Little do they know they usually already have a tool that could meet that need, it’s just not being used properly. Here is a free tip: Do you have Office 365? Most companies get this package so they can use programs like Word and Excel, but don’t fully utilise the other apps that come with it. Microsoft teams can easily replace Slack and Zoom, and Sharepoint or OneDrive can do the job of Google Drive and Dropbox. You’re already paying for Office 365, and the tools themselves are more powerful, providing integration of your information and files across all the apps. You might simply need some training or guidance on how to implement these tools into your business processes, and we can help with that.

Step 3- Evaluate Whether It’s Cost Effective to Manage Your Own IT

Is IT your core skill set? Will you ever be as efficient and skilled as a complete team of specialists? Often your time will be better spent doing what you are best at, then wasting countless hours trying to learn an entirely new skill set. Additionally, can you really afford not to do IT the right way? Payroll and training costs alone can be a nightmare. Outsourcing a portion of your IT needs to a 3rd party resource like Sensible can help you simultaneously improve your technology management, and potentially save money. If you’re currently relying on an internal IT manager or a small internal team, are they struggling to keep up with the tsunami of complex and ever-changing technology needs and services? Important competitive projects may be delayed while your team has to complete training, and you become the test environment for their new skills, increasing your risk. Sensible offers a full-service solution for your IT needs, resulting in a higher standard than most organisations can achieve in-house.

Step 4- Don’t Pay for Quick Fixes, Invest in A Reliable Solution

How does your current IT resource handle your technology needs? Are you currently working with a “break-fix” style of management, where you pay for problems as they occur whether or not they happened before? Or are you paying a predictable monthly fee for a process that analyses your business, looks for opportunities to improve your staff productivity and tries to prevent problems in the first place? We believe you should engage a provider like us, who trusts their systems to offer you unlimited support for a fixed fee. Those quick fixes add up quickly, and with the right solution, you can eliminate them.

Step 5- Plan for The Future, Secure Your Information

As we are working remotely, it is more imperative than ever to understand how to protect your data. Protecting your finances, your reputation, and your Intellectual property can be costly, mainly if not implemented properly. However, it is even more expensive if you don’t protect them adequately at all. Adhering to compliance regulations can be costly and often means implementing and maintaining a stringent security infrastructure- do you have the expertise to do this most cost-effectively?

We could cover many more steps to take, but these are the areas where we think you can make the most impact on you and your business. If you’re hesitant about tackling this problem on your own, that’s okay! We encourage you to contact Sensible. We can help you identify these problems and guide you on how to solve them. Give us a call!

A common reason for running the Windows operating system (OS) on a Mac computer is to bypass compatibility issues. Virtualization is the only way to efficiently install OS-specific software on any machine, so let’s go over some of the ways this solution creates synergy between the two platforms.

Configure an entire machine with a few clicks

With programs like VMware and Parallels, installing Microsoft’s OS on your Mac is almost as easy as creating a new document in Office. The process varies between vendors, but it’s usually akin to clicking File and New and then choosing between Windows XP, 7, 8 or 10, and typing in your product key.

Deciding how much hard drive space and RAM get devoted to your virtual machine is also simple and user-friendly. For example, allocating memory to your Windows partition is done by sliding a marker along a scale that is color-coded based on the recommendations of your virtualization software.

Once you've completed these simple steps, click Finish and the rest will be configured for you.

Picture-in-picture computing

Older OS virtualization solutions forced you to choose which platform you would use by presenting the options while the computer was still booting up. Once you picked one operating system, there was no way to switch without restarting the whole computer.

Now, you can open Windows as if it were just another desktop application. This is especially useful when you need to work in both OSs simultaneously. Just adjust your Windows screen to half the size of your monitor and use the other half for MacOS applications.

Another reason this is so important is because it allows you to run multiple versions of Windows at the same time. Half of your screen could be running an outdated application in Windows XP while the other half is working in Windows 10.

Touchbar support

The customizable touchscreen that was added to Apple’s most recent line of laptops is a great way to create shortcuts and increase productivity. Virtualization applications have added Touch Bar support so you can use it to interact with Windows applications.

For example, a Touch Bar button for opening Cortana -- Microsoft’s AI assistant -- is included in the Parallels virtualization software. Alternatively, you can also use Apple’s keyboard touch screen to toggle between virtual OSs or interact with your Mac while still working in Windows.

Single Application Mode

Containers are a popular subset of virtualization solutions that allow you to give users access to a single application rather than an entire OS. Unfortunately, they are incredibly difficult to set up and manage. Updates to Mac virtualization software have simplified the process with a “Single Application Mode” whereby administrators can grant employees access to preconfigured Windows partitions with only one program installed.

Snapshots

Regardless of whether you’re a certified virtualization professional or a consumer trying to make it work with low-cost software, everyone makes mistakes. With saved configurations of Windows installs known as Snapshots, you can start over without having to set up everything from scratch.

If one of your Windows partitions becomes infected with malware, loading a Snapshot rolls everything back to its original state so you don’t have to configure the virtual hardware or retype the Windows product key. Best of all, restoring a Snapshot is much quicker than a fresh install.

Taking advantage of everything virtualization has to offer involves a lot of IT planning and maintenance. Fortunately, it’s all within reach for small- and medium-sized businesses that partner with a managed IT services provider. Contact us today to learn more!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Workplace Analytics is a program that helps managers determine staff productivity levels using data gathered from their email, calendar, documents, and other applications within Office 365. Previously, Microsoft’s MyAnalytics allowed only employees to view their individual data, but with this updated version, managers now have access to this data, too.

How it works

Now available as an add-on to Office 365 enterprise plans, Workplace Analytics extracts behavioral insights from data gathered from Office 365 email, calendar, documents, and Skype. This means that any data an employee types into their email and calendar -- whether it’s on the subject line or the main content itself -- can be used to indicate their productivity status.

The program has an overview dashboard that provides specific information:

  • Week in the Life provides an overall view of how the entire organization spends time and how members collaborate
  • Meetings shows the amount of time spent in meetings
  • Management and Coaching gauges staff-manager one-on-one meetings
  • Network and Collaboration takes a look at how employees connect to colleagues

What does it aim to do?

Workplace Analytics aims to address what, according to Microsoft, are businesses’ most common challenges: complexity, productivity, and engagement.

Using Analytics data, managers and human resources departments can form productivity strategies for the entire company. If, based on Workplace Analytics data, a majority of your employees are spending 60% of their time attending meetings and not enough time doing creative work, they can come up with a strategy that reduces meeting time and focuses more on productive tasks.

It also identifies how employees collaborate with internal and external parties. Suppose one of your sales staff frequently communicates with certain contacts. By using Workplace Analytics data, the employee’s manager would be able to determine whether this particular collaboration pattern is helping the employee hit sales targets or whether he or she is missing out on other more critical contacts. Also, based on this info, managers would be able to determine which employees are most likely to meet or exceed their targets and set company-wide standards accordingly.

Data gathered by Workplace Analytics also allows managers to determine an employee’s level of engagement (i.e., whether the organization’s collaboration patterns are good for the company) and whether workloads are fairly distributed among workers and/or departments.

Is it useful for small businesses?

Large corporations have been using Workplace Analytics, but small businesses can also benefit from it. For one, the data used to provide the insights are all based on data generated by employees themselves -- how much time they spend on meetings, whom they frequently communicate with, and how much time they spend on productive tasks.

Aside from letting managers examine their staff’s working behavior, Workplace Analytics also provides an overall look into what happens at an organizational level. If you want your organization to harness the capabilities of Workplace Analytics and other Office 365 tools, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Windows 10, the latest version of Microsoft's flagship operating system, was released in July 2015, and millions of people have already received their copies of the tech giant's newest piece of software. While there are plenty of good reasons to upgrade, Windows 10 isn't necessarily for everyone.

Here are a few issues to consider when choosing whether or not to get Windows 10:

1. It's Free (for Most People)

Microsoft is offering free upgrades to Windows 10 for anyone with a genuine copy of Windows 7, Windows 8.1, or Windows Phone 8.1. The free-upgrade promotion — which expires on July 29, 2016 — will entice a huge number of Windows users to make the switch.

However, the offer doesn't extend to Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8.1 Enterprise, Windows RT, and Windows RT 8.1. That being said, Microsoft started selling Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education on August 1, 2015.

2. Improved Performance

Windows 10 features several performance upgrades. It boots up faster and its better hardware acceleration means that the operating system is a bit quicker when in use. The OS's power management system has also seen some improvements that tend to extend the life of mobile devices' batteries.

Additionally, the Refresh and Reset functions were reimplemented so that they work without the need for a recovery image. This reduces the amount of system resources that the OS requires, and makes it easier for users to remove any unwanted software that hardware manufacturers might have bundled into their copies of Windows.

3. Better Security

Security was clearly an important consideration for Microsoft's developers when they were creating Windows 10. The new OS provides automatic updates, which can make things easier for some users, but may make system administrators cringe. It also has a number of features designed to keep users and their data secure.

Its Device Guard tool blocks unauthorised applications from accessing Windows 10 computers or the networks that they are connected to. The OS's Passport and Windows Hello features protect accounts by changing the way that people approach user authorisation. Instead of relying on a password, these features let users launch Windows 10 devices by using biometric characteristics like their faces, irises, or fingerprints.

4. The Return of the (Limited) Start Menu

One of the main criticisms against Windows 8 was the loss of the Start menu. This clear and easy-to-use menu was a staple of previous Windows versions, and many users were upset when they were unable to use it. Thankfully, Microsoft learned from its mistakes by bringing the Start menu back with Windows 10.

The new version of the Start menu will be familiar to Windows 7 users, but it also features a customisable side panel with live tiles similar to the ones used in Windows 8. You can reorganise this panel as you like, combine and re-size live tiles, and create shortcuts to your favorite applications. Alternatively, if you don't like the live tiles, you can delete them and go back to the basic Windows-7-style menu.

5. A New Web Browser

The release of Windows 10 also served as the debut performance of Microsoft Edge, the company's latest web browser. Windows 10 users will still have the option to use Internet Explorer, though. This will help companies that need to keep using the 20-year-old web browser for compatibility reasons.

Microsoft Edge is designed to be faster, more secure, and more user-friendly than Internet Explorer. Users can customise the web browser by picking a background or choosing a set font size. It also has several new features, like the ability to convert to a streamlined format that removes sidebars and is easier to read. There is also a tool that lets you make notes on web pages, and then share screenshots of the pages through email or a social network. Note, that Windows Edge does not yet allow plug-ins, so some websites won't work yet.

6. A Universal Approach

Windows 10 is a universal operating system that works on every Windows machine, whether it's a computer or a mobile device. Any app bought through the Windows Store will work on all of a user's machines, and will feel familiar regardless of the device that it is being used on. Users can also switch from one device to the next without losing any of their work. If you start working on a document on your computer, you can easily switch to your tablet and pick up right where you left off.

Microsoft's Continuum also facilitates this broader versatility. This feature changes the operating system's interface based on the status of the device. For example, if you plug a keyboard and mouse into your tablet, the operating system will recognise the change and switch to desktop mode.

7. A Digital Personal Assistant

Cortana is Microsoft's answer to Google Now and Apple's Siri. Originally connected to Windows Phone, the digital personal assistant can now be used on any Windows 10 device. Users interact with Cortana by speaking or by typing in questions. The digital assistant learns about users by keeping track of the things they like, and is integrated with Microsoft's calendar and email clients. This means that it is able to answer more personal questions like "How long will it take me to get home?" and recognise specific issues that might affect you, like a traffic jam or travel delay.

8. Virtual Desktops

With Windows 10, you can create multiple different desktops and choose which apps to run on each one. This helps you keep your work life and your personal life separate, and allows you to share desktops with your colleagues.

A Few Words of Warning

Although Windows 10 does have a lot of advantages, there are a few things that you should be aware of before you upgrade. As noted above, Windows 10 users will get automatic updates. In some cases, this can be a good thing, but some users, and especially organisations that need consistent desktops for all staff, like to maintain more control over their updates. For those people, Microsoft has noted that Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise let you avoid this automatic updating process.

Additionally, the Windows Media Center is not part of the new OS, so if you use this application a lot — by watching DVDs, for example — then you will need to find a suitable replacement online.

Lastly, compatibility with existing, older and custom software may be an issue. If you have applications that are only compatible with a certain operating system, check with your IT staff or service provider about the possibility of migrating to Windows 10. By the same token, if you have older hardware or peripherals (like printers) that don't have updated drivers, then Windows 10 could be a problem and it might be time to buy newer pieces of equipment.

We have also seen issues with particular computer displays (particularly in laptops). You must ensure that your hardware manufacturer has released tested drivers for Windows 10 for your exact model hardware.

Windows 10 has a lot of privacy and bandwidth settings that you may not want to have enabled. Many of these are automatically turned on by default during the installation process. As a precaution, be sure to look over the settings in case you want to change them. Talk to your IT provider if you have any questions on the effect of enabling or disabling a setting.

The Big Finale

The media has claimed that the new OS could be the last version of Windows. Setting aside the speculation, the basic premise behind this statement is that Microsoft may be moving to a so-called Windows-as-a-Service model in which it will push out frequent updates to its current operating system rather than release a new version every few years.

Regardless of the hype, the fact of the matter is that Windows 10 will be here for years to come. Microsoft has already committed to a 10-year support cycle for it. Windows users will, in all likelihood, have to adapt to it at some point. Deciding when that point will be is something that you can do with the help of your IT staff or service provider.

In our testing to date, it appears that if you are currently using Windows 8.x successfully, Windows 10 is a fairly seamless migration. In fact, Windows 10 is what Windows 8.x should have been.

But note: It's fine for Microsoft to release a new operating system and assume everyone should just get it. But you need to make good decisions about your business.

This is a great time to rely on a professional Microsoft certified IT consultant to make sure you have a smooth transition and who has already tested it in a business environment. Ask them to arrange a demonstration for you.

Microsoft have an FAQ on this upgrade process (from their point of view) :http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/windows-10-faq

Microsoft Office 2016, the latest Windows-based version of the major technology company's application suite, is scheduled for an Australian release either in late 2015 or early 2016 . However, we already know quite a bit about the product, thanks to a preview and testing program that Microsoft has been running.

Here are 6 details to look forward to, ahead of the product's mainstream release:

1. Better Security

Microsoft Office 2016 will emphasise the value of better security parameters. In addition to a file-level encryption functionality, new data loss protection tools inside of Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, and Microsoft PowerPoint will warn users when they attempt to save confidential files to unsafe locations. Microsoft Outlook will also be more secure, thanks to a multi-factor authentication feature.

Similarly, the application suite will have stronger information rights management tools that let you limit what people can do with your documents or emails after you've shared access with them. For example, you can allow access to a certain document to expire after a set period of time, and prevent it from being forwarded. These tools will also stop people from copying and pasting information out of Microsoft Office 2016 applications.

2. Business Intelligence Features

Microsoft Excel lives up to its name in Microsoft Office 2016. The latest version of this application features a built-in business intelligence tool called Power Query. This tool can dramatically change the way that you approach your data.

Using it, you can quickly combine your own numbers with figures from public databases like the Microsoft Azure Marketplace and Data.gov. After doing this, the application has another tool that lets you create detailed visualisations of the combined data.

The data analysis tool "Power Pivot" has got an upgrade and will now be capable of analysing millions of rows of data. The application will also be able to automatically find trends within your data and extrapolate them out into charts and tables.

3. The Tell Me Tool

The Tell Me feature makes Microsoft Office 2016 even easier to use. If you are ever lost or confused while working with a particular application, you can use this feature — found in the title bar of each program — to search for help. Just tell the application what you are looking for and it will offer a few options for you.

4. The Ability to Search with Smart Lookup

The Smart Lookup feature allows you to search the Internet for something without leaving your application. After highlighting a word and then selecting Smart Lookup, a panel will open up on the side of the screen with Bing search results for the highlighted word. The application will also scan the document so that it can provide the right information for the word based on the context.

5. Tools for Collaborating with Colleagues

Microsoft Office 2016 will expand on the real-time co-authoring capabilities of Microsoft Office Online. The additions will make it easier to collaborate with colleagues remotely. Microsoft has already added the co-authoring feature to Microsoft Word, and experts expect that other applications will soon have it as well.

The tech giant has also added features that let you create and manage groups from within Microsoft Outlook. Thanks to these features, you can monitor activity within your groups, read through the groups' conversation logs, and keep track of files and notes stored in OneDrive.

Microsoft has also improved the way that attachments work in Microsoft Outlook by adding a sleeker drop-down menu filled with recent opened files. After choosing a file, the application will ask you if you want to share a link to the file stored through Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft OneDrive, or Microsoft OneDrive for Business.

6. The Clutter Feature

A new feature called Clutter will improve the way that you manage your inbox in Microsoft Outlook. This feature will analyse your inbox, looking for the low-priority email messages that you are most likely to ignore. It will then send these messages to its Clutter folder. By moving these messages out of your inbox, the Clutter tool will let you focus on more important things.

If you're a busy businessperson, Outlook is the centre of your communication. Customers are moving from phone calls to emails, so you need to cater to customer preferences. To keep up with customer emails, Outlook 2013 has several options you can set that help you automate and simplify your email experience. Here are five ways to make your Outlook experience more convenient.

1. Minimize Outlook to the System Tray

Instead of minimizing to your taskbar, you can minimize to the system tray. It's more convenient to have an icon in the system tray rather than take up space in the Windows taskbar especially if you have several programs open at one time. Outlook still sends you notification of new email, and you can instantly open new messages directly from the system tray.

Right-click the Outlook 2013 icon in the notification area in your Windows taskbar. Click "Hide When Minimized" in the menu.

The next time you minimize Outlook, it will set an icon in the Windows system tray.

2. Set a Future Delivery Date for Messages

You can write a message and have Outlook send it at a future date instead of sending it right away. This is beneficial if you're going on holidays and need to send a message at a certain date.

With the email message open, click the "Options" tab. Click "More Options" in the bottom-right corner.

Click "Do not deliver before" and select a date. Click "Close." Make sure you leave Outlook running to ensure the message is sent while you are away.

3. Set Outlook as Your Default Email Program

Most people prefer one email program. It's easier to make Outlook your default email program, because you can more easily reply using your Outlook account. With Outlook as your default email, it automatically opens whenever you open email. Here's how to set it up in Windows 7:

Click the "Start" button and type "Default Programs" in the search text box. Press "Enter" and then click "Default Programs" in the search results page. Click "Set your default programs" to open a configuration screen. Choose "Outlook" from the list of programs and click "Set this as a default program." Click "OK" to save the settings.

Now, whenever you double-click an email or click an email link online, Outlook will open by default.

4. How to Increase the Font when Reading Email

Outlook lets you set your font size when you send email, but your sender might choose a small font that's hard to read. You can change the font on-the-fly to make it easier to read.

To change font size, open your email and hold the Ctrl key on your keyboard. With the Ctrl key pressed, scroll up on the mouse scroll wheel. The font size is increased as you scroll. You can also use this method to make the font smaller.

5. Read Message Headers

Message headers can give you lots of clues when it comes to the origin and legitimacy of a message. If you can read the headers, you can identify phishing scams and people spoofing email senders.

To view the headers, double-click the email message to open it in a new window. Click the "File" tab and then click "Info." Click "Properties." The headers are shown in the "Internet Headers" text box.

Email headers are read from last to first. The last server in the list is the originator.

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