Share and Collaborate with Your Team Using Office 365

If you are Small or Medium size businesses and have busy field employees that travel and will need a secured access to their files and at the same time collaborate with his Team, here’s a good read for you. I have been given an opportunity to publish this Article in the http://blogs.msdn.com site.

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/mvpawardprogram/archive/2014/12/22/share-and-collaborate-with-office-365-and-your-team.aspx

 

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Why Consider Microsoft Office 365 for Business Use

Office 365 logo

Whether you are a small or medium business, complex environment or perhaps requires project management and looking for a solution that’s not complicated to use in a daily basis and needs integration with multi-device, multi-platform and companion apps, Microsoft Office 365 will be best suited. This is the same Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access and Publisher) as if it was installed in your computer but has more useful programs, apps and features – i.e. online conferencing, public website, cloud storage and you can access Office 365 from any devices (PC, Laptop, Mac and Smart) virtually as long as you have internet connection.

Microsoft Office 365 is a cloud solution and comes together with powerful capabilities all in a single package. The best part, you don’t have to worry about updating the software; you’ll get the Office 365 automatic updates, maintenance and 24/7 technical support as long as you keep your subscription from Microsoft up-to-date.

Productivity – You can get a lot more done and able to access your work files virtually anywhere and whatever device you are using. You may use Office 365 to share and edit files at the same time with anyone in your office or team so that everybody can be productive.

Collaboration – Is Teamwork vital in your business environment? Are you a traveler or a remote employee that requires retrieving your work files in real-time and doing collaboration with your co-workers? The All-in-One package has everything you’ll need – email, files sharing, calendars sharing, IM and web conferencing for you and your team.

Compatibility – You don’t have to worry on what devices or Operating Systems you’ll have to use or implement in a near future, it will run in all Windows Operating Systems-Clients (except XP and older versions) and Servers (except 2003 and older versions) . Mac Users will also benefit from Office 365 as there are Apps available.

Integration – Office 365 integrates well with a variety of devices by simply installing the Apps for Mac, Windows and other Smart Devices with full access to your corporate files.

Convenient – Install the Office 365 Apps and carry the device in your pocket or purse whether it’s a smart phone or a Tablet. Dealing with daily work tasks and conveniently accessible for an employee is vital for business.

Security – If you are concerned about privacy and security, Office 365 is highly encrypted and rest assured that your email and documents will be virtually protected.

Cloud Storage – Afraid to lose your files? It’s safe to store confidential files using cloud storage and not to worry that next day or anytime that your computer would crash. If in the event that this happened, since your files are stored in the cloud, simply use another computer, log on to your business profile and continue to work on your files stress-free.

Easy Migration and Implementation – Office 365 can be effectively implemented without complications. Easy transition from a traditional Microsoft Office to the modern and sophisticated Microsoft Office with limited downtime.

Cost Effective – There’s no need to hire an IT person to manage the File Servers and purchasing costly hardware File Servers, it’s all taken care of in a single administration, cost-effective and will give you a Return on Investment (ROI).

Other great features – Having your own mail server can be daunting and expensive, Office 365 comes with Exchange Online and SharePoint Online if you’ll need collaboration with your team.

I use Office 365 and I really like the integration with all my devices – Windows 8 desktop, Windows 8.1 laptop, Windows 8 Phone and Surface 2 and also with other Microsoft Products that I’m currently using as I can manage all my work files anytime and virtually anywhere across the globe and you can’t go wrong with that. Although we host our Exchange Server, there’s no interruption neither any conflicts running Office 365 from my own experience. Find out if Office 365 is the right solution for your business, see the different options here.

Unprotected Mobile Devices and Mobile Theft Epidemic

It is astonishing to know how many people do not password-protect their mobile devices for both business and personal use. There are more than 40% of mobile device users that are not using any passwords or security applications. If your mobile device is lost or stolen and it’s not password protected, your accounts and personal information is 100% accessible.  I wonder if users realize how vulnerable they are if their mobile devices  (Smart Phones or Tablets) are stolen or misplaced.  Cyber criminals are looking for weaknesses especially on Android platforms. My device is a Windows 8 business mobile phone pre-loaded with Microsoft Office, Banking, Public and Work Email Accounts, Cloud Storage (SkyDrive), Banking, Credit Card and Payment Apps requiring a log on. The thought of this information getting into the wrong hands is bothersome and the impact would be devastating.

Mobile theft is a growing issue that also affects businesses and consumers equally. Cell-phone theft in major cities (i.e. San Francisco, New York) has become a national crime epidemic. It will only take a few minutes for someone to steal all sensitive data stored in your mobile device which will be unfortunate and upsetting. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or it is now referred to Bring Your Own Disaster or/and Bring Your Own Apps Smartphones and Tablets are growing, make sure that security protocols are enforced to protect corporate data on all devices. Please read my BYOD Article here for best practices.

 

To prevent potentially embarrassing information falling into the wrong hands, don’t keep private information stored directly on your personal or business phone but store private information, photos or documents remotely or via cloud. Sometimes, storing data via cloud is neither viable option but it is convenient to most of us. It is still a good practice to store files locally and have them on hand in the event you can’t connect to the cloud for any reasons. If that’s the case, the precautionary step you might want to consider is enabling a password lock. Every mobile OS has a password lock feature such as iOS, BlackBerry OS, Windows, Android platforms that will allow you to set a PIN password or a more complex alphanumeric pass-code for the lock screen.

Best Practices to Protect/Secure Your Mobile Devices and Control Theft Epidemic:

  • Password protect all your mobile devices and do not use easy to remember passwords.
  • Never use the “remember me” function on your apps or mobile web browser, and make sure to log out of your accounts.
  • Do not share your PIN/Passwords with anyone, even with a family or close friends.
  • Reading online resources to keep you educated on the latest techniques/means to protect your mobile device is vital.
  • Implement best practices to protect corporate networks and allow consumers to download music, store digital files, bank, shop, surf and search safely.

 

Securing Mobile Devices on Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

With a myriad of mobile devices being used on a variety of new platforms (Android, Windows 8, iOS 6, etc.) – IT Professionals are beginning to raise concerns on how to manage and secure these devices. With more of the device processing occurring outside the company, these concerns are critical. What if an employee handed their company phone to another employee? In today’s environment, this second employee could take advantage of the situation and use the phone for non-approved activities. This could create significant employment issues for the first employee. On another level, there’s the potential threat from mobile malware that’s becoming more prevalent.

owndevice

Some businesses are seeing Employees bringing their own Droids, iPhones, iPads, and other Tablets to work and using them for personal and business purposes. While this may generate the perception that it’s e great for productivity, the invasion of personal smartphones and tablets in the workplace can cause a significant risk to your organization’s security. Without having a proper strategy you could be at risk.

When employees are given carte blanche on the corporate network with their mobile devices (installing Apps and use of Cloud storage), there is a significant potential for corporate data loss. Any time a phone is lost, stolen, or even simply sold or exchanged, the potential for compromising of data may occur. This can be prevented by implementing encryption, password restriction, and remote wipe and lock thru a Mail Server.

byod1

It’s vital for IT Professional to secure access to corporate data. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or personal and corporate use can be managed by using third-party software (listed below) to secure data in your wireless phone and company. Investing in a Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution that controls which devices can access specific applications on your network is a smart decision. By taking precautionary steps, files are secured with the highest encryption for file sharing.

On July 10, 2013, I was given an opportunity to attend an IT Security Seminar and have met some of these top MDM Vendors.

AirWatch
BoxTone
Eset Mobile Security
Exitor
FancyFon
McAfee Enterprise Mobility Management
Mobile Active Defense
Symantec Mobile Management
Trend Micro Mobile Security

Why secure BYOD’s? It’s not the devices that are causing lots of the problems. The challenge is employees wanting to use their own device for both personal and professional business. This creates a host of security issues, as mentioned earlier, and the reason to implement controls and security measures.

Microsoft’s Office 365 vs Google Apps Cloud Solutions……the Security and Privacy

I wrote an article about Microsoft’s Office 365 vs Google Apps Cloud Solutions a few months ago and now I’d like to talk about the security and privacy concerns of these cloud solutions for most businesses and consumers.
So…. you’re a Lawyer or a Doctor and also a small business owner trying to decide which cloud solution will be best suited for your company. You should also be concerned about your company’s privacy, sensitive information and files that will be transmitted over the internet and then stored in the cloud. This is a serious factor to think about and whether or not to put your trust in either Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps and the security risks involved. Consider not only how much confidential information your company has, but how you can protect your valuable data, and about choosing the right solution with trustworthy security. It is also a good idea to evaluate Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps regarding security measures if this is a major concern to your business.

Both Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps offer an extra layer of security so that every browser session will be secured with SSL encryption and reduce your worry about outside forces stealing sensitive data such as passwords, credit cards information, etc.. It may be useful to consider what type of additional network security systems your organization has, or wants to implement or upgrade to if you have a budget for this – eg…hardware and software firewall/security protection. For a highly sophisticated security and privacy, if the company budget is not an issue and you’d like to sync Microsoft Office programs to Exchange Server, Office 365 might be the right solution for your company. Here’s a documentation regarding Office 365 Security and Compliance. If you have a reasonable IT budget then Google Apps is good alternative solution. Here’s a good read on Google Apps Security and Compliance.

At the end of the day, the same questions will be asked and pondered as to how these cloud solutions are using highly encrypted technology . Will Google and Microsoft be able to provide you with a high level of protection? The reality…there will always be questions regarding security and privacy. Good luck with your decision, I think that either one would work just fine for you.

Backup Strategies

Backups are often neglected; do you backup your computer or server, if so, how often? At any moment a computer or server may crash unexpectedly and put your critical data at risk. Are you confident that you will be able to do a full restoration within a minimal downtime? Have you done a full backup test restoration including the hard drive images? How much information do you have stored on your Server’s hard drives? Are you hosting your own email or website? Are you running any SQL databases? These are all very critical and require a good backup strategy to be enforced to be able to recover from a disaster in an efficient and effective way. You must be prepared for any calamities such as fire, earthquakes and floods. Do you have any backup plans in the event of a natural disaster? Backups are a very important factor to consider.  The risk of losing data is often unnecessary and could be avoided by implementing a simple and sometimes cost-effective backup solution.

The Strategies:

  • If you have a Domain Network, having additional Domain Controllers (DC) is something that has to be implemented so that there will be limited network downtime just in case a disaster happens.  Active Directory Users and Computers will replicate to your additional DC(s) and improve the dependability and availability of your network resources if the main DC is not up and running due to a crash or failure.
  • Storing huge amount of files and data on your network can be very risky if you don’t have a well planned and tested backup system.  Local backups can be done if you have enormous or terabytes of files stored in your file server(s).  Losing these files could cause you a major problem that you may not be able to bounce back from.  If your company has a limited IT budget then you can purchase some affordable external USB hard drives to do a local on-site backup.  These can be taken off site by a member of staff. Another affordable option would be to purchase a (Network Attached Storage) NAS Device and use a third parties backup software like Acronis or Symantec to do a full backup image of your Servers hard drives.
  • Do you have (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) RAID configured in any of your Servers? If your Employer can afford and has a budget for a RAID 10 (also known as RAID 1 + 0) system and it requires a minimum of 4 hard drives, I highly recommend this. A server with RAID 10 is amongst the most popular RAID solutions and provides a very high fault tolerance in case of hard drive failures. RAID 10 is very pricey but it is the best RAID option for any perilous applications especially databases.  If you have a limited IT budget then investing in a RAID 1 (Mirrored) solution is also acceptable. It will allow for one of your drives to fail without causing major downtime. Keep at least one spare hard drive for your RAID on site in case of a drive failure.  Newer technology servers have hot swappable drives, so expect limited downtime and rest assured that your data will be safe and intact. Some Users won’t even know if the network was down.
  • Backup as often as you want – There is no such thing as backing up too much! Having a redundancy backup is a must have. A very common backup strategy is to make daily incremental, differential, and a weekly full backup.  Another question you may want to ask is: If my first backup solution fails, what will I do then? Having multiple backups to restore from is a must.  Placing all of your eggs in one basket can be risky. If you are going to use Tapes or External Hard Disks to back up your data it is recommended that you have a daily or weekly rotation between drives.  If you have five External Hard Drives on a daily rotation then even if your most recent backup is not restorable you can fall back onto the day before – Losing 24-hours worth of data is far better than losing it forever!
  • Do not backup to a different partition on the same physical disk. You should be aware that if the disk fails then the entire disk will be corrupted and your backup will be useless!  You may lose everything.
  • The types of restore you can do with a backup are an important factor to consider. How long will it take you to restore an entire hard drive?  Can you restore your server onto other hardware?  Do you have any hard drives in stock in the event your drives fail?
  • A Cloud backup solution can be costly, but if your company can afford it, it’s a great backup solution to consider.  Hosted cloud also known as online backup is very popular nowadays.  If you are going to use a hosted backup solution find out the level of encryption that they support and remember to write down the restoration procedure, in the event of a problem you will want to access the backups quickly.  Cloud backup is safe and a secured way of backing up data on remote data storage, also accessible from anywhere. The only downside is that it requires a higher bandwidth.
  • It is a very good idea to keep your servers in a fire/flood proof location like a Vault, if your Employer can afford this type of Storage.

Backup only important documents – you will be very surprised how many gigabytes worth of Media files such as pictures, music and videos that some employees will store in their roaming profiles and local hard drives. Some are for business use but mostly are for personal use.  It is worth reviewing what you are backing up at least once a month.

Side-by-Side Comparison of Backup Software – Client and Server Operating Systems:

Client Operating Systems – Paid and Free Software:

http://data-backup-software-review.toptenreviews.com/

http://free-backup-software.net/free-backup-software-comparison

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_backup_software

Servers – Paid Software:

http://windows-server-backup-review.toptenreviews.com/

Hosted Online and Cloud Backup Solution:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_online_backup_services

http://enterprisefeatures.com/2010/09/top-25-enterprise-online-backup-solutions-for-business-cloud-data-protection/

***A special ‘Thanks’ to Dave Atkin – co  Author .***

Microsoft’s Office 365 vs Google Apps Cloud Solutions

There’s a battle going on between two great Cloud Solutions – Microsoft Office 365 vs Google Apps. Which side will you choose?
 
If you have a Home or Small Business with less than 25 employees, there’s no need to invest on a Server, additional Computers , Hardware and Software. All you need is a working Broadband connection and a computer to access the internet. Remotely access and work on your files, programs, software anytime and anywhere. A very minimal and basic IT support  is needed, there’s no need to outsource a professional IT Consultant.
 
Two Versatile IT Cloud Solutions that are now available:
 
 
As low as $6 per User per month which is not too bad at all.  The package comes with Email (with anti-spam filtering), web-based Microsoft Office – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote  and Lync.
 
 
Google Apps includes a Free Solution (google documents, hosted email, spreadsheet and presentation) for up to 10 Users with Free Website and Email. Upgrade to the Business solution and you will get a lot more out of it including synchronization of emails to your Smart Phones (Android, IPhone and Blackberry).
 
Now, it’s all up to you which one would work better. Will it be the most affordable one but with less attributes? Perhaps spend a little more but you’ll get a lot more goodies.