Beginner’s Guide to Using Office 365 for Business

Thanks to modern innovations like mobile devices and cloud computing, business colleagues can collaborate on project files across great distances. You could have a work team spread out across the country or overseas working on the same documents with input from various contributors being made around the clock. When everything is done on a cloud server, the document is safe from loss, damage or theft and is always available to authorized parties from any location with Internet access.

The most advanced set of services in this regard are in the Office 365 series by Microsoft.

What Is Office 365 for Business?

 

Office 365 is a subscription service that combines cloud storage, business-class email and the latest versions of Microsoft Office suite. The latest upgrades to Microsoft programs are integrated into each level of the Office 365 service, which synchronizes to each new generation of Windows. Updates usually occur every six months.

1. Security Features

Office 365 offers safety features that protect data on all fronts, including the following:

  • Encrypted email: This ensures that mail is only read by authorized personnel, namely senders and recipients.
  • Data loss prevention: This blocks the spread of sensitive personal info, such as social security numbers.
  • Mobile device management: A lot of people refrain from doing business on mobile phones out of fear that such activity could result in data leaks. With Office 365, lost or stolen mobile phones can be remotely wiped and locked out of the cloud so no one can gain unauthorized access to your company’s files.
  • Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA): Office 365 prevents viruses before they arrive with ATA, which scans email attachments for possible malware. If something potentially malignant is detected, the attachment is removed from the email. The recipient still receives the email, but with a message stating why the attachment has been removed. ATA is key to the prevention of viruses and data breaches.

These and other features keep companies safe from data loss, security leaks and viruses. However, not all of the programs above are available in all versions of Office 365. Take note of the security features most crucial for your company and make sure everyone on your staff has a version of 365 with the necessary features.

2. Administrative Features

B2B versions of Office 365 feature a management dashboard where a company administrator can manage user licenses, security elements and program features across a company network.

3. Azure Active Directory Admin Center

All business subscriptions of Office 365 include an Azure Active Directory account, which administrators can use to manage company teams and establish connections with third parties.

4. OneDrive for Business

All Office 365 accounts include one terabyte of OneDrive storage space, allowing users to store thousands upon thousands of documents and files. On Enterprise levels of Office 365, an administrator can bump users up to limitless storage if data exceeds one terabyte.

Which Office 365 Plan Is Right for Your Business?

Office 365 is available in B2B and personal-use versions. However, individuals who freelance for other companies often get the personal version and use it for private as well as business use. Office 365 fees accumulate on a per-user, per-month basis and can either be paid monthly or annually, though the latter option is generally the more economical in the long run. The three basic Office 365 Business tiers each support up to 300 users. So what does Office 365 Business include?

1. Office 365 Business Essentials

For small businesses and startups, the most practical choice is Office 365 Business Essentials, which costs only $5 per month for each user. With Business Essentials, you get access to various Windows business programs, including Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams.

2. Office 365 Business

Office 365 Business is in some ways the next level up from Business Essentials, offering a host of Microsoft business applications not available with the other version of 365, such as Excel, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint and Word. However, 365 Business does not include Exchange, SharePoint, Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams. Unlike the other levels of 365, Business does not offer custom email domains or the 50GB mailbox. Office 365 Business is $8.25 a month and supports as many as 300 users.

3. Office 365 Business Premium

Office 365 Business Premium is the highest service level, offering all the programs and features of the two other levels, as well as Microsoft Bookings, Microsoft Connections, Microsoft Invoicing, Microsoft Listings, MileIQ and Outlook Customer Manager. Office 365 Business Premium is $12.50 per month for each user and is generally recommended for established businesses with large computing infrastructures. The expanded features of Business Premium are beyond the needs of most smaller companies.

For larger companies, four Enterprise plans offer advanced features for an unlimited number of users:

  1. Office 365 ProPlus is a $12 per month plan that features OneDrive for Business and the Microsoft desktop apps but excludes Exchange Online email.
  2. Office 365 Enterprise E1 includes online Office apps but excludes desktop versions. At $8 per month for each user, this plan is ideal for companies that wish to remain with certain Office versions yet also have cloud storage.
  3. Office 365 Enterprise E3 includes all of the online and desktop apps for $20 per user, per month. This level is popular with major organizations. From a legal standpoint, the advanced email security features of Enterprise E3 are good for companies that deal with sensitive data.
  4. Office 365 Enterprise E5 includes the highest level security and eDiscovery features at $35 per month for each user.

4. Mix and Match Plans

The different levels of Office 365 can be mixed among staff within the same company. If certain people on your team need fewer features than others, those people could use one of the more economical plans and still interact on documents with the rest of the team. Each person can upgrade or downgrade year-to-year, season-to-season, depending on current needs.

Setting up Office 365 for Your Business

The dashboard console requires considerable skill to manage, and some elements can only be controlled with PowerShell commands. Regardless of the size of your business, it is essential to have a qualified Office 365 administrator, either in-house or outsourced, who can handle the management and configuration tasks.

1. Keep up With Changing Features

Office 365 upgrades regularly. As such, users need to keep up with these changes. For some people, this can be confusing if they do not pay attention to these changes. While these upgrades rarely alter the functionality of programs in any major sort of way, they sometimes do, and you could be caught off guard if you are not prepared for a scheduled upgrade and return to find a radically overhauled program.

2. Note Which Features You Actually Use

Not everyone uses Office 365 to its full capacity. Most users only use about a fifth of the overall features offered at a given level. While this is generally a benign issue, it might be useful to do an annual inventory of what you do and do not use on Office 365. Depending on the size and scope of your business, you might find that all the features you do use are also available at a more economical level. Alternately, you might discover that certain people on your team do not need some of the more complex features used by other colleagues and could, therefore, save money by switching to a lower level.

3. Store Local Copies of Current Projects

With Office 365, files are accessed online and edited remotely from wherever you happen to be connected to the Internet. Consequently, you will not be able to access your files when your connection is down unless you have local copies of the files. Therefore, you will need to have a consistent, reliable Internet connection to make Office 365 work for you regularly.

Benefits of Using Office 365

Cloud computing is one of the best ways for businesses to work on projects and collaborate because of the safety and convenience that remote, secure services offer to all organizations, large and small. With cloud computing, all files are backed up, and system updates are always made on the server’s end. The benefits of Office 365 can be broken down as follows:

 

1. Backed-up Files

With data storage, local backup is never truly safe. Even if you back your data up on multiple redundancy drives, it could still be lost if a fire or flood swept through your place of operation. The only way to guarantee the safety of your data is with a cloud service like Office 365. Users can access their data from anywhere, even if a local emergency has turned your headquarters to rubble.

2. Secure Data

In the past, businesses were wary of cloud storage due to fears of hacking. Those problems are a complete non-issue with Office 365, which keeps data protected from hackers and leaks. With Office 365, only you and other authorized personnel can view your company’s data.

3. Accessible From Any Location at Any Hour

Office 365 makes it possible to access your files virtually from any location, be it the office, home or any other setting. On days when you are snowed in and cannot commute to the office, you could log in to your account and access your files from the comfort of your living room. If you are out of town or on a business trip, you could access your files from a café or hotel room on a smartphone or laptop.

4. Coordination and Organization

Whenever you need to contact work colleagues, it can be difficult to coordinate different means of contact unless you have a program that will synchronize each method of communication. On Office 365, each new contact on your mobile phone will be updated to your other devices and vice versa.

5. Manageable Monthly Costs

For smaller businesses, one of the most crippling aspects of overhead is the inflexible, high-rate contracts that services often impose on their customers. With Office 365, you can scale up or scale down according to your current needs. There is no lock-in contract with Office 365, which lets you pay for the amount of service that you need during any given month. If you are just starting up, you could choose a plan that would best suit a small number of contacts, then add more as your business grows. Depending on seasonal business trends, you could scale back or increase contacts for select periods of time.

6. Near-Limitless Mail Storage

One of the more troubling aspects of virtual space management is the amount of room that email can take up on your company server. If you are like most people, you might not even know that your inbox is full until you receive a popup message stating that it is time to clean out your inbox. You can forget about these popups with Office 365 because it provides 50GB of email storage, an amount you are unlikely to ever fill to capacity.

7. Licensing Made Easy

When you run a company with multiple colleagues, it can be difficult to keep everyone on the same page in terms of licensing, particularly when up to three different versions of Windows are being used among staff. With Office 365, these issues are put to rest because the service accepts all licensing and can, therefore, be implemented across your company.

8. Efficient Collaboration

When companies engage in collaborative work on the same documents, updates can be confusing and cumbersome if colleagues are making contributions from different locations throughout the day. For example, if you send a document as an attachment to a team of 10 co-workers, you could have a case where 10 modified documents must then be edited into one. With Office 365, all such confusion is eliminated because each document is updated live, in real-time, with each authorized modification. If you need to revert to an older version of the document, you can because each version is saved.

9. Regular Updates and Synchronization

Computer upgrades are often difficult for companies, especially when the machines involved have different capacities, some of which might not be compatible with the latest Windows. With Office 365, the upgrade issues that often plague computer departments are removed from the equation because the latest Windows versions are automatically installed at the server’s end. Regardless of what device you or one of your co-workers uses to access the cloud, the Windows version will be up-to-date.

Contact PCS for Office 365 Set up and Support

Whether you run a small upstart business or a large company, cloud computing could transform the w   ay that your staff collaborates on assignments and completes team projects. With Office 365, your company’s files will always be backed up and accessible among licensed users from any location. To get the most out of Office 365, you should always have IT services, consulting and support at your disposal. Contact PCS for Office 365 set up and support.

How Do Virtual Desktops for Businesses Work?

Getting every project done on time during work hours isn’t always easy for the average employee. The longer you work tediously in the same sitting, the easier it is to find yourself wasting time and getting distracted.

Years ago, there were some options available to access a work computer outside of the office, but those methods usually included a clunky, work-issued laptop or slow, buggy system that proved unreliable.

Although the technology rolled out long ago, it was not until recently the systems have become reliable enough to trust integrating them into your company’s network. Now, an overwhelming number of businesses use virtual desktops as their preferred means of using company technology. While we are light years ahead of what we have been, there are still VDI advantages and disadvantages.

It is essential to have a knowledgeable IT staff or work with a company who are experts in the industry when setting up and maintaining a VDI server because should anything go wrong or be compromised, there can be more widespread outages. There are select service providers that eliminate potential issues caused by lack of experience with the technology by both hosting and managing the network themselves.

What Is a Virtual Desktop?

 

If you’re unfamiliar with virtual desktops, you might wonder how a virtual desktop works. For the user, it’s essentially the same as any other desktop.

A virtual desktop allows employees access to their work computers remotely. The operating system and personal data are stored on a network which can be located anywhere using unique log-in credentials, instead of locally on the PC itself or other computing devices. A desktop or laptop is standard, but if you are looking for the added convenience of browsing your work desktop with a tablet, smartphone, or another device that can connect to the Internet, that is a possibility as well.

The beauty of this technology is that there are multiple ways to set up a virtual desktop. A standard computer is best run through a Desktops as a Service (DaaS) to host the online server. More portable hardware such as an iOS, Android, or Chromebook can benefit from cloud-based virtual desktops. Using many different operating systems such as Windows, Linus, iOS, and Android can optimize a workstation for a complicated task.

Each system provides different advantages and purpose, but changing between many different operating systems requires jumping through some hoops. Doing so lowers productivity by having to cross these barriers each time an employee wants to switch devices to perform a specific task. With a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), simply choose your favorite device and get down to business.

The virtual desktop behaves just as a traditional desktop would. Your programs, history and personalization settings stay intact and appear just as you left them at the end of the workday. These aspects include wallpapers, widgets and everything that you are familiar with on your work computer. When you are finished working on a project, just save as you normally would, and the files will be kept in a folder within the virtual server and are accessible whether you are in-office or remote.

Remote servers use software called a hypervisor to simulate the user desktop. This technology enables the server to run many instances of the same operating system, so it’s perfect for quickly sharing work between multiple devices or a workplace setting with many different users coming and going from the office. The hypervisor stores the system’s memory, processor and other vital aspects of the operating system, juggling all the different users with ease.

Advantages of Having a Virtual Desktop

So why would a business want to make the switch when their current system is functioning just fine? Why use a virtual desktop at all? There are more virtual desktop advantages that may meet the eye.

Many expenditures come into play when dealing with traditional servers that run on each individual’s device, and many overlooked aspects of the tech that could be strengthened using a VDI. Investing in virtual desktop capability offers many benefits to a business:

1. Easy Access Anywhere

Giving your employees the ability to work remotely allows them to get projects done more conveniently and precisely. Desktop virtualization offers on-demand access to their work resources anywhere, anytime, on any device. Granting your employees the ability to work from anywhere with Internet access solves many problems that most companies face.

Virtual desktops store their data in the cloud. You likely already use a cloud network to save photos and other files on your smartphone or at your network to connect different devices you use frequently. Businesses can harness cloud computing to enable their employees to access collaborative projects remotely instead of only being able to bounce ideas off one another during the workday.

Some situations that use this handy ability include the following:

  1. What if the work day ends, and an employee decides a presentation could use some last-minute tweaks before their meeting the next morning? Logging in and making those changes that evening at their leisure allows them to take the time they need and get the job done right, rather than subjecting themselves to a frantic morning and throwing off their focus.
  2. An employee takes a sick day but is still feeling well enough to get some projects done from the comfort of their own home. Falling ill is no vacation from work, and those employees often are playing catch-up to make up for lost time to stay on schedule. This rush to meet deadlines increases the likelihood an employee is not putting their best foot forward and making careless mistakes that could have otherwise seen prevention.
  3. Online meetings work seamlessly with a virtual desktop. Conducting a meeting with company members from across the globe is extremely easy and ensures a good connection due to all parties using the same network.
  4. Switching to virtual desktops increases your reach for employment. Your company can then hire any qualified candidate from around the world. It’s often hard to find suitable candidates from your local region, but increasing your reach gives you the power to find the perfect candidate for the job no matter where they might be.
  5. What if in the future your business expands by purchasing property to open up at another location? Setting up an entire computer system in a remote office can take weeks. But, if you use virtual desktop technology, that process can be streamlined and done with ease. Another instance the added benefit of simplifying the set-up process includes the event of an acquisition.
  6. A worker who is traveling might have important projects or ideas to share with no means to do so without a virtual desktop. Using one enables individuals in that situation to stay in the loop and get their job done on the go.

Overall, anyone could be out of the office and still accomplish the tasks given to them with the same if not greater efficiency, and management can set-up new devices remotely without any headaches.

2. Increased Cybersecurity

Hackers are coming up with even more inventive and malicious ways to conduct data breaches and compromise companies’ data. Due to cybercriminal’s innovations in the ways they can hack into online networks, more companies are shifting to virtual desktops.

Previously, anti-virus software and firewalls were proven effective enough to trust. These days, they are only supplemental to strong network security. As more businesses are storing nearly all their information online, there is a lot to lose. With a remote desktop, user data is backed up online continuously, so corruption or loss of files is almost impossible. Using a virtual desktop requires the hacker to break into a company device and to get their hands on an employee ID and password to crack into your company’s private servers.

You also do not have employees carrying around personal devices that hold company data just because there is not an alternative. It is not unreasonable to copy a work file to a particular device or flash drive so that the work can continue out of the office. But, personal devices get lost, stolen or compromised all the time. Once a file downloads, it is out of the company’s hands and could go anywhere. Using a VDI enables employees to use their devices and access data anywhere, but the sensitive files themselves do not leave the corporate data center.

3. Lower IT Costs

Centering your company’s network around virtual desktops directly impacts your infrastructure costs. Switching to a virtual desktop allows you to eliminate the costs of servers, complex switching and other hardware.

Your IT team will not have to fret with lengthy provisioning of new desktops and can fix issues remotely rather than having to track down each user experiencing an issue. With traditional desktops, it may take longer to locate the employee than to fix the problem. The initial investment of a device is usually only 30 to 50 percent of the costs that will incur throughout its lifetime. Maintaining and managing PC software and hardware far exceeds the value of buying the device in the long run. Switching to remote servers slash the costs of IT labor which can eat up a lot of resources.

Think about the process it takes when a new update or patch must go through separate installations on each employee’s work computer. This job alone could take an in-house IT tech an entire day going from desktop to desktop, installing necessary applications, backup files and virus scans that must be installed in addition to the update itself. Centrally managing all the computers in one place can reduce a day’s work into a few clicks. This ability also speeds up the reaction time your IT support team can get to issues, which in turn gets your employees back to work and not sitting idle waiting for a response to their problem.

Using a virtual desktop network saves money on hardware costs, software licensing and long-term maintenance and replacement of components. Switching to virtual desktops also allows for a more efficient infrastructure that lowers the cost-per-device and makes it easier to manage your technology.

Why Businesses Should Make the Switch

 

The bottom line for making the switch from independent operating systems to a virtual desktop system is to lower costs while improving the ease of management.

An average work computer worth the investment can cost hundreds of dollars, and a conventional device comes with many extra costs such as anti-virus software, monthly patching, application upgrades and paying your IT team’s salaries to go desk-to-desk fixing employees’ issues. Switching to a VDI can slash these costs and save $2,015 per year for each user on the system.

If your small business has 30 employees, making the change can equate to $60,450 worth of savings on average. Using a virtual desktop means that you could have the convenience of managing the entire system in the back end as though you were making the changes to a single computer, slashing your IT costs. Only one system needs to be updated rather than many individual ones, and that level of efficiency is where independent operating systems cannot compete.

You can cut these costs even more by allowing your employees to bring their own devices into the workplace instead of providing each person with one of their own. In many cases, workers would prefer to use their personal device instead of a work computer that might not be what they are used to or prefer. A virtual desktop with a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy benefits both the business by lowering the cost of acquiring devices and gives employees more freedom.

For employees, the most enticing part of switching to a virtual system is the ability to work from anywhere. When you allow your employees to work remotely, they assume the system will run smoothly without additional headaches. If you have decided that a VDI is the right decision for your business, be sure to do research and find one with excellent performance packages. A poor VDI can cause issues with quickly loading multimedia applications due to accessing them from a network rather than from a dedicated device.

Choose PCS for Virtual Desktop Setup and Support

PCS works with clients to identify their issues and implement permanent virtual desktop solutions to solve them. Setting up companies with the best virtual desktop technology in the industry can save you a great deal of time and maintenance costs of your network. We build relationships with our customers to completely understand their business objectives and provide excellent customer service. Too often are IT companies good at their job, but do things their way and cannot correctly articulate what exactly they are doing to the non-IT professional. At PCS, we speak plain English and break down each process so everyone involved is on the same page.

The cost of our services at PCS directly correlates with each customer’s number of devices and employees. We come up with a support plan based on your unique business that makes the most sense for you and your employees.

If you are looking to make the switch to virtual systems, but are not sure where to begin and are not getting the guidance you need, contact us today. PCS has a team of over 100 IT professionals who are experts in specific industries. We can help you reach the goals you are looking for without the complicated technicalities and confusion that often plagues the IT industry. We tailor our services to the people we serve. Request a free quote today to see how we can revolutionize your business.

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