“Currently, according to Microsoft, more than half of all commercial (business) Office users are using Office 365 rather than standalone/perpetual Office. But during some point in the company’s fiscal 2019 (which kicks off on July 1, 2018), Microsoft is expecting two-thirds of its business Office customers will be using Office 365.“ – Mary Jo Foley  (10/10/2017)

Okay, so let’s just say that we remain just past the halfway point. Somewhere else I picked up another tidbit from Redmond VP, Brad Anderson, who told of Microsoft billing for more than 120 million Office 365 licenses (users) per month. Doing the math, when it hits the 2/3 mark, then there will be an additional 40 million people using Office 365 during this fiscal year topping out at 160 million licensed users per month.

Dollar amounts and corporate earnings aside, this is a massive demographic, especially in consideration of all the servers that will be retired, all the documents that will be uploaded, and all 40 million email accounts along with each account’s respective messages, contacts, calendars and tasks that will migrated from on-premise machines to data centers.

But with the new cloud platform brings new ways of getting things done. You’ll no longer save to the S:\ (shared) drive; instead you’ll save to a SharePoint library, that is, if you’re saving to a common repository of shared documents. Your own documents – those that you’re still getting ready to publish for the rest to view and modify – will be saved to your respective OneDrive, which is actually a hidden SharePoint document library itself.

And now that your original files sit in the cloud, they can be shared with a link, not by attachment to an email. When they’re shared in this manner, then multiple users can co-author the document simultaneously. No more passing around various versions of the same file. The real file gets modified right in front of you as you share it with colleagues.

Not much will change with email, except that you’ll likely spend less time in Outlook. Instead, you’ll be chatting away in Microsoft Teams, either by text in private or within a group chat scenario, perhaps while several are co-authoring a document and tossing ideas back and forth. And if the conversation dictates a meeting, then that can happen in an ad hoc private manner with up to 20 attendees or later on as a scheduled meeting. And the scheduled meeting can be audio only, or it can be a video meeting with up to 250 attendees.

“There is also an option for recordings to have automatic transcription, so that users can play back meeting recordings with closed captions and search for important discussion items in the transcript.” – Microsoft

And more than ever, we will work from anywhere. Teams meetings, for example, can be attended using your mobile device.

40 million more Office 365 users – that’s equivalent to the entire population of California.

Managed ServicesMy first experience with a computer was when I was a building contractor in Connecticut around 1990. The Department of Consumer Protection had mandated that all construction contracts, large and small, contain specifically prescribed content provided by the state, which resulted in a 6-page document, at the least. To remedy the situation, I went out and purchased a DOS computer and a word processor program. I took the computer out of the box and didn’t move until about 4am. When I finally made it into bed and shut the lights, there were two big blue dots (one for each eye) where the monitor had been. I was infatuated.

My career in construction evolved from building to selling real estate. Of course, real estate meant more contracts and eventually a digital MLS system – I found myself immersed in a world of computers again. I always helped the other agents that didn’t ‘get it’ when it came to the computers, so they all said, “Scott, you should become a computer guy!” The rest is history.

In 1998, I went back to school. From seemingly unrelated courses, I created my own curriculum at a community college to study and then pass a new certification offered by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA). I was among the first to receive the A+ Certification, and my designation is grandfathered and honored to this day.

CompTIA A+ Certified

My first job in the computer-related field was at the 2000 US Census during 1999, of course. My job was to sit at my desk and wait until Friday to change the server backup tapes and then ship the tapes from Cape Cod to Boston by FedEx. I needed more of a challenge – I was bored to death, so I left and went into business for myself.

pleasantbay.NET was the name of the company I launched on January 1st, 2000, the day after the Y2K bug was supposed to end the world. I was doing a lot of web design back then and formed a group called Cape Web Weavers, which eventually merged with the Cape Cod eCommerce Society. Meanwhile, I was volunteering for three Unitarian Universalist churches on Cape Cod, maintaining their computers and training those in need. My reputation got around, parishioners hired me, and the money started flowing.

By 2002, I’d become involved with a local company that primarily performed computer network services for small businesses, specializing in Novell servers and networks. The owner was having health issues and was in the process of retiring, so I was there to learn, substitute, and eventually take over some of his small accounts before he sold the remaining business to a competitor of ours.

I moved into my first office space in 2003. Another member of that web design group I’d formed had leased too much commercial space just for himself, so we split it. Within six months, I’d outgrown his half-office space and moved into another unit in the same commercial complex with 750 square feet all to myself – and my new technician.

First Office

In late 2004, we purchased 250 licenses of Kaseya, the Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) tool. Kaseya remains today to be one of the most highly respected technologies in the managed services arena. But Kaseya created a problem – not a technical problem, but a business problem. I’d installed the Kaseya software agent on all of our clients’ computers and servers. And it was configured to automatically remediate problems when failures were detected or updates were required, so all of a sudden the phone stopped ringing!

I was able to regroup and put everyone onto monthly Managed Services Provider (MSP) contracts in early 2005 after setting the business up with ConnectWise, the Professional Service Automation (PSA) tool. One of my clients was a semi-retired law professor who felt indebted to me for the good work we’d done for him on his systems, so he put together a legal document for me that went on to become the boilerplate contract for many emerging MSPs during the mid-2000s.

But there was one client that was reluctant to sign on. “Nah,” he said. “Everything works, so I’ll call when I need you.” Of course, everything worked because I’d put Kaseya onto all his machines. But one day, Kaseya sent us an alarm that the single hard drive in his company’s server was about to fail. To make a long story short, the proverbial baby died in our arms. We backed up the data (there was no previous backup!) and then the drive kicked over dead. Whew… The workers were able to resume on Monday morning as if nothing had ever happened. After learning what had transpired over the weekend, the client paid the hefty emergency repair costs and subscribed to an ongoing and proactive contract.

Managed services became popular around 2005. In fact, I was on Wikipedia reading about managed services and recognized many of the other pioneers cited in the article, such as Karl Palachuk, Amy Luby and Erick Simpson. I met them all and even bought Karl’s first book about documenting a network for $20.

During this time period, I was attending conferences almost every other month: Intel Roadshows; Microsoft Partner product events and hands-on-labs; ASCII Group Success Summits; Harry Brelsford’s SMB Nation; and the very first ConnectWise Summit that’s now called IT Nation, the premier event in our industry.

After that first ConnectWise shindig, a group of us from the northeastern US formed a peer group called the “New England ConnectWise Users Group” (NECWUG). All of those guys went on to become very successful MSPs and sold their businesses for a handsome price each. I’m proud to say that I was among them at one time.

In 2008, I retired my on-premise servers and moved to the cloud. I also moved to the Caribbean. And then I moved to Sarasota in 2009. Now I’ve become established in the Clearwater St Petersburg area. So working remotely became the norm for me, especially as my Cape Cod flock needed to be tended. They’ve been a loyal bunch and I still service several with annual contracts today.

As much as I’d like to say that we’ve transitioned from MSP to CSP (Cloud Services Provider), I would quote Karl Palachuk who said, “There are still going to be wires in the walls.” True to a point, but the most innovative modern workplaces of today are filled with beanbag chairs, millennials, sofas and wireless Internet. So yes, there are stand-up desks and kiosks and shared co-working spaces, but the network remains. And there’s an enormous mass-migration ahead from traditional on-premise servers, workstations and cubicles to the massive disorder of the mobile world. Migration to the cloud is a present-day exodus. Microsoft now has over 120 million monthly subscribers to Office 365 and this trend is growing exponentially. The servers that were formerly housed in our offices are finding new homes in data centers. And the Windows Server Active Directory that was required to authenticate users within the confines of the workplace has now moved to the Microsoft Azure cloud – Azure Active Directory – to provide the same identity protection anywhere a user opens a file or accesses other company data.

And with this paradigm shift comes innovation from the old vendors, such as Microsoft and Intel. We have Microsoft Teams for anywhere-teamwork and instant collaboration using featherweight laptops powered by Intel chips that have evolved according to Moore’s Law, that is, doubling in power every two years and shrinking in such size that confounds the mind.

And we are still human. Even some computer-weaned millennials are challenged by the latest technology, getting locked out of their social media accounts with multi-step authentication and clicking on anything fearlessly, only to find themselves victim to ransomware. There is still a reason to be called a Managed Services Provider – we still have to protect the data, the privacy and the security of people while enabling them with the technology to remain productive and innovative in their own right.

Scott Abbotts | https://resolute-it.com | https://office365techguy.com

Clearwater | St Petersburg | Tampa | Sarasota | Bradenton | Pinellas Park | Largo | Dunedin | Remote

Cloud Change FactorFor small businesses, moving to the cloud is a frightening, yet inevitable transformation. It means business change, especially in regard to systems, processes, and people.

Just about every software vendor in the SMB space has a cloud-based option. In some cases, the only option ever available was cloud, such as with Salesforce CRM and Clio legal practice management. But there are QuickBooks Online, Sage Business Cloud, Oracle Financials Cloud, Adobe Creative Cloud, Autodesk A360, Abacus Private Cloud, Amicus Online.. The list goes on naming programs that were formerly client-server models requiring a host server for the main application combined with client desktop software, all designed to interconnect within the confines of the office.

Microsoft was also among the list of on-premise, server-based systems. But in 2007, Microsoft began offering BPOS, a precursor to today’s Microsoft Online Services, which put Exchange email services and SharePoint document management into the cloud. After BPOS, Office 365 was born in 2011 and now serves over 120 million subscribed users per month. From personal experience, I shut down my on-premise Exchange/SharePoint server in 2008 and have never looked back.

Systems: This is the easy part. Subscribe to your cloud service of choice and then sign in. The engineers have designed the system and they continually make improvements (included upgrades).

  • Now with so much importance placed upon the ability to connect to the Internet, many companies subscribe to a second ISP for failover.
  • The old client-server system authenticated user identity through its Active Directory, a service found within the Windows Server operating system. But now that more users are logging in from afar, the new authentication system that can manage devices and users beyond the four walls is known as Azure Active Directory.

Processes: Probably the most important aspect of business processes is related to security. Password management and protection from malicious attacks are key to preserving the integrity of business operations.

  • Microsoft has been doing a fine job with authentication by offering a variety of options, including Windows Hello, which is essentially face recognition that performs in an elegant fashion. In addition, there are other biometric systems, as well as Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) using your mobile device as an authenticator.
  • What used to be considered a mediocre antivirus product, Windows Defender has evolved to become an integral part of a collection of security tools all working as a holistic solution across Windows 10 and Office 365. Recent tests by outside parties have found Windows Defender to be 100% effective, especially when combined with other layers of security within the Microsoft ecosystem.

People: Here’s the hardest part because people generally do not like change. They’re afraid of the unknown and frustrated with what they don’t know. It is here that the business has the intrinsic responsibility to properly train its users.

  • With training comes knowledge, and with knowledge comes confidence – confidence to lead others as a champion and confidence to represent the company in all affairs.
  • Without training comes the danger of ignorance.

Scott Abbotts | https://resolute-it.com | https://office365techguy.com

Microsoft Teams CollaborationDuring periods in our human history, some believed that the Earth was flat. And evidently, some still do! But as Pythagoras and others have proved otherwise, we have experienced a paradigm shift in how we perceive our world. We’ve reluctantly let go of long-held myths and adopted a new mode of thought.

In 1992, a group of about 100 scientists sent the first email attachment. Some were aghast, exclaiming what an obscene waste of bandwidth it was. Twenty-six years later, we think nothing of sending a massive file attached to an Outlook message.

But aside from file size and bandwidth concerns, we should consider other worries today. As we’ve adopted email as the primary collaboration vehicle, we continue to swap versions of files back and forth creating dozens, perhaps hundreds, of versions of the file with most iterations slightly different than the other. And of course, we have to find the corresponding message buried within our Inbox and then open that attached file to know how they differ, which is a blatant waste of time and productivity.

Now comes along came SharePoint. And OneDrive, too, which is actually a hidden SharePoint library. We can now share a link to a file as it remains in its place. The single file resides in its single location, yet it lives a dynamically unique life. When a link is used to access that file, we will open and view the most current version, sometimes so current that we are viewing a colleague co-author that document in real time right there on the computer screen.

This real-time scenario and unique document sharing is never more evident than when collaborating within Microsoft Teams. If we’ve shared a file while in a 1-to-1 Teams chat, then that file resides within the OneDrive document library of the person that shared the file. If we share a file to a Team or rather to a Teams’ Channel, then the file resides within the SharePoint document library and the sub-folder that corresponds to that particular Channel.

Microsoft Teams File Locations

But when an Office document is opened while in Microsoft Teams, the document appears right there within the Teams environment. We can chat with co-workers in the right-hand rail alongside the document. And we can create an impromptu meeting to discuss edits without ever leaving the Teams interface.

Microsoft Teams Real Time Co-Authoring and Chat

Aside from the mechanics of what goes where within SharePoint, files need to remain in their designated online location and not be copied as disparate versions within various emails as attachments. Also, when a file is stored in this manner, then a history of the file remains available – if needs must, then you can revert to a previous iteration.

We have to step outside of our box and look at collaboration from a new perspective. Just because we did it one way for so many years does not make it right today.

Scott Abbotts | https://resolute-it.com | https://office365techguy.com


In every company, there is a primary decision maker. The leader guides the company with innovation, common sense and wisdom. The leader inspires others with persistent enthusiasm. The leader makes fair decisions and exemplifies honor.

 

Most companies have employees. In some companies there are none. But a company’s value consists of more than the sum of their hired hands. By recognizing and then leveraging the valuable skills of partnering firms, we can harmonize our concerted efforts to entirely satisfy the business needs expressed by our clients.

 

With singular responsibility, our leadership provides integrated products and services with complete responsibility – there is no evasion or dodging of liability. We are small enough to acknowledge problems and we honestly own them.

 

Our mode is always on. We keep multiple avenues of communication open for commerce. Do we always answer the phone? Of course not. But calls are never ignored and every response is promptly returned. Small things matter and timeliness is a graceful courtesy.

 

Too many technicians in the IT world have ‘better than thou’ attitudes. It’s too evident to deny this. But to know humility is to succeed. We have the utmost respect for others, we are openly grateful to serve, and we grasp every opportunity to learn about you and your business.

 

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ― Ernest Hemingway

 

It is with calm purpose and determination that we remain resolute. But it is with humility that we remain lesser mortals. And it is with steadfast tenacity that we accomplish the tiniest tasks, as well as it is how we conquer seemingly monumental projects.

 

Scott Abbotts | https://resolute-it.com | https://office365techguy.com

“On August 17, 1908, the new Bank of Italy (now Bank of America) Headquarters at 552 Montgomery Street (San Francisco) was opened to the public. Here, on the first floor in an open area, A.P. Giannini had his office where all comers were invited to stop and chat about not only financial but family matters as well.” – US Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places.

In this same spirit, I kept my desk near the door when I had an office on Cape Cod. I can’t tell you how rewarding it was to have a steady stream of people dropping in to sit down and chat with me.

And now that I work solely as a remote consultant, I am opening a client-facing portal on an always-open basis in Microsoft Teams.

As Microsoft announced the free offering of Microsoft Teams yesterday, I feel that people are now unencumbered for the lack of this tool – Teams is free to download for desktop and mobile, and very simple to create an account in a matter of seconds.

To become a member of the Resolute IT Client Portal, sign up here.

A recent study predicts that 42% of the global workforce will be mobile by 2020. I wonder if we aren’t already there.. Another finding says that the number will be 75% by 2025.

Who really wants to get up, get ready, and walk into an office by 9am or earlier? We can easily attend a 10am office meeting using Microsoft Teams, so we can remain at home or in a coffee shop using a laptop, tablet or even a phone to share our presence, our Office documents, and our enthusiasm with colleagues. And of course, we don’t even have to be in the same country as the other attendees. 

While in the meeting, we can easily share the document that we’d been creating over the weekend. Teams allows you to present your original document for others to view within the Teams interface and co-author or co-edit it there. While collaborating on this document, team members can exchange chat messages alongside the open document. Or better yet, collaborating members can start an impromptu video meeting, while other members of the team can join the meeting and participate by co-authoring the document. You can even record the meeting for later review.

So the future is here. Where you are is irrelevant. But how you’re able to interact is key.

In its July 2018 roundup   of Microsoft Teams news, they announced a new feature that I dismissed at first. “Visio in Teams”, I thought. “So what – it’s just read-only with Visio Online.” But this is *not* Visio Online. Or is it?

At the bottom of this article it says, “Viewing diagrams within Teams is free for most Office 365 customers  , but editing is only available for those with a Visio Online Plan 1 or Plan 2 subscription.”

I’ve searched through the articles for ‘co-authoring’, but all it says is “Team members can work together on diagrams through in-app conversations to provide feedback in real time.” But can we edit the same diagram with another member in real time? One article compares the new editing feature to other Office co-authoring capabilities within Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. “We’ve extended these editing capabilities to Visio files, enabling you to make simple changes to your diagrams without leaving the Teams app.

So does this mean we can also co-author as we would in Word? I think not. Oh, but wait…

On one page of Microsoft’s website it says, “Real-time co-authoring – Not available in Visio Online. Advanced reviewer features, such as merge conflicts and compare diagrams, are only available in the Visio desktop application. With Visio Online, you can view, add, or delete comments.”

But on the features page for Visio Online 2 (not Visio Online 1) it says, “Complete diagrams faster with multiple people working on the same diagram at the same time.”

And in order for members to see any changes, they have to refresh the diagram in Teams.

In order to perform with full functionality, we are advised to use the desktop version of Visio. For ‘almost desktop’ functionality, we can subscribe to Visio Online 2.

Update 07/07/2018: Direct from Microsoft: “At this point in time Visio Online does not support co-authoring inside Teams, irrespective of the license. But this is part of our roadmap and we are working to enable this in future.”

In the May 2018 results at the security lab of AV Comparatives  , Microsoft Windows Defender Antivirus performed very well. Often seen as a mediocre solution over the years, Microsoft’s solution is stepping to the plate.

But it isn’t just one solution. Microsoft’s answer has to be seen as a holistic approach as it integrates with Office 365 and its other defense layers as the company depicts here:

Physical security

  • 24-hour monitoring of datacenters.
  • Multi-factor authentication, including biometric scanning for datacenter access.
  • Internal datacenter network is segregated from the external network.
  • Role separation renders location of specific customer data unintelligible to the personnel that have physical access.
  • Faulty drives and hardware are demagnetized and destroyed.

Logical security

  • Lockbox processes  for a strictly supervised escalation process greatly limit human access to your data. Learn how to activate Lockbox .
  • Servers run only processes that are whitelisted, minimizing risk from malicious code.
  • Dedicated threat management teams proactively anticipate, prevent, and mitigate malicious access.
  • Port scanning, perimeter vulnerability scanning, and intrusion detection prevent or detect any malicious access.

Data security

  • Encryption at rest protects your data on our servers.
  • Encryption in transit with SSL/TLS protects your data when it’s transmitted between you and Microsoft.
  • Threat management  , security monitoring, and file/data integrity prevent or detect any tampering of data.
  • Exchange Online Protection   provides advanced security and reliability against spam and malware to help protect your information and access to email.

User controls

  • Office 365 Message Encryption  allows users to send encrypted email to anyone, whatever email service recipients may use.
  • Data loss prevention can be combined with Rights Management and Office 365 Message Encryption to give greater controls to your admins to apply appropriate policies to protect sensitive data.
  • S/MIME provides message security with certificate-based email access.
  • Azure Rights Management  prevents file-level access without the right user credentials.

Admin controls

Tab panel for expanded tab number5

  • Multi-factor authentication protects access to the service with a second factor such as phone.
  • Data loss prevention prevents sensitive data from leaking either inside or outside the organization while providing user education and empowerment.
  • Built-in mobile device management capabilities allow you to manage access to corporate data.
  • Mobile application management within Office mobile apps powered by Intune provides granular controls to secure data contained in these apps.
  • Built in antivirus and antispam protection along with advanced threat protection safeguard against external threats.
  • Office 365 Cloud App Security provides enhanced visibility and control into your Office 365 environment.