Most companies have generic email accounts for different sectors, such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, or even the most generic – email@example.com. In the past, we’ve obtained these from our web hosting providers because they were free, and several people could monitor the mailbox.
But when Office 365 came along, then each mailbox required a purchased license, right? Not necessarily – there are mail-enabled Office 365 Groups and there are Shared Mailboxes that each can be created at no additional cost. Free.
From the Microsoft 365 admin center, go to Groups | Shared mailboxes | Add a mailbox. Name it, choose one of the domains you’ve set up, and that’s it, although you’ll have to add members as prompted after the shared mailbox creation has completed.
Okay, so now that you have a Shared Mailbox:
How do you access it?
Windows – Open Outlook and there it is listed among other accounts in the left navigation pane with the name you assigned to this shared mailbox. Nothing else to so.
Mac – In Outlook for Mac, you go to File | Open | Other User’s Folder, and then type in the email address of the shared mailbox. But if you want the complete folder list viewable (Archive, Sent Items, etc.), then you have to go to Outlook | Preferences | Accounts | Advanced | Delegates | Open these additional mailboxes | + | enter email address of the shared mailbox | and Add.
Web – Any supported browser:
When logged into Outlook on the web, click on your username in the upper right of the web page and choose Open another mailbox. Note: If you have Dark Mode enabled, then the input box for mailbox’s name in absolutely invisible, which is weird – you just have to click in the area until the blinking cursor starts.
Mobile – Outlook should be your preferred and default email client app on both iOS and Android. Mobile connectivity is rolling out now so that you can access shared email messages, shared calendars, and shared contacts all while on the road.
How big is it?
The size of the primary inbox of the shared mailbox is 100GB, which is comparable to the capacity of a mailbox from a Microsoft 365 enterprise plan. But just like the features of other business enterprise plans, you also get an Archive mailbox with a 100GB capacity. And if you know the trick, then you can set this archive to ever-expand, so it’s really an unlimited feature.
Does it have a calendar that can be shared among members?
Does it have contacts that can be shared among members?
Can you view the mailbox, calendar, and contacts on mobile devices?
Soon. That is, as we speak… This is rolling out right now for both iOS and Android, so be on the lookout for this most-requested feature. I can open a shared mailbox’s calendar right now in iOS on my iPhone, but email and contacts are still missing.
I used to build boxes. That was what we called the tower portion of the computer systems when 90% of computers like that were all the rage. So, I’m a hardware guy at heart.
But I went 100% mobile in 2008, so I moved to a different hardware form-factor, the laptop.
Again in 2015, I not only bought new hardware for myself, but I moved from a Dell laptop to a MacBook Pro as my daily driver. That said, only a Mac can run both Windows and MacOS, so that’s what I did – I’ve had the best of both worlds.
But now the Mac is getting a little long in the tooth. It still works great for normal use and I’m not giving it up just yet. But I’ve been shopping around for a new machine, looking at the Dell XPS, the Microsoft Surface Book 2 (or forthcoming 3), or even one of those little EliteDesk powerhouses from HP – a box that’s 6.96 x 6.88 x 1.33 in. It’s a tiny little box that you can hook onto the back of your monitor.
But I got to thinking… Why do I need new hardware? I really just want a Windows box around for testing, research, and troubleshooting when working with a client and their own Windows machine. What about a software-based virtual machine?
I’ve already had a virtual machine running directly on the MacBook Pro using Parallels, but running that Windows system alongside the MacOS meant a significant draw on computing resources, so it often caused overheating, especially when I’ve got 20 tabs open in five different browsers on each operating system, while simultaneously running Word, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Teams, etc.
But there’s another place where I might obtain a spanking new computer – Azure. I might still actually be running a virtual machine on the Mac, but in this case, all the hard work is performed in a data center. The way that you access a virtual machine in Azure is to use a client app called Microsoft Remote Desktop, formerly known as Remote Desktop Connection or the Terminal Services client. There’s a Mac version of Microsoft Remote Desktop, so I can use that client to view my virtual machine in the Azure cloud (data center) with little to no burden on my own hardware resources.
Now I’m addicted. I can’t create enough virtual machines… Seriously, I’ll have to cut it back after the dust settles, but because these hosted machines cost little by the hour – about $0.15 – then I can run this machine or that machine. But because Microsoft licensing only allows for 5 desktop versions of Office to be installed per user, then that’ll be my limit. But this scenario makes for a nice little ‘sandbox’ network. (There’s that ‘box’ word again.)
Yes, there is latency. With any remote or cloud computing situation, we can expect to experience some lag. But in this case, it’s barely noticeable – I often forget that this isn’t a real Windows machine that I’m using (on the Mac). And because the virtual machine resides in a data center with powerful CPUs and tremendously fast internet, that power is gleaned and present within my client view.
Sometimes you just have to think outside of the box.
Our physical location is situated between the three points of Tampa, St Petersburg, and Clearwater, but Microsoft 365 and Office 365 know no boundaries. Sarasota and Bradenton are just over the bridge to the south. And Orlando is a few exits away on I-4. But your Microsoft data center – the physical location of your stored documents – might be in Atlanta or at another East Coast facility. Microsoft has over 100 of these data centers worldwide. In addition to this primary copy of your data held in the closest proximity to your location, redundant copies of your data might be stored in separate geographical regions.
Just like any managed IT services provider, at least over 95% of our work is performed on a remote basis. Our helpdesk professionals might be in Clearwater, but they might also be in Toronto. And our high-level technical engineers (that require no personal contact and don’t need to speak perfect North American English) don’t need to be in Saint Petersburg at all. If a server needs such expertise, then we sometimes rely on a pool of outsourced techs from a reputable partner in the Detroit area.
For the remaining 5% of the time that an on-premises service call is absolutely required, we will send a qualified and vetted technician to your business. But do we keep plenty of trained staff on the payroll and waiting for that fraction of the time that it is critical? No, instead we use WorkMarket’s cloud-based software to find the appropriate skills at the precise time that these tasks are required. This method can not only provide prequalified experts to your door, but we can arrange scheduled or even emergency visits on an as-needed basis. In most cases, this is a cost-saving operation, which can indirectly be passed on to the client. And if the visit is scheduled enough time in advance, then it’s possible that you might see a familiar face and not a different tech each time.
While we are surrounded by prospective business clients within the Tampa Bay region, our reach extends far beyond this area. We currently have clients from Cape Cod to California. But our service environment exists within one interconnected cloud.
My roots are in the construction industry. My maternal grandfather and my father were both home builders of considerable accomplishment. In particular, my grandfather had as many as 15 carpenters working on the payroll. And most of these carpenters did the plumbing, electrical, and painting, too. This was 'old school'.
But the trend 20-30 years later was for the more successful home builder to hire independent subcontractors, especially for such unique skills as drywall or roofing. Then there were framers, finish and trim subcontractors, landscapers, painters, plumbers, electricians, etc. But the sign on the lawn in front of the new home still displayed the name of the builder with the various subcontractors remaining anonymous. While the subcontractor chose this path of anonymity, they gave up the overall responsibility along with notoriety. That said, they were responsible to their trade and were required to produce consistent workmanship, else they were not hired again.
In real estate 50 years ago, agents worked for a small office and worked alone. Now real estate agencies are mostly franchised, and most agents work as part of team, some split into buyer representatives and perhaps another faction of the team working for the seller. But the agent in charge of it all is the one that gets the notoriety, the monetary rewards, and the upset clients.
In the IT industry, the technician formerly wore every hat just like the early builder and their tradesmen. But now we have printer/copier people, cable specialists, developers, security analysts, web designers, server and network techs, social media experts, website hosts, PowerShell scripters, cloud architects...
But another trend in IT is to subcontract helpdesk and network operations center (NOC) to an independent firm, the Master Managed IT Services Provider (MMSP). While some have disparaged this method, I would argue that this should be the support infrastructure that clients seek when sizing up their next prospective Managed IT Services Provider (MSP). Here’s why:
1. The client wants the option to pick up the phone and call the IT person in charge.
They might not want to speak to the tech person on night duty, but there is a different phone number for that. Instead, they want to have that one-to-one conversation with someone that they know and trust, someone with whom they’ve established a rapport that is ultimately responsible for the technical duties.
But ultimately, the client has only one ‘throat-to-choke’. And when that client wants to have a conversation with the person who took on the responsibility of maintaining their tech, they do not want a busy signal, be sent to voicemail, or end up with an unintelligible foreign accent on the end of the line.
2. The Master Managed Services Provider performs under contract.
So does the client, and so does the MSP. Employees can also perform under a contract, but I’ve experienced situations where these types of contracts are practically unenforceable. But the MMSP is bound to the duty of the agreement between them and the MSP. The MSP can dictate the manner in which the independent contractor MMSP performs, which by law and by reputation maintains a steady balance between client expectations and MSP responsibilities.
It’s been debated that the MMSP is the ‘fox in the henhouse’ when considering the mergers and acquisitions happening all over the IT industry. I would argue that the tech(s) are also foxes in the henhouse. With the proper agreement and honor among its participants, a contractual arrangement can keep everyone pleased. Another builder metaphor: When my father was asked for a contract late in his home building career (he never used contracts), he responded to his client by extending his hand and said, “Here is your contract.” It was likely considered a binding contract because there was a meeting of the minds.
But the dynamics between the providers (MSP and MMSP) determine the quality of their relationship, which spills over to the client. To use the builder metaphor again, if (s)he hires a skilled and reputable painter, then the home will be spotless when the home buyer arrives. If the MSP hires the right Master MSP within a proper framework, then the client will be pleased and contribute to a healthy business arrangement.
3. The MSP with an MMSP solution provides a consistent quality of service.
Some might argue that rapport is lost when helpdesk and NOC are outsourced. On the contrary, a pool of unique technicians from a Master MSP can be assigned to a specific client so that there is a familiar, reliable, and consistent customer experience. More than that, availability and scalability become factors when a client expands or contracts – the MSP can adapt to client size by enlisting more or fewer resources.
For the small business owner considering a new IT firm, they should best consider that the IT firm might be too large or too small. Too large an IT firm means a disconnect between client and provider. Too small a firm could mean a chaotic outcome and service degradation as the IT firm’s clients might grow unexpectedly. But for the IT firm that has a dynamically sized and multiple-skilled human resource pool at their disposal, then growth is scalable while the consistent quality of service is maintained.
4. SMBs want to do business with SMBs.
If given the choice between Behemoth IT Corporation, Dynamic IT, or Puny & Struggling IT LLC, which would you want as your technology partner? Behemoth IT is represented in today’s IT industry by such giants as All Covered and their parent company, Konica. If you contract with them, will you get the attention to detail that you require? Puny & Struggling IT LLC are trying to grow their staff to meet demand by an initially good reputation, but then one tech jumped ship for a better paying job, another got in a fight with his girlfriend, and yet another tech forgot to back up a client, just before that client was hit with ransomware. An IT firm with a dynamically sized staff can scale to your needs, while still maintaining rapport. The outsourcing of helpdesk and NOC services means that the leader of the IT firm inherently has more time to spend on quality control and sealing that ‘glue’ that holds them invaluable to one another.
5. A dynamic IT firm can put ‘boots on the ground’ - anywhere at any time.
Any established IT firm will tell you that about 95% of their remediation is performed on a remote basis. The helpdesk and NOC services account for that percentage, but what about the rest? From Wikipedia: “WorkMarket is a New York City-based company that provides an online platform and marketplace for businesses to manage freelancers, contractors, and consultants.” This means that WorkMarket vets the worker in terms of legality, criminality, and certifications. It’s a full-time job, but that’s what they do – find and scrutinize good technicians to qualify them as qualified representatives that would enter your workplace.
Everything has changed. Again. What worked during former times is not necessarily what works today.
Resolute IT has been 100% cloud-based since 2009. During the prior ten years, we were a small and conventional IT firm on Cape Cod with big servers and big gas bills as we traversed the dunes in a frenzied fashion, putting out technical fires here and there. Today we’re a calm and proactive firm that can provide its services anywhere in the US in a smart, efficient, predictable, and cloud-centric manner.
There has been a paradigm shift to the cloud. It’s been going on for over a decade, but many IT providers and their clients are still mired in dubious beliefs and legacy habits. No, you don’t need a server. No, you don’t need a VPN. No, you don’t need a local IT firm.
One of the most important factors in this dilemma is the protection of your organization’s property – your data. We previously locked down everything within the perimeters of the workplace, but now we use our company desktop and we use personal mobile devices beyond the local area network to access company information as we demand remote work capabilities. Now your data is locked down at the document level.
Gone are the days of buying software. You never really owned it, but you purchased the right to use that software, that is, until it had to be replaced by a newer version. Now we subscribe to software-as-a-service apps, such as Salesforce, DocuSign, QuickBooks Online, Google Apps (G Suite), and Office 365 (Microsoft 365). Even giants like Adobe (Creative Cloud) and Autodesk (AutoCAD) have embraced the subscription-based model with strong hooks to the cloud. Salesforce has long had integration and Autodesk recently announced integration with Office 365.
With the advent of remote tools and AI, most every mundane task is, or will be, automated. The examples are endless here.
Need to get back into your account? No problem, just change the password yourself.
One aspect missing from the lists above would be the mention of teamwork versus individual accomplishment, responsibility, and notoriety. Now those attributes have moved to the team. As a case in point, a milestone metric released today says that there now 13 million active daily users of Microsoft Teams, which puts Microsoft Teams ahead of Slack’s 10 million.
According to a 2015 report from the US Small Business Administration, there were over 30 million small businesses (under 500 employees) and the average small business had 10.5 workers. It’s probably safe to say that these numbers haven’t changed much over the past 4 years.
Ten years ago, though, almost all of these businesses with about 5-25 employees had an on-premises server. There was a server rush in the mid-2000s when Microsoft came out with Small Business Server 2003, which included email services, document storage, printer sharing, line of business application hosting, and identity management. It was the Swiss army knife of the small business. I know because I was there – I had an IT practice on Cape Cod in Massachusetts that primarily sold these custom-built servers and maintained them as a ‘managed services provider’ or MSP.
But now Microsoft’s website reveals that not only is Small Business Server a thing of the past, but its replacement, Windows Server Essentials, is deprecated, meaning that its core functionality has been stripped, including one of its endeared features, Remote Web Workplace. There are no more dashboards or wizards to set up your services – this all has to be done manually, just as it has always been done in the plain old version of Windows Server.
The second paragraph of that recently updated web page (June 19, 2019) tells the reader that Microsoft now recommends Microsoft 365 business as a replacement:
“We highly recommend Microsoft 365 for small business customers as a replacement for all versions of Windows Server Essentials. Microsoft 365 is a modern solution for file sharing and collaboration, and includes Office 365, Windows 10, and Enterprise Mobility + Security.”
The article goes on to specifically recommend Microsoft 365 Business, which is good for businesses with up to 300 end-users:
“Evolve your business further with Microsoft 365 Business, which includes even more Office features, like e-mail and calendaring, file storage in the cloud, data protection, and more. Microsoft 365 Business will help your small business achieve new levels of productivity.”
My opinion: It’s about time. I retired my own on-premises servers in 2008 and I’ve never looked back. As I mentioned in a conversation earlier today, if my laptop falls in the drink, then I just buy a new one, log in to Microsoft 365 portal and download my applications along with all of my documents and settings. Done.
Microsoft Teams Training - begins in one week on June 25th with $40 discounts during that week - that's $49 rather than the regular $89 for a single level (Level I, Level II, Level III) over one afternoon, 3 back-to-back online classes with a live instructor (Scott Abbotts):
30-minute breaks between each module or class.
Due to the holiday and another personal conflict, we've revised the schedule for the first week. Rather than start on a busy Monday after the holiday, we're going to start on Tuesday. I have a business meeting on Wednesday, so the second day of class will be Thursday, followed by the final third day of class for the week on Friday.
From then on, classes will normally be held on Tuesday | Wednesday | Thursday. Only occasionally, we will modify the schedule around other events.
All that said, we have a pre-launch pilot event and sale! Get Microsoft Teams Training during the week of June 25th for half-price. Each level (Level I, Level II, Level III) will be only $49 rather than the normal $89 per level (3 modules from 12:30pm-4:30pm).
About a month from now (July 8, 2019) RIT U will hold its first class. The focus of the first courses will be on Microsoft Teams. And later on, we'll get into other aspects of Office/Microsoft 365 and Security Awareness Training.
The first course will cover Microsoft Teams from the basics and overview on into permissions, Office 365 Groups, backup, and portal administration.
I've included links here in the top menu to both external sites or RIT and RIT U.