Toward the end of 2008, a bit more than ten years ago, I shut down my previous business on Cape Cod, shut down the old Microsoft Small Business Server 2003, and shut down a few other servers for the last time. Instead, I went to the cloud. Ironically, I became certified with Microsoft as a Small Business Specialist in mid-2008, the same year that I abandoned Small Business Server for myself.

To replace the email functionality of SBS 2003, I went to Microsoft’s Hosted Exchange, actually provided by a Canadian company, SherWeb, who is still very much in business and still a Gold Microsoft Partner. For only a few dollars (I think it was $10-12) a month, I had all the features of the on-premises server-based Exchange, as well as document storage in the cloud with SharePoint, which came with the subscription as part of the packaged bundle.

For my two line-of-business (LOB) IT management tools, I elected each of their cloud-based versions. Same with the phone system – the IP PBX was now placed in the cloud.

I kept running QuickBooks locally for some time, although the data file and the backup file were both stored in SharePoint. Inuit doesn’t recommend this, but I was solo at that point, so there was no sharing of the working QuickBooks file. Eventually, though, I moved to QuickBooks Online.

Microsoft Office 365 was officially launched in late June 2011. I stayed with Microsoft’s Hosted Exchange for about six months but then moved to this new platform in January of 2012. That was over 7 years ago.

Since then, I have been introducing Office 365 to my customers, and no one is left that isn’t subscribed to this cloud-based platform.

When I first started with Office 365, what is now OneDrive for Business was then called SkyDrive Pro. I can’t tell you what improvements I’ve seen since then. What an evolution that I’ve experienced first-hand.

And now I use Microsoft 365 Business, which is a bundle of Office 365 Business Premium, Windows 10 Pro, and Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS). EMS is the umbrella for several Microsoft technologies, such as Intune for device management, Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection, Azure AD, and Azure Information Protection. My subscription was a break-even upgrade from Office 365 Enterprise E3, which was also $20 per month.

I also have an Office 365 Enterprise E1 account for [email protected], which is more closely related to the Hosted Exchange account I had long ago with SherWeb. But with this Enterprise account, I can associate my Phone System and Calling Plan subscriptions. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s VoIP offering cannot be added to Microsoft 365 Business, but only available as an add-on to an E-level plan. I have to say that after using many VoIP systems in the past, I am very pleased with this Office 365 and Microsoft Teams-integrated phone system.

It’s been a long ride and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

 

About 15 years ago, I had another Managed Services Provider (MSP) practice in another state. Our primary offering was Small Business Server 2003. This might sound familiar to you if you were in business then because almost everybody got on that ‘SBS train’.

The server would provide email services, as well as it would act as the file server. It did a lot more, but these two were the most common uses. The client would buy hardware, software, and client-access licenses, and we would be hired as the MSP to maintain all of that on a proactive basis, including an on-premises backup system set up to back up the on-premises data.

All that has changed. The 2019 version of that on-premises server scenario is now a bundle of cloud-based services, mostly consisting of Office 365 or some other version of it, such as Microsoft 365 Business. The email services are still Microsoft Exchange, but the Exchange server sits in a data center somewhere. The company documents still sit on a server, but that also sits in the data center. Backup still happens, but it’s a cloud-based service.

Microsoft is still the big vendor that it was then, but they’ve turned the small business technology paradigm on its head. For example:

  • As mentioned, Exchange is still the king of email services. Just like in the old days, the server synchronizes your email from server to devices. Whatever is deleted on the server gets removed from your devices and vice versa. The same goes for contacts, calendar items and tasks within Outlook.
  • In some cases, you were provided a space on the server for personal documents – those that were ‘works in progress’ before sharing them to the company repository. Now we have OneDrive for Business as our personal document storage and SharePoint as the common library for published documents.
  • Identity and security services were another function of the on-premises solution in the form of Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS). Your password was verified on the local server, which determined your access to specified files or folders.
  • Now it’s Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) that authenticates your identity, but there’s a new kid on the block for data protection, and that is Azure Information Protection (AIP).
  • AIP secures your documents at the document level; each document is unique to its creator and abides by the way that it’s been classified or labeled. It doesn’t matter where your document is stored (OneDrive, SharePoint, DropBox, or thumb drive) because the permissions of the document travel with the document. Whenever there’s an attempt to open a document, it ‘calls home’ to find out who has the rights that have been specified. But ‘calling home’ now means the Azure AD server and the integrated AIP services, not a local AD server.
  • Backup still happens from one disk to another, but now those disks sit in separate data centers. And as much as Office 365 inherently backs itself up, there is purging that happens on a regular basis at Microsoft, so if the version of a document is needed from 11 months ago, then our third-party cloud-backup service can be there for restoration functionality from archives.

In most cases and depending upon your unique needs, we provide a bundle of monthly services that includes your Office 365 licensing, as well as the backup seats. Of course, there is 24/7 helpdesk available and we will manage your devices, too. But ongoing training is also part of the deal.

At Resolute IT, we are resolute – we are not just there for you in the times of emergency, but we are on your side and acting on your behalf to ensure that you’re leveraging your technology most effectively.

 

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