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IMAGE SOURCE: https://www.office.com/

There are numerous suites of apps that can improve your productivity. One of them is Office 365, which features an array of underappreciated tools.

Office 365 has helped millions of organizations streamline their operations. One of the most famous examples involves Kohler, the manufacturer of kitchen and bath fixtures and plumbing. 

At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, they struggled to manage operations since most of their team had to work remotely. The company had to adjust its activities to stay true to its values. 

That’s where Office 365 came into play. 

It helped them deliver personalized training in a short period. Their employees gained access to curated podcasts, Q&A sessions, micro-learning videos, and renowned experts. All of which helped them become more comfortable with their new suite of apps. 

Over time, the platform also enabled them to overcome the limitations of cultures, languages, and time zones with different tools. 

For instance, they used Teams to mobilize professionals who shared insights into worldwide markets. Likewise, SharePoint facilitated the movement of over 400 terabytes of directories, expediting customer communication and support. The enterprise also enhanced its security and device deployment, creating a seamless culture of agility and productivity. 

It’s worth mentioning that Office 365 isn’t just suitable for large companies like Kohler. Any business leader can leverage this productivity suite to increase productivity. The reality is that many of these tools are underused and underappreciated. 

This article will highlight some of the top Office 365 tools you should consider implementing in your business. 

THE TOOLS

TOOL #1 – FLOW

Microsoft Flow enables you to automate your workflow across various applications. You can connect it to instant message and email alerts, synchronize files from different apps or copy them from one platform to another. 

For example, if you fill out a SharePoint form, you can use Flow to develop a lead in Dynamics 365. 

Best of all, the tool isn’t limited to Microsoft Services. It lets you extract data from Facebook or upload files to Dropbox. The result is higher productivity through improved connections. 

TOOL #2 – TEAMS

Teams is a meeting, sharing, and chatting hub for your team. This cloud-based platform combines notes, files, conferences, and several apps in real-time. 

The program has dramatically improved collaboration and productivity, bringing people, content, and conversations together into a single hub. It integrates effortlessly with Office 365 apps and features a secure global cloud. 

Another tremendous benefit is real-time communication. It lets all members watch edits in PowerPoint presentations, ensuring input from the entire team. Users can also provide feedback using the chat window to streamline productivity. 

In addition, Teams supports cross-platform cooperation, allowing you to work on your phone, tablet, or computer.

TOOL #3 – TO-DO

Microsoft To-Do is a smart task management platform that facilitates planning throughout your day. Not to mention it delivers a personalized and intuitive way to help users stay organized. 

It comes with a robust algorithm that lets you create lists for nearly anything, such as your home projects, work, and grocery shopping. 

Keeping track of reminders is effortless with To-Do. You can add reminders, notes, and due dates while personalizing them with vivid themes. Aside from viewing them on the web, these lists are also accessible on most devices, including Android phones, iPhones, and Windows 10 devices. 

TOOL #4 – MYANALYTICS

Although teams spend much of their time in meetings, talking on the phone, and sending emails, they still may not be very productive. To overcome this obstacle, Office 365 introduced MyAnalytics. 

This tool increases employee efficiency by analyzing two productivity factors: who users spend their time with and how they spend it. 

Using robust analytics, the tool suggests how you can be more productive by working less after-hours and reducing idle meeting time. There’s also AI that flags your Outlook commitments to remind you of your daily duties. 

MyAnalytics consists of four components: 

  • Digests – Your Outlook inbox stores weekly digests to highlight the previous week. 
  • Dashboard – The dashboard displays various statistics like productivity insights, work habits, and suggestions on improving them. 
  • Insights Outlook – This feature presents cards that show your work experience and allow you to respond in many ways. 
  • Inline Suggestions – These suggestions are available in your Outlook to help boost productivity.

Also, Microsoft considered your privacy when designing this tool. That’s why you’re the only one who can access your personal insights and data.

TOOL #5 – VIVA

Microsoft Viva is an employee experience platform that helps to improve learning, well being, and collaboration in the workplace. The tool consists of four modules: Viva Topics, Viva Connections, Viva Insights, and Viva Learning. 

Viva Topics gathers and organizes content and knowledge around any topic in a business using  Microsoft Graph and AI. 

Viva Connections works as a SharePoint app within Teams, allowing you to share curated news and articles with your employers.

Viva Insights provides insight into employees’ work patterns that can cause stress and burnout, such as meeting overload and regular after-hours work. The app enables managers to help their teams find a balance between well being and productivity.

Viva Learning is a learning hub in Teams that makes it easy for you to share learning content and training resources across your business.

TOOL #6 – DELVE

This is a nifty visualization tool that incorporates social media elements and social learning. It utilizes content from four platforms: Exchange, SharePoint, Yammer, and One Drive, 

However, it doesn’t aggregate your data points only. Instead, it detects relevant information like user activity and past interactions. 

TOOL #7 – SWAY

IMAGE SOURCE: https://sway.office.com/

Sway is a presentation app that might someday replace PowerPoint. It boasts an integrated design engine to produce appealing presentations and reports. 

Some of the features include dragging and dropping images, charts, videos, and canvas-based formats. The program can also produce newsletters and stories that can be viewed on various devices.

TOOL #8 – PLANNER

Microsoft Planner is an excellent choice for companies with team members all over the globe and multiple simultaneous projects. The tool can rapidly digitize your task management processes. 

It gives users access to visual organization tools and four key functions: information hub, insights, communication, and flexible categorizations. Also, it enables team members to share files, create plans, assign and assemble tasks, and converse with co-workers while receiving progress updates. 

REINVIGORATE YOUR BUSINESS’S WORK ENVIRONMENT

Taking your operations to new heights is all about creating an agile and productive workplace. And Office 365 can help you achieve this with a wide range of communication and collaboration tools. 

Whether your team works remotely or in-office, this suite of apps can dramatically improve project management. And Kohler’s example is proof of this.

That said, a subpar IT provider can impede your integration with Office 365. 

If you feel your vendor isn’t delivering the necessary results, give Databranch a call at 716-373-4467 x 15 or email us at: info@databranch.com.

We can schedule a quick chat and come up with the perfect solution to your business’s IT difficulties to save you from a lot of stress. 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.

IMAGE SOURCE: https://unsplash.com/photos/dpbXgTh0Lac

Increasing productivity in your business doesn’t just entail optimizing your equipment and sharpening your attention. Decluttering your computer desktop is also essential. 

A clutter-free office is paramount to improving your productivity. Piles of stationery on your desk can cause you to waste a lot of time searching for a critical document. As a result, you’re less likely to meet deadlines. 

Clutter can affect you in various indirect ways, too. 

It can dramatically reduce your cognitive abilities, impairing your decision-making and relationships with your team members. In addition, it can have an adverse effect on your anxiety, focus, sleep, and eating choices. All of these can reduce your workplace performance. 

However, this clutter problem doesn’t just affect your desk or office. 

Your computer desktop can also be cluttered. Disorganized folders and a lackluster display impact your productivity as much as physical clutter. To avoid this scenario, you need to declutter your computer as well.

This article will share seven tips on decluttering your computer desktop. 

THE 7 TIPS

TIP #1 – DEVELOP A FOLDER SYSTEM WITH FILE NAMING CONVENTIONS

The most important thing you should do to prevent clutter on your computer is set up an intuitive folder system. You can use several categories, such as file type or name, depending on what suits your research or work best. 

Regardless of your approach, be sure to choose well-established naming conventions that let you quickly navigate through your documents. The system should also be easy to use for many years to come, so consider your plans when creating it. 

You can place these folders in your file share tools (e.g., Google Drive and Dropbox), hard drive, or desktop if you back them up regularly. 

With a fully functional structure, you can bypass your desktop by simply downloading new documents to designated folders. Afterward, you can rapidly locate them with the search command on your computer. Type in the name of your folder, and you’ll reach the desired file within seconds. 

TIP #2 – MAKE YOUR DESKTOP ATTRACTIVE TO YOU

Besides making your computer desktop fully functional, you should also enhance its appeal. So, select a meaningful or beautiful background. It needs to be enjoyable to look at, motivating you to keep your computer tidy. 

To take the aesthetics to the next level, set gridded or lined images as the background to organize files that end up there more easily. 

Another great idea is to use a motivational background. Images with powerful messages encourage you to work harder and remain focused. This type of coaching also enables you to organize your desktop and stay on top of clutter. 

TIP #3 – CONSIDER SECTIONED DESKTOP WALLPAPER

Sectioned desktop wallpapers are a great way to enhance your desktop organization further. For instance, you can include a section for your vacation or pets. 

There are millions of wallpapers online that can help you declutter your desktop. They complement folder naming conventions to improve your workflow. 

TIP #4 – CONSOLIDATE YOUR MOST USED APPS/SOFTWARE

Having quick access to your most used programs or software is a must. It allows you to start working immediately without wasting time searching for apps. 

To consolidate efficiently, you should first determine which software matters most to you. Your portfolio may comprise two or three apps you use daily or an entire suite of programs that provide the necessary functionality. 

Once you’ve assembled your list, you may be able to merge multiple programs with a comprehensive solution. It puts them in one place to streamline your productivity. 

The taskbar is an effective alternative, as program icons are often responsible for the bulk of your clutter. Keeping the essential icons in the taskbar makes them quickly accessible since you won’t need to browse.

TIP #5 – DELETE OR RELOCATE UNUSED FILES

IMAGE SOURCE: https://unsplash.com/photos/HjBcAVWlxnE

After categorizing vital apps, you also need to address unused programs. Here’s a tip: if you can’t recall when you last used certain software, uninstall it. Do the same if you don’t think you’ll need a particular application for an upcoming project. 

Since this may be a hard decision, you may want to create a folder for these rarely used apps and files instead. Tuck them away until you figure out if you wish to proceed with the deletion. 

For this wait-and-see approach, you can make use of several folders, such as “miscellaneous” or “to be archived.” In doing so, you won’t accidentally uninstall or remove a crucial program. 

Now, if you take this approach, make sure to check the folders regularly. Determine which files and apps are no longer needed in your business and delete them to avoid clutter. 

To avoid falling behind with your cleaning, set a reminder on your calendar. It can be a monthly or weekly event, depending on your workload. 

TIP #6 – CATEGORIZE NEW CONTENT

Dumping new files and programs onto your desktop may be tempting if you’re in a hurry. However, this method is ill-advised because it inhibits your organization. 

Try to allocate a few minutes to organize all new apps and files appropriately, according to your naming conventions. A quick way to do so is to use automatic file sorting by date or alphabetically. It doesn’t take long, yet it can significantly reduce clutter on your computer. 

TIP #7 – EMPLOY FENCES

Digital fences group files in specific regions of your desktop to make them more visually accessible. This method works much better than burying all your files in one or two folders. Plus, many people consider it more user-friendly than gridded backgrounds. 

For example, the Stacks feature automatically categorizes content by type or any other specific feature. It’s available for free on Macs with Mojave. 

Likewise, PCs have a similar feature called Fences. It enables you to designate and move fences around the desktop for improved maneuverability. The only downside to this is that it’s not free. 

DON’T LET CLUTTER GET OUT OF HAND

Decluttering your computer desktop is one of the best ways to advance your productivity. 

Once you’ve organized it appropriately, you’ll be able to find the necessary files and programs effortlessly. You’ll then feel rejuvenated, and your mood may improve dramatically, allowing you to overcome mental obstacles during your workday. 

It might take some time to optimize your desktop, but it’ll be well worth it. 

You can also assign this job to your IT provider. However, they may not understand your needs and that of your business correctly, and their services might be insufficient. 

In that case, let’s have a 10-15-minute chat and see if Databranch can resolve your problem. Give us a call at 716-373-4467 x 15 and we’ll do all we can to help you increase office productivity in your business.

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.


What Does End of Support Mean?

  • No Updates will be developed or released after the end of support *Almost 100 critical updates have been released so far in 2018*
  • No Compliance with most industry wide compliance standards and regulations.
  • No Safe Haven – All physical and virtualized instances of Windows 7, Server 2008(R2), and Small Business Server 2011 will be vulnerable to security threats.
What Should I Be Doing?
  • Start planning your migration NOW
  • Determine how many instances of Windows 7, Server 2008(R2), and Small Business Server 2011 are being utilized in your current network setup.
  • Assess the upgrade path for applications that currently run on the Windows 7, Server 2008(R2), and Small Business Server 2011 operating systems.
  • Allocate resources and budget for necessary hardware upgrades to transition to Windows 10 and Server 2016.
The good news is we are still over a year away from the end of support date but it’s important to start preparing soon. At Databranch, we have successfully migrated numerous clients from Windows 7, Server 2008(R2), and Small Business Server 2011 to newer, supported operating systems. 
 

Countdown Clock Courtesy of tickcounter.com.

 
 

1) In 2013, 37 critical updates were released for Windows 2003.  As of July 14, 2015, no new updates will be released for Windows Server 2003 and Windows Small Business Server 2003.

2) Unsupported products are more likely to be attacked by malicious parties, which may increase the cyber security risk to your business. 

3) Payment processors may not do business with you if your payments are going through an unsupported server.  Your business may not pass a business audit if you do not transition from unsupported software

4) An average security breach costs an SMB $50,000.  Running unsupported software and old hardware can be more expensive than upgrading to a modern technology platform

5) Improved performance, simplified management, and more affordable storage choices.

Click here to learn more about why your organization needs to transition from Microsoft Server 2003 before July!

Ready to discuss? You can reach Databranch at 716-373-4467, sales@databranch.com, or click here to get started.

Courtesy of Microsoft Community Connections

Recently, a few of our Office 365 Exchange Online clients have been receiving correspondence from Microsoft concerning the version of Outlook they are using. The message is Outlook 2007 and 2010 are out of mainstream support and their users might start experiencing reduced functionality. In this post, I’ll answer the two biggest questions we have been receiving from our clients, “What does this mean for me? and What do you recommend I do?”

What does the end of mainstream support for Outlook 2010 mean for my organization?

In general, there are two levels of end of support Microsoft products move into: End of Mainstream Support and End of Extended Support. When a product enters into the end of mainstream support it means Microsoft will no longer be releasing any non-security updates or new software design changes. The program will still function and is not a security risk to your network since Microsoft keeps releasing security fixes until the End of Extended Support date but because new features will not be added the software may not be as compatible with newer programs like Office 365 Exchange Online which is constantly being updated and improved to provide the highest level of service to subscription customers. This is why Microsoft is urging clients using their hosted email platform to upgrade their Outlook clients. Even though you will still be able to use Office 365 and connect to the platform for email, your experience will diminish over time and Microsoft won’t provide code fixes to resolve non-security related problems.

What does Databranch recommend our clients to do?

We recommend that organizations start upgrading their Outlook to a client that is still in Mainstream Support like Outlook 2013 or 2016 or start budgeting for Office upgrades. Like Windows 7, Outlook 2010 will be in Extended Support until 2020 and all users will want to be upgraded prior to the end of support date in October of that year.

Is your organization looking to migrate your email platform to Office 365? Databranch is a Microsoft Certified Silver Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions Provider and is ready to assist with your migration. A Databranch Cloud Solutions specialist can be reached at 716-373-4467 ext. 15, info@databranch.com, or click here to get started.

Databranch, Inc. Achieves a Microsoft Silver Small and Midmarket Cloud SolutionsCompetency

Databranch, Inc. earns distinction through demonstrated technology success and customer commitment.

Olean, NY— April 13th , 2016 — Databranch, Inc., an information technology solution provider specializing in Managed Services, Networking, Business Continuity and Security, today announced it has achieved a Silver Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions competency, demonstrating its ability to meet Microsoft Corp. customers’ evolving needs in today’s dynamic business environment. To earn a Microsoft silver competency, partners must successfully demonstrate expertise through rigorous exams, culminating in Microsoft certifications. And to ensure the highest quality of services, Microsoft requires customer references for successful implementation and customer satisfaction.

“This Microsoft Silver Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions competency showcases our expertise with today’s rapidly evolving cloud technology market and demonstrates our knowledge of Microsoft solutions,” said David Prince, Databranch President. “Our plan is to accelerate our customers’ success by serving as technology advisors for their business demands.”

“By achieving a silver competency, organizations have proven their expertise in specific technology areas, placing them among the top 5 percent of Microsoft partners worldwide,” said Phil Sorgen, corporate vice president, Worldwide Partner Group at Microsoft Corp. “When customers look for an IT partner to meet their business challenges, choosing a company that has attained Microsoft competencies is a smart move. These are highly qualified professionals with access to Microsoft technical support and product teams.”

 The Microsoft Small and Midmarket Cloud Solutions competency is earned by demonstrating expertise and commitment to delivering solutions tailored to small and midsize businesses (SMBs). Because of our focus on helping SMBs adopt cloud computing in order to accelerate their business operations, we invested and attained this competency to project our readiness to address the rising customer demand for Microsoft cloud solutions.

The Microsoft Partner Network helps partners strengthen their capabilities to showcase leadership in the marketplace on the latest technology, to better serve customers and, with 640,000 Microsoft partners in their ecosystem, to easily connect with one of the most active, diverse networks in the world.

About Databranch

Established in 1985.

Databranch, Inc., is an IT consulting and outsourcing provider serving local, national and international businesses in Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania since 1985. We help our clients use information technology to cut costs, increase efficiencies and enhance customer service across four main areas: managed services, networking, business continuity and security.

 

For more information:

Amanda Lasky, Databranch, Inc., (716) 373-4467, alasky@databranch.com

Many of our customers have been experience some frustrations with Office 2013. The most common complaint has been concerning the new Excel Animations.

To minimize these animations, you can follow these steps:

1. Access the Windows Control Panel:

  • Windows 7: Click Start, and then Control Panel.
  • Windows 8: From the desktop right-click the Windows button and choose Control Panel. Or, from the Start screen (also known as the Metro interface), start typing the words Control Panel to make a Control Panel icon appear.

2. Choose Ease of Access Center within the Control Panel (Keyboard shortcut: press Windows-U to hop directly to this window without first launching the Control Panel in step 1 above.)

3. Scroll down and click the Use This Computer Without a Display link.

4. Scroll down and click the Turn Off All Unnecessary Animations (When Possible) checkbox.

5. Click OK as needed or close any onscreen windows.

For other tips and tricks including how to turn off read mode, check out this PC World Article: “12 infuriating Office 2013 flaws (and how to fix them)”

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2028412/12-infuriating-office-2013-flaws-and-how-to-fix-them-.html

 

Windows 10 debuted last week leaving many excited but also a bit confused about when/if they should upgrade their devices. Most Windows 7 and 8 devices are eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 10 but we’re recommending that our clients wait for a few reasons.


1.You have a whole year to upgrade.

 All users with eligible devices for a free Windows 10 upgrade have one year to transition to the new operating system. This means there is plenty of time to prepare and no need to rush the install. Prior to upgrading users will want to make sure they have a complete backup of their system and that they have allocated time to be away from their computer while the upgrade completes.


2. It won’t be perfect right away.

Microsoft has been testing and demoing Windows 10 for months now, but there are always unforeseen issues that rise to the surface when a new operating system is released. Windows 10.1 is expected to come out in October and by waiting for the first service pack before converting you can let others identify any initial bugs that need to be worked out. Once the operating system is more stable and less work in progress an upgrade to Windows 10 will be ideal for organizations looking to upgrade from Windows 8 and something to consider when purchasing new hardware.

3. All applications and external devices won’t be compatible.

Uptime for critical business applications is crucial for organizations large and small. Before upgrading to Windows 10 it is very important to determine that all necessary applications and programs will run on this new operating system. Databranch can work with your business to determine compatibility for key apps and prepare an upgrade path. It is also important to research and be prepared to install new drivers for external devices like printers. If you do not take this step, there is a chance your previously purchased devices like monitors and printers will no longer work causing pain and unplanned expenses to replace the faulty units.

Databranch is excited to work with our clients to plan future upgrades to Windows 10. As a longstanding Microsoft partner we are looking forward to the benefits this new operating system will bring to our clients but we are advising that for now you wait and take this software launch as an opportunity to look ahead, plan, and prepare for a smooth transition. To speak with one of our consultants, call 716-373-4467, email info@databranch.com, or click here to start your Windows 10 upgrade conversation.

Have you upgraded to Windows 10? Share your story in the comments!

Last week one of our customers was contacted by “Microsoft”. He was told that a virus had been discovered on his computer and that the “tech” needed access to his machine. By the end of the call his perfectly good computer was so infected with malware his best option was to wipe the device and start fresh, losing his personal data.

The worst part of the story is he thought he was talking to a Databranch engineer.

This scam has been around for a few years now and is showing no signs of slowing down. Here are a few tips to help you recognize the situation and avoid becoming their next victim.

  1. Unless you are expecting a call from Microsoft or Databranch, it is relatively safe to assume the call is not legitimate. If you are concerned, please hang-up and reach out to Microsoft or our office (716-373-4467) directly. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8am-5pm, so if you get called outside of that time or at your home, please hang-up!
  2. DO NOT download any software, go to any links, or provide any personal or credit information. These scammers are looking to install malicious software on your machine to steal your passwords, online banking info, etc., trying to get you to click on links that give them remote access to your machine, or get you to provide them credit card information to pay them for their services. In the end, it’s all about the money and how much they can get from you!
  • Common organizations the scammers pretend to be from:
    • Windows Helpdesk
    • Windows Service Center
    • Microsoft Tech Support
    • Microsoft Support
    • Windows Technical Department Support Group
    • Microsoft Research and Development Team

If you have been victim of a telephone scam please take the following steps:

  1. Change your passwords
  2. Scan your computer for malware. One free program we recommend is called Malwarebytes.
  3. Install/Update Anti-Virus Software
  4. Report the call to the FTC – 1-877-FTC-HELP

When your system is compromised, the best thing you can have is a good back-up of your data. If your system is recoverable, the consequences of an attack are less severe. Click here to learn more about are favorite back-up/disaster recovery solution.

For another take on this scam check out this article from Forbes Tech: http://onforb.es/VOG9FI

Have you been a victim of a telephone scam? Share your story or ask any questions in the comments below!

Over the past year the tech world has been flooded with talk about Windows XP, which went out of support this past April. Recently, Microsoft has announced Windows Server 2003 will experience the same fate as XP and on July 14th, 2015 this highly used server operating system will no longer be supported.

The primary concern when a software product becomes end of life is security. Microsoft will no longer be creating or releasing updates for Server 2003 leaving your business vulnerable to security threats. In 2013 thirty-seven critical updates were released for Server 2003, without these patches you leave your network and company data exposed. If you’ve been watching the news lately you know hackers have been having some success, think Home Depot or Target. It is predicted these attacks will become even more prevalent as companies fail to upgrade outdated technology. As a business, you also need to be concerned about staying in compliance with your industries standards and regulations. Many times software that is no longer supported will not measure up.

The time to start planning your migration from Windows Server 2003 to Windows Server 2012 is now. The first thing to do is determine how many, if any, instances of Server 2003 are being utilized in your current network set-up. Next, assess the upgrade path for all applications that are currently running on the Server 2003 operating system. We often find that business specific applications that are currently running on this older operating system will also need to be upgraded or replaced to be compatible on newer systems. Finally, allocate resources and budget for any necessary hardware upgrades that may need to be completed prior to transitioning to Windows Server 2012. It is likely that your business will need to upgrade your server infrastructure for the new operating system to run at its most effective levels.

The good news is we are still almost a year away from the end of support date but it’s important to start preparing soon. At Databranch, we have successfully migrated numerous customers from Windows Server 2003 to newer, supported operating systems. Our account managers are excited to work with you to create a migration plan for your business and are available to talk now. You can reach us at 716-373-4467, sales@databranch.com, or click here to get started.

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