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Get more from Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 (Office 365’s new name), is a swiss army knife, but we find that even if an organisation is using it, they only make use of one or two of its “tools”. This blog will give you a overview of the best features, the “tools” that enable them, and how they are useful.

Automation

Tool: Power Automate (previously known as Flow) Essentially you can use Power Automate to automate manual repetitive tasks. What you can achieve with it is a huge topic in itself, but here is just a small taster of what you could automate:
  • New starters
    • 4 weeks prior to start date - Send email to IT to create the account
    • On start date - Send email to new starter welcoming them
    • 1 week after start date - Send follow up email to new starter
  • Monitor Twitter for certain keywords and send an email or Teams message when one is detected
  • Notify a Team when a task is created, completed or updated
  • Approval workflows
    • Staff member places a document in a folder for approval
    • Approvers are automatically notified
    • They can either approve or reject
    • Document is moved to either an approved or rejected folder
  • Repetitive desktop application - Automate with “Power Automate Desktop”
    • Launch application
    • Enter information from another data source
    • Click buttons
    • Extract data to another data source
    • Close application
    • Repeat
    • etc

    Cloud Email, Contacts and Calendar

    Tool: Exchange Online If you’re already using Microsoft 365 chances are you are already using Exchange online. If not, this is the bit that handles your email, contacts and calendar. Some useful features are:
    • Share your inbox, calendar or contacts with colleagues
    • Sync email, contacts and calendar with your phone
    • Shared calendars e.g. for Meeting room bookings
    • Central contacts
    • Out of office
    • All available from within Outlook, mobile, or web browser

    Cloud file storage / file sharing

    Tools: OneDrive, SharePoint, Teams

    OneDrive and SharePoint might seem similar at first glance, but OneDrive is primarily for private file storage. Files in OneDrive are by default only accessible to you, but you can still share files/folders with other people. The best feature of OneDrive is the option to sync your Desktop, Documents and Pictures folders to it. Which keeps your documents safe and makes them accessible from anywhere.

    SharePoint is primarily for files that need to be shared within groups of multiple people. For example, you might have a SharePoint library for the Sales team, files you place in there would be accessible to everyone in the Sales team.

    Documents, spreadsheets and presentations placed in either OneDrive or SharePoint all support co-authoring, which is where multiple people can simultaneously work on the same file and you see their changes as they make them (similar to Google Docs if you’ve seen that in action).

    Teams is a useful frontend to access files within OneDrive or Sharepoint and can facilitate collaboration.

    Communication

    Tool: Teams

    Some useful communication features of Teams:

    • Create Teams and Channels based around how your organization operates
    • Post messages to Channels for discussion
    • Ad-hoc chat, call or video call with your colleagues and external contacts
    • Schedule and host online meetings
    • VOIP telephony

    Centralized management

    Tools: Azure Active Directory, Intune

    If you have no on-site servers then making use of Microsoft 365’s centralized management features are a no-brainer. All Microsoft 365 plans include the basic Azure Active Directory which you can “Join” devices to. Working on “Joined” devices gives you the following advantages:

    • Centralised logins - No need to create logins on each computer for each person, or share device passwords, just login with your own email address
    • Single Sign On - No prompts for passwords when accessing Microsoft 365 sites
    • Self service password reset
    • Backup Bitlocker keys (for disk encryption)

    Some plans include Intune already but it is available as an add-on to any plan. Intune enables you to:

    • Automatically push out apps to your devices - such as Office, Chrome, etc
    • Enforce security policies - such as password strength or screen locking
    • Control automatic updates
    • Automate device deployment
    • And more

    Intranet / knowledgebase

    Tool: SharePoint / Teams

    SharePoint isn't just for document storage, you can build an intranet (an intranet is a web site that is only accessible within your organization) to help your colleagues find the information they need quickly, keep them up to date on news, etc.

    Teams also has some limited functionality through the “wiki” app. You can create a simple knowledge base accessible within the Teams application. One important thing to note - anyone with access to the wiki will be able to edit it, either an upside or downside depending on your requirements.

    We have improved many of our customers return on investment by making better use of Microsoft 365. Whether that’s utilizing more of its features, or just tweaking it from the defaults to better fit their business. If you would like to discuss how we can help your organisation get more out of Microsoft 365 give us a call!

Software As A Service (SaaS)

Software as a service (SaaS) has been around for a while but what is it and what are the advantages to using it?

SaaS is software that is hosted remotely by the vendor and you access it over the internet. Instead of purchasing it outright, you pay a subscription fee to use it.

Pros:

  • Reliability. SaaS is more reliable, as long as you choose your provider with care, and check the service level agreements. It is not unknown for even the largest providers with the best-known brands to have outages and their terms and conditions may preclude any compensation for downtime.
  • Lower total cost of ownership. No capital expenditure for on-premises infrastructure or licencing, which can be just the tip of the iceberg. Maintaining on-premise infrastructure is where the true costs add up.
  • Scalability. It is easy to add subscriptions as the business expands.
  • Flexibility. Use the service from any device with a web browser
  • Saves you time. As there is nothing to install, once you have purchased the subscriptions and been sent the login details you can start using it immediately, you don’t have to wait on your IT Team to come around and install the software. If your PC breaks down you can just grab a spare one and log back into the software and carry on working with minimal downtime.
  • Compatibility? No worries. Because it is hosted remotely, you don’t have to worry about making sure everyone on your team is upgraded to the latest version.

Cons:

  • Lack of control over updates. Updates and feature changes get deployed regardless of whether you want or need them. Users can be disorientated by the sudden appearance or change of location of features within the product.
  • Scalability is usually one way, it can be hard to scale down if you no longer need licenses because you may have had to commit to a minimum contract term.
  • Reliant on your internet connection. If you have a flaky connection then you should not consider SaaS.
  • Danger of service termination if the provider goes out of business
  • You have less control over your data. To be compliant with GDPR you must choose a supplier who is also compliant with GDPR legislation

Choosing the right solution for your business can be confusing. There are some offerings that look like SaaS but aren’t. These are offerings where you remote desktop to a server running conventional software. A good question to ask a vendor is - does this run in any web browser or do you have to use remote desktop? If it doesn’t run in a web browser then it isn't really SaaS.

Talk to the experienced team at telanova, and we can help you to the right solution for your business

Keeping devices up to date while WFH

Our monitoring system recently alerted us: some of our customers’ computers weren’t updating each night, putting the business at risk. Digging into the logs revealed that the end-users’ behaviour had changed with the shift to working from home. Previously most would leave their devices on overnight so that all the various maintenance tasks could run - Windows updates, antivirus scans, application updates etc. Working from home everyone was doing something different with their computer: sometimes they left it on, put it to sleep, or switched it off.

One of the advantages of business class devices e.g. Dell OptiPlex PCs, Latitude laptops, is that Dell provides a utility that can set various system settings. We deployed this utility through our monitoring system to set the devices to automatically switch on at 2am. We also set a scheduled task to wake the computer if it was asleep. Our patch management system would then kick in as usual and install any missing Windows and application updates. Finally the device will go back to sleep. All set remotely in the background without disturbing our customers. Problem solved!

Do you want to ensure your organization’s devices are kept up to date? Engage telanova as your IT team!

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