Simple Setup Checklist for Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a lot of things. It’s a video conferencing tool, a team messaging channel, and a tool for in-app co-authoring, just to name a few. During the pandemic, the popularity of Teams skyrocketed. 

User numbers for MS Teams jumped from 20 million in November 2019 to 75 million in April 2020. As of this year, Microsoft reports a user count of 270 million for the platform. This makes it the most popular business tool for team communications.  

But one of the things that makes the app popular is also one that can make the setup complex. Microsoft Teams has many moving parts, but to use them effectively they need to be well organized. Additionally, users need to have a chance to learn the system and train on best practices. 

What Can Microsoft Teams Do?

First, let’s look at the different areas of Microsoft Teams and what it can do. Then, we’ll give you a simple setup checklist to help your team get up and running productively. 

You can think of Teams as a virtual office in the cloud. It’s a centralized hub where teams can communicate, collaborate, and manage tasks. There is also an external communication component to Teams. You can use the app to video conference with anyone. You can also invite guests to a chat channel. 

Here are some of the features of MS Teams: 

  • Siloed chat channels 
  • Security for team communications 
  • Integration with Office apps 
  • Integration with 3rd party apps 
  • File sharing 
  • Video and audio conferencing 
  • VoIP phone system (with an extra add-on) 
  • Keep all team resources in a single place

Microsoft Teams Versions

Some good news for small businesses is that there is a free version of Microsoft Teams. If you sign up for a Microsoft 365 business plan, you get the app included, but with a few more features. 

Microsoft has also been pushing MS Teams for personal use. So, you can use it to keep your departments better coordinated at work. Or to manage family video calls or PTA meeting collaboration. It’s a versatile and scalable virtual office platform. 

Easy Checklist for Setting Up Microsoft Teams

1. Set Up Your Teams/Departments

One of the advantages of Teams is that it allows you to set up specific areas for your groups to collaborate. You do not want everyone to set these teams up on their own, or you could end up with an unorganized mess. 

Some ideas for setting these up: 

  • Set up teams by department (accounting, marketing, etc.) 
  • Add a company-wide team (where everyone can collaborate) 
  • Set up teams by role (office managers, executives, etc.) 

Typically, if you mirror the hierarchy of your organization, that’s a good place to start. Team areas are secured so only those users invited can see or access any of the content in that team. 

 

2. Add Team Members

For each team, add the members allowed to take part in that team. These would be people that can see the resources posted in that team area. It would normally be the members of the department or group that the team is designed for.  

3. Set Up Team Channels

The next level beneath the Team is the Channels. These team channels help organize conversations. For example, within a team set up for your marketing department, you may decide to add three channels. This keeps conversations more focused and makes it easier to find things. 

For instance, you could have channels for: 

  • Website Management 
  • Social Media 
  • Offline Advertising 

Team channels are another area that you want to control. Don’t let everyone set up channels without a plan, otherwise, things get messy fast. 

4. Set Up Team Labs

Tabs are a great way to foster productivity. Say that employees on your accounting team need to access a tax reporting website. Inevitably, there can be time wasted asking for that link or a login. This is especially true if someone is filling in for a co-worker. 

You can add that website link and info to the Tabs area at the top of the team channels. Just click the plus sign to add a new resource and consolidate things for your team members. 

5. Schedule MS Teams Training

One of the reasons that company initiatives fail is that users weren’t properly enabled. If users aren’t trained on using MS Teams, then they’ll revert to using whatever they used before. This negates the benefits of moving to Teams when not everyone is onboard. 

Work with a Microsoft professional to train your teams. We can provide tips on the most productive features. As well as short-cut their learning curve quite a bit! Make sure to have a realistic timeframe. You should also survey users on whether they feel they need more training.  

Need Some Help Implementing Teams in Your Organization?

We can help you over many of the roadblocks that organizations face when starting with Teams. Contact us today for a free consultation to enhance your collaboration and productivity. 

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.  

What to Include in a Year-end IT Review

end of year checklist

When the year is coming to a close, it’s the perfect time to plan for the future. Most businesses begin the year with the hope of growing and improving operations. Much of how a business operates depends on technology. So, it makes sense to look to your IT for areas of optimization. 

A year-end technology review provides an opportunity to look at several areas of your IT. The goal is to take time to focus on improvements you can make to boost your bottom line. As well as what tactics to take to reduce the risk of a costly cyberattack. 

A recent study by Deloitte looked at digitally advanced small businesses. Small businesses that make smart use of technology are well ahead of their peers. Here are some of the ways they excel: 

  • Earn 2x more revenue per employee 
  • Experience year-over-year revenue growth nearly 4x as high   
  • Had an average employee growth rate over 6x as high 

The bottom line is that companies that use technology well, do better. They are also more secure. According to IBM, businesses that have an incident response plan reduce the costs of a data breach by 61%. Using security AI and automation can lower costs by 70%. 

This year-end, take some time to do a technology review with your internal IT team or have BDS assist you. This will set you up for success and security in the coming year. 

Considerations When Reviewing Your Technology at Year-End

The goal of a year-end technology review is to look at all areas of your IT infrastructure. Security, efficiency, and bottom-line considerations will be the key drivers for future initiatives. 

Technology Policies 

When technology policies get outdated, people stop following them. Review all your policies to see if any of them need updating to reflect new conditions. For example, if you now have some staff working from home, make sure your device use policy reflects this. 

When you update policies, let your employees know. This gives them a refresher on important information. They may have forgotten certain things since onboarding. 

Disaster Recovery Planning

When is the last time your company did an incident response drill? Is there a list of steps for employees to follow in the case of a natural disaster or cyberattack? 

Take time to look at disaster recovery planning for the new year. You should also put dates in place for preparedness drills and training in the coming months. 

IT Issues & Pain Points

You don’t want to go through a big IT upgrade without considering employee pain points. Otherwise, you might miss some golden opportunities to improve staff productivity and wellbeing. 

Survey your employees on how they use technology. Ask questions about their favorite and least favorite apps. Ask what struggles they face. Let them tell you how they feel technology could improve to make their jobs better. This, in turn, benefits your business. It can also help you target the most impactful improvements. 

Privileged Access & Orphaned Accounts

Do an audit of your privileged accounts as part of your year-end review. Over time, permissions can be misappropriated. This leaves your network at a higher risk of a major attack. 

You should ensure that only those that need them have admin-level permissions. The fewer privileged accounts you have in your business tools, the lower your risk. Compromised privileged accounts password open the door to major damage. 

While going through your accounts, also look for orphaned accounts. You need to close these because they’re no longer used. Leaving them active poses a security risk. 

IT Upgrade & Transformation Plans for the New Year

If you make IT upgrades and decisions “on the fly” it can come back to bite you. It’s best to plan out a strategy ahead of time, so you can upgrade in an organized way. 

Have a vulnerability assessment performed. This gives you a list of potential problems your company should address. Eliminating vulnerabilities improves your cybersecurity. Planning ahead allows you to budget for your upgrades and avoid unplanned expenses. 

Cloud Use & Shadow IT

Review your use of cloud applications. Are certain apps hardly used? Do you have redundancies in your cloud environment? A review can help you cut waste and save money. 

Also, look for uses of shadow IT by employees. These are cloud applications that are being used for work but did not go through approval. Management may not even be aware of them. Remove this security risk by either closing the accounts or officially approving them. 

Customer-Facing Technology

Don’t forget to look at the customer experience of your technology infrastructure. Go through your website and contact process as a customer would. 

If you get frustrated by things like site navigation, then your customers and leads may be too. Include optimizations to your customer-facing technology in your new year plans. 

Schedule a Technology & Security Assessment Today!

We can help you with a thorough review of your technology environment to give you a roadmap for tomorrow. Contact us today for a free consultation. 

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.  

Posted in IT

6 Discontinued Technology Tools You Should Not Be Using Any Longer

IT Updates

One constant about technology is that it changes rapidly. Tools that were once staples, like Internet Explorer and Adobe Flash, age out. New tools replace those that are obsolete.  Discontinued technology can leave computers and networks vulnerable to attacks. 

While older technology may still run fine on your systems that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to use. One of the biggest dangers of using outdated technology is that it can lead to a data breach. 

Outdated software and hardware no longer receive vital security updates. Updates often patch newly found and exploited system vulnerabilities. No security patches means a device is a sitting duck for a cybersecurity breach. 

Approximately 1 in 3 data breaches are due to unpatched system vulnerabilities.  

Another problem with using discontinued technology is that it can leave you behind. Your business can end up looking like you’re in the stone ages to your customers, and they can lose faith and trust. 

Important reasons to keep your technology updated to a supported version are: 

  • Reduce the risk of a data breach or malware infection 
  • Meet data privacy compliance requirements 
  • To keep a good reputation and foster customer trust 
  • To be competitive in your market 
  • To mitigate hardware and software compatibility issues 
  • To enable employee productivity 

Older systems are clunky and get in the way of employee productivity. If you keep these older systems in use, it can lead to the loss of good team members due to frustration.  

49% of surveyed workers say they would consider leaving their jobs due to poor technology. 

Following is a list of outdated technology tools that you should replace as soon as possible. Are any of these still in use on your home computer or within your business? 

Get Rid of This Tech Now If You’re Still Using It

Internet Explorer

Many moons ago, Internet Explorer (IE) used to be the number one browser in the world. But, over time, Google Chrome and other browsers edged it out. Including its replacement, Microsoft Edge. 

Microsoft began phasing out IE with the introduction of Microsoft Edge in 2015. In recent years, fewer applications have been supporting use in IE. The browser loses all support beginning on June 15, 2022.  

Adobe Flash 

Millions of websites used Adobe Flash in the early 2000s. But other tools can now do the animations and other neat things Flash could do. This made the tool obsolete, and Adobe ended it. 

The Adobe Flash Player lost all support, including security updates, as of January 1, 2021. Do you still have this lingering on any of your computers? If so, you should uninstall the browser plugin and any Flash software.   

Windows 7 and Earlier 

Windows 7 was a very popular operating system, but it’s now gone the way of the dinosaur. Replacements, Windows 10 and Windows 11 are now in widespread use. The Windows 7 OS lost support on January 14, 2020. 

While it may still technically run, it’s very vulnerable to hacks. Microsoft Windows OS is also a high-value target for hackers. So, you can be sure they are out there looking for systems still running this obsolete version of Windows. 

macOS 10.14 Mojave and Earlier

Because of the cost of iMacs and MacBooks, people tend to hang onto them as long as possible. Once these devices get to a certain point, updates no longer work. This leaves the hardware stuck on an older and non-supported macOS version. 

If you are running macOS 10.14 Mojave or earlier, then your OS is no longer supported by Apple, and you need to upgrade. 

Oracle 18c Database

If your business uses Oracle databases, then you may want to check your current version. If you are running the Oracle 18C Database, then you are vulnerable. Breaches can easily happen due to unpatched system vulnerabilities. 

The Oracle 18C Database lost all support in June of 2021. If you have upgraded, then you’ll want to keep an eye out for another upcoming end-of-support date. Both Oracle 19C and 21C will lose premiere support in April of 2024. 

Microsoft SQL Server 2014

Another popular database tool is Microsoft’s SQL. If you are using SQL Server 2014, then mainstream support has already ended. And in July of 2024, all support, including security updates will stop. 

This gives you a little more time to upgrade before you’re in danger of not getting security patches. But it is better to upgrade sooner rather than later. This leaves plenty of time for testing and verification of the upgrade. 

Get Help Upgrading Your Technology & Reducing Risk 

Upgrades can be scary, especially if everything has been running great. You may be afraid that a migration or upgrade will cause issues. We can help you upgrade your technology smoothly and do thorough testing afterward. Get in touch to schedule a technology review today. 

 

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.  

Posted in IT

How Using the SLAM Method Can Improve Phishing Detection

email phishing

There is a reason why phishing is usually at the top of the list for security awareness training. For the last decade or two, it has been the main delivery method for all types of attacks. Ransomware, credential theft, database breaches, and more launch via a phishing email. 

Why has phishing remained such a large threat for so long? Because it continues to work. Scammers evolve their methods as technology progresses. They use AI-based tactics to make targeted phishing more efficient, for example. 

If phishing didn’t continue working, then scammers would move on to another type of attack. But that hasn’t been the case. People continue to get tricked. They open malicious file attachments, click on dangerous links, and reveal passwords. 

In May of 2021, phishing attacks increased by 281%. Then in June, they spiked another 284% higher. 

Studies show that as soon as 6 months after training, phishing detection skills wane. Employees begin forgetting what they’ve learned, and cybersecurity suffers as a result. 

Want to give employees a “hook” they can use for memory retention? Introduce the SLAM method of phishing identification 

What is the SLAM Method for Phishing Identification? 

One of the mnemonic devices known to help people remember information is the use of an acronym. SLAM is an acronym for four key areas of an email message to check before trusting it. 

These are: 

S = Sender 

L = Links 

A = Attachments 

M = Message text 

By giving people the term “SLAM” to use, it’s quicker for them to check suspicious email. This device helps them avoid missing something important. All they need to do use the cues in the acronym. 

Check the Sender

It’s important to check the sender of an email thoroughly. Often scammers will either spoof an email address or use a look-alike. People often mistake a spoofed address for the real thing. 

In this phishing email below, the email address domain is “@emcom.bankofamerica.com.” The scammer is impersonating Bank of America. This is one way that scammers try to trick you, by putting the real company’s URL inside their fake one. 

You can see that the email is very convincing. It has likely fooled many people into divulging their personal details. People applying for a credit card provide a Social Security Number, income, and more. 

Doing a quick search on the email address, quickly reveals it to be a scam. And a trap used in both email and SMS phishing attacks.  

It only takes a few seconds to type an email address into Google. This allows you to see if any scam warnings come up indicating a phishing email.  

 

Hover Over Links Without Clicking

Hyperlinks are popular to use in emails. They can often get past antivirus/anti-malware filters. Those filters are looking for file attachments that contain malware. But a link to a malicious site doesn’t contain any dangerous code. Instead, it links to a site that does. 

Links can be in the form of hyperlinked words, images, and buttons in an email. When on a computer, it’s important to hover over links without clicking on them to reveal the true URL. This often can immediately call out a fake email scam. 

 

When looking at email on a mobile device, it can be trickier to see the URL without clicking on it. There is no mouse like there is with a PC.  In this case, it’s best not to click the URL at all. Instead go to the purported site to check the validity of the message. 

Never Open Unexpected or Strange File Attachments

File attachments are still widely used in phishing emails. Messages may have them attached, promising a large sale order. The recipient might see a familiar word document and open it without thinking. 

It’s getting harder to know what file formats to avoid opening. Cybercriminals have become savvier about infecting all types of documents with malware. There have even been PDFs with malware embedded.  

Never open strange or unexpected file attachments. Use an antivirus/anti-malware application to scan all attachments before opening. 

Read the Message Carefully

We’ve gotten great at scanning through text as technology has progressed. It helps us quickly process a lot of incoming information each day. But if you rush through a phishing email, you can miss some telltale signs that it’s a fake. 

Look at the phishing example posted above in the “Links” section. There is a small error in grammar in the second sentence. Did you spot it? 

It says, “We confirmation that your item has shipped,” instead of “We confirm that your item has shipped.” These types of errors can be hard to spot but are a big red flag that the email is not legitimate 

Get Help Combatting Phishing Attacks

Both awareness training and security software can improve your defenses against phishing attacks. Contact us today to discuss your email security needs. 

 

Article used with permission from The Technology Press.