Remote Possibility: Working and Leading From Wherever You Are

Our very own Product Director Richard Beeston shares his top tips for staying connected and staying sane when working from home!

Hello, my name is Richard and I’ve been working flexibly for more than five years now. “What does that mean?” I hear you ask, as many of my friends often do. Essentially, it means I work where I need to. Sometimes I can be in London for three days a week, others I can be in Lancashire, then Birmingham then working at home for three days. Other times (like now) it means I can be at home all week.

There’s a general assumption that working from home isn’t really working at all but I disagree with that. In fact, many new businesses are completely virtual or use very little office space. To coin a phrase, “Work has become something we do, not somewhere we go”. Of course, this is only true for certain sections of society, but for those of us who can do it, it has completely changed our relationship with work, our families and our careers.

Working at home can be intimidating though if you’re new to it – it certainly was for me. Not having the commute to and from work and get into and out of “work mode” was a challenge, as was the isolating aspect of not being able to chat with friends – well, at least not face to face. Leading a team also altered for me as clearly you can’t be all over what people are doing on a minute-by-minute basis (not that I’ve ever managed like that, of course)!

I’ve written down some of my top tips for working remotely. These are the ones that work for me and hopefully a few will work for you too.

  1. Have a daily routine that is both manageable and personal to you. There’s absolutely no need to try and do things so differently that you end up giving Mark Wahlberg a run for his money. That isn’t realistic and what’s more, nobody expects that. I like to wake up before everyone else, do a 10-minute meditation via the Calm app, have breakfast, shower and then get to work. Now the family are at home as well, I have planned in a lunch break so we can all eat together and I try and stop work around 5pm, at least until after the kids have gone to bed.
  2. Work spaces. Find the right space for you to work. Some people like a home office that’s purpose-built, be it a shed at the bottom of the garden, spare room or dedicated area. Personally, I like to work on the sofa in the morning (no TV) and then move to different parts of the house throughout the day. This is dependant on what I’m doing. My job doesn’t require a second screen or anything so it allows me to be more flexible.
  3. Stay in touch. There are loads of platforms available now that allow you to collaborate and stay connected. A good unified communications (UC) platform frees your people to connect, collaborate and perform wherever they are working using tools such as Microsoft Teams, Office 365 and other powerful apps. Productivity increases, decision making is quicker, ideas are shared more easily and employees are better equipped to stay engaged with customers. Plus, UC also allows you to deliver powerful, video-based training to large groups remotely, helping to boost staff learning at a time when travel is off the cards.We have been using Teams more lately and I have to say, I am a big fan. It is designed to simplify group work with easy-to-use channels for group chats  – and it delivers on all fronts. As it is integrated with Office 365, it also allows us to share and update docs from the likes of Word and Excel, as well as providing access to cloud storage and syncing solutions like SharePoint and Power BI. You can also use Teams events to share information webinar style with your customers or to large groups of employees. The higher the adoption of Office 365 in your business, the better return a company will experience on any Microsoft investment.
  4. Look after yourself! Its very easy to raid the biscuit tin but maintaining some control over this is a must.
  5. Be organised. This is the same as being in the office. I like to block out time in my diary not only for meetings and calls but also to get on with actual work. I colour code mine as well, but that’s just me. Again, just like being at the office, you don’t need to attend every meeting you are invited to just to justify you are working.
  6. Remember to move. I like to walk around while talking on the phone and I plan exercise into my day where possible – a walk during lunch for example. It’s also really important to take a break from your screen from time to time.

A big part of my job is leading a team and with working from home a lot, this is a bit different as well. I’ve found the following works for me:

  1. Have regular 1-2-1s. Schedule regular 1-2-1 meetings with people in your team and make the content a mix of personal and professional conversations as one very often affects the other.
  2. Team meetings. I have a weekly team meeting just like normal and we always try and use video wherever possible to encourage “normal” interactions.
  3. Clear goals. Set clear SMART goals with everyone (including yourself) and check in on these goals during the 1-2-1 sessions. These are a proven way to drive team success and I find them really useful with a dispersed team. If people know what the expectations are per quarter, they can then prioritise work and focus on the right outcomes.
  4. Use communications tools that work for you and the situation. Sometimes video is great, other times phone calls are just fine as well.

I hope that some of the above is useful to you. Ultimately everyone needs to find something that works for both themselves and those in their household. I wish you all well. Thanks for reading.

Cloud vs Covid-19

How the Cloud Can Keep Your Business Going During Coronavirus [Blog]

The unprecedented spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) over the past couple of months has created a surge in businesses utilising cloud computing, mobile devices and connectivity. These are vital ingredients enabling employees to work-from-home and businesses to keep operating.

At the time of writing, coronavirus cases have spiralled exponentially to 789,218 cases worldwide and has sadly killed 38,090 so far1.

As this pandemic turns the business world upside down, it is also a test of an organisation’s ability to swiftly, securely and systematically scale online applications and communications software, and provide remote access to all employees.

Social distancing and reduced access to offices have organisations rushing to collaboration, online, and video tools to enable customers to access their services virtually.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

Organisations which have already embraced agile working with an infrastructure built around being mobile, collaborative, connected and cloud-based, supported by appropriate business continuity and disaster planning, can hope to weather this storm with less disruption to the business over time. For those businesses that have fallen behind the “digital transformation” curve, and those who may still rely on legacy applications and desktop computers residing in physical offices, the race is on to try to keep things moving. For many organisations that fall into this bracket, public cloud services and the purchase of mobile devices such as laptops and mobile phones have been the silver bullet.

6 ways cloud can keep your business going in a crisis

1. Respond to Fluctuating Demand

In a crisis or other event where you need to scale and react quickly, demand for certain applications and data can change rapidly. With a hybrid cloud environment, you can flex up and down to meet this change in demand. You can easily scale and move your applications and data in your private and public clouds as well as your on-premises infrastructure as and when your capacity and workload requirements change

2. Reduce Capex

During times of uncertainty, adding big-ticket items to the balance sheet can put a strain on cashflow. With the cloud, you can streamline your IT spend, paying for a resource when you need it on an ongoing flexible basis, making cashflow less of a headache. Not only does this simplify TCO calculations, but if executed correctly, you will only pay for what you use. This can reduce your costs as well as making you more flexible. Win-win.

3. Deploying Products & Services More Quickly

Moving everything online is the best way to do business in a lockdown. The ability to release new products and services, website changes and updates and app versions quickly and easily online will be what separates you from your competitors. With a tailored hybrid cloud environment, you can keep your initial ideas under wraps in your private cloud, then push these changes out to the public cloud and scale them up as needed. This will drastically increase your time to market, and you’ll be there for your customers when they need you.

4. A Window into Your Organisation

In the modern age, every company has a wealth of data at their fingertips which can be used to create actionable insights. From employee stats to customer loyalty and other vital sales and transaction statistics, a hybrid cloud model can help you turn amorphous big data into actionable insights. At a time when tough decisions start to stack up, data that can help you make the right decision with solid data to back it up can be invaluable.

5. IT Agility

At a time when resources can be spread thin, and productivity per head can determine the survival or demise of an organisation, the effectiveness of your IT team is more important than ever. Utilising cloud properly can make your IT team more efficient and achieve more in less time, by focusing on transformational change instead of managing on-premise and in-house infrastructure. Plus, having a cloud service provider is like having a specialist third party on-tap, and you may be glad you have them around in times of need.

6. Business Resilience

The ability to scale up and down, enable workers to become fully mobile at the drop of a hat and increasing productivity and agility are all things that make your business more resilient. However, when changes are implemented quickly and there is a requirement for a fast turnaround, the chances of an error occurring or a mistake being made increases – not to mention the increase in risk of cyber attacks. For this reason, backing up critical data across multiple clouds is the key to quick and easy recovery. This way you can spread your risk, and if things go wrong, you can calmly put them right again quickly and without any headaches.

Other things to consider

Working from home… Securely

For many businesses it is still rather alien for their workforce to be using mobile devices and working from home. However, this is now imperative to help ensure the business can continue to run and operate as usual. Employees now need access to hardware such as laptops, mobile phones and desk phones which has created a huge demand for these items and requisite technology. But pandemic-related trade cutbacks have led to frustrated supply chains and shipments taking as much as three times as long as they usually do, meaning demand has outweighed supply, creating shortages and low stock levels.

Security is a critical aspect of home working that is not as apparent to employees but of paramount importance to the organisation. Some see this time of uncertainty and chaos as an opportunity to make a quick buck. Because of this, cyberattacks are on the rise and a big concern for CISOs and other security professionals implementing work-from-home and cloud solutions.

Ensuring that all apps and data are connected and stored securely is no small feat, especially when moving quickly in reaction to events as they unfold.

Speak to one of our security specialists to find out how to keep your data and apps secure >>

We need to talk about connectivity

There is nothing more frustrating and counterproductive than a VPN which kicks you off at a critical moment or won’t connect when you desperately need it to. Employees get fed up and may give up when a slow download speed which takes days to download (or upload for that matter) a folder of images or videos puts a halt to their otherwise productive morning.

It’s a given; the UK isn’t exactly a candidate for any internet speed awards. Running your public cloud apps and other workloads over the public internet (at the same time as everyone else in the country) could create some frustrating moments for your workforce.

Daisy has a range of connectivity solutions to optimise your experience >>

Cloud for virtual events

Big events are the last thing we should be doing when it comes to the spread of the novel Coronavirus. However, some organisations depend on these events. So considering large groups will be dispersed, and those attending will be subject to fines during the lockdown, what is the solution?

As with many things tech orientated, we need to look no further than the tech giant Google. Cloud Next 20, Google’s free, global event will be hosted virtually, including keynotes, streamed directly to your living room, kitchen or study. You can talk to experts, browse products and services and even see breakout sessions, without even getting dressed.

Virtual events are being embraced across the world, helping take some of the sting out of the lockdown. If a success, virtual events may even be around long after the pandemic has passed.

Daisy has both cloud and analogue collaboration solutions that can enable this kind of activity in your business.

Speak to a cloud specialist >>

 

1“COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic” Worldometer, 31 Mar. 2020 https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

 

Mind The Gap: Bridging The Digital Skills Gap In The Professional Services Industry [Blog]

Head of Product Richard Beeston explains how to future-proof your organisation against the impact of the skills shortage

It is a truth universally acknowledged that rapid advances in technologies have created a demand for newly skilled workers. So how should your organisation prepare?

Skilled workers are already an attractive key factor that set successful companies apart from failing ones. In a business world that is fast-becoming data driven, the European Commission believes that there could be as many as 756,000 unfilled jobs in the European ICT sector this year1. In fact, skills gaps across all industries are only set to increase in the Fourth Industrial Revolution2.

Rapid advances in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) are happening in ever shorter cycles, changing the very nature of the jobs that need to be done – and the skills needed to do them – faster than ever before. According to the World Economic Forum, around 133 million new roles will be created over the next two years as a result of the division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms. There will also be strong demand for technical skills such as programming along with skills that computers can’t easily master such as creative thinking, problem-solving and more importantly, negotiating – skills that are paramount within the professional services industry.

So how does this affect you?

As new roles continue to emerge and skills requirements change, the size of the existing pool of skilled workers just isn’t going to be big enough to consistently meet demand. Professional services firms simply won’t be able to fall back on hiring new employees as they attempt to future-proof their workforce.

So what options do you have now as you prepare for such a rapidly changing future?

Sizing the gap

Timing, as always, is critical. In order to start addressing the problem now, organisations must invest more in enabling their existing workforce to reskill. The World Economic Forum estimates that more than half (54%) of all employees will require significant reskilling by 20223, but that the skills shortage is likely to be even more acute in some regions. Figures from the European Commission4 show that around 37% of workers in Europe don’t have even basic digital skills, not to mention the more advanced and specialised skills companies need to successfully adopt digital technologies.

Many businesses believe that implementing workforce training programmes will help them prepare for future disruptions or innovations but, because of budgetary constraints, lack of employee time to participate in training, and lack of appropriate training technology, uptake is slow. As the skills gap widens, businesses that don’t take steps now to tackle the problem will be left behind. Business leaders need to take a careful look at the technical and ‘human’ skills needed in order to future-proof their workforce, and move quickly to free up the resources needed to take the first steps towards building a culture of learning among their employees.

Harness an employee-friendly culture

In a competitive jobs market, securing the best talent out there isn’t only about offering an attractive salary package and other perks. Millennial employees, in particular, want to work for an organisation of which they can feel proud and in which they have the same amount of digital freedom as they do at home; these potential employees with high-value skills will vote with their feet if a business doesn’t align with their needs.

So the organisations that are successful in workforce transformation will be those that are able to harness new and emerging technologies to reach higher levels of efficiency of production and consumption.

Invest in employee-friendly technology

Many companies have started looking into or, in some cases, developing their own courseware for reskilling and upskilling employees. Several online learning platforms all promise to help businesses stay ahead of digital disruption by offering courses in areas that are needed. Similarly, other companies have developed their own online learning platforms, allowing users to take control of their own training and develop the skills they’ll need in the future.

However training or upskilling needs to be delivered, the step before need that needs to be firmly in place first – infrastructure.

Daisy Corporate Services and Extreme Networks can help you simplify and transform your infrastructure, so that you can focus on driving your business forward. From wired and wireless connectivity, to switching and routing, through to network management and security solutions, we’re here to help put your business ahead of the game.

Manage your network complexity

Why not start with Extreme Management Centre technologies to help you to free up your IT team’s time so they can focus on innovative activities that can help retain top talent and improve job satisfaction?

The solution allows you to give staff the freedom to work anywhere, whilst always being connected; deliver a high-quality, trouble-free user experience with one easy-to-use dashboard, and can enable you to rapidly onboard BYOD users and Internet-connected devices, helping them to access all the sensitive information and training materials they’ll need to perform their job whilst futureproofing your business at the same time.

Another way to manage network complexity is to improve visibility. Extreme Management Centre lets you understand and control what happens on your wired or wireless network through centralised visibility, data-driven insights, and granular control over users, devices, and applications.

Implement network automation

Professional services providers should also consider investing in automation to make up for the talent gaps in the IT workforce. Automation won’t replace the need for IT staff, but it will remove the need for time-consuming manual tasks, which are prone to human error and can lead to serious downtime, security breaches and further complications. Most importantly, automation can empower staff to be proactive and build skills by focusing on more strategic initiatives.

When in doubt, outsource

Outsourcing the management of your network will help you to improve day-to-day operations as you educate existing employees and seek new talent. We can relieve your IT team from ongoing network operational demands through managed services, so they can focus on business priorities without worrying about the health of your network.

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When it comes to the competitive landscape of the professional services sector, organisations have no choice but to address this skills shortage — or risk falling prey to the competition.

Daisy Corporate Services can help you put the right technology in the hands of your employees, meaning that your employees are more connected and your clients see the benefits too – met deadlines, fulfilled projects, productive partnerships.

Through a combination of smart use of automation and a focus on people, the professional services sector can begin to address the skills shortage and drive their business into the future.

Richard Beeston is Head of Product at Daisy Corporate Services

1  European Commission E-Skills and Jobs in the Digital Age
2 Salesforce.com What Is the Fourth Industrial Revolution? 
3 World Economic Forum
4 European Commission 

Stepping Stones Into The Cloud

Director of Public Sector Andy Riley explains what local governments should focus on to realise the full benefits of cloud technology implementation

Whenever I speak to local government IT teams, one thing is clear – they absolutely understand that moving to cloud is a ‘no-brainer’. They’ve seen the benefits of central government organisations adopting the “Cloud First” directive since it came into force seven years ago. There is an 88% cloud adoption rate in the UK, with 67% of those users expecting to increase their adoption of cloud services in the near future.1

They also completely get that cloud enables them to meet the ever-increasing expectations of digitally-savvy citizens, who now expect the same seamless experience they get from the likes of online retailers and travel booking sites when interacting with any local government service.

“But Andy”, they cry, “We have to provide a more diverse and complex set of services and functions in comparison to our central government colleagues! Their focus is on providing a singular service, while we have to deal with up to 50 IT vendors. It’s harder for us!”

They’re right of course, but my advice to them is always the same. Small steps, not giant leaps. The first of these steps is to consolidate communications systems into the cloud. For some, understandably, this feels like a huge leap into the unknown, but there is a halfway house from which they will still realise demonstrable benefits. If they aren’t quite ready to transition entirely from their existing legacy, on-premise infrastructure, they overlay a cloud solution and get the best of both worlds. The stress here is that it is you who is driving this migration in your own time; you that remains in control – which is important.

So what are the benefits?

Let’s start with the commercial advantages. These are continually being challenged to deliver value from reducing funds on the one hand, whilst meeting the digital demands of citizens on the other. Flexible commercial deployment options exist to enable them to cut their cloth accordingly to meet their budget requirements.

And then there’s the benefit to employees. In my experience, providing workforces with the collaboration tools to quickly and easily interact with each other and to work from whatever location is imperative – and to connect using their own, preferred device is a win-win. It means that as they don’t need to travel as much, local government gets to do its bit for the planet too! Tell Greta!

And then there’s the thorny issue of security – always a concern. So choosing a solution that is PSN-accredited, and designed and implemented around CESG Cloud Security Principles to fully comply with government security obligations, will provide complete peace of mind.

The concerns about surrounding a move to the cloud are valid, but by approaching it in a step by step way, you can mitigate these and reap the benefits quicker. Reduce costs, meet expectations and engage your employees.

And start with your communications infrastructure.

1  CIF Cloud Industry Report 2018

This article first appeared in Public Sector Focus Magazine Jan/Feb 2020

WiFi: Why a Connection Shared Can Be a Problem Halved

Richard Beeston, Director of Product, explains why true digital transformation in the education sector isn’t about caring about the technology, but ensuring that the technology cares.

In its 2020 strategy, The University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) outlined, unsurprisingly, that “digital advances are changing the ways students want to explore their options and engage with universities and colleges”.

By now, there aren’t many of us left who don’t know this. Indeed, one of the prominent buzz phrases of the day is digital transformation and at its simplest level, it means transforming an organisation’s core business to better meet customer needs by leveraging technology and data. In education, that target customer is largely students, though it also includes faculty staff, alumni, and others.

Almost every college and university in the UK has already either embarked on or at least identified its own need for a digital transformation strategy; understanding that in order to be competitive in a period of unprecedented change, they need to be providing “smarter campuses” to better attract and serve both staff and students alike. But while understanding the need to transform is great, how many of us actually understand why they’re doing it and how they can do it in order to make a real difference?

Beating the competition

Curveball: It’s not the most technologically advanced colleges or campuses that will outrun the competition, it will be the most caring – and the lesson here is that it’s time we stopped treating those two things as being mutually exclusive.

Rewind only 10 years and lectures up and down the country were being delivered via PowerPoint – or something like it – to students avidly taking notes down in good old fashioned notebooks. While over in the halls of residence, students were connecting one laptop to a LAN cable – things have changed fast, so yes, the need for fast, secure and reliable WiFi within the education environment is unprecedented. But what’s the real cost?

Futureproofing campuses by installing hyper-fast Internet connectivity will only take success so far. Yes, it means course content can be delivered via Teams, yes it means student support or bursary allowances can be processed quickly, and yes, it does mean greater collaboration between faculty staff, students, support, and administrative departments. But what good is this when there is still potential to fail students?

Connecting your campus with care at its core

University life is one of the biggest transitions our young adults are going to make. The distance from home, the sudden fending for one’s self, the shift from being financially dependent to financially responsible can in some cases be too heavy a pressure on someone not yet 20. So care – as well as connectivity – must be rule of thumb. And if we start with the latter, the former will follow.

Gone are the days of the one student, one laptop trend. This generation is coming from homes where they’ve had the luxury of their own personal network allowing unlimited streaming of multiple devices without lag or falter. These students want an always-on, home from home experience the second they unlock their dorms. Give them that, and you’re getting them off to the best start. You’re providing access to course materials, social media, Skype for ringing home, campus intranet and all on-site support services from student unions to accommodations services and financial aid.

Beyond that, you’re developing infrastructure with care at its core. Once in place, there are myriad ways of enhancing that network so that it can start interpreting data; start noticing patterns between dwindling attendance to concentrated location hotspots to help identify students – at any point in their further or higher education career – who may not otherwise be speaking up and may otherwise fall under the radar…

So you see networks really are important. Digitally transform one with tech, and you develop another with care.

This article was originally published in Education Technology Magazine April 2020

Making a Move To The Cloud? Start With Your Communications [Blog]

Moving communications to the cloud will help local governments better serve their citizens for less

By now, most of us are aware of the myriad benefits that cloud can bring to diverse local government organisations, but if it is all so simple, we’d have all made the move already?

The reality is that cloud adoption is still slow. A 2018 report from Eduserv and Socitm identified that only 40% of respondents had a cloud strategy in place and that the rate of cloud adoption had only increased 10% in the two preceding years – and on the whole, it’s been for very valid reasons.

Making the move from legacy infrastructure is not without its implications. Like most things, cloud adoption isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution and what works for one organisation, probably won’t work for another. And that’s even before we go on to mention cost implications – which are at the forefront of any new local government initiative.

So as much as a shift to a secure and more agile solution is necessary in order to better serve the UK’s citizens, perhaps what is needed instead is a more staged approach; dipping toes in the water to actually experience some of those benefits and address some of the fears around moving to the cloud in order to provide the confidence and reassurance to continue on with transformation journeys.

A great starting point, which will immediately benefit both internal teams and local residents, would be to consolidate communications systems into the cloud. Or, for those not quite ready to move over entirely from legacy on-premise infrastructures, overlaying a cloud solution to get the best of both worlds.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of a cloud-hosted unified communications (UC) solution.

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Do more with less. Now more than ever, the public sector is expected to achieve more with less. Budgets are limited and resources are strained, yet organisations need to connect with the general public across every channel available. A cloud-hosted UC solution enables employees to be mobile, work remotely from any location and react swiftly to public needs — all with an increased eye on security and reliability — and in a manner that helps you optimise your communications and your budget.

Boost team productivity. Increasing productivity is a top priority for local government in the face of budgetary pressures and constraints. To be truly productive, there must first be a culture of collaboration, which means enabling voice conference calls, video conferencing and web conferencing where teams can share information readily, regardless of location. Employees will become more productive when their communications and collaborations tools allow them to work more effectively. And greater collaboration means better services for local residents, increasing the chances of being able to provide a first-time resolution of issues and enhancing their overall customer service experience.

Initiate flexible digital workplaces. Government workers don’t sit behind desks all day. Employees in local government offices spend much of their day on the road and in the field. Meetings with constituents, environmental or outdoor work and special programs make up a large portion of their day. This means staff need access to communications wherever their duties take them. The move to the cloud takes care of this remote connectivity.

The right communication and collaboration tools can help employees work smarter in order to better serve your citizens – making it possible for employees to work remotely, connect with colleagues and citizens, access the data and resources they need and share information ‘in the moment’ with others, all in one place.

Provide PSN-compliant security. By choosing a solution with no single point of failure and built-in PSN-accredited security, organisations can reduce risks and ensure the privacy and protection of both employees’ and residents’ confidential information and data. A solution that is architected, designed and structurally implemented around CESG Cloud Security Principles to fully comply with government security and information assurance obligations is the ideal.

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With increasing pressure to adopt a cloud-first approach from both central government and from the citizens that government organisations serve – many of whom expect the same digital experience they get when online shopping – relieving some of that pressure lies in finding more effective ways to deliver better services at a lower cost. The question is not should you move to cloud platforms but how, and when?

Daisy’s OnlineUC Unify solution could be the answer.

By overlaying existing productivity tools, local governments can continue to leverage their existing assets while embracing a wealth of additional business capabilities and services. Our solution means the requirements of your organisation, not technology constraints, dictate the pace of your migration and enable added value and a choice of smart service packages up to and including a managed service option. Additionally, PSN-compliant security is built-in, not bolted-on later, which means there is no need to retrospectively apply security controls as a separate task as is often the case with cloud solutions from other vendors.

Adopting cloud-based UC allows local governments to transform its service delivery for both employees and citizens alike. Different parts of the organisation are no longer kept in silos and a steady flow of information between departments is not only possible, but promoted.

Employees in the field or in citizen-facing roles can stay connected, safely accessing data and case documents from mobile devices. For citizens, this means efficient service and queries resolved quickly, and means they can engage with council services when it suits them, anytime, anywhere.

Daisy’s OnlineUC Unify is the secure, scalable option for taking that first step on the road to a more flexible, efficient local government infrastructure.

Lee Hunwick is Head of UC & Communications at Daisy Corporate Services

Young people using office 365 managed services

7 Reasons Office 365 Managed Services Makes Good Business Sense

Public cloud services like Office 365 are great, but a common misconception amongst organisations is that once Microsoft Exchange and other apps are moved from on-premise to the cloud, support, backup and maintenance are taken care of…

Not the case.

In fact, you have to handle both ticket and support requests with only “how-to” articles and video tutorials to help you, add and remove users, tackle billing and licencing, configure and implement the environment – not to mention security, backups and recovery. You might not realise it but 60% of availability and performance errors with cloud services are the result of misconfigurations. This can cause disruptions and ultimately hinders workplace productivity; incapacitating your IT team when their time and energy should be spent focusing on other initiatives instead.

When you combine these hurdles with the added difficulty in hiring and retaining staff that are able to handle projects like this with no hiccups and zero downtime, it makes good business sense to consider Microsoft Office 365 as a managed service.

We’ve picked our top seven issues organisations face when implementing and managing Office 365 and how these headaches can be alleviated by considering a managed service provider whose experts can handle the high maintenance and (potentially costly) work for you.

1.   Payback!

The last thing you need after carrying out assessments, getting stakeholders to agree and then implementing a solution with as much potential as Office 365, is myriad issues, errors and complaints. You want a smooth transition which immediately drives value and ROI deeming the project a success as quickly as possible. Not only could issues and complaints harm the productivity and efficiency of your organisation, they could also reinforce negative feelings towards change. In this fast-paced period of innovation, unwavering adoption of new tech is so important that organisations can’t afford to have key stakeholders drag their feet.

2.   The cloud skills shortage

With 94% of organisations struggling to find the right cloud talent and 90% reporting a lack of skills in multiple cloud disciplines, it’s no wonder many organisations are looking for a solution to this issue. In fact, 77% of organisations are turning to managed services to ensure they are using the latest tech and have access to the best in the business.

Wasn’t the whole point of cloud to outsource the grunt work and risk to expert teams in the first place?

Read our How to Navigate the Cloud Skills Gap Storm [eGuide] >>

3.   Consistency is key

As mentioned, 60% of availability and performance errors with cloud services are the result of misconfigurations. Once you’re over the first hurdle of initial configuration there is still active management and oversight to deal with.

Despite many wanting Office 365 to be a set and forget affair, this is not entirely the case. Better to have an expert and dedicated team to oversee all eventualities and react quickly to keep things running smoothly than having to call on staff late at night or over the weekend. Which brings us to our next point…

4.   24x7x365 support

Microsoft provides customers with a basic level of online support for Office 365 as standard, through “how-to” articles and video tutorials. When issues and errors start being reported, this often initiates the daunting task of having to resolve problems yourself by trawling through documentation without the proper knowledge or confidence to remedy the issue.

This is where a managed service provider (MSP) can help take away the day-to-day burden of your already overstretched IT team, providing you with an easily-accessible 24x7x365 service desk function for Incident Management, requests for change and service requests.

5.   Tasks piling up

Seemingly routine tasks like adding users, or more complex tasks like configuring advance features all add up and can negatively impact productivity if done incorrectly. These things also affect your investment and are not normally accounted for in the initial business case assessment.

With an MSP, you have the option to ‘do-it-yourself’ and add licences and subscriptions via a simple and intuitive web portal, or you can sit back and let your MSP handle it all.

In the ‘do-it-yourself’ scenario, you have the flexibility to easily and seamlessly control your cloud estate from a single dashboard. You can add Office 365 licences in just a few clicks, allocate them to users, and view event logs. You can also analyse billing through analytics and reporting so you have complete visibility of your estate.

Take a look at our CloudBridge Portal | Cloud Management Made Simple [Video] >>

For those who don’t have the time or capacity for this, your MSP will acquire the licences on your behalf and correctly assign and remove them as necessary from your account. What’s more, they will also provide general assistance for any subscription, licencing and invoicing queries.

6.   People cost & Training

It’s easy to ignore the additional costs that come with hiring someone already trained in a certain skill – or for that matter, the cost of the training itself. Both the cost of the trainer and trainee’s time carrying out the training plus the administration costs of putting it together. These costs can add up quickly and there’s no guarantee of quality at the end of it. Is this really where organisations should be investing their capital?

MSPs can provide consistent, high-quality training and also appreciate that within any organisation, different users have different demands on how they use the technology. It’s their MO to build trusted relationships with clients by providing a highly-professional and cost-effective training and education service that enables users to get the most out of the product provided. This specialism is hard to replicate in-house.

For instance, Daisy Corporate Services can offer our customers a comprehensive Microsoft Office 365 Training Prospectus covering the following Office 365 Solutions:

  • Implementing and Administering of O365
  • Day-to-day administration of O365
  • SharePoint
  • Teams
  • OneNote
  • To Do
  • Forms
  • Planner
  • Skype for Business

Our training methodology follows three phases:

Phase 1 – Proposal: You advise us on your training requirements, the number of staff and their profiles, we will then provide you with a proposal of courses.

Phase 2 – Education plan: A training coordinator is allocated to you and will be your main point of contract regarding any training requirements and queries. It is at this stage that the training plan and schedule is formulated and confirmed.

Phase 3 – Delivery: The courses are delivered in accordance to the format agreed in the previous phase.

7.   Call for backup

A surprisingly large amount of businesses believe that it is Microsoft’s responsibility to protect their Microsoft Office 365 data, this is not the case. This responsibility lies with the customer to ensure they preserve and safeguard Outlook email, Sharepoint and OneDrive data etc.

Our eBackup solution for Microsoft Office 365 forms part of our extensive backup and recovery portfolio. It provides backup and restoration functionality of the customer’s public cloud based Office 365 accounts by combining Veeam’s dedicated Office 365 backup product with our mature data protection and recovery experience. This effective partnership gives businesses complete access and control of their Office 365 data and eliminates the risk of unnecessary data loss. eBackup for Office 365 helps businesses:

  • Protect data from accidental deletion, security threats and retention policy gaps
  • Restore individual Office 365 items and files with industry-leading recovery flexibility
  • Comply with legal and requirements with efficient eDiscovery of Office 365 backup items

We can ensure you have complete backups of this business critical data and a full recovery solution in place.

You can read more about it in our Office 365 Backup and Responsibility [Report] >>, or our 6 Critical Reasons to Backup Your Office 365 Data [eGuide] >>.

Why Daisy for Managed Office 365?

Daisy’s aim is to help customers get the most out of their Office 365 investment with managed services and enterprise-class support. Customers have the choice of one of three support packages to fulfil a wide range of service level and budget requirements: Essentials, Enterprise and Enterprise Plus. Each of the options delivers key features to help customers optimize their IT resources.

Our team of experts will be on hand to guide you were necessary, and will work closely with you every step of the way to help you determine which support package best meets the requirements of your organisation and the users within the business.

Find out more about Daisy’s Managed Office 365 >>

Is Your Daily Commute A Potential Train Wreck For Your Business?

Hurrah! Security advice that you can implement instantly, without spending any money! Product Director Richard Beeston shares a tale of #CyberStupidity…

Like many people, I regularly commute via train. It’s normal to see lots of people working away in the mornings, and while more people are watching films or TV in the evening, there are still plenty of people who bookend the day with some solid email sorting and document creation – I myself like to use the journey home to catch up on admin activity like sorting my inbox.
Continue reading “Is Your Daily Commute A Potential Train Wreck For Your Business?”