office 365 mailbox quota increase

Microsoft reveals new Office 365 Mailbox quota increase

This week the Office 365 Roadmap announced that an increase in Mailbox quota with Exchange Online would be increasing from 50 GB to 100 GB.

The new mailbox quotas will only apply to the Office 365 E3 and E5 plans. All other plans will remain with the 50 GB quota.

Why the need to upgrade?

You might ask why the need to increase mailbox quotas with Exchange Online when only a few individuals need extra space?

Well, a) storage is cheap for Microsoft especially when bought in the quantities that Microsoft purchases to equip hundreds of thousands of Office 365 servers.

And b) it gives them a competitive advantage against Google. Google’s G Suite (which includes Google Drive, Google Photos and Gmail) is limited to only 30 GB. This gives Microsoft a huge upper hand in this market.

Things to consider:

If you’re using the Outlook desktop client, consider how much data you want to cache locally and how well the hard disk on your PC will cope with the size of that cache. PCs equipped with fast SSDs usually perform well up to the 10 GB mark and slow thereafter. PCs with slow-spinning 5,400 rpm hard drives will pause for thought well beforehand.

So if you upgrade your mailbox quota, consider the cost of upgrading your hard disk.

Although having a large mailbox can be an advantage, it also comes with its challenges. While Search is much better today, looking for an item can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. Sometimes it can be much simpler to the delete the items you know you don’t need.

Apple iOS10 Update Breaks PPTP VPN

Apple iOS10 Update Breaks PPTP VPN

Apple have now decided that iOS 10 will no longer support PPTP VPN connections. This means that anyone connecting to their iPhone/iPad hotspot, using PPTP, won’t be able to establish their VPN connection unless they use a different protocol.

Why won’t it connect anymore?

A protocol is a specific set of rules that the computers use to communicate. PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) is a specific type of protocol for a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection. While PPTP has been a default for many users, it has been described as an old, insecure protocol and if possible, users should try to use a different protocol.

Who does this affect?

A VPN connection allows a laptop or computer that is physically located outside of a network to act as if it is a part of the network. This allows people who work remotely to access data and resources that you would normally need to be in the office to access. So anyone who normally works remotely using an Apple device using iOS 10, will no longer be able to connect to their office network.

How do I change VPN protocol? 

Changing the VPN configuration setting to a different protocol on your iPhone or iPad is quite simple.

  1. Go to the Settings app
  2. Scroll down and click on General
  3. Scroll down and click on VPN
  4. Fill in the information

For a more in-depth guide click here.

However the network your VPN connects into must also support a different protocol. Talk to your company’s tech support to work out a solution that best works for you.

Backing up Office 365 with Backupify

More and more companies are relying on Office 365 to get their business done, but all that cloud data is followed by risks you may not be aware of. What if a file is accidentally deleted or overwritten? Do you have a plan for when employees leave the company? How do you ensure their files and information stays within the company? Enter Datto Backupify.

Datto Backupify fills a gap in the Office 365 offering by backing up the data within user mailboxes, OneDrive & the company SharePoint sites. It ensures that companies can access and control the data they entrust to these systems and prevents data loss from external threats, user and service error.

If you’re currently using (or looking to migrate to) Office 365, you should know that Office 365 doesn’t back anything up long-term. If you delete something, after a 30 day period it is gone forever, unless you use a third party tool like Backupify.

Backupify lets you restore individual files/emails to entire SharePoint libraries and mailboxes as well as an external download so you can actually download your data to your computer/server. This is a function that a lot of other products can’t do, instead they can only restore back into Office 365.

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    • Manage backups, view restores, and see an activity feed from an easy-to-use dashboard
    • Zero in on files, emails, contacts, and calendar invites with robust search parameters
    • Restore files, emails and calendar invites directly to a user’s account or download them instantly to your own computer

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It’s also inexpensive, 1-24 staff is $75ex/month for the client and they get three backups a day. For more information about Datto Backupify contact us on community@grassrootsit.com.au

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nbn small business

NBN drives Small Business productivity

As the long awaited NBN (National Broadband Network) continues to be rolled out across Australia, small businesses are already realising the benefits high speed internet connectivity can bring.

A study by the University of Melbourne showed that SMBs are set to contribute an additional $4 billion to Australia’s GDP after the NBN rollout is complete, linking business success with the adoption of new digital services.

A recently Telstra survey revealed more interesting statistics from small businesses already connected to the NBN:

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  • 41% reported improved productivity
  • 15% reported decrease in business costs (regional experience slightly higher at 19%)
  • 5% cited increased revenue as a result of the faster broadband connectivity

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What we really like to hear is that SMBs are making the most of the new infrastructure, using the NBN as an opportunity to capture greater productivity through technology. Following the switch to the NBN:

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Steven Peck, Director of NBN Business at Telstra says that to maximise the benefits of the network, SMBs are encouraged to invest and upgrade their technology.

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The increased instant asset threshold allows small businesses to claim an immediate deduction for assets that cost less than $20,000 excluding GST, and assets covered under this legislation are technologies including hardware (computers, tablets and mobile devices) and software purchased for business use.

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So what do you get when you combine small businesses and a really fast National Broadband Network? Increased productivity. Increased adoption of digital services. Increased revenue for the small business market.

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For more information on the NBN go to www.nbnco.com.au.

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SharePoint document libraries get a facelift

The uptake of Microsoft SharePoint by Australian small businesses is increasing, driven in part by the rapid move towards Office 365, which effectively includes SharePoint at no extra cost. Many businesses are discovering the benefits of SharePoint for a range of uses ranging from simple shared calendars to full blown document management systems.

Document Libraries, which form a core component of SharePoint, are finally due to receive a long-overdue update, bringing the user experience up to date with modern expectations. Not only is the visual design changing to a far more appealing and modern look, but new features are being introduced such as file linking, and far easier file move/copy functionality.

Microsoft SharePoint has long provided exceptional functionality, but I’ll be the first to admit that the dated user interface could often be a barrier to user adoption. If it’s been a while since you last looked at how SharePoint could benefit your business, I encourage you to have a look at how far the product has come.

For a more detailed run down on the new Modern Document Libraries you can visit the Office Blogs.

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Business lessons from Department of Education Report

A recent report by the Western Australia Auditor General has found a number of critical shortcomings with the Department of Education’s ICT program, all of which present remarkable parallels with challenges we see regularly within the Australian small business sector.

Specifically, the auditor general found that there appears to be no clear strategy in place to maintain, support or update ICT infrastructure, resulting in schools struggling with the use of aging and outdated ICT, in some cases abandoning its use altogether. This combined with a lack of suitable IT expertise is resulting in many schools rapidly falling behind.

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“It is clear that some schools are struggling to understand and keep up with changes in ICT”

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Some key points covered in the report include:

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  • Poorly planned replacement strategy for aging technology, resulting in 28% of all student devices being over 4 years old (the point at which computers are generally considered obsolete).
  • Insufficient IT support and poorly standardised equipment and operating environments resulting in substantial productivity loss.
  • Ballooning internet and data usage requirements due to the increasing use of online services is rapidly outstripping available bandwidth.
  • Wifi is rapidly becoming a core element of networks without sufficient consideration given to appropriate infrastructure.
  • BYOD has either already been, or is actively being considered.

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So, what lessons can we take from the auditor general’s report for our own businesses?

Well, there are both strategic and tactical lessons we can find in the full report, but for now let’s stay focussed on just the points mentioned above, and what we can take from them.

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  • Plan and budget for the periodic replacement of ICT assets. With normal business usage, most desktop and laptop computers can expect to have a 3-4 year working life. Servers have traditionally worked to a 3 year working life, however in recent times this has been extending towards 5 years. Creating a replacement plan and budgeting accordingly is a simple, straightforward task that will avoid lost productivity and costly surprises, and all you need to get started is a list of your computers and when they were purchased.
  • Don’t underestimate the benefits of standardising and properly supporting your ICT. Quite simply this will help your staff and your business stay productive and happy, and if delivered properly will save you money and make you more profitable.
  • Online and cloud services are transforming the way we do business, but you need fast, reliable internet. Don’t underestimate the load that cloud services can place on your internet connection, or the loss of productivity if staff can’t use these services efficiently (or at all).
  • Getting wireless networking right doesn’t need to be complicated or super expensive, but it may require more than a single $50 access point. Wireless networking can also provide a range of business benefits that you may not already be realising. Consider assessing your existing and potential use of wireless networking, and seek advice on how best to maximise your return on investment.
  • BYOD is a real thing with real potential benefits, but it needs to be properly thought through and well implemented. BYOD has implications not just for IT, but for most other areas of the business from recruitment through HR to legal, compliance and finance. When done well BYOD can transform an organisation. When done poorly it can create a chaotic, expensive mess.

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DattoCon 2016 Round Up

What do you get when you drop 1,000 technology geeks and entrepreneurs into the centre of Nashville for a week? One of the year’s best tech conferences, DattoCon, that’s what! As it turns out you also get a lot of jet lag, country music, late nights and cowboy hats. Who could ask for more?

DattoCon is the annual conference hosted by Datto, the company behind the awesome business continuity solutions that I’m sure you’ve heard us talk about before. (What’s that? You haven’t? Madness. Email me now, you need to know about this stuff.) As with most conferences the most valuable bits happen in the hallway conversations, discussions over dinner, and the people you meet at the bar. Here’s my roundup of the top 5 things I took away from DattoCon 2016.

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Backup and Disaster Recovery is no longer enough

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We all know that having a proper Backup and Disaster Recovery solution in place is absolutely critical, right? It may be something simple like an accidentally deleted file, or something far bigger such as a server failure, but having proper working, tested backups in place is pretty much “IT 101”, and should be considered a ‘non-negotiable’ in your business.

The thing is, in 2016 that’s no longer enough. Now you need to be extending your thinking through BUDR to Business Continuity – IE: How do you keep your business running during and immediately following the incident. You see, with traditional BUDR thinking, the actual recovery process can take hours or even days, and that’s assuming you have suitable hardware on hand to restore the backups to (this is called the Recovery Time Objective or RTO). While systems are being restored from backup your business may not be able to operate.

By adding Business Continuity to your thinking, you can start to consider ways to keep your business operational while the full restoration and recovery process takes place.

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Ransomware is now the key reason that a Business Continuity solution is critical

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Ransomware infections including ones like the CryptoLocker virus that got a lot of mainstream media attention not that long ago are still running rampant. Interestingly one of the key themes coming through at DattoCon was that ransomware is now one of, if not the most important reason for businesses to think carefully about their Business Continuity plans.

Recovering from a ransomware infection isn’t always a quick and easy process, so giving the matter some consideration in advance as to how your business can continue to function while that process takes place is important.

I can cite specific examples where we have been able to activate a client’s Business Continuity plan immediately following a ransomware infection, and keep their business operations flowing while the full recovery continued behind the scenes. Unfortunately, I can also cite examples where client’s operations have been seriously disrupted for days because they did not have an effective business continuity plan in place.

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Network Security is a multi-layered thing

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Back in the good old days, having antivirus software installed on your network was generally about as far as most people went when it came to network security. Surprise, surprise, those days are gone. Solid business grade antivirus software is still critical, but no longer enough.

Here’s a basic checklist of everything you need to be thinking about when it comes to your network security:

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    • Business grade antivirus software
    • Intelligent internet UTM/Firewall device
    • Monitored backup solution including offsite replication
    • Staff education around staying safe
    • Business continuity plan for when things still manage to slip through

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The good news is that these days you can address each of these points far cheaper and easier than ever before. Remember too that this list is just a starting point.

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The Cloud is not rendering IT Support unnecessary

There’s been a lot of chatter in certain parts of the IT industry over the last few years, with some providers worried that the rapid uptake of cloud services could mean the end for their business. After all, according to the cloud providers marketing, moving to the cloud will solve all of your problems for a fraction of the price, right? Catching up with so many colleagues at DattoCon was a great opportunity to see if there was anything to this.

In actual fact, what we’re starting to see emerge is a very clear “Yes and No” to this concern. Those IT providers whose business has traditionally been based on the sale and installation of servers and the like are having to adapt or suffer. A lot are adapting quite effectively, however others are not.

For those providers with a strong focus on customer service and IT support, it seems that business is busier than ever. Most seem to be successfully integrating cloud services into their offerings, and the load on their support teams are no less with cloud based services than they were with on premise services.

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Nashville is Awesome!

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OK, so this one doesn’t really have anything to do with DattoCon, technology or entrepreneurship, but I had to throw it in anyway. Nashville is an absolute hoot! The live music scene is just out of control, the bars and venues are a heap of fun, and the people super nice. If you ever have the chance to drop in on Nashville, I definitely encourage you to do so. Just remember the Panadol.

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Ben with Steve Wozniak (aka The Woz), co-founder of Apple, at #DattoCon16.

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Technology in Travel: the best gadgets, widgets and technology for a smooth trip

The tickets are booked, the clothes are all folded ready to go in the suitcase and we’re humming the tune of “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, but what gadgets, widgets, and other technology items should be packed to make life a little easier whilst on the go? We asked some tech-savvy business travellers for their top travel tech tips:

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Active noise cancelling headphones

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John Downs from John Downs Photography swears by noise cancelling headphones.

They reduce the engine noise on a plane so you can listen to music or movies without turning it up so loud it damages your hearing.

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headphones and the phone on the table

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If you really are ‘leaving on a jetplane’, noise-cancelling headphones are a must for many travelers to reduce the ambient noise associated with plane travel (engine noise, small tired children…).

On the more expensive end of the price range, Ben owns (and is really happy with) some larger over-ear Sennheiser battery powered headphones, but there are less pricey models available.  In fact he also owns a super cheap pair of in-ear passive noise-cancelling headphones which are almost just as effective, and far easier to carry around.

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Bluetooth Speaker

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When you’ve reached your destination and want to relax with a few tunes while you’re unpacking, it’d be handy to put away the headphones and utilise a small bluetooth speaker. Obviously when travelling, you need something that’s going to be small and light enough not to weigh your luggage down, but that also provides great sound quality. Another handy feature would be to ensure it’s at least a little bit weather proof, in case your relaxation is happening beside the pool or on the beach. We think this little UE Roll looks pretty cute. We have its big brother, the UE Boom, at home and love it.

 

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USB power packs

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I’m sure we all know how it feels to be out and about, using your phone all day and wondering whether you’ll make it back to a power point and charger before the depleted battery completely dies. Enter the portable USB power pack, which enables you to charge on the go.  While it may not give your phone or tablet a full charge, it will enable you to get a few more hours of life out of your vital devices. From about $30, you can pick up one of these babies so it’s a pretty cheap insurance policy to avoid a flat phone battery. Check out TechAdvisor’s Best Portable Charger reviews to research which features you might need and their picks for the best model to buy. If you’re heading to a sunnier part of the world, what about using a portable solar charger and then you won’t even need to worry about needing to plug in your charger. Win.

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Portable solar panel for charging mobile devices hanging on bag

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E-Book Reader

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Okay, I may be a little biased with this one because I am not-so-secretly in love my Kindle Paperwhite, but an e-book reader is a definite inclusion in the carry-on for this traveller. Without having to lug a whole library of books onboard, the e-book reader enables me to travel lightly and still have a literary smorgasboard at my fingertips. Kindle reader app on the iPad is a great option if you don’t want to take multiple devices, but after a long day of conferencing or travelling (or both), the front light on the Kindle screen is far more gentle on the eyes then backlit screens and quite nice to curl up with a ‘book’ without having all those other apps and social media distractions quite so handy.

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Young woman reads electronic book sitting on the grass.

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Wifi Hotspot

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One small piece of tech that goes everywhere with me these days is my small 4G Wifi Hotspot. This magic device charges from any USB cable and will share a 4G internet connection wirelessly with up to 5 devices. This saves me using the expensive data allowance on my phone plan, and also lets me connect all of my devices to the internet with a single prepaid device.

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Hand holding smartphone with wi-fi connection on the screen in cafe

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Bluetooth Keyboard

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When you want to travel light but work on the go and hate getting thumb fatigue tapping away on a iOS device, a wireless keyboard could help turn your iPad or phone into a workstation. This Logitech keyboard is light, compact and can connect across different platforms (Mac, PC, Android, Chrome, iOS) and up to three different devices simultaneously.

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Wireless Keyboard

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Wifi enabled SD card

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For all the keen travelling photographers out there, it might be wise to consider a wifi enabled SD card like this Eyefi Mobi Pro. No longer will you require cords and computers to backup the photos from your camera, as the SD card automatically backs up your photos to smartphone, tablet, PC or Mac at lightning speed when you’re connected to wifi. So handy.

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Hand holds SD Card against DSLR camera.

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Handy travel apps

Toby Cumpstay from Simple for Strings won’t leave home without his two favourite mobile apps, TripIt and FlightTrack.

I can’t live without TripIt and Flight Track. Great apps for keeping my travel plans and flights all sorted. Flight Track told me my flight had been cancelled before the airport announce it in Chicago. I was able to get on the next flight without lining up!

There is practically an app for every scenario these days, but there are loads to make aspects of travel easier. Here are some favourites:

TripIt – keeps track of all your travel details, syncs it with your calendar and shares with those who need to know. Just email through your itinerary and it will automatically enter all the details!

Flight Track – stay informed of your air travel details 24/7 with notifications on your iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch or keep track of the flight status of your friends and family.

Google Translate, including WordLens – overcome the language barrier with the help of this app, which can translate text and interpret voice across various languages. Take a photo of a local sign with your phone and it will be translated into your native language!

CityMaps2Go – this handy app has downloadable maps for over 7000 destinations. Download the map while you’re connected to wifi, then you’ll be able to use the map without using your data.

Facetime or Skype – when you have to be away from home, it’s good to stay connected through video calls.

LocalEats – find out where the locals eat and get a great meal, whichever city you’re in, with this handy app.

Jet Lag Calculator – want to work out the best route to avoid the worst jet lag? This handy calculator could be your best friend.

Air B’n’B, need some last minute accommodation? I love Air B’n’B, the prices are usually really good and because it’s part of the ‘sharing economy’ there are usually really helpful reviews.

Uber – if you don’t want the hassle of hiring a car, a quick search on Uber Estimate can tell you what you’ll pay to find your own ride.

PassBook or PassWallet for all your mobile ticket management

iPad to HDMI adaptor. If you’ve got any meetings or presentations while you’re away, an iPad to HDMI adaptor can be invaluable. This gives you the ability to travel really lightly if you’re proficient at getting work done on your iPad.

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Cool (Kinda Geeky) Gear I’d LOVE To Use

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Scottevest – There’s a bunch of different ones but the Q.U.E.S.T is awesomely nerdy. It has 42 pockets that use no bulge technology so that it doesn’t look like you’re carrying all your worldly possessions, it has heaps of other cool features too. It’s a US brand but you can pick one up from ThinkGeek.

Tom Bihn Travel Tray – I love this thing, it’s like a key bowl for travel. Keep all your odds and ends in it like keys, sunglasses, chargers, loose change, etc. It acts as a bowl that you can easily put all of this stuff in then when you’re ready to leave you can unroll the top and it turns into a duffle bag. Very cool.

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General technology must-haves 

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Raylee Huggett from Gorgeous Curves Diary offers some sage advice.

“I always take these two items – an international power adaptor and a 4 or 6 plug power board to plug into it so I can charge my phone, Camera, laptop/ipad each night”

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**Editor’s note**

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This tip could be great to make friends at events. In my experience, any available PowerPoint gets pretty crowded during the break and there’s often a queue to get to a precious PowerPoint. You save the day for 3-5 people with the power board alone! Who doesn’t love being a hero?

Way back when I was a backpacker in my twenties, internet cafes were thriving, travelling with a mobile phone was rare and it was far easier to get lost in the world. These days, when we are much more used to gathering information online, an uncharged smartphone can mean disaster. With the help of so many handy tools, we can work on the go, keep those devices charged and stay connected, wherever we are in the world.

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Mobile Device Management for Small Business

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For most small businesses the ship has well and truly sailed on both Mobility and BYOD – whether they officially recognise it or not. Employees, partners and clients now expect mobile access to information and business systems whether on company provided devices such as smartphones and iPads or on their own personal device.

The more organised businesses will also by now have corporate policies in place to cover both mobility and BYOD, but without a Mobile Device Management (MDM) platform in place, these policies may merely be hollow threats. A Mobile Device Management system allows the business to centrally manage all mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, whether they be company provided, or an employee’s own personal device.

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(source- “Bring Your Own Device- The Facts and the Future” Gartner 2013)

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There are numerous reasons why this is a good idea, but probably number one on the list is security. Given that most mobile devices at the very least will be configured with access to the business email, consider the potential damage if an iPhone accidentally left behind in a taxi is found by the wrong person. This is just one very common scenario where an MDM system would protect your business.

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Predictions for 2017 are that at least

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Features vary from one MDM system to the next, but common features can include:

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  • GPS tracking of devices
  • Full and Selective remote wipe capability if the device is lost
  • Remote installation of apps
  • Enforcement of security policies, such as encryption and PIN codes

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Mobile Device Management used to be the exclusive domain of big business, but thankfully in recent times this has rapidly changed. MDM is now comfortably within reach of even the smallest business. With prices starting at $0.00 for some systems, the real question is why wouldn’t you consider implementing Mobile Device Management in your business.

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“Elvis has left the building!”

Mobility is becoming the new ‘trend’ in business practices and we’re seeing more companies switching from the traditional office cubicle space to the virtual office. In theory, this sounds great for employees. You can (somewhat) set your own hours to best suit your needs and still keep your job. What does this mean for keeping up appearances when you’re not physically in the building? And, as a manager, how do you manage your staff when you don’t know where they are?

We’ve compiled a list of tips that can help keep your team communication strong.

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Do you trust me?

First things, first – micromanaging your staff isn’t going to get you anywhere. Regardless of whether your team is in the office or working offsite, building trust and creating accountability is going to be the best way forward in a mobility-based business world. So, let down the barriers and trust a little!

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Get connected.

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Here at Grassroots IT, we communicate through a program called HipChat. It keeps us in regular communication with each other, especially if we are onsite at a client’s office. It means we are able to attend external meetings or work from home and still have a presence at the Garden Shed. What’s great about this chat feature is we can also keep a record of conversations so no communication is lost along the way.

 

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Atlassian Hipchat

 

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Stop. Collaborate and listen.

 

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With the risk of sounding like a broken record, there are plenty of ways to collaborate on team projects without being in the same room. Cloud services like OneDrive for Business and Soonr are really awesome tools that not only let you securely store your company files, but also allow you to collaborate on the same documents. What’s more, these services are also available on mobile devices, so you could be waiting in an airport for your flight and working at the same time!

 

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SoonrDropboxOneDrive

 

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Socialise, socialise, socialise.

 

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It’s important to our culture that we all get along with each other. Regular social gatherings are a great way to keep in contact and build stronger relationships amongst older and newer employees, especially if we’re not all in the office at the same time. Organising a social event doesn’t have to be hard. A barbecue every few months can be a great way to bring the team back together without the pressure of deadlines hanging over everyone’s heads. Anything for a happy team, right? 😉

 

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