Browsing Posts in General Biz

Our last regular Lunchinar talked about Windows 10 and how to prepare for it.  If you’re waxing nostalgic, here’s the online version:

 

The Quartet

Joseph J Ellis

In 1776 we signed the Declaration of Independence.  Then we won the Revolutionary War.  Then we became a Democracy.  Then the Civil War happened.

To a large degree I confess to being mostly ignorant of what happened immediately following the Revolutionary War.  Like most folks, I bought into the Founding Fathers worked together and figured out how to create this new Democratic Republic pretty seamlessly.

Boy, was I wrong.  This is actually one of the better history books I’ve ready in a while.  I illustrates the disconnect between the ineffective national government (which was truly more of a Confederacy of States than a Federal Government) and the all-powerful State governments.

For those of you who think the Founding Fathers could do no wrong and had singular goals and objectives in mind, read this book.  You’ll also realize that much of the mindset was based on compromise (especially dealing with Federal versus State powers).  And that much happened not because it was what all parties wanted, but what was politically doable.

The book focuses primarily on what the author sees as the four men most responsible for the creation of the constitution.  George Washington, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison take up a good share of the narrative.  But there’s a decent amount of attention spent on the political issues of the day as well.

A great read.

What is Office 365?

Click here to RSVP for the webinar on this topic on Thursday August 13th from 11-noon (eastern)

Office 365 is a subscription based service to the Office programs you know and love. It’s kept up to date automatically, so there’s no software for you to purchase and install. Your subscription gives you access from up to 5 devices, so you can work from your computer, tablet, smartphone, whatever you need.

 

Office applications
There are a couple different ways to use the Office products with Office 365. You have Office Web Apps, which are basically web based versions of the familiar Office products, as well as the full versions. Office Web Apps have a lot of the same functionality, although not all. And of course you will still have the full versions of the Office products available to install on your computer.

 

Email
Office 365 keeps all your emails in sync across all your devices. It’s also easy to share calendars and view scheduling information for people within your organizations.

 

Instant Messaging
Office 365 comes with Skype for Business (Or Skype depending on the subscription you choose). You’ll have individual and group Instant Messaging capabilities, availability indicators, and calling information. Check out our webinar on Skype for Business for more information on these capabilities.

 

Video Conferencing
Skype for Business also offers individual or group video conferencing. It’s fully integrated with Outlook, so creating meetings with links to Skype calls can be done right from your Outlook client. And Skype for Business isn’t limited to people within your organization, you can also communicate with people outside your organization.

 

Collaboration
Share files and collaborate in real time from any device. Working on a presentation or document with a team? With Office 365 you can edit and track other edits easily in one shared file. Version control is easy because everything is in real time.

 

So which subscription do you need? That depends on if you need email, Office, or both. Below is a more detailed table of the subscriptions:

 

 

 

 

Interested in Office 365? Join us for August Office webinar where we’ll demonstrate some of the basic functionalities and discuss the various subscriptions available.

 

CommunicationsEffective Project Communications

Click here to RSVP for the webinar on this topic on Thursday August 20th from 2-2:30pm (eastern)

Communication is critical when working on a project, but how do we best gauge how much is enough? Too much? In person or in writing? By groups or individuals?  Routinely scheduled or ad hoc? The answer depends on the size and nature of the project, the preference of the team, and organizational requirements. And all of this is determined as you create your communication plan.

Your project communication plan can be as simple or complex as you need. It’s purpose is to document how various information within a project will be communicated. Some common methods of communication you’ll see in communication plans are:

Project Reports: Probably the most important communication, reports are usually listed specifically by name. You’ll also want to document the recipients, the sender, and the schedule of delivery. Oftentimes we’ll set variances for reports as well. For example, a standard budget report might suffice, unless the budget exceed 10% of the plan, then perhaps we would want to also include a detailed budget report, and escalate the recipients.

Meeting Notes: You’ll want to determine how to best distribute meeting notes. Options might include saving a document to a shared folder, sending and email, or making an entry in a SharePoint site.

Contact Information: If you are working with a diverse team, especially those outside your organization, it’s great to get everyone’s contact information in one place.

Meeting plan: I like to document a plan for scheduled meetings in my communication plan. I’ll list who should attend, the nature of the meeting, and the options for participation. For example:

Meeting Cadence Attendees Options for attending
Working level meetings Weekly or as needed TBD In person or phone
Status meetings Bi-weekly Resources with active and upcoming tasks In person or Skype call
Project review Monthly Entire project team In person

 

Go to resources: I also like to list resources that are specifically responsible for certain things that might impact my project. For example, who should we talk to if we need elevated access rights? What about after hours supports, is there anyone available for that?

I typically like to have some conversations during the beginning of the project to determine what would work best, and then go over that plan before the project starts (or during if need be). Your communication plan doesn’t have to be formal. It’s purpose is to help document who needs to know what and when. Sometimes it’s as simple as emailing meeting notes and providing a weekly report. And sometimes it’ll be more involved. The most important thing to remember about communication plans is to customize them to meet the needs of the project. You don’t want to over communicate – your team will start to ignore your emails if they receive 50 a day. But not communicating enough can impact the project. So have some conversations about communications needs and preferences and you’ll set yourself up for an effective, well informed project team.

Join us on August 20th for the Project Management webinar on Project Communications. We’ll look at some of the reports available in MS Project and Project Web App and discuss getting the right information to each person on the project team.

Fiber comes to the City of Hudson, courtesy of…The City of Hudson!

The City of Hudson (home of Simplex-IT) last month announced plans to implement fiber-based high-speed internet connectivity, starting with the downtown area (yes, for those who have not wandered through our fair city we do have a very nice downtown).

Fiber is not only good for your diet and digestion, but also leads to extremely fast internet speeds.  And the price is usually pretty good.

Of course this won’t be implemented overnight, but soon.  As in you’ll have fingers let over if you count down the months on your hands soon.  And it will be phased in (which makes sense) based on geographical areas.

So does Simplex-IT play a part in this?  What do you think?

Join Simplex-IT and some folks from City Hall at our picnic this month.  We’ll be happy to answer questions about the fiber initiative.

If you want to see the announcement, check out this video:

 

Windows 10.  Let the hoopla begin.  July 29th is the release date.  Obviously Microsoft was looking for just the right way to celebrate “National Lasagna Day.”

And the upgrade will be free!  Well, free to a lot of people.  Windows 7, 8.1?  Yup.  Well, except for Enterprise users.  Unless you have Software Assurance.

And of course you need to Reserve your upgrade.

Does that include Windows Phone?  Well, of course.  If the phone OEM isn’t blocking it.  And depending on your carrier.

Are you the IT guy for your company?  It’d be kind of funny if you came in the next day to a lot of workstations upgrading to Windows 10.  Well, funny to us, anyway.

Join us for the last regularly scheduled Lunchinar for Simplex-IT.  Help us say goodbye to an era of bad jokes, ok pizza, decent giveaways and bad PowerPoint slides.

We’re not going to talk about Windows 10 (we’ve already had 2 lunchinars on that).  We’re going to talk about the process of getting Windows 10.

  • When:  Wednesday, July 15th
  • Time:  11:30-1pm (Eastern)
  • Where:  Courtyard by Marriott in Stow (or online)

Click here for more information and to RSVP

 

Access your files anywhere and with any device using OneDrive (webinar)

OneDrive is the free cloud based storage solution from Microsoft. It’s accessible from any device, and much easier than emailing files or using a flash drive. A lot of our devices don’t even have USB ports, and I’d always lose those things anyway.

RSVP for the webinar by clicking here

OneDrive comes with your Microsoft account, and you get 15GB of space. If you need more, you can purchase more – anywhere from 100GB for $1.99/month to 1 TB for $9.99 per month. In Windows 8 and later you can access OneDrive from the One Drive app tile.

OneDrive for Business comes with most Microsoft Office 365 accounts, and you get 1TB of space. It’s very similar in function to the personal OneDrive (in fact it gets downright confusing sometimes).

When you save something in OneDrive it gets stored “in the cloud” (namely servers belonging to Microsoft).  If you want to, you can install a client app that will also copy all the files locally (extremely handy).

To get started using OneDrive, just save a file to One Drive instead of your local computer. It’s as easy as selecting the OneDrive option from your list of locations. If you have many files on your local computer, you can either move or copy those to OneDrive. If you chose to make a copy for OneDrive, be sure not to get the versions mixed up. They’ll be named the same thing, so you’ll want to pay extra attention to the location in which you’re accessing them.

You can change the default location for saving files to OneDrive as well. In Settings, and PC Settings, you’ll see some options for OneDrive. Under “Save Documents to OneDrive by default”, select “On.” You can also control which folders are kept in sync as well. In settings, select the Chose Folders to select specific folders to sync and not to sync.

You can access OneDrive through Windows Explorer, where it can be configured just like any other storage location. And, you can create a folder hierarchy for file management, just like you would in your hard drive, or My Documents folders.

But is it secure??  We are always concerned about the security of our data, right? With OneDrive, your files are only accessible by you, unless you choose to share them. To keep safe from hackers, be sure to use a very strong password and add security information to your Microsoft account, such as your phone number, email address and a security question.

There are apps for Android, Apple, and Windows devices too. Just install the appropriate one on each device you wish to use OneDrive with. It’s handy to have the ability to work on file at the office, and then pick back up from your tablet at home or on the go when you want to make changes.

Are there problems with OneDrive?  Yup.  Uploading large numbers of files can corrupt your local copy, plus there are some limitation.

Interested in seeing OneDrive in action? Join us on July 9th  from 11-12 for this month’s Office Webinar, where we’ll demonstrate OneDrive and talk in more detail about the benefits and capabilities.  We’ll also be giving away a copy of Microsoft Office 365 courtesy of Microsoft.

 RSVP for the webinar by clicking here

Microsoft Project is really great for managing one project schedule, but what happens when you have more than one project to manage? Sure, you can view the project indivually, but did you know Microsoft Project Online has views to show consolidate project information? Sorted, grouped, sliced and diced however you’d like!

Click here to RSVP for the webinar

Project Online is a cloud based solution, similar to Microsoft Project Server (the on premise solution). It’s designed to help you manage multiple projects, resources, budgets, etc and get an overview view of all your projects.

You can still start off by creating a project in MS Project or Project Online. Project Online has the capability to create new project schedules, so if you don’t have the full version of MS Project, it’s no problem. Think of it as a scaled down, web based version of MS Project. It has the basics to get you by, but if you’re doing a lot of schedule development, you’ll want MS Project Professional.

Once you have your Project schedules created, you can view their status on your main Project Online page, called Project Center (shown below).

 

 

 

You can also process task status updates from your resources in one place. So if you are managing several projects, you have one central screen to accept and reject all status updates.

 

 

 

 

Remember our PM topic last month, Risk Management? Using Project Online, you can manage risks (and issues) in multiple projects.

 

 

 

 

One of the key metrics we want to track when managing multiple projects, are resources, right? Resource availability and utilization to be exact, across all projects. Using Project Online, you can clearly view and report on project resources quickly and easily. One the mage below, I’ve collapsed Bob’s project so it shows a summary, and I’ve expanded my tasks so it shows all the detail.

 

 

 

 

 

The Resource Availability graph is also great – It has four options for viewing Resource information:

  1. Assignment Work by Resource
  2. Assignment Work by Project
  3. Remaining Availability
  4. Work

Below I’ve selected the third option, Remaining Availability:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s very clear which one of us has availability in this demonstration :-)

If you’re interested in diving deeper into managing multiple projects, please join on July 16th for this month’s Project Management Webinar. Plus, you’ll have an opportunity to win a free copy of Microsoft Office 2013!

Click here to RSVP for the webinar

 

We first started the monthly Lunchinar concept back in January of 2009.  A simple idea, we’d just invite people to the Simplex-IT office, get some pizza, share some ideas about what’s going on in IT.  No sales pitch, nothing fancy.

Within the first six months, we outgrew the office, and found a great home the Hattie Larlham’s Café in Hudson.

We’ve shown Windows 7, Windows 8, 8.1 and 10.  All months before their release.  Google Glass, cloud servers, various versions of Office.  Business Continuity, Social Media for small to medium businesses.

3 years ago we started the “Geek Raffle” which raised funds for Hattie Larlham in December.

Then we started videotaping the event, and editing them for posting on YouTube.  John Harrow took care of that.

Fast forward to 2015.  We’ve added several webinars each month.  Although we’ve continued the lunchinars, the attendance has lowered to about the same as our webinars.

But the cost in terms of time and money is significantly higher for the Lunchinar.

So I’ve made the decision to put an end to the Lunchinar.

Sorta.

July’s Lunchinar will be the last of the regularly scheduled Lunchinar.  But we’ll have some additional events on the 3rd Wednesday of each month moving forward.

August will be our annual picnic (that ain’t going away).

September will be an online event (more details to follow).

October will be Simplex-IT’s first field trip (yup, I kid you not).

November will be an online event (more details to follow)

December will still be our Geek raffle (although some details might change from prior years).

January will be our annual “IT Trends for 2016.”

MicrosoftDeals on various Microsoft products expire on June 30th!

Microsoft’s fiscal year ends on June 30th.  Because of this, Microsoft always has promotions and deals for their licensing that expires on June 30th.  This year is no exception.

Offers on:

  • Office 365
  • Project Online
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Microsoft Licensing
  • Migration Costs
  • Open Value Subscription
  • Software Assurance

These offers differ from product line to product line, but they usually end up somewhere between 10-30% off what you would pay throughout the rest of the year.  And many of these offers are limited to only if you purchase the product through a Microsoft Partner (that would be someone like us).

Also, Microsoft has quietly announced that some products will actually see a price increase after June 30th.

So…act now, save money.  Wait until after, price increase.

Interested?

Click us at Sales@Simplex-IT.com, or call us at 234.380.1277.  And you know we don’t do the whole high-pressure approach.  We’ll help you determine the product and licensing plan that’s best for you and your organization (even if it’s not with us).