5 Commonly Overlooked Security Threats

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 The Internet is a vast place that brings amazing information to our fingertips in a matter of seconds. While this is a wonderful attribute, it also can be dangerous to your personal information or business’s data. That’s because there are hackers out there just itching to access your information and email is still a common way they accomplish this feat. And as we’ve seen through several recent examples—including the 2015 Pentagon and 2014 Sony email hacks—simply having a “strong” email password isn’t enough to keep your data from being compromised.

While some may jokingly (or not-so-jokingly) call for less email usage and more frequent use of the phone to communicate important information, it’s not always possible in our highly digital world. So in addition to being cautious about what is communicated in your emails, it’s important to understand how to protect those emails in the first place. To ensure secure email on your personal and work devices, you first have to recognize threats to your email system—including the less common ones.

Overlooked security threats

Here are five often overlooked threats to your email security:

  1. Social engineering schemes that use your mobile number—Did you know that attackers only need your mobile number to trick you into giving access to your email? Essentially, they’ll send you a text posing as your email provider (e.g., Outlook) and tell you you’re about to receive a code to ensure your email account is secure. This text will then ask you to reply with the code to confirm. Then, they’ll trigger the password reset process, you’ll receive a real message with the unlock code—and if you send it to the attackers unknowingly—they’ll use it to reset your password without your knowledge. Check out this video if you want more specifics on this scheme.
  2. Sharing your access credentials with others—It’s common for some employees to share their credentials—including their password—with a fellow employee or manager when they’ll be out of the office, whether on vacation or during short-term or long-term disability. If organizations don’t have defined security policies for these situations, a lack of accountability could lead to compromised email security.
  3. Loss of a phone with pertinent information—Password management applications are wonderful tools that help you keep track of all the passwords for all of the email accounts you undoubtedly have. But if this application is installed on a phone that is lost or stolen, that can be a problem. Of course, it’s important that your phone is also password-protected, but organizations should take security one step further when it comes to work or personal devices that carry business data or information. Specifically, a business should standardize acceptable use policies regarding the local storage of files, remote wipe capability and network connectivity.
  4. Lack of email encryption—Just because data is passed via a secure email server doesn’t mean it’s 100 percent safe. To add an extra layer of protection, companies should invest in an encrypted email service, which seals email messages and ensures only those with a decryption key can read and access sensitive information.
  5. Crypto-ransomware—Ransomware is nothing new, but it’s a nasty way for hackers to operate. They essentially take the files on your computer or devices hostage until you pay a ransom to have them released. Crypto-ransomware is even nastier, as the hackers encrypt your computer’s files and will only surrender decryption keys upon payment. How is this related to email? These attacks are typically triggered through the opening of some sort of email attachment (e.g., an invoice, energy bill, image, etc.) and they often look legitimate. According to Symantec’s 2015 Internet Security Threat Report, attacks of this nature are highly profitable (bringing in approximately $34,000 per month for one group alone) and growing in popularity.

Whether through phishing schemes or direct malware attacks, email security threats are prevalent—and as we’ve seen, even the mighty can fall prey to them. That’s why it’s more important than ever for organizations to invest in a secure email service that will help them keep their data safe. In addition, employee education is a large part of maintaining a secure email environment. When people know what to expect, they’re better equipped to protect themselves and their companies from liability.

Get more out of your email to help grow your business with solutions from Atidan and Microsoft. Contact us today at office365@atidan.com

 

Blog credit to Microsoft: https://blogs.office.com/2016/01/28/overlooked-email-security-threats/

Office 365 Video – Beyond the Portal

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A video message that is easy to find and easy to view will be more successful than one buried in the depths of one, two, three clicks away. When you put a company message from the CxO or a status update from a project leader—front and center where employees and team members are—the information and insights will be better targeted, more fully understood and ultimately shared within the right context.

Within Office 365, it is possible to place videos (embed) in-line and in-context where people work on projects, online and on-premises. You can do this within SharePoint Team Sites, custom company portals, internal blogs, wikis and more. Using the Office 365 Video solution, it is as simple as copy, paste and publish.

Watch our video here!

Learn more about how to embed a video to your online or on-premises SharePoint Team Site from Office 365 Video.

Let’s dive into three key scenarios where embedding videos improves corporate communications.

Embedding video scenarios

SharePoint Team Sites—SharePoint Team Sites are a place for working together with a group of people. They are great destinations to emphasize your brand and information out to your peers throughout the organization. They are central locations to manage content and information, sharing internally and externally to work in rhythm across the collective group of people you work with. As you continue to share documents, team notes, project timeline information and lists of data—so, too, can you easily place important video communications within the primary experience of a team site.

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SharePoint Team Site showing an embedded video among an embedded PowerPoint, a document library, a KPI web part, plus navigation to other sites and subsites.

The company portalAn important part of the modern intranet is enabling companies to build their own custom portals and sub-portals (company intranet sites) that support search, custom design and navigation and business solutions on-premises and online. Here, too, it is critical for important, company-wide video messages—like a quarterly earnings report from the CFO—to be accessible; not a link to a video, but right there, playable on the home page where the eyeballs are and the desired action lives.

ContosoHomePortal

An embedded video within a custom portal home page, side-by-side with news and announcements, custom navigation elements and custom design.

Internal blog post—Blog what you want to say and do it in a modern way. That is the mantra of the new authoring canvas within the Office Delve profile experience. And spice up your posts with multimedia elements, including video, like a trip report; it’s easy! And because it’s integrated across Office 365, you can embed videos from the Office 365 Video portal—with inline playback—in seconds.

Embed video throughout your intranet 2

A video embedded within an internal blog post (rendered from a tablet device). Video plays back inline within the post, and can go full screen.

Watch a short video showcasing the Office 365 authoring canvas inside Office Delve, including adding a video within an internal blog post.

Take Office 365 Video beyond the portal

As you begin to embed videos onto team sites, portals and blogs, take advantage of the many ways to share video beyond the Office 365 Video portal and land your message to your intended audience. Share via email; post to Yammer; search and discover with Delve; make videos available on the go, accessible throughout your intranet—where users are active, engaged and ready to consume your information. Embed today, increase your reach and be heard!

Please contact the Atidan Office 365 team at office365@atidan.com for a free trial and no obligation briefing!

 

Blog credit to Microsoft: https://blogs.office.com/2016/01/19/embed-video-throughout-your-intranet/

Eight Ways to Successfully Lead Your Mobile Workforce

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For many of us, the rise of the remote workforce comes as no surprise. For years now, office workers have been abandoning their desks in favor of settings that are farther afield and allow them to work in a more comfortable, and often more productive, environment. And it’s a trend that only promises to keep growing. In fact, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC), the U.S. mobile worker population is on track to grow from 96.2 million in 2015 to 105.4 million mobile workers in 2020. And by the end of the forecast period, IDC projects that mobile workers will account for nearly three quarters (72.3 percent) of the total U.S. workforce.

Eight ways

Although the mobile workforce has been building for some time, managers are, in many ways, still catching up and trying to determine how best to lead their teams when they’re not only not in the same room, but may be spread out over a number of cities, states or even countries. However, because so many organizations have used a remote workforce model for so many years now, and technology has moved ahead by leaps and bounds, leading remote teams is certainly easier than in years past. Of course, finding your own path to successful leadership will largely depend on your personal style, corporate culture and team members, but if you don’t know where to start or would like to add new techniques and technology to your bag of tricks, you would do well to try these time-tested tips:

  1. Manage results, not style—Remote employees often have their own style of working. Some may work for two hours, then take a break to take their kids to school or run an errand, then work four more hours, take a break and work the remaining two (or more) later, while others may keep regular office hours. So instead of managing how an employee gets his or her work done, focus on the quality of the work, whether deadlines are being met, whether they exhibit good decision-making skills, etc.
  2. Encourage teamwork—Working great distances from your co-workers can feel isolating, so make a point to encourage project work that allows team members to work together. This way, your staff will feel more connected to each other, and your department will benefit from shared ideas and greater communication between team members.
  3. Communicate—Because you can’t just pop over to someone’s desk or grab a cup of coffee in the break room, managers need to take initiative to establish relationships with their teams. Weekly or bi-weekly status calls can often help you address upcoming projects, performance issues, etc. Yet, other times an instant message or email conversation (that may or may not be work related) might be the best way to stay in touch. Whatever your approach is, be clear in your communications—but also let your personality shine through. After all, when you’re building and managing a team it’s important for everyone to know who they’re working with.
  4. Host web meetings (with video)—With everyone’s camera up and a shared view of your agenda, presentation, etc., your team can not only see each other—and put faces to names—but see the presenter’s desktop and get a clear picture of the information being addressed.
  5. Give them the right technology—Part of being a good manager is ensuring that your team members have everything they need to work efficiently. And when your workforce works remotely, that means supporting your staff with the right technology. When researching your options, look for software that makes sharing files safe, secure and simple; works on a range of devices, including laptops and desktops, tablets and mobile phones; and gives your workers the power to work on the same documents simultaneously. This way, everyone will have access to the same tools, you can mitigate compatibility issues, and your collaborative efforts can flourish.
  6. Give them a reason—Remote workers can feel disconnected from an organization’s goals and may not have a clear understanding of where their work fits into its mission. If you share the company’s vision and goals with your remote workforce and address how their work contributes to the success of the organization, your team will feel less detached from the company. This, in turn, inspires remote teams to work toward a common goal and be productive members of the organization.
  7. Be inclusive and provide praise—When it comes to training, praise for a job well done, and parties, offsite employees are often overlooked or simply forgotten about—which does nothing to encourage loyalty or foster relationships. As you manage your team of remote workers, try to ensure that they have the same opportunities for training as others and receive the same, prompt praise for a job well done that you would offer onsite workers. As for parties and team outings, if remote team members can’t make it to an event, consider giving them a small gift or a few extra hours off in a week. It’s a small gesture, but it can go a long way toward making them feel appreciated.
  8. Encourage a work-life balance—For remote workers, it’s easy to get caught up in a project or want to make just a little more progress on something before calling it quits for the day. It’s also equally easy to get distracted by projects at home, spouses, kids, pets, etc. The key is to strike a balance between the two. When onboarding new remote workers, talk to them about setting a schedule that they can stick to and setting aside a space designated for work only. Then, at the end of the day, they can shut down their laptops and disconnect from work. This will help them mentally unwind and enjoy their downtime, and start work with a clear head and a fresh perspective the next day.

Finally, as with most things in life, you must lead by example. By taking a proactive, transparent approach to work, being available to your teams and communicating clearly and often with staff in a wide variety of ways, they’ll see that you can not only be relied on, but trusted. They’ll see firsthand how you want the team to function and will follow your footsteps—helping you create a supportive virtual environment that’s conducive to mobile productivity and exemplary work.

For more information about our collaboration and mobile solutions please contact us at sales@atidan.com

 

Credit to Microsoft https://blogs.office.com/2016/01/13/successfully-lead-your-mobile-workforce/

 

 

 

Communication Powered Productivity – New Office 365 Plan Launch

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Microsoft and Atidan believe that the heart of productivity is great teamwork, and the heart of great teams is great communication. Productivity today is centered on conversations—sometimes a quick instant message or call, and sometimes a meeting planned in advance including voice, video and content sharing.

With many different avenues of communication, people need tools that allow them flexibility in how they connect. For years, consumers have embraced new ways of communicating, turning “Skype” into a verb synonymous with video calling. But corporate telephony, including PBX systems, and audio and video conferencing systems, has lagged behind—until now. Having Skype for Business as an integrated part of the work people are already doing in Office means greater continuity as they collaborate and communicate throughout their day.

Built on the familiar Skype user interface, Skype for Business makes connecting with colleagues as easy and intuitive as connecting with friends and family on Skype. With the new services, Skype for Business gets even better, for organizations and their people:

  • PSTN Conferencing provides the flexibility to dial in to a meeting from a traditional phone, in addition to the existing ability to join a meeting with a single click on your PC or mobile device.
  • Skype Meeting Broadcast makes it easier than ever to produce large virtual meetings for up to 10,000 meeting attendees, who can join from virtually any browser or device (see it in action). Now Skype for Business truly is a single platform for every type of meeting.
  • Cloud PBX enables companies to eliminate separate PBX systems and transition to the cloud with Office 365 as the central location to manage users for communication and
  • With PSTN Calling, Office 365 customers can also subscribe to Microsoft managed calling plans and phone numbers, starting in the U.S. with more markets coming later.

Watch this video to learn more about how the new Skype for Business capabilities can benefit your organization.

Simplify your infrastructure, lower your costs and empower your people

Microsoft is the only company that has built this combination of capabilities—a cloud business phone system including dial tone, and a complete meetings solution including audio, video, content sharing and messaging service—as a core part of a complete productivity and collaboration suite, available across mobile platforms and at a global scale.

Today, over half of our business customers are currently paying for multiple conferencing solutions, and many are still using legacy PBX phone systems. Now they can simplify their infrastructure with one cloud platform for meetings and voice, ultimately reducing the cost, complexity and effort of maintaining legacy phone and conferencing systems.

But it’s about more than saving money. People spend nearly a third of their time at work in meetings, yet only 18 percent of information workers actively use conferencing tools that enable rich experiences like video and content sharing. When you consider that nonverbal signals account for nearly 90 percent of the messages we receive during interpersonal communication, it’s clear that moving to modern communication tools can have a dramatic impact on productivity and collaboration.

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Desktop sharing during a Skype for Business meeting.

A rich partner ecosystem

As we release these new capabilities in Office 365, partners like Atidan will play an integral role in extending the value of our new services.

We also partner with telco operators who provide secure, high-quality network connectivity and managed services that help customers get the best experience with the new Skype for Business services. These partners include BT Global Services, Orange Business Services, SoftBank, TATA Communications and Telstra.

Key partners like Polycom are delivering innovative new solutions for audio conferencing including the Polycom® RealPresence Trio™ for groups, and Polycom® VVX® desktop phones, which are the first phones qualified for the new Skype for Business services in Office 365.

Application partners like Genesys are also building on our platform to deliver solutions like contact center applications that work with Skype for Business and Office 365.

Deeper value from security and analytics

In addition to the Skype for Business capabilities, we’re releasing new security and data analytics capabilities in Office 365, including:

  • Delve Analytics—Empowers individuals through rich dashboards that provide insights on time and relationships, with the goal of helping individuals get time back and spend it effectively.
  • Power BI—A business analytics service that enables information workers to visualize and analyze data with greater speed, efficiency and understanding through live data dashboards, interactive reports and compelling visualizations.
  • Customer Lockbox—Gives customers new approval rights, transparency and control over their data in the cloud.
  • Advanced eDiscovery—Integrates Equivio machine learning, predictive coding and text analytics capabilities, to reduce the costs and challenges that come along with sorting through large quantities of data for eDiscovery purposes.
  • Advanced Threat Protection—Protects against unknown malware and viruses by applying behavioral analysis.

Contact the Atidan team at office365@atidan.com for additional information and a free briefing!

Blog credit: https://blogs.office.com/2015/11/30/office-365-brings-significant-new-value-to-business-customers-worldwide/

11 Features to Get the Most Out of Your Business Email

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In the world of work, email is a mainstay. It allows us all to communicate at lightning-fast speeds—without having to pick up the phone. It gives us the power to thoughtfully consider projects, questions, answers, opinions, requests and feedback, all of which opens the door to better communication. And it gives us the ability to see the progression of conversations without digging through a mountain of individual messages. However, most people aren’t taking full advantage of what their email systems offer. Sure, they know how to send messages, set tasks, make notes, block their calendars and schedule reminders, but there are also some pretty great features (and hacks) that you may not know about that could just transform the way you use business email. Let’s take a look:

  1. Future delivery/delayed delivery: Whether you have news that you don’t want to share immediately or a project that’s ready for delivery but you don’t want to submit it too early, future/delayed delivery allows you to create and distribute messages on your schedule.
  2. Message grouping: For heavy email users, the ability to group messages into conversations related to specific topics can help you keep track of emails, stay up to date on developments and work more efficiently.
  3. Conditional formatting: Like message grouping, conditional formatting can help you organize conversations and stay on top of a certain topic. However, instead of grouping all messages into a batch that you can browse at a glance, conditional formatting simply displays messages matching selected criteria in the font and/or color of your choice.
  4. Rules: Providing you with yet another organizational option, the rules feature allows you to create and manage settings that empower your email system to automatically process messages in a certain way. Some systems can check for and include sender, recipient, email size, date and more. This way, you’ll never miss a message from your boss or your most important client; messages with large attachments can be singled out, etc.
  5. Email to text: For those times when you need an immediate response, or need to contact someone who may not have access to his or her email account, a text message may be the best way to get in touch. Some business email providers offer this feature, others don’t. If yours does, it can help you relay urgent messages quickly. Just be careful to reserve use of this feature for those who prefer it or for truly critical situations—because it can be disruptive to receive a barrage of non-urgent text messages while in a meeting, on vacation, etc.
  6. Desktop alerts: Whether you need to reduce distractions for a day or indefinitely, by disabling desktop alerts you can eliminate pop-up notifications about new messages and focus on whatever the task at hand may be. Conversely, if you’re waiting for an important email that you can’t afford to miss by a moment, you can easily turn on desktop alerts for a few hours or turn them on and leave them on for good.
  7. Email templates: If you’re a PR exec, public information officer, customer service representative, work in sales or are in any position that requires you to field requests for information about a program, service, product or topic, email templates can help you make quick work of your responses. After creating your template, all you’ll have to do is locate the template, personalize it as necessary and hit send. Not only will it help you save time, but increase your productivity. Plus, by not having to repeat yourself over and again, it might just improve your job satisfaction.
  8. Save messages as files: If you want to save certain emails in the same file as project work, contracts or other documents, you can simply drag your message from your email window to your file folder. Or, you can click Save As and choose to save a message in a specific location. This way, you can refer back to messages without digging through your inbox and/or archive.
  9. Multi-action shortcuts: If your email system supports shortcuts, it may also support multi-action shortcuts, which gives you the ability to combine several shortcuts into one quick action. For instance, if you want to mark a group of emails as read and simultaneously move them to a specific folder, or even mark messages as read, flag them as important and forward them to your team, you can do that with multi-action shortcuts. Some email systems that support multi-action shortcuts also allow you to create your own shortcuts, so you can customize your actions and make quick work of managing your inbox.
  10. Automated cleanup: Some email systems include an automated cleanup function that can help you save space and keep your inbox tidy. When a conversation (message and response) occurs over email, some email systems can analyze the contents of that conversation and determine if a message is completely contained within each thread. If it is, then the previous message will be automatically deleted—so you’ll have access to both the original message and all comments within a single email conversation, but your inbox won’t be clogged by redundant emails.
    Of course, if someone keeps clogging up your inbox with messages you don’t need or want, you can generally block their messages by using your “junk” or “spam” filters. But if you don’t want to permanently prevent someone from contacting you via email, you can simply select to send certain conversations directly to your trash by clicking the Ignore button.
  11. Delegate access: Finally, if you’re going on sabbatical, an extended vacation or parental leave and you don’t want to either check messages daily or weekly—or come back to a mountain of email—you may be able to give someone else permission to manage your inbox. Simply look at your account settings. If you see a Delegate Access button—or something similar—you can choose to give access to a coworker who can step in and respond to messages in your absence. Of course, you’ll still have the ability to check messages and respond as appropriate, but this feature can help you keep things in check while you’re away.

Email continues to be an important tool in the business world, and your mastery of these tools will only enhance your value in the workplace. Hopefully, we have shared one or more features that you will introduce into your business arsenal, leading to increased productivity.

Related content:

Contact the Atidan team at http://bit.ly/1PVDnHg for additional information about business email solutions!

Credit to Microsoft Blog: http://bit.ly/1PVDnHi

The Future of Planning -Online Project Planning in the Cloud

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For almost any company, whether large or small, project management is necessary for getting—and remaining—organized. There are multiple project management tools available to help your business manage resources, project and control costs, communicate effectively with multiple team members, and track progress on any given project. While some of these tools can be installed as software on individual network computers, a great many of them are web-based—in other words, they’re available in the cloud.

Project planning in the cloudBenefits of project management tools in the cloud

You may be one of those people who shudders at the phrase “cloud computing,” but take a moment to consider what it really means. While on-premises project management tools have their place, cloud-based software comes with a plethora of benefits, including the following:

  • Lower upfront cost. When you use on-premises project management software, you have to pay for a number of items, including software license investments, server hardware, IT staff for support, lengthy deployments and more. Alternately, a cloud-based solution typically only requires a monthly or annual fee.
  • More secure than ever. Despite what many business executives have believed in the past, the cloud offers just as much security as on-premises solutions—the company simply does not control the physical servers. As a recent article in Forbes suggests, “cloud computing is no longer an oxymoron.”
  • Accessible from anywhere. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can access your project management software in the cloud. Because access is achieved through a web browser, it’s also possible to allow team members to view, edit and manage documents via devices other than computers.
  • Connected team. Even when workers are separated by miles, they can feel part of a cohesive unit with a cloud-based solution. Because everyone receives to-the-minute updates, no one relevant to the project is accidentally left out of the conversation. Furthermore, conversations can be conducted in the project space (instead of via email) and stored for future reference.
  • Increased productivity. Thanks to a centralized location where all project summaries, tasks, documents, newsfeeds and calendars are kept, cloud-based project management solutions can save time. And when time is saved, productivity can increase. In addition, a centralized location allows team members to access project documents in real time wherever they are located.
  • Real-time communication. One of the biggest benefits of using project management software in the cloud is the ability to give quick feedback on information as soon as it’s uploaded to the project workspace. This can also increase productivity because it lowers the instances of work that needs to be redone.
  • Up-to-date, data-driven decisions. As a business looking to become—and stay—profitable, it’s important to base decisions on more than just a whim. Thanks to the fact cloud-based software is instantaneously updated, you have the necessary information at your fingertips. In addition, most tools will have built-in reports to bring you the insights you need to make business-related decisions.
  • Simplified IT. When you use on-premises project management software, you are typically responsible for server maintenance, which requires the attention of internal IT personnel. Cloud-based software, on the other hand, is maintained for you by the service provider (or another resource)—saving you the time and hassle of dealing with any updates or bugs, and allowing you to focus on running your projects smoothly.
  • Instant updates. Unlike on-premises software, which requires you to download updates whenever a new version is released, cloud-based tools are updated automatically. There’s no need to pay to upgrade your entire application suite or wait for your IT team to have the time available to implement the updates.

Steps for finding the best cloud-based project management solution for you

Unfortunately, getting started with a new project management solution isn’t as simple as understanding the difference between on-premises and web-based, cloud choices. Selecting the best solution for your company requires several steps—but the end result is worth the effort you put forth. Follow these steps to decide on a qualified service provider.

Step 1: Conduct a needs analysis.

This won’t come as a shock to you, but every company is different—with different sizes, different goals and different needs. That means it’s up to your company to decide exactly which solution fits you best. Be sure those who actually will use the product have a voice in the discussion. Consider factors like whether your projects only involve internal employees or external clients as well, or what kinds of reports you will need to run. Once you know your needs, it’s easier to evaluate service providers based on the features they offer.

Step 2: Research, research, research.

When searching for a service provider, be on the lookout for those that offer the following features:

  • Enterprise-grade reliability
  • Ability to add teams and projects quickly
  • Reporting features that give quick insights about your portfolio
  • A familiar environment or at least one that’s easy to navigate and use
  • Ability to see and act on tasks in one location
  • Scheduling capabilities that allow you to plan and manage tasks effectively
  • Summary dashboards for data-driven decisions
  • 24/7 IT support
  • Continuous data backup, disaster recovery and globally redundant data centers
  • Scalable solution that grows with your business

Step 3: Take a test drive.

In the same way you’d test drive a vehicle before purchasing it, you should try out a project management solution before implementation. Test drives allow you to get a closer look at a tool’s features and imagine how the tool would work in a situation similar to yours.

Step 4: Consider timeline and process for implementation.

If you’ve decided to go with an online-based tool for project management, it doesn’t matter if it matches up well with your current applications—this only applies to on-premises solutions. But you will need to consider when you will have the manpower and budget to make the switch, and then coordinate with your chosen service provider to make it happen.

Step 5: Implement and train.

You’ve finally implemented a new project management software solution. Congratulations! But unfortunately, your work isn’t complete. It’s important to make sure your employees have the training they need to use the new tool effectively. Set up multiple sessions so everyone can work one into their schedule. In addition, create practice projects so everyone has a chance to explore and become familiar with the tool’s features before they have to use it in the real world.

Project management in the cloud is the wave of the future. Find a tool that works for you—and don’t be left behind.

For more information about moving to the cloud check out our eBook: Myths About Moving to the Cloud.

Contact the Atidan team at http://bit.ly/1QwmS5Y for additional information and a no obligation PMO / PM briefing!

Credit to https://blogs.office.com/2015/11/18/the-future-of-planning-online-project-planning-in-the-cloud/

Video Conferencing Nightmares and How to Avoid Them

No matter what industry you’re in, you’ve probably experienced at least a few video conference calls. While these calls require slightly more equipment than audio conferencing, they fill a need for face-to-face time that can’t quite be met without in-person gatherings. In fact, the popularity of video conferencing has exploded in recent years and that is for a number of reasons.

Video conferencingFirst, video conferencing saves time and money. According to a study by PGi, companies that regularly use video conferencing find a 30 percent dip in the cost of travel overall, which includes hotel, airfare, gas, taxi, car rentals and food stipends. In addition, video conferencing can lead to higher efficiency and productivity—it holds attention longer than a regular call (35 minutes compared with 23 minutes, according to PGi). Another perk of video conferencing is that it brings a sense of oneness among scattered employees who telecommute or work in different cities. Sometimes, you just need a face-to-face meeting.

But video conferencing comes with its challenges too. Have you ever participated in a call that was so poorly organized, or had so many technology flubs, that it felt like a waste of time? Most people probably have. That’s why it’s important to do all you can to avoid the following video conferencing nightmares—whether you’re the host or a participant.

  • Background noise. A great benefit of video conferencing is that it allows you to work from anywhere—even your home. But remember, your goal is still to be as professional as possible. That means you should eliminate any extraneous noises, including dog barks and kid cries. Close yourself in a quiet room with no distractions. If you know you’ll have an important call, send the kids to grandma’s and crate the dogs in another room.
  • Unmuted distractions. Don’t be “that person” who forgets to mute himself or herself when talking to others in the room, answering another phone call or—gulp—ordering a cup of coffee. If you need to step away from the call, mute yourself no matter the reason.
  • Muted conversations. On the other hand, don’t forget to unmute yourself when it’s your turn to speak. Who knows how many countless minutes and hours have been lost in our lives thanks to accidental muting!
  • Spotty connection. There’s nothing more annoying than being kicked off a video call. Not only do you miss parts of the meeting, but you waste time and energy trying to get back on. Be sure to have a solid Internet connection from wherever you’re working, and know how to restart it should it go out. Also, have a backup source for connecting if possible; for example, if there’s an app for your video conferencing program, install it on your smart phone and know how to use it if need be.
  • Static or interference. It’s not cool when someone misses every other word you say (or vice versa). Sometimes technology is just a beast and there’s no way to prevent it. But one way to lessen the likelihood of static or interference is for all participants to mute their phones unless they’re speaking.
  • Unknown speaker. When there are multiple people on the line, it can be difficult to remember who is who. Even if the program you are using identifies you, state your name and department before saying anything important. This will help those you don’t know well get oriented before you say a word.
  • Echo central. Sometimes there’s an unexplainable echo on a video call. If this occurs, try to narrow it down to a specific person or ask everyone to redial in. If that does not solve the issue, be prepared with another bridge or line for people to join.

In addition to these video conferencing nightmares, here are a few tips for best practices when preparing for a video call:

  • If you’re organizing a meeting, be sure it’s actually necessary. Almost all of us have hung up from a call and thought, “Well, that could have been accomplished with an email!” Help participants stay on task with a clear and detailed agenda. Be sure to leave time at the end for questions.
  • Be comfortable with the video conferencing technology before the meeting begins. Don’t wait until five minutes before a call starts to try signing in for the first time. If you’re the meeting host, run a test beforehand. Ask another employee to join your practice meeting so you can get the hang of granting screen sharing access, muting and unmuting participants, and more.
  • Use plenty of lighting. It doesn’t matter where you’re at during the meeting—the office, your home, etc.—be sure there’s adequate lighting so others can see your face. Don’t allow yourself to be backlit or your face could appear dark. Instead, be sure the light is coming from in front of you or from the side.
  • Make sure the background is not distracting. It’s not very professional to have a pile of laundry or your kids’ toys scattered behind you. Instead, go for simple and plain.
  • Dress appropriately. You’re still a professional, so unless it’s an audio conference, pay attention to your hair, makeup and clothing. Specifically, wear muted, neutral or pastel colors—no stripes, polka dots, plaids or anything else that could be distracting on screen.
  • Keep your webcam at eye level or a bit higher. Weird angles are also distracting.
  • Consider purchasing (or asking your company to purchase) a good microphone, especially if you make a lot of video calls. An external USB microphone is a great pick.
  • Stay focused on the call. Remember, people can see you—so don’t try to multitask during your video conference.
  • Look into the camera. Too many people stare at their own image on the screen instead, but that makes it appear (to everyone else) as if you’re looking downward. You won’t come across as professional and forthright as you want to be.

Remember, video conferencing is just like any technology in that there are many benefits as well as challenges. Fortunately, many of these challenges can be avoided with a little knowledge, troubleshooting and patience. So get ready and dive in to your next online video conference with ease. Lights, camera, action!

For information about Skype for Business please contact us at http://bit.ly/1H8vdtU to Microsoft: http://bit.ly/1H8vdtW