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Archives March 2021

How to Boost Productivity with Office 365 Workplace Analytics

Do you wish your staff could get more done during the working day? Do you wish they spent more time on meaningful tasks than simple admin work?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s precisely the reason why Microsoft came out with Office 365 Workplace Analytics.

It makes perfect sense as much of the work we do today is completed by leveraging Microsoft Office software. For example, whether it’s a presentation, email, or generating reports, it’s all done with Microsoft 365.  

With all these different functions and features connected together on the same platform, the stage is set to engage in seamless workplace analytics. We can now work more efficiently based on available insights, cost-effectively.

What is Workplace Analytics?

Workplace analytics collects and analyses data from everyday work in an enterprise environment. It looks at collaboration patterns, workforce effectiveness, employee engagement, and overall productivity.

This means that whenever staff answers emails, schedule meetings, use any Microsoft software, the data is collected, analysed, and shared with relevant managers to get an idea about how the team performed.

Workplace data is collected through Microsoft Graph and is generalised and not attributed to any specific employee. The company even blocked usernames from being collected to ensure staff privacy. After all, the primary focus here is the team’s overall performance and engagement.

The Office 365 Workplace Analytics overview dashboard provides the following information:

  • External Collaboration delivers insights into how employees connect with third-party organisations.
  • Internal Networks to see how people within the company connect with each other.
  • Management and Coaching to analyse one-on-one meetings between employees and their managers.
  • Meetings Overview to see how much time staff spent in meetings.
  • Teams Collaboration to ascertain how managers and staff communicate with their colleagues.
  • Week in the Life for an overall view of the entire organization and how everyone spends their time collaborating on projects.

By establishing data collection standards, managers can reassure staff that the data is truly anonymous and won’t impact their individual annual performance reviews.

Office 365 Workplace Analytics helps fill the gaps by providing managers insights into their team’s productivity. This means that it creates an opportunity to discuss how to do things differently and do things better.

It also brings company policies into focus, creating opportunities to make real changes that positively impact corporate culture.

How Does It Boost Efficiency and Overall Productivity?

Looking at the dashboard’s insights, managers can formulate productivity strategies while monitoring meeting fatigue. For example, you can take steps to find balance whenever there are too many scheduled meetings.

Managers also focus on staff engagement, find out what time of day they’re most productive, and make sure no meetings happen simultaneously. Workplace Analytics also provides opportunities to redistribute workloads. For example, if one department carries a larger share of the workload, managers can redistribute tasks and even things out.

Is Workplace Analytics Suitable for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses?

The analysis of workplace performance levels is nothing new. Large corporations have been doing it for years. Microsoft Workplace Analytics just evened the playing field and made this robust technology accessible to just about everyone.

Anyone who wants to use the data generated by users to improve overall productivity levels can use this software. This approach has the potential to boost revenue streams and, of course, your bottom line. As Microsoft goes the extra mile to secure data and ensure security in the cloud, you also maintain compliance without much effort.

If you want to find out if Workplace Analytics or any other Office 365 tool is right for you, give us a call, and we’ll explore the possibilities together.


How Do Managed Services Accelerate Digital Transformation?

Over the last few years, enterprises across industries started digitally transforming their businesses to leverage automation, boost productivity, enhance efficiencies, and optimise processes.

However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies also had to digitally transform their infrastructure to enable remote working, seamless collaboration, and business continuity.

This is expected to continue in 2021 and beyond. According to IDC, digital transformation spending will grow to over 55% of total ICT investments this year (up from 45% in 2020).

However, not all IT teams have the bandwidth to support such initiatives. They are already overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks and don’t have time to take on sizeable company-wide transformation projects.

As it no longer makes sense to rely solely on in-house IT teams, many businesses are now turning to the cloud and managed services to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives.

What’s Managed IT Services?

When companies sign up for managed services, they outsource their daily IT management responsibilities to a managed IT services provider. This approach helps accelerate digital transformation initiatives, improve operations, and fast-track your technology investment return.

The business IT support categories are made of groups of service elements designed to help organisations achieve their present and long-term goals. It’s a robust strategy to access automation, maintenance support, optimisation of critical services, and more.

When organisations partner with an established managed IT services provider, they unburden in-house IT teams and enable access to cutting-edge technologies. When your IT team is free to focus on more meaningful work, they’ll be up for the challenge of digitally transforming internal processes to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

What Are the Key Challenges?

While deploying new technologies presents exciting opportunities for enterprises, it also introduces some challenges. For example, it might take a bit of time to standardise all systems and computer models across departments. Furthermore, mobile devices connected to the cloud also introduce a level of complexity.

For many organisations, these challenges lead to significant expenses:

  • Cost of hiring and training qualified professionals
  • Purchasing and integrating infrastructure to support new technologies
  • Real-time monitoring and security

The good news is that an established managed services provider can also help you overcome these challenges cost-effectively. They’ll ensure that all your systems are patched and up to date and engage in real-time monitoring, manage cloud deployments, enable close collaboration, and more.

A business IT support services provider will also offer network support, Office 365 migration, systems administration, helpdesk services, disaster and recovery, IT asset management, IT project management, and IT support.

One of the key benefits here is that the ongoing tech talent shortage in Australia won’t impact your organisation. Your managed services provider will enable immediate access to the best minds in the country, so you won’t have to deal with hiring and retaining top tech talent (or the overhead expenses that follow new hires).

When companies are digitally transformed and adequately supported, they can invest in innovation. They can hire more qualified professionals in other areas and scale without resource-related bottlenecks.

Are you looking for a managed IT services provider to accelerate your digital transformation initiatives? We can help, schedule a commitment-free consultation now.


Top 3 Features You Need in an Endpoint Security Tool

In the current threat landscape, it’s vital to secure the devices and systems that connect to your enterprise network. In fact, it’s a critical component of data security policies and regulatory compliance.

In recent years, maintaining corporate security has become increasingly challenging with the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) programmes, and remote working.

For companies across industries, efficient endpoint solutions are now vital to cybersecurity. It’s the best approach to mitigate risk and ensure business continuity.

What Is Endpoint Security?

According to McAffe, endpoint security describes the practice of securing the entry points of end-user devices like desktops, laptops, and mobile devices from being breached or exploited by threat actors and campaigns.

Endpoint security systems safeguard these endpoints or entry points on enterprise networks, on-premises, or the cloud. Since its origins as traditional antivirus software, endpoint security has evolved to provide comprehensive protection from sophisticated malware attacks and evolving zero-day threats.

Advanced endpoint security tools available today effectively detect, analyse, block, and contain live attacks. However, to achieve this, you have to use different security technologies to provide administrators the necessary visibility into advanced threats and ensure rapid detection and remediation.

Some endpoint security solutions used by corporations and managed services providers alike include the following:

  • Check Point
  • CrowdStrike Falcon
  • FirstPoint
  • Nyotron
  • Sophos
  • Symantec Endpoint Security by Broadcom

If you’re in the market for endpoint security tools, make your choices based on the following necessary features. If you’re working with a managed services provider, ask them what they’re doing in the background to help secure your infrastructure.

1. Robust Malware Detection Capabilities

Hackers aren’t using traditional executable files anymore. They now leverage co-opt scripts such as JavaScript, Office Scripts, and VBScript that legitimate actors often use. This makes it critical for the endpoint tool to detect any malware attempting to avoid detection by traditional protection tools.

This means these security tools must make sophisticated determinations by monitoring behaviours and more. However, it’s not a straightforward process and requires powerful machine learning algorithms to automate it. For example, smart algorithms can engage in the telemetry collection for scripts and troubleshoot processes whenever something unrecognized appears in the enterprise environment.

2. Proactive Approach to the Evolving Threat

Bad actors are constantly using a wide array of tools and techniques to attack businesses. Whether it’s encrypting data and holding it for ransom or looking for weaknesses in the code itself, you need a security tool that evolves with the threat.

This makes it essential to dig deeper and identify tools that are constantly updated and alert to advanced tactics before a potential attack. These security solutions are updated based on the latest techniques used by hackers. However, endpoint protection tools should provide an option to whitelist a method that’s often used by the business for legitimate purposes.

In this scenario, you need a combination of human intelligence and predictive technology to detect suspicious activity and determine if it’s malicious or not. This means that the endpoint detection and protection tool should examine the behaviour on the network and not just focus on signature models.

3. Regular Reporting on Detected Threats

Old-school endpoint security solutions like antivirus and DNS concentrate on known threats and wait for them to strike. However, in contrast, endpoint protection assumes that an attack is imminent and continuously attempts to identify new infections.

Before committing, security teams must determine what kind of reports they need. This means how often they want to see these reports and what information they want to see in them.

The above scratches the surface of endpoint security protocols. If you don’t have the necessary tools or skillsets in-house, your managed services provider can also help you formulate the best approach to fortifying your security posture.

At AU.IT, we’re highly experienced in ensuring enterprise security. To learn more, reach out to one of our in-house security experts.


Why Is Data Loss Prevention Critical to Business Continuity?

In the current threat landscape, everyone is a live target. Even if you’re running a small business, you can bet that threat actors are looking to breach your systems. This makes it critical to have a data loss prevention plan ready to go if the unthinkable happens.

As the IT environment becomes more complex, it’s now more challenging than ever to implement and maintain robust privacy, security, and regulatory compliance. This is because not only are we dealing with multi-cloud environments, we’re also managing sensitive personally identifiable information, intellectual property, and more.

A data breach will potentially attract adverse publicity, regulatory fines, and damage to brand value. It’ll also disrupt business continuity unless you’re proactive and implement a layered defence strategy. If you don’t have the necessary resources, engage an established managed IT services provider who’ll help fortify your IT infrastructure cost-effectively.

What’s Data Loss Prevention?

Data loss prevention is a component of your comprehensive disaster and recovery plan. It’s essentially a set of data protection protocols designed to secure critical or sensitive data.

This approach concentrates on protecting enterprise data from unauthorised access, human error, misuse, and data loss. It works by leveraging cutting-edge tools for monitoring, filtering, blocking, and more.

Whenever you have a prevention plan in place, you mitigate the risk of data exfiltration, data leakage, and data loss. In this scenario, risk-appropriate controls are deployed with minimal impact on overall business processes.

There are several types of prevention processes, these include:

  • Data identification
  • Data leak detection
  • Endpoint data loss prevention
  • Network data loss prevention
  • Protecting data in motion
  • Protecting data at rest

A robust data protection plan that efficiently protects against data loss will combine all of the above and more to fortify enterprise infrastructure. In fact, it’s the go-to approach of leading managed IT services providers.

If you don’t have a data loss prevention plan, make sure to start with data governance. This is because you need policies and rules in place for storing, accessing, moving, and manage critical data.

Standard Metrics vs. Substandard Results

Data loss protection is traditionally focused on the recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). RTO measures restoration time or the time it takes to restore enterprise data. On the other hand, RPO measures how much data you’re willing to lose to an outage.

IT security teams across industries tend to leverage RTO as the primary approach to ensure business continuity. This approach has successfully got businesses back online in mere minutes rather than hours or even days.

But the story doesn’t quite end here.

The age of your data also plays a crucial role in disaster and recovery plans. For example, there’s an outage, and your back online within seconds. But the last backup took place more than 12 hours ago.

What happens to all the workflows and sales orders placed during that window? When you don’t know what happened over those 12 hours, you risk losing revenue, productivity, and so on.

The best way forward is to use the RPO in concert with RTO. That way, when your infrastructure is back online, and you’ll be working with a recent backup of critical data.

As today’s computing environment grows more complex, it’s vital to have a robust data loss prevention plan in place to ensure business continuity. But more often than not, enterprises fail to boost their data protection protocols because of restricted budgets. Whenever this is the case, it’s best to engage a managed IT services provider who’ll fill the gaps cost-effectively.

At AU IT, we recognise that there’s a shortage of top security talent. We’re here to fill that gap with our managed IT services to ensure that your sensitive data is always safe and available. To learn more, reach out to one of our in-house data security experts.


What Is a Virtual Private Network?

Virtual Private Network (VPNs) ensure online anonymity and privacy. This is achieved by creating a private network within a public internet connection.

Whenever you use a VPN, it masks your Internet Protocol (IP) address, making your online activities virtually untraceable. What matters is the fact that VPN services create highly secure and encrypted connections that deliver unparallel privacy.

Do You Need a VPN?

Whenever you surf the web or use an unsecured Wi-Fi network, you expose your browsing habits and sensitive private information. When you do the same through a VPN, all this information is encrypted. This makes VPNs a must for anyone concerned with their online privacy and security.

Suppose you’re checking important work emails while queuing at your local coffee shop or checking your bank balance while waiting to board a plane. In that case, all this sensitive information can potentially be accessed by bad actors.

If you’re using a private Wi-Fi network that requires a password, you don’t have to worry (at least not too much). But suppose you automatically log into a public Wi-Fi hotspot. In that case, any information transmitted during a session is vulnerable to eavesdropping, even by a stranger who is two tables down (and using the same network).

In the current threat landscape, everyone is a target. The anonymity and encryption provided by VPN applications keep you safe. It’s also one of the ways of reducing the risk of identity theft. Furthermore, it’ll help block sites from collecting your data for marketing activities.

How Does It Work?

VPNs deploy a data tunnel between an exit node in another location and your local network. This means that you can appear to be browsing from thousands of miles away, even on another continent.

VPN services leverage encryption protocols to scramble data before sending it through a Wi-Fi network. As encrypted data is unreadable, no one else on the network can spy on your online activity (if they manage to intercept it).

Furthermore, your internet service provider won’t have access to your entire browsing history. This is because all web activity is directly associated with the VPN server’s IP address and not yours.

Leading VPN service providers boast servers in data centres spread across the planet. As search histories are directly tied to these locations’ IP address, VPNs protect you from tech giants like Google, who continuously collect data on everyone.

VPNs hide the following information that puts your privacy at risk:

  • Activity on mobile devices
  • Current location for streaming (which is helpful when travelling outside the country)
  • IP address and location
  • Personal browsing history
  • Web activity to ensure internet freedom

While VPNs are popular in countries plagued by authoritative regimes, it’s just as important in the free world. This is because data drives everything today, and this information demands protection while it’s in motion.

In a post-pandemic world where remote working has become the norm, it’s also essential to connect to enterprise infrastructure via VPNs. This approach helps mitigate risk in the current threat landscape.

What Should You Look for in a VPN Provider?

We are spoilt for choice when it comes to VPN providers. However, you should choose one based on your specific needs. However, the provider you select should have a reputation for robust security, speed, and consistent uptime.

If you’re a frequent traveller, you’d require a VPN that allows you to stream. If the service comes with set data limits, it’s probably not the right option for you. The best option usually provides full, unmetered bandwidth without data limits.

If the servers’ location is important, check if the provider has an active presence at that location with excellent bandwidth.

While costs are an important factor, don’t be fooled by free VPN advertisements. They don’t offer robust security protocols and fall short when it comes to uptime, speed, and support. Some are even known to sell your data to marketers, negating the whole point of using a VPN service.

If you’re thinking of securing your enterprise infrastructure by implementing VPN protocols, we can help. Schedule a commitment-free consultation.


What Are Fibre Optics Used For?

Fibre optics allow us to hop online and leverage light signals to transfer data to and from our computers. Thanks to fibre optic cables that use light signals, you don’t have to think about calling IT support. Just browse, comment, chat, shop, and stream quickly without buffering issues.

The newer technology behind fibre optic cables ensures reliability and speed that far surpass cable internet and DSL. In fact, it remains the fastest communication technology on the planet.

Even with the proliferation of 5G technology, fibre optics continue to lead the pack. At present, 5G has trouble penetrating double glazing, foliage, and walls. Without a fibre optic connection on a highly resilient network on every mobile tower and cell site, 5G will remain somewhat limited. This is especially true for those living in rural areas.

However, the emergence of 5G presents new opportunities, and the fibre optics components market is forecasted to be worth over U$D 39 billion by 2027.

Fibre Optics Defined

Fibre optic cables are filled with glass filaments. These glass filaments carry lasers and light signals that send data back and forth to your computer. Fibre optic cables carry light very well over (relatively) long distances without weakening (much) or distorting the light signal.

In contrast, cable internet and DSL rely on copper wires to transmit and receive data. The data transmitted via copper wires significantly deteriorate over distances and distort the voltage signals they send.

How Does Fibre Optics Work?

Optic fibres are essentially hair-thin, flexible strands of glass that allow light beams to travel. These strands function as waveguides or a light tunnel that carries light between two ends of the fibre.

In this scenario, the light beams repeatedly bounce off the cable walls with an internal mirror-like reflection. If the light beam hits the glass at a 42-degree angle (or less), it’ll reflect back, creating a total internal reflection. As a result, the structure helps keep the light inside the cable.

Fibre internet connections achieve speeds of one gigabit per second or a hundred times faster than copper wire connections. This makes fibre optics critical to achieving faster data transfer, shorter load times, and high-quality streaming. You also won’t be hitting the reload button several times or picking up your phone to call IT support any time soon.

What Are the Different Types of Fibre Internet?

There are several types of fibre optics used to access the internet. The leading three fibre optic connections are listed below:

  1. Fibre to the curb (FTTC): This approach ensures that the fibre internet connection goes straight to the nearest pole or utility box (and not a concrete curb). Coaxial cables then send signals from the utility box (or the curb) to your house. So FTTC combines both copper wires and fibre optic cables to connect you to the web.
  • Fibre to the home or premises (FTTH or FTTP): This approach is often described as the “holy grail” of all fibre internet connections. It brings the fibre internet connection straight into your house. If your residence isn’t equipped to receive a fibre connection, your local internet service provider will drill holes or dig nearby to make it happen.
  • Fibre to the node or neighbourhood (FTTN): This approach provides a fibre connection to hundreds of customers located within a one-mile radius of the node. The remaining connection from the node to your property is often a DSL line that leverages pre-existing telephone cables.

Things get tricky when following the FTTN model because the farther you live away from the node, the more you’ll rely on the copper wire DSL lines to reach your house. As alluded to above, the longer the line, the slower the connection.

Fibre optics already handle massive amounts of data. This means they can also power applications that don’t even exist yet. In the future, fibre optics technologies are only going to get better. Are you getting the fastest internet speeds in Australia? Find out from our team of in-house experts.