Microsoft Teams: The Hub for Teamwork

Microsoft Teams: The Hub for Teamwork

With employees today accessing unsanctioned SaaS applications, dozens of ways to share files, and multiple communication channels, the modern workplace presents many challenges for teamwork.

The good news is that there’s a solution for you to help manage this. Microsoft Teams – the hub for teamwork in Office 365.

Just over two years ago Microsoft introduced Microsoft 365. This integrated set of apps and services is designed to help users transform workplace collaboration, streamline business processes, and protect critical information. At the center of Microsoft 365 is Microsoft Teams. With more than 13 million daily users and 19 million weekly users – Teams is powering teamwork for users around the globe.

With Teams, you can give your team built-in access to everything they need right in Office 365. Manage all your conversations, files, and tools in one workspace. Enjoy instant access to SharePoint, OneNote, Planner and Power BI. Create and edit documents right in Microsoft Teams. Speed employee onboarding with persistent conversations and instant access to files. Search across people, files, and chats within one hub for teamwork.

Download Oakwood’s Departmental use case for Teams as well as customer testimonials from; Trek Bicycle, J. Walter Thompson, Hendrick Motorsports and more!

Chat, Calls & Meetings for Today’s Teams

Team members can engage in private 1:1: chats or in group conversations that are visible to the entire team. This modern conversations experience supports persistent, threaded chats to keep everyone engaged. Team conversations are open by default, and of course there is the ability for private discussions, too. People can include emojis, memes and other fun graphics in their messages, which allows team culture to shine through.

Microsoft Teams also offers a complete meeting solution supporting sharing, video and audio conferencing. This enables an organization to transform an ordinary meeting into modern meeting in the following ways:

  • Before a meeting – team members can share and review information and conversation history on the subject matter, without having to leave Microsoft Teams.
  • During a meeting: team members can share their desktop, meeting attachments or a PowerPoint deck. The meeting can take place in either audio conferencing or video and can be recorded.
  • After a meeting: team members can review recorded meetings and view previous meeting details in conversation history, giving them complete context.

Users of Teams also have a dedicated phone number and advanced calling features and support such as blind and consultative transfer, delegation and support for emergency calls.

Finally, Teams is available across mobile, desktop and browser and integrated with communications and meeting room devices.

Integrated Office 365 Apps

Microsoft Teams also means more time for productivity as a team members do not have to toggle between different apps. Instead, they can access and act on information right within the Microsoft Teams experience.

The Office apps and services that people use every day – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, SharePoint, even Power BI – are all built-in, so people have the information and tools they need right within the context of Microsoft Teams.

Users can co-author and edit with Office and other files right in the app.

Microsoft Teams is also integrated with SharePoint, OneNote, PowerBI and planner, so teams can work in a central place with all the necessary tools in order to pursue team objectives.

Microsoft Teams leverages the intelligence capabilities of the Microsoft Graph. A team member can access information on organization reports and do searches for contacts within an organization.

Microsoft also built integration with email so users can forward an email message into a Team’s channel for further discussion and sharing.

Customizable & Extensible

The development team at Microsoft realizes that every group is unique, so they made it easy for teams to tailor their workspace to include apps and services which are relevant to their team or organization.

For example, you can pin important files for quick reference so the whole team can access them in just one click.

You can set up your channels so that conversations on certain topics happen in designated spaces.

You can add intelligent bots to interact with Microsoft Teams. Bots can answer natural-language questions and perform lightweight tasks such as FAQs.

You can bring in cloud services to explore data and get updated from the apps a team uses daily. Where 3rd party services are included, notifications can be customized so the team never misses a beat.

They’ve also created an extensible platform, to enable building apps with a rich set of capabilities to enable higher-performing teams. The Microsoft Teams developer platform enables integrations to existing business process. IT can also manage trusted apps for the employees and the organization.

Enterprise Security, Compliance & Manageability

Finally, Microsoft Teams benefits from the Office 365 hyper-scale, enterprise-grade cloud, delivering the advanced security and compliance capabilities customers expect.

  • Data encryption at all times, at-rest and in-transit.
  • Ability to have local data residency for core customer data at rest, plus failover and disaster recovery (see public Office 365 Roadmap for locations).
  • Human back-up via on-call support engineers standing by 24×7.
  • Multi-factor authentication for enhanced identity protection.

It supports key standards including SOC 1, SOC 2, EU Model Clauses, HIPPA, and more. Since the initial preview, they’ve added mobile management with Microsoft Intune and new features for compliance and litigation support, including audit log search, eDiscovery and legal hold for channels, chats and files.

PSTN connectivity in Office 365 with option for connecting existing on-premises investments in the future.

  • Advanced call management including call routing, auto attendant, call queues, and reporting.
  • Easily manage users, usage, and settings in the Office 365 Admin Portal.
  • IT controls to manage trusted apps for employees/the organization.

While security and compliance capabilities are critical for enterprise customers, Microsoft feels their responsibility goes beyond this. Their mission talks about empowering every person to achieve more. With that in mind, they’re focused on building an inclusive experience for the entire group, including support for those who use screen readers, high contrast, and keyboard-only navigation, to enable the collective brainpower and potential of everyone.

If you’re looking to increase flexibility in how your team members communicate while maintaining a secure environment – we’d like to talk to you. The Microsoft experts at Oakwood Systems Group are well-versed in Microsoft Teams implementations and would love to help your organization!

The Workplace Evolution

The Workplace Evolution

The workplace is evolving rapidly, and employees have new expectations for work and how it should get done.

Business leaders are embracing these changes and supporting a new culture of work. This means…

  • Collaborating in real time
  • Having always-on access to files and data
  • Flexibility to work from wherever, whenever
  • Staying safe and secure

Business leaders recognize that people are at the core of how each of their companies operate and it’s imperative to empower their employees to innovate and grow in a competitive landscape.

At the same time, companies are faced with the challenge of protecting their people and IP in a more complex threat environment.

Companies are constantly looking for solutions to enable a modern workplace for their employees.

Microsoft 365 brings together the best of Windows 10, Office 365, and Enterprise Mobility + Security into an integrated solution to empower employees. 

Microsoft 365 delivers value for customers across four core areas.

The first two – creativity and teamwork – are about delivering a great end user experience for everyone in an organization, enabling them to be creative, productive, and collaborative.

The second two – simplicity and security – are about how Microsoft delivers those experiences on a platform that provides low TCO, the highest levels of security, and a flexible management infrastructure.

A great example of how one organization leveraged the powers of Microsoft 365 is Qantas Airlines.

Qantas re-energized their entire team by switching to a cloud infrastructure and modernizing their desktops. The cloud gives them access to the data they need quickly while ensuring their team can collaborate and communicate effectively while on the go. And for a team whose workforce is flying across the world on a daily basis, that flexibility is key.

By upgrading their IT infrastructure, Qantas now has the ability to collaborate more effectively and their leadership team can decentralize decision making, greatly increasing productivity and bringing them the security they need. Microsoft 365 helps their team care for customers in a way that’s never been done before and that’s good for business!

While your business might not be as distributed Qantas, flexibility for your employees is still important in today’s modern digital world. At Oakwood Systems Group, Inc., we know the ins and outs of creating customized modern desktops. If you’re considering updating your IT infrastructure to a modern desktop solution, contact us today.

Planning For The Worst

Planning For The Worst

No matter how hard you work to educate your employees about the constant and evolving threats to your company, even the most conscientious employee may unknowingly open infected files or click on malicious web links. Security breaches are inevitable. The best strategy includes securing across all attack vectors and putting policies into place for reviews and change management within your organization. Microsoft 365 offers security solutions that address these attack vectors and will enable you to discover, analyze, and neutralize threats before they cause harm.

Many common types of threats target these key attack vectors: devices, email, network, and user credentials. Microsoft 365 integrates threat detection across these attack vectors by ensuring that the security and resilience of systems and assets are aligned with related policies, procedures, and agreements.

Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection (Windows Defender ATP)

For endpoint attacks, Windows Defender ATP provides near-instant detection and blocking of new and emerging threats using advanced file and process behavior monitoring and other heuristic solutions. These endpoint sensors collect and process behavioral signals from the operating system, which are then translated into insights, detections, and recommended responses to advanced threats. Windows Defender ATP offers dedicated protection updates based on machine learning, human and automated big-data analyses, and in-depth threat resistance research to identify attacker tools, techniques, and procedures and to generate alerts when these are observed in collected sensor data. Windows Defender ATP is built in to Windows 10, providing deeper optics and cloud-powered protection.

Microsoft Device Guard is a feature of Windows 10 that provides increased security against malware and zero-day attacks by blocking anything other than trusted apps. Device Guard is managed in Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (ConfigMgr).

Microsoft Office 365 Advanced Threat Protection (Office 365 ATP)

Threat protection for Office 365 begins with Microsoft Exchange Online Protection which provides protection against all known malicious links and malware. Office 365 ATP builds on this protection by offering holistic and ongoing protection across your Office 365 environment, including email and business apps such as Microsoft Teams, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business. Office 365 ATP allows you to secure your user mailboxes, businesscritical files, and online storage against malware campaigns in real time with its Safe Attachments and Safe Links features. Office 365 ATP Safe Attachments protects against unsafe attachments by preventing them from affecting your messaging environment. All suspicious content goes through real-time behavioral malware analysis that uses machine-learning techniques to evaluate the content for suspicious activity. Unsafe attachments are removed before being sent to recipients. The result is a malware-free inbox with better zero-day attack protection.

Office 365 ATP Safe Links supports protecting your environment offering by “time-of-click” protection from malicious links. If a link is unsafe, the user is warned not to visit the site or informed that the site has been blocked. Reporting and message trace in Exchange Online Protection allow you to investigate messages that have been blocked because of viruses or malware, while the URL trace capability allows you to track individual malicious links in the messages that have been clicked. Office 365 ATP and Exchange Online Protection can be configured in the Office 365 admin center.

Office 365 Threat Intelligence is a repository of threat intelligence data and systems that can spot suspicious patterns, behaviors, and activity. Office 365 Threat Intelligence gathers information from email and other sources. You can then use this data to understand and remediate threats against both your employee and your organization. Office 365 Threat Intelligence lives in the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center. Attack Simulator, a component of Office 365 Threat Intelligence, lets you run realistic attack scenarios in your organization so you can identify and find vulnerable users before a real attack occurs. You can find out how your users would behave in an attack, and then update policies to ensure that the right security tools are in place to protect your organization from threats before they happen.

Azure Advanced Threat Protection (Azure ATP)

Azure ATP provides end-to-end network security by protecting user identities and credentials stored in Active Directory. To prevent identity credential attacks, Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) detects risk events, such as users with leaked credentials, sign-ins from anonymous IP addresses, impossible travel to atypical locations, infected devices, and IP addresses with suspicious activity or unfamiliar locations.

Azure ATP detects suspicious activities across the network attack surface, such as:

  • Reconnaissance work, during which attackers gather information on how the environment is built, what the different assets are, and which entities exist.
  • Lateral movement cycles, during which attackers invest time and effort in spreading their attack deeper inside your network.
  • Domain dominance (persistence), during which attackers capture the information— allowing them to resume their campaign using various sets of entry points, credentials, and techniques.

These services that protect specific parts of the attack surface can also share signals to alert services protecting other surfaces of the enterprise.

Azure ATP detects these suspicious activities and surfaces the information, including a clear view of who, what, when and how, in the Azure ATP workspace portal which can be accessed by signing in to your Azure AD user account.

Azure AD Identity Protection

Azure AD Identity Protection provides an overview of risk and vulnerabilities that may be affecting your organization’s identities. Azure AD Identity Protection uses existing Azure AD anomaly detection capabilities available through Azure AD anomalous activity reports. You can enable Azure AD Identity Protection through the Azure portal. Azure AD Identity Protection helps you identify the risk level of a particular user. Through Azure AD Identity Protection, you can set up risk-based conditional access policies to automatically mitigate threats and secure corporate or organizational resources and data. Risk-based conditional access gets rich signals from the Microsoft Intelligent Security Graph and then converts them to actionable risk-based policies that you can apply to your organization.

Vulnerabilities identified and reported by Azure AD Identity Protection include non-configured multi-factor authentication registration, unmanaged cloud apps, and security alerts from privileged identity management. We recommend that you address these vulnerabilities to improve the security posture of your organization and prevent attackers from exploiting them. Azure AD Identity Protection will flag these issues and recommend mitigation strategies.

Azure AD Privileged Identity Management (Azure AD PIM) lets you monitor access to resources within your organization so that you can minimize and manage the number of people who have access to secure information or resources. Continuously monitoring these high-access points limits vulnerabilities at a top level.

You can configure Azure AD PIM in the Azure portal to generate alerts when there is suspicious or unsafe activity in your environment, such as roles being assigned outside of Azure AD PIM or are activated too frequently.

Microsoft Cloud App Security

Microsoft Cloud App Security gives you greater visibility and control over your enterprise app ecosystem, including all Microsoft applications and applications that are beyond the Microsoft ecosystem through threat detection, enhanced security and policy controls, and deeper discovery and insights.

Microsoft Cloud App Security lets you set up alerts based on anomaly detection policies so that you know about threats immediately. Anomaly detection works by scanning user activities and evaluating their risk against more than 70 different indicators such as sign-in failures, administrator activities, and inactive accounts. You can also set up customizable activity policies to track specific activities and flag you if something is out of the ordinary, like a huge download or multiple sign-on attempts.

Manage Microsoft Cloud App Security through an app dashboard that lets you see your organization’s and employees’ app usage, like how much data is being sent to OneDrive for Business, Box, Dropbox, and other cloud storage apps.

You can set your Cloud App Security policies in the Cloud App Security portal or through the Microsoft 365 Security and Compliance Center. On the Cloud App Security policy page, you can create activity policies and apply severity levels that can be used to filter your alerts later. You can also determine what action to take when one of your policies triggers an alert.

Microsoft Secure Score

Microsoft Secure Score provides a quantifiable way to measure your security posture and track improvements over time. It also provides recommended actions to improve your score that include helpful links to learn more or configure the recommended feature. In addition, Microsoft Secure Score expands your visibility into the overall security posture of your organization. From the dashboard, you’ll be able to quickly assess the security posture of your organization and obtain recommendations for actions to further reduce the attack surface in your organization—all in one place. From there, you can act according to the recommended configuration baselines.

In closing, the Advanced Threat Protection integrated throughout Microsoft 365 monitors and protects everything from data, to endpoints, to user identities. These tools are always working behind the scenes to keep your business secure, keeping you in the loop without overwhelming you with information.

At Oakwood Systems Group, Inc., we believe in securing your business with a holistic strategy. Contact us today to learn more.

Enhanced Productivity with Windows 10

Enhanced Productivity with Windows 10

Since the beginning of the business computing revolution, IT professionals have been staffed with one over-arching mission: to empower their end users.  Each and every employee within an organization – from the CEO to the firstline worker – depends upon IT to protect them from security threats, and provide them with the tools and technology they need to do their best work.

Although the technology we use has changed dramatically since PCs first started appearing in the workplace, the fundamental purpose of IT – to protect and empower the organization – still holds true today, and more so than ever before.

Looking back just over a decade ago, the world was a very different place where technology is concerned.  The Nokia 2600 Classic was the best selling phone of 2007.  The bleeding edge of technology for its time.  Can you imagine still using a phone like this today?  You wouldn’t.  Nor would you expect your users to.

But the reality is, on their desktop devices, many companies are still running old, outdated platforms – or at best, following legacy IT paradigms – like the traditional 3-year update cadence – and asking their employees to work on machines that have missed out on years of advances no less ground-breaking than that of mobile technology.

Today we are in a fundamentally new era of intelligent computing. Due to the pervasiveness of consumer experiences, we are all more connected, more mobile, more tech savvy than we’ve ever been before.  Technology is all around us – from smart thermostats to internet-connected dog collars.

These new consumer expectations are disrupting traditional businesses, causing the lines between life and work to be blurred forever. Employees expect work to fit them, and to be productive no matter where they are. They expect access to colleagues, data, applications and services at any time. Wherever and whenever they might be on the planet.  As customers – and as employees – we are demanding magical, intelligent, digital moments, that are increasingly proactive and fit us in the moment.

According to The Future Workforce Study, people entering the workforce today no longer ask for sufficient technology at their jobs; they expect it – more than 80 percent of millennials say workplace tech would have an influence when deciding to take a job, while 42 percent say they are willing to quit their job if office technologies are not up to their standard.

Productivity is not enough – the addition of collaborative tools and innovative technologies are vital to the workplace of the near future.   IT needs to provide tools and technology that enable collaboration and allow employees work efficiently no matter where or how that work is getting that employ intelligence, to assist users with daily tasks so that they’re free to focus on the things matter the most.

A 2017 Forrester Workforce Benchmark Survey shows that 59% of information workers would choose Windows 10 for their next PC or laptop.  Why is this?  We believe it’s because Windows 10 brings the richest, smartest desktop experience, on a platform that’s intuitive for them to understand and use.  A platform built with end-user productivity and efficiency in mind.

“We are focused on empowering both people and organizations, by democratizing access to intelligence to help solve our most pressing challenges. To do this, we are infusing AI into everything we deliver across our computing platforms and experiences”.

Satya Nadella – Microsoft CEO

Microsoft infuses Windows 10 features and apps with the latest breakthroughs in AI – things like the Microsoft Graph, intelligent search, inking, and accessibility – to bring the latest advances and benefits to your users with each update.  To help them save time, take advantage of modern conveniences, and make their job a little easier.

With Windows 10, your users always have the latest technology, and the latest intelligence.  Windows 10 is an intuitive, easy-to-use operating system, with the built-in tools and features that individuals and teams need to collaborate and produce their best work.  Core capabilities give your users options for how they interact with their devices, stay in sync, and find what they need faster.  Built-in apps, designed to work across PCs, tablets, or mobile phones, help users pick up where they left off and stay in the flow.

Windows 10 productivity features show up in 3 key areas

Work smarter: Features to help people stay in the flow, work faster, and find what they need.  This includes features and apps such as Microsoft Edge, enterprise search in Windows, Cortana, or Windows Timeline, which offers a chronological view of activities and documents, so users can go back in time and jump right back in where they were on documents and activities.

  • Enterprise Search – With enterprise search in Windows, users have one place to find whatever they need – right in the Windows 10 taskbar. Enterprise search finds results from apps on devices or in the Microsoft Store, settings, documents, email messages, company resources, web results, people, Power BI dashboards and reports and more. Enterprise search in Windows also has the ability to surface documents and items across local devices, OneDrive for Business, and SharePoint locations.  Searching on keywords or names will quickly return results from titles and document bodies, by author, or by collaborators and individuals who shared the documents.
  • Windows User Experience
    • Windows Timeline – Gives users a new view of activities and documents, so they can find things in chronological context. From one device to the next, Windows Timeline syncs and keeps track of where a user is in an app or document, and lets them jump back in where they left off. Timeline integrates seamlessly with Task View, with current activities highlighted front and center. With Office 365 apps, Timeline detects and includes what a user did on their Android or iOS device.
    • Optimize Screen Space – Windows enables users to keep the documents and apps they need in easy view.  They can open up to four apps on one screen and easily snap documents or apps into place to optimize available screen space with Snap Assist.  And if screens are getting crowded, users can create virtual desktops with just the items they want – great for when they don’t have multiple monitors to work with.
    • Start Fast & Smart – Users can personalize the Start menu by pinning their go-to apps and files for fast access, and organizing app tiles by groups and folders.  They can pin underlying content to the Start menu, to jump into a specific document, and Live Tiles display updated information, like weather and headlines, so users can see information at a glance without opening the app.  And for East Asian markets, the start menu now has simplified grouping of apps in the all apps list.
  • Microsoft Edge
    • Enteprise Security – Microsoft Edge is the most secure browser for enterprise customers because it is the only browser that works with Windows Defender Application Guard.  Users are automatically protected from phishing and malicious software while they’re online.
    • Productive Across Devices – Microsoft Edge, available on iOS and Android, creates a continuous browsing experience for Windows 10 users across their devices. Content and data sync seamlessly in the background, so users can browse across devices without skipping a beat.
    • Superior browser performance Designed for how the web is built today, Microsoft Edge is created for modern web standards —and benchmarks like Jetstream 1.1 show it is the faster browser on Windows 10.  It also delivers better battery life performance, letting users do more on the web and stay productive on the go.
    • Take Control & Unleash Creativity – Work in multiple tabs without all the clutter.  Built-in tools make it simple to organize, find and set aside web pages to help users focus on the content they need.  Use Windows Ink or type directly on webpages, transforming them into a canvas for collaboration and creativity. Users can add their thoughts to a page, then easily share with co-workers, or seamlessly save screenshots to apps such as OneNote.
    • Quickly Move Into Action – With Cortana enabled, users get instant access to key actions, like highlighting an unfamiliar term to get a contextual explanation right on the spot. 

Cultivate collaboration: Seamless integration with tools for working with others.  This includes the great things you can do with Office 365 on Windows, apps like Whiteboard and OneNote, and features like Nearby Sharing that allow users to quickly transmit documents, files, and web pages to nearby PCs via Bluetooth.

We know that collaboration is the way work gets done now.  People on average participate on twice as many teams as they did 5 years ago and the average IW has seen increase time spent collaborating by 50.  The benefits are undeniable – companies that invest in collaboration and teamwork are 5x more likely to be high performing.

But it’s not just about the numbers.  The very nature of how we collaborate has shifted.  Teams now are composed of both internal and external members – inside and outside the firewall.  Team members are increasingly geographically distributed.  And the workforce is increasingly diverse in many ways, including demographics – 5 different generations in the workforce at the same time, each with different expectations.

  • Office 365
    • Cloud Location, Familiar Navigation – With OneDrive Files On-Demand, users can access all their files in the cloud without having to download them and use storage space on their device. Just by signing in, all files—even online-only files—are instantly available in on their PCs. And new enhanced activity indicators in File Explorer make the OneDrive experience on Windows even better than before.
    • Add power to the point with 3D – Users can leverage 3D content to increase the visual and creative impact of their PowerPoint, Word, and Excel documents, and Outlook messages.  Users can bring 3D objects to life in presentations with transitions like Morph, that create cinematic animations between slides, or animations like turntable, that allow an object to turn continuously on the slide.
    • Ink the way you think Employees can use a compatible digital pen to annotate Office documents in a fluid and natural way, or edit them directly.  Users can convert handwriting to text, strikethrough to delete, circle to select, highlight to emphasize, and make room to write or insert text.  Users can replay the sequence of mark-ups from co-workers, to better understand another’s thought process, and even use a digital pen as a clicker to advance through PowerPoint slides.
    • The best duo for multitasking – Windows multi-tasking features pair perfectly with Office. Users can arrange their screens however they want, to easily open and manage multiple Office apps and documents on one screen, and effortlessly snap up to four documents or apps at a time into view to optimize their digital workspace.
  • Nearby Sharing – With the Nearby Sharing feature in Windows 10, meetings with co-workers just got easier.  Using the Share option in Microsoft Edge, File Explorer, OneNote, and other Windows apps, users can quickly transmit documents, files, and web pages to nearby PCs via Bluetooth.  So spontaneous sharing and collaboration can happen anywhere – not just in spaces equipped with a screen or projector.
  • Microsoft Whiteboard
    • Collaborate effortlessly – Whiteboard’s limitless surface provides space for everyone’s ideas.  Users can bring in teammates—whether they’re across the hall or in a different part of the world—with real-time collaboration across multiple devices.  Users can see where everyone is on the board and the updates they’re making—whether they’re adding images, putting up sticky notes, or creating diagrams.
    • Work naturally – Microsoft Whiteboard lets people create in whatever way feels natural. Pen-first, touch-first technology lets users make fluid gestures with their fingers or draw details with a digital pen. Users can jot down notes, draw precise illustrations, or search for images on the web. Using fingers, users can swipe through sections of the board, turn the virtual ruler to any angle, or even drag and drop images.
    • Capture Intelligently Intelligent ink in Microsoft Whiteboard recognizes freeform drawings and turns them into standard shapes, so it’s easy to create great-looking tables, diagrams, and flowcharts. And unlike traditional whiteboards, the app automatically saves boards, so users can resume discussions later in another place, follow up from their desk after a meeting, or share links to boards so others can build on top of their work.
  • OneNote
    • Start sharing immediately OneNote comes pre-installed in Windows 10, so users can start jotting notes, sharing, and collaborating with peers as soon as they log in for the first time.
    • Stay organized Whether users need to take meeting notes and share them with a group, sketch an idea, capture an image, preserve an email message in context, print a web page or file, or take a photo of a whiteboard, OneNote makes it quick and easy to get everything organized in one place – notebooks, sections, or pages.  And users can search across all typed and handwritten notes to find whatever they need quickly.
    • Think with ink Users can take notes any way they want – typing onto a page, writing or drawing with a digital pen or using a finger on the touchscreen.  Users have access to a variety of drawing tools and effects, and OneNote integrates the latest advancements in shape recognition, including standard shapes and tables, as well as preserving ink color, size, and highlights when converting handwriting into text. OneNote users can even record their ink strokes so they can be replayed later.
    • Access from anywhere OneNote is available on nearly any device, including Android, iOS, web, Chromebook, even wearables – so no matter where users are, they can access their notes.
    • Always up to date – OneNote supports the latest advancements in things like shape recognition, immersive reader, and integration with new Windows capabilities such as Timeline.

Empower workstyles: Windows is built to address the needs of the modern workforce – supporting different workstyles and individual needs, with things like inking, touch, voice dictation, mobility, accessibility features, and device options for everyone.

  • Work across devices is a compilation of features that are designed to make Windows 10 work better with iOS and Android phones.
    • Windows 10 + Android
      • Continue on PC: With Microsoft Edge on Android, users can move easily from an Android phone to their PC, picking up an activity right where they left off. Microsoft Edge creates a continuous browsing experience for Windows 10 users across their devices – content and data sync seamlessly and safely in the background, so users can seamlessly browse across devices.
      • Sync Office docs across devices: With Office apps on Android, users can move easily from one device to another, without loosing their place in the doc. Users can start a Word document or Excel spreadsheet on their mobile phone, and quickly resume writing on their PC with a full keyboard and screen.
      • Microsoft Launcher: On Android devices, users can download the Microsoft Launcher, to get an easy-to-personalize mobile experience, and single sign on for their favorite Microsoft productivity apps.4 Users can create a customized feed of notifications, people and activities, and personalize their home screen to take action quickly.
      • Intelligent assistance: Cortana helps keep things in order – at work or on the go. Users can add a new event or reminder to their calendar from their PC, and Cortana makes sure it’s on their Android phone, keeping users up-to-date wherever they go. Users can tell Cortana send activities from their phone to their PC, to continue activities with the benefits of a bigger screen.
    • Windows 10 + iOS
      • Continue on PC: With Microsoft Edge on iOS, users can send webpages or articles from their iPhone instantly to their PC, continuing to read or browse with a bigger screen on their PC. Microsoft Edge creates a continuous browsing experience for Windows 10 users across their devices – content and data sync seamlessly and safely in the background, so users can seamlessly browse across devices.
      • Sync Office docs across devices: with Office apps on iOS, users can move easily from one device to another, without loosing their place in the doc. Users can start a Word document or Excel spreadsheet on their mobile phone, and quickly resume writing on their PC with a full keyboard and screen.
      • Intelligent assistance: Cortana helps keep things in order – at work or on the go. Users can add a new event or reminder to their calendar from their PC, and Cortana makes sure it’s on their iPhone, keeping users up-to-date wherever they go.  Users can tell Cortana send activities from their phone to their PC, to continue activities with the benefits of a bigger screen.
    • Accessibility: Windows 10 has a robust set of features for those in need of assistive technology.
      • Ease of Access: Windows Ease of Access settings provides a robust set of accessibility features, making it easy for users to customize their device experience to their needs.  They can quickly discover what they need with a new design that groups features by ability – vision, hearing, and interaction.
      • Vision: Improved performance and unified navigation make Narrator (a screen reader built into Windows) easier to use than before. Narrator provides users a more robust and seamless experience, with capabilities like audio output control, machine-generated intelligent image descriptions, and contextual narration of content parts, such as text boxes within in Word documents.
      • Remove reading distractions: Microsoft Edge can help users focus and take in the words on a website or PDF.  With Reading view, users can remove distractions like ads, or if they prefer listening to reading, Read Aloud will read PDFs or websites out loud.
      • Write freely: Any user can now author and edit documents with voice dictation in Windows.  Dictation will convert speech to text, so users can think freely without a keyboard. And Windows supports text suggestions for hardware, as well as on-screen keyboards, so users can get their ideas intro writing more quickly.
      • Click with your eyes: For those who are not able to use a keyboard, Windows comes with built-in support for eye control.  Users can control the mouse, type using an on-screen keyboard, and communicate with people using text-to-speech, all with their eyes.

Windows 10 isn’t just the platform of choice for end users.  It’s also the platform trusted by IT.  It’s designed to give YOU the tools to do more – to keep the company secure, simplify the deployment and update process, and to harness the power of the cloud to reduce the complexity of managing today’s IT device environment.

We here at Oakwood Systems Group hope you’ll take advantage of what Windows 10 and Microsoft 365 can offer you, to empower the new culture of work in your organization today.

Contact us today and we’ll help you get started!

Microsoft 365 Customer Story: TransBlue

Microsoft 365 Customer Story: TransBlue

Whether you are part of a large conglomerate or a small business like TransBlue, modernizing your workplace is a necessity if you want to keep up with customer demands and the competition.

Running back and forth between jobsites can eat up time and resources, especially for a small business. TransBlue was still running their business the old-fashioned way when they updated their business infrastructure. TransBlue now uses Microsoft 365. The mobility enables them to cut out drives to the job that used to eat up an entire day.

With a suite of tools at their disposal, Microsoft 365 provides TransBlue with the collaboration and mobility their employees need to stay productive. With tools like Microsoft Teams, they can have face-to-face meetings no matter where they are and upload and share on Teams with ease. 

Your organization can benefit from the power of a modern workplace and your employees will thank you for using the suite of tools they already know and trust with Microsoft 365. Email us today to find out how we can help you plan your shift to the cloud.

The shift to the cloud brought agility to TransBlue. The future of your digital business depends on getting your IT right. Contact Oakwood Systems Group, Inc. to find out how we can help you integrate Microsoft 365 today.

Your Path To A Modern Desktop

Your Path To A Modern Desktop

Making the shift to a modern desktop helps you to foster a highly secure workspace, empowered by the latest productivity, teamwork and collaboration experiences for your organization. As an IT Admin, making the shift also removes much of the pain of keeping your desktop environment secure with built in end point protection and easier access to the latest security updates, as well as improved information protection and integrated identity and access management. Deploying new PCs or getting PCs back to a business ready state gets easier and you can keep your user populations happy and secure with the most up to date experiences.

This is best achieved through Microsoft 365, which brings together Office 365 with Windows 10 Enterprise and Enterprise Mobility + Security in a complete intelligent solution.

Has It Been A While?

If you haven’t shifted your desktop environment for a while, you will notice that a few things have evolved since your previous desktop deployments. Here are the top areas to be aware of as you plan your migration.

  • At the core of modern desktop and its connectivity to cloud productivity, security and management services, is the modern Identity and Access Management service with Azure Active Directory. This enables single sign on and secure connectivity across cloud services. It also enables new options for device and configuration management – without requiring connectivity to your local network or systems management tools.
  • Next in-place upgrade is now the recommended approach in Windows 10 instead of the wipe-and-load reimaging process you might be using today. This preserves apps, data and configurations from the previous installation.
  • If you haven’t switched from BIOS to UEFI, now’s the time. UEFI not only speeds up boot times, it is required to enable many of the modern security capabilities in Windows 10. There are tools available to make this switch after or during upgrades to Windows 10.
  • Furthermore, Microsoft Intune can be used to manage your Windows 10 devices like other mobile devices from one place. Now you can also co-manage your Windows 10 devices with System Center Configuration Manager together with Microsoft Intune.
  • Office 365 ProPlus is the preferred option for Office desktop apps and they have new installation options that are different than the MSI-based packages in the past. Don’t worry, it is still a local copy of Office and you can still use your deployment tools to provision and configure the apps.
  • Update behavior can now be managed for Office 365 ProPlus at install time and now for Windows using the Windows Update for Business service by configuring policy or using MDM tools.

Windows Autopilot deployment service

Windows Autopilot brings together Enterprise Mobility + Security Suite, Office 365, and Windows 10 into a single, cohesive experience for IT as well as end users. With the latest updates, Windows Autopilot now spans each step in your device’s lifecycle from acquiring and deploying devices to ongoing resets. This is useful whether you need to transfer ownership of a device from one user to another, or break/fix a malfunctioning device. The goal is to give you a zerotouch IT experience so that you can reset your devices and bring them back to a fully business ready state with the click of a single button in Microsoft Intune.

Despite the new tool and connection options, you can continue using preferred OS deployment tools like System Center Configuration Manager and the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit if you wish.

Preparing for Deployment!

The first step of your deployment is to create a high-level plan and get necessary approvals and project sponsors. Next you can assemble your teams and assign areas of responsibility across the following eight steps:

  1. Device & App Readiness
  2. Directory & Networking Readiness
  3. Office and Line of Business App Delivery
  4. User Files and Settings Migration
  5. Security & Compliance
  6. OS Deployment & Feature Updates
  7. User Communication & Training
  8. Windows and Office as a Service

Hopefully this gives you a better idea of how to plan your path to a modern desktop. While there may be some up front learning to take advantage of new resources and updated approaches, the value of making the shift should outweigh the initial investment.

The Microsoft deployment experts at Oakwood Systems Group would like to talk to you today and get you, and your staff, on the path to a modern desktop environment!

Imagine What Dynamics 365 Can Do For You!

Imagine What Dynamics 365 Can Do For You!

Customer experience is often the key differentiator between businesses. In fact, 3 in 4 business leaders in a recent study said improving the customer journey and user experience was their top priority in the next year. What’s your priority?

For Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts, who own 23 luxury hotels worldwide, they sought out a solution to more intelligently manage customer data while personalizing communication with their guests. Through their integration of Microsoft Dynamics 365 they’ve seen increased year-over-year revenue growth by sending relevant, customized content enabled by an automated, cloud-based system.

Our industry does not respect tradition, it only respects innovation

Satya Nadella, CEO Microsoft

A powerful CRM, like Dynamics 365, can increase your organization’s profitability by streamlining administrative processes in your sales, marketing, and service divisions, while letting you focus on building and maintaining the customer relationships that matter. A strong CRM solution is a multifaceted platform where everything crucial to developing, improving, and retaining your customer relationships is stored. Without the support of an integrated CRM solution, you may miss growth opportunities and lose revenue because you’re not optimizing your operating processes or making the most of your customer relationships or sales leads.

Imagine misplacing customer contact information, only to learn that your delay resulted in losing your client to a competitor. Or, picture your salespeople pursuing the same prospect, resulting in an annoyed potential customer and some unfriendly, in-house competition. Without a centralized and automated CRM system, your people can lose track of customer interactions and miss business opportunities.

Send us a message below or contact us at (314) 824-3000 to find out how you can make Microsoft Dynamics work for you and your customers too. 

Streamline Data Management and Turn Communication Challenges into Opportunities

Streamline Data Management and Turn Communication Challenges into Opportunities

After several acquisitions and quick growth from a small and nimble company to a much larger group of properties and brands, Red Lion Hotels Corporation needed to digitally transform.  

Using Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Teams, they improved employee connectivity and unified two legacy data management systems into a single, customized platform, addressing data-quality concerns and improving customer satisfaction.  

At Oakwood Systems Group, Inc., we realize that technology affects not only companies, but also owners, staff, and customers. To learn how your organization can leverage smart technology to simplify your business and improve customer and employee relationships, contact us today.

Drive secure and scalable business success with a modern data platform

Drive secure and scalable business success with a modern data platform

If you really want to make a difference in your organization, you can start by modernizing your IT infrastructure. That’s what Kyle began with when he started to work for the City of Corona. He worked hard to help the citizens of Corona by moving the city’s IT services to Microsoft 365 and Azure. This allowed the Corona government to provide real-time data and insights for their traffic management professionals; enable better communication with first responders via mobile devices; and connect with the community.

Editing in Microsoft Teams and being able to access features from a mobile platform brought huge time savings and removed redundant efforts among the staff, saving time and resources. With Azure, the city can now access and analyze data quickly, so they can respond to the changing environment faster and with greater accuracy.

Thanks to Kyle and Microsoft, Corona’s shift to a modern IT platform helps them to rapidly meet the changing needs of the city and its employees.

Send Oakwood Systems Group, Inc. an email today to find out how we can help you and your organization shift to a modern business platform with Microsoft.

MS Office 365 – It May Be Time To Look

MS Office 365 – It May Be Time To Look

Wondering about Office 365 benefits.   Time to consider it?  We agree!  And, we have you covered.  Let's jump into the world of online applications.  It hasn't been without challenges.  The launch of Business Productivity Online Suite, or BPOS, may have been too much, too fast, considering that it was seemingly fast-tracked in response to the launch and aggressive sales campaigns done by another company.  Let me pause here and state clearly that I don't work for Microsoft, but I do drink the kool-aid.  That said, I had a tough time with BPOS because it was marketed mainly to small businesses, we saw a flurry of tiny deals, a lot of noise, and a little bit of MS bravado – “see, we have a cloud offering too.

New Capabilities

Office 365 is infinitely better, and the exciting next releases of products like Exchange and Lync will make it easier than ever to manage a hybrid environment if that is what will work best – some users on Office 365, others using the on-premise Exchange and/or Lync 2013.  New capabilities in Office 365's SharePoint make it a very attractive option for further integrating the business with outsiders like partners, customers, and suppliers.  Making disconnected users finally feel like they are part of the corporate environment has huge benefits, too, in employee engagement metrics and overall organizational culture.

We are also seeing a distinct play in the merger/acquisition and divestiture space.  Organizations that need to be able to acquire and divest with agility are finding Office 365 a great enablement platform.

Office 365 Benefits

Most of our clients still have a lot of questions.  How can I use Office 365?  What will it do for me?  Will it impact my bottom line?  What about security?  Up-time?  Or, the servers/software/processes/workflows I already have?  As a result, huge enterprises like Dupont, Dell, and Scripps Networks (HGTV and DIY Network fans might recognize this name) have clearly answered these questions and have deployed Office 365.

Industry Assessment

Forrester said, in a June 2011 commissioned study, “Office 365 improves productivity, provides IT peace of mind, and reduces total cost of ownership compared to similar on premises implementation.”  Yes, it was a commissioned study, but we're seeing situations where this is totally proven out, and where larger companies are realizing that they can save money, leverage existing staff to do more transformational work, and create a seamless user experience that actually enhances corporate capabilities.


This isn't a commercial for Office 365, and I would not presume to suggest that it is right for every organization.  And, while for a small business, it might be a flip of a technical switch, for larger organizations there are a number of architectural questions to be worked out.  There is no one answer that fits every organization, but based on what I am seeing, it is time to thoughtfully evaluate the platform for its part in an enterprise IT strategy.  As a result, it's time to consider O365!

About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.

Office 365 Promo to Expire Shortly, Regeneration Expected

Office 365 Promo to Expire Shortly, Regeneration Expected

We had a client tell us yesterday that the current pricing promotion for Microsoft Office 365 is too good to ignore.  Office 365 is being used by some of the largest enterprises in the world (CapGemini, American Red Cross), and it is most definitely an enterprise-class solution.  To lower the barrier of adoption, Microsoft put some VERY attractive pricing and bonus offers in place for its customers which currently have Enterprise Agreements (EAs) – on the order of $1.00 per user per month PLUS a potential for $40 per user for partner implementation services.

What's Going On?

This offer expires on 3/31/2013.  While we expect the offer to be regenerated, the new version will likely have pricing differences.  As a result, we are actively encouraging our clients to get in on this offer.  With a minimum of fifty users (regardless of how many you have on your EA), and up to eighteen months to do the implementation, the best time to jump into the Office 365 pond is right now.

A Brief History of Office 365

Office 365 has come a long way since its badly-named original launch.  The integration between this cloud-based Software-as-a-Service and on-premise applications and networks create a compelling, business-enabling, cost-reducing story for most organizations.  It also positions the organization to truly combat the BYOA (Bring-Your-Own-Application) issue.  You may be aware, this is causing information leakage and loss of IT control.

Read more about Office 365 and how organizations are using it.

Next Steps

To find out more about this offer and how you can leverage it, contact Oakwood Systems Group.  We'll talk with you about a Solution Alignment Workshop, or SAW.  This will help you determine how Office 365 can help your organization.  We'll also share details.  Lastly, we'll help you determine your organization's eligibility for the program.

About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.

Office 365 Hybrid Deployment; Get Prepared!!

Office 365 Hybrid Deployment; Get Prepared!!

Hybrid deployment?  What exactly is it?  Over the last several months we have worked on many Office 365 deployment projects. In some cases, they can be straightforward, but most commonly they are not. This seems to hold particularly true for hybrid deployments.  This is especially true if there are several integration points.  Also, you need to consider network devices such as load balancers, and restrictive server access from the Internet.

Advanced Planning

Although rolling out a Hybrid deployment of Office 365 isn’t straightforward, it doesn’t necessarily have to be difficult. It’s extremely important to have your documentation and proper planning done in advance in order to be prepared for the implementation (as with any project!).

Main difficulties?  There is no single point of reference for how a hybrid deployment should be implemented.  Also, what steps need to be taken and in what sequence. The lack of documentation and improper planning can lead to misconfigurations and re-work.  As a result, this can lead to issues and drive up the costs of the project.

Maybe the lack of a single recommended approach is because the deployment can be done in different ways. Another thought is there is a lot of dependency on your current environment and requirements. Whatever the case I thought I’d share my experiences.  This high-level overview covers the steps and tools you should have available before starting your hybrid deployment with Office 365.

Let’s Get Started

First off, I highly recommend deploying in a test or lab environment first! If you do have several integration points, or if you do have third-party devices, such as an F5 load balancer, or an identity solution you’d like to utilize in place of ADFS, you had better make sure they work before moving into production. This type of Proof of Concept (POC) should hold true for any new technology implementation before it touches your production environment, especially for something with such high visibility that touches every user’s desktop like email!

Before starting, you need to look at your current environment and make sure it meets some basic requirements:

  • Active Directory forest must be Windows Server 2003 forest functional level or higher
  • Existing Exchange 2007 Servers must be SP3 with Update Rollup 9 or later
  • Exchange 2010 Hybrid Server must be SP3 with v15 Exchange on-line tenant. This means upgrading all of your Exchange 2010 servers to SP3 if it is your current on-premises solution
  • Exchange 2013 Hybrid Server must be CU1 with v15 Exchange on-line tenant. The previous 2 points hold true for this scenario as well because they are required to have coexistence with Exchange 2013

Next Steps

After you’ve met the requirements above, these are the steps and tools you should consider from a high level perspective:

1. Complete the Exchange Deployment Assistant

2. Sign up for Office 365 Tenant

  • I suggest doing your POC with the Office 365 trial so you don’t have to make any unnecessary commitments in regards to licensing. The trial provides 25 licenses and is good for 30 days. If you determine more time is needed just submit a Service Request through your online portal and MS will grant you an extension

3. Utilize the Office 365 Deployment Readiness tool. This tool provides analysis of your on-premises environment in preparation for an Office 365 deployment

4. Prepare for SSO and DirSync. Here are a couple good articles to get you started:

5. Configure SSO

6. Setup DirSync

7. Install Exchange 2010 SP3 Hybrid Server with CA & HT Roles, or Exchange 2013 CU1 Server with Mailbox & Client access roles.

8. Implement HA with your Hybrid servers to protect yourself from the repercussions of a single point of failure

9. Configure your new exchange server/s for coexistence if you’re running legacy versions in your production environment

10. Perform testing with the Exchange Remote Connectivity Analyzer. Particularly any ActiveSync and Auto discover tests should all return successful results

11. Configure your Hybrid Deployment for features such as Shared GAL, Free/Busy Sharing, Secure Mail Routing, etc

12. Integrate your on-premises environment with your Office 365 Tenant

13. Configure any policies in Office 365.  Concentrate on ActiveSync and OWA.

Final Steps

Specific environment now alleviated? Once your hybrid deployment is set up you’ll want to perform multiple tests.  In other words, this is to ensure the base functionality is working as advertised.  Then you’ll move on to test your integration points. I suggest performing the following tests, but I encourage you to perform as many tests and as many different types of tests as you deem necessary. It’s better to find any shortcomings of moving to Office 365 now.  If not, you might find out later when you’ve already moved some or all of your organization to the cloud!

Tests To Perform

  • Create test mailboxes
  • Outlook client functionality
  • Mail flow
  • Federated sharing
  • Availability
  • GAL Sharing
  • Mailbox move functionality
  • Make sure redirects are working
  • Test with Remote Connectivity Analyzer Office 365 tools

Hybrid Deployment Conclusion

I hope this article has been helpful.  As a followup, I hope you consider moving to the cloud! Happy migrations, and, as always, let us know if there is anything we can do to help.

About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.