Microsoft Teams Training

Microsoft Teams Training
(FREE Training Video Included)

Everything You  Need to Know About Optimizing Microsoft Teams for Virtual Work

Microsoft Teams has been all the rage lately. Countless businesses and organizations have had to adapt to a ‘new normal’ brought on by the COVID 19 pandemic and a major part of that has been trying to optimize remote working arrangements. Our team of IT experts has been helping organizations optimize Microsoft Teams for business since long before the pandemic hit. But now, with more and more organizations moving online, we’re hoping to put our expertise to use and help professional teams in all industries get started with Microsoft Teams.

In this article, we’re going to go over all the main features that are built into Microsoft Teams and explore the useful tools and functions built into each feature. Our hope is that by reading this article and watching the attached training video, your migration to remote work on Microsoft Teams will feel less overwhelming. Even better? You’ll have a solid idea of how to optimize the application so your team can stay more productive than ever - even in these unpredictable times.

Teamwork Optimized: Making the Most of Microsoft Teams Features

Here’s the thing: we’re big fans of Microsoft Teams. We’ve seen countless clients reap concrete business benefits from deploying the application. But, like with any technology, the only way you’ll see those benefits is if you understand the basic features of the app and how to optimize them.

Microsoft Teams is great because it brings together and centralizes a variety of useful features designed to optimize operations and boost productivity. The interface is also true to the Microsoft brand - familiar and user-oriented. In order for your organization to get the most out of this trusted remote-work solution, we’ve created a guide to help you understand and optimize each feature the app has to offer.

These Microsoft Teams features will optimize teamwork from top to bottom:

Teams & Channels 

First and foremost, let's talk about the core features of the Microsoft Teams application. Organizations can create Teams and Channels. A ‘Team’ is a collection of people, content, and tools that are all based on a specific project or department. Teams can be company-wide or specified to focus on certain projects or remain accessible to only certain team members.

Teams themselves are made up of Channels, which are the central hub where work gets done. Think of it like this, Teams are houses and Channels are different rooms in a Team house. All Teams have a general channel by default, which is where all members of the team can send messages, share files, collaborate, make announcements, book meetings, and more. Additional channels can be added to a team to reflect a specific topic, project, department, smaller workgroups, or fun initiatives.

Here are some tips for optimizing the Teams and Channels features:

  • Keep the amount of Teams minimal to avoid unnecessary clutter on your Teams interface. Instead of creating an entirely new Team for every project, create ‘Channels’ within existing teams to reduce redundancy and keep everything organized in the right place. Any approved team member can add a Channel to a Team, making it easy for projects to get started.
  • Each Channel has a collection of ‘Tabs’ at the top of the screen. These Tabs are not just containers - they are active hubs where users can get work done. Channels are built with three default Tabs: Posts, Files, and Wiki. ‘Posts’ is where users can send and reply to messages, start conversations, book meetings, share files, and more. ‘Files’ contains a list of all the important documents that have been uploaded for a Channel. From the Files Tab users can also upload, download, sync, and even co-edit files. Finally, the Wiki Tab is where users can draft new documents, track meeting notes, and even collaborate in real-time. Additional Tabs for commonly-used applications like OneNote or Planner can also be added to a Channel.
  • Public Teams can be created so everyone in the organization can view updates, while private Teams can be created so only assigned staff have access. The same goes for Channels. Public Channels will be accessible to all members of the Team in question, while Private Channels can be created and accessible to only designated Team members.
  • Conversations on Channels can be customized and optimized using a variety of built-in features. You can change font styles, sizes, and colors, use templates for announcements, add pictures, GIFs, emojis, reactions, @mentions, and more. You can even edit your own messages after they’ve been sent to fix typos, add forgotten details, or make changes. Keep in mind that Channel conversations are threaded, meaning you can post a message to everyone and also reply directly to messages from specific members.
  • Assign roles within Teams to make expectations and responsibilities clear. Members can be assigned three different roles: Owner, Member, or Guest. Owners have the ability to make changes like adding or deleting members, or deleting the Team altogether. Members are regular members of your organization who will get updates on everything in the Team. Guests are external parties invited to a Team and your organization must have this capability enabled. Pro tip: it’s a good idea for each Team to have more than one owner to help share the load of responsibility and ensure maximum availability.

Chat

Chat is the communication hub on Microsoft Teams. Using the Chat feature, users can start a conversation with one or more members of the organization and can also make video or audio calls directly from the Chat hub. The Chat hub is great because it allows users to talk privately with a specific person or group of people and the conversations don’t have to take place within an existing Team or Channel.

In the Chat hub, users can send chat messages, make video or audio calls, start screen sharing, add additional users to the conversation, and more. Chat is fully equipped for sending photos, files, emojis, GIFs, and more. Think of it this way, Chat functions as a centralized and streamlined way for organizational members to get in touch with each other, send quick updates or requests, and keep communication moving.

Here are some tips for optimizing the Chat feature:

  • Chat will keep a log of all your conversations so you can always go back and review important points or check back in with teammates easily. Even better? Use the ‘Pin’ function to keep important or frequently revisited conversations at the top of your log for easy access.
  • Want to get some work done outside of Teams while still keeping an eye on any incoming Chat messages, calls, or video calls? No problem. Use the ‘Pop-Out’ Chat function which allows you to still see Chat messages while you have Teams minimized and are working on other things.
  • Keep in mind that the call and audio call functions are only accessible if your organization has enabled these capabilities. These are very useful capabilities to enable as they’ll let your users make calls directly from the centralized Teams hub and even capture voicemail messages in the same place.

Calendar 

The Calendar feature in Microsoft Teams is where you can get a birds-eye-view of your day or your week. This allows you to see anything and everything that you have lined up for a given day or week and is a quick and easy way to check what free time you have available for anything new that comes up.

You can also use the Calendar feature to easily create and schedule new meetings. All you have to do is choose the ‘New Meeting’ option and then you can give the meeting a title, set the date and time, add important location or agenda details, and invite attendees - even guests from outside your organization. You can even choose whether you’re scheduling a one-time or recurring meeting.

Here are some tips for optimizing the Calendar feature:

  • There are three different Calendar view options: day, week, or workweek. This way you can focus on a specific day, an entire week, or just focus on the work week ahead. Change your Calendar view easily by using the drop-down menu in the top right-hand corner.
  • Check availability and minimize conflicts easily with the Scheduling Assistant feature. This tool helps you check the availability of different team members and determine a meeting time that works best for everyone.
  • A great thing about creating meetings in the Teams Calendar is that they’ll sync with your Outlook Calendar too. Once you create a meeting in the Teams Calendar, it will show up in your Teams meetings list and your Outlook Calendar, meaning you can always see what’s on deck for a specific day or week.
  • Another great tool built into the Calendar feature is the ‘Meet Now’ function. This feature is also available in both Teams and Channels and is great for setting up immediate, impromptu, and quick meetings on the fly.

The Command Box 

The Command Box is basically the control panel of your entire Teams interface. The Command Box always remains at the top of your screen, wherever you may be working in Teams. You can use The Command Box to search your entire Teams hub and find specific files, people, Channels, Teams, Calendar meetings, and Chat conversations.

However, the Command Box isn’t just a search bar. You can also use it to take quick actions and launch applications. This means when you’re trying to find important information, get work done quickly, or switch between different parts of the Team platform, you can always do so easily right at the top of your screen.

Here are some tips for optimizing The Command Box:

  • When searching for something use recognizable keywords. When you type what you’re looking for and hit enter, Teams will generate a list of suggested findings and then you can easily choose the item, person, or application you’re looking for.
  • When using The Command Box to take actions, you can deploy forward-slash commands. To check out what kind of commands are available type a forward slash in The Command Box and a variety of actions and options will populate for you to choose from. If you really want to streamline things you can also use CTRL followed by a forward slash and a list of commands will populate automatically.

Other Useful Tools & Features

Files 

The Files tab is where all files that have ever been shared in a Team or on a Channel are stored and accessed. You can also use the Files tab to upload new files and assign them to a specific Team or Channel. There is also a whole variety of sharing, editing, and collaborating options.

Apps

The Apps tab is where you can view and launch a variety of additional applications that are integrated with Microsoft Teams. Depending on the nature of the work you’re doing, you can easily bring in other helpful applications to streamline workflow and boost productivity from one central hub.

Profile 

The Profile icon is in the upper right-hand corner of your Teams interface. This is where you can customize settings, change your availability status, add a profile photo, and make other key changes regarding your own Teams profile.

We Can Help Your Organization Optimize Virtual Operations with Microsoft Teams

We hope this guide and training video has been helpful and made you feel a little more comfortable jumping into Microsoft Teams with both feet. As always if you have questions or need additional guidance, our team of IT professionals would be happy to dig a little deeper and offer a more personalized Microsoft Teams consultation. We have plenty of experience helping organizations customize and optimize Microsoft Teams to meet their industry-specific needs. If you need a hand, we’ve got you covered!

Give us a call anytime at (409) 724-0440, or visit our website at www.ntwo.com to chat with a live agent and book a Microsoft Teams consultation.


Modern Workplace

How to Think About the Modern Workplace

How to Think About the Modern Workplace

The global pandemic of COVID-19 has accelerated the need for flexible work environments with a vengeance. Suddenly, companies have been forced into flexibility, as employees have nimbly shifted to working from home or elsewhere. Protecting all of us from the spread has been our mission -- social distancing forever changing the way we work.

Since March, we’ve had little choice but to embrace virtual workplaces, and the results have been overwhelmingly positive. Studies indicate that remote workers are more productive, less likely to quit and report higher engagement with their jobs than their in-house counterparts.

As you gradually and thoughtfully prepare for a return to physical offices, the need to modernize workplaces will be paramount to meet the expectations of now-mobile employees. Flexibility will be essential as employees transition to full-time office hours or hybrid arrangements.

A modern workplace used to imply shared cubicles, excessive TV screens, sleek furniture, free snacks and gourmet coffee. But employees expect more now, as the world has changed.

So what should your priorities be as you plan for return-to-office?

Anywhere Access

Modern employees require their work to be available anywhere at any time on any device. Laptops, tablets, cell phones will be part of the modern desk arrangement and your staff will require access to their business software seamlessly.

Transitioning to cloud-based applications, like Microsoft 365 or Google G-Suite, will quickly untether your employees from the office and allow them to maintain improved productivity and engagement. Maintaining applications in the cloud reduces the need for employees to be disrupted by having to come to the office.

Real-Time Collaboration

The need for employees to connect through phones and video conferencing has been vital over the last six months. The same goes for team collaboration through documents like spreadsheets, presentations and analyses.

Choosing a software platform that can be accessed, reviewed, edited and updated by multiple contributors in real-time will be critical to teamwork. Microsoft and Google offer comprehensive solutions.

Physical Safety

At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, company leaders focused on ensuring employees could be effective at home and ensuring their data was safe. Now, with many businesses planning to reopen their offices, a chief focus will be finding a way to bring employees safely back to their workspace.

New products like conference room collaboration tools, symptom and contact tracers and employee location tracking will play a role in supporting policies and keeping employees safe. These solutions are creating a new category of technology for businesses to consider.

Invite an expert to help you plan for return-to-office. National Networks has over 20 years of experience helping businesses develop the right technology solutions to maximize productivity and employee satisfaction, eliminate downtime, eradicate security threats. Reach out through live chat or call 337 243-6021.


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Developing New Habits During COVID-19: Data Backup Essentials

Running your business during COVID-19 is hard, period. The last thing you need to experience during this crisis is a devastating loss of data—in fact, there’s a chance that a significant breach could damage your reputation or even put you out of business. Now is the time to make sure you have a plan in place that handles data backup for your employees and ensures information on your devices remain safe no matter where they are.

It’s time for secure and affordable data backup services. Contact us today.

Here are four ways to improve your data backup strategies during COVID-19:

  1. Get into a New Routine – Default settings might be good enough most of the time, but not during COVID-19. If you want to ensure you never lose data again, you’re going to need to optimize your parameters for automatic backups, making specific adjustments to the settings that suit your business needs. While you’re at it, you might want to revert to backing up some of your most important personal and professional files outside of the cloud.
  2. Adjust Your Settings – As your digital footprint grows, your data backup strategies should become more sophisticated, too. Everyone has experienced a time when they’ve lost something important, but honestly thought that they’d backed it up correctly. Whether you want to admit it or not, there are probably some default settings that your employees have never even looked at on their work devices. Failing to adjust your default settings could cost you time and money, so be sure to update them as your company’s needs change.
  3. Train Your Team Members– Chances are you’re going to experience some turnover in the next few months due to circumstances outside of your control. While some employees are used to working remotely and can operate with little-to-no tech supervision, others will need education about best practices for storing and backing up information in a way that is both secure and accessible. Setting aside time to educate your employees about some data backup essentials now could prevent you from suffering the pain of a major disruption down the road.
  4. Encrypt Your Data- By now, you’ve probably guessed that backing up your data is only one piece of the puzzle. If you want to make sure that your data is not only stored properly, but that it couldn’t be accessed even if it was lost or stolen, it’s time to invest in better data encryption. Being able to retrieve and restore your sensitive information is important—but making sure it stays secure is another story. It’s time to start asking questions about where your data is stored and how it is being protected.

In a time of crisis, your staff will be turning to you for direction—and your customers might, too. Don’t get caught off guard by something you can easily avoid, like losing data due to human error or a failed automatic backup. That’s why, as a managed services provider, we’re prepared to guide you through the COVID-19 crisis with trusted IT advice that will help you back up your data today and keep it secure well into the future. Contact our team of experts today to learn more about data backup essentials that support your business continuity plan.


Planning and Budgeting for Your Company's IT

Everything You Need to Know About Planning and Budgeting for Your Company's IT

How to Plan and Budget for Your Company's IT

Are you in charge of your company’s IT budgeting? If so, it’s time to take a closer look at how you allocate your funds. Here are some tips to get started.  

As a C-level executive, you set the tone for your company’s IT budget. In other words, your vision of IT will decide whether it’s an area you’re ready and willing to invest in or something you still see as a periphery necessity.

Naturally, seeing IT as a periphery necessity is not preferred. This can be a dangerous mindset. IT is so vital to any business’s substructure that without it, you may not have a business at all. As we move forward in time, this will continue to be the case. Automation and increased dependence on the digital world are only increasing.

The bad news is, IT budgeting can be tricky. The complexities of your IT needs will inevitably be complicated. Knowing how to allocate funds will be similarly so.

The following article comprises critical tips for planning IT funds within your company. Use this as a framework to follow when preparing your IT budget in the future.

Planning and Budgeting for Your Company's IT

How to Plan and Budget for Your Company’s IT

Use these tips to create a successful budget for your IT department.

1. Make the transition to rolling forecasting.

Most businesses plan their budgets yearly, but while this may have worked in the past, it's no longer a useful planning strategy for IT budgets. Instead, we recommend enforcing a rolling forecasting strategy for planning your budget. This means reassessing your budget at the end of each quarter as opposed to doing it annually. The option provides much more flexibility and allows you to react quickly to market or security changes when necessary.

2. Plan ahead for the implementation of automation.

Great strides can be made in efficiency and returns on investment when you implement IT automation tools. A tremendous amount of time and money can be saved. On the other hand, investing in these strategies won't give you results overnight. You must plan for these tools — both where finances and a learning curve are concerned. Your

MSP can help you come up with the best automation tools for your industry and business. They can also help you plan for investing in these tools and rolling them out.

3. Cross-reference your plans with other departments.

Unlike some departments within your business, IT must interact outside of itself regularly. Its primary purpose is arguably to serve other departments in a myriad of ways. For this reason, you must cross-reference your budgeting plans with the other departments you oversee. Speak with other department heads about what they foresee in terms of IT needs and changes. Many of these specifications will alter your plans for a budget.

4. Remember that your IT plans will change almost constantly.

Rolling forecasting will allow for more frequent budget changes where your IT is concerned, but there are other steps you can take to keep up with ever-changing IT needs as well. Essentially, you need to maintain the mentality that your IT budget is not a stagnant, permanent fixture. Instead, it is something that will need near-constant alterations.

Even if you continue to allocate the same amount of money to your IT department overall, where precisely each dollar goes may change. For example, one quarter, you may require more budgeting for marketing, advertising, data storage, or security.

Speak to Your MSP About Budgeting Recommendations

As a final tip, use your MSP as a resource when it comes to your IT budgeting. Their experience and expertise in IT services can help you make more informed decisions that will support your business long-term.


Microsoft Teams in Lake Charles LA

Microsoft Teams: Go Remote, Safeguard Health, Improve Success

How to Use Microsoft Teams for Remote Collaboration

Learn how Microsoft Teams can support remote collaboration. Check out tips for using this powerful collaboration app. Be safe and healthy with remote team working tools.

When you're trying to facilitate collaboration and communication between remote team members, Microsoft Teams can provide the solutions you need. Available with an Office 365 subscription, Microsoft Teams also offers a free version with scaled down features, available to anyone. You can access these tools through a web browser or using a desktop or mobile app.

Microsoft Teams lets you efficiently work with a remote team of people on documents, spreadsheets, and other files, and it eliminates the need to email files to each other. Keep reading to learn how your organization can leverage this very powerful collaboration app to enhance productivity whether you're all in the same office or different corners of the world.

Creating Teams

When you create a team in Microsoft Teams, it automatically gets Planner, SharePoint, Office 365 Group, and OneNote. You can also add in other apps as desired. Teams supports all Microsoft applications and offers integration for a constantly growing number of third-party apps as well.

With Planner, you can assign tasks, track what your team members are doing, and keep big projects organized. SharePoint provides you with the capabilities to build websites together or create internal sites. At the same time, Office 365 Groups gives you the ability to collaborate using the Office 365 tools you're accustomed to using on your own. Of course, OneNote lets you create notes, share them with team members, and edit collaboratively as desired.

Setting Up Channels

Once you set up your teams, you can divide them into a variety of channels. Depending on your needs, you may want to have everyone in your business be on the same team and then create a separate channel for each department, or you may want to have a team for each department and narrow further down into specific channels.

For instance, if your marketing department makes up a team, you may want different channels for social media management, product launches, content, or other projects or areas of focus.

Chatting With Your Team

When you open Microsoft Teams, you see three tabs for every channel, and one of the tabs is Conversations. One of the app's most critical features, Conversations streamlines communication and saves a record of everything so you can effortlessly search conversations or review old messages as needed.

When you want to reach a particular team member, you simply use the "@" symbol plus their username. Then, they see your comment when they sign into the app or they get an instant notification if they have alerts set up on their device.

Team members can also like or react to comments. For instance, if you want to ensure everyone has seen a particular comment, you can ask them to leave a thumbs up or another indicator. GIFs and emoticons help to add personality and levity into team conversations.

Sharing Files

In addition to Conversations, Files is one of the other three tabs that gets instantly created when you set up a channel. You can open your files right in the Teams app or through your browser. You don't have to close Teams and open the app for the type of file you want to use.

Then, you can make edits, which your entire channel can see in real time. You can delete, move, or copy files. You can also get links to share the file with people outside your team or channel. To foster communication, you can create a group conversation next to the file or leave comments within the file itself.

Administering Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams offers a host of features that can boost productivity, improve communication, and streamline collaboration. Still, you also need to manage this app to ensure it meets your organization's policies and practices.

In the control panel of the admin settings, you can establish who can create teams, and you can also set parameters on which features you want accessible to individual teams or channels. For instance, you can control who can use video meetings or screen sharing, and you can create rules related to animated images or using extensions.

Shifting to a remote workforce can be challenging, but tools like Microsoft Teams help to keep you on track, regardless of where your team members are located. To learn more about how to foster remote workers, contact National Networks today.


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How to Define Security During COVID-19

COVID-19 and social distancing have quickly forced a change in how we conduct businesses. With many organizations shifting some – or all – of their business to a remote workforce, people are facing unprecedented challenges. Business IT departments realize this is their moment to shine by putting together a continuity strategy that will keep fundamental business objectives functioning. In order to do so, organizations need to rethink how they’ll conduct business outside of four-walls. Here are four areas of IT that you’ll need to consider:

Remote Access – Remote access is how your team accesses company information, documents, applications and more when they’re not connected to the company Wi-Fi network. You want to make sure your employees have seamless access to the information they need, but more importantly, that information needs to be secure, too. Those who fail to secure remote access leave their systems vulnerable for cybercriminals to get their hands on customer information, which they can hold for ransom. The best way to protect your data is with a secure virtual private network.

Endpoint Security – Endpoints are your laptops, tablets, mobile phones and wireless devices that connect to your networks. With endpoint security software, you’ll gain a better view of all user-devices to monitor and block risky activities and security threats. Endpoint security also includes making sure your firewalls, antivirus and other applications are up to date.

Day-to-Day Operations – The best way to keep business running as usual when you’re working from a remote environment is to make sure your employees can do exactly what they do in the office, at home. Have a few employees take their laptops home to make sure they have access to the VPN, business documents, email and more. Ask them what worked and what didn’t – you’ll want to make sure you get everything sorted out before a potential disaster or crisis occurs.

Awareness Training – Cybercriminals like to take advantage of weaknesses. As more and more businesses transition to remote workforces, not all of them are taking the security precautions they should be, and cybercriminals are at the ready to steal information. There’s no better time than now to revisit security awareness training with your team. Let them know what’s appropriate and teach them about how to spot suspicious emails and warn them about malicious email links.

A business continuity plan covers all these security tactics and more to ensure your business can get back up and running as quickly – and securely – as possible. We know these past months have been difficult. We don’t want you to have to face these challenges on your own. Our expert team knows all the ins-and-outs of business continuity and we want to help. Contact us today to learn more.