Underutilized Features in Microsoft 365

Posted on: September 29th, 2020 by jiml | No Comments

The two largest competitors in the corporate email and office suite spaces have been Google and Microsoft for many years now. Microsoft has been steadily eating into Google’s market share with Microsoft 365 and continues to do so by adding value to is subscription service. If your business is just using Microsoft 365 as an email service, you probably are not getting the full value from your subscription.

It is important to note that there are many different types of subscriptions of Microsoft 365, each containing different components, so it is imperative to start by understanding the licenses you have.  What does not help is Microsoft propensity to continual rebrand not only products but also licenses. What used to be called Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium, as an example, is now Microsoft 365 Business Standard and the product formerly known as Office 365 Business, is now Microsoft 365 Business Premium.  So, what used to be called Business Premium is now a completely different license than today’s Business Premium license. (Microsoft rebranded the entire product line from Office 365 to Microsoft 365 as well to make matters even more confusing)

Once you understand what licenses you have, you can see what products are available to you.  Almost every subscription has Microsoft Teams.  Certainly, this product has been gaining traction rapidly and the remote worker push from COVID-19 only accelerated that curve.  We would argue that Teams is still under utilized by many businesses. It is not just an instant messenger and meeting platform. It can perform those functions surely, but its value is in the collaboration components, the Teams and the channels. We have found, here at Colden Company, that simply downloading Teams for users is not a recipe for success. Success comes with a planned rollout with a project champion on site who can help make the business case for the tool. Find a project where Microsoft Teams can be of value to the business and roll out a pilot program. Make sure your pilot users are using the tool (Take away other options if need be) and see the value it brings.  A successful pilot will be a starting point for future Teams within the organization.

Beyond Teams, another component utilized but perhaps not as effectively as it could be is OneDrive for Business. This tool can be utilized in a few different ways one of those ways being a desktop and document backup for users. For those users with simple needs, this may be a great way to backup important files without increasing your costs.

There are many other components, some also recently renamed.  Flow, which is now Automate or Power Automate, is a handle tool for automating workflow.  Power BI is part of the Power Apps and is a highly rated business intelligence tool.  (See our webinar on the topic in case you missed it)

Microsoft Planner is a free application that can help organize and manage tasks.  It ties in nicely to Microsoft 365 by sending email reminders of due and overdue tasks and can even be integrated into Microsoft Teams as a tab on a Team site. Microsoft To Do is a simplified version for personal to-do items as well.

A newly released app is called Microsoft Lists. This can be a great checklist type app for your organization. This can also be integrated into Teams which many will find handy.

You can see the central theme here with Microsoft. Teams is becoming the hub for where employees will go to work. Microsoft is heavily invested in Teams and continues to make improvements as they compete with Slack and Zoom.

Not getting the full value out of your Microsoft 365 subscription?  Contact us today at (888) 600-4560 or email us at info@coldencompany.com.



Colden Company Ranked Tops Among World’s Most Elite 501 Managed Service Providers

Posted on: August 31st, 2020 by jiml | No Comments

Colden Company has been named as one of the world’s premier managed service providers on the prestigious 2020 annual Channel Futures MSP 501 rankings. Colden Company was not only selected as an Elite MSP but was also awarded third place among all international competition for the prestigious MSP of the Year Award in 2020.

For the 13th year running, MSPs from around the globe completed an exhaustive survey and application this spring to self-report product offerings, annual total and recurring revenues, profits, revenue mix, growth opportunities and company and customer demographic information. Applicants are ranked on a unique methodology that weights revenue figures according to long-term health and viability; commitment to recurring revenue; and operational efficiency.

Channel Futures is pleased to name Colden Company to the 2020 MSP 501 and as the third place winner of the MSP of the Year Award.

“We are honored to be selected as an Elite MSP” said James Lapointe, President of Colden Company. “This award speaks to our commitment to bringing best-in-class technology solutions to our customers.”

In the 13 years since its inception, the MSP 501 has evolved from a competitive ranking list into a vibrant group of service providers, vendors, distributors, consultants and industry analysts working together to define the growing managed service opportunity.

“For the third year running, the applicant pool for the annual MSP 501 has grown year-over-year, making this year’s list the most competitive in the survey’s history,” says Kris Blackmon, Senior Content Director at Channel Partners and Channel Futures. “The MSP 501 leveraged judgement methodology brand-new in 2020 to drill down into not just what makes a big managed service provider, but what makes a great managed service provider. The 2020 winners are truly the best examples of innovation, business acumen and strategic savvy on the planet. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to the 2020 winners and gratitude to the thousands of MSPs that have contributed to the continuing growth and success of both the 501 and the thriving managed services sector.”

Colden Company is proud to accept this award and would like to thank our valued employees and customers, without whom this award would not have been possible.

Power BI For Data Driven Organizations

Posted on: August 18th, 2020 by jiml | No Comments

The world has changed in 2020.  The future is a little more uncertain than it was six months ago. Will the economy rebound?  Will it stall?  These are questions that only time can answer.  One thing that is certain is that the organization that will thrive in the “next normal” are organizations that are data driven and embrace change.  Those businesses that stagnate and react slowly will be at a disadvantage in the new economy.

Data driven organizations utilize data to inform and make decisions in a timely fashion.  Those that can react to trends more quickly will be a step ahead of the competition.  Microsoft Power BI and its’ updating dashboards can be a great tool, especially for Microsoft 365 users. Your executives can have current data to view and make decisions with and even query the data using natural language queries.  They can type things like “show me sales for Q1 in our Florida office” and Power BI will interpret that to show the requested data.

Power BI has two main components, Power BI Desktop and the Power BI Service.  The Power BI Desktop software (which is available for free at powerbi.microsoft.com ) is for your data analysts in the organization.  Power BI can pull in data from multiple sources like Excel, Access, SQL and even non-Microsoft sources like Salesforce.com and some web-based forms can be connected.  Instead of having to run data analysis in each individual silo of data, Power BI allows analysts to query the aggregated data and develop visualizations of that data. (Check out our webinar on Power BI here)

The dashboard with the visualized data can then be uploaded to the Power BI Service where reports can be shared and subscribed to.  Different executive or line managers can have a different set of reports on their dashboard.  With the “subscribe” option, they will get emailed when data is refreshed allowing them to make decisions with the most current data. Simply logging in to their Power BI Service account will give them access to the data from any place with internet access – an important point in today’s world.

Power BI is yet another tool in the Microsoft 365 suite that is available to businesses to help them navigate the new normal. Want to know more?  Call us today at (888) 600-4560 or email us at info@coldencompany.com and help transition your organization into a data-driven organization!

How to Ensure Cyber Insurance is a Good Value

Posted on: June 29th, 2020 by jiml | No Comments

According to a recent study, 34% of businesses now carry Cyber Security Insurance. This percentage continues to rise year to year as the cyber security risks also continue to rise.  According to a 2020 survey posted on statstica.com the number one threat to businesses is a cyber incident.  Cyber incidents exceeded changing markets, pandemics, climate change, new technology and all other threats as the leading threat to businesses today.

Are your cyber security defenses up to date? Many businesses who answer this question negatively, turn to cyber security insurance to mitigate the risk.  The logic is that if the business is not properly protected, at least they can rely on the insurance in case of a breach or other cyber security incident.  This is flawed thinking. Many cyber security policies have exclusions so that “due care” is required for payment.  Some high-profile examples of businesses not receiving the payout the expected include Sony and PF Chang’s. Sony went through an extensive legal battle to settle what their cyber security policy would actually cover.  PF Chang’s was left holding the bag for a PCI compliance penalty because a stipulation in their policy required being properly up to date with regulatory compliance. (Click here for other examples in a NY Times article)

We can’t forget that insurance companies are for-profit businesses.  Their business model is to pay-out as little as they can as is the case with all insurance models. The exclusions section of your Cyber Security Policy will be an important section to review and understand. For some the price of a cyber security policy could go a long ways toward actually securing the network. That is a decision point for businesses. Is a cyber security policy actually money well spent? Would bolstering your defenses actually be a wiser choice?

How do you make sure you get paid on a claim?  Your business will need to show “due care” as mentioned above. Due care means documentation. As a business you need to be able to show documentation of what you have put in place for cyber security and what your future plans are as well. Couple that with a good policy that has reasonable exclusions and you increase would chances of receiving a payout.

Colden Company is pleased to announce our partnership with Kaseya and Chubb InsuranceOur program combines a cyber security insurance policy with our cyber security program.  Enrollment in the program allows your business to progress toward due care while getting an affordable cyber security policy that covers your business properly. The combination of the two in one program dramatically increases your chances of receiving a payout in the event of a breach, giving you the confidence that your policy will be there for you should you need it.  Of course, following the cyber security program will also decrease the chances that you will have an incident in the first place with better security in place.

If you are interested in discussing this program with us, please reach out to us at (888) 600-4560 or email us at info@coldencompany.com.

Windows 10 May Update is Here

Posted on: May 28th, 2020 by jiml | No Comments

Microsoft releases a major release to Windows 10 twice per year. They patch monthly (or on demand for high priority security threats) but the major releases come in the spring and fall. As a reminder, Microsoft is not planning a Windows 11.  Windows 10 is the long-term release and Microsoft will be deprecating older versions on a schedule.  Microsoft was kind enough to extend the most recent deprecation due to COVID-19, allowing users more time to update to a supported version.  Click here to see the version levels and end of support dates.

So what is in this release of Windows 10? One important improvement that will be transparent to users but will likely have the most impact on your day-to-day work is memory usage improvement in Microsoft Edge.  Microsoft is decoupling updates to their new chromium-based Edge browser in general but Microsoft is touting a significant improvement in memory usage with this release.  That frees up more memory for other applications and is a welcome improvement.

Next, would you believe Microsoft has made improvement to Notepad?  Notepad has remained unchanged for nearly thirty years but this release will see some improvements.  Now you will see an asterisk in the title bar when you have unsaved changes, and they added a nice quick text zooming feature as well.

Cortana will also show some improvements in this release.  Upon upgrading to this May release, users will be able to type natural language in the Cortana search bar and receive answers in many cases.  Examples would be “Am I free at 3:00?” and Cortana will check your calendar. This can be a productivity gain for many.

Finally, you may read about the improved security by being able to go password-less and use a PIN or biometric authentication method.  There are a couple key points here.  This feature is dependent on having the appropriate hardware and also you must be using a Microsoft account for login, not a domain login like many businesses will have.

Want to hear more? Give Colden Company a call at (888) 600-4560 or email us at info@coldencompany.com and let our team assist.

Maintaining Regulatory Compliance

Posted on: April 23rd, 2020 by jiml | No Comments

A part of doing business is complying with regulations. Regulations come from various places, primarily governments but also from industries. The major credit card providers teamed up to create the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) as an example of an industry-led regulation. On the government side there are many. Most of you are familiar with HIPAA to protect health information, and each state has its own laws on the books to protect consumer data now that Alabama joined the ranks in 2018. There are a myriad of other regulations out there making it difficult for the average business to keep up.

What is the process for maintaining compliance? The first step is to have someone within your organization responsible for compliance. Some organizations are large enough or in an industry that supports a full-time compliance manager. Many organizations do not have the means or need for this. This is typical in the SMB market. Those SMBs should still appoint someone to take the lead. Think about partnering with an expert to help guide you through the compliance process. If your appointed person or team does not have the time to stay current with the regulations, this will be key.

Step two is to understand which regulations your organization needs to comply with. Are credit cards processed and therefore should PCI DSS be complied with? Does your organization do work with the Federal government and need to comply with NIST 800-171 or perhaps the European Union and need to comply with GDPR? Do you know your state PII (Personally Identifiable Information) statute? Knowing exactly what your regulatory requirements are is a must. Not knowing the law is not an excuse for non-compliance. (if it were, I would never get a speeding ticket!)

Now that you have identified the regulations your organization needs to comply with, the process for compliance is the same regardless of the regulation. Assess-Mitigate-Maintain.

Assess: Evaluate where you are currently versus the regulation requirements. (Think gap analysis)

Mitigate: Address the short-comings or gaps to meet the standards of the regulation.

Maintain: Develop a plan to maintain compliance going forward.

You cannot be complaint without documentation. Colden Company has programs in place to help businesses with PCI Compliance, HIPAA and we also have a program to meet the NIST Cyber Security Framework (CSF) and provide the necessary documentation. NIST CSF is an excellent framework to follow since many state PII regulations are loosely based on that framework. If your organization does business in several states, following the NIST CSF is a great place to start for compliance. It will meet most states regulations and show that your organization is taking steps to willfully comply.

Would you like to discuss your specific requirements? Give Colden Company a call at (888) 600-4560 or email us at info@coldencompany.com and let our team of experts put you on a path to compliance.

Effective Remote Worker Programs

Posted on: March 30th, 2020 by jiml | No Comments

First and foremost, we hope everyone is safe and coping with the current state of affairs. Colden Company is a service-based organization and we are here to help in any way we can.

One of the most common requests we have received recently, to no one’s surprise, is to assist in setting up remote worker plans as stay-at-home directives have come down from various state and local governments. If your organization doesn’t have a policy in place, don’t worry, you are not alone. Most businesses are in a position of developing their plan on the fly as circumstances have changed. Those that did have plans in place, did not envision the scale and scope of this COVID-19 challenge and were forced to modify their plans anyway. Let us share what we have learned from our time helping many businesses around the United States set up their remote worker programs.

  1. Start with developing your policy.  Appoint someone or a team to oversee this process and determine who will need remote access, what resources these users will need access to, and how will they get that remote access.  Will they use personal computers? Will they be taking company computers offsite? If you are a business that has compliance requirements, security cannot be an afterthought.  Do you have data exfiltration policies in place to protect sensitive data? If you are allowing personal computer to connect to your network remotely, can you ensure:
    • Supported operating system that is patched to current levels.
    • Reputable anti-virus with active scanning
    • Hardware or software firewall enabled
    • Secure wireless
    • Strong passwords
  2. Determine the right technology. Most people assume setting up a VPN will suffice for remote access.  That is not always the case. It is important that you understand your application requirements.  Some applications do not perform under the limited bandwidth conditions that VPN provides.  A different solution may be necessary for those situations, such as Remote Desktop.
  3. Determine communications methods. How flexible is your phone system? Most VoIP systems offer flexibility to move phones or use FindMe, FollowMe technology to route calls as you need. There are also software solutions like Microsoft Teams that can provide video conferencing and computer-based phone calls to facilitate communications.

Communication will be a primary key to success. Let employees know what the expectations will be, follow through and assist those that need reassurance.  Have regular meetings with team members and keep it positive.  Challenging times can bring out the best in us all.  We can do this!

If you have any questions about this or want to get started on your policies, please feel free to reach out to us at (888) 600-4560 by phone, or info@coldencompany.com via email.

Pandemic Response Plans

Posted on: February 24th, 2020 by jiml | No Comments

Often times current events spark businesses to consider scenarios they had not put much thought into previously.  Y2K, as an example, forced many businesses to upgrade their system to handle the changing of the century.  Ransomware in the news helped to raise awareness of the issues with data security and having proper backups.  At other times an episode of gun violence may lead businesses to develop an active shooter response plan. The headlines over the last month may be doing the same.  The coronavirus is front page news because of its prolific ability to spread without physical contact.  The combination of being easily spread and a much higher fatality rate than seasonal flu viruses have people on edge.  (2% compared to 0.1% for the flu) It is a situation worth monitoring and preparing for.

There have been other pandemics in the past, from the Avian Flu, to SARS which also raised awareness.  I recall the Avian Flu prompting us here at Colden Company to develop a response plan should the situation spiral out of control.  Does your business have a recently updated contingency plan?  Is a pandemic included in your disaster recovery plans?

If the above answer is “yes”, congratulations.  You are in the minority of businesses that are prepared for such a situation.  If your answer was “no”, perhaps it is time to put some time and effort into a plan.  As with all disaster recovery planning, it is never an urgent issue until the disaster is upon you.  Human nature suggests we put off tasks that do not have a looming deadline and rarely does a disaster announce it will be arriving on a particular date and time. Never-the-less, good managers see the value in preparing before the disaster strikes.

Colden Company is certified by the Disaster Recovery Institute as Certified Business Continuity Planners. We can assist your business in preparing a reasonable response to a threat like coronavirus. After-all we are used to knocking out viruses. (pardon the pun) In the words of one of our favorite Americans Ben Franklin “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

Give us a call at (888) 600-4560 or email us at info@coldencompany.com to find out how our experts can assist your business in being prepared for whatever comes your way.

Keeping Up With Security

Posted on: February 24th, 2020 by jiml | No Comments

It is 2020. Wow.  It seems like just yesterday we were preparing for Y2K.  The cyber world is a very different place than it was twenty years ago.  In 2000, there were 361 million Internet users.  Today there are well over four billion. Some of those four billion are bad actors, creating viruses and malware. I bet your data security is not the same as it was twenty years ago.  What if we framed that differently and asked if your defenses are different than they were three or four years ago? Do you have the same answer?  The security threats have changed dramatically over that time, from sophisticated ransomware threats, to malware that mines for bitcoin for the bad guys. Your defenses have to keep up with the new threats.

Ransomware continues to be a real threat.  According to a recent study by Datto, there is a very large gap between how the threat of ransomware is perceived by businesses versus those working in the technology field. 89% of Managed Services Providers feel Ransomware is a significant threat to small and medium sized businesses, while only 28% of small and medium sized businesses perceive Ransomware as a significant threat. The folks that deal with security are much more concerned about it, perhaps the business world should take note and ensure they are protected against this threat.

Also changing is the need for compliance. Many states have recently expanded their laws regarding the protection of private data.  California, New York among others have updated their laws to provide better protection of private data ….and increased fines for businesses that do not take the proper precautions. As of 2018, all fifty states have something on the books for protecting personal identifiable information.  Do you know your state’s regulation?  Are you meeting the standards?  Are you aware of the fines?

In a changing world, staying current with the cyber world AND the regulations and compliance issues that affect your business are important.  Studies have repeatedly shown that businesses that keep up with technology outperform those that do not.  How do you stack up? Do you know? Here at Colden Company, we can provide an assessment of where your business stands and recommend measures to safeguard against today’s threats.

If you have any questions about this or want to get an early release of the browser, please feel free to reach out to us at (888) 600-4560 by phone, or info@coldencompany.com via email.

A New Edge Browser in Windows 10

Posted on: December 30th, 2019 by jiml | No Comments

Starting January 15th, 2020 Microsoft will begin rolling out a new version of their Edge browser.  This is a substantial change from the current browser in that it is Chromium based and de-coupled from Windows updates. Chromium is an open-source browser that is used as a base for many other browsers.  The most of obvious of these is Google’s Chrome browser but also others you may have heard of like the Opera browser installed on many Apple products. Google deserves the credit for Chromium as it released is code for Chrome to the open source community back in 2008.

Microsoft is handling the deployment in a staggered release and will handle updating your shortcuts, menu pins etc. to the new version of Edge. Microsoft is aiming for better web compatibility with the new Edge browser and should reduce the number of sites that work in Chrome but not properly in Edge. The important point here, is Microsoft is rolling this out whether users are ready for it or want it.  It is coming regardless.

Microsoft is decoupling the browser from the operating system, meaning it can update the browser more frequently and on demand.  Much like the Chrome browser updates itself behind the scenes, the new Edge browser will do the same with feature releases coming every six weeks.  Security patches will come as needed. The icon will look different and is shown below so you will know where to look for your new Edge browser:

Also note that Windows 7 will be end of life this month on January 14th.  If you are still running Windows 7, there will be no more support or security patching available from Microsoft.  We recommend upgrading to Windows 10.

If you have any questions about this or want to get an early release of the browser, please feel free to reach out to us at (888) 600-4560 by phone, or info@coldencompany.com via email.