Tag Archives: workplace efficiency

Microsoft’s Newest Cloud Offering: Office 365

What does Office 365 offer me?

office 365With the release of Office 365, Microsoft has provided the most commonly used office software in the world in a cloud-based format. Beyond the familiar Office suite, the included elements of Exchange, Sharepoint and Lync make this collection of services a genuine and economical alternative to running a server. The monthly cost varies from $6 to $27 per user, but also includes regular updated versions of the software, thus saving companies or independent professionals the cost and aggravation of new versions every few years. Microsoft also guarantees 99.9% uptime, offers business class security and will undoubtedly continue to make improvements to hold their edge in the business environment. Look over the Office 365 offerings and decide if this new cloud service can be a leap forward for your freelance or company needs.

  • Email and Calendar: The Microsoft Exchange program provides access to email, calendars, and contacts from PC or Mac computers, the web and even mobile phones. The cloud Exchange server provides 25 GB of email space for each user, and has the familiar Outlook interface. The Forefront Online Protection protects from spam and viruses. The online calendar makes scheduling a simple straightforward process with your work colleagues’ schedules accessible.
  • The Office Suite: Office 365 includes the familiar programs Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft OneNote, and Microsoft PowerPoint in full-fledged web versions with collaborative abilities via the SharePoint platform. More than one user can work on a document in real-time, as well as utilize a document library for easy access for everyone. The cloud server makes these documents available on many mobile devices and promises to maintain formatting as users move from web, to mobile, to desktop. Critical data is protected with multiple data centers and a strict privacy policy.
  • Communication: Through the Lync platform, users can enjoy instant messaging, video conferencing, and PC phone calling. Creating meetings or sharing your ideas via a whiteboard, even with individuals outside your business, can be a simple and easy process. Users can also easily create and maintain a public website with simple tools. Upgraded options are available, such as Access services which give you an online database that can track inventory, customer or vendor records, or a catalogue of products. There are also workspaces for blogs, wikis and even video files.
  • Cost: At present, Office 365 has three tiers of subscription. Professionals and small business of up to 25 users can utilize the platform on a month-to-month basis for $6 monthly fee and includes online support. Mid-sized business to enterprise level platforms cost $10 – $27 per user, depending on the specific configuration. This level offers IT configuration and 24/7 IT support. There is also the option of Kiosk Worker plans for only $4 – $10 for more limited access. There is also a plan for educational institutions that is priced according to the configuration.

Office 365 represents a carefully considered business solution for all levels of business needs and has taken into account the evolving digital needs of the modern-day professional. So far, the reviews have been mostly positive, with a few hurdles reported for mobile access and during initial set-up. With Google and Amazon also pushing the envelope in the cloud computing world, Microsoft will likely keep pace or even exceed the possibilities set by the competitors. For the end-user, these cloud platforms have the potential to provide significant cost savings and freedom from the day-to-day IT headaches of backups of email and data files.


Next: “How does Office 365 Compare to Google Docs?”

Is iCloud any Different than MobileMe?

iCloud Vs. MobileMe, is there any difference?

With hype surrounding cloud-based services at an all-time high, Apple has officially announced the release of the highly-anticipated iCloud. While many were thrilled to hear about the new development, Apple’s decision to shutter its MobileMe service, in favor of a more efficient and capable cloud platform, left some Mac users concerned about the future of their data and mobile services. Nevertheless, the technology company has stated that the transition should be seamless, as the new service includes many of the great benefits previously provided by MobileMe. All of which begs the question: Is Apple’s newest system any different than MobileMe?

MobileMe first became available to Mac users in January of 2000, as a subscription service that provided, among other things, an email address @mac.com. Following the release of the iPhone 3G in 2008, the service was rebranded as MobileMe, and became available to users across the operating system spectrum. One of the many features MobileMe provides includes the popular “Find My iPhone” function, that allows users to locate their mobile device via the internal GPS tracking dot. The service also offers remote storage options, and the ability to publish websites through iLife.

Apple’s announcement of its new cloud-based services means that MobileMe will be shelved, as the company’s focus shifts towards providing storage options and contact management to a larger swath of tech consumers. Though the service will no longer be available, many of the great functions MobileMe provided will be available through the new cloud platform. In fact, the new service even offers features that MobileMe users were previously unable to access.

Mail synchronisation, contact management, and Find My iPhone will all be available to MobileMe users who choose to migrate their data to the new service. Documents in the Cloud, iTunes in the Cloud, and Photo Stream are further benefits that will be available to all iCloud users. In spite of all of these great features, however, MobileMe users will lose some features previously available to them. Individuals who previously synced system preferences and applications with MobileMe will no longer be able to do so. Furthermore, iCloud does not offer an email address, nor the ability to publish web sites.

As Apple’s cloud offering gains clout in the technology world, many other companies that already provide cloud-based service have been catapulted to the spotlight. Many of these companies provide similar functionalities as those provided by Apple. Furthermore, their immediate availability is of particular interest to those who’d like to begin utilizing such services immediately.

Amazon CloudDrive vs. iCloud

One of the biggest companies to announce cloud-based services is Amazon. Better known for its massive online shopping destination, Amazon has begun expanding itself into the technology market in recent years, with such developments as the Kindle eReader. The Amazon CloudDrive is a major competitor of the Apple cloud platform, and is already available to consumers.

Just like the Apple’s new system, the Amazon CloudDrive offers 5 GB of free storage to all users, with additional storage available at the cost of $1 per GB, per year. Pricing for additional storage on the iCloud is not yet available. The iCloud offers a music-streaming application that allows users to play the audio files in their digital database, and is available on any device that supports Adobe Flash. While the Apple cloud system is available to both Mac, iOS5 and Windows users, however, functionality is limited for those using Windows.

  • Both provide 5 GB of free storage and the option to upgrade for additional storage.
  • Amazon CloudDrive is available for all devices that support Adobe Flash; iCloud offers fully functionality only for iOS 5 devices and Mac users
  • Amazon CloudDrive is managed through a browser-based protocol, whereas the iCloud syncs with applications in the background.

Google vs. iCloud

Google has also released its own offering in the world of cloud-based services. Unlike the Amazon CloudDrive and the iCloud, Google offers different storage quotas for each area of storage available. For example, users can store up to 1 GB each of Google Documents and Picasa files. 7 GB of general storage are offered free of charge, and additional storage up to 16 TB can be purchased. The Google Music Beta allows users to upload up to 20,000 songs from their personal libraries.

  • Offers 7 GB of general storage, and 1 GB each for Google Documents and Picasa files; iCloud offers 5 GB of free storage.
  • The Google cloud can be accessed by any device with a web browser; Full-functionality for the iCloud is only offered to iOS 5 and Mac users.
  • The Google Music Beta allows up to 20,000 songs to be uploaded; Apple iCloud offers immediate storage of all iTunes purchases, and the ability to match existing music in the cloud for a fee.

Dropbox vs. iCloud

Finally, Dropbox is another popular cloud service that has gained popularity in the past year. Dropbox offers a desktop client that can sync files with the server, or it can be managed through a web browser. Dropbox offers 2 GB of free storage, and also has a music player for audio files uploaded to the cloud. Further storage space can be purchased, for a fee.

  • Dropbox offers 2 GB of free storage; iCloud offers 5 GB of free storage.
  • Dropbox operates through a desktop client or a web browser; iCloud acts invisibly in the background.
  • Dropbox offers a music player for uploaded audio files; iCloud automatically syncs purchased music to the cloud.

Web users have many different storage options available to them. Whether they prefer options like Amazon CloudDrive and Dropbox that act as digital storage lockers, or are looking for a service like the iCloud that invisibly syncs content as it is created or purchased is a matter of personal preference. One thing important to remember is that it can be difficult to keep all of your files organized and keep contact management under control.

One great service that allows such management is the critically acclaimed Scrubly service. This service removes duplicate files from your many different contacts and address books, allowing freelancers to be more productive and organized. Another great feature Scrubly offers is the ability to fix formating errors in contact information.

Regardless of your specific cloud needs, the plethora of options means finding something that works for you should be a piece of cake. Armed with a contact management service like Scrubly, and a cloud service that keeps your files safe and sound, you’re ready to conquer productivity in one fell swoop. Cloud services help keep you better organized and more productive, making them a freelancer’s dream.


While iCloud is useful for online storage, up Next: “Microsoft’s Newest Cloud Offering, Office 365”

Weed out your Business and Increase Productivity!

 Increase Business Productivity by Weeding!


While most economists agree that the worst of the recession is now over, many small businesses are still reeling from its effects. If you have been fortunate to survive the latest downturn, your business’ productivity may still not be where you would like it to be. Ready or not, change has come to the business world and to be ready for the pending upswing of business, it is time to start weeding out the unnecessary things.

Find the Weeds to Pull

You may already realize that your overhead is too high or that expenses are reaching well above your income level. To help bring these expenses down, a little pulling of the weeds may be needed. Just like with your garden, the biggest problem with weeding your business is determining what is a weed and what is a flower. To help you with this, start asking yourself “What if your business went without …..?”. You can fill in the blank with any number of things in your business like, supplies, vendors, supplies and employees.

The most difficult one of these issues to deal with is employees because no one likes to eliminate jobs but sometimes it is necessary. New technology has allowed employers to get more work done with less employees. For example, new applicant tracking software can cut down the workload by creating an efficient method for recruiting and hiring new employees. This helps businesses hire the right people without needing the large amount of staff hours.

Grass Can Grow, Once the Weeds are Gone

If you do not take care of your grass properly, the weeds can choke the grass and take over your lawn. This can be true for your business too, if you do not take care of it properly. Holding on to unnecessary things will only crowd out your business, tie up resources and prevent your business from growing. A business, whose weeds have been pulled, is able to grow and flourish as it should.

No one likes to weed, but once it is done it provides a beautiful lawn. This process of eliminating things, especially jobs is difficult but necessary if you want your business to succeed. Take your time to ensure that you pull out only weeds and leave the grass behind because once it is completed your business can be even more successful. In just a short time, the economy will be on its way back up and if you want your business to be ready, now is the time to start pulling the weeds.


Another aspect of increased productivity in your business is considering cloud storage. Up Next: “Is iCloud any Different than MobileME?”
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Keeping Your Intellectual Capital & Utilizing Your Older Staff

 Retaining Intellectual Capital and Seasoned Staff

intellectual capital

The aging work force of America has grown in recent years, and this has made a huge impact on businesses. As large numbers of baby boomers are retiring, the amount of intellectual capital that businesses have is shrinking. Although underestimated, intellectual capital has the knowledge and skills that younger workers may not have or have overlooked. These workers have the technical skills, the background knowledge of the industry or company, and the knowledge of the history and evolution of a product or service. These workers carry with them valuable information and maintain valuable contacts that are essential to a business.

In this budget conscious time, employers are laying off or giving early retirement to those who make the most: the intellectual capital. Without intending to, these companies are ridding themselves of their most valuable asset. Some experts have nicknamed this as “brain drain” or “knowledge collapse”. Although in the short-term the company will save capital by replacing high salaries with lower entry salaries, the long-term effects are costly and potentially devastating. Imagine the top sales rep leaving with all of his contacts and relationships, and a new sales rep stepping in to take over. With no knowledge of the personal relationships, this could be a disaster. Many retirees do not take the time to write down everything they know to pass along to the next guy. Additionally, the number of people entering the work force is significantly lower than those retiring, which can cause a long-term money drain on a company. With fewer candidates, higher salaries can be demanded with large sign-on bonuses. Very soon it becomes clear that it would have been less costly to keep the older employees rather than forcing early retirement.

Using What You Have

As an employer, it can be confusing in how to handle this shift in employees. Several options are available for employers to help ease this transitional period without causing damage to the company.

Most importantly, employers need to analyze what information needs to be passed to the new employees. Organizing this information in an easy to use database, preferably searchable, will ensure that all employees can access what they need quickly, without frustration. Although this seems simple, keep in mind that employees sometimes keep knowledge to themselves to remain valuable to the company. The mindset is if you are the only employee that knows how to do something, you are less likely to be downsized. It is vital to ask yourself if you reward your employees for sharing, or do you run a more private information shop. Leaning to the information sharing route will make this transition relatively easy.

It is also important to periodically review your existing situation and analyze if you are ready for anyone critical to the operation to leave. How long will replacing that person take? Does that person hold the information vital to your organization to themselves or is it readily available? Those are a few of the questions to ask before making a plan.

Not To Overlook

  • Baby boomers are changing the face of retirement. Many boomers plan on working through their retirement, whether it be full-time or part-time. As an employer, look at retaining some of these workers, or even recruiting them for part-time positions.
  • Analyze your workplace culture. Are the efforts of your older workers rewarded, do they get projects, are they treated fairly in comparison with the younger workers? Be sure to not engage in age discrimination, even unintentionally.
  • Flexibility is the key to retention. Many retirees want to continue to work, but do not want the long hours or rigid time constraints. Try new schedules or ideas with these boomers to keep them on your team.

Phased retirements are an attractive option for both employees and employers. Consider taking on some of the retirees as contractors, giving them the freedom to work with flexibility and less pressure. Restructuring, such as flex time employees or job sharing can offer retirees another option. This also can help keep young talent with your company as well. If a company shows that they are willing to work with their situations, the talent will be more likely to stay with that company. Another option is to offer your part-time retirees benefits. Many are willing to take lower salaries in exchange for better benefits.

Other Ways to Succeed:

  • Make a plan for those potential retirees. Find ways to offer them a plan that will retain the information and the employees themselves on terms that work for everyone.
  • Actually run the numbers and figure out which is more beneficial to the company: keeping an older employee or hiring a new one. Be sure to include all factors.
  • Recognize that a wide range of ages in your workforce means diversity.
  • Acknowledge all factors in aging. Everyone’s personal aging is different based on their circumstances, and thus some older workers are in better health than younger ones and take less days off for their health.
  • Allow older workers to engage in training sessions. Let them teach when appropriate, and if not appropriate, have them train with the younger staff. Refresher courses never hurt!
  • When creating teams, put younger and older workers together to allow sharing of knowledge.
  • Make the workplace friendly for the aging, keeping in mind that aging sometimes means hearing and vision changes. Also keep in mind that joint and back problems can be prevalent in aging, so provide ergonomic furniture and workspaces.
  • When recruiting older persons for volunteer positions, give them duties relative to their talents. Don’t just have them answering phones, give them leadership roles as well.
  • Find agencies that can help employ aging workers and can allow businesses to circumnavigate the tangled rules of Social Security and Retirement Acts.

With the retirement of so many baby boomers, businesses need to be aware of strategies to retain the intellectual capital needed. Long-term effects must be examined in order to view the whole picture of what impact these losses can create. Keep in mind that passing the office to the younger workers does not necessarily mean that the knowledge is passed as well. Using the above strategies can help retain the intellectual capital of businesses and be a major factor in the betterment of the economy.

Up Next is a guest article by Chase Smith of www.chasingproductivity.com “How to Stay Positive& Productive”
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