PTG specializes in the delivery of IT services with a focus on business continuity, virtualization, and storage solutions to support your line-of-business and communication applications. Our implementation services are centered around IT and business best practices, gleaned from years of working in the industry and from well-established vendor partnerships.
Recently, Microsoft introduce a new presentation building app called Sway (read our introductory blog post here or view our Sway about Sway here). An obvious first question is “why would Microsoft introduce a new presentation building app when they already have PowerPoint?” The answer – because not all presentations are created equal.
While there are some definite overlaps, Sway presentations PowerPoint presentations are built differently, look different and serve different purposes.
Here is our breakdown of the differences:
What is it and what can I create?
Presentations. Sway is the newest presentation creation tool from Microsoft.
Presentations – and more. Powerpoint is the most popular presentation creation software around and that’s still it’s primary function. But it can also be used to do things like create images for social media and create video (especially when you add Mix).
Where does it live?
Sway is entirely online. Presentations are created and viewed in your browser or can be accessed with the free mobile app.
Powerpoint is primarily a desktop application. With Office 365, you can get an online version with limited features. You can also access Powerpoint with the free mobile app.
There are a few different ways you can add content to Sway.
You can upload content (like a Word Document) directly to Sway and let it build the bones of your presentation for you.
Sway supports OneDrive, so you can add content you’ve saved there – including graph you’ve made in Excel Online.
You can pull in web content. From within Sway, you can search Bing and pull in content directly from sites like Wikipedia, Youtube and Flickr. Or you can search Twitter and pull embed Tweets directly into Sway. Or use SoundCloud to embed audio.
You can let it suggest content for you. Sway will take your content into account and make suggestions for other content to add.
New types of content and new ways to add them to your presentation are constantly being added. Check the Office 365 blog for the latest Sway news.
You can manually add a wide variety of content to the presentation. Content you can add includes (but is not limited to): text, images, photo albums, pictures, charts and graphs (which you can create from within Powerpoint), audio and video, equations, screen recordings (which you can record from within Powerpoint), and objects (like full Word docs or Excel spreadsheets).
Designing your presentation
Compared to Powerpoint, your design options in Sway are limited. There are several templates with customizable colors (with more in the works to be added soon) to choose from. You can choose between horizontal or vertical scrolling. Your options are pretty limited, though.
The templates are built to look like one continuous page with different sections, so scrolling is a big part.
The best way to really customize your Sway is by using images. Sway is great for handling large images and using your own images as the background. Even though your choices for template are limited, by adding in your own images, you can make your presentation look like your own.
Powerpoint comes with a ton of premade templates or you can design your own. Templates are built around slides. You can add transitions between slides but it’s primarily static content.
Sway has collaboration – meaning you and coworker(s) can work on the same presentation at the same time.
If you only have a desktop version of Powerpoint, only one person will be able edit the presentation at once. If you have Office 365, though, you and coworker(s) can work on the presentation at the same time in both the online and desktop interface.
Sway presentations can be shared a few ways. You can share directly with Facebook, Twitter or with a link. Or you can embed a presentation into a website. You can also control who can see the presentation and revoke access if needed.
Sharing your Powerpoint presentations is dependent on what version you’re using. If you have an Office 365 subscription, you can easily share by email or link. If you’re using a desktop version of Powerpoint that isn’t connected to Office 365, you’ll have to save your presentation and share it via email (or whatever you use to share other types of files).
Anyone can use Sway for free with a Windows Live account. It’s also part of Office 365.
There are no hard and fast rules about when to use Sway vs. when to use Powerpoint. Each has their strengths but ultimately it comes down to how you build your presentation and how it’s being presented. Before deciding which program to use, take a few minutes to evaluate what your content is and who your audience is.
If you are creating a data heavy presentation with charts that you’ll be presenting to an audience, Powerpoint is probably your best bet.
If you’re building a presentation dependent on imagery including a lot of online content or if your audience will be guiding themselves through the presentation, Sway is probably going to work better for you.
I accidentally stumbled across an awesome OneNote feature today – Find Tags.
I have been using OneNote more and more. My increased use is mostly due to two factors:
1) The release of Office Lens app (a free app that allows me to upload photos, documents, even whiteboard screen captures into OneNote). We covered it recently in this blog post.
2) The way OneNote syncs across all my devices – the mobile apps are very feature rich.
Either way – I create a page for each week and keep track of all my To-Dos and projects I am working on. I use the tags feature heavily. Tags allow me to organize my content into things like To Dos, Important Information, Passwords, Projects, Books to Read, even discussions with specific people. OneNote has a list of tags out of the box or you can also customize your own tags.
If you are a heavy OneNote user – your tags can be spread across multiple pages of a notebook or even across multiple notebooks. What if I wanted to find everything I tagged? Luckily, it’s easy to do. On the Home tab of OneNote look for Find Tags:
Then, choose your search scope – everything from a single page to all of your notebooks.
In this example, I am choosing a single notebook.
The result is a single page with all of your tagged items – easily sorted by the tag type!
Your computer is telling you an update is available and you need to restart. How long does it take you to actually restart and install the updates? And, you’re creating an account on a new website – did you use the same credentials that you are using on every other site?
Most of us have been there. It can be easy to get complacent about data security. News stories about data breaches exposing customer data are becoming more and more common. These stories just show how important data security is.
So let’s get back to the basics of keep your data (and your company’s data) safe. There is never a 100% guarantee, but you can save a lot of time and money preventing data compromises by just sticking to the basics:
Do not use the same password for all of your accounts. Most people take the easy way out on this one. But using the same password means a hacker only needs to figure out one password to access all of your accounts.
Make sure you have a good backup of your data and back it up regularly. If you DO get a virus or fall victim to ransomware, you can easily recover your data.
Don’t open an email attachment or click on a link from an unknown sender. And even if you know the sender, be cautious. There is always the chance someone you know has been compromised. This is true for email AND social media. If it’s not something you’d open on email, don’t do it on Facebook, either.
If you’re shopping online, check the validity of the site before you buy. To do this, click on the lock on the toolbar in Internet Explorer.
Do not give out your passwords, even to coworkers. Please ask that they change your password if you need them to access your computer or email without your presence.
Do not store your passwords in an unsecured location. This includes an Excel file on your computer and post it notes under your keyboard. If you need to store your password somewhere, use a secure password manager like LastPass or 1Password.
Keep your computer, phone and tablet up to date. Yes, it can be annoying to restart your computer to do, but these updates often times contain critical security patches.
Lock your computer if you walk away from it. Your IT Company can implement a security policy to lock your computer during idle time after so many minutes. You shouldn’t rely only on this, though. Don’t leave your computer open for anyone who walks by to access.
Use Malwarebytes, or other malware prevention programs, to check your computer for malware. Run these scans on a regular basis and keep the program update to date so you’re protected against the latest threat.
Remember these steps and make it your mid-year resolution to take your data security seriously. It could prevent some serious headaches down the road.
June 11th, 2015 | Category: Security |
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OneDrive, OneDrive for Business and SharePoint – All three programs allow you to store your files in the cloud – but all three have different purposes. Learn the differences and where you should store your files.
Out of all the Office 365 programs, Sharepoint tends to be the most confusing to new users. Two of the most common questions we get are, “How do I get to SharePoint?” and “How does my employee know to go there?” The answer to both is actually pretty simple: the ‘Sites’ page.
You can get to the ‘Sites’ page by clicking the apps launcher at the top left corner of the screen once you’re signed into Office 365. By default, it only lists two items – a ‘Team Site’ and a ‘Public Site’, which works for a simple SharePoint deployment. But updating this page can drastically improve your SharePoint experience.
There are two ways you can customize the interface for your users:
At the admin level, you can customize which tiles are shown to users as links. Here’s how (please note: you must be a SharePoint administrator):
Click the “Manage the promoted sites below” link near the top left of the page.
You’ll be given the option to ‘Add a promoted site’. Complete the form with the necessary information.
Refresh your page and you’ll see the new links.
When you add new links, you change the image – though there are a few parameters:
Site images should be 150×150 pixels. Any other size will result in your image being off-centered and real goofy looking.
If a user doesn’t have permissions to see the image you’re using as a site logo (maybe you stored it in your OneDrive) – they won’t be able to see the image. To keep the permissions simple, store your image in your main site collection’s asset library. By default everyone should be able to view it.
You can also control who can see which links. You can access these permissions in the SharePoint Admin Center ( SharePoint Admin Center > User Profiles > My Site Settings > Manage Promoted Sites > Edit > Target Audiences).
The other option for customizing the sites page is to teach your users to ‘follow’ sites. To follow a site, click on the ‘follow’ button at the top right corner of the screen. Following a site does two important things:
First – it adds a link to your sites page, allowing you to easily access that site.
Second, following a site allows Office 365 to work intelligently for you through Delve. After choosing to follow a site, Delve’s search feature combs through it and determines what documents may pertain to you. If you haven’t used Delve before, read our previous blog post on Delve to see why it’s useful.
Using one or both of these options should make it much easier for your users to access Sharepoint. If you have any questions about using Sharepoint or how to set up a Sharepoint site, please contact us.
The cornerstones of Office 365 are familiar to most of us – Outlook, Word, Powerpoint, etc… but what about those other icons in your portal screen? Let’s explore two of those less familiar programs – Delve and Sway – and how they’re useful.
Delve is a program designed to show you the information important to you. It runs an algorithm in the background (taking into account things like who you regularly email and people you commonly work on documents with) that searches SharePoint, OneDrive, Yammer, and email attachments and displays relevant files in a dashboard.
By clicking on the ‘Delve’ icon once you’re signed into Office 365, you’ll be directed to your dashboard of documents, articles, and pictures based on that information. By default, it will show the information most important to you, but you can also search for a particular topic.
Don’t worry – Delve takes security permissions into account. No one will see your private files (unless you’ve shared it with them) and you won’t see anything you don’t have permission to view.
You can also view the information associated with a particular user in the “People” section. This section displays a quick snapshot of who the person is, how they fit in the organization, what they do, and what they’ve work on recently.
That’s great – but why would I use it?
Right now, the best use for Delve is searching for files and easily accessing files you work on the most. Since it connects to different locations, it’s much more convenient than trying to search your email attachments or your computer manually. If you’ve recently been collaborating with a co-worker on a file and don’t know where they saved it – no problem. Search Delve.
But soon, it’ll be useful for more than just searching for files. Microsoft recently announced it will bring organizational analytics to Delve. You’ll be able to track everything from how long you’re spending in meetings to how teams work together across your organization.
Sway is an app for creating presentations. I know what you’re thinking – I already have Powerpoint, why do I need another program for presentations? With Sway, think more interactive, multimedia presentations and less slide deck – and it’s all online.
The real benefit here is the ease of use. It’s easy to add your own content and supporting materials from a variety of sources (and even have content suggested to you). You can search platforms like Youtube, Twitter and Bing and pull content directly into your presentation. Or Sway can suggest content to you, making building presentations with a variety of content much, much simpler.
Sway, like other Office 365 programs, also allows for real time collaboration. You and your team can be building a presentation together without having to be at the same computer – which can be a life saver for remote employees or anyone who travels.
And because Sway is all online, you’ll never lose your work. Everything you do saves in real time.
Delve is available for Office 365 Enterprise (E1, E3, and E4), Office 365 Education (E1, E3 and E4) and Office 365 Government (E1, E3 and E4). Regardless of which of these Office 365 plans you have, you need to activate the SharePoint Online service and assign users a SharePoint Online license before they can start using Delve. You also have to set up Exchange Online if you want attachments to show up on users’ Home pages in Delve. If you set up Skype for Business, users can start conversations directly from Delve.
Sway will be available to customers (initially in First Release) with subscriptions to the following SKUs: Office 365 E4, Office 365 E3, Office 365 E1, Office 365 ProPlus, Office 365 Business, Office 365 Business Premium, Office 365 Business Essentials, Office 365 OneDrive for Business, Office 365 Small Business, Office 365 Small Business Premium, Office 365 Midsize Business, Office 365 EDU E4, Office 365 EDU E3, Office 365 EDU E1, or Office 365 EDU ProPlus.
It’s not hard to find people glued to a screen in public – whether it’s working in an airport terminal before a flight or checking your email in line at the grocery store. We’re addicted to the convenience of using our devices in public (guilty as charged over here). But that convenience can come at a cost if you’re not careful. Here are a few common threats and how to keep your information safe:
Rogue Access Points
It’s easy to find public Wi-Fi hotspots or a random unsecured hot spot allowing you to connect without authenticating. But these hotspots could easily could be rouge access point (an unauthorized wireless access point set up by a hacker, allowing them to access your information). If the attacker is advanced enough, they can force connect your device if it’s set up to automatically connect to wireless networks.
Let’s take rouge access points out of the picture for a moment. Just the simple use of public Wi-Fi can be dangerous. Publically accessible networks usually aren’t monitored or secured, meaning the guy sitting beside you could be sniffing your internet traffic with a simple tool running in the background (or storing it to look at later). Be careful of the websites you access as they may be spoofed and redirecting your login attempts to those sniffing tools. Every attempt you make with the wrong or right username/password combination may just send you back to a made-up/false error page.
Another common threat is called “Shoulder Surfing,” where the attacker watches over the shoulder of an oblivious user to see what keys they’re pressing. It’s easy to use a cell phone camera to snap photos of a credit card, or take videos of you logging into social media or bank account. Watch out for this in busy public places where you might not normally pay attention to your surroundings while you’re working – think busy airport terminals or coffee shops.
How to Stay Safe
Some of the most common sense practices will make the biggest impact when it comes to staying safe. They may seem like an inconvenience now, but not nearly as inconvenient as dealing with a breach.
Enable encryption on your devices so it scrambles your data. This makes any data captured almost worthless to your attacker. Ensure that every webpage that you log into uses https:// instead of just http://. Even though adding that extra “s” on the end uses SSL encryption, it still does not guarantee safety over public hotspots.
You can also get encryption set up on your email, which protect your emails from being read by anyone other than your intended recipient. This is especially important if your job involves sensitive customer or patient data.
Two Factor Authentication
Several websites, like Paypal, Facebook, and Office 365, provide you with the option of two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication combines something you know (your password) with something you have (your phone or a passkey dongle). If you don’t have both, you can’t log in. We use two factor authentication to secure our desktops, servers, and key applications. It can be annoying if you aren’t used to it, but it’s an essential step to keep our customer data safe.
Make Security a Habit
Try to make these simple steps a habit. Making security a part of your daily routine, along with being aware of your surroundings, will greatly reduce your chances of falling victim to an attack. If you’re interested in more information about ways to keep your company’s data safe (like setting up email encryption), please contact us.
May 21st, 2015 | Category: Security |
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If you are like me, reports are boring. Like it or not, I don’t have a long enough attention span to dig into the details of text based reports. I want a quick snapshot of how we are performing so I can quickly zero in on trends or problem areas.
The key metrics important to our business are:
Customer Satisfaction Survey Results: No surprise here if you have read anything I’ve ever written or spent more than about 5 minutes with me.
Effective Rate by Employee: Since most of our work is fixed fee or under contract, it’s important for us to keep a close eye on our effective rate by team member.
Utilization Rate by Employee: As a services business, our time is our product. Utilization is a measure that we use to determine how much of a team member’s time is spent helping customers vs. administrative time. We shoot for an 80% utilization rate internally.
I used to gather this data in three separate reports that were cobbled together on a fairly complex spreadsheet. It wasn’t real time and, frankly, it was a pain to put together.
About 6 months ago, we moved all of our reporting to a new(ish) product from Microsoft called PowerBI. PowerBI is part of Microsoft’s Office 365 suite. Recently, Microsoft changed the pricing model to make this solution available to most SMBs.
With PowerBI our data sources are connected to the Cloud. You can connect Excel spreadsheets, SQL databases, Google Analytics, GitHub, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and others. All of our data is kept in a SQL server database – so connecting it up was easy. Each night, at midnight, our data syncs up with the PowerBI servers, making the data available to me across any device. There are mobile apps for Phone, iPad, Android, and Windows Phone, meaning I can checking reports even when I’m not at my computer.
Here are a few screenshots (from a PC):
All up Dashboard:
Drill Thru on Customer Satisfaction, with red/yellow/green lights:
Switching our reporting to PowerBI has saved significant time and energy and made it much easier to pinpoint problem areas. If you are interested in more information on how we can help you bring your data to life, feel free to reach out to me.