Cloud computing provides greater flexibility for your company. Your employees are no longer limited to a physical location and you have greater opportunity to support the demands of an expanding mobile workforce. If you are currently using Sage 100 ERP (formerly Sage ERP MAS 90, 200, and 200 SQL) or Sage 300 ERP business management software you can be accessed anywhere, anytime with an internet connection inside the Aktion Cloud.
Register for this free half-hour webinar presented by Aktion Cloud & Managed Services and learn how you don’t have to replace your business-critical Sage software to start you’re cloud journey today.
The construction industry relies on unique resources and programs to run their operations. Time is money in any business, but it proves especially true in construction, with these industry-specific IT requirements.
Join Aktion for this 30-minute educational webinar about preventing costly downtime and the advantage that managed services can give your company.
More and more wholesale distributors are moving to the cloud to meet the demands of an expanding mobile workforce. People don’t want to be restrained to a physical location or a desktop anymore.
By taking advantage of cloud technology critical business applications like Infor A+, Infor FACTS, and Infor SX.e can be accessed anywhere, anytime with an internet connection. Find out how general wholesalers and specialty wholesalers alike can increase productivity, improve team collaboration, and help drive business towards new levels of growth and competitiveness.
Register for this free half-hour webinar presented by Aktion Cloud & Managed Services and learn how you don’t have to replace your Infor Distribution ERP to start you’re cloud journey today.
More and more people are adopting aspects of cloud technology in both their personal and professional lives. But what if you were able to take all of your on-premise servers to the cloud? Would your network be ready? Join us for a webinar to find out how your business can make the most of the move to the cloud.
More and more construction businesses and building professionals are moving to the cloud to meet the demands of an expanding mobile workforce. People don’t want to be restrained to a physical location or a desktop anymore.
By taking advantage of cloud technology critical business applications like Sage 100 Contractor, Sage 300 CRE, and Sage Estimating can be accessed anywhere, anytime with an internet connection. Find out how contractors and project managers alike can increase productivity, improve team collaboration, and help drive business towards new levels of growth and competitiveness.
Register for this free half-hour webinar presented by Aktion Cloud & Managed Services and learn how you don’t have to replace your Sage software to start you’re cloud journey today.
Successful businesses everywhere are discovering the advantages of using cloud technology to simplify workflows, reduce the complexity of the IT infrastructure at the workplace, and to increase the productivity of every user. In order to fully capitalize on the benefits of offloading certain IT functions to the cloud, every network should be optimized for performance and reliability as the connection to the cloud becomes even more critical to successful outcomes. Join Aktion Associates for a discussion of how your business can be best prepared for digital transformation and how to take advantage of the best of both the private and public clouds.
Businesses of all types and sizes find themselves relying more and more on technology. To stay functional, every modern company needs some type of IT assistance. Running a company is challenging enough without dealing with constant technology headaches. But once you decide you’re ready to hand off some or all of your IT responsibility to a managed services provider, how do you figure out who to talk to when there are so many choices? It can be daunting to evaluate and select the right technology partner for your business.
Below are three key characteristics to consider when deciding on a managed services provider.
1: Industry Expertise
Start by checking potential MSPs to be sure they’re familiar with your industry. So many generic MSPs really aren’t able to address industry-specific problems that might arise. With industry expertise comes knowledge of the ins and outs of your technology. This means knowing what requirements a particular piece of software needs to operate smoothly or which upgrades are necessary in order continue business as usual. The goals should be to keep your infrastructure healthy and eliminate downtime. When you partner with an MSP that knows the platforms your business runs, you gain confidence in the health of your technology.
2: Responsive Hotline Support
This builds upon the previous point, in that industry expertise is also extremely valuable in a hotline support team. A team of technology experts who can answer your calls quickly and efficiently should be another key factor in your evaluation of MSPs. Not all help desks are created equally, and unfortunately some businesses find themselves getting used to long wait times and speaking with people who can’t directly address their issues.
A good technology partner brings a full bench of support to every customer support issue. Whether a request is best resolved by a network engineer, an application consultant, or a software engineer, this program ensures that the appropriate resource is assigned to you. Be sure your new MSP has a proven case management and escalation protocol for timely and efficient issue resolution.
3: Remote Monitoring
Active monitoring and management of your system will keep it running smoothly. Remote monitoring items can include a cloud environment or server hardware, operating system status, and network performance. An MSP can also give you additional support such as database troubleshooting related to system uptime. You also might ask the providers if they can give you timely notice of developing issues, provide security, and perform regular system maintenance.
Providers now need to be able to offer a multi-layered approach to ensure each customer’s success. As with any partnership, you want to be positive the MSP you choose fits your needs and understands your overall business goals.
Because Aktion excels at each point listed above, we believe that these unique qualities set us apart from the competition. Our experience as a technology provider focused on the construction, distribution and manufacturing industries gives our customers complete technology peace of mind. Our goal is to protect your technology, both primary business applications and the platform that they run on.
If you’d like to discuss Aktion’s Managed Services features and benefits, please reach out and I’d be happy to get you started on your Managed Services journey.
What we learned from the new normal
Aktion has always had a good balance of employees who have worked in a traditional office and those who work at home. A large majority of our sales and application consultants already work from a home office and many employees split their time between the two. COVID-19 changed how we approached this balance. It shed some light on some of our strengths as a mobile organization as well as some new perspectives about ourselves as we moved to a full work from home paradigm – insights that we wanted to share.
As an IT organization, we set up every system with a robust level of security measures to avert spam, malware and cyber-attacks. Our staff is trained on identifying attacks during our on-boarding process. Each employee is issued IT equipment in the form of Notebooks for the just-in-case moments. While in the office, they are augmented by external docking stations, multiple monitors, external keyboards and mice for convenience and productivity purposes. The Notebooks are built with full capabilities – built-in WiFi, microphones and cameras. These integrated features allowed us to stay connected and productive, even if lacking the convenience and greater functionality that can be found in external webcams and headsets.
Aktion also uses Voice over IP (VOIP) phones with a Cloud-based PBX. The phone system allows for easy installation. Once your IT department has configured the desk phone unit, all you need is power and internet connection for a surprisingly simple and effective way to make the home office feel as connected as a brick and mortar office.
To stay connected during the day, Aktion uses MS Teams for instant messaging between staff members and in groups. As we developed a new work from home strategy, we learned how to use its powerful collaboration capabilities such as integrated SharePoint sites for file sharing, team calendars, conversation boards, and integrated online meetings with shared notes – a new version of the traditional conference room collaboration.
We thought we had it all in place and that we could go without the office conveniences that we had become accustomed to using regularly. As quarantine progressed, we learned some new things about what it really meant to work from home.
For starters, we realized that not all of our staff have the right space and peripherals to take advantage of their notebook computer at home. Not everyone has the luxury of a dedicated home office that is ready to connect – and many of us who forgot that extra keyboard and monitor in the office, found that working from a laptop alone can be less than optimal. The transition to a longer stretch of working from home highlighted the inconvenience of working from only the laptop screen and touchpad for some users. And that Voice over IP (VOIP) phone, yeah, many of us forgot to bring that home too. Ensuring that everyone has the right peripherals (or a plan to transfer them from the corporate office) BEFORE the unexpected occurred would have been highly beneficial in the long run.
As web meetings became more and more the norm for communications, holes in our capacity became clear. For starters, not all employees were issued external headsets with a microphone. Many who had been issued this equipment did not have it properly configured for connection to their computer, only to their desk phone. Many of us didn’t realize that the headset would be a critical item for online meetings.
While we all used one universal form of conferencing – not every organization that we interact with uses that same system. Many online meetings were stalled as one or another member wrestled with audio and video connections. Countless meetings were joined with the computer and phone dial-in – creating challenging echo effects and distractions. In some situations, the microphone placement resulted in loud background noise, and in others it was obvious that a post-it note or similar had been taped over a participant’s camera instead of them simply deactivating it. Overall a loss in productive meeting time occurred as these issues were resolved. We learned that all our employees need training on both equipment integration and multiple online meeting tools on the front end to help in this area as it became much more a part of our day-to-day workflow.
So, while we had all the security measures and capabilities in place for our employees to work from home, we learned a lot about our abilities to use our equipment outside of the old norm. Through our experience, we developed some recommended solutions to the challenges we encountered and have been able to share those experiences with our customers more and more frequently. In the new normal, we (and our customers) will be better equipped for whatever next life-altering event hits our businesses.
Office 365 vs Microsoft 365. How do you know which is the right choice? As a Qualified Multi-Tenant Hoster (QMTH) with Microsoft, Aktion is able to offer our customers the use of certain Office 365 subscriptions in the Aktion Cloud. This is a great benefit, as many Aktion Cloud users need Office in their hosted environment. Prior to our QMTH status those customers frequently had to pay for separate subscriptions for this. Now, many of those customers use the same Office 365 subscription for both their workstation and their Aktion Cloud profiles.
Several of the Enterprise Office 365 subscriptions, as well as all of the Microsoft 365 subscriptions, are eligible for this licensing right, called Shared Computer Activation (SCA). The Office 365 Business products are generally not, with one exception – a subscription bundle called Microsoft 365. Microsoft’s naming conventions for these products have caused a lot of confusion, and we’d like to help clear some of that up. See below for more detailed descriptions of the Office 365 and Microsoft 365 products.
Far and away more widespread than the newer Microsoft 365 bundle, Office 365 is the original Microsoft Office subscription. It comes with common Microsoft Office applications like Outlook, Word, Excel, and PowerPoint with cloud features like OneDrive. Additional options can add hosted Exchange mailboxes, threat protection, archiving, and more. There are also subscriptions available for additional applications like Project or Visio. Depending on number of users and required features, an organization can select Office 365 subscriptions from one of the two main categories described below (or both: product mixing is allowed). There are also some specific plans for Non-Profits, Government use, and Educational institutions, but we will not explore those here.
Office 365 Business is designed for the Small to Medium Business (SMB) market. Generally more cost effective than the Enterprise plans, the Business plans (Essential, Business, and Business Premium) offer a nice range of core features but come with some limitations, as well. Primarily, the Business plans are limited to 300 users, and do not include Shared Computer Activation (SCA) rights – making them ineligible for use within an Aktion Cloud Services environment.
For those businesses who require a different level of functionality, Microsoft offers the Office 365 Enterprise family of subscriptions (ProPlus, E1, E3, and E5). These plans are focused on some of the features required by larger organizations, have options focused on meeting compliance requirements and more automated roll-out. Most of these plans (except E1) also include the SCA rights – which means they can be used in an Aktion Cloud Services environment.
Microsoft 365 (M365) is a bundling Office 365, Enterprise Mobility and Security (EMS), and Windows 10 licensing. This makes it a great choice for a Windows 7 upgrade path where needed. The Widows 10 license also works for Virtual Desktops in Microsoft Azure. Additionally, all the Office 365 versions included with Microsoft 365 come with the Shared Computer Activation licensing rights mentioned above. Microsoft 365 subscriptions belong to one of three categories: Business, Enterprise, and Education (we won’t cover Education here).
The Microsoft 365 Business plan is designed for SMB deployments. It includes Office 365 Business, and some EMS and Intune (Microsoft’s Mobile Device Management solution) features. Like the Office 365 Business products, Microsoft 365 Business may not have more than 300 users. They also don’t support any sort of group policy. This subscription also includes an upgrade for Windows 7 Professional or Windows 8.1 Pro to Windows 10 Pro.
Microsoft 365 Enterprise subscriptions are based off the Office 365 Enterprise plans, E3 and E5, and come with Office ProPlus. Additional features offered include Advanced Threat Protection, more fully featured versions of EMS and Intune, and other Enterprise focused options.
Office 365 vs Microsoft 365 is all about choosing the right solution for your business.