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Living on Microsoft Teams

by Nicki Dowsett in Disaster Planning, General, Helpdesk, IT Support, Microsoft, Microsoft Teams, MPR IT Work, networking, Office 365, Remote working, Software, Training, Uncategorised

Microsoft Teams was originally launched in March 2017 as a planned replacement to Skype for business. By March 2020, Microsoft Teams was used daily by 44 million people. One month later, much of the world was in lockdown and the number of daily users dramatically increased to over 75 million users.

The chances are that, as your team has been working across multiple locations, you have been using Microsoft Teams in your business. We don’t need to tell you that it is predominantly used for instant chat messaging, voice and video calls between employees and customers or suppliers.

MPR and Microsoft Teams

Since March 2020, with staff working remotely initially, and now with a limited staff level physically in the office and others still remote, Teams has been a vital tool in keeping everyone connected.

Daily morning and end of day meetings take place to check everyone is well and to discuss the activity taking place. Whilst some members were furloughed an end of week meeting was put in place to have a general catch up and keep in touch with everyone. In addition to regular group chat to ask questions and the occasional ‘Dad’ joke from team members.

As someone that has worked remotely for the last 6 years with MPR IT, I can honestly say that with the regular meetings and chat I feel more connected to the company and my colleagues in other departments. Previously, I would drop an email or quick call to someone when I needed something now, I see them all daily instead of 3 or 4 times a year when I would normally visit the office.

Click here for a Quick Start Guide to Microsoft Teams or to see the full range of training videos and resources see the Microsoft Teams website. In the meantime, here are a few features we have found to be helpful.

Video Calling Backgrounds

When making a video call to your clients or colleagues you may not want your background to be on display and be looking for a more professional image. Microsoft Teams offer a couple of options to overcome this problem

Blurred background – to avoid people in your video call seeing your homework space, or other people walking around the office you can blur out the background so that only you are on screen.

Virtual Background – a step up from the blurred background is to set up a virtual screen. If you are meeting with clients on video call or in a networking event, choosing a virtual background with your company logo can be more professional than you home or office background.

This can be activated in just a few simple steps: 

  • Generally, you should find the option under your audio and video settings as you start or join a meeting 
  • Click on settings 
  • Check under options 
  • Look for an option to blur your background or choose an image and click on it  

Group videos and Conferencing

Teams Live Events – Microsoft Teams can host meetings from 1-10,000 participants depending on your subscription and you IT Infrastructure. With many networking events, conferences or seminars moving to virtual events you can still easily reach your audience. Within a meeting you can also create individual rooms for different speakers allowing people to more around within the event.

Live Captions – Adding live captions to your meeting can be beneficial for people with different levels of language understanding or for anyone with hearing difficulties. Simply click on the 3 dots in the middle of your screen and speak slowly and clearly into you microphone and the words will appear as subtitles on the screen.

Sharing screens and content -ability to share content or PowerPoint presentations with your audience. This is a feature that has been available on many video conferencing services for many years. Simply click on the share tray and choose the application you wish to share.

Recording and transcribing video meeting – Capture audio, video, and screen-sharing activity by recording your Teams meetings. Automatic transcription allows you to play back meetings and search for important discussion items in the transcript.

Follow up – After your event or meeting you can easily share your recording, files and content and chat with attendees as well as being able to reschedule the next meeting. When all linked together it easy to review previous notes and recording all in one place.

Collaborative Tool

Microsoft Teams is much more than a communication tool, it has many additional features making it an all-round collaborative tool. With many additional apps that can be incorporated to share and edit content, plan projects, connecting with your CRM, social media channels, email platforms and live chat on your website. Additional apps are easily accessed through the main Team’s page.

If you would like to discuss Office 365, SharePoint or Microsoft Teams for your business in more detail please contact us on 0800 030 20 30

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Out of Office Housekeeping

by Nicki Dowsett in Disaster Planning, Disaster Recovery, General, Hardware, Helpdesk, IT Support, IT Systems, MPR, MPR IT Work, networking, Server cabinet

Looking After Your IT During Lockown

Many offices are much emptier than usual with people working from home and it probably feels very surreal. It’s much the same here at MPR IT, many of the team are working hard from home to provide continued support to our customers.

For remote working sessions to continue to the best of network capability we are recommending a few ‘Out of Office House Keeping’ tasks. These should be carried out when anyone visits the office to collect post or a random forgotten folder and will help to keep your IT (and business) running.

Server Room Temperature

The temperature in your server rooms is kept low to ensure that machines do not overheat and stop working. Whilst we have monitoring systems to check that servers are running well, we unfortunately cannot monitor the temperature. If your air-conditioning fails the fans will kick in but will ultimately blow hot air around causing the machines to overheat. Whenever anyone visits the office please ask them to check the air-conditioning is still working and that the temperature is at the recommended level.

Warning Lights or Alarms

Please inspect the servers to check for any warning or unexpected lights. If you do notice anything unusual please take a photo of the issue and email it to support@mpr-it.co.uk and we will check this for you. With the recommendation to stay at home, to keep everyone safe we would like to avoid site visits if possible, photos or videos of the issue will help our team to diagnose the problem.

Back Up Systems

Checking that your back up storage is doing its job could be one of the most important things. Should there be a failure to the servers your back up will be invaluable in restoring your data and keeping your business running.

For customers with monitoring as part of their contract we will be continuing to monitor as normal, however these housekeeping tasks should additionally take place where possible.

If you currently do not have monitoring as part of your contract with MPR IT and would like to consider this please contact our Sales team on 0800 030 20 30 option 2.

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Rural Broadband in 2017

by Nicki Dowsett in broadband, cabinets, Engineers, fibre optics, networking, point to point wirless, rural broadand

Government pledge to improve rural broadband

The government has made a pledge that by the end of 2020 every home and business in the UK will have the right to demand a minimum of 10mgb broadband.  It has also promised that by the end of this year (2017) 90% of the UK will have a mobile signal.  Some rural parts are still cut off from the internet and mobile signal in 2017.  I was shocked when I discovered that 1.4million homes and business in the UK still receive nowhere near this level of service.  Are you one of the people that, in some parts of the country are still subjected to dial up connection?  I vaguely remember the sound when connecting to the internet of high pitch squealing & it sends shivers down my spine. Living in an urban area I can safely say that I get super fast broadband at 70mgb, & 4G service on my mobile.

Broadband in our daily life

As a mother, and someone that works fro home my life would be so much different without fast broadband.  For example I would not be able to work from home to suit my childcare needs.  Or be able to help my son do his homework.   I often try to explain to my 5yr old that he doesn’t know how good he has it.  When I was child we had 4 channels and if we were good, we got a trip to the video shop at the weekend. We didn’t have the option to flick through the latest films or TV shows  available to download.  So many people still don’t have this luxury, that I and many others take for granted.

Urban V Rural Life

If you are reading this and think well that can’t possibly be the case, you will be surprised as I was.  One of our directors lives only 10 miles from Ashford, Kent.  He has fibre broadband in his house, for all the good that means.  Due to the distance from the local cabinet he gets 2mgb speed.  He doesn’t have the option to stream TV content simply because his broadband is not quick enough, and struggles with checking emails or working from home.

With more and more people looking for a different lifestyle and commuting to work in towns and cities this is becoming more of an issue. We all know that many are already struggling with the issues on train travel in the South East.   Many of these commuters quite often don’t have the option to work from home on the days when the trains aren’t running.  So whilst the idea of working in a city and living in the country was for a better work/home balance this isn’t always the case.

It’s not just homeowners in rural areas that are suffering

Small businesses are also struggling, unable to compete against larger corporations.  In this day and age you should be able to run a business from anywhere in the country no matter your skills or trade.  Many people run businesses from home offices or  a unit on a farm, whether it’s making furniture or running a virtual office assistant, broadband speed is paramount – customers want to look at websites and make contact by email, not pick up a phone. It’s just the way people expect to communicate today.

It is also affecting the younger generation as well.  I am really impressed with the ICT set up in my son’s school.  It’s surprising how much the internet can play a part in the school day.  If he was at a school in a rural area would he get the same benefits as a town school?  It’s very possible that some schools in rural areas have very limited connection.  So if we look at the future this lack of broadband in rural areas is also affecting our future workforce, as technology is everywhere in the workplace.

Working with Rural businesses

Here at MPR IT this is something we take extremely seriously, and hope that it doesn’t take another 3 almost 4 years for the government pledge to be completed.   Many of our customers are based in rural areas, and we have worked with a number to improve their broadband speed and connectivity to help their business. With our experienced and qualified engineers in fibre optic cabling and point to point wireless, MPR IT will ensure that we can evaluate the best possible solution for you.  See our case studies on point to point wireless and fibre optic cabling for more information on work we have carried out.  If you are suffering slow connection, don’t sit and wait for the government pledge by 2020 contact us to see how we can help you now & discuss your options to improve your business & home connections.

BBC’s Countryfile

BBC’s Countryfile recently included a report on how many parts of the country that do not have broadband.  A farmer trying to complete his tax returns or get the latest farming news from the Government was struggling with 42kb speed and as the phone lines where he lived were not always reliable even this couldn’t be relied on.  Meaning that after a frustrating 45 mins he still could not check emails for the camping side of his business.  This meant that he missed out on potential bookings and enquiries for people to pay and stay at his farm in the summer months.  I looked into this further and found another clip also by Countryfile from 2013 highlighting the same issues.  In the earlier clip it showed very similar stories and how peoples live were affected.  With rural high street banks and post offices closing, it is expected that people will use the internet for these services, when in fact these are the areas that don’t have the broadband to support these services. Nothing has changed much in the intervening years.

Both episodes, it highlighted how people living in these rural areas were trying to overcome the issues. In one a cop-operative of farmers were digging trenches in their own fields to have cables laid and cabinets installed to connect their properties and businesses, in the other it showed how the installation of point to point wireless portals could be installed on the side of a property to collect the radio waves from a radio mast 6 miles away.  In principal this is the best option without the need to lay cables and install cabinets, however there can be environmental factors which can affect your choice of how to improve your internet connection.

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