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News, opinions and updates from the Virtuoso team.

Blog

News, opinions and updates from the Virtuoso team.

Jamie helps our SME customers use technology to improve their businesses. Through research of emerging technologies and industry trends, as well as feedback from client representatives, he is able to recommend tailored solutions which save money, drive efficiency and improve collaboration.

NOV
23

The Cloud - Demystified In Less Than Ten Minutes

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The Cloud

For years ‘the cloud’ has been talked about constantly in business technology circles. And by now you’ll find that most SMB owners are already aware of how cloud computing is transforming the way that companies do business and cuts IT costs. However it’s still a fairly complicated subject if you’re not technically minded and the potential business value of migrating to the cloud might not be that clear.

It might entertain you to know that according to research done by Wakefield research, 54% of SMB’s stated that they had never used cloud technology. And of that 54% it was found that about 95% of them were in fact already in the cloud and had been for years, they just didn’t realise it.

We are going to explain ‘the cloud’ for anyone who perhaps isn’t 100% certain of the details. The cloud is here to stay and the economic benefits make too much sense to ignore.

Put simply, the cloud acts as a storage space. If you imagine your online storage system as a cramped office with files spilling out over the filing cabinets, there is no budget to upgrade offices but it’s becoming chaotic. Then imagine that your building manager offers to rent you an empty filing cabinet in the basement.

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The basement is shared with other tenants who have their own filing cabinets and spaces but only you have the key to yours. You move your files into the basement and suddenly your office is less cramped and running more efficiently. And you can pop to the basement to collect files whenever you need. This is a rough analogy of how the cloud works.

Large businesses have higher IT budgets, which allows them to own a massive internal network infrastructure, but SMB’s often don’t have the budget or support to do this. That’s why the cloud has allowed the playing field to be leveled between small, medium and big businesses. It’s an equalizer in many ways. It gives SMB’s the opportunity to do large-scale business at a lower cost.

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The cloud is more or less a sexy (if you like that kind of thing) buzzword for the Internet. Or at least the next evolution of the Internet. Anyone who has ever used or hosted an email provider like Gmail has stored sensitive data in the cloud, even if they didn’t realize. Cloud-based email hosting was the first and most broadly adopted cloud service used for both personal and professional use.

Use services like Amazon, Netflix, even Facebook and Twitter? You’re part of the public cloud.

The cloud is big. It’s big and its made up of different elements. It has three deployment models, private, public and hybrid.

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Private Clouds are often built by large companies with bigger resourses and deeper pockets than SMB’s. But what has been a game changer for SMB’s is the Public Cloud, public cloud deployments are 100% virtual. This means less hands-on management is required as the infrastructure (hardware, devices, network equipment etc) is all off-premises. And with this an SMB benefits from not having to pay for and manage the hardware, deal with software licensing or updating or pay for empolyees to manage it all.

Cloud migration companies generally offer one of 3 categorised cloud-computing services that are referred to as layers within the cloud. These 3 services are:

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Simply put, the cloud hosts an application for any type of work process that an SMB will need.

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What are the advantages of using the Cloud?

Reduction of costs: Since the cloud works on mass scale computing, onsite physical storage hardware and internal IT staffing are reduced.

Anytime and Anywhere Access: Since data access is no longer restricted to single employees or physical devices, users can share and collaborate in the cloud at any time and anywhere.

Better collaboration: The cloud is available on demand to computers and devices from any location at any point of time, this allows for better faster collaboration between employees, especially as today's workforce is increasingly dispersed.

Faster deployment: Cloud-based services can be deployed within just an hour or a few days rather than the weeks or months it often takes to strategically plan, build and implement an internal IT structure.

Environmental friendliness: The clouds energy efficiency is attractive to any company conscientious about the environment and wanting to be ‘green’. For example, having fewer machines to run is obviously more energy efficient.

Improved security: Many SMB’s cite security concerns as the main reason they are reluctant to move to the cloud, however, there are actually very few data breaches involving cloud providers. Data stored in the cloud may actually be safer than data stored on computers and company servers with an array of security vulnerabilities. Unlike a laptop, the cloud can’t be left behind on a train.

Business Continuity: Data storage and back up is one of the most frequently used cloud-based services amongst SMB’s. Many cloud service providers offer SMB’s unlimited storage capability, automated data sync and back up processes that reduce or eliminate downtime events

Still concerned?

SMB’s who are still uneasy about a move to the cloud can consider cloud monitoring through a local managed service provider (MSP). Cloud monitoring helps SMBs deploy to the cloud with confidence. Cloud monitoring gives the SMB owner around-the-clock end-to-end visibility into the performance of their cloud services and IT infrastructure. Monitoring services offer SMBs proactive monitoring, automated alerts, and full problem resolution support by way of a fully dedicated 24/7 networks operations center (NOC). Cloud monitoring is also carefully monitored with frequent audits to identify and address vulnerabilities.

The continuous analyzing and testing of your network, website and mobile applications can reduce downtime hugely. And cloud monitoring also tests your email server at regular intervals, which minimizes failure deliveries, and other issues that affect sending and receiving emails.

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Concerns about security are still valid but small businesses today may actually be exposing themselves to more breach vulnerabilities by not being in the cloud. The notion that data must be on-site to truly be secure is as misguided as the belief that money is safer tucking beneath a mattress than in the bank.

To see how we can help you with cloud migration visit our website or get in touch for more details

https://www.virtuoso-uk.com/managed-it/it-outsourcing

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OCT
29

How to Successfully Onboard New Employees

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It can always be a major challenge finding the right person to fill a newly vacant position. If you’re the person who has to organize the hiring and subsequent onboarding then there’s a lot more to the work than simply offering the lucky candidate the job and clunking them at a desk with a computer.

A mistake many companies make is thinking that as the candidate has proved themselves suitable through an often gruelling interview process, they will be just fine to be thrown into the position and given minimal supervision, as after all, didn’t they just sell themselves on their quick-learning and adaptability? Employers need to remember that it is THEIR role to ensure that the onboarding process is carried out thoroughly, efficiently and with the proper levels of communication with the new employee(s).

We are going to break down the key parts of the onboarding process and the best practices and key things to remember from each.

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Employee Onboarding

First Steps: Don’t wait for your employee to start before you begin outboarding! There are many things you can do beforehand to help ease the transition and take some of the stress out of the first day. Create a checklist to ensure all documentation that they are expected to fill in is ready for them, and ensure that their manager or colleague are briefed as to the onboarding process and able to answer any questions the employee may have. Make sure that the new employee’s work area is set up and all technical equipment is working correctly and ready to be logged on with a new user. And lastly, it won't hurt to provide the new employee with any reading material about the company that they can read ahead of time to help familiarise themselves with the history of the company and/or the role.

What your new employee checklist should contain:

 

  • A review of company policies.
  • An introduction to their team and key colleagues.
  • A tour of office and workspace.
  • A review of general position information.
  • Assistance getting and setting up equipment, including computers.
  • A review of their upcoming schedule.
  • Ensuring that all necessary forms are filled out.
  • A review of work hours.

 

BONUS: Download a New Employee One-Page Checklist Here

 

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Tech know-how

It can be easy to forget that whilst you and your team may have been using the Super-Mega-CRM-3000 for the last 15 years and are all well versed in its quirks and technical specs, for a newbie it may be completely different to the system they are used to and will take some getting used to. Providing clear and thorough training on using any tools and tech that the role requires will speed up the adjustment process, getting your new employee confidently up and running in no time.

Don’t forget the social side!

When a new person joins your company, obviously the key essentials in ‘orientation’ will include the legal bits and bobs such as contracts, HR documentation, and equipment or tech handover and finance info. However don’t forget that a happy employee is a good employee, with research proving that happy employees are 12% more productive than unhappy ones.

So to ensure that your new employee starts off as a happy one, ensure that they become oriented in the other important aspects of the company such as its values, culture and people. It is important for new employees to be involved in socializing within the company whilst they are receiving training. This will help them feel comfortable and secure within their new position and company and will help them understand more about the different roles within the business and the people that perform them.

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What are the benefits?

It shortens the learning curve. Companies with an effective onboarding process that provide on the job training give new employees a safety net. Starting a new job can be terrifying and as an employee you may find that aspects of the company culture or workload are not quite as you expected. Let alone a new environment, workmates, location… It can really be quite daunting. By providing training for new employees you give them the chance to get to know the company and its workings better and with familiarity comes happiness. And of course, the more training you provide, the quicker the new employee gets up to speed and is confident in his or her new role.

Provides useful feedback

The more training a company does, the quicker and easier it becomes to see how efficient the training program is and thus further refine it. Getting an employee up to speed may take some time in training that the company may feel it doesn’t have enough of, but without feedback the employee can become disengaged and that’s a bad place to start a new working relationship!

Socially integrates new employees

Being the new person at work can be isolating and stressful. Companies must make a conscious effort to introduce new employees to other staff as soon as possible and encourage the working relationship between them where appropriate and relevant. The quicker a new employee feels comfortable with his or her peers, the quicker they will feel comfortable asking for help or offering it if that is the case. Employee engagement and productivity go hand in hand, 22% of employees are less engaged at work because of workplace conflicts.

On-the-job training and providing mentors can prove to be a successful and efficient way of ensuring employee engagement and happiness.

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Finally

So your new employee is clued up on the tech, has met everyone in the office, filled out all the forms and feeling confident and happy to continue work with less supervision. Great stuff! One more thing though… everyone knows that problems and unusual situations can arise with no warning, it is key that you make sure that your new employee knows where to access support when they need it. If they have a mentor that is a great person to provide this level of support and trust for them, as they will hopefully have a long and positive working relationship with them. But also make sure that they have access to resources that they might need for specific tasks that haven’t cropped up yet.

Making sure that you follow a comprehensive and thorough onboarding process can ensure that your new employee integrates into the company quickly and happily.

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OCT
24

10 Office Management Tools That Will Change Your Life

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Whilst the title of 'Office Manager' can often jokingly be referred to as the Jack/Jill of all trades, the fact is that Office Managers really do need to have high levels of organisation, time management and people skills to cope with the workloads that often get dumped upon them.

To be a smart efficacious Office Manager you must be able to handle a range of duties and responsibilities whilst often being called upon to add more tasks to your daily schedule.

What is office management?

Plainly put, Office managers are responsible for managing and improving the logistics and working environment within an office. But it doesn't stop there. Office Managers are repsonsible for organising scheduling, financial assistance, handling all purchases related to office supplies and dealing with external suppliers, as well as being a key support role for the other employees within the office.

A role that requires wearing many hats!

Luckily there are a variety of office management tools and software that are available to assist in this often under-appreciated role. These can save you time and stress.

Here is a list of the top ten office management tools that we believe are the most effective.

1. Asana

1. Asana

Price: Free

Available on iOS / Android / Web

Asana is a great tool for ensuring that workplace productivity is improved. Asana's main function is to improve communication among all employees working across a variety of projects. The app promotes teamwork and gives you many ways to communicate online without getting lost in a web of email chains. Asana helps you keep track of project progress by giving you clear deadlines and a range of 'note-making' abilities. You can assign tasks and subtasks to individuals as well which is particularly useful for project managers wanting to ensure that everyone knows their own responsibilities.

2. Evernote

2. EVERNOTE

Price: Free

Available on: iOS / Android / Web

Evernote is a useful little app that can save time when you are taking notes, whether in a large brainstorming session or in a one-on-one. Evernote users can collect articles, notes and images as well as compile lists. All documents are then easily accessible and with just a click of a button the documents translate into professional screen-friendly formats. Evernote is useful for managers trying to keep track of important tasks that require frequent additions of information.

3. Wunderlist

3. Wunderlust

Price: Free

Available on: iOS / Android / Web

Wunderlist is often described as one of the best to-do list apps out there, available in mobile and desktop, and it's easy to see why. It's simple, efficient and easy to use. It may be a straight-forward list and task manager app without too many bells and whistles but with features such as task-assigning to colleagues and the opportunity to share certain lists with certain users it still is a great tool for list-writers. It also sends push notifications and task reminders for a gentle nudge to complete a task.

4. Hipmunk for Travel

4. HIPMONK

Price: Free

Available on: iOS / Android / Web

It can be difficult enough to organise travel for yourself but when it comes to organising travel for a mixture of in-house, remote and over-seas workers it can be downright stressful. Luckily Hipmunk shows flight and hotel comparison deals from multiple sources and has a super easy to use interface that not only allows you to compare prices but also see on a map where your hotels are quickly and easily.

Hipmunk also lets you buy packages so that you can take care of everything all at once. The key thing in its favour however, is that you can save your searches and finds and come back to them later, giving you time to get financial approving before booking, and the prices won't have shot up in the meantime,

5. Deliveroo

5. Deliveroo

Price: Variable

Available on: iOS / Android / Windows / Web 

Sometimes you need food asap for an impromptu board meeting, or a late night deadline. Deliveroo allows you to order high-quality nutritious meals online from your favourite local restaurants with fast delivery straight to your home or office. They have a handy easy-to-use app and deliver from a range of popular restaurants such as Wagamama, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Zizzi, Byron, and the mighty Meatliquor. So you don't need to resort to greasy takeaways or soggy sandwiches.

6. Dropbox

6. Dropbox

Price: Free

Available on iOS / Android / Web

Similiar to Google Docs, Dropbox is a file-sharing app that lets you share images, documents, videos and more with colleagues across a range of devices. However Dropbox also lets you edit and update files, informs you when a file has been edited and updated by another user and ensures that you have the most updated version whenever you use it. With dropbox you have everything in one place, easily laid out and you can work on files with colleagues without having to endlessly email the most current version back and forth. Dropbox has a range of price tiers but you really get a lot of megabyte bang for your buck in terms of storage.

7. Office 365

7. office365

Price: Variable

  • Available on:  Windows / Android / Web

At its core, Office 365 is the same suite of Office products and services you recognize, now provided through the cloud, meaning hosting will be provided by Microsoft servers and not your own servers. It's a subscription-based service, giving companies easy access to the latest software releases so you’ll always have up-to-date and secure software running.

It includes

  • Email (Exchange/Outlook/Outlook Web App)
  • Storage (OneDrive)
  • Collaboration tools (Skype for Business, Sharepoint)
  • Productivity software (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
  • Fully supported Skype for Business

 

8. Hootsuite

Hootsuite

Price: Variable

  • Available on: iOS/ Android / Web

You may not also have responsibilities for the social media for your company but it's still good to be able to monitor what is being posted on your brand's channels. Hootsuite is a social media scheduling tool where you can schedule posts for over 35 social networks. There are options to track your performance, engage with followers and read what people are saying about your brand. With Hootsuite reports you can see how well each of your posts performs, giving you the edge to turn that data into better content.

Hootsuite has a multiple-user feature which means that as Office Manager you may not want to get bogged down in the nitty gritty of reports and data, but you can still just check in online and keep an over-view of how the socials are performing.

9. Amazon Business

9. Amazon Business

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS/ Android / Windows / Web

In an office, it can be amazing how many people assume that office equipment and products just magically materialise. Of course, if you’re doing your job as Office Manager really well then that’s exactly what’s happening. Ensuring everything is replaced before it runs out. However this is real life and in real life, things come up, you may not have planned for there to be a disaster with the coffee machine and the ten packs of reserve printing paper to now be covered in cold coffee mulch but there you have it. Luckily with Amazon Business you get free two-day shipping and can get those emergency supplies sent straight to you in no time.

As an Amazon Business customer you also have the ability to create multiple accounts making it easy for other employees to purchase items, but also requiring you to approve the charge before it goes through, giving you freedom to assign smaller tasks but still keep an eye on expenditure. You also have access to business only products and pricing.

Basically, Amazon Business is your one-stop shop for all things office-related.

10. Lightshot

10. Lightshot

Price: Free

  • Available on: iOS / Android / Windows

Taking screenshots on your Windows or Mac was never been easier like the Lightshot.

Lightshot is a screen capture tool developed by the Skillbrains which is extremely easy to use for capturing screenshots on your Mac or Windows systems. All you have to do is press the print screen button on your keyboard and select the area that you want to capture.

It will instantly show a number of tools to enhance the capture by adding text, shapes, colors, etc. After making the necessary changes, just save it right from the screen to whatever location you like. To organise and manage the taken screenshots you reach the saved location or create an account on their website.

Lightshot is a very useful tool for easily taking screenshots on your devices. It is lightweight, efficient, and usable by any person who has the basic knowledge of computers. If you are looking for a basic screenshot application without any advanced operations and functions, Lightshot will be the right choice.

Save Time!

These tools will help you keep on top of all of the minutiae tasks that can really add up. It may seem a challenge to work off several different apps but with a little planning and preparation, setting times each day to check on certain apps and add to lists will ensure that your organisation levels are running at an all-time high.

This list covers apps that handle time-management, list taking and even catering, but it's by no means exhaustive - What office management apps do you use to get work done? Do you use any of these apps and can vouch for them? Let us know! We'd love to have your feedback.

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141 Hits
OCT
04

7 Critical Things to Consider When Relocating a Company Office

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It's always an exciting time to be moving to a new office space as usually it means new and improved services, better location and a bit of a fresh start for the employees. However, it can also be one of the most stressful things that a company can go through. A large percentage of companies actually put off the move due to the fear of how stressful it will be, continuing to stay in offices that are inappropriate for their needs.

If you are part of the team responsible for any kind of office relocation there are many important factors to consider to ensure a smooth transition and that disruption to staff and clients is minimised. The good thing is that you are unlikely to have to do this many times in your career! However, this also means that if the time comes it will be a completely new experience and there may be a lot of pressure to ensure that the new facilities meet the current and potential needs of your company.

We've put together a list of the seven essentials factors you need to consider to successfully manage an office relocation project:

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199 Hits
SEP
15

6 Tips For Managing an Office Efficiently

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As an Office Manager, it usually falls on you to keep the office running as efficiently as possible. But when you combine a company of people with different personalities, multiple pieces of office equipment and software media, and a never-ending list of distractions, managing an office efficiently can get a little tricky at times. But all this chaos shouldn’t prevent you. In fact, it should be motivation to keep your office in good form!

If you want to manage an office efficiently and develop your management and leadership skills, here are some office management tips to keep things running easily.

Prepare rather than react.

If you take the time to prepare for your day then you are ready for what happens rather than reacting to the situation when you are in it. Planning for the next day can take some of the stress and guesswork out of your daily life and may help you prioritise tasks more efficiently.

Help yourself out.

  1. Your mind at any one time. Writing lists for each area that you cover can be a useful way to make the day seem less daunting. We love Todoist, which is a simple and easy tool for list-making and checking off.

https://en.todoist.com/

  1. Having a schedule will help with planning the day and prioritising your to-do’s. You’ll be more aware of deadlines and make sure nothing is missed off. Make sure you schedule in some breaks too.

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Set up a filing system that works for you.

Most filing is digital now but you still need to be on top of what is stored and where. If the online system is baffling, figure out a more suitable method of filing and put it into place. Make sure that others understand the system too so that everyone is filing correctly.

Minimalise interruptions.

As an Office Manager, you will undoubtedly be answering a million questions at once whilst trying to keep on top of your regular tasks. Having a schedule will help organise your time and will actually help minimalise interruptions as you will be best placed to deal with queries at certain times according to your schedule when you can give it your full attention. Make sure that the times when you know will be quietest are used to their advantage. Turn your phone off, close the door, avoid unnecessary distractions.

Ask for feedback.

Having a relationship that is based on openness and honesty within the workplace can do wonders for employee efficiency. Ask for feedback from other staff members and more crucially, respond to it with either a discussion or an active change to acknowledge that their feedback has been taken seriously. TinyPulse is an employee engagement platform that gives leaders online tools to measure and improve company culture.

https://www.tinypulse.com/

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Delegate.

It’s hard to hand over responsibility when you know (or think) that it might just be quicker for you to do it. But it may well be a waste of your precious time and if you don’t get out of the habit of taking on too much, you’ll burn yourself out. For example, with computer system administration, make sure that one person is responsible for the security of your computer software and keeping track of passwords etc. Using cloud-based systems is an ideal solution for some and we can help by assuming the day-to-day tasks of your operations and delivery, with a strong focus on rigorous IT governance, quality and operational excellence.

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