Top 3 tips for successful deployment of Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is another great tool that is delivered as part of the office 365 platform. Released back in March, many organisations are now using teams to support their collaboration activities. However, like many apps, deployment is not without its challenges and here are my top 3 tips to help your Teams deployment be as smooth as possible whilst generating as much value as possible.

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1 – Pick one function and run with it

Like many Microsoft tools, Teams is packed with features and can be rather daunting for many. With wikis, chat, file sharing, skype, tabs and connectors to a whole range of other applications, the array of features in Teams can be a quite bewildering. To ease new users into Teams, I recommend giving your Teams a purpose and try to use just one feature of Teams to achieve that.

For example, the Chat tool is the core of Teams and a great way to engage your users and improve communication on a specific project, team or business wide. Move the communication away from ‘email broadcast’ to a Team chat, get some interactivity going with company announcements, or just give people space to share ideas.

2 – Use the Microsoft Teams apps

The Teams website is great, but you can’t beat the performance and ease of access that comes with a locally installed app. So, whether it’s on your desktop, laptop, tablet or phone, download the Teams app for a much more engaging experience. In addition, your users will benefit from notifications to keep them up to date with what’s happening on your Teams, which in turn will drive more collaboration across your organisation.

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3 – Manage Sprawl

It’s so easy to create a new Team or a new channel within a Team, but if it’s not managed there will be so many places for users to engage it will just become confusing. So, keep it tight, make sure there are not too many channels within each team, or too many teams.

Presented with a great long list of Teams in the App will just confuse people and this will reduce the uptake of your Teams.  It’s better to have a smaller number of Teams and channels that are packed full of activity rather than a long list of Teams and channels with a single post in each.

 

Written by Virtue Technologies Head of Operations, Will Stead.

 

Foldr 2.3 for iOS New Features

Foldr 2.3 for iOS is now available in the App Store. Find out about all of the new features here…

What’s New in Version 2.3?

Foldr 2.3 feature an all-new Share Extension allowing you to upload photos and video directly from the Photos App. The Share Extension is available from most apps and for many users will replace the old “Open In” functionality – now you can save files from other apps without launching Foldr!

Foldr have also added in the ability to sort files and folders by name, date and type and quickly scan through them and an all-new quick action menu accessed by swiping on a file or folder. From here you can rename, create private and public links and delete.

There are also new security features to let you know whether the server you are using is trusted as well as the usual enhancements and fixes.

New features in 2.3

  • Share Extension – upload directly to Foldr from almost any app including Photos.
  • Swipe right on files or folders to quickly rename , share or delete.
  • Sort files and folders by name, kind and date and quickly scroll through them using the index bar (available when sorted by name) to find the file you need.
  • ‘Favourites’ has become ‘My Device’. Don’t worry, all of your files will still be there.
  • An all-new information bar tells you at a glance whether your server certificate is trusted or not.
  • You can now disable certificate prompts – great for administrators deploying devices for internal use only.
  • Support for splitview mode on the iPhone 6 plus.
  • Editing tools for whiteboards re now enabled by default.
  • Whiteboards can now be sent to other apps.

For more information about Foldr please call 01695 731 233 or you can email Kate.Frackelton@VirtueTechnologies.co.uk or simply visit our website

 

 

Switch to a Better Firewall – 5 reasons your next firewall should be from Sophos

Sophos Keeps it Simple – Sophos’ UTM firewall’s simple, intuitive user interface(UI) is designed for you. It lets you quickly protect your network and users. And it makes day-to-day management tasks easy.

Lightening Speed – Sophos have engineered their UTM firewall to deliver outstanding performance. They built it using Intel multi-core technology, solid- state drives, and accelerated in-memory content scanning.

One Box Solution- With Sophos you’ll get all-in-one protection. They offer the latest next-gen firewall protection you need plus features you can’t get anywhere else – including mobile, web, endpoint,email encryption and DLP. No extra hardware. No extra cost. Choose what you want to deploy.

Built-in Reporting – Every appliance comes equipped with a hard drive or a social-state disk, giving you comprehensive on-box reporting that you can access in seconds. See what’s happening on your network in real-time and quickly access historical data.

Industry Leader – As a Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader for UTM. Mobile Data Protection and Endpoint, Sophos are at the forefront of the security industry. Sophos’ global network of threat experts, work around the clock, every single day, detecting, analysing and blocking new threats.

For more information please email: Kate.Frackelton@VirtueTechnologies.co.uk or call 01695 731 233

Virtue Technologies makes the final of the BIBA Awards for ‘Best Use of IT’ and ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’

This week we found out that Virtue Technologies has made it through to the final round of the BIBAs 2015. We have been shortlisted for the award of ‘Best Use of IT’ and Virtue Technologies’ Managing Director, Phil Lawson, has been shortlisted for ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’.

Run by the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, the BIBAs is the ‘the one they all want to win’. That’s because businesses that win a BIBA get much more than just a trophy. The meticulous approach of the judging process, the BIBAs Winners’ Academy and the national profile of the event means those entrepreneurs that take part in the BIBAs take their minds and business to another level.

We all have our fingers crossed here at Virtue Technologies for when the winners are announced later this year. Here is our story we shared with the BIBAs which has gotten us so far in the competition.

Our Story

Following the 2010 general election, the change of government brought huge changes to Virtue Technologies’ customers, focusing on the education sector we looked these changes and responded quickly in a way that a only small business can. Using a combination of ICT and internet technology, we created our Private Cloud solution. This is a direct response to Schools becoming part of multi academy trusts and needing the ability work seamlessly and securely across multiple Schools in different areas. We provided high speed connectivity solutions to every site in the trust, we then used a combination of routing and server technology to create each trust a private cloud for all their sites.

We located equipment within our own data centre of the core of the network, within this data centre we provided a virtual server solution designed specifically for the needs of education. There the trust hosts for example a financial package, centralised learning portal or internet security solution. To take it to another level we then created a seamless single sign on experience presenting on-site apps, private cloud apps and public cloud apps such as Microsoft Office 365, Google apps.To a user, this gives a completely seamless experience with one user name and password on any device mobile or fixed and at any work or home location. It allows the Academy trust to use a hybrid environment storing data locally, in a private cloud or in a public cloud. Critically this gives them the flexibility to choose where there data is meeting regulatory guidelines or the accessibility of the public cloud services.

We feel our position as an innovative and flexible small business has made us able to respond to the needs of the changing education system. We competed against huge PLC’s such as Virgin Media, BT and RM PLC for this contract and none them innovated quickly enough and could not offer a cost effective solution to the customer. We have done this and have a relationship with this customer and many other similar ones that are long term, high value and profitable, but most importantly, meet the customer’s needs.

The basis of our highly successful private cloud solution is a high quality internet delivery network. As the initial demand for cloud based services started we made a strategic decision that to provide cloud services we need to control and manage the end to end delivery of the internet to our customers. Traditionally the local authority provided the solution which was inflexible, wrapped in red tape and not meeting the needs of a modern Academy. We provided a solution fit for purpose and meeting the needs of the Schools which was hugely successful, gaining Virtue new customers. At the same time the education sector was starting to invest heavily in mobile devices, iPad’s, kindles etc. This created huge challenges for anyone providing internet to Schools. First priority to keep children safe online, but these devices need to be flexible and work very differently from a standard PC or laptop. The Schools were demanding the security to be relaxed but this put Children as risk.

We embarked and a large R & D project and developed an offering that allows the APP based learning an iPad offers to be allowed but at the same time putting security in place to protect children. This was ground breaking for our customers who had previously been restricted by outdated internet solutions provided red tape laden local authorities. Our solution has revolutionised things for the local IT support teams but most importantly revolutionised the learning experience for the children.

This development then created a second challenge for our business, the freedom given and huge increase in number of devices and sent internet usage through the roof. Being limited by the infrastructure available to us in the local area we can only provide a certain size of internet at a price within budget of the academy. We had to be clever and we completed a 2nd R & D project to analyse what each user was doing with this new way of learning, what Apps they were using and what was using all the internet bandwidth. Once understood we were able to complete some innovative designs to prioritise certain APPs and internet usage over others. For example we can prioritise a student taking an online exam to ensure it is seamless whilst restricting guest users accessing YouTube. We were able to allow YouTube but only for education based videos. We could allow social media but block the games within them, and stop people updating their iPhones at the same time.

The overall innovation is a constant work in progress responding to the changing needs of our users and internet landscape. It is a balancing act to give the user a high speed, flexible but crucially secure experience.

As an IT company it is critical we follow technical trends but we are also very clear that it is very easy to jump around from new product to new product. We live in a world of information, so getting information on trends is easy. We believe the key is to be able to sift through them and apply them to our business and most importantly to the niche sector we work in.

Consumerisation of IT is a huge challenge, home based technologies are being pushed into enterprises by users. This is both exciting and challenging, some of the technology such as Apple’s new watch or Google glass offer wonderful learning opportunities for children, but they also create us technology integration challenges.

Our strategy is to take a step back from the technology and look at need, it is about engaging with our customers to help them to understand before investing. We hold regular strategy meetings with our customers and we run customer events showcasing new technology. We help our customers with a 3-year plan and new technology is slotted into this to ensure it is thought about before purchasing. Once we see new technology that there is a clear need for, we invest in it. We train, develop and design within our business to have solutions ready for market.

For our business we believe innovation in IT is not about that one magic invention that changes the world, it is about how we put together lots of small innovations to create a solution that meets both our customers and our business needs. Innovation in IT is the most important part of this but we also feel innovation in financing, training and customer engagement is critical.

We firmly believe our cloud and internet solution meets all these needs and is a wonderful example of the use of IT.

Winners of the BIBAs will be announced at the BIBAs Ceremony, Blackpool Tower Ballroom on September 11th 2015BIBAS_FINALIST_2015_Best Use of Information Technology (3)BIBAS_FINALIST_2015_ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR

Considerations when Proxying & Filtering Https traffic

To provide secure sessions between your users and websites that have sensitive information or require authentication, HTTPS encrypts web content between the website server and the user’s browser. While the traffic between the two is encrypted during a HTTPS session, the content that is delivered is just as likely to be infected with viruses or other malware as content from non-encrypted sites. As the traffic is secured and encrypted between the client and website the proxy/filter/firewall is unable to inspect the traffic.  To scan encrypted content, it must first be decrypted, then scanned, then re-encrypted for delivery to the requesting end user’s browser.

Doing this maintains the privacy of the encrypted content, as the process is done automatically without human eyes viewing the content. However, because the traffic has been decrypted, the original site certificate cannot be used by the browser to authenticate the connection, so the original certificate is replaced by one generated by the proxy/filter/firewall. This replaces the original certificate, which requires that you download and install the generated certificate authority into your users’ browsers, which can be done centrally using Active Directory Group Policy Objects for domain joined clients.

Probably the largest example of a secure website used in education is the google search engine.  By default Google will redirect users to a secure version of the site, if you are not decrypting as explained above then the searches & results within the search engine are invisible to the proxy/filter/firewall and therefore cannot be filtered or inspected.  Particularly with the general introduction of multiple client device types within education we strongly recommend implementing an appropriate solution that can manage secure web traffic effectively and efficiently across all internal networks and devices.  There are a number of considerations when implementing an appropriate solution such as the ability to decrypt and scan as above, the associated performance overhead, certificate management on client devices, impact on users and the fact some secure websites just will not work when decrypting & Scanning (after all you are simulating a ‘Man in the Middle Attack’!)

For a number of years now we have been working closely with Sophos and have implemented a large number of their Security Gateway products to predominately perform the Web Filtering and Firewall roles within educational sites.  The security gateway’s utilise high spec hardware and can perform the decrypt & scan method but also has other functions for managing Https traffic.  The added advantage though is the combination of the functions available and the flexibility of configuration, this allows us to implement a secure solution that satisfies the requirements of each differing site.

Multi-factor authentication for Office365

You’ve probably seen a wealth of reports in the past couple of months regarding the stealing of intimate photos of celebrities and the subsequent posting of these images online. It’s believed this was made possible through the use of third party software which obtained the users’ login id and password, one way of preventing this from happening is to implement multi-factor authentication (or two-step verification) to stop the tool from being able to infiltrate the relevant service’s internet storage.

Multi-factor authentication increases the security of user logins for cloud services above and beyond just a password. With Multi-Factor Authentication for Office 365, users are required to acknowledge a phone call, text message, or an app notification on their smartphone after correctly entering their password. Only after this second authentication factor has been satisfied can a user sign in.

This addition of multi-factor authentication is part of Microsoft’s ongoing effort to enhance security for Office 365, and they’re already working on Office desktop application improvements to Multi-Factor Authentication for Office 365. Office 365 offers many robust built-in security features for all customers and also optional controls that enable subscribers to customise their security preferences.

After a user is enabled for multi-factor authentication, they will be required to configure their second factor of authentication at the next login. Each subsequent login is enforced and will require use of the password and second factor of authentication, any of the following may be used for the second factor;

  1. Call my mobile phone. The user receives a phone call that asks them to press the pound key. Once the pound key is pressed, the user is logged in.
  2. Text code to my mobile phone. The user receives a text message containing a six-digit code that they must enter into the portal.
  3. Call my office phone. This is the same as Call my mobile phone, but it enables the user to select a different phone if they do not have their mobile phone with them.
  4. Notify me through app. The user configured a smartphone app and they receive a notification in the app that they must confirm the login. Smartphone apps are available for Windows Phone, iPhone, and Android devices.
  5. Show one-time code in app. The same smartphone app is used. Instead of receiving a notification, the user starts the app and enters the six-digit code from the app into the portal.

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It may not be intimate photos (we hope not!) that are stored in your Inbox or OneDrive but the risk is the same – could you afford for your account to be compromised, what are the consequences of somebody obtaining your user id and password? To find out how multi-factor authentication for Office365 can help eliminate this risk contact us on 01695 731233 or drop us an email to sales@virtuetechnologies.co.uk

Anti-bullying Week – Supporting schools with e-safety and Ofsted best practice

In light of Ofsted’s 2014 e-safety briefing and inspection framework, Impero considers:

  • Why is it important to support pupils and staff facing e-safety issues?
  • What mechanisms should a school have in place to facilitate this?
  • How can schools improve learning in line with Ofsted’s framework

Facilitating Ofsted best practice

Ofsted identifies key areas for inspection, including the behaviour and safety of pupils; the learning and achievement of pupils; the quality of teaching, learning and leadership; and a strong focus on moral, social and cultural development. Born in the classroom, Impero Education Pro has been specially developed in direct response to Ofsted best practice, e-safety concerns, and the changing demands of modern education.

Improve the behaviour and safety of pupils

Research carried out by Impero suggests that adopting a managed approach to technology is better than blocking access altogether. Ofsted shares this view of accountability. Allowing access encourages students to learn how to navigate the web safely and take responsibility for their own behaviour, whilst monitoring ensures tutors are in control of their classroom and prepared to act, if required. With Education Pro, acceptable use policies can be displayed to reinforce the school’s rules for acceptable use.

Monitor progress and check pupils’ understanding

Ofsted are keen to see that tutors undertake effective methods to track pupils’ progress, both throughout lessons and over time. Monitoring on-screen activity provides a quick view of student progress against a session’s learning objectives. The functionality to set exams in a controlled digital environment, receiving live feedback throughout, also helps tutors to monitor progress; this quick snapshot means tutors can alter tasks, tailoring them to the specific abilities of each individual. Electronic exams are automatically marked and can be saved, and the results of quick questions are instantly presented in a pie chart, enabling tutors to evaluate learning from a centralised record over time.

Capture, document and report evidence

Ofsted judge behaviour based on evidence documented over time to determine whether schools manage behaviour effectively. Using Education Pro, schools can record a complete log of all network activity, including any inappropriate behaviour or misuse, to be used as evidence. Video recordings and screen shots can be used to prove misconduct, and the Confide system stores all reports from concerned students, to help schools analyse change practice.

Engage learning and increase communication

Low level class disruption is also considered by Ofsted during inspections. Live thumbnails of student screens provides a bird’s-eye-view of classrooms and computer suites to ensure technology resources are being used appropriately. Tutors can discreetly send a message to a misbehaving student to prevent disruptive behaviour from escalating, or check their understanding from afar. Conversations can be created for selected groups of students to aid collaborative learning and group discussions.

Prevent and tackle discriminatory and derogatory language

The effectiveness of a school’s actions to prevent discriminatory language is also highlighted by Ofsted. Impero Education Pro’s key word abuse libraries scan for terms, phrases and acronyms to help identify abusive or concerning use of language. Schools can actively monitor for localised trends specific to the school, recognising patterns, such as gang-related terminology, or equally, a student at potential risk.

Ofsted and e-safety

Young people are becoming more deeply engaged with technology at an earlier age than ever before. In Ofsted’s 2014 briefing ‘Inspecting e-safety in schools’, it was reported the time spent online by children aged 12-15 had risen from 14.9 hours a week in 2011 to 17.1 hours in 2012. The briefing also documents that 28% of Key Stage 3 and 4 students had been deliberately targeted, threatened or humiliated by an individual or group through the use of mobile phones or technology; for over a quarter of these students, this abuse was classed as ongoing. These statistics prove that as technology becomes more accessible to young people from an earlier age, the potential for associated online risks is magnified.

The Ofsted briefing also refers to research executed by Ofcom, which reports that 83% of young people aged 8-11 and 93% aged 12-15 feel confident that they know how to remain safe online. So, if this is true, why should schools still be concerned with e-safety? It is important to consider that although young people may feel confident staying safe whilst navigating the web, this confidence is not necessarily teamed with due caution.

Supporting pupils and staff when dealing with e-safety

E-safety has always been held at the core of Impero’s software products for education, and in recent years the classroom management software company has developed a specialism in the field of e-safety. The latest developments to the e-safety functionality available in Education Pro and Classroom Manager enables teachers, students, and schools as a whole, to manage e-safety in line with best practice.

Ofsted believes in ‘the promotion of safe practices and a culture of safety, including e-safety’. It categorises e-safety risks into the three following areas: content, conduct and contact. And with 40% of Key Stage 3 and 4 students admitting to witnessing a ‘sexting’ incident and 40% of the same group not considering topless images inappropriate, recognising these areas has never been so vital.

Ofsted’s three areas of risk

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  • Content: ‘being exposed to illegal, inappropriate or harmful material.’
  • Conduct: ‘being subjected to harmful online interaction with other users.’
  • Contact: ‘personal online behaviour that increases the likelihood of, or causes, harm.’

Impero’s work with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), Beat, and partnership schools has also raised these e-safety areas of risk. This research revealed that young people have easier access to potentially harmful material, such as ‘pro-ana’ websites (websites encouraging the eating disorder anorexia). This first-hand information has helped with the development of keyword detection libraries based on bullying, grooming and concerning behaviour. The software cleverly highlights when a user has typed a word, phrase or acronym that may suggest exposure to potential risk, whilst the glossary of key word definitions means educators don’t need to be experts in 21st Century slang to identify a risk.

In Impero’s recent e-safety survey conducted through Facebook (link), it was discovered that an alarming 35% of students had circumnavigated online blocks designed to prohibit access to websites of an inappropriate nature. As an alternative, monitoring helps schools to take a managed approach to technology, as opposed to locked-down. Students can be entrusted with access to resources, whilst monitoring of activity fuels a change in behaviour, deterring misuse in the first instance. E-safety risks are not unique to the internet, however, so Impero’s key word detection monitors everything on a school’s network, and the logviewer keeps a centralised record of this. 

Effective reporting channels

Ofsted’s briefing goes on to highlight a sexting survey conducted by South West grid for Learning (SWGfL) which revealed that 74% of 11-16 year olds would prefer to report issues to their friends rather than a ‘trusted adult’. For this reason, Ofsted encourages robust reporting channels. It can be difficult for vulnerable young people to speak up if they are being bullied, feel threatened, or if an issue is worrying them. This is reinforced in Ofsted’s briefing, which reports that pupils with special educational needs are 16% more likely to be victims of online abuse, and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds are also 12% more likely to be bullied online.

Available in the latest version of Education Pro, the Confide button provides an anonymous method of disclosure to give vulnerable students a voice. It enables pupils to report any concerns they may have about themselves or another student, with the choice to remain anonymous if they wish. The option to include staff photographs shown on the Confide system provides a personalised feel, without the need for face-to-face communication, encouraging students to share their concerns with an adult they trust in a way that’s comfortable for them.

A whole school approach to e-safety

Ofsted promote ‘a whole school approach’ to e-safety and this is mirrored in the functionality of Education Pro. The real-time monitoring enables educators to deal with issues as and when they occur, helping them to be both reactive and proactive in the ways they deal with e-safety issues. Education Pro also helps schools to pick up on trends that may be localised to that specific school, such as racist language in an ethnically diverse establishment. This information can then be recognised and used to inform the school’s acceptable use policies. Monitoring staff’s activity on the network helps professional boundaries to be established, educating staff to support their students.

How Impero’s Classroom Management Software can support schools with e-safety and Ofsted best practice

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