Veeam Backup & Replication v11: Accelerate Your Journey

What a milestone! Veeam Backup & Replication v11 is here and loaded with capabilities to help you accelerate your Digital Transformation journey. This is arguably the largest monumental release at Veeam. In addition to our flagship product, Veeam Backup & Replication, this launch delivers more updates, such as Veeam ONE v11Veeam Backup for Microsoft Azure v2Veeam Service Provider Console v5 and a newly rebranded Veeam Disaster Recovery Orchestrator v4. 

Let’s start by highlighting the 5 most exciting capabilities within Veeam Backup & Replication v11:

1. Continuous Data Protection

Veeam will disrupt the market by completely democratizing recovery point objectives (RPOs) for VMware environments. Veeam’s Continuous Data Protection (CDP) will provide great resiliency for critical workloads with ultra-low RPOs, minimizing data loss and recovering to the latest state or point in time. Coupled with an easy deployment, Veeam customers and partners will embrace this technology for its flexibility, affordability and because it’s included in a product so many organizations already use. Not only is CDP included with Veeam Backup & Replication, but also integrated in Veeam ONE and Veeam Disaster Recovery Orchestrator.

2. Reliable Ransomware Protection

There are many threats to your data. Within the past year, we have all witnessed a massive increase in ransomware attacks, cyberthreats and malware events, and we expect this to continue. At Veeam, we have long advocated having at least one copy of backup data on an immutable, air-gapped or offline copy as part of our 3-2-1 Rule, and we’re proud to have delivered several options for which to protect against ransomware. The latest innovation in ransomware protection within V11 provides yet another way to keep your data safe. This capability allows the Hardened Linux Repository to provide an immutable copy on any Linux system, in any location, on premises or in the cloud. This will keep backups safe, preventing malicious encryption and deletion, and is yet another tool in your security arsenal.

3. Archive to the Cloud

V11 will allow our customers to reduce the cost of long-term storage and replace tape infrastructure with a modern solution by over 20x. AWS S3 Glacier or Azure Blob Archive cold storage is a great addition to the policy-based management within the intelligent storage tiers of Veeam’s Scale-out Backup Repository: PerformanceCapacity and now Archive. Automate your data lifecycle management.

4. Instant Recovery

V11 builds on one of the hallmark Veeam capabilities, Instant Recovery. Now, Veeam customers can achieve the lowest recovery time objectives (RTOs) with production-ready Instant Recovery for SQL, Oracle and NAS file shares with incredible ease of use! This latest release also includes the ability to instantly restore ANY backup to as a Hyper-V VM, adding incredible restore flexibility.

5. Veeam-powered BaaS & DRaaS

Veeam has long had many ways to consume our products as a service. Whether it is off-site backup, Disaster Recovery as a Service (DRaaS), on-premises Backup as a Service (BaaS), Infrastructure as a Service protected by Veeam and other offerings; there is a service to meet the needs of the market. V11 incorporates the BaaS and DRaaS as top-level customer benefits in conjunction with the release of the Veeam Service Provider Console v5.

Over 150 new and enhanced capabilities

Those top capabilities get all of the headlines, but the reality is that there is so much more to this major release. Besides having over 150 new and enhanced capabilities, V11 brings in major updates to other products, as well:

  • Veeam Backup & Replication v11 – Backup and recovery
    • Veeam Agent for Microsoft Windows v5
    • Veeam Agent for Linux v5
    • NEW Veeam Agent for Mac
    • Integration with Veeam Backup for AWS and Veeam Backup for Microsoft Azure for cloud-native workload protection
    • New and updated plug-ins for enterprise applications such as Oracle and SAP
  • Veeam ONE v11 – Advanced monitoring and analytics
  • Veeam Backup for Microsoft Azure v2 – Cloud-native protection
  • Veeam Disaster Recovery Orchestrator v4 (previously known as Veeam Availability Orchestrator) – Automated site recovery orchestration and testing
  • Veeam Service Provider Console v5 – Service provider management

As with any release here at Veeam, there are so many big things but also many smaller things that go into a major release. The smaller things can also be a big deal! These include new capabilities such as cloud-native integration for AWS and Azure, more NAS and unstructured data protection, high-priority jobs, support for Google Cloud object storage within the capacity tier, storage snapshot support for the Windows Agent and so much more. The amount of technology here is incredible and the best part is that it’s 100% in-step with Veeam’s mission: to be the most trusted provider of backup solutions that deliver Cloud Data Management.

What does Veeam V11 mean to you?

In short, it means a lot. It means simple, flexible and reliable. Veeam customers now have a 4-in-1 solution to provide the best solution for backup, replication, recovery and orchestration of storage snapshots as well as CDP in one product. Veeam makes consuming all of these features across your entire environment simple with the portable Veeam Universal License (VUL). This also means Veeam partners have more capabilities from a market-proven provider of Veeam-powered solutions to meet customer needs.

Everyone will benefit from the ease of use of these new capabilities in V11 as well as the simplicity of having many capabilities driven within one comprehensive suite of products from Veeam. The versatility of how this broad set of capabilities can be deployed is truly mind-boggling for customers of any size.

  • Multiple large data centers
  • Workloads deployed on Azure and AWS
  • Massive enterprise applications and storage systems
  • Thousands of remote endpoint devices protected remotely
  • Distributed global operations

Any or all of these can be protected and managed effectively with Veeam, no matter the workload, no matter the hypervisor, no matter the operating system, cloud, virtual, physical. Veeam is ready!

Turn it up to 11 with Veeam!

These massive capabilities only scratch the surface of what V11 brings to the market. Whether you are seeking the greatest security and ransomware protection, the most flexible and capable disaster recovery, or simply the best bang for your hard-earned buck, V11 is your answer! 

For more information on Veeam V11, contact us now.

CLL Systems awarded Reseller of the Year 2020 (Central Region) by Cisco

On Cisco Partner Appreciation and Awards Ceremony 2021, CLL Systems was honoured with Reseller of the Year 2020 (Central Region). 

”It’s our honour and pleasure to have this award from Cisco. We’ve been working together with Cisco as a team and we can see significant results. We believe that with Cisco support as well as the dealership support- which is very important; we will continue to work together with them and achieve a better result next year and also the year after.” said Chin Kar Wai, managing director of CLL Systems.

 

Please feel free to contact us for more information.

CLL Systems is now a Sophos Central Endpoint and Server Partner

We’re thrilled to announce that CLL Systems Sdn Bhd is now a Sophos Central Endpoint and Server Partner. This exclusive accreditation demonstrates that we’re an expert in Sophos Central Endpoint and Server products with broad sales capacity and deep technical product knowledge. Thanks to our CLL team for the good work!

 

Sophos is a next-generation security company with a channel-first, channel-only strategy that focuses all its efforts towards technical innovation, marketing, sales and support initiatives that help our partners succeed on all levels. We are committed to building solid relationships with our partners so they can bring the most innovative and advanced IT security to their customers,” said Kendra Krause, vice president of global channels, Sophos. “With cyber threats evolving and changing daily, organizations of all sizes need a technology company that’s on the frontline of developing highly effective solutions that are simple to use. We are excited to welcome CLL Systems into our partner community and look forward to a long and successful relationship.”

The specialized partner dashboard within the Sophos Central cloud-based management platform allows partners and managed service providers (MSPs) to manage and configure product settings, distribute licenses and have real-time perspective on their customer activity. The Sophos Central dashboard also provides partners with up-to-the-minute threat and product updates, allowing them to deliver faster, more effective customer protection.

Sophos sells exclusively through its channel of more than 20,000 resellers worldwide and is dedicated to the growth and success of partners. The company offers partners sales training and certification, co-branded marketing assets, 24/7 support and in-depth Sophos Central dashboard training to help build the skills and expertise of its partners.

 

Please feel free to contact us for more information.

The Four Immutable Laws of Data Reduction

Cost is always a factor in deploying and managing scale-out NAS. Recent health and economic events have made cost efficiencies more important than ever. Data reduction technology is an easy and straightforward way to reduce costs, but only if specific principles are observed. 

Data Reduction Claims

One of the most oversold product claims presented to customers by NAS storage vendors are absolute data reduction ratios. Promises and guarantees of a 2:1 data reduction ratio… or 3:1… or 8:1 are often offered to catch the attention of an IT administrator looking to optimize spend. The truth of the matter is that data reduction efficiency is highly workload dependent. No one knows the expected data reduction ratio for your production workload until it is measured. Can a weight-loss specialist accurately forecast your weight loss without understanding your current diet and exercise routine?

Why It’s a Big Deal

The data reduction idea is simple—squeeze as much data as possible into physical storage so that you don’t have to buy more physical storage. Data reduction is a common feature of scale-out NAS because—let’s face it—who wants to buy more disks or flash than necessary? 

 The biggest question is how to best achieve efficient data reduction. Using an American expression, it’s efficient if you can squeeze ten pounds of potatoes into a five-pound bag. In IT speak, you aim to squeeze 100TB of source data into 50TB of target disk, or even 5 or 10TB of disk space. It’s important because superior capacity efficiency is the gift that keeps on giving, including: 

  • Less physical storage cost
  • Lower data center footprint
  • Less energy consumption
  • Fewer storage devices to manage and place under a support contract

The Four Immutable Laws

From our viewpoint, there are four prerequisites to achieving leading capacity efficiency and low cost within enterprise unstructured data environments. Let’s call them “immutable laws” as it is not possible to achieve maximum data reduction across a variety of workloads for NAS products when the laws are not observed. 

Fig 1: 4 Immutable Laws

Law No. 1: Data Deduplication

This is the process of removing duplicate file data and representing the removed information (whether at file or block level) with a pointer. Although generic dedupe technology is relatively common in scale-out NAS products, not all dedupe techniques are equally efficient. For example, consider the case where two 10MB files are 90 percent the same. The most efficient deduplication technology would reduce this 20MB total down to 11MB of unique data.

File-level dedupe will keep a full-copy of each file because they are not 100 percent identical. The two 10MB files are stored at 20MB – therefore no space savings. Traditional block-level dedupe technology will dedupe within a range, depending on where the deltas exist. On average this may be 15MB (for example) for the two files assuming partial dedupe—a 25 percent space savings. That’s not bad, and most NAS products will settle for this.

The best dedupe technology  adjusts the size of the blocks being stored (variable-length sliding window) such that the overall storage consumed could be 11MB for the two files—up to a 45 percent space savings and maximal efficiency. Unless a buyer asks about dedupe methodology, they may not know if data is being deduped in the most efficient way possible. Depending on the dedupe technology used, the total capacity consumed can be anywhere from 11MB to 20MB for the same files. 

Yes, it is important to know how your data is being deduped.

Law No. 2: Cross-Volume Deduplication

Efficient data deduplication within a storage volume is important, but what about file data that is spread across different volumes? You know this happens today because everyone shares data with coworkers or teams, leading to modified copies across all the storage silos in your environment.  Dedupe by volume cannot dedupe identical file data that resides in different storage volumes. So, the second law of data reduction says that efficient dedupe cannot be limited to the application volume domain. Without this, three 10MB files that reside on three different data center volumes will consume 30MB. The ability to dedupe across application volumes will result in only 10MB of storage consumption for the same scenario.

Law No. 3: Data Compression

Not all scale-out NAS vendors support data compression, which can result in additional reduction of data. Although some files are not easily compressed, other files are easily compressed by 2:1, 3:1, or more. In theory, most generic compression algorithms should deliver similar efficiencies. Actual implementations, however, can trade off efficiency for performance, so two vendors using the same compression algorithm can yield notably different reduction ratios. The best implementations use modern algorithms that are both efficient and performant—thus avoiding a tradeoff.

Law No. 4: Small File Optimization

Workloads consisting primarily of small files often incur a storage amplification penalty because traditional NAS systems use a fixed block size. That leads to a significant waste of space. For example, a 1KB file in a product using 8KB blocks means you’re wasting 7KB— a 7x amplification! It’s no surprise then that 100TB of small files data can easily consume 200TB to 1.5PB or more. So, the fourth law of data reduction states that file data storage must fit efficiently in the blocks they are stored within. This means that either block sizes must vary to fit the size of the small file(s), or, multiple small files must share the same storage block or blob such that no storage capacity is wasted. As with the previous three laws, a buyer may not be aware of the storage inefficiency without asking the vendor.

Going Beyond the Laws

In addition to the four laws, there are other things that can make a big difference in the total amount of hard disk space consumed in the broader data management context. Efficient architecture is assumed in modern systems file and object architecture. Being sloppy here can negate the benefit of the stated laws. A modern efficient architecture is expected to include:

  • External NAS Tiering: The ability to transparently tier colder data from costly Tier 1 NAS storage to a more cost-effective secondary NAS tier does not have to be through a third-party application. When built into secondary NAS, apps on network clients see no difference. Policy-driven tiering can move data to either tier. In the end, the overall cost per GB of NAS data is substantially lowered while costly Tier 1 capacity is released  for apps that require Tier 1 storage or for newer data.4 immutable laws fig2

 

  • Efficient copy data management: This eliminates the capacity impact of creating extra copies. Writable snapshots (or clones) can make a huge impact in reducing storage capacity when copies are used for various purposes – including dev/test.
  • Efficient replication and archiving: Making routine copies from a primary site to a secondary site is far more efficient when only the changed blocks of files are sent. Resulting file data is stored more efficiently and network bandwidth is conserved. 
  • Modern key-value stores for metadata and inode information: Files of just a few bytes can take up several kilobytes on traditional systems – effectively creating a 1000-fold expansion of files. Modern products utilize newer key-value stores to efficiently store variable amounts of metadata instead of using fixed blocks.

What Happens to Lawbreakers?

Not following the immutable laws of data reduction always results in penalties. Less available storage capacity. Greater disk expense due to more disks and support contract costs. There are also related data center footprint and power costs. The worst part is that penalties are often being paid and we don’t realize it—until we compare against a modern multi-layered approach to data reduction. We tend to think that all data reduction approaches are the same—and this simply isn’t the case.

Cohesity SmartFiles was designed to abide by the four immutable data reduction laws, and beyond, to deliver optimal efficiency. It provides advanced data deduplication, the ability to dedupe data across data center volumes, advanced data compression, and the elimination of small file storage amplification penalties.

To learn more on Cohesity, contact us now.

 

Moving Beyond Traditional EDR

 

An evolution is happening in the cybersecurity industry. Even as our workforce is becoming more and more distributed, our security architecture is unifying into a single security analytics capability for threat detection and response. Extended detection and response (XDR) is at the center of this shift, providing centralized visibility across your various security data sources. Security teams who are investing in detection and response tools must consider XDR in their evaluations, as XDR delivers all the capabilities of traditional endpoint detection and response (EDR), but with superior extensibility and analytics to meet the needs of the future.

 

XDR Is an Extension of EDR Capabilities

To tell the story of XDR, we must begin with traditional EDR because it is the foundation from which we are extending. EDR capabilities are a critical precursor to an XDR solution because there is no better way to detect an intrusion than by monitoring the actual target environment being attacked, and the telemetry collected by EDR forms the basis of triage and investigation. You simply cannot have a marketable XDR solution if you don’t have best-in-class EDR capabilities. That said, 10-20% of any organization’s laptops and workstations are not under management, so as great as EDR is, it’s only situationally useful. Let’s take a look at how XDR improves upon this situation.

 

 

Cloud Workloads Require a Different Type of Endpoint Monitoring

An endpoint is traditionally understood to be an end user computing device such as a laptop or workstation. Unfortunately, this ignores another important endpoint if we’re to view network communication using the middle-school definition of a line segment, connecting two endpoints. As cloud technologies such as containers and serverless become more prevalent, it’s essential that we be able to monitor these endpoints with the same confidence we have in our end user computing environment. This critical next step toward a full-fledged XDR product enables a unified view across the endpoints within your environment, regardless of system function.

 

Let’s Not Forget How the Network Ties It All Together

Network telemetry serves three critical functions in an XDR environment: 

  1. Detecting compromise of unmanaged assets. 
  2. Providing application-layer anomaly detection where some attacks may never compromise the system itself. 
  3. Correlating events across systems to enable triage of alerts as a single incident across your environment. 

While the first two objectives are advantages of having a network detection and response (NDR) solution, only by leveraging XDR can you accomplish the third to greatly reduce not only the frequency of alerts but the time to triage and investigate them.

 

Why Are You Still Shopping for a Traditional EDR Product?

XDR extends all the benefits you expect from a traditional EDR product by further stitching together telemetry from non-endpoint sources to provide better detection and a bigger picture of what’s going on in your environment for your security operations team. Organizations without XDR invest tons of time and money sending traditional EDR data into their SIEM in an attempt to achieve the same benefits an XDR solution will give you out of the box. Don’t invest in the last generation of endpoint security products with traditional EDR, extend your team by unifying your threat detection capabilities with XDR.

To learn more, contact us today. 

 

Introducing New Cloud-based Admin Capabilities to help you better service Microsoft 365 Apps

 

The work of the IT admin community over the last few months has been nothing short of heroic. It’s always been the role of IT to build secure and resilient infrastructures, but practically overnight you became leaders in enabling an entirely new way of work for your organizations.

As remote work becomes the new norm, you will continue to play a critical role by applying the right technology to deliver a flawless user experience, reduce costs, and digitally transform. We’re proud to announce the preview of new cloud-based capabilities within the Microsoft 365 Apps admin center to help you manage Office apps as a service and better manage your IT costs. Three pillars work together to bring this new service to life:

  • Intelligent insights, including Apps Inventory, Add-In Inventory, and Security Currency, to give you a deep view into your environment to help you act quickly if you find problems.
  • Servicing automation with controls, including Servicing Profile that delivers not only comprehensive servicing automation but also gives you the necessary precision controls to deliver updates based on metrics, optimize network utilization and streamline processes for less business disruption.
  • Microsoft 365 Apps health, including alerting and reporting to help you increase the performance, and reliability of Office apps.

 

Intelligent insights

 

We’re enabling you to get quick answers to frequently asked questions about your Office environment with these additions. Using Office Inventory, you can drill into detailed views of devices running Office apps in your environment to understand which Office client versions and Office add-ins are running. You can also see which servicing channel each device belongs to: Beta Channel, Current Channel, Monthly Enterprise Channel, or Semi-Annual Enterprise Channel. This helps you act quickly to manage unsupported Office build versions and add-ins to ensure your environment is secure and compliant. You can easily export these results to create reports for internal or external audits.

 

The Security page in the Microsoft 365 Apps admin center provides a dashboard view of your security update compliance. You can see the latest patch date and percentage of Office apps in your environment that are up to date. You can also see which devices and apps have failed to update and determine what actions to take next. To help manage security updates for Office apps, you can set a goal time and goal percentage to specify when devices should be updated after a security patch is released. In the Servicing action center in the Microsoft 365 Apps admin center, you can easily specify a Target version to change the update channel for devices by user or Azure Active Directory group. This way, you can ensure that specific devices receive updates only when you’ve chosen. You can also easily roll back updates for certain users or groups.

 

Servicing automation with controls

 

Streamlined and automated Microsoft 365 Apps servicing helps you reduce the burden of manual deployments and accelerate the rollout of the latest productivity features and security patches without adding extra effort and costs. Our new Servicing Profile feature can associate devices in your organization to automate the delivery of monthly Office app updates from the Office CDN. Updates are throttled using our wave algorithm, which is helpful if you have users receiving updates in areas where network congestion or bandwidth is an issue.

You can view the Servicing Profile by device and easily pause and resume updates as needed. If you learn that users are experiencing issues with an update, you can pause updates until issues are resolved. You can also restore updates easily to a previous version in the event you experience unforeseen issues after a rollout.

Through the Servicing Profile, you can also specify exclusion date periods when Office apps updates should not run, such as during company town halls, board meetings, or holiday seasons. This can be scheduled once, or on a recurring basis, based on your business’s needs. To help ensure compliance with Office apps updates, you can choose either to let users install updates at their own pace, or you can force updates to happen by a particular deadline.

 

Servicing Profile high ress v2.PNG

Microsoft 365 Apps Servicing profile

 

Microsoft 365 Apps health

 

Innovations in app health give you insights not just during, but also between deployments. From the Microsoft 365 Apps health dashboard in Microsoft 365 Apps admin center, you can view the overall health of your tenant at a glance at any time to help you understand which Office apps updates your devices are running and actions to take to increase performance and reliability. You can monitor trends in performance and reliability in your organization and assess how many users are reporting diagnostics to help you discover issues. Microsoft 365 Apps health also shows advisories to inform you about issues occurring in your environment with information about which Office apps and update channels are experiencing the problems. We are also bringing you high-level insights into the health of the Office apps, such as currency through Productivity Score. Learn more about accessing and using the Microsoft 365 Apps health dashboard to help you optimize Office clients in your tenant.

 

Microsoft 365 Apps health - high res.png

Health status of Microsoft 365 Apps in the Microsoft 365 Apps admin center

We’ve also enabled a more efficient end-user feedback process and faster response to issues to help you better understand user sentiment and reduce your IT support burden. When you must roll back an update to a previous build, you can report blocking issues to Microsoft. These will be escalated quickly to the Office Product Team. You can view the progress of issue resolution and see when a fix will be available in a future build.

 

The value of the up-to-date Microsoft 365 Apps

 

In May, we announced the new Monthly Enterprise Channel as the first capability in this wave of innovation to help you modernize servicing of Microsoft 365 Apps. Today we are happy to share some evidence from our customers, as they are finding benefits of both a faster cadence to deliver productivity and security value and the predictability the new channel brings along.

We like the guarantee of only one update per month with a faster cadence for features and bug fixes. I believe we will be able to expand upon the success we have already seen and deploy Monthly Enterprise Channel to a much wider audience. – Dawn Wentner, Senior Systems Analyst, Chevron

The reasoning for choosing Monthly Enterprise Channel is that our users like the predictability the new channel offers, knowing that they are going to receive updates once a month. This also helps us stay current with security features while allowing us ample time to do testing with other apps, macros, add-ins that use Office.“ – Basith Raheem, End User Technology Analyst, Mars

 

The new servicing profile gives us great visibility into the device inventory and the update status within few hours of the update release, without us even managing the updates. Transition to the new Monthly Enterprise Channel went smoothly and completed without impacting any end-user productivity, the overall experience is a huge value add.” – Sunila Chugh, Consultant, Workstation Engineering, Avanade

Backed up by all the new servicing capabilities that give you deep insights while leaving you in control, Current Channel (our recommendation) provides your users with the newest Office features as soon as they are ready. If you would benefit from additional predictability for when new Office features are released each month, we recommend the Monthly Enterprise Channel. 

 

To learn more on Microsoft 365, contact us

 

Reimagining Virtual Collaboration for the Future of Work and Learning

Today we’re announcing a set of new features in Microsoft Teams that make virtual interactions more natural, more engaging, and ultimately, more human. These features offer three key benefits for people at work and in education. First, they help you feel more connected with your team and reduce meeting fatigue. Second, they make meetings more inclusive and engaging. And third, they help streamline your work and save time.

It’s all about enabling people everywhere to collaborate, to stay connected, and to discover new ways to be productive from anywhere. Let’s dig into the details.

Feel more connected and reduce meeting fatigue

Together mode—At a time when people are conducting more virtual meetings than ever, our research has shown that many of us feel less connected since moving to remote work, and experience more fatigue during video meetings than during in-person collaboration. Together mode is a new meeting experience in Teams that uses AI segmentation technology to digitally place participants in a shared background, making it feel like you’re sitting in the same room with everyone else in the meeting or class. Together mode makes meetings more engaging by helping you focus on other people’s faces and body language and making it easier to pick up on the non-verbal cues that are so important to human interaction. It’s great for meetings in which multiple people will speak, such as brainstorms or roundtable discussions, because it makes it easier for participants to understand who is talking. Together mode with auditorium view is rolling out now and will be generally available in August. And we’ll bring more views to Together mode in the future.

Dynamic view—While Together mode offers an extraordinary new meeting experience, it’s not intended for every meeting. We believe that traditional video meetings people use every day can also be more engaging and dynamic. A set of enhancements we call dynamic view gives you more control over how you see shared content and other participants in a meeting. Using AI, meetings dynamically optimize shared content and video participants. New controls—including the ability to show shared content and specific participants side-by-side—let you personalize the view to suit your preferences and needs. Dynamic view builds on the meetings enhancements  include large gallery view, where you can see video of up to 49 people in a meeting simultaneously, and virtual breakout rooms, which allow meeting organizers to split meeting participants into smaller groups for things like brainstorming sessions or workgroup discussions.

An image of the new Dynamic view.Dynamic viewAn image of the new large gallery view.Large gallery view

Video filters—We’ve all become familiar with video filters used in photography and social media apps, and now we’re bringing them to Teams. Before joining a meeting, you can use the filters to subtly adjust lighting levels and soften the focus of the camera to customize your appearance.

An animated image of background filters.

Reflect messaging extension—Our research shows that employee well-being is more important to productivity than ever. Creating an emotionally supportive environment is key to keeping people healthy, happy, and focused. The new Reflect messaging extension gives managers, leaders and teachers an easy way to check in with how their team or students are feeling — either in general, or about a specific topic like work-life balance, the status of a project, current events, or a change within the organization. IT administrators will be able to install the Reflect extension from GitHub, and then make it available to employees in their organization in the message extension menu. Once installed, the extension provides suggested check-in questions and the ability to add custom questions that team members can respond to in a poll-like experience. Managers or teachers can also choose to make poll results anonymous.

An image of reflect messaging extension.

Make meetings more inclusive, engaging, and effective 

Live reactions—Non-verbal cues like smiles and head nods can be difficult to notice in online meetings, making it challenging for presenters to gauge audience reactions and for participants in large meetings to share a sentiment without interrupting the meeting flow. Soon, you will be able to react during a meeting using emojis that will appear to all participants. Live reactions is a shared feature with PowerPoint Live Presentations, which allows audience members to provide instant feedback to the presenter. We are also bringing PowerPoint Live Presentations to Teams in the future, further enabling audience engagement right from Teams.

An animated image of Live reactions.

Chat bubbles—During meetings, chat has become a lively space for conversation and idea-sharing, and offers an option for people to participate in the discussion without having to jump in verbally. But it can be challenging to pay attention to video feeds, presentations, and chats all at the same time. Currently, Teams users need to manually open a chat window to view the chat screen. Soon, however, chats sent during a Teams meeting will surface on the screens of all meeting participants, making the chat more central to the conversation. 

Speaker attribution for live captions and transcripts—While Teams already provides live captions as a way to follow along with what is being said in a meeting, soon we will add speaker attribution to captions so that everyone knows who is speaking. Live transcripts, coming later this year, provide another way to follow along with what has been said and who said it. After a meeting, the transcript file is automatically saved in a tab as a part of the meeting.

Note: Remarks made by participants joining from a conference room device will be attributed to the room rather than to the individuals in the room.

An animated image of Live Captions with speaker attribution.Live Captions with speaker attribution

An animated image of Live transcription with speaker attribution.Live transcription 

Interactive meetings for 1,000 participants and overflow—There are times when it’s important to bring large groups together for meetings or classes. For more interactive meetings—where attendees can chat, unmute to talk, and turn on their videos for real-time collaboration—Teams meetings are growing to support up to 1,000 participants. When you want to bring more people together to watch a presentation or discussion, Teams can support a view-only meeting experience for up to 20,000 participants.

Microsoft Whiteboard updates—Visual collaboration tools can make meetings and teaching environments more effective and inclusive. Whiteboard in Teams will soon be updated with new features including faster load times, sticky notes, text, and drag and drop capabilities. These features enable team members who don’t have access to a touchscreen or Surface Hub to participate in whiteboarding sessions during Teams meetings.

An image of Microsoft Whiteboard updates.

Streamline your work and save time 

Tasks app– The Tasks app in Teams provides a new unified view of tasks from across Microsoft To Do, Planner, and Outlook. Smart lists like “Assigned to me” bring tasks together across different shared plans, whether you’re on desktop, web, or mobile. Add Tasks as a tab in a channel and get your familiar Planner tab experience with the new list view.

Suggested replies—Get your message across with just one tap! Suggested replies in Teams chat uses assistive AI to create short responses based on the context of the previous message. So the next time someone asks you “Do you have time to meet today?” you can respond “I sure do!” without even pulling up your keyboard. 

Cortana in Teams—Coming soon to the Teams mobile app, Cortana uses AI and the Microsoft Graph to provide voice assistance in Teams. To stay connected to your team even when you have your hands full, you can ask Cortana to make a call, join a meeting, send chat messages, share files, and more. These voice assistance experiences are delivered using Cortana enterprise-grade services that meet Microsoft 365 privacy, security, and compliance commitments. Cortana will be available in the Teams mobile app on iOS and Android in the coming weeks for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users in the U.S. in English.

Microsoft Teams displays—Organizations need to enable their employees to set up more effective home office spaces while also preparing some to return to the office. To help, we’re introducing new Microsoft Teams display, a new category of all-in-one dedicated Teams devices that feature an ambient touchscreen and a hands-free experience powered by Cortana. With natural language, users can ask Cortana to join and present in meetings, dictate replies to a Teams chat, and more. These devices seamlessly integrate with your PC, providing easy access to Teams chat, meetings, calling, calendar, and files. And with a camera shutter and microphone mute switch, your conversations stay private. The Lenovo ThinkSmart View will be the first Microsoft Teams display to market, and Yealink will deliver one of the first devices in this category too. Microsoft Teams displays with Cortana will be available in the U.S. starting later this year.

An image of PCs with Microsoft Teams desplays.

Touchless meeting experiences—As some people begin to return to their worksites, touchless meeting experiences in shared spaces are more relevant than ever. Today, Teams enables people to join meetings and share content to meeting room devices from their own mobile device or PC. Later this year, we’ll enable these capabilities on Surface Hub as well. We’re building on these capabilities with a new room remote in the Teams mobile app, which will provide additional meeting controls such as the ability to leave the meeting, mute and unmute the room, adjust audio volume, and turn cameras on and off. Beginning later this year, voice assistance will be enabled for Microsoft Teams Room devices, allowing in-room participants to ask Cortana to join and leave a meeting, add a participant from the address book to a meeting using their name or phone number, and more. We’re also introducing the ability to wirelessly cast to any Teams Room, collaboration bar, or Surface Hub device, enabling seamless ad-hoc in-person collaboration for people in a shared space.

Note: Voice commands will launch first for Microsoft 365 Enterprise users in the U.S., in English. Not all Teams Room audio devices will support Cortana voice assistance.

An image of Room remote for Microsoft Teams devices.
Room remote for Microsoft Teams devices

While the above capabilities are designed for work and school, we aspire to make Teams the platform for work, life, and learning.

And they all reflect our vision for the future of work: where everyone is able to contribute and do their best work; where they can move fluidly between experiences, apps, and devices; where AI lends a helping hand to streamline tasks, provide short cuts, and save you time; and where technology contributes to wellbeing and doesn’t detract from it.

From the kickoff call to the project’s launch—and all points in-between—Teams is the place where people come together to get work done. Working alongside our customers, we’ll continue reimagining the future of work and delivering technologies that put people at the center of every experience.

For more information on Microsoft Teams, please contact us

Take your communications to the next level with new offerings in Microsoft Teams

In recent months, the shift to remote and hybrid work has catalyzed organizations of all sizes, and across every industry, to rethink how their people and teams communicate and collaborate. Many of our customers are now navigating a new COVID-19 response phase, moving on from “remote everything” to a more sustainable, hybrid workplace, blending remote work and physical offices. They are investing in long-term resilience and strengthening their organizational agility, while proactively managing cost and risk of current economic uncertainty.

When it comes to communications, there is a broad spectrum of needs that are required to connect employees from the worksite to the main office to the home office—across locations and time zones. The spectrum starts with the most basic 1:1 meetings and calls with colleagues, to larger group meetings, all the way to large events and conferences. During the crisis response to the pandemic, many organizations transformed rapidly in group meetings first, as evidenced by Microsoft Teams reaching 200 million participants in a single day. Organizations looking to create more sustained transformation are seeing that Teams serves communications needs well beyond group meetings, taking communications to the next level with broad scale company-wide events. At the other end of the spectrum, Teams modernizes 1:1 calling with a cloud-based phone system in the same Teams app that keeps you in the communications flow.

Today we’re excited to announce new offerings and capabilities across all ends of the communications spectrum.

Scale with professionalism and control with Advanced Communications

Communication systems across the world are evolving to support customers’ changing needs.  As our customers are mastering using Teams for group meetings, they want to increase their reach, and use the same familiar tool to deliver online meetings and events at a much broader scale. Naturally, this scale requires both structure and admin control, to achieve a more professional, seamless, compliant experience. Today, we are excited to announce a new Advanced Communications set of capabilities to support these needs:

  • Scale your Teams meeting up to 20,000 participants. Reach larger audiences to stay connected with your employees, customers, and partners. When building this capability, we were focused on your meeting experience, making sure that even as the meeting scales it is still easy to manage and listen to the speakers.  Therefore, we limited the size of interactive meetings to 1,000 participants, with a seamless shift to a ‘view only’ mode after the limit is met.
  • Enhanced admin control. Use new capabilities and insert more structure to meetings, by adding your company’s branding to meetings for a professional look and feel. Start out with branded meeting lobby, launching in the coming months, and extend your branding to the core meeting experience coming later. Connect with business applications to manage at scale and automate workflows. Work with Teams certified solution partners and help your organization address business needs by setting up compliance recording policy or bringing in collaboration to your customer engagement workflows.

 

An animated image of the Custom branded background.

Custom branded background.

Each of these new capabilities will be enabled with the new Advanced Communications plan, which can be added to any Microsoft 365 or Office 365 paid subscription.

Give employees 1:1 connections with Teams Calling

Connecting 1:1 with colleagues, customers and partners is important, especially when meeting face-to-face can be challenging.  Employees in your organization can easily call each other from Teams without a phone number. For your employees who use phone numbers to make and receive calls with customers, partners, and vendors, those numbers need to be with them, wherever they are. With Teams Calling, a cloud-based phone system, employees can continue to do this whether they are in the office, working from home, or some combination of the two.

When using Teams, you are getting best-in-class calling capabilities—validated by Team’s leader position in both the Gartner Magic Quadrant and Forrester Wave reports.  With all your communication tools in one place, Teams Calling makes it easy to call anyone, anywhere with any device. And, you can also move seamlessly between chat, calling, and meetings based on your needs. This saves IT time, reduces costs associated with multiple point solutions, and diminishes the need for employee training. Teams Calling is a secure, robust solution that is being used by both large call centers and individuals alike. It can be deployed quickly using your existing calling plan or a Microsoft calling plan in select markets.

As communication is being reimagined, so are the tools that we use to communicate. Instead of a desk phone and other peripherals, we’re taking a fresh perspective on what a phone could be with our newest device innovation, Microsoft Teams displays. This is a dedicated Teams device featuring an ambient touch screen, high-quality calling and video, and a hands-free experience powered by Cortana.

An image of with Cortana built-in, the Lenovo ThinkSmart View and Yealink will be delivering the first Microsoft Teams displays in the U. S. later this year.

With Cortana built-in, the Lenovo ThinkSmart View and Yealink  will be delivering the first Microsoft Teams displays in the U. S. later this year.

We also realize that being able to use existing hardware can provide important cost savings when moving to a new phone system. Today, we are announcing extended support for Skype for Business (3PIP) phones beyond 2023, so you can continue to use your existing Skype for Business phones as you move to Teams. Additionally, we will be supporting core calling features on SIP phones from Cisco, Yealink, Polycom, and others with Teams. Support for SIP phones will be available in the first half of 2021.

For customers looking to modernize their phones, we are bringing a new line of Microsoft Teams phones with physical buttons, high-quality audio, and core calling features at an affordable price. These phones are designed for common areas and basic information worker scenarios, with options available from AudioCodes, Poly, Yealink starting early 2021. We are also expanding our portfolio to deliver new USB peripherals that have dial pads and a modern Teams user interface for heavy call users. These USB phones work out of the box, featuring a Teams button, and will connect to both a PC and Mac to bring a high-quality Teams audio experience. These will be available in late 2020.

To get started with Teams, contact us

Bring innovation anywhere with Azure’s multi-cloud, multi-edge hybrid capabilities

As businesses shift priorities to enable remote work, take advantage of cloud innovation, and maximize their existing on-premises investments, relying on an effective multi-cloud, multi-edge hybrid approach is even more important than it has ever been.

Since the beginning, Microsoft Azure has always been hybrid by design, providing customers consistency and flexibility in meeting their business needs and empowering them to invent with purpose. This is one of the many reasons that the world’s leading brands trust their businesses to run on Azure. As we expand our Azure hybrid capabilities, we give customers a holistic and seamless approach to run and manage their apps anywhere across on-premises, multi-cloud, and the edge. Today, we are releasing even more innovation in our Azure hybrid portfolio.

hybrid1

Azure Arc: Bring Azure to any infrastructure

In November 2019, Microsoft launched Azure Arc to give customers the flexibility to innovate anywhere with Azure. Azure Arc does two key things: first, it brings Azure management capabilities to any infrastructure, and second, it enables Azure services to run anywhere. Since its launch, Azure Arc has seen tremendous customer interest and adoption across all industries. Organizations such as Africa’s Talking, Avanade, DexMach, Ferguson, Fujitsu, KPMG, and Siemens Healthineers are already realizing value with Azure Arc. They use Azure Arc to manage and govern their resources more efficiently in distributed environments, and they use Azure Arc to bring Azure data services on-premises.

Today, we are announcing more innovation with Azure Arc:

  • Azure Arc enabled data services is now in preview. Now, Azure SQL Managed Instance and Azure PostgreSQL Hyperscale can run across on-premises datacenters, multi-cloud, and the edge. Customers can now take advantage of the latest Azure managed database innovation, such as staying always current with evergreen SQL, elastic scale, and a unified data management experience, regardless of whether it’s running in Azure, running in their datacenter, or running in a different public cloud. And, these data services work in both connected and disconnected modes. Customers are seeing wide-ranging benefits in improving their IT productivity and business agility with Azure Arc enabled data services. 
  • Azure Arc enabled servers is now generally available. Customers can seamlessly organize and govern Windows and Linux servers—both physical and virtual machines (VMs)—across their multi-cloud, multi-edge environment, all from the Azure portal. Customers can now use Azure management services to monitor, secure, and update servers, and audit them with the same Azure Policy across multi-cloud and multi-edge deployments. In addition, customers can implement standardized role-based access control across all their servers to meet important compliance requirements.  Learn more about Azure Arc.

Azure Stack HCI and Azure Stack Hub: Modernize on-premises datacenters

Today, we’re launching new Azure Stack capabilities to help customers modernize their datacenters:

  • Preview of Azure Kubernetes Services (AKS) on Azure Stack HCI. AKS on Azure Stack HCI enables customers to deploy and manage containerized apps at scale on Azure Stack HCI, just as they can run AKS within Azure. This now provides a consistent, secure, and fully managed Kubernetes experience for customers who want to use Azure Stack HCI within their datacenters. 
  • Azure Stack Hub is now available with GPUs. To power visualization intense apps, we’ve partnered with AMD to bring the AMD Mi25 GPU to Azure Stack Hub, which allows users to share the GPU in an efficient way. The NVIDIA V100 Tensor Core GPU enables customers to run compute intense machine learning workloads in disconnected or partially connected scenarios. The NVIDIA T4 Tensor Core GPU provides visualization, inferencing, and machine learning for less compute intense workloads. 

Azure VMware Solution: Seamlessly extend and migrate VMware workloads to Azure

Many customers want the ability to seamlessly integrate their existing VMware environments with Azure. Today, we are announcing Azure VMware Solution is now generally available. Designed, built, and supported by Microsoft, Azure VMware Solution is cloud verified by VMware and enables customers to migrate VMware workloads to the cloud with minimal complexity. The Azure service includes the latest VMware Cloud Foundation components such as vSphere, NSX-T, HCX, and vSan, and integrates with a rich set of partner solutions, so customers can continue to use existing tools and skills. In addition, with our licensing offering Azure Hybrid Benefit, Azure is the most cost-effective cloud to migrate your Windows Server and SQL workloads to, whether they run on VMware or elsewhere.

New innovation to run compute and AI at the Edge

Organizations are extending compute and AI to the edge of their network to unlock new business scenarios. Imagine that a retail store always stocks the right products at the right places, a hospital extends patient care to the most remote areas in the world, or a factory optimizes its performance level against capacity in real time. It’s what we call the intelligent edge. Azure offers a comprehensive portfolio of cloud services and edge device support to help customers realize these new use-cases.

Today, we are releasing new edge capabilities:

  • Azure SQL Edge is now generally available, bringing the most secure Microsoft SQL data engine to IoT gateways and edge devices. Optimized for edge workloads, this small-footprint container supports built-in data streaming, storage, and AI in connected or disconnected environments. Built on the same codebase as SQL Server and Azure SQL Database, Azure SQL Edge provides the same industry-leading security, the same familiar developer experience, and the same tooling that many teams already know and trust. 
  • Two new Azure Stack Edge rugged devices are available. Customers can perform machine learning and gain quick insights at the edge by running the Azure Stack Edge Pro R with NVIDIA’s powerful T4 GPU and the lightweight, portable Azure Stack Edge Mini R. Both devices are designed to operate in the harshest environments at remote locations. 
  • Azure Stack Edge is now available with GPUs. Customers can run visualization, inferencing, and machine learning at the edge with the Azure Stack Edge Pro series powered by the NVIDIA T4 Tensor Core GPU. This unlocks a broad set of new edge scenarios, such as automatically recognizing license plates for efficient retail curbside pickup, and detecting defects in real time in products on a manufacturing assembly line. 
  • AT&T builds cellular-enabled guardian module with Azure Sphere: AT&T and Microsoft are teaming up to enable enterprise customers to connect their machines and equipment securely by Azure Sphere guardian devices to the cloud seamlessly via AT&T’s cellular network, without needing to rely on Wi-Fi systems. This enables customers to connect their devices where Wi-Fi does not meet their security standards. For example, customers who operate franchises in third-party locations will be able to connect their machines directly to their own clouds, bypassing third-party-owned Wi-Fi. The AT&T powered guardian device expands Azure Sphere’s reach with the AT&T Global SIM that can operate in over 200 countries, and provides multi-layered, unified security from edge to cloud.

We look forward to sharing even more updates on our innovation in multi-cloud, multi-edge hybrid!

To learn more about Microsoft Azure hybrid offerings, contact us

Overview of Microsoft 365 Business Premium

What is Microsoft 365 Business Premium

Microsoft 365 Business Premium (formerly Microsoft 365 Business) is a comprehensive subscription service for businesses with less than 300 employees. It integrates your favorite Office productivity apps and services, and collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, with advanced security and device management capabilities.

Watch this video for a quick overview of Microsoft 365 Business Premium.

 

 

Small business security needs
Your business data can be compromised in many ways. You and your users can compromise your organization’s security when you sign in with compromised credentials or view organization data on different devices and applications. More specifically, your organization is at risk from:

  • Compromised or weak sign-in credentials.
  • Compromised device with a weak pin, or a user owned device.
  • Users who can copy/paste/save your organization’s data to personal apps.
  • Users who install and use third-party apps with weak security.
  • Email vulnerabilities, including sharing sensitive data, phishing attempts, malware, and so on.
  • When people who should not, can access documents with sensitive information.

Microsoft 365 Business Premium helps safeguard your data in each of these instances. The security features that protect your business data are detailed in the following figure.

How your data and devices are protected

Microsoft 365 Business Premium helps defended against threats by:

  • Scanning links in emails and documents in real time to block unsafe web sites (ATP Safe Links).
  • Performing advanced analysis of email attachments in a sandbox environment to detect newly developed malware (ATP Safe Attachments).
  • Enabling anti-phishing policies that use machine learning models and impersonation detection to provide protection against advanced attacks (ATP anti-phishing intelligence).
  • Setting up advanced policies that disable access from untrusted locations or bypass multifactor authentication from trusted places such as your office network (Azure MFA including trusted IPs, and Conditional Access).
  • Enforcing malware protection across all your organization’s Windows 10 devices and protecting files in key system folders from changes made by ransomware (Windows Defender)

Your business data is protected by:

  • Using automatic detection to help prevent sensitive information such as Social Security numbers or credit cards from leaking outside your business (data loss prevention).
  • Encrypting sensitive emails so you can communicate securely with customers or other people outside your organization. This ensures that only the intended recipient can read the message (Office 365 Message Encryption).
  • Controlling who has access to company information by applying restrictions such as Do Not Copy and Do Not Forward to email and documents (Azure Information Protection, Plan 1).
  • Enabling unlimited cloud archiving so you can retain all your organization’s email, including the mailboxes of former employees (Exchange Online Archiving).

Your devices are secured by:

  • Controlling which devices and users can access your Microsoft data, with options to block users from signing in from home computers, unapproved apps, or outside of work hours (Conditional Access).
  • Applying security policies to protect business data on iOS and Android devices. For example, you can require users to provide a PIN or fingerprint to access business data, and encrypt data on mobile devices (App protection for Office mobile apps).
  • Keeping business documents, emails, and other data within approved Office mobile apps and preventing employees from saving these to unauthorized apps and locations (App protection for Office mobile apps).
  • Remotely wiping business data from lost or stolen devices without affecting personal information (Intune selective wipe).
  • Using simplified controls to manage policies for all the Windows 10 PCs in your company, enforcing BitLocker encryption and automatically installing critical Windows updates (Enforce Windows update policies).

 

For more information on Microsoft 365, please contact us.