New Microsoft Teams Essentials is built for small businesses

New Microsoft Teams Essentials is built for small businesses

While the past 20 months have been challenging for all organizations, I don’t know any that have been hit harder than small businesses. They’ve had to adapt nearly every aspect of how they operate and work with customers, often without access to critical tools and technologies. The world isn’t going back to the “old” way of working, so small businesses need solutions that are designed specifically for their unique needs to thrive in this new normal.

Today we’re excited to introduce Microsoft Teams Essentials. It’s the first standalone offering of Microsoft Teams designed specifically with small businesses in mind. It brings together features small businesses need to serve customers, including unlimited group video calls for up to 30 hours, group chat, file sharing, and calendaring. And at only $4 USD per user per month, it’s the most affordable all-in-one solution in the market today.

Teams Essentials is built for small businesses

With Teams Essentials, small businesses from restaurants to retailers to professional services can easily meet, collaborate, communicate, and serve customers in new ways. Take Bristol Dental Specialists, a United Kingdom-based practice that began using Teams last year. From virtual consultations to collaboration with colleagues, the Bristol team delivers faster, friendlier, and more cost-effective patient care with Teams.

“Communication is so important, and with Teams, we’re working together better than ever to provide patients with a standard of care that sets us apart.”—Rebecca Metcalfe, Senior Treatment Coordinator, Bristol Dental Specialists

The need for affordable communications tools isn’t limited to traditional for-profit small businesses. Nonprofits, religious organizations, schools, and community groups also struggle to connect and collaborate effectively. These organizations and small businesses need to get up and running fast, and Teams Essentials makes it possible with no IT expertise necessary. Teams Essentials enables those with and without a Teams account to participate easily and effectively. While the free version of Microsoft Teams is still available, Teams Essentials offers extended limits like longer meetings and more storage. Let’s take a closer look at how Teams Essentials can support your needs.

Expansive meeting limits and easy-to-use features let you host professional meetings

Meeting up to 300 participants on a group call
Shared default Google calendar integration.

Working closely with customers and partners can be a challenge for any business without the right communication tools. Teams Essentials brings existing Teams capabilities together with features specifically designed for small businesses and community groups:

  •  Extended meeting times—With meetings that can last up to 30 hours, there’s no need to worry about your Teams Essentials meeting running over its time limit, whether you’re meeting one-on-one or in a group.
  •  Large meeting capacity—With the ability to host up to 300 people at once, Teams Essentials offers the ability to bring everyone into the same virtual room.
  • Calendar integration—In addition to integration with Outlook Calendar, the new Google Calendar integration in Microsoft Teams means you can use your existing calendaring tool to stay on top of schedules and manage your meetings. *Google Calendar integration coming soon.
  • Simple, easy invitations—Inviting people to a meeting is easy. Simply add them to the Teams meeting invitation using their email address. They will receive a meeting invitation with a link to join. And if they don’t have Teams, the meeting will open directly in their browser. No sign-up, sign-in, or installation required.
  • Interactive meetings—Professional meeting tools and capabilities like meeting lobby, virtual backgrounds, Together mode, live closed captions, live reactions, and more allow any organization to host engaging meetings.

With the ability to connect existing tools and store content in one place, it’s easy to stay organized

Easily share files on any Teams chat
Edit and co-author files in Office web apps

Teams Essentials simplifies communications for small businesses and community groups with a single solution for chat and meetings—saving time, and most importantly, keeping meetings and conversations in context. It includes tools to work effectively with anyone, including Office web apps, file sharing, group chats, task management, and more.

  •  Additional cloud storage—Don’t worry about running out of storage or wasting time searching for documents. Easily co-author, view, edit, and store Office 365 files. Teams Essentials offers a total of 10 gigabytes (GB) file storage, which is twice the amount of storage available in the free version of Teams.
  • Ongoing chat—All conversations in Teams are persistent, helping you to keep the conversation going so you never lose context or continuity. The conversation doesn’t end when the meeting ends.
  • Small business group chat template—Quickly start a group project and host meetings with anyone, assign tasks to teammates, and create polls to receive feedback quickly all in one hub, taking productivity to the next level. *Coming soon to desktop and web.
  • Chat, meet, and collaborate with anyone—Whether you are working with someone within or outside your organization, using the Teams app or dialing in, your chat and collaboration experience is kept in one place. There’s no need to jump between app experiences when you’re working on a project with an outside company.
  • Mobile chat dashboard—Just click on dashboard view in any one-on-one or group chat to conveniently access all shared content neatly organized into categories such as locations, photos, files, task lists, upcoming events, weblinks, and more. *Available for customers purchasing directly from Microsoft.

Teams Essentials offers the value and support small businesses need

Costs are top of mind for every business and community. Microsoft Teams Essentials offers the most value at the best price. And with a simplified interface that is easy to learn, it is straightforward and easy for employees to quickly be productive.

  • Get the most from your technology tools—With rich communications features at the lowest cost in the market, at $4 per user per month, Teams Essentials offers outstanding value for small companies and community groups.
  • Support from Microsoft—Teams Essentials is backed by Microsoft and runs in the Azure cloud. This means security, reliability, performance, and support. Microsoft is here to help with the technology you need—within your budget.

How to buy Teams Essentials

Microsoft Teams Essentials is available from a variety of Microsoft Cloud Partners including some of the most recognized names in the industry:

ALSOCrayonIngramPax8RhipeTD SynnexTelefonica (ES)Deutsche TelekomVodafone (IT)Wortmann AG.

Microsoft Cloud Partner logos

Customers worldwide can also purchase Teams Essentials direct from Microsoft.

Customers looking to use Microsoft Teams for personal use can get access to these same features and extended meeting limits with a Microsoft 365 Family and Microsoft 365 Personal subscription.

Microsoft is committed to providing small businesses with technologies that power their core needs. That’s why we built Teams Essentials and recently announced expanded security offerings for small and medium businesses with Microsoft Defender for Business, designed to help small businesses protect against ransomware and other cyberthreats. With Teams Essentials, we are excited to take another step in our commitment and enable small businesses to collaborate securely from virtually anywhere.

Get started with Microsoft 365

Help people and teams do their best work with the apps and experiences they rely on every day to connect, collaborate, and get work done from anywhere. Chat with one of our Microsoft Specialized experts today to get started.

Upcoming Free Microsoft 365 Workshops for SMBs

Be sure to register for one of our upcoming workshops to dive into Microsoft 365 and unleash its full potential to boost your ROI in all of your operational endeavors.

Join us Oct. 25th or November 15th


Microsoft study: Small and medium-sized businesses growing fast by embracing digital technologies

| Kevin Peesker, Worldwide President for Small, Medium and Corporate and Digital

Women and men in an office

Eighty percent of businesses expect to be hybrid – four tips for data security and compliance.

Sustainability is the #1 ESG priority for Small and Medium Businesses – how to reduce your carbon footprint.

Early adopters of technology grow faster – practical steps to accelerate your digital journey.

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are the cornerstone of every community. With an estimated 400 million SMBs operating worldwide, they account for 99% of global organizations. SMBs are the main source of job creation, making up between 60%-85% of employment. [1] [2]  And according to the International Labor Organization, by some estimates, SMBs contribute up to 70% of GDP.[3]

With that kind of scale and impact, SMBs need the ability to innovate to be successful and thrive in a digitally enabled economy.

During the pandemic, we saw that businesses able to accelerate their digital transformation fared better than those that did not. Many reported growth through their focus on tech intensity.

Under such unprecedented circumstances, Microsoft was curious to learn how SMBs view the current realities of their businesses, to understand their goals and priorities, and to assess whether technology is seen as a catalyst to future success.

Analysys Mason was commissioned to conduct research with over 3,000 SMBs from 10 different areas of the world, representing the global footprint of SMBs.

Today, we are releasing our findings with the Microsoft SMB Voice and Attitudes to Technology Study 2022.

Top insights

Digital technology adoption contributes to faster growth

SMB chart primary business objectivesThe study confirms that nearly 70% of businesses consider growth as their primary driver, and technology “early adopters” saw faster and higher growth.  Businesses identified as early adopters are twice as likely to have achieved their past business objectives plus higher revenue growth over the past year and are also four times more likely to be highly confident in their future business success. Today, businesses are focusing on sustaining growth despite geopolitical uncertainty, high inflation and energy prices. For 51% of businesses, the ongoing impact of COVID-19 remains a concern.

Security and reliability form the foundation

More than two-thirds of SMBs plan to increase their IT budgets in the next year, prioritizing investments in the following ways:SMB graphic about technology

Eighty percent of businesses expect to have a hybrid workforce for at least the next two years and require the technology to support their business goals in a reliable and secure way.

Partners help drive strategy and SMB growth

While the majority of SMBs recognize the importance of technology in reaching business goals, 16% see it as essential. However, many SMBs need partners to map the right technology to their business strategy.  Almost half choose technology partners, with 33% favoring Managed Service Providers or Cloud Solution Providers whom they expect to proactively recommend technology solutions to accelerate companies’ business goals.

Two women hold business meeting

The millennial factor

Millennials hold 41% of technology decision-making roles. They tend to work for newer companies and 13% are more likely to see technology as important or essential to business success. Nearly one-third of millennials identify as technophiles in their personal lives, carrying some of their consumer traits into how they research and purchase technology, placing high value on peer ratings and reviews when making purchasing decisions. In 2016, Gallup flagged that millennials favor purpose over paycheck in their How Millennials Work and Live report. Millennials as business owners apply those values to their business and technology priorities.

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals – no longer just for the enterprise

Two-thirds of SMBs in the study report having ESG assessment and monitoring frameworks in place. Millennials are leading the way, being the most likely to have an annual report dedicated to their ESG progress. In terms of focus areas, 37% cited lowering their environmental impact, 30% wanted to improve their diversity and inclusion, while 30% were focused on job creation.  The study points to a link between an ESG focus and attainment of business objectives – with both these traits being most prevalent among early adopters.

Ninety-nine percent of the world’s businesses are actively seeking solutions to address current challenges and generate new opportunities. This community impacts economies worldwide and the livelihoods of billions. They do this not to just be resilient and survive, but to thrive and bring innovation to their industries and value to their customers. Microsoft continues to listen to and learn from our SMB customers, aligning to what is their top of mind.

Together, the possibilities are endless, and opportunity abounds for all.


A Comprehensive Guide to Microsoft Security

A Comprehensive Guide to Microsoft Security


In today's digital age, cybersecurity has become a crucial aspect of our lives. With more and more businesses and individuals relying on technology, the threat of cyber-attacks has increased significantly.

Cybercriminals are constantly looking for ways to exploit vulnerabilities in software and hardware, steal sensitive information, and disrupt operations. Thankfully, businesses like Microsoft offer incredible tools and resources to keep your organizations data safe.


The State of Cybersecurity

 As technology continues to advance at an unprecedented pace, the threat of cybercrime looms larger than ever before. Cyberattacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and the damage they cause can be catastrophic, both financially and reputationally.

In 2024, the cybersecurity landscape is expected to evolve even further, with new threats emerging and existing ones becoming more potent. According to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime is expected to cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025, up from $3 trillion in 2015.

The report also states that ransomware attacks are expected to occur every 11 seconds by 2023. These attacks can be devastating for businesses, as they can result in significant financial losses, downtime, and again, reputational damage.

According to a report by Microsoft, phishing attacks continue to be the most common type of cyberattack, with a 65% increase in phishing attacks in 2022 compared to the previous year. Phishing attacks involve cybercriminals posing as legitimate entities to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information or downloading malware.

Furthermore, this survey by Varonis found that 53% of companies experienced a data breach in 2022 – an increase of 41% since 2021. This statistic underscores the importance of having robust cybersecurity measures, as even the most secure organizations are vulnerable to cyber threats.

Overall, these data points demonstrate the growing threat of cybercrime and the need for individuals and organizations to take proactive measures to protect themselves against these threats.

This is where having a top-notch security system comes in. There is no single "best" cybersecurity platform that works for all organizations, but you can find one that works best for you!


Picking the Right Security Technology

Different businesses have different cybersecurity needs based on their size, industry, and types of data and systems they handle. The cybersecurity platform that works best for one organization may not work for another.

There are several leading cybersecurity platforms in the market that offer comprehensive security solutions for businesses of all sizes, and as a partner with hands-on experience, we recommend standardizing on a single platform and using tools that work seamlessly with existing technologies. If a business is leveraging the Microsoft Platform, then Microsoft security tools may just amaze you!

Microsoft has been a leader in the tech industry for over four decades, and its commitment to security is unwavering.

Microsoft security offers a comprehensive cybersecurity platform with advanced threat protection, identity and access management, compliance tools, security automation, and integration with other Microsoft products such as Microsoft 365 and Azure.

The platform also leverages machine learning and AI to provide real-time threat detection and response, helping businesses stay ahead of the latest cyber threats.

Let's take a closer look at some of the features of Microsoft Security and how they can benefit you.


Windows Based Protections

Microsoft offers a variety of options that we’ll be looking at today. From built-in technology (i.e. Windows based security features), to licensing opportunities, to cloud options – Microsoft has you covered.

For those already using or considering switching to Microsoft hardware, we’ll start with the security features from Windows 11 to help you dig a little deeper.


Microsoft Defender Antivirus

Microsoft Defender Antivirus is Microsoft’s next-generation protection for Windows 11. This built-in feature provides real-time protection against viruses, malware, and other types of malicious software.

It is designed to scan your device automatically and remove any threats that it finds. Microsoft Defender Antivirus uses advanced machine learning algorithms to detect and block malware.

It also has a cloud-based protection system that ensures that your device is always up to date with the latest security patches and definitions.


Microsoft Firewall

Microsoft Firewall is made to help prevent criminals, hackers, or malicious software from gaining access to your PC through the internet or a network. It is another built-in feature of Windows 11 that provides advanced security protection.

It monitors inbound and outbound traffic and blocks any unauthorized connections to your device. This tool also provides granular control over which applications can access the internet, which can help prevent malware from spreading.

Additionally, it has an intuitive user interface that makes it easy to configure and manage your firewall settings.


Microsoft Defender SmartScreen

Microsoft Defender SmartScreen is another security feature that is built into Windows 11. This feature is geared to protect users from phishing and malware attacks while browsing the web.

SmartScreen works by checking the URLs of websites you visit against a continuously updated list of known malicious sites and downloads. If it detects that a site or download is potentially dangerous, it will display a warning message that advises you against visiting the site or downloading the file.

SmartScreen also uses machine learning algorithms to analyze web pages and files for suspicious behavior, helping to identify new threats that may not yet be on its list of known threats.


Licensing Options

If you don’t have Microsoft hardware, fear not! You can still get these incredible technologies through licensing. If you work with a managed services or software provider, be sure to ask them about the following to protect your organization today.


Microsoft 365 Defender

Microsoft 365 Defender is a comprehensive security solution that provides advanced protection for Microsoft's cloud-based services, including Microsoft 365 and Azure. It uses AI and machine learning to detect and respond to threats across multiple endpoints, including email, endpoints, and identities.

Microsoft 365 Defender also provides advanced threat protection features such as email filtering, anti-phishing protection, and identity protection. It also has a user-friendly dashboard that provides real-time visibility into your security posture.


Cloud Based Security

Microsoft also offers incredibly powerful cloud-based security solutions through Azure for companies who have or are considering migrating their data to the cloud.


Azure Defender

Azure Defender is a security solution for organizations that use Microsoft's Azure cloud platform. It provides advanced threat protection for your Azure resources, including virtual machines, containers, and serverless functions.

Azure Defender uses machine learning algorithms to detect and respond to threats across your entire Azure environment. It also provides real-time visibility into your security posture and alerts you to any potential threats.


Microsoft Identity Manager

Microsoft Identity Manager is a comprehensive identity and access management solution that helps you manage user identities and access to resources. It provides a centralized management console that makes it easy to manage user identities, roles, and permissions across your organization.

Microsoft Identity Manager also provides advanced authentication features such as multi-factor authentication and conditional access. It also integrates with Microsoft 365 Defender to provide advanced threat protection for your identities.


Key Benefits of Microsoft Security

Protect Against Advanced Threats

Microsoft Security offers advanced threat protection for email, endpoints, and cloud-based services such as Microsoft 365 and Azure. This protection helps prevent phishing attacks, malware, and other types of cyber threats that can compromise a business's data and systems.

Identity and Access Management

With the rise of remote work and the cloud, identity and access management have become more critical than ever. Microsoft Security provides a centralized management console through Microsoft Identity Manager that makes it easy to manage user identities, roles, and permissions across an organization, reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

Compliance and Regulatory Requirements

Many industries have specific compliance and regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA in healthcare or PCI-DSS in the financial industry. Microsoft Security helps businesses meet these requirements by providing compliance tools and features, such as data encryption, auditing, and access controls.

Security Automation

Microsoft Security leverages machine learning and AI to provide real-time threat detection and response. This automation helps reduce the workload on IT and security teams, allowing them to focus on higher-level tasks and initiatives.

Integration with Other Microsoft Products

Microsoft Security integrates seamlessly with other Microsoft products, such as Microsoft 365 and Azure. This integration allows businesses to leverage a comprehensive suite of security solutions that work together seamlessly, providing a more holistic approach to cybersecurity.


Microsoft Security Success Stories


ASOS is a global online fashion and beauty retailer that serves customers in over 240 countries. As a company that handles a vast amount of sensitive customer data, ASOS needed to ensure that its systems and data were secure.

To do this, ASOS implemented Microsoft Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) and Microsoft Cloud App Security. These solutions provided ASOS with comprehensive identity and access management, as well as advanced threat protection for its cloud-based services. As a result, ASOS was able to improve its security posture and protect its customers' data from cyber threats.


M-KOPA is a Kenyan-based company that provides solar energy to off-grid communities in East Africa. To ensure the security of its customer data and systems, M-KOPA implemented Microsoft Intune and Microsoft Defender for Endpoint.

These solutions provided M-KOPA with a comprehensive mobile device management and endpoint security solution. As a result, M-KOPA was able to reduce the risk of cyber threats and ensure the security of its customer data and systems.

The American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is a nonprofit organization that funds cancer research, provides patient support, and advocates for cancer prevention policies. To protect its data and systems, the American Cancer Society implemented Microsoft Azure Information Protection (AIP) and Microsoft Cloud App Security.

These solutions provided the American Cancer Society with comprehensive data protection and advanced threat detection and response capabilities. As a result, the American Cancer Society was able to improve its security posture and protect its data and systems from cyber threats.

Overall, these success stories demonstrate how Microsoft Security solutions can help organizations of all sizes and industries improve their security posture, protect their data and systems, and reduce the risk of cyber threats.


Final Notes

Although security is a critical part of your business’ tech infrastructure – you don’t need to be living in fear. Yes, cybercrime is rising and will continue to rise as the digital world grows, but security solutions will continue to grow with it.

By leveraging the power of Microsoft Security, businesses can better defend against cyber-attacks and ensure the security of their most valuable assets,

If you are looking for a reliable and effective security solution, Microsoft Security is a great choice. With its advanced machine learning algorithms, cloud-based protection system, and intuitive-user interface, Microsoft Security provides the security you need to stay protected.

Deploying a new security solution can be difficult, but our team can help. Contact us today to chat with one of our experts and see how easy and painless this process can look like for you!

Microsoft 365 vs. Google Workspace: Finding the Best Option for Your Business

Featured image for Managed Solution blog titled "Microsoft 365 vs. Google workspace. Image of work team members gathered around a tablet.

Microsoft 365 vs. Google Workspace: The Best Option for Your Business

Choosing the right productivity platform for your business is no easy feat, especially when it comes to Microsoft 365 vs. Google Workspace. Unlike personal use, there are many aspects to consider beyond user-preference and comfortability. You want a platform that can not only meet your needs of today but grow with you as your company expands. There’s also the matter of efficiency, compatibility, pricing and more to weigh out.

Between Google and Microsoft, there is truly no obvious answer. There are, however, some key unique differences that may help you decide which option is ultimately best for your business.

As an MSP, Managed solution has worked with hundreds of businesses and helped them navigate the world of digital workspaces to find the right fit for them. In this article we’ll walk you through the two suites and clarify the differences so that you can move forward with the best option for you.

Products Overview

Let’s start with the basics. Below is a concise list of some of the more prominent products from both Google and Microsoft offices:

google workspace image featuring the key tools included in google workspace


Gmail, Calendar, Meet, Chat, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Sites, etc…



Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, Planner, Viva, etc…

Of these products and applications, the work-based apps tend to be the first things businesses look at when faced with the great Microsoft v. Google dilemma. Between Docs and Word, Sheets and Excel, or Slides and PowerPoint – the general understanding is that Google’s offerings are more collaborative and user-friendly, while Microsoft tends to be the best choice for users needing powerful and robust solutions. For a more in-depth comparison of these applications, see what the experts at have to say!

Something else to consider here is that Microsoft’s Office Packages have the advantage of longevity. Therefore, if you utilize Google workplace, you will still likely work with other companies who utilize Microsoft Office Applications – to solve for this many companies on Google Workplace make separate local purchases of non-cloud-based Microsoft applications to be able to share and convert files with other Microsoft users.

To further consider which option will work better for you, consider your company-size and level of B2B communications. Do you need a more powerful, streamlined process provided by Microsoft 365 applications? Or will your team be able to work better with the more collaborative and accessible Google Workplace browser-based apps?


Both Outlook and Gmail are renowned email applications. Here, the distinguishing factors boil down to simplicity vs. utility.

Gmail is the simpler option. To begin, it has much less tools on its interface compared to Outlook’s which some users prefer for easier navigation. However, with its new simplified Ribbon, Outlook has certainly made headway in becoming more user-friendly.

Outlook has all the email, contact and calendar features you can imagine. Microsoft has built-in capabilities you’ve likely never even thought of into this program. Whatever you need to accomplish within your email system, you can do it with Outlook.

The choice therefore mainly depends on how you and your team use email, and how much time you’re willing to spend learning new features. If you don’t have extensive or complex needs for your emailing service, Gmail will suit you just fine. Alternatively, if you and your team need more tools and utility for email, or if people in your organization have varying needs, consider opting for Outlook.

Data Security and Management

A key decision-making aspect that is often missed is the management and protection of your data. With the global increase in remote workers, cyber security is more important than ever. In fact, we have seen unprecedented increases in phishing attacks since 2020[link to data].

Security should therefore be top-of-mind in your decision-making process. Even the best user-features can’t make up for insufficient security. The golden rule here is that finding the right security resources for your business means finding the best security resources.

Here's what the experts at had to say on the topic of security:

“…The simplified view in the Microsoft 365 admin center beats anything in Google Workspace because of how easily it lets you accomplish the most common tasks, including and editing new and existing users, changing licenses, paying bills, and installing Office on devices.

Interfaces aside, Microsoft 365 offers better admin account security, superior mobile administration, and more management controls. Both suites protect your data with enterprise-grade security and offer a central security center for managing user permissions and protections…”.

Because security is such a critical feature, we’ve got to stick with the experts here and agree that Microsoft is the reigning champion of security and safety. However, we have plenty of resources to help you take a deeper look at security between google and Microsoft.

Collaboration and Productivity

Another huge factor for many businesses is collaboration, especially in today’s digital age where so many employees are working from home. Both Google and Microsoft offer popular solutions, so the question here really boils down to your team's needs and preferences.

Microsoft Teams offers a virtually all-in-one solution that combines chats, digital meetings, and custom workspaces, while also offering seamless integration with other products like Outlook, SharePoint, and OneDrive. This makes Microsoft the best choice for users who prefer a more robust chat-centered solution to focus their collaborative efforts around.

Google, on the other hand, their communication applications focus on intuitive functionality and real-time collaboration. Because of the simplicity and user-friendly quality behind the interface, many people feel that Google ranks higher for collaboration.

Although Google is initially more effective for collaboration, productivity is ultimately hindered businesses begin to scale and find themselves needing more detailed work practices. Not to mention, storage of data and information becomes one of the key issues Google users face. Collaboration and productivity become hard to maintain when you can’t access lost or disorganized information.


Although so much of the great Microsoft 365 vs. Google Workspace debate boils down to personal preference of functionality – there are also certain aspects from each solution that cater better to certain demographics. Typically, many start-up/small businesses find that Google is an easier and cheaper fit for their needs due to its accessibility and collaborative capabilities.

However, as these businesses scale to more mid-market and even enterprise-level sizes – Microsoft’s robust solution packages streamline storage and communication processes better – while also providing a higher level of security and support.

Want to learn more about workplace solutions? Join our newsletter here and stay in the know!

Skype for Business Retirement – What Next?

Microsoft will retire Skype for Business Online by July 31, 2021. They intend to move all Skype customers over to Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams is an online collaboration workspace application and service that includes chat, file-sharing, video conferencing and more.

There are several benefits for businesses using Microsoft Teams instead of Skype. The platform manages to bring together files, chats, and apps, all the while providing functionality that allows for faster and seamless collaboration. Thanks to these features, Teams is a better communication tool than Skype as the core communications client for Office 365.

Plus, it integrates across the entire productivity suite of Microsoft 365 apps and hundreds of third-party integrations, making it your one-stop shop for communication and collaboration.

The Phasing out and Move to Teams

Granted, there are numerous benefits of moving your communications from Skype to Teams, but this doesn't mean that migration won't require some time and effort. For this reason, Microsoft has taken several steps to ensure that the transition process will be as easy as possible.

Download our Getting Starting with Teams Guide to help make your transition seamless!

How to Prepare for the Skype-To-Teams Migration?

A successful transition from Skype for Business Online to Microsoft Teams will require some degree of planning. Microsoft suggests that you start using Teams as soon as possible. This way, you will allow yourself ample time to complete the transition before Skype's retirement date. Keep in mind that after July 31, 2021, Skype for Business will no longer be accessible or supported.

In terms of actual planning, every organization will have to design their own transition journey, which is no small feat, especially for larger organizations with many users.

Why Microsoft Teams?

Let's see how Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business compare.

Both tools allow for individual and group chats, as well as turning chats into calls. However, while you can send emojis via both, only Teams allows for memes and gifs, which in a remote workforce can make staying connected easier. Plus, unlike Skype, Teams stores your conversation history so if you need to go back and reference something, you can easily scroll up or use the search function to find it.

Teams' biggest advantage is its file-sharing capabilities, making it more than just a communication platform. Now, users (both internally and externally, with the right permissions) can share files and collaborate on documents in real-time. Gone are the days of finding the most recent version of something - the latest and greatest will be up to date and synced in real-time in your Teams app.

When it comes to meetings, Teams also has some new and unique features, too. Just like Skype, you can schedule a meeting via Outlook and use the Scheduling Assistant to find the best time for all attendees. Where it differs, though, is that you can have persistent chat before, during and after the meeting. Meaning, you can continue to use that group chat as long as you see fit - this is especially beneficially for recurring meetings with multiple people. You can also tag people in the group meeting chat and 'like' messages to acknowledge you've seen them.  Lastly, you can add notes to your meetings and easily send them out afterwards for review, which also stay in the meeting history.

Overall, if you're feeling overwhelmed about the transition, try to get excited - there are so many cool and new things you are going to be able to do! And if you need help, Teams is kind of our thing.

Want a firsthand experience with Microsoft Teams? Then join us for Microsoft Customer Immersion Experience all around Teams.

We'll provide a fake environment so you can login and get a true to life experience guided by one of our Microsoft Certified CIE Facilitators - all free of charge. Learn more.

Your Guide to Host the Most Productive Virtual Meetings

By Jaci Bitner

As we all know, a meeting can go sideways very quickly.

The mute button has moved on Fred again, and we can all hear his three-year-old screaming in the background.

Renee keeps trying to say good morning, but all we can see is her mouthing the words “can anyone hear me”?  But the mute button just won’t unmute.

Karl is always eating on camera, no matter what time of day.

Becky’s wifi is “iffy” and no matter how many different places she moves to in the house while we all get motion sickness watching her traipse about, she still cannot locate the right signal.

Roger gets excited for his announcement and completely derails the meeting.  Yes, Roger, there is actually a placeholder for announcements at the END of the meeting which you would know about if you had only read the agenda I sent this morning.  However, I completely forgot to email the agenda to @All Teams and ended up just sending to my direct reports.  Three people are now the only ones who know why this meeting is happening.

What a headache!

The pandemic has changed how we interact, and virtual meetings are now a big part of all of our lives.  Thankfully, they don’t have to be a constant headache.  With a few tips and tricks, the whole team can feel the joy in their hearts that I feel after a productive virtual meeting.

Tools to Host Your Virtual meetings

Microsoft Teams

Pros: My personal favorite because it’s incredibly user-friendly.  I love the different options of viewing all the participants. There are also many backgrounds included to choose from as well.  Most importantly, Teams integrates all my tools in one space.  Simply put, life is easier with Teams.

Cons: I’ve found that sometimes the videos do lag a little and once in a while my status in Teams (available, busy, away, etc..) does not automatically flow from my Outlook calendar as desired. This seems to be getting better though! 


Pros: User friendly and good quality on the camera.

Cons: Zoom isn’t as organized as Teams, especially when sharing files  It doesn’t feel very safe and secure after all the Zoom bomber incidents I’ve seen reported.


Pros: Slack is simple to use in a way that makes it easy for everyone to use.  I also like how it pairs easily with the Google platform.

Cons: Slack is disorganized and is easy to lose track of conversations.  Conversations also get deleted after a period of time, so being able to search old threads is almost impossible.  Emojis are not easy to find and I love a good emoji.

Now that we’ve chosen a platform, productivity here we come!

Tips and tricks to keeping your virtual online meeting on track.

Use an agenda

This allows everyone on the team to know exactly what will be discussed and how we are moving through the meeting. You may have heard this somewhere: Time is money. Some of these meetings are VERY expensive depending on the participants. With an agenda, you can get right to the point instead of wasting valuable time and money on figuring out what the meeting is trying to accomplish.

When should you send an agenda? No less than 24 hours in advance! This gives people ample time to prepare for whatever the topic is at hand.  The agenda should include:

  1. A quick welcome including the Key Objective of the meeting
  2. Topics for Discussion
  3. Session Structure: This includes how and who will be running the meeting and logistics.
  4. Time for Questions/Comments/Concerns

kevin can wait focus GIF by CBS

Get comfortable with your tools

Practice before the meeting with a trusted colleague who is able to assist if you are feeling uncomfortable. Find the mute button. Learn to raise your hand.  Find out how to post a chat to someone directly (and not to the entire group).  I am personally a huge fan of Teams but it took me a little while to get used to when I was only familiar with Zoom and Slack prior to working at Managed Solution.  I took the time to use it and research it before I went to my important meeting.  I love that I can easily change the background whenever I am somewhere that may be distracting to the team.  Which leads into the next point…

Limit distractions

Yes, we all have to eat.

Yes, we all love your pets and want to know their names.

Yes, we want to know about the artwork hanging on your wall.

Yes, that child playing in the background is the cutest thing I have ever seen.

However, in order to have a productive meeting, we need to limit distractions.  All of them.  Eat before or after, not on camera during the meeting.  If you are going to eat, mute yourself and turn the camera off.  We know Fido may jump up and say hi, but if everyone focuses on your dog instead of the topic, we may never get back on track in order to end the meeting on time.  Fido is welcome before or after any business meeting but distracts us from getting to all the points of making our meeting productive.  This is not the time to multi-task.  Stay present in the meeting for optimal productivity. So, for you in the back, just in case you missed it, just one more time: Please turn off the camera if you are not fully engaged.

Use the mute button

Everyone, and I mean even the CEO (yes, you), needs to mute when they are not speaking.

mute big rich texas GIF by T. Kyle


Don’t forget that your virtual team is now living all over the world!  Time zone synchronization is of utmost importance.  Also, if someone can’t attend, you can easily record the session. I tell the team beforehand while we are in our Microsoft Teams meeting that I am going to record.  If they don’t want to be on camera, this is the time to go off screen. From there, I hit the record button and send it to all those who could not be in attendance after we finish the meeting

Post meeting follow-ups

My favorite part of Microsoft Teams is how it pairs so perfectly with Outlook and One Note.  I create a Teams meeting via Outlook.  I send the invite with an agenda in the email.  I enjoy taking notes for the team and sending them out after the meeting. One Note is perfect for that! I just select Meeting Details and the participants list and agenda show up right in the notes. It's just so easy. After the meeting is over, I select Email Page and the participants are automatically in the addresses ready to go. It’s as easy as one click. At this point the joy is overflowing in my heart.

This has been a challenging year.  We are all in this together.  We can allow ourselves to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

I find the greatest joy in virtual meetings that:

  1. Have a point
  2. Stay on task
  3. Don’t go overschedule
  4. Make me feel part of

It is my hope that by using these simple guidelines, you, too, will be able to find great joy in your hearts the same way I do after virtual meetings.

Interested in what Teams can do for your business?

Click here to learn more about our Teams migration services. Already on Teams? Contact us for an analysis of your Teams environment and see where you might be able to get more organized and improve your security posture!

How to Create a Meeting in Microsoft Teams: A Step by Step Guide

By Patrick Laffey

Microsoft Teams is a communication and collaboration hub for your team to chat and communicate instantly via IM, voice, and video, as well as share files. Leveraging the power of Microsoft 365, it integrates your people, files, and applications in order to stay connected and be productive. So, how do you create a meeting in Microsoft Teams? In this guide, we'll give you step by step directions on how to create a meeting, whether in the office or remote.

How to Create a Meeting in Outlook with Teams Plugin

You can create and schedule a Teams meeting from Outlook directly. To do this, open Outlook and look in the bottom left corner. You should see a calendar icon. Click it to access your calendar.

If you do not see these icons, you will need to change your “Folder Pane” view to “Normal (see image below). Go to “View” at the top of Outlook, then under “Folder Pane” switch to “Normal”. You should now see the calendar icon in the bottom left part of your screen.

Once you have clicked on the calendar icon, your calendar should appear. If you are in your “Home” menu at the top, you will see a button that says, “New Teams Meeting”. Click on that option and Outlook will open a window that resembles an email.

Fill out the prompts with the appropriate information for your meeting. You should create a title which makes it clear to other attendees what the meeting is about. Below the title field, you enter the attendees. It works like an Outlook email where you can start typing their name, and you will see your contact pop up. Click on the contact to add them to the Teams meeting.

Once you’re done with the title and attendees, you’ll set the meeting time and location. If this is a reoccurring meeting, you can select the “Make Recurring” text and icon next to the meeting date which will open an options window.

In the “Appointment Recurrence” window you will be able to select options for your recurring meetings. For example, if you have a weekly meeting on Mondays at 5:30 you will set up the fields as shown in the image below. You can also tell Teams what day you want the recurring meetings to start and what day you want them to end. When done, select “OK” to save your settings.

When you’re done filling out all the required fields, click the “Send” button. Clicking send will schedule a meeting, put the meeting in everyone’s calendar, and send everyone a link to join the meeting. People can join the meeting by clicking the link in their email or they can join the Teams meeting by clicking the meeting in their calendar.

new-to-or-exploring-teamsHow to Create a Meeting in Teams

Creating a meeting in Teams is very simple! Make sure you are viewing your calendar in Teams by clicking the “Calendar” icon on the left-hand side of the Teams window (see image below).

Once in your calendar, you can click “Meet Now” or you can click “New meeting” on the top right section of the Teams window (see image below).

What is Meet Now in Teams?

“Meet Now” allows you to instantly start an ad hoc meeting. When you click the “Meet Now” button, you will be taken to a meeting settings screen. In the picture below, you can see the different options for your meeting. Make sure you change the title of the meeting at the top, check your audio, video and any other settings that may apply. When ready, click “Join Now” which will take you into a meeting.

Once in the new meeting, you will notice you are the only participant. Invite others to join by typing in a name or number on the right-hand side of the screen under the “People” heading. Notice that you can add people directly from Teams here or you can have someone join in via telephone. If you type in a team member’s number, they will receive a phone call and be able to participate as if it were a conference call.

How to Create a New Teams Meeting for the Future

In the “Calendar” tab, you will the “New Meeting” button in the top right of the window. From here you have the option to create a live event or schedule a meeting.

When you select “Schedule Meeting,” you will be prompted to set up the meeting details. Here you will need to add a meeting title, add attendees, schedule the time, specify if you want the meetings to repeat, add a channel, add a location, and add meeting details.

How to Add a Microsoft Teams Channel to Meetings

If you want to invite several people from your team into a meeting, but do not want to add them individually, you can save time by adding a channel in Teams. When you are creating a new meeting, you will see a field that says, “Add channel.” Click in the field and select the channel you want to add. Everyone who is in that channel will be invited to the meeting, plus a post will be sent out to the channel.  This is a great way to save time and know you invited everyone who needs to be invited!

How to Use Teams Schedule Assistant

Notice when you add attendees to your meeting, some people’s names might light up with colors indicating that they are not available. To check availability between all attendees, click the “Scheduling Assistant” tab at the top of the window (see below). Once inside the Scheduling Assistant, you can easily see who is free and when. This makes scheduling a breeze and will help you avoid schedule conflicts!

Add Documents to a Teams Meeting

Once you have created a meeting, it will be visible in your Calendar tab in teams. If you click on the meeting you will have additional options to further enhance meeting productivity. A great feature is being able to attach documents which other attendees can download. This is useful if you need to attach PowerPoint slide shows, business documents, Excel spreadsheets, or just about anything that may be useful to the attendees.

To add a file, click on the meeting in your Calendar tab, then click “Files” at the top of the window. Once in Files, you can share by clicking the “Share” button. You can upload files from your computer or straight from your OneDrive cloud storage (see image below). Once you select a file, it will be available to all attendees by accessing the Files tab.

Interested in learning more about Teams? Check out these resources below:

Download our Getting Started with Teams Guide that goes over all the basics in Teams

Visit our Teams Migration Services page to see how we can help support your business with Teams

Moving from Skype to Microsoft Teams: Benefits, Features, and Steps to Get Started

By Bryan Timm

While Skype is putting people in touch with their loved ones in a socially distant world; Skype for Business is saying goodbye to companies across the globe. It was announced last summer that Skype for Business Online would be retired on July 31, 2021. This leaves less than a year for companies still utilizing Skype for Business (SFBO) to transition to Microsoft Teams; the replacement product launched in 2017. It is much more than a replacement though, as Microsoft Teams brings together chat, meetings, calling, coloration, app integration, and file storage into a singular product; with an easy to navigate interface.

A Forrester Consulting survey done in 2019 shows us that utilizing Teams has so many benefits including:

  1. “Information workers save 4 hours per week from improved collaboration and information sharing.”
  2. “Companies reported reduced web conferencing, long-distance, mobile phone, and on-premises telephony solutions costs”
  3. “Decision makers improve their time-to-decision by 17.7%.”

What are some of the main advantages of using Microsoft Teams to Skype for Business?

  1. Chat history – Skype for business allowed real-time chat, but with no easily accessible history of the conversation
  2. Team Features – The ability to have private teams built out to have spaces to share, chat, and collaborate together
  3. Meetings – Live captions, whiteboard masking, and easy to access recordings all set Teams apart from its predecessor
  4. Integrations – Choose from hundreds of apps that integrate directly into Microsoft Teams, such as Confluence, Asana, Evernote, SurveyMonkey, and Github.
  5. Guest Access – Need to invite someone outside of the organization? Give them one-time guest access to your meetings or events with Microsoft Teams
  6. Storage – Files used in teams while create a SharePoint site, giving ease of access to a shared storage solution

The countdown has begun to start thinking about your business’ shift to Microsoft Teams. A true Teams deployment is more than just downloading the application, however. You’ll need to review your current configuration, and ensure that all appropriate pieces are moved over to Microsoft Teams. And if you need help, you can rely on technical experts like us!

One of the biggest questions asked: What’s the difference between Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams? Microsoft breaks this down:

What is the best feature of Microsoft Teams?


Channels allow your departments, teams, or sometimes your whole organization a single place to communicate, store files, and integrate apps; without cluttering up the view of other departments or teams who do not necessarily need it (ie: the Marketing team vs the Finance team).

You'll still be able to communicate 1:1 or in any sized group with chats as well. You can A Forrester Consulting survey done in 2019 and take the conversation wherever you go!

What are some Microsoft Teams use cases?

Microsoft Teams is in use at one of the most recognizable names in the sky, Air France. Prior to utilizing Teams, frontline employees struggled to communicate effectively with each other. After its implementation, it allowed them to utilize Teams to collaborate in real-time on a OneNote; to share a summary of daily activities, schedules, and notes that are shared effectively through the cloud.

CenturyLink, a telecommunications company, is going through a strategic growth into a technology leader. Microsoft Teams is helping the company fit it’s new vision “One Company, One Culture” by helping employees stay connected. Cristi Robb, Manager of Information Technology, states that everyone now “works together on one platform to solve corporate problems and achieve our goal to serve customers better”.

Li & Fung, a global supply chain orchestrator, has leveraged Microsoft products & services, including Microsoft Teams, to help serve as a communication platform for their digital product development (DPD) solution. This DPD has helped saved them thousands of dollars and weeks of design time; keeping their business efficient and lean.

What are the main differences between Skype and Microsoft Teams?

Download our Getting Started with Teams Guide to learn more.

How can Microsoft Teams help my team stay connected while working remotely?

Here at Managed Solution, we use Microsoft Teams for nearly everything. It allows us to call and stay connected through 1:1 calls, group calls, meetings, and Live Events; as well as serving as a document management solution that is accessible by only members of that Channel. Our team is located across North America and by utilizing Microsoft Teams we stay connected to each other 24/7 (when we aren’t out volunteering our time in the community).

What are some of the most frequently asked questions about upgrading from Skype to Teams?

  1. Is there a deadline to upgrade for Skype for Business Online customers? Yes. Skype for business online will be retired on July 31, 2021; at which point it will no longer be accessible or supported.
  2. How long does it take to upgrade? That depends on your wants and needs; but it is typically is a 4-6 week process.
  3. My organization is running both; can I just disable Skype for Business? No. You will want to switch to Teams only mode to complete the upgrade.
  4. Will Skype for Business continue to receive upgrades until retirement? No. There will be no more updates to the application before it’s retirement on July 31, 2021.
  5. What does this mean from a licensing perspective? Microsoft Teams is included with Microsoft/Office 365 suites (including the E# products).
  6. Will this work as my phone system? Microsoft 365 provides features to run a 100% cloud-based PBX system. No need for physical devices or on-site equipment!

What are some of the steps involved in setting up Microsoft Teams? 

  1. Identify the teams you will be utilizing in Microsoft Teams (Sales, Admin, Finance, IT, etc). Teams can be rolled out to a single group or department for testing and early adoption. This is best to plan ahead.
  2. Build out the Channels based on the identified teams, projects, or other subsets of your organization. Then set the appropriate permissions for channel admins and end users.
  3. (Optional) Integrate phone system into Microsoft Teams.
  4. Disable Skype for Business on end user machines.
  5. Schedule training with end users throughout the organization for Microsoft Teams

The most important question is: Are you ready for Teams?