The Importance of Using Different Passwords

different passwords
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The average internet user is far more tech savvy than they used to be. But as users are getting more sophisticated, hackers are too. It’s increasingly difficult to stay one step ahead of the hackers and keep your online accounts secure. Working from home has made this more apparent. For this reason it’s vital to learn how to create passwords that are strong enough to resist hacking attacks.

How do Passwords Become Compromised?

Passwords are generally exposed in one of three different ways:

  • Specific targeting: Generally this happens when a victim is targeted by someone they know. The password thief knows enough about their victim to guess at their email password. They can then use password recovery to access other sensitive accounts and information.
  • A brute force attack: This is a popular strategy for hackers looking to steal passwords. These attacks can target one person or a group of accounts. They work by systematically checking combinations of characters until the right combination is found.
  • A data breach: A hacking attempt that results in account information being compromised either within a company, or the company’s customer base.

Tips for Creating Effective Passwords

You may not be able to prevent hackers from making attempts to steal data, but you can make sure your account passwords are strong enough to withstand both specific and brute force attacks.

In both cases, following some simple rules makes it easy to create strong passwords that are impossible to guess, and extremely difficult to expose via brute force attacks.

To create a strong password:

  • Use at least 12 to 16 characters.
  • Use a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols, including both uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Don’t repeat any characters.
  • Avoid using dictionary words, names, and pronouns, in any language.
  • Avoid usernames, IDs, and any words or number strings that might be used to identify you. For instance, a birthdate or other date that’s special to you.
  • Don’t use any predefined letter or number strings, such as parts of the alphabet, acronyms, the Pi sequence, or the Fibonacci sequence.
  • Don’t use any password more than once.

Keeping Track of Passwords

It’s not enough to create one strong password and use it for all your online accounts. No matter how strong your password is, it’s an extremely bad idea to use it for every account—because as soon as one of your accounts is compromised, they all are. If a hacker is able to expose a person’s password on one website, their next step is typically to use that password to try and hack their email account. From there, they can use password recovery to hack any account that uses that email address.

On the other hand, if all your passwords are unique, your other accounts are still safe, even if one account is compromised. Most importantly, one compromised account won’t necessarily lead to your email account being exposed.

The best way to proceed is to use a unique password for every online account you have. The problem then becomes how to keep track of your various passwords. You have a number of options for this, including:

Writing them down: Don’t do it! It may be the simplest option, but it’s also the riskiest one. As soon as you write a password down on paper, or in a computer file, that account is at risk. Writing down passwords isn’t the riskiest thing you can do, but it should still be avoided.

Remembering passwords: If you’re capable of remembering multiple long strings of numbers, letters, and symbols, then memorising passwords is the preferred option. Storing passwords in your own brain is by far the best way to keep them safe.

If you want to use this method, it can be helpful to develop a system of creating passwords that are easy for you to remember. One way to do this is to make up some mnemonic phrases to help you remember each sequence of characters. Of course, the problem then becomes one of remembering the phrases, rather than the passwords, so it does still require that you have a good memory.

A password manager: Few people can memorise more than one or two strong passwords. A password manager is a good compromise, as with this option you only need to remember one password to unlock all the others you’ve stored.

A password manager is a service that creates and stores unique passwords for every account you log into online. All of your passwords are stored within the manager, and can be accessed using one master password. When you login to a website, the password manager logs you in automatically, filling in your ID and password for you. The database of passwords and IDs is stored on your computer, but since it’s encrypted, it’s safe from all but the most advanced hacking attempts.

It’s important to note that password managers are not immune to security breaches. For instance, one of the biggest password manager providers—LastPass—was breached in 2011. However, only account holders with weak master passwords were vulnerable in that case. As long as you’re careful to create a strong master password, your account, and your other passwords, are safe.

Using Tools to Improve Teamwork

Reading Time: 3 minutes

When your staff are working well together, good things happen for your business. But what if they could achieve even more? To get the most out of their collaboration, they need workspaces and tools they’re comfortable using. The way we work has changed significantly over the last few years – particularly over the last few months. Technology has driven this – the days of communicating outside the office via phone and email have been joined by instant message style communication tools.

What is the right technology solution for modern collaboration and teamwork? It must be flexible enough to meet all your teams’ communication needs, become a single hub for teamwork, be customisable, and stay secure. Here’s how you can use tools to improve communication and teamwork inside your organisation.

1. Effortless Communication

The best ideas often start small, among a few close collaborators, then quickly grow. To keep the momentum going, you need intelligent communication capabilities. Employees need to be able to communicate freely, bring additional team members into the conversation while giving everyone a way to stay informed about what’s going on. One-on-one, small group, and large group conversations should all be supported, and from the devices and locations of their choice.

This is where Microsoft Teams comes in. Teams offers one-to-one and group conversations. Work that has traditionally required in person meetings can take place in Teams – chatting, video conferences and file sharing couldn’t be easier – you can even have guests from outside your organisation – perfect for client and supplier input. Teams lets you work in files directly in the Teams app, with multiple people editing the same document at the same time. And with the whole conversation in the same place, it’s easy to bring new members up to speed, and make discussions easy to find.

2. Better Integration Means More Productivity

When employees are using different applications, they’ll waste a lot of time switching between apps, locating files and remembering different login information. Teams help to solve this – integrating a number of useful apps, so all information can be found in the same place. Apps like SharePoint, OneNote and Planner can all be integrated with Teams, so everyone can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. And because every document shared in Teams is saved to the Cloud, you know everyone is working from the most up-to-date version of a document.

When your applications work together as well as your teams do, productivity soars. If new employees only have to sign in to and learn one new program instead of six, and they won’t have to toggle between apps. With fewer passwords to remember and fewer blockers, your team can focus on what matters most: their work. Teams also enables visual communication between teammates. They can easily share pictures and video, whether for clarity, emphasis, or for fun. Need some face-to-face contact? Users can launch a video call from a conversation in seconds.

3. Customisable For Every Team

Every team is unique. And every team needs a shared space they can use to work together, that they can truly make their own. Your sales team may use chat to share updates on leads and website analytics, while your customer service department might rely on quick calls to resolve customer request. Teams should be able to pull preferred tools into their hub and have multiple conversations and work threads, as well as pin important files for easy reference. Intelligent communications including automation, notification settings, and chatbots can provide additional support to ensure everyone has what they need.

Microsoft Teams enables threaded conversations within a channel to keep conversations organised and keep those who need to be in the know informed. Work that has traditionally required an in-person meeting happens in the channel instead.

4. Work With Confidence

When collaboration is needed, employees will find a way. Whether company-approved or not, workers will still use instant chat solutions, shared document spaces, and more – giving rise to management complexity and security risks. Microsoft Teams provides industry leading security and compliance capabilities, with data encryption for data in company cloud storage and email.

And because everything is from one vendor, you won’t have to worry about another set of security and compliance issues – or another possible breach point. A recent survey showed that nearly 60 % of IT professionals believe sensitive files/information should not be shared via group chat apps.

Once you know what to look for, choosing the right tool can reinvigorate your entire collaborative process. If you’d like to learn more about Teams or any of its features, get in touch with ACUTEC today.

How Enterprise Mobility and Security Can Help Your Business

Reading Time: 2 minutes

As your organisation grows, you are likely to have more locations and devices that need to be protected. With staff using more devices for work, you will have decreased visibility into all internet activity, and as a result, become more vulnerable to threats.

As mobile and remote workforces grow, so too does mobile malware and the number of inadequately secured devices. Your business data is highly sensitive, and requires the highest levels of security to protect it. That’s where Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) comes in. Find out how EMS can help protect your organisation.

What is Microsoft Enterprise Mobility and Security?

EMS helps manage and protect users, devices, apps and data. One of the most important things your staff need is secure access to work email and documents. Depending on the nature of their role, they may need access on mobiles or tablets. But it is critical that corporate data is secure – wherever it is.

Enterprise Mobility + Security lets you enable conditional access to company resources – to keep employees productive and ensure their devices are secure. EMS enables users to work on the device of their choice and access resources they need, while centralising organisational information to ensure compliance and data protection.

Key Features of EMS

  • Azure Active Directory: Manage user identities and create intelligence-driven conditional access policies to make sure all company data is secure.
  • Intune: Intune lets you securely manage the mobile devices and apps your staff use to access company data. It makes sure that the devices and apps are compliant with security requirements.
  • Azure Information Protection: Lets you classify and label your data, by applying protection and use rights to sensitive data so they’re identifiable and protected.
  • Advanced Threat Analytics: Detects unusual behaviour in on-premise systems to identify advanced, targeted attacks and insider threats before they can cause damage.
  • Single sign-on: Sign in once for secure access to all corporate resources, on-premises, and in the cloud, from any device.

What Are the Benefits of Microsoft Enterprise Security and Mobility?

  • Boost mobility and productivity: EMS gives employees the flexibility to access data on a variety of devices to keep working, all while keeping company data safe.
  • Increased security and compliance: The built in privacy and compliance tools protect your business from modern threats and leaks. Employees will only see highly sensitive data on a need to know basis.
  • More control for IT staff: Your IT provider can customise the features and apps you use, and remotely manage and secure devices.
  • Comprehensive solution: With extensive protection of corporate email and documents across four layers, protect users, devices, apps, and data with intuitive mobile management on a future-ready platform.
  • Better Microsoft Office management: EMS integrates with Microsoft 365 and on-premise infrastructure. It is the only solution that brings managed mobile productivity with Office across platforms, with or without device enrolment.

If you’d like to learn more about Microsoft Enterprise Mobility and Security, we’d love to hear from you! Get in touch with us today.

How to Change Your Background on Microsoft Teams

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Working from home has resulted in workers taking part in more meetings than they did before. It’s inevitable – with everyone working in different places, you can’t just have a quick chat with colleagues in your office. If you need to speak to them, you’ve got two choices – audio or video call.

If your home office isn’t looking quite as tidy as you’d like, but you don’t want to be the only person off camera, there is a way around. In Teams, you can customise your background. Whether you want to have a bit of fun or need something a bit more serious, you can set any image you like as your background. Here’s how!

Microsoft Teams Customised Backgrounds

To change your background in Teams, you’ll want to make sure your app is up to date with the latest version. Changing backgrounds is a relatively new feature – it was introduced earlier this year. To update your Teams app, click on your photo at the top. Then select Check for updates. You can continue working while the app checks for and downloads any updates.

Customise your background at the start

Before you join a meeting, you have the option to join with your video and audio on or off. If you turn your video on, you have the option for a custom background. Turn the background effects on, and you’ll be presented with a number of default backgrounds, preinstalled with Teams. Some backgrounds resemble the inside of a home or office, and others are more for fun. Have a look through to see which you think is most appropriate for your meeting.

Customise your background during a meeting

If you want to change your background during a Teams meeting, click on the More actions (…) button and select Show background effects. From there the process is exactly the same. If you’ve started a meeting without your video on, when you choose a background you can apply it, and it will turn your video on for you.

How do I Add a Custom Background to Microsoft Teams?

If you’ve been on a number of Teams meetings, and you’ve had enough of the default backgrounds, you can add your own.

Adding custom Teams backgrounds is a great idea if you’re looking to stay ‘on brand’ during calls and meetings. Either having photos from around your offices or company logos is a great way to look the part on a call.

To add your own backgrounds in Teams, click on Show background effects and click Add new. Then you can upload any photo you have saved on your computer or OneDrive. Images can be .JPG, .PNG, or .BMP.

Can I Customise my Background on Mobile?

Unfortunately, you cannot change your background in a call or meeting from your phone. The only effect you have available is the background blur. If there’s a lot of mess behind you, blurring your background is a great option to reduce distractions.

If you’re using Teams and would like to get more out of it, get in touch with ACUTEC today.

5 Benefits of Using a Virtual Desktop

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Working remotely has made much of the global workforce get used to a different way of working. The familiar routine of commuting to and from your 9-5 has been replaced by flexible working from the comfort of your home.

Whether you prefer working from home or would rather go back to the office, there’s one constant across both – security has never been as important as it is now. One of the ways you and your staff can work securely is by using a virtual desktop.

What is Virtual Desktop?

A virtual desktop is a computer that you access over the internet. Virtual desktops are set up with images of operating systems and applications, but are separate from the device you access them from. Any endpoint device, tablet, mobile, laptop etc, can be used to access a virtual desktop.

Virtual desktops have everything you would need from a regular computer (hardware, operating system, processing power etc) and makes them available via the cloud.

What are the Benefits of Virtual Desktops?

Thinking about virtual desktops for your organisation? Here are 5 benefits you need to consider.

1. Security

Perhaps the most important reason to consider a virtual desktop is security. Unlike ‘normal’ work computing, all data is stored in a secure data centre, rather than on endpoint devices. If a device is lost or stolen, it won’t contain any data thieves can access. And whenever you shut down your virtual computer, any temporary files are removed. This helps prevent malware and viruses from infecting your network.

2. Access your ‘Computer’ from Anywhere

Having a virtual desktop means you can access your applications, files, and data from any endpoint device. If you use Microsoft 365 applications, you’ll know how handy it is being able to access your Word documents and Excel spreadsheets from any device you log in to. If you’ve got applications stored locally, and something happens to your computer, you run the risk of data loss, if it isn’t backed up regularly enough. If you’re moving to a new device, you simply have to login to the virtual desktop environment and everything will be there as you need.

3. Easy Management

A useful feature of virtual desktops is that they can be easily managed by your IT provider – internally and externally. Virtual desktops can be managed from a central data centre. Many organisations have chosen to move to virtual desktops, as it eliminates the need for updates and new application installations on individual machines. Your IT team can do any updates when it is convenient, and they can all be done at the same time. This removes the risk of users having different versions of software installed, if one has security vulnerabilities.

4. Cost saving

If you move to a virtual desktop, you won’t have to pay high prices for a high-end laptop. The majority of the computing takes place on the cloud (in a data centre), so it really doesn’t matter what device you use to access the virtual desktop. If users need a new device to access their virtual desktop, a lower spec computer would work absolutely fine. Another aspect for cost saving is that you won’t have to manage a physical network of computers.

5. Storage & Scalability

Using a cloud-based desktop infrastructure makes it easy to add devices to your virtual network. As your company grows, and you have more staff needing more devices, you can easily increase the number of desktops in order to meet the needs of new staff, wherever they are located. And by using the cloud, users will get much greater storage space for applications and files than they would have on a hard drive on their device. Cloud storage isn’t infinite, but it isn’t far from it.

Having a cloud-based virtual desktop infrastructure allows you to achieve a more efficient energy use, improve the centralized management of the company or improve employee mobility. If this is something you’re interested in, get in touch with ACUTEC today.

How to use Microsoft Forms

microsoft forms
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Forms is one of the lesser-known apps in the Office suite, yet it is one of the most useful and powerful. It does what it says on the tin – with Microsoft Forms you can create forms and quizzes that can be shared both inside and outside your organisation. Forms is easy to use, and you’ll be up and running with your own surveys, quizzes, forms and more in no time!

Who can use Microsoft Forms?

Is Microsoft Forms free? If you have any of the following licenses, then the answer is yes!

Office 365 Education

  • Office 365 A1 Plus
  • Office 365 A5
  • Existing customers who purchased Office 365 Education E3 prior to its retirement

Microsoft 365 Apps for business

  • Microsoft 365 Business Basic
  • Microsoft 365 Business Standard
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium
  • Microsoft 365 Apps for enterprise
  • Microsoft 365 Enterprise E1, E3, and E5 plans
  • Existing Office 365 Enterprise E4 customers who purchased E4 before its retirement

How to Create a Microsoft Form

The first thing you’ll need to do is go to office.com and sign into your account. Then choose Forms from the list of apps. Alternatively, you can go straight to forms.microsoft.com.

From the Forms home screen, choose New form. Then click on Untitled Form, and give it a name and a description.

 

microsoft forms create form

Once you’ve given the form a name, its time to add some questions! Click Add new to get started.

There are a few different types of questions:

  • Choice: This is a multiple choice that lets you add as many choices as you like! Select Multiple answers if you like, so users can tick any boxes that apply to them.
  • Text: The user will type in their answer manually.
  • Rating: users can give a star or number rating, between 2 and 10.
  • Date: users fill out a chosen date
  • Ranking: users can rank their preferences
  • Likert: this is used to gauge attitudes and opinions about a topic
  • File upload: A new folder will be created in OneDrive. Files uploaded by responders will be captured in this folder. Note that responder names and file details will automatically be recorded in OneDrive.
  • Net Promoter Score: provides a 0-10 scale and gives you an NPS at the end

You can also add in different sections to your forms, which is particularly useful if there are a number of different topics you’d like to include. You can include a description at the start of each of your sections.

There are some different options you can choose for your different question types. To avoid favouritism, try shuffling your answers. You can add a subtitle under the question title – this might have more information, or say how many answers the user can give.

One of the most useful features in Microsoft Forms is branching. You can display a different question depending on a given answer, or skip an entire section completely.

forms branching

Quizzes in Microsoft Forms

Creating a quiz in Microsoft Forms follows most of the same steps, but you can assign points for each question. You can assign up to 100 points per question, and the total number of points available will be displayed next to the quiz title.

Customise Forms

When you’re happy with your questions, you might want to give your form a bit of style. You don’t have to have the default green! Click on Theme, and you can choose one of the default colours or images. But if you want to go one step further, click the + button, and you can upload a custom image, or choose your own colour.

Sharing your Forms

You can see what your form will look like by clicking Preview. And before you send, you might want to look at settings. Click the 3 dots in the top right and choose Settings. For forms going to your organisation only, you can track who has filled the form out and limit it to one response per person. You can have a start and end date, if you only want the form to be active for a certain amount of time, you can shuffle the order of the questions, send a personalised thank you message and get notifications when someone fills the form out.

When you’re happy, it’s time to share it! When you share the form, you can choose to share it with:

  • Anyone with the link can respond
  • Only people in your organisation can respond

You can share the form via email, QR code, embedding onto a webpage or copying the link and sharing anyway you like.

Forms Feedback

When your form has been sent, you can see real-time results. Click on Responses to view the answers provided. We think the easiest way to see all responses to all questions by opening in Excel.

Microsoft Forms is easy to use, and a great way to conduct surveys and other forms quickly. Unlike other survey providers, it isn’t overly complicated, and if you have a Microsoft 365 license, you won’t need to pay for it! If you’d like to learn more about Forms or other products in the Office suite, get in touch with us today.

5 Benefits of Microsoft 365 for Remote Working

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Increased remote working is here to stay. Whether staff will work from home permanently, or just make fewer trips to the office, you need your staff to be set up properly to work remotely. We’ve covered the basics of what you need to work from home, but we wanted to look at how Microsoft 365 can help remote workers get more out of their working day. Here are five benefits of Microsoft 365 for remote work.

1. Updates Whenever You Need Them

In the past, businesses would have a local copy of Microsoft Office installed on their computer, giving employees access to familiar applications such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook. If Microsoft issues a new version of Office, companies would have to decide whether the updates were worth it, and in many cases, they would stick to what they already had.

With Microsoft 365 as a subscription service, businesses pay for monthly licenses, where users get access to the latest version of the Office suite, which is regularly updated with the latest security features.

2. Multiple Devices

Microsoft 365 business licenses can be installed on all of your devices, whether they’re company-owned or your own personal device. The most common of these is installing Outlook on your mobile, perfect for a quick check of emails before the start of work. Choose the apps you would find most useful on different devices.

At ACUTEC we’re huge fans of Microsoft Teams. And with our staff working in different locations, communication has never been more important. Having Teams on other devices lets us be more sociable, and we can benefit from some of the more fun features the application has to offer.

3. Simplified Device Management

Employees having work applications and documents needs to be managed. Fortunately, Microsoft have made it easier than ever, thanks to Intune. Intune is a cloud-based enterprise mobility management tool that helps organisations manage the devices employees use to access company data and the apps they use.

Intune allows users to access company data and applications from almost any device while keeping that data safe at the same time. Organisations can then have company-owned mobile devices, offer BYOD policies or provide limited-use shared devices to certain workers.

4. Say Goodbye to Unwanted On-Premise IT

Cloud computing has got rid of the need for a lot of on-premise IT. Storing documents in the cloud will help costs of servers. This works in two ways – you won’t need to buy expensive servers or pay to maintain them, getting rid of the need to keep them cool, and lowering the amount of electricity your office uses.

If more of your staff are working remotely, and will continue to so in the future, opting for SharePoint or OneDrive is much more practical. Neither requires a VPN to your office, so saving files couldn’t be easier!

5. Benefit from Scalability

Microsoft 365 is scalable, so you only need to pay for what you’re using. If your company is growing, and you’ve used up all of your Microsoft 365 licenses, simply buy more as and when you need to. And they don’t all need to be the same. If there are 20 people in your company, you don’t need to have 20 Business Premium licenses, if they’re not needed. The nature of someone’s job might mean they only need email and cloud storage, and can get by with the web versions of Word, Excel & PowerPoint.

The flexibility of Microsoft 365 makes it perfect for remote working. If you’d like to find out which is best for your business, check out our comparison of Microsoft 365 licenses.

6 Things We Love About the New Edge Browser

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Microsoft’s new Edge browser launched in January this year, and we’ve spent a lot of time using and getting to know it. The new Edge is built using Chromium source code, the same as another popular browser, Google Chrome. This new browser has had a lot of upgrades compared to its predecessor, and we think it is worth considering making a change. Here are six things we love about using the new Edge browser.

1. Browser Extensions

Edge’s chromium-based browser was made to work with extensions, designed to enhance your browser experience. Essentially, they extend the functionality you can expect from your browser, from what it is like when you first download it. There are a number of extensions available for Edge, and the number is growing all the time.

But perhaps the best thing is that you can add extensions from other sources, such as Google Chrome’s vast selection of extensions. The advantage of doing this is that Chrome has used extensions for years, so Edge users are able to benefit.

2. Collections

When you’re doing research, chances are you’ll have several tabs and windows open. And if you need to close the tabs down (but you don’t want to lose your research), what can you do? Rather than copying the URLs into a Word document, you can take advantage of the new Collections feature in Edge.

Collections let you easily collect information from different websites, organise it, export it into various files or just come back to your research at a later time and pick up right where you left off.

3. Immersive Reader

How often do you try and read an article online, but you get bombarded with ads and popups? Its incredibly annoying, and most of the time you just give up and move onto another article.

Immersive reader gets rid of the distractions, only showing the article you want to read. There’s a lot you can do with it, such as

  • Read aloud – you can change the speed and accent of the reader
  • Change text size & spacing
  • Change background colour
  • Split words into syllables
  • Highlight nouns, verbs, adjective or adverbs
  • Focus on each line individually

Immersive reader makes Edge more accessible to everyone, delivering a useful browser experience.

4. Tracking Prevention

Concerned about your security and data online? Don’t enjoy being ‘followed’ around the internet by adverts from websites you visited in the past? The tracking prevention feature in Microsoft Edge is designed to protect you from being tracked by websites that you aren’t accessing directly, giving you more control over what you see and what you don’t.

Tracking prevention is split into three levels:

  • Basic: Allows most trackers across all sites. Content and ads will likely be personalised. Sites will work as expected. Blocks known harmful trackers.
  • Balanced: Blocks trackers from sites you haven’t visited. Content and ads will likely be less personalised. Sites will work as expected. Blocks known harmful trackers.
  • Strict: Blocks a majority of trackers from all sites. Content and ads will likely have minimal personalisation. Parts of sites might not work. Blocks known harmful trackers.

5. Different Profiles

Having different profiles allows different people to use the same browser, without confusion over being logged into the wrong account. Profiles keep information such as saved passwords, history, extensions and more separate. You could have one profile for your work account, one for any company pages you manage, one for your personal accounts and so on.

There are two types of Edge profile. Local profiles aren’t connected online, so settings are only available on that device. Cloud profiles are connected online, and you’ll need to have a Microsoft account. These allow you to backup your settings and sync data across devices.

6. Easy to Switch

Perhaps the best thing about the new Edge browser is how easy it is to set up for the first time. One of the main reasons people tend to stick to the browser they’ve used for years is because they think it’s a pain to set up a new browser.

If you’re switching from Chrome, you can import your browser data across to Edge. This includes your favourites/bookmarks, saved passwords, addresses, extensions and more. If you were to switch to Edge today, it would take no time at all to get up and running.

Microsoft Edge is a fantastic web browser option, and we feel that the additions Microsoft made make it well worth the switch. If you’d like to find out more about Microsoft products and how they can benefit our business, say hello to ACUTEC today.

How to Choose the Right Software Development Company

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Adopting bespoke software can give your business a big productivity boost, and give you a competitive advantage in your industry. But such software can come with a hefty price tag, so it’s important to make sure that it performs exactly the way you need it to. One of the most important steps in getting the right bespoke software for your business is choosing a suitable software development company.

Why is this so important? Simply because the development company you choose is the team you’ll work with for weeks and months as they work on the software. And more importantly, because the team you choose is going to build a software product that could vastly improve how your business operates. If you choose poorly, you risk ending up with badly-written, buggy software that doesn’t help your business at all.

Choose Software Developers Based on a Referral

Depending on the industry in which you work—and the kind of software you need—you may be able to talk to people in your peer network about their experiences hiring a software development team. If they’ve had a good experience with a particular company, this can be a good way of speeding up the selection process. However, this only applies if you have a referral for a company that can actually make the software product you want, so this isn’t necessarily a method you can rely on for results—it’s just a possibility you can check out as you vet other development companies.

What to Look for in a Software Development Company

The Right Size

The size of the company you work with is important for a couple of reasons. One is that the company needs to be large enough that it can field a team that’s capable of building the software you need. A very small development team may not be capable of delivering what you need, which means you may be taking a risk if you hire them. On the other hand, a very large company is likely to have the people and the resources to complete your project, but still, it’s no guarantee that they can deliver—there are still other points to consider.

Another reason that size is important is that to a very large software development company, your business may be just a small fish—meaning you may not be high on their priority list, and your project may not get the level of personal attention you want.

And, look for a company that’s growing slowly but steadily, rather than one that has grown rapidly in a short period of time. Rapid growth is unsustainable, and it can lead to instability that might end up jeopardising your project.

Location

It may be tempting to go offshore in order to find a cheaper company, but there’s much more than price to consider. Offshoring means working with a distant company, making real-time communication more difficult, and potentially more costly. Choosing a local UK company, or a European company, is a better bet, as it’s easier to check on the company’s credentials, easier to communicate, and to ensure you end up with a quality product.

Reviews and case studies

Look to websites to find reviews of software development companies. This can help you locate well-rated, reputable companies, and can also help you figure out which companies are more suitable for your needs.

Make sure to check the company’s website, and take a close look at its portfolio. A solid company should have a solid portfolio too, with more than just a few case studies. This can be an indication of how seriously the company takes its job, and how committed it is to deliver on customers requirements. How credible can a company be if it’s unable to use past achievements as proof of skill?

Comparing Quotes

Once you have a shortlist, you can contact them to discuss your project, and get quotes. Then it’s time to compare quotes and make your final choice.

Should you go for the cheapest quote in order to save money? It depends. If all the teams on your shortlist are quality companies that tick all the right boxes, it might be fine to pick the cheapest quote. But don’t let price be your only consideration. Don’t sacrifice quality in order to save money. Your business’s success may depend on this software, so it’s vital that you get exactly the outcome that you need.

In some cases, a low-ball offer might be low because the company retains the rights to the software it creates. Is this something you’re willing to allow, or do you want to own the software outright? Bear in mind that if the company retains the rights, it may mean you have to purchase a license to use it—even if you’ve commissioned the software and paid for its development.

If you’d like to discuss any bespoke software with us, feel free to get in touch! Our team of developers would be happy to help.

How to run a live event in Teams

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The popularity of Microsoft Teams has changed the way many people work. Workers aren’t attending events in person, they’re doing so virtually. If you’re organising a live event, one of the easiest ways you can do it is through Teams.

Setting up a Teams live event is easy – we talked about it in a previous blog. But if you’re a producer or presenter, there are a few things you need to be aware of prior to your event starting, to make sure everything runs smoothly, and your audience has a great experience!

Starting a Teams live event

On the day of your event, presenters and producers should join a few minutes early to make sure sound is working as it should be. The producer will need to make sure that their PowerPoint slides are ready to go as well.

As a producer, once you join the event you will get a screen that looks like this:

You will notice the yellow button that says “pre-live”. This means that the event isn’t live yet, and the audience will not be able to see any of your preparations.

In order to share content from your computer, click the Share button in the bottom right. You can choose to share your full desktop, so the audience will see whatever is on your screen at the time, or share individual windows. If you’re sticking to a single slide deck, we’d recommend just sharing that window.

Once you’ve chosen the content to share, it will appear next to your webcam feed at the bottom. Click on the content, and it will appear in your queue:

If you’d like to present with your webcam and slides, click the button on the bottom left of the queue. This will display the producer/presenter as well as the slides.

When you’re happy, click Send live. This will display show whatever is in the queue in the live event section. If you want to update what you’re presenting, select a new window and click send live.

At this point, the event isn’t live for the audience to see. To go live, click Start. The following will appear:

The yellow “pre-live” will change to be a red “live”. Next to this, you can see the number of attendees, the amount of time it has been live, the name of the event and the red circle showing it’s recording.

At the end of the event, click the red End button to stop the recording.

Microsoft Teams Q&A

If you’ve enabled a Q&A, attendees have the option of asking questions during the event. This is separate to the event chat, which is generally used for sharing useful information, or can be used by the audience if the sound has stopped working!

The producer can choose to publish the questions for other audience members to see, and respond via text, or they can read them out and answer on the call.

Holding webinars and other live events in Teams is a great way to engage with your audience, and if you already have Microsoft 365 licenses, you don’t need to buy a separate webinar tool!

If you’d like to learn more about hosting your own live events, get in touch with ACUTEC today.