The Virtual Mirage of Microsoft Mesh

Mesh, powered by Azure, is Microsoft’s latest in fourth wave mixed reality amalgamating both the physical and digital world into one multi-layered interactive, shared environment.

Mesh has the capacity, through the use of head mounted units (HMDs) or on-screen devices, to allow multiple individuals across different spatial-physical environments to conduct collaborative meetings, host virtual social events, and allow for group exploration of development ideas.

Individuals ‘log in’ to the shared holographic space as virtual avatars that, upon wearing the HoloLens headset, can interact with the digital project world in front of them, and their changes can be seen by other members of the Mesh meeting. The scope of Mesh’s application in the medical healthcare and engineering industries is phenomenal – especially in their retrospective education and learning sectors. Mesh allows for real-time capture of moving 3D images and utilises visual cartographies to map those images into a functional skeletal model with tracking for key points.

Microsoft CEO Natya Sadella explains that this new digital leap in mixed reality technology is in parallel to that of the “jump from single player to multiplayer gaming” for the world of business meetings. Mesh provides huge potential for cost saving and ease of access for content sharing as company developers can create apps within the software to tailor Mesh to suit their social or business requirements.

Mesh is protected by a comprehensive host of security features including privacy compliance, session management and secure sign-ins with a reliance on Microsoft Live ID for admittance. Additional Mesh security software will be released in conjunction with Mesh emerging from its preview phase in future updates.

Microsoft offers, in current preview form, two apps that are compatible: HoloLens 2 and AltSpaceVR which both act as support applications for the Mesh – providing graphical and administrative enhancements. There are further upcoming plans to integrate current Microsoft apps such as Teams and Dynamics 365 to include the Mesh experience.

Mesh is available in preview form, along with its supporting software apps at: Microsoft Mesh


GSuite Rebrands as Google Workspace

Google have re-branded GSuite as Google Workspace, in an effort to consolidate the Google software brand for business users.

The re-designed platform brings Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs apps, Google Meet and more all under one banner more officially, and follows other recently announced updates to the platform including new file deletion rules for Google Drive.

New collaboration tools for the post-lockdown world have been added – including simpler sharing of co-authored documents, previewing documents before opening them, and introducing popout video calling during co-authoring.

collaboration


“…We’re bringing Meet picture-in-picture to Gmail and Chat, so you can actually see and hear the people you’re working with, while you’re collaborating.”

Google Workspace Blog


More eagle-eyed customers will notice that Google’s GSuite license types have also been adjusted: although UK users may see a price cut in the overall monthly cost, the corresponding apps and services available to each user have also been limited to reflect this.

Existing Gsuite customers will not face contract changes for at least 12 months, although redesigned app icons and extra features will begin appearing during October 2020, and new Google Workspace customers will be expected to choose from the new licensing packages immediately.

More information for both existing and new customers is available on the officially rebranded Google Workspaces Blog here.

 

For knowledge of cloud services and excellent IT expertise, please contact our team today.


Gamma Roadshow 2020

We recently attended the 2020 Gamma Communications Roadshow at Stamford Bridge – hearing the latest business telecoms and technology trends from across the UK. But what do businesses need to be aware of?

 

Clock Ticking for ISDN

BT will officially turn off all ISDN services by 2025, with the ‘stop-sell’ order coming as early as 2023.

With UK businesses just getting used to putting ‘2020’ on paperwork, this is no longer a drill – if your phone system uses ISDN, your business needs to begin preparing to switch to a digital services such as SIP or better still, a hosted VOIP platform.

There are perhaps as many as 1.5 million ISDN channels still in use by businesses across the UK. Gulp.

 

Ultrafast Fibre Rollout Gathers Pace

Superfast broadband (‘Fibre to the Cabinet’ or FTTC) prices are falling all the time, but the big story of the decade is likely to be the steady roll-out of ultrafast ‘Fibre to the Premise’ to many more businesses – to around 40% availability over the next few years.

Salisbury is the first single-year rollout ‘test’ area trialling complete fibre infrastructure (booking a new copper line in the Salisbury area is likely to be rejected).

Interested in fibre for your area? Perhaps you should speak to your friendly neighbourhood IT provider…

 

Not all 5G is born equal

We’ve known for a while how the smallest of the UK’s four mobile networks (Three Mobile) is arguably in the best position to deliver data, although it’s now becoming clear Three has an enviable technical advantage over some of the other major providers – and is even using the cheeky marketing slogan: ‘If it’s Not Three, It’s Not Real 5G’.

The reserved spectrum range favours Three to such an extent that EE/BT, O2 and Vodafone have all submitted strongly worded complaints over preferential access. Gulp.

 

Microsoft Teams Telecoms Emerges

Among Gamma’s most exciting news was the announcement of a Direct Call Routing service for Microsoft Teams – which effectively plugs into the back of Teams and Microsoft’s ‘Phone System’ PBX add-on, to turn your Microsoft Teams software into a fully fledged business phone system.

teams phone

Until now Microsoft’s Teams platform has been a strong option for video/audio conferencing, screenshare, instant messaging and collaboration – but have always lacked the more robust business call-handling feature-set of true phone systems, or suffered from a shortage of physical handsets. With both of those challenges solved by Gamma and the Teams app available on a variety of devices, it’s easy to imagine Teams phones appearing on desks.

Direct Routing for Teams is expected from April 2020. The final pricing is likely to be somewhere in the region of between £15-25 a month per user (including Microsoft Office licensing) – finally unifying telecoms under the same single user account as Microsoft Office 365 hosted email, files storage, office apps and collaboration software. Watch this space.

 

For communications services and expertise, please contact our team today.


Google One to Google Drive your Life

Google looks set to replace Google Drive with Google One, a broader ranging storage service designed to incorporate storage across a whole range of Google services.

Google One will be available with up to 15GB storage for free (as with Google Drive now), $1.99 a month for 100GB, $2.99 for 200GB, 2TB for $9.99. It’s not yet clear whether these prices will be adjusted for UK users.

Drive users will be migrated to the new service over the ‘coming months’ and can stay updated by email by subscribing with Google here.

Google Drive has been able to handle direct sync from Android’s photos app, and more advanced tasks like full PC backup, or on-demand file sync on the business version, for a while now – but the new platform unifies the offering under a shared storage allowance.

There are also other nods to a more ‘iCloud like’ service – including shared plans for families, a support service, and promotional customer benefits like discounts for other products.

For now, the new app appears to be a unifying ‘personal’ platform (rather than a more formal ‘work’ platform like Microsoft Office 365.) Google are hoping to centralise your personal life such that desktop PC files, data and media generated by a whole pantheon of Android apps all will are share a central storage plan. The tech giant’s target of making ‘life simpler and less cluttered’ with Google One is being kept at arms-length from G-Suite business customers.

One simple way to get more out of Google? If you’re using Android, this could make a lot of sense.

For assistance and advice in adopting cloud-based technologies: contact Lineal today.


Lineal reviews Skype for Business

reviews skype

Skype is probably the only brand name in video calling successful enough to have become synonymous with its purpose (try offering ‘Citrix’ to somebody and you’ll get confused looks.) It’s perhaps unsurprising therefore that Microsoft have taken their former Lync communications platform, and given it both an upgrade, new features, and a name with a better pedigree.

Enter Skype for Business, Microsoft’s newest unified communications offering for Windows, Mac and Android – available as a downloadable client or via a web browser. On the face of it, the potential in Skype for Business is enormous: calls, group meetings, directory lookups and instant messages between Skype for Business users are free-of-charge, making it a perfect internal communications platform in the cloud.

Skype for Business is already available to those using Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium as a free download. Users can connect, make audio/video calls and collaborate from anywhere in the world. VOIP packages are also available to allow calling ‘out’ to conventional phone numbers, presenting an affordable alternative to your old phone system.

We’ve found the video and sound quality to be exceptional (even on some poorer broadband connections.) For those on the move, a designated app is also available for your smartphone and tablet which, operating over your Wi-Fi or 4G connection, also extends the platform into the wider world.

Most reassuringly, Skype for Business need not just be a ‘soft-phone’ on screen but can connected to a traditional, physical, AudioCodes or Polycom VOIP handset on your desk.

That’s not to say that there are no shortcomings. Calling outside Skype requires the additional PSTN licensing which is likely to confuse those unfamiliar with Microsoft licensing. Skype’s website is not particularly helpful in this respect, with it sometimes being unclear when links refer to Skype, or Skype for Business.

Certain features that Microsoft originally advertised (such as the ability to take polls in group meetings) are also still in testing  on some platforms at the time of writing, although screen sharing and scheduled meetings already work smoothly and are very intuitive. Focusing on collaboration, these are sure to be fixed as Microsoft reviews Skype for Business.

The minimalist design is smarter and more formal than the original Skype and, whilst a little unfamiliar to begin with, the general ‘look’ of the platform is a noticeable improvement on both Lync and traditional Skype.

Skype for Business is not quite ready to take over the world just yet, but it’s certainly one to watch for 2017.

 

For unified communications support and expertise: contact our team today.


Microsoft opens new UK Data Centres

UK data centres –

Microsoft’s Office 365 Team have announced the availability of multiple UK data centres for customer data.

The move follows increasingly strict rules on data compliance in the financial, security, health and public sectors – with more cloud IT users looking to ensure their data remains safely located in the UK.

Prospective customers considering the implications of Office 365 are able to view the locations of Microsoft’s uk data centres with this online ‘Where Is My Data?’ map, which now displays both the additional data centres and the Microsoft cloud services they support, in both London and Durham, with a third site anticipated for Cardiff.

Office365 and Azure Users will also have the ability to ‘re-locate’ their data from regional data centres (in most cases based within mainland Europe) to the new UK service.

In addition to the security and legal advantages for protecting sensitive data, cloud users of Office 365 are likely to benefit from lower costs, online backups and collaborative, remote access to files.

For now, the ability to re-locate Office365 or Azure data to the UK is likely to be restricted, with priority expected to be given to high-profile UK public sector customers including NHS Trusts and the Ministry of Defence – the latter mirroring many customers belated move to the cloud, upgrading legacy on-site systems in use since 2005.

The new infrastructure has been widely praised, with Microsoft clearly investing heavily in addressing the doubts many have about moving their IT to the cloud; reducing Office365 downtime to just 4 hours per year, and now re-locating data within country of origin for compliance with a high standard of data protection.

 

Contact Lineal for advice on moving to the cloud, or for a free trial of Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium, click here.

 


The Cloud is good; the Cloud is bad

 

Here at Lineal some of our most popular services are cloud-based, but this invaluable business tool doesn’t come entirely without pitfalls.

Cloud computing, storing your data and performing other IT functions over a shared ‘Cloud’ hosted by a third party, provides a wealth of possibilities. Accessible over an internet connection, storing files in the cloud means that a safe record of your data is kept on a remote servers should anything happen to your PC’s hard drive. For smaller businesses the small monthly investment in cloud computing avoids a huge capital expense for hardware, and gives a quicker return on investment.

Securing documents in the cloud also mean they can be easily accessed by team members in different locations or from different devices. Cloud-based services like Microsoft’s Office 365 even allow teams of users to collaboratively edit said shared files in real time from different places.

Yet Cloud computing has drawbacks too: for anyone dealing with very large data sizes (graphic design work, 3D modelling, video files and similar) most cloud systems will not be practical given long upload times. If your business is located somewhere with less reliable internet, over-reliance on cloud services may even hinder your business continuity if something fails.

If you’re storing confidential personal information, financial or medical details abroad, will your provider comply with UK data protection laws? How about your organisation’s own security procedures?

Above all – just how ‘remote’ should remote backup be? This is both the strength and weakness of cloud services – an unknown, distant server provides a safe backup vault for data until you need to manually access it. Storing your data in Germany, the United States or even further afield may be a cheap fix, until you need to book flights to access the hardware!

Our Verdict? Cloud computing is at its strongest when business users plan for contingencies. Never choose a provider so distant you can’t speak to a real person, or will have difficulty physically recovering backups if the very worst happens. Here at Lineal we know that we can always courier a physical backup to your business in the event that your IT suffers an unlikely disaster.

Lineal can offer professional cloud computing for your business with local reliability – get in touch with us today via:http://www.lineal.co.uk/contact/