Visio made free to all Commercial M365 Users

Microsoft have announced a web-based version of Visio will soon be made free to all commercially licensed Microsoft 365 users.

The popular diagramming and visualisation app was originally a standalone license, but will transition to being offered as an inclusive web app for the first time, much like Microsoft PowerBI, Microsoft Project, and other historically specialist apps Microsoft have been keen to promote more widely.

Visio (Online?) is described an initially ‘lightweight’ version of the original, allowing business users to create, edit and share professional diagrams live within their browser – as well as integrate these with other apps such as Microsoft Teams, Office apps like Word or Excel, and even via PowerBI.

This new version will be available to all business users with Microsoft 365 Business Basic (or higher) subscriptions. Power users needing extra functionality (such as the ability to automatically visualise external data sources) will still need a standalone plan (Visio Plan 1 or Plan 2) to access higher level features.

A ‘Visio in Microsoft 365 Early-Access Signup’ Form is available here for keen diagram-makers everywhere!

 

Lineal are a certified Microsoft Gold Partner – for expertise and support, please contact us today.


Microsoft Teams now has over 145 million daily users

Microsoft, continuing the trend of growth in online communications during the COVID-19 pandemic, has informed on social media that their telecommunications app Microsoft Teams now has over 145 million daily users.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Microsoft Teams amassed an estimated 32 million daily active users – with an increase to 75 million users as the reliance on digital tools from the need to work at home dramatically amplified.

The figure is estimated to be about a 26% growth since October 2020 where there was an average of 115 million active users daily. This rapid growth in users has been paralleled with the expansion and inclusion of new features to the telecommunications app including the continual development of Teams Connect which allows the user to share channels with anyone internally or externally to their organisation, virtual meeting whiteboards and background effects for working at home environments; to name a few.

In relation to its competitors, Zoom revealed they had 300 million daily participants and Google Meet displayed 100 million daily participants. It must be noted that both these apps do not record daily users individually, but rather daily participants which implies that a single user could be logged several times if they attend multiple meetings during one given day. However, all these apps have undoubtedly experienced a rapid upsurge in user counts throughout 2020 and 2021 regardless of their user calculation systems.

CEO Natya Sadella states that the “digital adoption curves aren’t slowing down. They’re accelerating and it’s just the beginning”.

Future plans for feature incorporation into Teams include the interoperability with the new Microsoft Mesh, powered by Azure, which promises to be the office meeting’s digital leap into mixed reality technology combining both the physical and virtual world into one shared interactive environment.

For the Teams app itself, Microsoft has promised a host of new capabilities including end to end user encryption for one-on-one voice calls, ability to lock meetings to prevent unauthorised guests from attending and business branded lobbies where admins will be able to add custom logos to their Teams experience.


Microsoft Teams adds Breakout Rooms

Microsoft Teams have added Breakout Rooms to online meetings to support group collaboration.

Breakout rooms act as small satellite virtual meetings, and can be used to temporarily divide a larger meeting into smaller teams for workshop exercises or brainstorming sessions.

The feature has been a popular request among Education users, as successive Covid-19 lockdowns forces more academic institutions to adopt remote-teaching.

Teams supports up to fifty simultaneous breakout rooms with custom names, assigning individuals to specific rooms, organiser announcements across rooms, and automatic closing of rooms back into the meeting.

The additional control is still marked as ‘Preview’ while the feature is being rolled out to PC and Mac users.

Lineal are a certified Microsoft Gold Partner – for Microsoft 365 expertise and support, please contact our team today.


June 2020 – What’s New in Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft have previewed an exciting new set of Teams collaboration features in the June 2020 update.

Those on the more experimental Preview Build will be the first to receive the option for large Gallery View – expanding the video meeting grid to 7×7 for a maximum of 49 participants in a meeting. The maximum possible meeting attendance is also set to be increased to 300 participants.

With Schools around the world attempting to push ahead with e-learning, there’s also a new ‘Class Insights’ dashboard designed to monitor pupils’ engagement. Microsoft is promising ‘virtual breakout rooms’ – with centralised control via an organiser who can direct smaller groups to their own meetings and recall them to the main meeting when ready.

teams external window

Multi Window support will allow users to create satellite calls, chats and more in external windows for better productivity – likely to be especially welcomed by those who use more than one display.

For those speaking English, live captions in meetings will be available in Preview Build to support extra accessibility.

Assigning Priority status to certain chats will allow users to receive custom notifications on important or urgent items. On the security side, external the PSTN numbers of dial-in users will now be masked to guest-attendees, and ‘screen-lock’ is compatible between Teams phones and the desktop app.

teams urgency

Teams phone hardware is receiving a host of new UI features, and for those interacting with more personal users, Teams calling has become inter-operable with the Skype app. This will allow more public facing communication between business Office 365 tenants, and those with Outlook.com acounts, Microsoft 365 consumer/student plans and similar.

The Free Teams Trial will also have one of its key limitations, the ability to schedule meetings, removed in a bid to encourage users to get the most out of one of the platform’s strongest features.

Microsoft have increased the pace of the Teams development cycle, as millions of users around the world need greater functionality for remote working.

 

Lineal are a Microsoft Gold Partner – for Microsoft 365 expertise and support, please contact our team today.


Make Microsoft Teams your Phone System

Gamma Communications have officially launched Teams Direct Routing, allowing organisations which use Microsoft 365 to make Microsoft Teams your phone system.

Teams Direct Routing is a simple monthly bolt-on to Teams-enabled Microsoft 365 licenses, that allows the user to make or accept normal voice calls via the UK phone network.

But what about the actual… phone? Yes, end users can use either the Teams mobile app for their smartphone on iOS/Android, or their PC/Mac – however hardware manufacturers are surprisingly close behind: with Poly and others announcing hardware officially approved to operate a Microsoft Teams based phone system.

teams phones

Poly CCX Series Teams Phone Handsets

This makes Microsoft Teams a compelling choice as a full-business phone system, with call-routing, voicemail and many the other features commonly associated with work phones – available ‘through’ Teams.

Each user’s overall license package comprises three parts: two Microsoft elements including the user’s Microsoft 365 license that includes Teams, the ‘Phone system’ (PBX) bolt-on, and one from Gamma – the Teams Direct Routing Bolt-on itself.

teams phone system licensing

All this is backed by the remote-working flexibility of Microsoft 365’s cloud infrastructure and Trust Centre – better yet, the monthly cost of extending Teams in this way is a tiny fraction of the upfront cost of buying a traditional business phone system and unifies the user’s other key work communication tool (email) under a single account, calendar, and set of security permissions.

With a user-base of over 70 million daily active Teams users, Teams itself is a workplace juggernaut given extra momentum by the important need for home-working driven by Covid-19. Although Microsoft themselves also offer direct routing call plans that integrate with Microsoft Teams, these do not include the numerous extra functions extensively supported by telecommunications suppliers, such as flexible number porting, extra control over redundancy and business continuity plans, and other related considerations needed to better ‘manage’ an organisation’s communications.

Gamma, whose popular Horizon system operates nearly half a million UK business phone seats, are also giving every sign that Teams Direct Routing will also be the more cost-effective choice when compared to Microsoft’s own call plans.

Teams Direct Routing is likely to prove an extremely popular choice for companies seeking to modernise, and ‘get the most’ out of Teams. Take our advice: this one is going to be big.

 

For more information on Microsoft 365 and Teams, click here.

For more information on Microsoft 365 licensing, click here.

For more information on how Microsoft Teams can be deployed as a full phone system, please contact our team today.


Reply All Email Storm Protection launches for Exchange Online

Microsoft have announced Reply All email storm protection for Exchange Online – designed to prevent crushing organisational reply all email chains.

By default, the feature will detect ten reply all emails to over 5,000 recipients within 60 minutes, (what IT admins jokingly call a ‘reply-allpocalypse’) and will block further sending to prevent the problem escalating.

A particular problem in large organisations, email storms begin when large numbers of recipients click ‘reply-all’ either to respond or ask to be removed from the chain – massively multiplying the overall number of emails passing through Exchange servers.

If you find yourself stuck in a big reply all email storm, the guidance is simple: Do nothing. Do not reply to the email. Replying only makes the problem worse for everyone in the email chain, including you.

reply all email storm protection

Reply all email storms have plagued large organisations. The NHS was infamously struck by a server-crushing 500 million emails in less than two hours on 14th November 2016, after an IT contractor accidentally sent a test email to everyone with an NHSmail email address – approximately 840,000 people.

Microsoft itself became one of the first test cases during the “Bedlam DL3” incident of 1997, when a user emailed 13,000 company addresses. Other users unaware of how many replies they were sending asked to be removed, and by the time the storm had subsided a terrifying 15 million emails had been sent – far beyond the capacity of late-90s email servers.

Reply-all email storm protection is currently being rolled-out to Microsoft Exchange Online and packaged services including Microsoft 365.

 

For IT Support and expertise, please contact Lineal today.


Microsoft launching new Teams features

Microsoft Teams will soon gain the ability to display video-call participants in a 3×3 (9-person) grid, among other new Teams features.

The new teams features improve on the current limit of a 2×2 (4-person) grid – one notable limitation when compared with popular rivals such as Zoom.

Other features being added include custom-backgrounds, a ‘raise-hand’ feature similar to that used in Citrix GoToMeeting webinars, audio-sharing and call recording for 1-1 direct calls. The iOS version on mobile/tablet will also gain Teams’ background blur feature used to obscure the caller’s surroundings.

Recognising perhaps that Teams is still new to many workplace settings there has been a revised focus on hardware for new teams features: ‘Teams Certified’ audio/conferencing devices are now available, and the new Teams push-to-talk ‘walkie-talkie’ mode designed for field workers is currently in preview.

teams dashboard preview

Playing catchup with Teams’ dramatic surge in popularity – to over 44m daily users and 1000% more calls during lockdown across the globe – Microsoft are also overhauling the Teams Admin centre to give admin users more visibility and control over meetings, usage and group policies.

 

Lineal are a certified Microsoft Gold Partner. Learn more about Microsoft Teams, or contact us today.


Free Charity Microsoft 365 for Nonprofits

Microsoft are offering an initial ten free Charity Microsoft 365 licenses for Nonprofit organisations.

Microsoft 365 allows users across an organisation to work more flexibly, collaborate on shared work and maintain an ‘always-up-to-date’ software base across a charitable organisation.

The flagship ‘Microsoft 365 Business’ cloud IT bundle, which normally retails at £15.10+VAT per user per month (Or £3.80+VAT per month for NonProfits) includes everyone’s favourite Microsoft Office 365 apps such as Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and more. 50GB of Exchange Online email hosting per user is also included as standard, with 1TB of cloud OneDrive storage, and Windows 10 Pro licensing for each user’s device, packaged with a host of organisational security features.

Lineal’s Head of Technical Services Matt Norris explained: “This is a super offer which we’re expecting to do some real good in the Charitable sector especially – and hopefully nonprofits will snap up their free Charity Microsoft 365 licensing while it’s available. Office 365 makes flexible working and collaborative projects much easier, advantages that we know are a key concern for many in the voluntary sector.”

Interested in this offer for your organisation? Please click here.

 

Lineal are a trusted Microsoft Gold Partner, click here to learn more about Microsoft Office 365 cloud working.