“Hybrid office” is the new buzzword you’ll hear used in business discussions.  


It’s the mix of having employees both working at the office and working from home. This has become more than a buzzword and is now the reality for many companies.

There was a survey of employees with remote-capable jobs. The survey found that as of February of 2022, 42% of them were working a hybrid schedule, and 39% were working from home full time.

The global pandemic brought on this hybrid office transition. It forced companies to operate with teams that could no longer safely come to the office. During this time, employers and employees experienced the benefits of hybrid work firsthand. These benefits of remote teams included cost savings for both workers and employers. It also allowed the company to operate with more flexibility. Improved worker morale was another advantage.

One fact surprised many employers that feared remote work would tank productivity - it actually increased in many circumstances. 
63% of high-growth companies use a “productivity anywhere” hybrid work approach.

In order for hybrid teams to be productive they need to stay connected. No matter where they work, the right technology tools should enable them.

One of the leaders in this space has been Microsoft. The company plans to add several exciting updates this year. These will provide more tools for companies to enable their hybrid teams.

Here are some of the ways you can use Microsoft 365 to optimize a productive hybrid office. Note, that some of these features are already out, and others should release later this year.

One of the most important applications we choose is our internet browser.


When on a computer or a mobile device, we work in that most of the time because many applications are now cloud-based, so accessing them means going through your browser. 

Over the years browsers have come and gone. A little over a decade ago, Internet Explorer was the head of the pack, and now that browser is retired, Google’s Chrome has been in the top spot for several years. But just because a browser is number one today, doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way.

One browser that has steadily been making its way up in popularity since its release in 2015 is Microsoft Edge. Edge is the replacement for Internet Explorer, but it’s taken a while for it to become mainstream. It seems that now is its time.

Microsoft Edge recently surpassed Firefox in worldwide desktop browser market share and is now the #3 Desktop browser in the world behind Chrome and Safari. And it’s less than one percentage point behind Safari, so it is poised to jump into second place soon.
Current desktop browser market share:



64.8%


Chrome


9.77%


Safari


9.6%


Edge


9.46%


Firefox


2.88%


Opera


1.14%


Internet Explorer

Why has Edge become so popular in the last few years when it seemed to be slow out of the gate? One big reason is that it adopted the Chromium framework in 2020. This is the same background framework that Chrome uses.

This sped up the browser considerably, plus multiplied the number of extensions and add-ons that could be used with it.

Should you switch to Edge? You’ll have to decide that for yourself, but here are several great features that might make you want to give it a try.

COLLECTIONS FOR STORING SETS OF PAGES 


All browsers have some form of “favorites” or bookmarks to save webpage links. And these lists quickly become long and unorganized, making it hard to find what you’re looking for after a while.

Edge has a very nice feature called Collections. This allows you to save web pages in a sidebar and group them by topic. For example, you could create a topic called Vacation Planning and then save all the web pages from your trip research inside. If there is an image on the page, that will show up to help you recognize the site. And collections are easy to access by using the “+” icon at the top of the browser.

Collections are also easy to delete once you’ve finished with them, so you won’t end up with endless webpage links, as tends to happen with bookmarks.


When you see those people with two monitors, you may assume they do some specialized work that requires all that screen space, or they just really like technology. 


But having the additional display real estate that a second screen provides can benefit anyone, even if you’re doing accounting or document work all day.

We get used to being boxed in by the screen size we have. This can lead to us struggling when trying to fit two windows next to each other or continuously clicking between layers of windows on the desktop. Most of us have experienced clicking around to find the window we actually need in a layer of different applications. This is one of the things that eats up time during the day and that using dual screens can help eliminate.

According to a study by software developer Mavenlink, 73% of surveyed businesses say they spend over an hour per day on average just switching between different apps.


PRODUCTIVITY RESEARCH ON DUAL-SCREENS


So just how much can using a second monitor improve productivity? Probably more than you realize.

Jon Peddie Research looked at the benefit of using two screens connected to a desktop computer or laptop for several years. It found that overall, employees in all types of jobs can improve productivity by an average of 42%.

From three studies conducted over 15 years, it also found that between 2002 and 2017, there’s been a significant rise in the use of two monitors, with a compound annual growth rate of 10%.



“The more you can see, the more you can do.”


Jon Peddie

While many companies have moved most of their workflows to the cloud, there is still a key component of office operations that is location-based: employee computers


Most companies still rely on desktops and laptops to allow employees to access critical software and as their main workstation.

This can become inconvenient if you’re doing work from one location. For example, if you work both at the office and home, in one of those places, you’ll be without your “main computer.” This can be a real problem when it comes to needing to access certain files or possibly working from a slower device than you’re used to.

Many technology companies, such as Microsoft, have an answer for this – put your computer workstation in the cloud. This is exactly what is being touted as the next big thing when it comes to Windows 365 Cloud PC.

WHAT IS WINDOWS 365?


Windows 365 is a cloud-based PC. Your entire operating system and everything that sits on it (settings, files, software, etc.) is loaded on a cloud server instead of your own device’s hard drive. You can then access this through an online portal, and the interface will load onto your device (desktop, laptop, tablet, etc.).


Microsoft’s Windows 365 Cloud-based PC


Like other cloud-based services, Windows 365 works from a subscription plan and has different levels. Here are the current options for the business plans:


$31/User/Month:



2vCPU, 4 GB RAM, 128 GB Storage



$41/User/Month:



2vCPU, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB Storage



$66/User/Month:



4vCPU, 16 GB RAM, 128 GB Storage


Windows 365 can be accessed through any type of device, from anywhere, just like other cloud services. You can install applications, personalize your desktop, and do all the things you normally do on a computer. The main difference is that the computer operating system is now in the cloud.

Approximately 34% of businesses take a week or longer to regain access to their data and systems once hit with a malware attack.


Malware is an umbrella term that encompasses many different types of malicious code. It can include:




  • Viruses


  • Ransomware


  • Spyware




  • Trojans


  • Adware


  • Key loggers


  • And more


The longer that malware sits on your system unchecked, the more damage it can do. Most forms of malware have a directive built in to spread to as many systems as possible. So, if not caught and removed right away, one computer could end up infecting 10 more on the same network in no time.

Early detection is key so you can disconnect an infected device from your network and have it properly cleaned by a professional.

Keep an eye out for these key warning signs of malware infection so you can jump into action and reduce your risk.

 


STRANGE POPUPS ON YOUR DESKTOP


Some forms of malware can take on the disguise of being an antivirus app or warranty notice that pops up on your screen. Hackers try to mimic things that users may have seen from a legitimate program, so they’ll be more apt to click without thinking.

If you begin to see a strange “renew your antivirus” subscription alert or a warranty renewal that doesn’t quite make sense, these could be signs that your PC has been infected with adware or another type of malware.

 


Smartphones and tablets are often the preferred device for communications, web searching, and accessing many types of apps. They’re more portable and can be used from anywhere. 


We’re seeing the takeover of many activities that used to be performed on traditional computers. Now, people are using mobile devices instead.

For example, Microsoft estimates that up to 80% of the workload in many enterprise organizations is now done via mobile devices. Over half of all web searches are also now conducted from a mobile device rather than a desktop PC.

This has caused mobile devices to become more targeted over the past few years. As hackers realize they’re holding many of the same sensitive information and app access as PCs, they’ve been creating mobile malware and other exploits to breach mobile devices.

In 2020, approximately 36.5% of organizations were impacted by mobile malware and 2.5 million people unknowingly downloaded multiple mobile adware apps.

It’s important to start treating mobile devices in the same way as you do computers when it comes to their security

Smartphones and tablets need the same types of security precautions in place, including:



Antivirus/anti-malware



DNS Filtering



Automated OS and app updates



Managed backup


You need to be on the lookout for the most prevalent mobile device threats that allow your data to be leaked or breached. Here’s a roundup of what those are.

Credential theft is now at an all-time high and is responsible for more data breaches than any other type of attack.  


With data and business processes now largely cloud-based, a user’s password is the quickest and easiest way to conduct many different types of dangerous activities.

Being logged in as a user (especially if they have admin privileges) can allow a criminal to send out phishing emails from your company account to your staff and customers. The hacker can also infect your cloud data with ransomware and demand thousands of dollars to give it back.

How do you protect your online accounts, data, and business operations? One of the best ways is with multi-factor authentication (MFA).

It provides a significant barrier to cybercriminals even if they have a legitimate user credential to log in. This is because they most likely will not have access to the device that receives the MFA code required to complete the authentication process.

WHAT ARE THE THREE MAIN METHODS OF MFA? 


When you implement multi-factor authentication at your business, it’s important to compare the three main methods of MFA and not just assume all methods are the same. There are key differences that make some more secure than others and some more convenient.

Let’s take a look at what these three methods are:

SMS-BASED
ON-DEVICE APP PROMPT
SECURITY KEY
SMS-BASED

The form of MFA that people are most familiar with is SMS-based. This one uses text messaging to authenticate the user.

The user will typically enter their mobile number when setting up MFA. Then, whenever they log into their account, they will receive a text message with a time-sensitive code that must be entered.

ON-DEVICE APP PROMPT

Another type of multi-factor authentication will use a special app to push through the code. The user still generates the MFA code at login, but rather than receiving the code via SMS, it’s received through the app.

This is usually done via a push notification, and it can be used with a mobile app or desktop app in many cases.

SECURITY KEY

The third key method of MFA involves using a separate security key that you can insert into a PC or mobile device to authenticate the login. The key itself is purchased at the time the MFA solution is set up and will be the thing that receives the authentication code and implements it automatically.

The MFA security key is typically smaller than a traditional thumb drive and must be carried by the user to authenticate when they log into a system.

Now, let’s look at the differences between these three methods.