Cloud-hosted services square up

Running your business requires choosing the right tools for you and your employees. In order to streamline work-related productivity, many organizations are migrating to cloud-based office suites—specifically, Microsoft’s Office 365 and Google’s G Suite (formally known as Google Apps).

Both products boast a variety of helpful productivity tools and the latest remote collaboration technologies. While it’s impossible to say which one is “better,” this head-to-head comparison can help you decide which office suite is a better fit for your business.

What are G Suite & Office 365?

Office 365 and G Suite are suites, or packages, of powerful business tools that facilitate you and your employees day-to-day tasks using the cloud. They even provide business email addresses (i.e. name@yourbusiness.com), along with apps for creating documents, spreadsheets, presentations, video conference calls, shared calendars and notes.  

In addition, storing information on Google or Microsoft servers, rather than your own via these suites, can also save your business a lot of money when it comes to IT costs and maintenance.  

Plans and Pricing

First, let’s look at plans and prices. It’s important to note that Microsoft requires an annual commitment, while Google offers you the option to make monthly payments if you prefer.

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Cloud packages head-to-head

Email

While both Office 365 and G Suite offer web and mobile apps (Outlook and Gmail, respectively) for email, there are some subtle differences.

One plus-side to Office 365 is the desktop version of Outlook, which is incredibly feature-rich and lets you sort and group emails with ease. Gmail, on the other hand, is widely used throughout the world. For this reason, a variety of third-party app options (like WordPress) can be linked to it to enhance its capabilities.

Cloud Data Storage

For the entry level plans, Office 365 Business Essentials wins out with 1 TB (terabyte) of storage per user, while the G Suite Basic plan only offers 30 GB. To make matters worse, G Suite includes emails in this storage limit, whereas Office 365 provides extra storage for email files and has an added archiving feature.

However, G Suite’s upgraded plans beat out most of Microsoft’s storage offerings. So long as your business has more than five employees, G Suite Business and Enterprise provides unlimited cloud storage (although, businesses with less than 5 employees on the “Business” plan are capped at 1 TB). Only Microsoft E3 plans and higher offer the same unlimited cloud storage.

Applications

Applications are the cornerstones of a suite’s functionality. G Suite and Office 365 offer you a variety of comparable apps for word processing, creating spreadsheets and presentations, all on the cloud!

While both services offer mobile and online apps, one major benefit of Office 365 is its desktop applications.

This means every user gets a free desktop version of the Office suite (i.e. Microsoft Word, Excel) to download.

These feature-rich apps expand far beyond the capabilities of the mobile and online versions, and are available on every plan except the ‘Business Essentials’.

Collaboration

These online applications make both suites ideal for remote collaboration. Microsoft Teams lets facilitates this with tools like real-time co-authoring, mentioning users by name and chat capabilities while working on OneDrive. Microsoft now lets you collaborate using its desktop apps, too, although the updates to shared files are a bit sluggish compared to its online apps.

Similarly, G Suite offers Hangouts for chats, and Google Drive for real-time collaboration. Google’s online and mobile apps were created with cloud collaboration in mind, so some might find them a bit more user-friendly.

For remote meetings, G Suite and Office 365 both offer group video conference calls. If you plan on large-scale video conferences, then Office 365 offers far more for your money: most plans have a 250-participant limit, while the E3 plan increases to an astounding 10,000-person limit.

Meanwhile, G Suite’s Google Meet allows up to 25 participants on the “Basic” plan, 50 on the “Business” plan and 100 on the “Enterprise” plan.  

Security

Cloud services are running into a variety of security issues, and these suites are no exception.

A 2019 Barracuda Networks’ report found that a large percent of ATO (account takeover) attacks were targeted at Microsoft Office 365 accounts after businesses migrated emails to the service. These attacks prompted the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to issue a set of best practices to help organizations migrate their email services while avoiding risks and vulnerabilities.

Meanwhile, Google recently announced that a cloud storage feature for encrypted passwords on its “Enterprise” plans was faulty. As a result, some user passwords were stored in plaintext on Google’s servers!

While cloud computing has its risks, the two suites do have impressive security features. G Suite is comparable to Google’s own level of security, and offers AI detection of suspicious activity, Two-Factor authentication and data leak protection—in which admins can block outgoing communication determined by set keywords.

On the other hand, Office 365 has the option of Multiple Factor Authentication, along with detection of malware, viruses and suspicious activities. Microsoft also provides data loss protection, and admins can restrict access to company-issued devices only.

Ease of Use

So, which is easier to use? Well, it depends on who you are, and your ability to grasp software quickly.

If you’re accustomed to working with MS Word or Excel documents, and edit them for work on a regular basis, then Office 365 and its desktop-to-online formatting compatibility will probably be your best bet. This is especially true if your company solely computes with Windows PCs.

However, new users might find G Suite apps easier to learn, as the tools are a bit simpler and straightforward.

Which is best for you? A Summary:

Some key benefits of each suite: Firstly, Office 365 offers feature-rich apps, and most of its plans come with desktop version of MS Office applications—a definite advantage over its competitors.

Its entry level plan is far more generous in terms of data storage than G Suite’s “Basic” plan. In addition, businesses that already exclusively use Windows technology are likely to find Office 365 better-suited for their needs.

With that said, G Suite was originally designed as a cloud collaborative productivity tool. Therefore, its features might be easier for collaboration and can be used among a wider variety of Windows and Mac devices. In addition, G Suite “Business” plans and above outdoes Microsofts’ when it comes to unlimited cloud file storage.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which of the two is “best.” But, with this knowledge in mind, you can make an informed decision to choose the best cloud suite for you.

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Digital Dribs & DApps!

We have barely scratched the surface with the Internet (introduced in the early eighties) and it is already seemingly being threatened with competition. A possible replacement by a new phenomenon.

Well, for lack of a better word, “replaced” has connotations of a dying Internet. This is far from accurate.

This new phenomenon – fostered by blockchain technology, will change the way you use and consume the Internet as a service.

So, what is this new Internet-like system creating waves online and making online marketers quiver at the prospect of them losing out on the exponential revenues they have previously enjoyed?

Well, without hyping it up any further, it is called Distributed Applications or ‘DApps’ for short.

A brief history of Apps

Before we delve further into its meaning and use in the cyber world, perhaps some background context is required.

The use of online or mobile applications software or “Apps” has boosted the way you consume products and services online. Companies jumped onto the bandwagon when they discovered that we mostly use Smartphones for the Internet – a lot more than on desktops.

App developers were then subsequently sought after to create mobile Apps for practically anything.  What started as something mainly for gamers moved quickly onto Apps for any commercial activity.

We now use Apps (the Internet) for shopping; fitness; travelling; online bookings and banking. Developers now create customised software to help with anything.

There is now an App store for every significant tech provider – Microsoft, Google and Apple to mention a few. This has naturally fattened their pockets and created an additional stream of income from an eager market.

The ‘catch’ for using mobile apps is that though it costs you nothing to download, using them still require some form of ‘registration’. You can do this by providing personal data or linking to an existing account such as your Facebook or Google account.

The benefit to App providers

The Apps, which are also embedded in social media, create a data goldmine for marketers to study and track your browsing habits. Through them marketers can gain valuable insights into your interests and then customise their products/services to sell to you.

Data mining has become more lucrative and more accessible with the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Ever notice how after browsing online or having a conversation or a chat application like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, you go online afterwards, and you see Ads displaying the items you discussed?

Creepy isn’t it? Well, that is the future of Web 4.0 for you!

Staying ‘woke’

Luckily for us, there is a school of knowledgeable and security conscious programmers who are not ‘giving in’ to the way the Internet has become a centralised cesspool for marketers to harvest data from.

Social media platforms, search engine providers and mobile application providers facilitate them immensely with this.

Watch a video explaining the mechanics of DApps

The impetus behind a distributed application system is that it serves to distribute plough some of wealth garnered from your data via application providers back to you – the end user.

Imagine getting paid to surf the web for hours. The way you get paid for taking on a survey, partaking in a social experiment, donating an organ or sperm?

This is the way distributed apps are touted to work: by rewarding you for the use of specific applications (in a peer-to-peer review like setting) with cashable tokens. Seems only fair right?

Now you can imagine how companies like Cambridge Analytica would react to having to pay you for their use of your data. There will be reluctance and resistance but if they could pay companies like Facebook for the use of data, why not pay us directly?

Early adoption

Joining the DApps revolution is a no-brainer. Companies at the forefront of building and supporting DApps will end up getting a more substantial chunk of the market.

DApps will primarily provide you with the use of payment (remuneration) systems. These are specifically known as Smart Contracts and Proof or Work systems.

There are currently also web-browsers (built as DApps on blockchain platforms such as Ethereum or EOS) that will reward you for merely using their DApps.

For instance, you are rewarded in cashable tokens to surf the net over applications like Google Chrome, Opera, Microsoft Edge or Mozilla Firefox.

It is therefore, only a matter of time that this form of Internet-browsing and use of applications becomes the norm.

The Internet revolutionised the way you communicate, socialise, learn, shop and do business online.

DApps however, will determine the way you get compensated for doing the very same things you love to indulge online while making it worth your while.

Digital Fundraising

The latest abbreviation in finance and crypto-world is ‘ICO’. A word that gives both local and global financial authorities like the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) nightmares for several reasons.

Not to be confused with Initial Public Offering (IPO) which is used by firms to raise cash through the issuing of shares to the public. An ICO (Initial Coin Offering) serves the same function and works like crowdfunding , but for digital currency and tokens only.

We recently covered a feature on raising funds and capital for a business but missed out on one relatively new method. More and more companies are using ICOs to raise capital for their businesses.250x250

The concept of an ICO works similarly to how a company raises capital through shares in that it is all based on contrived value.

Funding raising in effect boils down to sales! If your actual product or service has nothing substantial or intrinsic to offer a client base, then it is nothing more than a scam.

Launching an ICO is quite easy, and to an extent, many tech companies are now catching onto it.

An ICO is the cryptocurrency space’s rough equivalent to an IPO in the investment world. ICOs act as fundraisers of sorts; a company looking to create a new coin, app, or service launches an ICO — Investopedia.

If you still do not believe it is possible, just listen to this testament from someone who did it after unsuccessfully knocking on doors of conventional funders – the angel investors, venture capitalists and banks.

The alarming spurt rate of ICOs often brings with it a scourge of potential scammers. The SEC and other institutions have to step in to monitor and regulate them.

Social media Platforms like Facebook and Google – which house a bounty of users (potential investors) have banned ICOs ads due to possible prey on unsuspecting investors; exposing them to con artists.

Basically, the scammers use fancy websites, laden with impressive figures and terminology to con users into buying into their coins or tokens.

Though the tokens barely even cost a cent, it adds up if they have millions of people buying in.  Once they have reached a certain amount in funding – they close shop and disappear!

Hypothetically speaking if one wanted to create a new coin called ‘DebunqedCoin’, these are the steps:
  • Create a product concept or Business Plan for the coin or what is called a Whitepaper. This describes in great detail what the coin or token aims to do; the core technologies behind it; the team and their qualifications; the product’s lifecycle/growth path etc.

  • Once completed and water-tight, the whitepaper would be submitted along with an application to one of the best Cryptocurrency Exchanges for review.
  • Naturally, the business would need some initial working capital for liquidity. Some of this is raised by the owners and other institutions (through loans) etc. These will serve as collateral/insurance that there is indeed genuineness in the venture for all stakeholders.
  • You must then assure your investors of a solid return on investment (ROI) and deliver – which goes back to sales and growth. Unless your offering is a scam you actually need to do some work! This comes with regular updates (marketing campaigns can have a tremendous or adverse impact on the uptake and price) on milestones reached.
  • The above is necessary to keep the investors abreast with progress and in the process, getting them to possibly increase funding. Growing interest and addition of more funds creates demand for the coin/ token which, in turn, drives up the price and market capitalization.
  • Voila! you would then be in business!

Here are some of the most successful ICOs of all time

NEO:

Known as “China’s Ethereum”, and backed by Microsoft, Alibaba and the Chinese government, NEO uses smart contract applications. It does so, however, with the addition of decentralized commerce, digitized assets and identification.

It enjoyed a considerable hike in token value from $0.03 to $88.20, NEO has big things coming with a 294,000% ROI.

Ethereum:

Unlike Bitcoin, the second-most valuable cryptocurrency in the world has more functionality than just being a coin. Its ledger technology is used to build and deploy decentralized applications a.k.a. “smart contract” technology.

Ethereum’s ROI has been nothing short of jaw-dropping at 230,000%. Having sold its tokens at $0.31, an Ether token now sits at a whopping $713, second in value only to Bitcoin.

Spectrecoin:

The “premier privacy-focused cryptocurrency” enables users to send and receive currency worldwide with total anonymity. It is currencies like SpectreCoin that have most government tax offices quaking in their boots.

If you had repurchased a token in November 2016, that puny $0.001 would be worth $0.64 today, or an ROI of 64,000%.

Stratis:

This UK-based start-up has craftily created a platform that is compatible with .NET and C#. As a result, the product appeals to veteran users of Microsoft products.

Raising 915 BTC in 5 weeks, those who cashed in on the low investment of $0.01 per token have seen a titanic ROI of 56,000%.

Ark:

With Ark, collaboration is the name of the game. The platform’s SmartBridge is a lightning-fast ecosystem designed to integrate other cryptocurrencies into its blockchain.

Investors were eager as any to buy in, and they have made a 35,400% gain given today’s token price of $3.54.

DigixDAO:

DGD, which stands for Digix Decentralized Autonomous Organization, is a self-governing community. It gives out grants to different projects which will promote the growth of the DGX network.

At a current value of $346.88 per token, this gives them a return of 10,722%.

Quantum (QTUM):

QTUM is an open-source value transfer platform which focuses on mobile decentralized apps or Dapps. QTUM is the world’s first proof-of-stake smart contracts platform.

They hosted a highly successful ICO in March 2017, and since that time has seen an ROI of 6,400%.

Source: investinblockchain.com

The prospect can be daunting for a cryptocurrency investor looking to make money off new investment opportunities, while remaining cushioned from fraudulent ICOs and dodgy coins and tokens.

As there is no guarantee that any cryptocurrency or blockchain-related start-up will be genuine or successful. One simply needs to be vigilant and take steps such as getting to know the core team, poring over the whitepaper with a big magnifying glass. Naturally you should be monitoring progress of the token sales.

Most importantly, one must  just using common sense to gauge just how feasible the project is to ensure that you’re not falling for a scam.

Remember, if it’s too good to be true, then it isn’t true!

Get more organised digitally!

One often hears the phrase “technology is your friend” To what extent the friendliness/support is, in being a most effective “companion” to assist you to cope with your daily activities or business plans depends on how you embrace it.

Life can be chaotic. Which so much to do it is easy to frequently miss appointments; have to wait till you get to a PC to respond to emails or fail to remember contacts details. The worst is having to ask people often for their contact details/ business cards.

If that’s the case, you are getting it all wrong and definitely need this friend!

Electronic mail has not entirely replaced postal services; however, in the coming years, all indications are that it will.

The need for emails

Emails are on a progressive, disruptive path to eliminate postal services. It will, over and above its current instant delivery capability, also facilitate and encourage the acceptance of digitally signed documents.

A digital signature is an electronic, encrypted, stamp of authentication on online information such as e-mail messages, macros, or electronic documents. It confirms that the information originated from the signer and has not been altered, rendering it legally binding.

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Most financial companies and legal institutions in most developed countries already accept digitally signed documents.

Naturally, you need special software to digitally sign a document to attach as a PDF to an email. Such an action authorises approval by yourself without having to pick up a pen to append a signature or having to be physically present.

We can now easily get in touch with our contacts: be it in the office or lounging around a park, watching your children play; even on board/at the underground train station.

The additional tools

Calendar and contacts syncing is a simple tool which is not offered entirely by all domain host providers. It works wonders along with your calendar and scheduler.

For those needing an essential CRM tool to just help with email contacts and plug into an existing sales app, you can do so with a useful add-on like Outlook Customer Manager.

There are indeed other advantages to assist with decluttering emails. To  alleviate the frustration of unimportant mails getting in the way of the ones you need to access frequently, a clutter service offered by Office 365.

Additionally, to avoid retaining important attachments, and clogging up space on your mailbox, you can with a click, save large file attachments to your cloud storage.

With all that relevance of emails, it is critical that you source the best one – even if it costs a bit more than the (free) webmail services provided by Outlook (Hotmail), Gmail and Yahoo.

Naturally, with a paid service, you should be almost freed from the scourge of spam and malicious items like phishing and viruses embedded in documents. In some cases, they are screened even before landing in your mailbox.

Other perks like a ‘catch-all service’, data loss prevention, in place-hold (both compliance features) and advanced threat protection can be added to these essential services for a more peaceful emailing experience.

You can, for instance, use In-Place Hold (also known as Litigation Hold) to place user mailboxes ‘on hold’ and preserve mailbox items permanently.

This feature is especially crucial for those in the financial and legal sectors – requiring emails and its contents to be preserved for a minimum of 7 years typically.

Security is the central factor that has kept the postal service in business. Well at least for now.

Here is a checklist when shopping around for a good email solution:

• A decent sized mailbox – with archiving ability – 50GB is the new standard size (don’t get short-changed!).

• Should sync emails, calendar and contacts onto multiple devices – and it must always work!

SMTP is now the standard and preferred Email Protocol so if you are still on POP3 or even IMAP – run away!

• Customizable domain (a .com or .net or any other you have bought), with the option to add more domains plus few email aliases. (info@ …sales@ etc).

• Sync to an active directory – to keep user profiles and allow for ease of single sign-on or extra security features like two-factor authentication (This prevents unauthorised people from accessing your emails by pairing to your phone via an SMS code).

• The mailbox (since you are storing contact details or using it along with a CRM or ERP solution) should be GDPR-compatible.

• Finally, it should provide the ability to add features in future, like extra archiving space, advanced threat protection and enterprise voicemail (phone to email) capability. These are signs of a good email solution/offer.

Preparing yourself to use the solution can be free if you have the time. Most software suppliers like Microsoft (via Office 365) for example, have support sites with primary training material and “how-tos” on their websites.

Check out the Microsoft Support page to upskill your Office, email and overall cloud-software aptitude.