April 16, 2020

A modern workplace: Unified Communications, Cloud apps & MS Teams

In this article, we take a look at the capabilities of Microsoft Teams and the evolution of the modern workplace
Unified Communications

Introduction

Unified communications makes a dynamic and productive team. Microsoft Teams introduced cloud-based conferencing tools and redefined collaboration. Consequently, organizations achieved productivity in the virtual workspace. Microsoft Teams proved that it is the powerhouse of unified communications. Additionally, It won the Best of Enterprise Connect Overall award last year. Microsoft Teams established rapid growth and popularity soon after its launch. In addition, Microsoft Teams integrates with various Azure and Microsoft365 services and apps to provide a unified platform for the next generation workplace. Furthermore, by leveraging unique features and integrations with its Intelligent Cloud suite products it became more than a unified communication application.

Currently, 500,000 organizations have adopted Microsoft Teams with around 44 million daily active users. Also, with every release, Microsoft Teams marches ahead with intelligent virtual collaboration.

Let us take a quick walkthrough at its transformative features that have contributed to the evolution of the modern workplace using unified communications, cloud apps & MS Teams.

Unified Communications

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging connects teams across any device or location instantly. Microsoft Teams allows one-on-one and group- messaging to keep the conversation private or public.

Persistent Chat

Complete chat history is available in conversation windows. Also, users can send emails using threaded conversations in a team’s channel. Thus, conversations continue seamlessly across multiple digital streams.

Emojis

Also, animated gifs, stickers and emojis add an element of fun to conversations.

Translation Services

Additionally, Microsoft Teams offers an in-line translation solution for users to converse fluidly with users in their native language.

Meetings

Teams delivers an extraordinary meeting experience through high-quality interactive videos. Users can host meetings, seminars, conferences or presentations from any part of the world. Broadcast up to 10,000 people at a time using Teams for live events.

Record meetings and calls for future reference and use. Easily share files during meetings and calls. Another point of note is that users can quickly switch between chats, audio/video and screen sharing. Furthermore, make any user a presenter or control the screen once permitted while screen sharing.

Voice and Video Calls

Video conferencing is the most preferred business communication tool. Microsoft Teams allows for seamless two-way audio and video transmissions to collaborate effectively in real-time.

Firstly, users can connect with anyone in the organization around the world with a single click. Secondly, Invite users outside the organization by searching for their phone numbers. Add them to the ongoing call as well once found.

Finally, Microsoft Teams functions as a fully qualified business phone system. Direct Voice Routing, allows organizations to integrate their existing phone infrastructure with Teams. In selected countries, Microsoft Calling plans are also available for use as an alternative.

An important point is that Teams transcribes and automatically time-codes every voice content. Search for a phrase that was spoken during a meeting, and it will take you straight to the specific audio/video moment.

Backgrounds

To enhance focus, the feature to blur background helps to cut down distraction. Also to add an element of fun, Microsoft has released a few wallpaper backgrounds as well and is in plans to release a feature where backgrounds can be customized by the end-user per their taste too.

Voice Assistant

Teams also has integrated speech recognition with Cortana. Cortana acts as a virtual assistant helping users to set up conference calls and join meetings with voice commands.

For more information on automating some of the advanced configurations in Teams using TeamsHub by Cyclotron visit our blog.

Let us take a further look at evolution of the modern workplace using unified communications, cloud apps & MS Teams.

Cloud Apps: Microsoft Teams and Azure

Using Azure DevOps, Azure Boards and Azure Pipeline with Microsoft Teams helps streamline the entire software development lifecycle.

In the following few sections, we will see the benefits of integrating Microsoft Teams with these tools:

Azure DevOps

Azure Devops is used in agile software development to cover the entire lifecycle from requirements gathering, project management, reporting, build and release management, and testing. It also provides a single source to maintain software versions, branches and builds.

With Azure DevOps and Teams, software development teams get instant access to everything they need in a single source. This brings teams, conversations, content, and tools from across together into one place.

Using these two tools can be a powerful combination to collaborate for software teams.

You can find more information here – https://www.azuredevopslabs.com/labs/vstsextend/teams/

Azure Boards

Azure Boards is a lightweight app available for Microsoft Teams to help create work activity items and track it from the Teams channel itself.

You can find more information here – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/devops/boards/integrations/boards-teams

Azure Pipelines

Azure Pipelines lets you build, test and deploy applications in Azure cloud and other supported platforms.  Using Microsoft Teams and Azure Pipelines app helps to easily monitor the events. Set up and manage subscriptions for builds, releases, YAML pipelines, pending approvals and more from the app and get notifications for these events in your Teams channels.

You can find more information here – https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/devops/pipelines/integrations/microsoft-teams

Let us delve further into evolution of the modern workplace using Unified Communications, Cloud apps & MS Teams.

Cloud Apps: Microsoft Teams and Power Platform

Power Platform integration with Teams provides a single point of communication and business process improvement in a Teams channel

PowerApps and Power Automate

Firstly, Power Apps and Power Automate help companies build custom applications. These apps can automate routine processes. Microsoft Teams integrates with these services to build custom apps combining it with the conversations, meetings, and chat of Microsoft Teams.

You can find more information here – https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/microsoft-teams-blog/introducing-the-teams-and-power-apps-whitepaper/ba-p/1005945

Power BI

Secondly, Power BI and Microsoft Teams address the data visualization scenario together to encourage a culture of data for an organization. Combining business process automation with Power App and Power Automate provides critical data that can be harvested to provide business insights. A team can interact with data in a visual format in Power BI right from their team’s site.

You can find more information here – https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/announcing-new-power-bi-tab-for-microsoft-teams/

Power Virtual Agent

Finally, add quick conversational chatbot capabilities using Power Virtual Agents with Teams with little or no code.

You can find more information here – https://poszytek.eu/en/microsoft-en/office-365-en/pva-en/pva-series-add-power-virtual-agent-to-teams/

Summary

Evidently, ultra-modern communication services are inbuilt in Microsoft Teams. It is also an industry leading unified communications platform along with robust integrations in the Microsoft cloud ecosystem. Furthermore, Microsoft Teams is fully integrated with AI and future releases will involve mixed reality. Personalization and gamification of Teams is not very far as well.

Hope you enjoyed reading this article on evolution of the modern workplace using unified communications, cloud apps & MS Teams.

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April 13, 2020

Zoom vs Microsoft Teams – Security and Privacy in a COVID-19 world

Our POV on the Zoom v Microsoft Teams debate.
Zoom v Teams - security and privacy

Introduction

In this article we take a look at the Zoom security flaws, some of Microsoft Teams strength and how we can keep video conferencing secure and private while enabling remote work in a post-COVID-19 world.

Virtual collaboration platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams are phenomenal sources of unified communications. In the age of remote and mobile work, they enable continuous operability. Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there was an instant demand for everything to be virtual. Corporate clients, government entities, schools, and institutions; all have chosen video conferencing and live streaming to continue operations. However, when hundreds of millions of users are interacting through any platform, the security of data continues to be a concern.  

The news of bombing a Zoom meeting aka Zoom bombing scandal has been doing the rounds nowadays. Shockingly, it allowed hackers to infiltrate chat rooms with profane content. Moreover, anyone could easily access or see the shared content online through Zoom. This all sums up to show that Zoom is vulnerable to threats and data exposure as well.  

As per the latest reports, Zoom’s services are now being discarded by many due to its serious security loopholes. Consequently, people are now in a fix asking a question of which platform is right to use? Is Teams the one to bank upon for all communications and safety-related issues?  

Though Zoom and Teams equally serve their best in creating video-collaboration culture, there are security differences that set them apart. Before we read about Teams security practices, let us first demystify the underlying causes of Zoom’s vulnerability: 

Zoom

Anyone can join a Zoom meeting using a shared link without downloading any software. It is Zoom’s most enchanting feature that triggered its whopping usage worldwide.  

On the verge of making its services easy to its customers, Zoom enabled browser interface for one-touch meeting joins from standards-based video endpoints. It eventually caused Zoom connector application to create unsecured URLs lacking authentication controls to login to the Zoom cloud. Sadly, it leaves a giant room for unauthorized users to easily control video endpoints from any browser without login credentials. They can manipulate cameras, make calls and invoke device settings without permission. 

Along with other security issues, Zoom is also found to be using a weaker encryption algorithm to encode audio and video data. Needless to say, the software can be easily tampered by cybercriminals. 

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is built on Office 365 hyper-scale. The strong cybersecurity and compliance controls create a sturdy groundwork to prevent phishing attempts or ransomware attacks.  

The two-factor authentication process in Teams protects accounts from identity theft. Also, encrypted user data transmissions using Secure Real-time Transport Protocol (SRTP) prevents potential data leaks. It further ensures risk-free document sharing and data storage in Teams. Teams stores sensitive data in SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Exchange, Stream, and Groups. To fetch any information from these controlled repositories, one needs eDiscovery rights. 

With Teams, attendees can be easily managed in meetings keeping the user access transparent. If you want to allow guest users to attend your meetings, you can do it while retaining complete control over your environment. You can even restrict users to share any content. Additionally, Teams integrates advanced AI for automating the detection of bullying, trolling or illicit messages through chat and conversations. All sumps up to provide you an enhanced collaboration experience covering you with safety. 

Summary

As a key player in collaboration, Microsoft Teams pledges to secure user information complying with more than 90 regulatory standards and laws. If you are using Teams for collaboration, you must remain confident that your privacy is Microsoft’s priority and commitment. Coming back to comparing Zoom with Teams, I would suggest using Zoom for having public conversations only. But if you are an organization that doesn’t compromise with security at all, then definitely Teams is a valid choice for you. Stay Safe!  

Know more about adoption, governance and automation for Microsoft Teams in our articles.

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