By David J. Rosenthal
One of the biggest (and brightest) stories of the pandemic era was the resounding success of remote work technologies. In the earliest and most uncertain days, when lockdowns were widespread, it wasn’t clear whether our digital tools for communication, collaboration, and productivity were ready to handle widespread hybrid or fully remote workforces.
Thankfully, technology moves at a fast pace. Online platforms and the networks they are built on proved to be as scalable as promised and mature enough to handle a massive ramp up in usage. Work migrated online like never before.
Digital Transformation Arrived Just in Time
Online video conferencing, chatrooms, instant messaging, co-authoring and editing documents, securely sharing files — and doing everything else that it takes to get a large group of people working in sync and delivering meaningful results — were not only up to the challenge, they untapped new and upgraded workflows and productivity enhancements that adaptive organizations will continue to leverage and improve upon even after the pandemic finally subsides.
One of the big winners in this new age of hybrid work was Microsoft Teams, a business communication platform built into the Microsoft 365 subscription service and suite of business applications. Zoom gained notoriety early on, but in short order, Teams, owing to its more secure platform and richer feature-set, overtook it as the most popular business communication tool on the planet:
- 250 million active monthly users
- 181 markets
- 53 languages supported
- 1 billion monthly 1:1 phone calls
- 1000% growth in ISV and app-built solutions since 2020
Both 2020 and 2021 were banner years for Teams. Expect 2022 to see new features added, more security updates, and even further growth.
Teams Gets Optimized for SMBs
Globe-spanning enterprises with virtually limitless resources didn’t think twice about rapidly adopting Microsoft Teams and fully buying into its potential to empower their workforce.
SMBs, which have to be more strategic with their comparatively smaller budgets, are always hesitant to add a new service until they are certain it will add value to their operation that outweighs the financial costs as well as the time and effort required to implement it.
Microsoft is a leader in business technologies because it understands the pain points of companies large and small, across industries. And that’s why in late 2021, it announced Microsoft Teams Essentials, a standalone version of Teams built specifically for small and medium-sized businesses.
Priced competitively at $4 per user per month, Teams Essentials includes all the core meeting features in Teams but does not require licensees to bundle it with the Office apps included in a Microsoft 365 subscription.
The Essentials version of Teams also replaces some features smaller organizations may not want — such as Channels, dedicated sections within a team to organize individual topics that are similar to Slack’s framework — with a simplified chat interface and a greater focus on meeting and video conferencing capabilities.
“It’s the first standalone offering of Microsoft Teams designed specifically with small businesses in mind. It brings together features small businesses need to serve customers, including unlimited group video calls for up to 30 hours, group chat, file sharing, and calendaring,” said Jared Spataro, head of Microsoft 365.
Teams Essentials Features and Benefits
- No Rushed Meetings: With a 30 hour limit, meetings can take as little or as much time as needed.
- Scalable Meetings: Whether it’s an all-hands-on-deck, 300 person gathering or a one-to-one session, Teams Essentials delivers smooth, reliable, and secure connections.
- Calendar Integration: Never miss a meeting again with simple integration with Outlook Calendar. Additionally, cross-platform integration with Google Calendar has been announced as an upcoming feature.
- Easy Invitations: A thoughtfully designed and simple-to-use UX makes adding people to meetings as effortless as sending an email. Recipients receive an invitation with a link to join. Even if they don’t have Teams, the meeting opens directly in their web browser. No sign-up, sign-in, or installation is required.
- Interactivity: The features in Teams that create a professional look and experience for online meetings are included in Teams Essentials, such as meeting lobbies, virtual backgrounds, Together Mode (AI segmentation technology that digitally places participants in a shared background), live closed captions, and Live Reactions (e.g. raise hand, like, love, applause, laugh, and surprise).
- Ongoing Chat: Conversations are persistent; they don’t end when the meeting does and can be resumed or referred back at any time.
- Small Business Group Chat Templates: Create polls, start a group project, assign tasks, and host meetings in seconds.
- Communicate With Anyone: It doesn’t matter if an individual isn’t a member of your organization or even using Teams. Absolutely anyone can be extended a secure invitation to dial in or chat in a Teams Essential meeting.
- Mobile Chat Dashboard: All chats are neatly organized in categories such as locations, photos, files, task lists, upcoming events, and weblinks.
Teams Essentials has everything SMBs need and nothing they don’t. Plus, with 10 gigabytes of file storage included (twice the amount available in the free version of Teams), they’ll have more than enough space to keep all their important documents in one searchable and secure place.
Hybrid Is Here to Stay
According to research published by Microsoft in their 2021 Work Trend Index Reports, hybrid and remote work aren’t passing fads. The advantages of being able to securely work anywhere at any time, alone or in a group, and synchronously or in completely different time zones, are too compelling to ignore or relinquish.
Surveys with individuals up and down the org chart of leading companies reveal that to be a majority view:
- 73% of workers say they want flexible, remote work options
- 80% of managers expect work-from-home policies will remain in place post-pandemic
- 66% of leaders say their company is considering redesigning office space in light of increased hybrid work
This genie will not be going back in the bottle. The future of work is happening right now and it’s a transformative revolution made possible by secure and reliable tools like Microsoft Teams Essentials that make interacting and collaborating online as seamless and responsive as in traditional workplace environments.
Don’t be left behind!
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Razor Technology has been recognized as one of Top 10 Top Managed Service Providers by DesignRush” .