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Don’t overlook Skype in your Office 365 business suite

UntitledThis post originally appeared on and has been republished with permission.

An Office suite is a must-have for most business users, and most businesses choose to provision Microsoft’s Office 365 for their employees. The suite includes a number of different applications and, while you know your users will use Word, Excel, and Outlook, there’s one application that may not be top of mind for them: Skype for Business.

While Skype will be familiar to many of your users as a video, audio, and text messaging application, Skype for Business actually traces its lineage back to Microsoft Office Communicator and Microsoft Lync, and even Windows Messenger. Unlike consumer-focused products such as Windows Live Messenger and Skype, Lync was designed from the ground-up as an enterprise-class messaging application designed for the corporate environment, with all the security considerations that entails.

Today, Rogers launched Rogers Voice with Skype for Business, which replaces Lync by combining key features from both Lync and Skype. The result is an application with the same Skype-style interface your users are familiar with in the consumer context, combined with the enterprise level security, compliance and control from Lync.

The new application will allow users to message Skype users both inside and outside their company network, but their consumer and corporate accounts will remain separate. Skype for Business users will log in using their Active Directory ID credentials, and there will be separate desktop, web and mobile clients and apps for Skype and Skype for Business. And network administrators will still be able to decide how and when the user interface is displayed.

Research firm Gartner put Lync in the leadership position in its most recent magic quadrant for unified communications, noting its integration with Office applications, Active Directory and Skype, the broad set of additional business applications from Microsoft that can be leveraged, and a rapidly expanding partner ecosystem.

“Microsoft Lync continues to make significant gains in the market and is attractive to a broad range of enterprises,” wrote Gartner in its report. “In many cases, it is initially deployed for its IM, presence and Web conferencing functionalities, with gradual incremental deployments of telephony and video added as follow-on phased deployments for specifically targeted groups or regions.”

With Skype for Business Server 2015, if you have a PBX (Private Branch Exchange) desk phone system, with a little configuration you can integrate Skype for Business into your telephony system. This will allow our users to search for people within the organization through the application, place the call through the Skype interface and have the audio flow through their desk phone. They can also place a call from the application to any phone nearby, such as their mobile or home phone, and have it appear to the receiver to be coming from their company’s main number. Other Skype for Business features remain integrated, such as instant messaging, desktop and app sharing and attachment sharing.

Among the new features included in Skype for are:

  • Call Monitor: This popular Skype feature allows the full call window to be shrunk to a small status window so users can still have quick controls at hand as they move between other application windows.
  • Rate My Call: After a user finishes a call, they’ll be prompted by a quick survey to report any call quality issues and give the call quality a star rating. This reporting allows administrators to monitor and address any network performance issues.
  • Quick Access to Call Controls: Compared to Lync, access to the dial pad and call controls has been improved and is now either always on screen or accessible with just one click.
  • Emoticons: Your users will want to be careful with their use in a business context, but Skype for Business now includes access to a range of emoticons – which you can turn off if you like.

There is a wide range of ways Skype for Business can be integrated into a business environment as a robust unified communications solution, including integration with desktop telephony, and your Office 365 license may already include some or all of these solutions. A trusted business partner such as Rogers can help you determine how your business can best leverage the power of Skype for Business.

Rogers Voice with Skype for Business with Office 365 is a fully integrated cloud-based voice and collaboration business solution that connects people virtually anywhere, anytime on any device – and all with one phone number, for seamless collaboration, enhanced workforce productivity and simplified voice infrastructure management. The solution can act as a desk phone replacement product for business customers. For more information visit,

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3 reasons we think small businesses love Office 365

Cloud computingWith the seventh annual Small Business Month underway, it’s amazing to think just how vital small businesses are to our economy. They drive innovation, employ half of the private sector workforce, and represent 98 per cent of the businesses in this country. Succeeding as a small business requires careful planning and execution; it also involves making smart day-to-day decisions and choosing the right technology to support your business.

Office 365 delivered by Rogers is now available for our small business customers to help fuel better collaboration and communication from anywhere, at any time. Office 365 brings together cloud versions of Microsoft’s email, communication and collaboration software packages; Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online in addition to the Office Professional Plus desktop suite. While there are many great features, we’ve narrowed down the top three reasons we think you will love Office 365:

Work in real-time, across multiple devices

Office 365 gives you access to your documents and applications across a number of devices – PC, Mac, tablet or smartphone – and syncs in real-time so your edits are automatically saved to the cloud. You can also sign in to Office using any browser and quickly pull up your documents for full viewing and editing. You can even access your files offline.

Make the best first impression

With Office 365, you can leverage servers managed by Microsoft to launch your website and keep it up and running 24/7. Plus, your team can benefit from a branded email address so your company name is front and centre every time you contact customers.

Need to meet with clients while out of town? Or with colleagues in different cities? Office 365 lets you conduct online meetings with multi-party HD video conferencing, screen sharing and note-taking – simplifying communication across multiple devices.

Manage your technology without IT staff

Your company’s technology needs to not only run smoothly, but also be secure and easy to manage. Office 365 offers a web-based management center that lets you easily manage users, email and file-sharing policies. Setting up Office 365 is easy – no IT experts required. You simply download the program online and it’s always up to date. Office 365 is perfect for businesses that embrace BYOD because it can be installed on any type of smartphone, laptop or tablet devices. Plus, it comes with anti-malware and spam protection built in to help keep your information safe from unauthorized users. The only eyeballs on your documents are your own, and you control which files to share with team members.

To learn more about how Office 365 can help your business stay better connected, check out our website or connect with your small business specialist at 1-877-377-3666. 

This November, Rogers is hosting Small Business Month events in Toronto, Kitchener, Vancouver and Montreal. To find more information or register, visit

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Canadian micro-businesses need mobile technology to grow

image sbWhat do a home-based crafter, car mechanic and food truck owner have in common? They represent a thriving economic segment in Canada called the ‘micro-business’ – companies with up to five employees. With fewer resources and little man-power, micro-businesses rely on basic technology, but according to a research report released by Rogers and conducted by Environics, there is a gap between the technology these businesses know will improve their operations, and what they’re actually using today.

“Accessing the right mix of technology can really impact the survival and growth of a small business,” said Tracy Markwood, Vice-President of Enterprise Marketing at Rogers. “New technologies like cloud services, e-commerce sites, mobile apps and mobile payments offer small businesses the opportunity to evolve their business in a way that will help them save money and time.”

According to the report, small businesses understand the benefits of new technologies including cloud solutions like Microsoft Office 365 and e-commerce sites like Shopify. However, approximately the same number of businesses are hesitant to adopt the technologies because they lack expertise on how to use them effectively in their business.

Today, the micro-business sector makes up more than 55 per cent of small businesses in Canada and has grown by 40 per cent in the last decade. The Rogers study revealed that while most of these business owners (82%) use mobile devices and applications to support their operations, very few have embraced cloud-based software (20%), social media (16%) or mobile payments (4%). These newer technologies present businesses with numerous opportunities to improve efficiencies, reach target markets, and successfully grow.

“Technology has been and continues to be central to our success,” says Melissa Richardson, Owner of Totem and micro-business owner. “Whether I’m sending emails to my customers, communicating with the shop, taking orders or taking pictures of our bags to send directly to customers who are deciding on a purchase, I have never had a problem relying on smartphones or the internet to keep my business running.”

October is Small Business Month in Canada; to help businesses gain new insights and actionable tips about how technology can transform their business, Rogers is bringing its annual event series called Rogers Talks to thousands of businesses across Canada. Micro and small businesses will have the opportunity to hear from industry leading experts in social media, marketing and networking about how technology can help to create a competitive advantage in their business. Events will take place in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver from October 29th to November 13th, and each one is open to any small business owner or employee.

To register, visit

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Five essential tips for the travelling entrepreneur

bizThis post, written by Jared Lindzon, originally appeared on Betakit and has been republished with permission.

Small business owners can rarely afford to take a step out of the office, let alone the country, which make travel plans — even for business purposes — a major productivity sacrifice. Fortunately, today’s workplace has become ubiquitous, and with the right technological tools, small business owners can keep one foot in the office no matter what part of the world they’re in.

Keep Tech Light and Powerful

CEOs on the go can’t afford the luggage space or muscle strength required to drag an office worth of equipment onto an airplane, which makes compact hardware a vital companion. Fortunately, lightweight laptops, tablets and smartphones can accomplish more today than a clunky desktop could 10 years ago.

Take it To the Cloud

Lightweight mobile devices are also becoming more powerful thanks to emerging cloud technologies. Instead of saving documents, applications and other media onto physical hard drives, cloud technologies like Office 365, Rogers Mobile Work Folder, and Google Drive allow users to stay directly connected to their files and their office on the go.

Avoid Hard Copies- Use Mobile Apps that Can Scan

While printers are still a key component of any office environment, they’re not very favourable travel companions. Most hotels and offices on the road are more than happy to print documents, but putting the old John Hancock on a physical document and sending it back to the office via email isn’t always an option without an all-in-one printer/scanner. Fortunately, there’s the JotNot Scanner, an iPhone application that allows users to take pictures of documents with their smart phone and save them as PDF files, ready for emailing back to HQ.

Poke Your Head Through the Window

While it’s difficult to keep an eye on things at the office without a physical presence, there are a wide variety of free video conferencing programs available, which allow users to digitally attend meetings and conferences. Application such as Skype, Google Hangout and Oovooprovide an open window into the boardroom from any location with an Internet connection.

Plan Your Data Needs Ahead

With your lifeline to the office sitting in your pocket it’s important to hit the road with a pre-loaded data plan that will enable you to safely and reliably access these powerful online tools. To make things simpler for their US-bound small business customers, for example, Rogers allows customers using a Share Everything Plan to receive 100 minutes of talk in the US, unlimited text messaging and unlimited Canada to use minutes for only $20 per month. Be sure to talk to your wireless provider before hitting the road to ensure you’re not overpaying for roaming and data packages

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Six ways to make your workplace more environmentally friendly

greenofficeThis post, written by Jared Lindzon, originally appeared on Betakit and has been republished with permission.

Environmental consciousness is good for business. Not only are consumers becoming more likely to buy products from companies with less environmental impact, but businesses themselves also stand to save money and even boost morale by going green.

Here are a few ways that small businesses can do their part to help the environment:

Take it to the Cloud Cloud computing has not only allowed businesses to become more streamlined, collaborative and efficient, but they also make them greener too. Consider, for example, how much paper and ink is saved when files are saved, shared and disseminated digitally. Applications like Mobile Work Folder and Microsoft’s Office 365 that allow employees in different office locations to collaborate more efficiently and access documents from anywhere with no travel required.

Reduce Paper Waste There are also ways to reduce waste for those documents that absolutely must be printed. Printing double-sided pages, using post-consumer waste paper, eliminating unnecessary fax-cover sheets, printing documents in less-bold fonts and ensuring that used paper ends up in the recycling bin are just a few ways to reduce the carbon footprint made by paper products.

Travel Via Teleconference Businesses are now able to save on travel time and expenses by taking advantage of teleconferencing and video conferencing technologies. Employees that have access to Internet Plans and Mobile Internet solutions, combined with the right devices and collaboration software can save money, spend less time on the road, and decrease commuting and carbon emissions.

Bring Nature To Work The office environment itself can be an opportunity for business owners to reduce their carbon footprint while saving money, and even boost office morale. Introducing little changes like taking advantage of natural lighting, using open windows instead of air conditioning and bringing in a few potted plants instead of more wasteful office decor can make a big impact on how employees view their company’s commitment to environmental sustainability, while freshening the air they breathe everyday.

Recycle Beyond the Bin Throwing empty pop cans or used paper into the recycling bin is a good start, but there are a number of ways for businesses to take recycling to the next level. At many organizations, used smartphones end up in a drawer, closet or storage room collecting dust and taking up space. These units contain both valuable materials and hazardous substances and should be properly recycled so they don’t end up in landfill. Rogers Business Trade-Up – a safe and simple buyback program that accepts phones from any carrier – is one way businesses can safely dispose of company-owned devices and get value in return.

Be Vigilant Taking these steps is a great way to start your company on the road to a greener future, but the range of environmentally conscious solutions and products is growing everyday. Those who are serious about reducing their carbon footprint should stay on top of these solutions as they become more cost effective and more widely available in Canada.

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How to create a stress-free workplace

Stress free officeStacks of papers, loud coworkers and regular battles with the office printer can all send your anxiety levels skyrocketing. Using the right technology to create a stress-free work environment for you and your team can pay off big time – the Connected Workplace Report from Rogers Communications and Harris-Decima found that 76 per cent of Canadians believe technology helps them to be more productive at work. And, 30 per cent of respondents report that staying connected to their work with mobile devices helps them enjoy a healthier work/life balance.

Here are four ways to help make your workplace a more relaxing and productive space:

Declutter. A clear desk can help your productivity. Keep your work in progress neatly in one location, and file completed projects. Look for opportunities to keep digitized documents instead of printed copies. Recycle or shred anything you don’t need.

Get comfortable. The wrong desk set-up can cause you physical as well as mental stress. Your computer should be directly in front of you and your keyboard and mouse should be positioned to allow your arms to rest at a comfortable angle. Your desk chair should also be adjustable and provide proper back support.

Connect and collaborate.  Smooth collaboration between employees, partners, suppliers and customers anytime, anywhere can boost efficiency. Tools like Microsoft Office 365 and the Rogers One Number app allow for interactive calendaring, videoconferencing and more.

Communicate. Communication mixups can cause confusion and stress. Help keep instructions clear by asking questions, making suggestions and having conversations – whether that’s face to face or by phone or video call. Smartphones keep workers connected so they can quickly and easily reach the people and the information they need to keep projects moving.

How do you minimize stress at the work place?

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Head in the clouds? Cloud computing 101 for business

Cloud computingSmall businesses look to the cloud to share large images, presentation decks or video files with their team across desktops, laptops and even tablets. The cloud can enhance productivity, flexibility and scalability. But what exactly is the cloud?

Defining the cloud

The cloud is an internet technology platform with computing and storage capabilities.

Small business customers can access groups of virtual servers on-demand and providers typically charge fees on a per-use basis.

The cloud allows developers, website managers, IT departments and small and medium businesses to quickly develop, test and roll out new tech capabilities without spending a lot on infrastructure and training.

Types of clouds

No, you won’t see nimbus or cumulus here! But various types of cloud environments meet the scalability, security and performance needs of different users. Generally, clouds for business customers fall under three main categories:

Public clouds: Public or multi-tenant clouds are delivered by a third party such as Rogers Mobile Work Folder. A public cloud can save companies the potentially expensive costs of purchasing, managing and maintaining on-premise hardware and software.

Private clouds: Also referred to as an internal cloud, a private cloud exists within a corporate firewall, under the control of a single company’s IT department. A private cloud is designed to offer the same features and benefits of public cloud systems, but allows individual companies to control security and access to company data, as well as ensure regulatory compliance.

Hybrid clouds: As the name implies, a hybrid cloud combines features of both private and public clouds. Ideally, a hybrid lets businesses take advantage of the scalability and cost-effectiveness of a public cloud. Businesses may begin using certain applications in a public cloud and then move them to a private cloud as needs or numbers of users change.

Why try the cloud?

Cloud services offer flexibility for small and medium businesses . Businesses can get to market faster, respond to changing customer demands, maintain their security and meet seasonal spikes trouble-free—all while managing the costs associated with hardware, software and support.

For more information on Rogers Mobile Work folder, Office 365 or other services for small business, visit

How does your team harness the cloud?

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Talking Tablets with REP4 Technologies

Talking TabletsRecently on RedBoard, we spoke to Neil Shuart about how tablets have evolved. “We have heard of companies using tablets as menus, as in-room control panels, in vehicles and in the hands of complete field sales teams. New and custom applications are constantly being developed.”

Throughout the summer on RedBoard Biz we’ll hear from companies who are creatively using tablets for their business. Today, we’re featuring REP4 Technologies Inc., an IT support company specializing in Electronic Medical Records.

“As with any IT company, our technicians in the field are our revenue generators,” said Eddie Philips, founder and president of the Selkirk, MB, based company. “We looked at ways of providing them with more time at client’s sites while having to do as little unbillable admin work as possible.”

REP4 gave their technicians Asus Transformers, running the Android OS and using two apps: Sign My Pad and SharePlus. REP4 then developed an Onsite Technician form that draws all relevant information — Client Name, ticket number, problem description, etc. — from their Customer  Relationship Management app.

“Once the technician resolves the issue, he or she fills out the resolution and the billable time required onsite with their Transformer,” explained Eddie. “The client then signs off on the form, using a stylus, within Sign My Pad and the technician can then email the completed form directly to our administrative staff that completes the billing process. This process is so effective that we’ve had scenarios where our clients have received the invoice and a copy of the signed form before our technician is out of the parking lot.”

This process has helped REP4’s technicians resolve issues more quickly, without needing to stop to perform billing or data entry.

REP4 also uses a combination of tablets and Office 365 to share tasks, documents and, of course, email. Adding tablets and cloud applications into their business has had additional benefits, too. Eddie said,  “When one of our clients came to us looking for help to ‘go paperless’ and assistance with improving their QA process, we already had the mindset and understanding to get them there.  The final solution made heavy use of tablets and cloud applications.”

How does your business use tablets?

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Rogers Small Business Leadership Network – Robin Smith

Robin Smith, HeadshotMeet Robin Smith the newest member of the Rogers Small Business Leadership Network. Robin is the co-founder of Virtual Logistics Inc. located in Mississauga, Ontario. We sat down with Robin and asked him a few questions about his business.

Q1: What’s Your Elevator Pitch?

I always come back to our vision. To be the leader in customized data integration solutions for growing omni-channel businesses. We want to change the way you think about data integration. It’s not a really sexy topic but it’s key to a successful and scalable business. Bet you never thought about it.

Q2: What’s Your 3 Biggest Challenge as a small business owner that you’re tackling today?

Time (there is never enough), finding the right people (people that fit technically and culturally into our organization) and changing the attitudes in business towards data integration and data. These are three of the biggest challenges we face. Of course there are lots of others but they are far easier to manage.

Q3: What role does technology play in the day to day operations of your business? What didn’t you expect you’d use technology for?

Love this question! If you don’t have a solid technological foundation you are living in the 19th century. You would be amazed at the number of businesses we speak with who can’t see past the outdated junky systems they use. They are not informed about what is available and run inefficient and antiquated processes because of the technology they use. We use technology to manage the entire sales and marketing cycle, contract administration, accounting and then all customer interfacing points using an issue management platform. We love technology at Virtual Logistics and have always said if you want to talk the talk, you better walk the walk. So we eat our own cat food. No dogs here.

Q4: Tell us a time when technology helped get you and your business out of a jam?

We were having a dispute with a customer. By having a centralised CRM for emails and a proper issue management solution where people logged their time, this allowed us to show the customer that we were not the bad guys. Having the facts allowed us to defuse the dispute and establish a better working relationship. Had we not had the technology it would have been a “he said, she said” in which no one came out unscathed. If you don’t have proper systems you don’t have good data.

Q5: What technologies do you think could impact small business in the coming months or years?

Wow a huge question. APIs (application program interface) are going to create the greatest opportunities and the greatest challenges for business. The internet is one giant API. What APIs are doing to business is allowing them to move beyond the transaction and getting at data. Data is king, we all generate it, we all have it and we all use it. Data is the foundation of all we do today. It feeds the customer experience; it drives our planning and decisioning. If it’s bad we make bad decisions. We trade today in a digital world so the use of data across an organization is more pervasive than ever before. With APIs things will get much more personal and drive much of the internet of things solutions. Think of APIs as doors we can look into to get a view of data. How many doors can you open to get a better view?

About Robin

Robin is the co-founder of Virtual Logistics Inc. He has overseen VL’s sales and marketing since the company’s inception in 1994 as an EDI and data integration company.

Prior to forming VL, Robin was responsible for new business development in Africa and the Middle East for Canac Telecom a division of CN Rail. While at Canac, Robin represented Canac on numerous Canadian Government trade missions to Morocco, Tunisia, Kuwait, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Prior to working at Canac, Robin served as Director of International Liaison at TEMIC (Telecommunications Executive Management Institute of Canada) and worked for USAID in Somalia as well in the UN office, Vienna, Austria.

Robin has a BA Honours in Prehistoric Archaeology and Historical Geography from the University of Toronto. He also has a MA in International Relations from Webster University, Vienna, Austria. He is married with two sons and lives in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.

Disclosure statement

Alex is a member of the Rogers Small Business Leadership Network. Members work with Rogers to produce and share content that can help Canadian small businesses be successful. He is not

compensated by Rogers.

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