Cloud Computing – A Beginners’ Guide For Small Businesses

How to use OneDrive; Beginner’s Guide Microsoft’s Cloud Storage Service

How to use OneDrive; Beginner’s Guide Microsoft’s Cloud Storage Service

OneDrive is a Microsoft cloud storage service. It lets you securely store your personal files in one place, easily share them with your colleagues and access. OneDrive is a file and document storage offering from Microsoft that allows the user to access their saved documents from any internet accessible device. What online storage provider did you use before Google Workspace? If you previously used Read this guide Microsoft OneDrive. Switching to Drive from.

How to use OneDrive; Beginner’s Guide Microsoft’s Cloud Storage Service - the incorrect

What is Microsoft PowerApps? A Beginner’s Guide

What if you could build an app that meant you no longer had to manage projects or process data using shared Excel files (or worse, pen and paper)?

Even better, what if you could create that app quickly – without advanced coding expertise or time-consuming back-and-forth with developers – and then scale it on-demand to your team?

If these types of workflow improvements sound interesting, Microsoft PowerApps may be right for you.

What is PowerApps?

According to Microsoft, PowerApp is a “suite” of services, connectors, apps, and data platform for rapid app development. Although PowerApps was launched in 2015, it only became generally available in January 2017.

Essentially, you can think of Microsoft PowerApps as a tool for building custom applications for internal business use. One of the major benefits of PowerApps is that it enables non-technical employees and developers to build both simple and sophisticated business apps without having to get into more technical coding.

How Does Microsoft PowerApps Work?

With PowerApps, business users can build scalable apps without coding knowledge, making it easy for your employees to replace Excel workflows or manual paperwork.

PowerApps works similarly to other Microsoft applications; it is a tool for creating apps in the same way that you use Excel for spreadsheets, Word for documents, and PowerPoint for presentations.

How Does Microsoft PowerApps Work

Once you login, you’ll see that PowerApps even features the same type of ribbons and menu structure as Excel and PowerPoint.

PowerApps also runs as an application on mobile devices, meaning that you can install and use it on any Android, IOS, or Windows device, while also using it on any web browser.

How Do You Build Applications with PowerApps?

Users can build PowerApps applications in one of two ways:

  • Through any modern browser, or
  • Through PowerApp Modern App (though, for this, you’ll need Windows 8.1 or newer)

Once inside, there are three kinds of apps you can create:

  • Canvas: You’ll use PowerApps Studio to build apps in the same way you make slide decks in PowerPoint.
  • Portal: PowerApps Portal Studio’s what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) tool lets you create web pages, components, lists, and forms.
  • Model-driven: You’ll use App Designer to define sitemaps and add components.

PowerApps provides an easy drag-and-drop interface for creating apps. To build your app, you’ll use Excel formulas instead of coding. You can also choose a suitable template to get started quickly.

How Do You Build Applications with PowerApps

Your custom app can include different types of media, such as images and text fields, as well as different controls, like the camera controls on your phone.

Microsoft’s Dataverse, the underlying data platform for PowerApps, stores your app’s data, though you can also connect to external storage and data sources, including:

  • Microsoft Office 365 (OneDrive, Teams, Dynamics 365, SQL Server, Excel, and SharePoint Online)
  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox
  • Oracle
  • DynamicsCRM
  • SAP
  • On-premises file system
  • Amazon S3
  • Redshift

How Do You Build Applications with PowerApps

Microsoft’s own cloud computing platform, Azure, helps make the necessary connections in the background.

How Do You Build Applications with PowerApps

Once your app is created, you can share it with colleagues and staff. Simply launch the PowerApp app from your phone, access the newly-built app, and share.

With the PowerApp mobile app, you don’t need to create separate apps for each mobile operating system. Just build it once, and it’ll work on any phone, supported browser, or operating system (including Windows, Linux, and Mac). In addition, you can use REST API to add custom business logic to your PowerApps, if needed.

What Can You Do With PowerApps?

A few of PowerApps’ benefits are as follows:

  • You can use PowerApps to create custom apps with Excel formulas – no coding required
  • Anybody familiar with the Microsoft ecosystem can create an app with PowerApp
  • You can use the tool to connect various data sources, both on-premises and in the cloud, using custom connectors or 400+ out-of-the-box connectors
  • You won’t have to develop the same app three times for Android, iOS, and Windows mobile operating systems
  • You can share the apps you create with various people within your organization
  • You can use REST API to add custom business logic to basic apps

That said, there are some functions you shouldn’t expect from PowerApps.

What Can’t You Do With PowerApps?

Microsoft designed PowerApps for businesses to use internally. For this reason, the amount and scale of what you can do is limited.

For example, a developer working in-house can’t add functions to PowerApps applications via HTML, C#, or Javascript code (they’d need to use REST APIs to add custom logic to PowerApps).

In addition, your Microsoft 365 subscription will determine the specific features you have access to. Any PowerApps you create will require a subscription to run, so it’s important to understand what your licensing does and does not allow for when planning how you’ll use PowerApps.

How to Start Working with PowerApps

The PowerApps service and building apps are both free. However, the complete application requires a license to operate. A 30-day free trial is available (though, if you can’t figure out PowerApps by the end of the 30 days, you can request an extension).

You can also access a developer’s environment with 750GB of flow runs per month and a 2GB database size if you purchase a developer’s plan. You can then test your product with real users by exporting and publishing it in Microsoft AppSource.

You can purchase PowerApps directly from the admin center of your Microsoft 365 account.

How to Start Working with PowerApps

Image: Microsoft


You can also purchase a license through your Microsoft Partner if they’re a Global or Billing Admin of a tenant.

Do You Need Microsoft PowerApps Training for PowerApps?

Although you don’t need coding skills to build custom apps with PowerApps, you still need to understand how it works to avoid running into bottlenecks and play issues. For this reason, you may either need PowerApps training, or you may need to work with a partner who’s familiar with building Microsoft tools, services, and platforms.

Simpat Tech provides nearshore application development services and is equipped to help your organization get the most out of PowerApps. Talk to us today to see how our PowerApps development solutions can help you solve some of your biggest business challenges.

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Ready to get started?

Executive summary

  • What is Microsoft Teams? A chat and collaboration platform for Microsoft Office 365 customers designed to simplify group work.
  • How to use Microsoft Teams? As well as the chat-based comms, Teams' integration with other Microsoft services allows users access to shared files and calendars, collaborative editing, and easy switching between voice, video and text chat.
  • Who does Microsoft Teams affect? The service is available to most subscribers to Microsoft cloud-based Office 365 suite.
  • When and where is Microsoft Teams available? Teams is available to Office 365 customers across 181 markets worldwide and in 53 languages.
  • How do I get Microsoft Teams? Microsoft Teams is enabled by default for most organizations using Office 365.

SEE: All of TechRepublic's cheat sheets and smart person's guides

What is Microsoft Teams?

Teams is Microsoft's take on chat-based communication for business, its answer to competing platforms such as Slack and Atlassian's HipChat.

In its simplest form the service allows users to set up Teams, each of which is essentially a hub for group chat rooms, which are called channels.

Multiple chat rooms or channels can be created within a Team and to help keep chats easy to follow, conversations are threaded, flow from top to bottom and notify users of updates. If users need face-to-face conversation, they can jump straight into voice or video chats with other channel participants with a single click. The number of participants in a video chat is also set to grow, with Microsoft integrating the Kaizala messaging service for large-group communication into Teams.

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However, Microsoft is pushing the platform as being more than just a chat hub. Teams is integrated with Microsoft's online office suite Office 365, which means it is tied to other Microsoft Office services, such as Word and Excel, as well as its cloud storage and sharing services such as SharePoint. PowerPoint, OneNote, Planner, Power BI and Delve are also integrated with Teams.

Consequently any documents, spreadsheets, presentations and the like that are shared within a Team are synced with a copy stored in Microsoft's OneDrive cloud storage and a local SharePoint environment, so every Team member always has access to the latest version. Collaborative editing of this shared content is also possible, with each user's changes reflected in the Office software in real time.

Alongside this integration with Microsoft's wider suite of services, new functionality is being added into Teams over time, such as the recently added Schedule Management feature, some of it industry specific, such as Microsoft Teams' patient-care co-ordination service.

Even if someone doesn't like using Microsoft Teams, the service's integration with Office 365 means that important updates or content generated within the collaboration platform can be flagged up outside of Teams, for instance Microsoft Delve might highlight an update to an important shared file.

SEE: Comparison chart: Enterprise collaboration tools (TechRepublic Premium)

Team channels can also communicate with outside services via Connectors. Connectors already exist to push updates from GitHub, Evernote, Zendesk, MailChimp, SAP SuccessFactors and Salesforce to Teams' channels and an API framework is available to allow more to be built, also allowing businesses to link their own internal apps. On launch, Microsoft Teams shipped with over 70 Connectors and 85 Bots, which can participate in conversations. From within Chat, every Team channel has access to T-Bot, a bot that can answer simple questions about how to use Microsoft Teams.

Access to files, internal sites and dashboards is automatically controlled by Office 365 Groups and SharePoint, with users able to create a new Group or attach the Team to an existing Group when creating the Team.

Microsoft Teams is designed to meet the same security and data protection standards as Office 365 and is Office 365 Tier C compliant. The service enforces two-factor authentication, single sign on through Active Directory and encryption of data in transit and at rest. Microsoft is also adding controls to help organizations protect sensitive information from being shared or leaked. Information barriers allow firms to limit which team members can communicate and collaborate with each other. Due later in 2019, Secure Private Channels will let organizations control which team members can see conversations and content in a specific Teams channel.

Additional resources

How to use Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is designed to provide an easier way for small groups of people to communicate and collaborate.

The defacto approach of communicating via group emails and sharing files via a patchwork of different services is difficult–or so goes Microsoft's rationale–with the potential for missed messages and files. This is the problem Microsoft Teams is designed to solve.

Microsoft argues that Teams' trump card is its tight integration with Office services and Groups, which allows users to seamlessly and securely switch between editing documents, shared dashboards and planners, and group chat, video and voice calls. That simplicity of just setting up a Team and having access to all these shared services–without the need to spend hours configuring them–is part of what Microsoft sees as Teams' selling point. Microsoft Teams integration with email also allows messages sent to a designated Team address to be copied to a conversation in Teams.

In December 2017, Microsoft began to roll out support for advanced calling capabilities, previously only in Skype for Business, to Microsoft Teams. These include providing full featured dialling capabilities, complete with call history, hold/resume, speed dial, transfer, forwarding, caller ID masking, extension dialling, multi-call handling, simultaneous ringing, voicemail, and text telephone (TTY) support.

As Teams gains new features, Microsoft is encouraging users of Skype for Business to start planning to migrate to the platform. In June 2018 Microsoft added support for Direct Routing, enabling customers to use their existing telephony infrastructure for Teams to create a “full voice service”, when combined with Microsoft's Phone System for Office 365. Microsoft Teams is available in an increasing number of meeting room setups, with the service accessible via Skype Room Systems, on conference phones running Skype for Business, and in preview form on Surface Hub. Due to Teams incorporating these features, support for Skype for Business will end on 31 July 2021, with new Microsoft 365 customers moved onto Microsoft Teams by default from 1 September 2019.

Microsoft answered calls to make cross-organization working in Team easier in March 2018, when it began rolling out guest access for users without a corporate account. The service is also in the process of being rolled out to US government agencies that use Office 365.

Since launch Microsoft has integrated apps and services with Teams, both in-house Office 365 such as Excel, as well as those from select partners like Trello, InVision, and SurveyMonkey. Users can include information directly from these apps in their conversations without having to include screenshots or hyperlinks. Searching for people has also been improved, with the addition of a Microsoft Graph API-powered app called “Who,” that will allow users to search for people in their organizations by name or topic.

Microsoft has brought various new features to Microsoft Teams in 2018. These include recordings of meetings being uploaded to the Azure cloud, alongside timestamped transcriptions, with automatic translation of chat messages and of automated captions.

Microsoft has also integrated Teams with its augmented-reality headset HoloLens to enable a Remote Assist feature. This feature allows a worker in the field wearing the prototype headset can share video of what they're looking at with an expert back at head office using Microsoft Teams.

Additional resources

Who are Microsoft Teams' competitors?

Teams' main challengers are the chat and collaboration services Slack and Atlassian's HipChat.

Slack released before Microsoft Teams, and speaking from personal experience, using a mix of Slack and Google Apps for Work provides a relatively straightforward way of collaborating and communicating with colleagues. Slack has also released its Enterprise Grid service, targeted at serving the needs of organizations with between 500 and 500,000 users.

Slack is also available as a Freemium product, with the price rising to $6.67 per user per month for small-and-medium-sized businesses, $12.50 for larger businesses, and custom pricing for the biggest companies and those working in regulated industries. Teams also offers users a limited set of features for free, although the full service requires an Office 365 for business subscription, costing about $12.50 per user per month, which also includes a full suite of Office services.

Also a Freemium offering, HipChat charges $3 per user, per month for its Standard service, which includes group screen sharing, unlimited file sharing and storage and unlimited message history.

Similar to Microsoft Teams, Atlassian's HipChat has built-in support for one-click group video chat, but also offers integration with Amazon's voice-controlled personal assistant Alexa.

In a counter to Slack, there is also a free version of Microsoft Teams, released in July 2018, which doesn't require a business version of Office 365 or a Microsoft account.

Aimed at small-to-medium sized business, the free service is limited to use by 300 people, includes unlimited chat messages and search; audio and video calling for individuals, groups and teams; 10GB of team file storage and 2GB per person for personal storage; guest access. integration with Office Online web apps alongside more than 140 apps and services.

The free version doesn't include Office 365 services such as OneDrive, SharePoint, Planner, Yammer, Exchange email hosting and custom email domains, meeting recording, audio conferencing, the meeting scheduler.

Since the free version of Microsoft Teams was introduced in July 2018 there's been marked growth in Teams' user numbers.

As of March 2019, there were 500,000 organizations using Microsoft Teams and by July 2019 more than 13 million people were using Teams more than were using its rival Slack at the time.

A Spiceworks survey in late 2018 found that by the end of 2020, 41 percent of organizations expect to use Microsoft Teams (up from 21 percent in 2016), and 18 percent expect to use Slack (up slightly from 15 percent in 2018).

For his part, Slack's founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield dismissed the significance of the growth in Team's user figures at the time, saying the adoption of Teams reflected it being bundled with Office 365, adding “I don't think that's really a threat”.

Additional resources

Who does Microsoft Teams affect?

The service is available to subscribers to Microsoft's cloud-based Office 365 suite. Microsoft says it is available to “most” Office 365 commercial customers — with Teams being enabled for Business Essentials, Business Premium, E1, E3, and E5 plan subscribers.

Microsoft Teams for Education has a range of features designed to help teachers and students: such as the ability to pull timetables from the school information system, integrated OneNote class notebooks and assignment management tools to assist teachers in grading and providing feedback.

Microsoft Teams is cross platform, with clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS and the web. Android and iOS users can use Teams for 1:1 calls via VOIP or phone systems, with iOS users able to share their screen, live video and photos with other Teams users.

Additional resources

When and where is Microsoft Teams available?

Teams is available to Office 365 customers across 181 markets worldwide and in 53 languages.

Additional resources

How do I get Microsoft Teams?

Microsoft Teams is enabled by default for most organizations using Office 365, with the only requirement being a subscription to one of the licence plans outlined above.

Additional resources

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A Beginner’s Guide to the OneDrive Admin Center

Here are 3 Common Office 365 Data Loss Scenarios you need to watch out for.  

Are you ready to ditch those home drives, shared drives, “where-collaboration-goes-to-die” drives, and whatever other personal file storage you’re currently using?

Welcome to OneDrive! The new OneDrive admin center is tailored specifically to your needs; it’s a single place for you to manage everything related to OneDrive configuration.

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The first thing you’ll see when you jump in is the home page. For now, it’s a simple welcome page, but it’ll be updated with reports and more extensive features soon. To the left you’ll notice the different areas of configuration:

Before we begin, it’s important to understand the differences between SharePoint and OneDrive for Business when considering your deployment and configuration.

SharePoint and OneDrive: How do they relate?

Knowing how to get ultimate control over your data by using the Office 365 admin portal is critical. SharePoint and OneDrive for  Business share these overlapping capabilities in order to make better configuration decisions.

OneDrive for Business is built on SharePoint Online and is the central place to access your files in both SharePoint and OneDrive. Technically speaking, all user OneDrives are SharePoint sites behind-the-scenes. This means that the sharing options you see in both products will work exactly the same, thus providing a seamless experience.

Now, let’s take a step-by-step walkthrough of the admin center and all of its wonderful features.

OneDrive Admin Center Key Features


1. Sharing

This section helps admins gain control over how and with whom your users are sharing information in both OneDrive and SharePoint. This includes controlling the use of external sharing and anonymous links as well as limiting which external domains users can share with.


How you choose your settings here should be based on how your organization policies allow for external sharing. This is where you configure what users see when they share a file or folder in OneDrive or SharePoint.

Default Link Type: Choosing a default link type will affect both OneDrive and SharePoint when they share a File or Folder.


Link Expiration: You can use this setting to set an expiration date (e.g. 30 days) for externally shared files in OneDrive and SharePoint. The advantage here is that you can make sure any anonymous links shared aren’t living in cyberspace forever. I’ll touch on these sharing options in detail and what each one means in a few moments.


External Sharing: Scrolling down in the Sharing tab, you see one of the most important settings you should pay attention to. There are four types of sharing settings that can be set for your organization

Note: Your sharing setting for OneDrive can’t be more permissive than your setting for SharePoint.

Diving into Sharing Options: Use the reference below to get an understanding of the different sharing settings available to choose the correct option that works for your organization.

2. Sync

The OneDrive Sync Client

Now, I love sync, especially because I can manage my business files on the road online or offline and manage my files on the go with both my phone and my laptop.

Here’s a little excerpt on how it works: “When a user installs the OneDrive sync client for Windows or Mac, they can work with their OneDrive files in File Explorer or Finder. They can also easily save files to OneDrive from the programs they use. When users add, change, and delete files and folders from the OneDrive mobile app or by accessing their OneDrive from a web browser, the files and folders are automatically added, changed, or deleted on their computer and vice versa. To upload files to OneDrive, users can simply copy or move them to OneDrive in File Explorer or Finder. They can also use File Explorer to easily organize their OneDrive by creating new folders and moving and renaming files and folders. All these changes sync automatically.” – Docs, Microsoft

Windows 10 devices come with the OneDrive sync client installed. Office 2016 and later installations also have the sync client installed.

OneDrive Admin Controls for Sync Client

The Admin Sync control allows you to limit the types of files that can be synced between users’ OneDrive accounts and their computers, or even to hide the sync button completely for both OneDrive and SharePoint.

The first checked box in the image below appears in both SharePoint and OneDrive Document Libraries and allows users to sync files to their PC so they can be accessed easily online and offline.

Here you will find settings to customize how syncing works with the OneDrive Sync Client. Admins can block syncing of specific file types and deny syncing to non-domain-joined PCs.

3. Storage

You can manage your OneDrive for Business to see how much space you’re using and free up space if you’re getting close to your storage limit. OneDrive allows admins to easily set default storage limits and document retention durations.

On the Storage page, you can configure the default quota for all users (from one to five terabytes) and also configure the retention policy for documents that belong to deleted users. Each user with an Office 365 E-type plan gets at least one terabyte of OneDrive for Business storage.

On the other hand, those with E3 plans and higher with at least five users get “unlimited” storage. Of course, that’s not entirely true; you initially get one terabyte of space per user, and the administrator can increase that quota to five terabytes per user.

Storage Backup

Using OneDrive alone is not technically a long-term backup strategy. To fill that need, third-party tools (like AvePoint’s Cloud Backup) are available to safeguard your data and ensure it doesn’t get lost over time.

4. Device Access

On the Device access page, you can restrict access to certain IP ranges (so only devices on your office network can sync, for instance) or restrict access to devices that support the latest authentication methods.

This gives admins control over how and from where a user can access their files.

Mobile Application Management

Users can configure the ability to allow/deny access from personal phones, specific networks, and rich Mobile Application Management Intune policies for iOS and Android. Control access is based on the network location.

If your organization has Microsoft Intune or Enterprise Mobility + Security, you can use the OneDrive admin center to create a global policy that manages the OneDrive and SharePoint mobile apps for Android and iOS. This policy only applies to users in your organization who are licensed for Microsoft Intune or Enterprise Mobility + Security. Below are some options you can use to manage and secure your data from personal devices by re-verification for offline devices, wiping data, or blocking OneDrive and SharePoint files from being opened in other applications.

onedrive admin center

5. Compliance

The compliance page in the OneDrive admin center is simply a shortcut to link to some of the Security & Compliance Center features. You can use these to protect your internal data with enterprise-grade security.

Admins can find quick links to the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center for key scenarios like auditing, data loss prevention, retention, and eDiscovery. Specialized third-party tools can also offer further data protection and classification functionality.

onedrive admin center

6. Notifications

Admins can use these settings to control notifications in OneDrive, including email and mobile. If you choose to leave the default in the admin center, users can edit their notification settings in the OneDrive sync client.

Notifications may appear when using OneDrive to share photos, Microsoft Office documents, other files, and entire folders with people who may get notified by email, sharing invites, or accepting invitations to access files.

onedrive admin center

7. Data Migration

Needing to migrate content into OneDrive for Business is a common need for many organizations. Migrate your file shares into OneDrive for rich integration and the best security platform in the world for cloud document storage.

The SharePoint Migration Tool can be used to migrate that content into your OneDrive. There are also many great third-party options from trusted Microsoft Partners.

New and Noteworthy Features

OneDrive Files On-Demand

OneDrive Files On-Demand allows users to access all their work files in OneDrive without downloading them. This feature saves hard drive space by only downloading items that have been opened, viewed, or edited recently. New files and folders created online or on another device appear as “Online-only” to save maximum space. However, users can mark a folder as “Always keep on this device,” and its content will download to their device as always available files.

onedrive admin center

OneDrive Known Folder Move (KFM)

This feature allows users to back up their PC folders to their OneDrives, including Desktop, Documents, Pictures, and Videos. You can turn this setting on as an administrator and users can manage it in their OneDrive Sync Client Settings under Backup.

onedrive admin centeronedrive admin center

Get Started!

Leverage this new knowledge productively and make OneDrive the next-gen file collaboration solution of your users’ dreams! Because really, what would they do if they lost everything on their laptop?

To customize how OneDrive for Business works in your Tenant, go to the OneDrive admin center at

For more on the different admin centers in Microsoft 365, check out the articles below:

Looking for more OneDrive coverage? If so, click here to subscribe to our blog!

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Box Transition: Support and Education Resources

We encourage you to get comfortable with OneDrive and SharePoint, and make the most of their many features and capabilities. The resources on this page are a great place to start. You can also contact the IT Service Desk at if you have questions or need assistance.

Select the buttons below for quick access to the information you want to explore.

WebinarsSelf-HelpOnline EducationKnown Issues

Register for a Webinar

As the University begins the transition from Box to Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint, Northwestern students, faculty, and staff are invited to attend the following webinar held on Tuesdays, and led by the Microsoft Store Team.

Microsoft Cloud Storage: OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online Level 100

You will learn how-to:

  • Access and edit your files from all your devices
  • Share inside or outside your organization
  • Work together in real-time on Office documents
  • Quickly find the files that matter to you
  • Keep your files protected and backed up

Webinar Dates and Registration


October 19
Time: 2-3 p.m. (CDT)

October 26
Time: 9-10 a.m. (CDT)

An important note about registration – Once you have completed the registration, a page will confirm that your registration was successful. Please be sure to click the “Add to calendar” button on that page to receive the registration as a calendar reminder for the day of the training. 


November 2
Time: 2 - 3 p.m. (CST)

November 9 - Canceled due to Xfinity internet outage
Time: 9-10 a.m. (CST)

November 16
Time: 2-3 p.m (CST)

November 30
Time: 9-10 a.m. (CST)

An important note about registration – Once you have completed the registration, a page will confirm that your registration was successful. Please be sure to click the “Add to calendar” button on that page to receive the registration as a calendar reminder for the day of the training. 


December 7
Time: 2-3 p.m (CST)

December 14
Time: 9-10 a.m (CST)

An important note about registration – Once you have completed the registration, a page will confirm that your registration was successful. Please be sure to click the “Add to calendar” button on that page to receive the registration as a calendar reminder for the day of the training. 

Knowledge Base

The Knowledge Base provides self-help answers for common technology questions. Below are the five most commonly asked questions about Box migration. For a complete list, visit the Knowledge Base.

Online Guides and Video Tutorials

Quick Reference Guides

Microsoft OneDrive

Online Guides

Microsoft Video Tutorials

OneDrive and Office 365 Integration

One of the best features of OneDrive is the way it seamlessly integrates with other Office 365 applications, like Teams and SharePoint, making it easier than ever to collaborate.

Microsoft SharePoint

Online Guides

Microsoft Video Resources

SharePoint and Office 365 Integration

LinkedIn Learning

Sign in with your Northwestern NetID credentials to view the full versions of these online courses

Last Updated: 18 November 2021

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What do SMEs actually need to know about the cloud?

Undoubtedly one of the biggest game changers in the internet age, cloud computing has transformed the way we access, create and share information. But what is it, and what does it mean for small businesses?

What Is Cloud Computing?

The cloud, essentially, is just a less technical way to describe remote servers and computers that can be accessed via the internet. Whenever you watch a movie on Netflix, for example, you’re using cloud computing, because that video file is stored in one of Netflix’s servers. Similarly, if you use a webmail service like Outlook 365 or Gmail, you’re accessing your emails from a server that’s located in a different part of the country (or even the world). And if you’re a Dropbox or Microsoft OneDrive user, then you’re also taking advantage of cloud computing, accessing your saved files from anywhere you can get an internet connection.

Laptop and phone cloud user - cloud computingThanks to cloud computing, it's easy to access files and programs anywhere in the world, on a wide range of devices.

Types Of Cloud Computer Services

Broadly speaking, cloud computing services fall into three categories:

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)

With IaaS, you can replace physical onsite-servers and storage with a cloud-based system. This is the most basic level of cloud computing a business can undertake, but there are many advantages to it anyway. For a start, it can eliminate the need to set up and maintain expensive data centres on site. It also makes scaling up easier, as most cloud service suppliers can offer instant upgrades as and when you need them.

Platform as a service (PaaS)

PaaS includes everything you’d get with IaaS, but with the addition of things like cloud-based development tools and operating systems. It’s normally used in the designing and testing of new computer software.

Software as a service (SaaS)

SaaS is the familiar, public face of cloud computing, the bit that most people see in their work and private lives. It describes applications that are delivered to users via the internet, usually through their web browser, such as the three examples we gave at the beginning of this blog post. Behind the scenes, everything associated with IaaS and PaaS has a part to play, but to the user the experience is seamless.

SaaS diagram - cloud computingThis diagram from Microsoft illustrates the overlap between cloud service types. Source:

Cloud Computing Deployment Options

There are a few different ways to deploy cloud computing services, and they have different advantages and drawbacks that all businesses should consider:

Public Cloud

The public cloud will likely be the most familiar to you. This is where you access servers and computing resources belonging to third-party companies. Microsoft, for example, is a major player in this field, and if you use an online service or application, such as Office 365, and it’s stored on the Microsoft Azure platform, then you’re using the public cloud.

Advantages: Can be scaled up quickly or even instantly; easy to set up and maintain; usually backed by the expertise of big technology firms.

Disadvantages: Lack of control over things like upgrades, security and licensing; servers may not be located in your country.

Private Cloud

Public cloud services are basically just other people’s computers. Logically, then, it follows that you could just use your own computers, and that’s exactly what a private cloud is. This could be on your own premises, or it could be located elsewhere and operated by a third party on your behalf, but unlike the public cloud, it will be maintained on a private network and only used by one specific user or business.

Advantages: Total control over operation, upgrades and licensing; can be located where you choose;

Disadvantages: You are responsible for maintenance; may be harder to scale up than a public cloud.

Hybrid Cloud

As you can probably guess from the name, hybrid cloud deployments are a mix of private and public clouds. This type of cloud offers additional flexibility, allowing the easy sharing of data and software between public and private servers.

Advantages: The best of both worlds.

Disadvantages: Perhaps a bit of the worst of both worlds too.

Photo of the sky - cloud computingFun, etymological fact: the word 'sky' comes from the old Norse word 'ský', meaning 'cloud'.

What’s Right For Your Business?

For many small- and medium-sized businesses, the hybrid cloud model works well. SaaS tools, such as Office 365 or Google Docs, combined with local software and storage, enable businesses to take advantage of online applications and storage, without giving up the benefits of on-site computing. With the public cloud, you get ease of use, instant scalability and convenience, but by deploying resources in a private cloud too, you can retain as much control as you want.

If you’re somehow managing to not use any cloud computing services at all, it’s probably worth at least thinking about it. In the end, though, the kind of deployment you opt for and the services you choose will depend on the particular needs of your business.

As always, if in doubt, contact your IT supplier to discuss your options.

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How to use OneDrive; Beginner’s Guide Microsoft’s Cloud Storage Service

Intolerable: How to use OneDrive; Beginner’s Guide Microsoft’s Cloud Storage Service

How to use OneDrive; Beginner’s Guide Microsoft’s Cloud Storage Service
How to use OneDrive; Beginner’s Guide Microsoft’s Cloud Storage Service
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How to use OneDrive; Beginner’s Guide Microsoft’s Cloud Storage Service

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Beginner's Guide to Microsoft OneDrive for Mac

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