April 11, 2022

Building your data infrastructure: first picks from the Google Cloud toolbelt

Google Cloud Platform presents the ideal one-stop-shop for all things data, from collecting it to applying it in your everyday activities. We’ve put together this cheat sheet to demystify the whole process!

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November 20, 2020

Migration – The Cobry Cafetiere of Cloud Knowledge

Migrating to Google Workspace | The Cobry Cafetiere of Cloud Knowledge

Bored of insignificant, at-home coffee breaks? You no longer have to be, because you now have the opportunity to join ours! Each week, our team gets together for the Cobry Cafetiere of Cloud Knowledge, a break dedicated to learning all things cloud technology. From individual apps to complex subjects, we discuss everything we know, and now we want to share our expertise with you! So get ready to quench your thirst for knowledge as well as coffee - this week we’re talking all things Migration! 

What is Migration? 

Migration involves hoovering up all of an organisation's legacy data and moving it to Google Workspace. This includes emails, calendars, contacts and files. Migration is optional, with some organisations choosing to move to the cloud with a blank slate due to messy and disorganised current systems. Want to learn more about moving to the cloud? We have loads more info here

Migration is moving all data

Why Migrate?

So, why bother migrating then if it is not essential? It is the Cobry way - we migrate to minimise disruption. By starting with familiar data, we can ensure users have the best possible experience with Google Workspace. This means they can learn to use the new tools available to them without the challenge of also rebuilding their working environment. 

Cobry’s approach to Migration

It is our belief that users should not experience the migration - they should experience the tools. Essentially, employees should log out of their old system on a Friday evening and by Monday morning they return to all of their same data - just in a new workspace! Whilst there are some nuances, all of our migrations follow this structure:

Cobry's Migration Timeline

There are lots of tools to tackle migration. The tool we choose depends on multiple factors, but primarily are:

  • Migration Speed - This is how fast items transfer from the source to the destination. Different tools are coded differently so they all migrate at different speeds.
  • Configurability - This is how configurable a tool is. Sometimes the client has some very specific requirements that we have to fulfill so configurability is pivotal in some situations.
  • Data Source - This is the most important factor when deciding a tool. Here, we consider where the data currently lies. This could be local, on the server, or on the cloud.

Once the migration is complete, that does not mean our partnership has to be. Our approach is to build trust and lasting relationships through adding value and tailoring Google Workspace to your exact needs. 

So there you have it, a whistle stop tour of all things Migration. Keep your eyes peeled for next week’s Cafetiere of Cloud Knowledge.

March 17, 2020

7 Tips for Effective Remote Working

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (in a hermetically-sealed bunker), you’ll be aware of the increased instances of Coronavirus worldwide and the demand for remote working that this has created.

We don’t want to add to the number of fear-mongering articles that are already online. However, with the increased focus on remote working as a solution to prevent the spread of the virus, we thought we’d chip in.

If you feel the need to take precautions against the virus, here are our 7 top tips on remote working.

In the UK alone, more than 1.54 million people work from home. This increase is largely due to the benefits of remote working. In fact, if your business offers remote working opportunities you can expect:

And that’s before considering the benefits gained by doing your part to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus (if it comes to that). So without further ado here are our 7 top tips for working remotely: 

Working Space

To get anything done and be as productive as possible you need to feel comfortable in your surroundings. Get plenty of natural light if possible, and if not consider investing in a daylight lamp, as this will help with keeping your alert and therefore productive. Rather than cooping yourself up in your room or on the couch -- spaces that are associated with leisure time -- dedicate a specific room or surface in your home to work.

Ensure that you are not hunched over and that your laptop is at a good height and if possible use a second monitor to maximise your productivity. If possible consider a stand-up desk so you can switch between sitting and standing.

Dependent on your personality get storage so your desk is uncluttered and use touches such as a low maintenance plant and some personal mementoes such as a photo frame will help inspire you. Make it your own space where you can shut the door and focus.

And make sure you choose the right music to fir the task you are trying to accomplish.

If you are working remotely on a temporary basis due to isolation then you will want to keep any costs to a minimum using the kitchen table is fine especially if you will not experience to many distractions (Tip: Use headphones and play music to help keep you focused)

Desk Chair

As you will be spending some considerable time at your desk it makes sense to invest in a good, ergonomically-correct and comfortable chair. If you are comfortable you will be more effective at your work. When you're uncomfortable it's hard to stay focused and productive.

Feel free to economise on other things. You don’t have to own a desk; you can move from the dining room table to den to the patio. But see your chair as an investment, not an expense.

Use the Correct Tools 

As with the chair ensure you get the possible tools to work. This includes a laptop, noise-cancelling headphones with a decent mic (we use a Jabra headset) and a good webcam (the ones built into laptops are generally only OK at a push) alongside a good phone be it mobile or a desk version.

But don’t forget none of the above is of any use if you do not have good broadband either at home or in the local co-working space or coffee shop!

And finally chose your software of choice carefully. We believe G Suite is the best for collaboration and fits in perfectly with a remote workers scenario as within its portfolio is Meet, Chat and Voice alongside its granular document sharing capabilities.

Plan Your Day & Create a Routine

Generally speaking, we can focus on any given task for 90 to 120 minutes. After that, we need a 15 to 20 minute break so we can recharge and get ready to achieve high performance on our next task.

So do this: Split your day into 90-minute windows. Instead of thinking about an 8-, 6-, or 10-hour workday, split your day into four or five 90-minute windows. That way, you will have, say, four tasks you will get done a lot more efficiently.

It might help to create a morning and nighttime routine.

The first thing you do in the morning is the most important thing you will do that day because it sets the tone for the rest of the day.

So prepare for that first thing the night before.

Make a list. Make a few notes. Review information. Prime yourself to hit the ground running for the next day.

Communicate!

Working from home might help you focus on your work in the short term, but it can also make you feel cut off the larger operation happening in the office. 

Instant messaging and videoconferencing tools (as mentioned under tools) can make it easy to check in with coworkers and remind you how your work is contributing to the big picture.

Working remotely requires you to overcommunicate. Tell everyone who needs to know about your schedule and availability often. When you finish a project or important task, say so. Overcommunicating doesn't necessarily mean you have to write a five-paragraph essay to explain your every move, but it does mean repeating yourself.

Exercise & Eat

Get up and move around every so often. If you are so inclined even go for a jog, whatever works for you but make sure you take a break from the screen.

Ensure that you drink water and eat healthily and at regular times as you would if you were based in an office.

See remote working as an advantage

The flexibility that working from home or remotely gives you means no lost time commuting, easy for you to get work done at odd hours -- hours you choose to work.

On your terms.

Contact

If you would like more information on how to set up your business for remote working with G Suite, please don't hesitate to get in touch, we would be delighted to have a chat about how we can help you transition to G Suite and make the most of the cloud.

info@cobry.co.uk / 0333 789 0102

March 9, 2020

Security & Compliance in The Cloud

Security & compliance is higher up on organisations' agenda than ever before and it’s not surprising. The five main trends identified by the National Cyber Security Centre in the period between October 2018 and April 2019 highlighted 5 main areas of vulnerability.

Incident trends

There has been significant use of tools and scripts to try and guess users’ passwords. This has almost become the daily norm for Office 365 deployments with attacks now being mounted at scale across the Internet without ever having a foothold within the corporate infrastructure. 

A successful login will give access to corporate data stored in all Office 365 services. For example, both SharePoint and Exchange can be compromised, as well as any third-party services an enterprise has linked to Azure AD.

Password spraying

The most common attack affecting Office 365 is password spraying, which attempts a small number of commonly used passwords against multiple accounts over a long period of time. In most cases, attackers aren’t after just one specific account. This doesn’t tend to trigger account lockouts because the limit of failed attempts is not reached, and as a result this can make it much harder for IT security teams to spot them.

A recent report stated that 60% of Office 365 and G Suite tenants were targeted with IMAP-based password-spraying attacks. However, it's important to note that G Suite administrators can disable IMAP connectivity, mitigating the risk to their G Suite users.

Credential stuffing

On a smaller scale, we have also seen credential stuffing. This takes pairs of usernames and passwords from leaked data sets and tries them against other services, such as Office 365.

This is difficult to detect in logs as an attacker may only need a single attempt to successfully log in if the stolen details match those of the user's Office 365 account.

Similarly to password spraying, this targeted method can be combatted by disabling IMAP connectivity within G Suite.

Ransomware

Ransomware attacks prevent organisations from using their computers or accessing their data, typically by encrypting files and folders. Once this hold is in place, the hackers request payment to release the organisation’s data and allow them to get back to work. 

It’s important to note, however, that no Google file formats can be affected by this as they are not traditional files like Word or Excel, they are in fact web files with no physical storage location. This means that organisations that use G Suite and store their files within Google Drive are instantly protected from ransomware attacks without having to shell out huge amounts of money on additional security products.

Email Protection

Gmail has long since been the standard-bearer for security & compliance around email through anti-phishing measures and high levels of spam protection for users. This has covered for the most part both consumer and G Suite users. 

Confidential Mode - users can help protect sensitive information from unauthorised access using Gmail confidential mode. Recipients of messages in confidential mode don't have the option to forward, copy, print, or download messages, including attachments. Users can set a message expiration date, revoke message access at any time, and require an SMS verification code to access messages.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP) -  analyses the files in your organization’s Team Drives for sensitive content. You can set up policy-based actions that will be triggered when any sensitive content is detected.

Gmail Security Sandbox - a sandbox detects the presence of previously unknown malware in attachments by virtually "executing" them in a private, secure sandbox environment, and analyzing the side effects on the operating system to determine malicious behaviour.

Staff Training

All businesses need to be proactive in training their staff for GDPR. When new staff members come on board, they should receive data management training, and all members of the team should understand how your business specifically uses data. 

Allied to that, IT partners such as Cobry should be engaged to teach best practices within the organisation through training sessions, either in person or through webinars. 

2SV

One of the most effective ways to protect yourself from being hacked is 2SV.

There are multiple 2SV methods, including SMS Text, Google Prompts on mobile devices, and physical USB Security Keys.

Using 2-Step Verification (2SV) provides users with a better option to secure their accounts. As well as 2SV over an encrypted connection, users can also block unauthorised access to their accounts with Google Prompt which delivers real-time prompts, telling the user when they have logged into another device.

This update comes through as a pop-up notification on the Google app. This allows users to answer “yes” or “no” when asked, “are you logging in?”

Allied to that, additional control can be gained from deploying Cloud Identity. For full details please click here.

How Cobry Helps

One of the most comforting services Cobry offers is a full Security & Compliance Review. 

This can give you valuable insight into your organisation's security & compliance setup. You can find out more here, and you can also get in touch via the button below.

January 28, 2020

The Art of Change Management

Change Management is a tricky thing. You balance the needs of the client with the restrictions of their organisation. 

Defining the desired outcome is key, yet often overlooked. 

According to Mckinsey, "70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support.”

Change management is a uniquely important discipline for organisations of all size. For companies operating at scale though, something as simple as a new configuration for its support software can have unintended consequences across multiple teams, functions, and geographies. It’s important for organizations to be able to quickly innovate and adopt new features and solutions, while not creating chaos in the process.

The good news is that with some upfront planning and the right tools in place, companies don’t need to be afraid of change. When done properly, change is a positive experience for companies and customers alike. Here are a few tips to help any organisation conquer change:

Involve the right people

When it’s time to actually embark on a change management journey, it’s important for companies to understand the impact that the process will have on the people in the organisation. 

This includes involving the right groups early, getting buy-in on changes with key stakeholders, defining a clear plan for communicating change to the organisation, and having a roadmap to onboard the organisation to new workflows.

Ask the hard questions upfront

The first step for executing a change of any scale within an organisation is a clear-eyed assessment of where the company is today, where it wants to be in the future, and an agreed-upon set of goals and objectives against which to measure its progress.

Before embarking on any changes, the company should audit its current solution and customer experience. It’s important to understand how and why the current solution was implemented, what technical trade-offs were made, what worked well, and the challenges that are prompting the change to begin with.

This is also the right time to assess what suppliers a company is using and begin working on a plan for how to roll out changes to the organization once implemented.

Consider a testing environment

Most mid-to-large enterprises have unique set-ups and custom configurations for their internal systems. With so many variables and internal dependencies, it can be easy to wreak havoc on even the most well-oiled of machines when testing and implementing new solutions.

One of the most powerful tools for companies looking for a safe, efficient way to make changes to their workflows is an environment dedicated to testing new workflows and solutions.

A testing environment (or sandbox) separate from the live environment where companies can replicate part or all of their systems, including automation, metadata, and customer information. Sandboxes allow companies to experiment with changes to their system in a controlled environment before exposing changes to customers or the broader organization.

Working in a sandbox removes much of the risk of implementing changes to existing systems. Sandboxes are an ideal way to experiment and innovate while minimising disruptions and operational risk to the current production environment.

Sandboxes also allow companies to test their changes before rolling them out. Since sandboxes replicate a company’s actual live environment, they allow developers to understand everything about what will happen when the changes are pushed live.

Communication

This is key in particular to internal buy-in.

The first step is to develop a written communication plan to ensure that all of the following occur within your change management process. Each is important when you are asking people to change their former ways of doing things.

  • Communicate consistently, frequently, and through multiple channels, including speaking, writing, video, training, focus groups, bulletin boards, intranets, and more about the change.
  • Communicate all that is known about the changes, as quickly as the information is available. Make clear that your bias is toward instant communication, so some of the details may change at a later date. 
  • Allow time for people to ask questions, request clarification, and provide input. 
  • Communicate how these changes will affect them personally. If you don’t help with this process, people will make up their own stories, usually more negative than the truth.
  • Communicate the reasons for the changes in such a way that people understand the context, the purpose, and the need. 
  • Provide answers to questions only if you know the answer. 
  • Publicly review the measurements that are in place to chart progress in the change management and change efforts.

Training & Workflow

Alongside communication, consideration must be put in place for training where appropriate, as a source of frustration would manifest itself from users’ inability to make the most of the new workflow and tools.

Certainly, consideration should be made in bringing in 3rd party companies that can help with this process, dependent on the change itself, and whether resources can be dedicated internally to these activities.

Conclusion

A disciplined approach to change management can help companies of all sizes tackle even the most complex transitions with confidence. 

By taking the time to align its people, processes, and technology with its business objectives, organisations can increase the adoption of new workflows and solutions, leading to happy internal stakeholders and customers alike.

April 24, 2019

Google Next 19 Key Takeaways

Google Next '19 was the latest of Google’s annual events to unveil new features, products and plans for the future. It took place in San Francisco in the second week of April, and also marked the first keynote speech of Google Cloud’s new CEO, Thomas Kurian, who took over the company earlier this year from Diane Greene.

Now that the dust has settled and we’ve had time to digest all of the developments, we’ve been able to pull together our favourite announcements and the biggest upcoming game changers for G Suite users.

You can find our top 7 developments from Google Next 19 that will bring about the biggest gains in security, collaboration and productivity for G Suite users below.

1. Office Editing

G Suite has always been focussed on helping people collaborate better. While the previous solution allowed for easy file conversion between Microsoft Office and Google formats, this latest feature changes the game entirely.

Office editing allows for users to open Microsoft Office files within G Suite while maintaining its Office format, but still allowing users to take advantage of G Suite’s collaboration features. This means that if an external party sends your team a Microsoft Word file, you can save it in Google Drive, open it in Docs and all work on it together before sending it back - no conversions needed.

Google Next 19

It will also mean that any organisations who are still paying for Microsoft Office licencing will be able to stop these payments, as there is no longer any requirement for the packages when using G Suite.

2. Metadata in Drive

Google Drive’s search functionality is already incredibly powerful, but it’s about to become a whole lot more specific and targeted with regards to document types.

The metadata update allows users to create categories and add further details to their documents. This can include tagging them as “Contract”, “Statement of Work” or “Project Scope”. This means that within a couple of clicks, users can filter search results for signed/unsigned contracts for specific clients and many other use cases.

Google Next 19

These categories can also be applied to files stored in Team Drives, with managers selecting the most appropriate way to structure the data.

Users will now have the ability to search in natural language for queries like “all contracts that need to be signed by next week” and Google Drive will present them all together.

3. Android Phones as Security Keys

The introduction of security keys to organisations has had a huge impact on defending against phishing campaigns and other user-targeted attacks. The only downside is having to acquire these keys. The latest G Suite security update negates this by allowing organisations to use Android (7+) mobile phones as security keys.

Google Next 19

This means that users can use their existing phones as a primary 2-Step Verification method to protect against phishing, rather than having to purchase new technology.

2-Step Verification greatly improves the security of your account by adding another layer to your account security. So even if a hacker was able to acquire your password, they still wouldn’t be able to access your account.

4. G Suite Add-ons

G Suite Add-ons is a new cross-suite platform that allows users to access their other workplace apps, like CRMs and Project Management tools, from a side panel within G Suite. This means you can carry out tasks in these apps without ever having to open a new tab. The add-ons will also offer relevant information and make suggestions based on what you’re doing at the time.

G Suite Add-ons

So, if you work in sales, your CRM app can provide you with more customer information while you draft an email in Gmail, or even suggest who to add to your contacts based on what emails you’ve recently received. If you’re a designer, you can stay on top of all your projects by adding new tasks to your project management app as you read about them in Gmail or are invited to discuss them in Calendar events.

5. Security Sandbox for Gmail

This is an incredibly powerful update for Gmail, which greatly strengthens its ability to deal with malware attachments. The best analogy for this feature is to compare it to discovering an unknown and unattended bag being left at a train station/airport - you don’t know exactly what’s inside, but there’s a good chance it’s going to be dangerous. In this scenario, the bomb squad would be called in to carry out a controlled detonation, and this is exactly what this feature brings to Gmail.

Security Sandbox for Gmail

Security sandbox for Gmail scans attachments and detects unknown malware by virtually "executing" them in a private, secure sandbox environment, and then analyses the side effects on the operating system to determine malicious behaviour.

This is all carried out in a matter of minutes before the email even reaches the end user, and provides users with an extra layer of security.

It’s worth noting, however, that this feature will only be available to G Suite Enterprise users.

6. Live Captions in Hangouts Meet

The new Hangouts Meet update aims to improve video conferencing for users who are hard-of-hearing or deaf by adding in live captions. This means that those users will be able to follow conversations and announcements by reading the captions as they display in real-time, thanks to Google’s speech-to-text artificial intelligence.

Hangouts Meet Live Captions

It’s important to note for this feature, that when users enable captions, they will be visible on the device they are using at that time. For other participants in the meeting to see the captions, they will also have to turn them on for their devices as well.

Side Note - video calls on Hangouts Meet run best when used with Hangouts Meet Hardware.

7. Google Currents

Currents was first announced at Google Next 19 and is set to become a new core G Suite app, replacing Google+, which was retired earlier this year. The new app acts as an internal social network for large organisations and enables users to have meaningful discussions and interactions and provide leaders with the opportunity to connect with their employees.

Google Next 19

Users can easily tag their posts and add relevant attachments or images. Once a user posts, others can comment, give feedback, and ask questions all in the same place.

Currents allows leaders within the organisation to address all employees with posts on specific topics, which can be given priority in the news feed to ensure everyone sees them and can engage when required.

Google Currents

We think this is addition to G Suite will provide a great platform for organisations to better engage with all staff and keep everyone in the loop on projects, product releases, company events and any other topics to help users feel more connected.

Google Next 19 Key Takeaway

Along with the 7 updates that we've picked out from Google Next 19, Google has recently released and announced a whole host of other great features for Google Cloud and G Suite users. You can find a list of these here, which we feel highlights Google's tireless innovation in the enterprise to continuously improve and offer the best solutions to help teams work better and more securely, together.

Contact

If would like to find out more about any of the above-mentioned updates to G Suite, or what the service can offer your organisation, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via info@cobry.co.uk. We would be delighted to have a chat about how we could help.


March 19, 2019

G Suite Price Increase

G Suite has many strengths - Security, Collaboration, Flexibility, Scale, and plenty of others - but one undeniable strength is cost. Every company we switch to G Suite has saved significant sums on software licencing. The amazing thing is that ever since it launched over a dozen years ago, Google has never implemented a G Suite price increase - despite adding many, many features in that period. Very few products or services of any kind could say that. But, the day has come - finally, a small increase is arriving. Google will be raising its prices for the G Suite Basic and G Suite Business tiers for the first time since that launch way back in 2006.

G Suite Evolution

These increases are to reflect the huge amount of new features that have been added to the cloud service, such as video conferencing in Hangouts Meet, team messaging in Hangouts Chat, increased storage amounts and other security and productivity tools and services. You can see the addition of services over the years in the graphic below.

G Suite Price Increase

G Suite Basic prices will increase from £3.30 to £4.60 per user per month, while G Suite Business will increase from £6.60 to £9.20 per user per month. The G Suite Enterprise tier will not be affected by these increases and will continue to be billed at £20 per user per month.

G Suite pricing has always been kept simple (offering 3 different options; Basic, Business and Enterprise), compared to Office 365 which offers many different pricing tiers and can often be quite difficult for organisations to get the best value for money.

The G Suite price increase is worldwide and will come into effect on the second of April. We feel that the increase is a very fair reflection on the value that customers receive through new features and functionality. Google states that the addition of artificial intelligence and machine learning has tripled the value delivered in G Suite, so an increase of around only 20% is very reasonable.

Important Notes

  • If your organisation is currently on an annual contract, the new pricing will be applied from your renewal date.
  • Price increases are applied globally, with adjustments for certain regions.
  • If you have an agreed contract in place, this will be honoured.

For illustration purposes, a small business with 5 users of G Suite Basic will see their annual costs go from £198 to £276. A medium sized business with 100 users on G Suite Business would see their total annual costs go from £7,920 to  £11,040.

Recommended Action

If you’re currently on a monthly G Suite payment plan, we recommend contacting your Google Cloud Partner, or us via info@cobry.co.uk, to update your subscription to an annual plan. This will allow you to lock in the existing pricing for an entire year before being affected by the price increase.

This is a very straightforward process which simply involves generating a G Suite transfer token from your admin console, and we can handle the rest for you.

Missed the deadline?

If you're reading this after 02/04//2019, that means the pricing has already increased. However, we can often access and provide custom deals to new Cobry customers who make annual G Suite commitments. Get in touch via info@cobry.co.uk to find out more.

Upgrading?

If you are considering upgrading from Basic to Business or Business to Enterprise, we can also often provide special deals to make the step up in price more manageable, just get in touch via info@cobry.co.uk.

Contact

If you would like to find out more about the upcoming price revision and how it may affect your domain if you’re on a custom deal, or you just want to find out more about G Suite before making the move to the cloud, you can get in touch with us at info@cobry.co.uk and we would be delighted to have a chat.


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