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Breaking Bad Habits

2 Jun 2017 by Emma Robinson

Humans are creatures of habit, and this is often evident in the workplace. Whether it’s a morning coffee from the same place at the same time every day, or your morning routine for logging in, sorting your emails, and starting your working day.Habits are often built out of routines that evidently work, but what about bad habits, or more specifically, bad IT habits – when the technology, applications, or services aren’t being used as they should?

Bringing your habits with you
As you’ll know, when you move to Office 365 you’re not just just introducing your users to a new environment, but also a new way of working. In some cases, the features and services that have acted as the foundation for a user’s ‘bad IT habit’ might be gone (for example if your users continued to rely on PST files for storage or file sharing long after the feature was necessary). Unfortunately, it’s very easy for users to bring certain habits into their new environment, even though there are better options available to them.

Here are some examples of commonplace ‘bad’ IT habits for saving, sharing and collaborating, and the simple, effective alternatives in Office 365.

Saving documents where you should
We all know that we’re not supposed to save documents on our desktop. But if you minimized all your tabs right now, and had a look – would you see some scattered documents and folders lurking there? It’s not just the desktop – in a cloud-based environment, documents no longer need to be saved to the hard drive. Previously, you might have relied on shared drives, or even USBs to ‘back-up’ your documents, with a second copy on your machine, but there are better, safer, more collaborative options, so it’s time to break this habit.

What’s the risk?
Apart from being more difficult to group, search, and therefore organize, the ever-tempting desktop space is also much more vulnerable to potential data loss. If you need to do a system restore then the items on the desktop are not included, and will be lost, and some file-based recovery programs do not automatically back up this area either.

While it’s a little less unstable or drastic, saving to the hard drive can also be problematic – what if your laptop breaks or crashes? In many cases, your document dies with it. This is obviously the worst-case scenario, but this practice inhibits productivity when you’re ‘on the move’ as the documents are stored locally, and cannot be accessed from anywhere else.

What’s the alternative?
By saving documents in the cloud, they remain accessible, shareable, and securely stored. Most business or enterprise Office 365 subscription types come with OneDrive for Business, a cloud-based storage that can be used across devices, so you can access, and share your files from anywhere – all you need is a web browser.

Sharing documents
When you need to send a document to a colleague, or a handful of people, most people choose to attach the item to an email. This seems effective enough for most use cases, but consider this scenario: you’ve send a draft proposal out to four people in an attachment for review. If each person sends back an edited version that they’ve been working on, you now have four versions of a document to consolidate. Now imagine the document is 20 pages or so, this is going to be a painful, and time-consuming task. Office 365 offers ways to streamline collaboration on group documents, and track actions clearly so you can edit one document together, with clear visibility, and smart management of any conflicting changes.

What’s the risk?
There no direct security risk with this habit, but you could end up deleting an email with an attachment by accident, which could cause some inconvenience. Of course, if the document you are trying to send is larger than 150MB (or lower depending on your Exchange configurations), then you might run into complications when trying to send it. Not only that, but if you’ve ever had to dig around in Outlook to find an attachment that seems to have disappeared into thin air, or had to ask a colleague to resend an attachment, then you might be ready to consider a better option.

What’s the alternative?
You can use OneDrive or SharePoint Online to share links to files or folders instead of sending attachments. Instead of finding the document in their inbox, your recipient will receive something that looks like this:

To share a document in OneDrive:

  1. Go into your OneDrive documents and select the files(s) you want to share.

  2. In the top navigation bar click ‘share’.3. You will see the following pop-up. Fill in the details of the user(s), and add a comment. Depending on your organization’s policies you may not be able to share documents externally, or they may receive ‘view-only’ access.4. Once you click ‘share’, the user will be sent a link to the file, which they can use to view, edit or further share the document.

In the side navigation, you will see an option called ‘Shared with me’. This area will show you all the documents that users have shared with you, so that they’re easy to find, and they’ll be there (even if you lose the link!).OneDrive is great for ad hoc, or one-time sharing, particularly for users who are in different teams or departments. SharePoint Online is a better choice for team or department collaboration, as it enables you to set up ‘Sites’ and ‘Site collections’, where document libraries can be created for shared files, or collaborative projects which are ongoing. With comprehensive versioning, and permissions options, document sharing and management is made simple, just upload all the team’s files and folders you want to share, and you’re good to go.

Manual versioning (Doc.v2, v3, – v545832)
I’m amongst the many people who are guilty of this one. Office 365 has extremely useful, intelligent collaborative functionality, which enables users to work on documents simultaneously, in real-time, with a smart content management system to handle any conflicts. Despite all this, I will still save over an edited document, add v.1 before sending it back.

What’s the risk?
There is a data loss risk attached to this habit if you’re not careful. As versions fly back and forth it can be challenging to keep track of all edits, and it’s very easy to save over a file by accident, and work off the wrong version. Like the habit above, you may also need to consolidate changes between documents, which can be confusing and time-consuming when there’s a much better way of managing document versioning.

What’s the alternative?
In Office 365 you can use co-authoring on a single document to remove the need for version numbers and duplication. If you open and edit a shared document through OneDrive or SharePoint Online, you can also view real-time information about the document, like who else is editing the document (where they are in the document – marked with colored flags), and their changes. This feature can be configured in different ways, and you will be given the choice as to whether the document should auto-refresh while you’re in it. The icons in the top-left of the banner help navigate all sharing and editing activity – there’s even chat functionality, so you can discuss your co-author’s changes as they’re making them. Find out more about co-authoring functionality here.

To protect against data loss, OneDrive and SharePoint Online has a range of versioning and permissions settings which can be applied at document or folder level. Versioning enables you to ‘roll back’ or restore a document to a certain point if someone modifies or deletes something they shouldn’t have. Permissions enable you to carefully control who can access, view, edit documents, so you can protect certain files from people who don’t need to be able to see them.

Break these bad habits post-migration
It’s very easy to keep using what you know, especially when you’ve never experienced any of the potential issues or obstacles with your process. But it’s important to ask yourself, is this really the best way to get the job done. As we mentioned earlier Office 365 offers a new way of working, and these features are services are designed to simplify collaboration, and offer, those who are willing to re-think their ‘bad’ habits, a better option.