Tuesday, April 10, 2018

G Suite End User Training and Adoption

Are you an existing G Suite customer that would like to see increased adoption of your software? Do many of your G Suite users only know the basics of how to send emails and manage their calendar? If so, it's time to invest in end user training.

Our team at Interlock IT has years of experience leading G Suite training sessions for numerous clients like Roche, and Ryerson University.

Roche contracted the team at Interlock IT to ensure that all new employees are more productive in their job. Roche has eliminated traditional windows file shares and gone completely to Google Drive for file storage, saving millions of dollars. No complicated VPNs are required and staff are confident they are using the latest version of the document in Google Drive versus a potentially out of date email file attachment.

Ryerson University implemented G Suite in 2012 but faculty and administrative users were slow to completely adopt Google Drive, Docs, and Sheets. The courses led by our Interlock IT team at Ryerson have received excellent feedback and are in high demand. You can view a sample agenda that was posted publicly on the Ryerson University website here. Our training has helped Ryerson eliminate traditional windows file servers and move completely to the security and simplicity of Google Drive with unlimited storage in the cloud.

If you increase the adoption and usage of G Suite you'll be rewarded with competitive advantages like:

  • A culture of collaboration with Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Chat, and Google Meet
  • Reduced communications and travel costs through Google Meet and Chat by eliminating third party video and audio conferencing solutions
  • Better control of your data through centralized security and user management
  • Elimination of risky and un-managed shadow IT solutions for file sharing and communications like Dropbox and Skype
  • Reduced IT support costs from the simplicity of 100% web browser based solutions and no desktop software to manage
We've seen numerous situations in our large G Suite customer base where training on the G Suite collaboration tools has completely transformed the way people work. Consider one example: a chain of retail stores switched from Excel to Google Sheets for their daily store sales reports. Each store manager would update their own Excel spreadsheet at the end of the day, then email the file attachment to a staff member for consolidation and reporting for management. Now with Google Sheets all managers can edit one master consolidated reporting sheet at once and the management team can see on their screens the real time updates. Not only did they eliminate the cumbersome process of single user editing of sheets but they can now securely view the reports on any mobile device or web browser plus make comments and assign action items to store managers right inside the sheet. 

How many of your end users know how to use powerful workflow tools like "Action Items" within Google Docs and Google Sheets?


Google Forms is another included tool that is excellent for collecting data like headshots plus an automatic count of shirt sizes for an upcoming event. Just like all other Google Drive tools multiple users can collaborate simultaneously on the creating of the form and see the form results and charts update in real time.

It's clear that end user training on G Suite has a rapid return on investment through increased productivity and adoption. We frequently hear feedback like "Wow. I had no idea how much G Suite can do." End user training even helps your employees be more productive in their personal life since the world's most popular personal email solution Gmail, with over 1 billion monthly active users contains almost all of the same functionality.

Please contact us at Interlock IT for more information on G Suite training and adoption services!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Google G Suite Hangouts Chat vs Slack

On February 28th, 2018 Google made G Suite Hangouts Chat available to everyone. We've been using it in house for many months as part of the Early Adopters program and found it to be an excellent team collaboration tool. Hangouts Chat is seen as a competitor to Slack which we've implemented for some of our customers. It can also be compared to services like Microsoft Teams, Workplace by Facebook, and HipChat.

Note that Hangouts Chat should not be confused with Google Hangouts which is what most Google Search results will compare Slack to. Google Hangouts has been available for many years and is an instant messaging and video conferencing solution but lacks the chat rooms in the style of Slack.

Hangouts Chat


Some of our favourite cloud applications have released integrations to Hangouts Chat such as ProsperWorks CRM and Xero Accounting Software.

Many of our customers are already using Slack which is well integrated to Google Drive, Google Hangouts, and Google Calendar. So a common question is should G Suite customers stick with Slack or switch to Hangouts Chat?

Let's compare:

Hangouts ChatSlack
Price$0 for existing G Suite customers https://gsuite.google.com/pricing.htmlfree or $8 to $15 per month per user with discounts available for annual plans https://slack.com/pricing
Single Sign On (SSO)Yes - nothing to configureYes with $15/month Enterprise plan and some setup
Google Drive IntegrationYesYes - but permissions not integrated so must ensure document is shared with correct people to match channel
Google Calendar IntegrationYes - Including @Meet bot to book meetings with channel members when they're availableYes - but not as feature rich
Google Hangouts IntegrationYes - Direct messages in Hangouts Chat are sent to users on Google HangoutsPartial - only for opening a Hangouts video conference/meeting from within a channel. No direct message integration to Hangouts
Gmail Inbox Integration on web browserYes - New chat message indicator appears top right corner which helps bring users into Hangouts Chat organically from the user interface they use constantlyNo - Users must open Slack to be notified of new messages
Mobile AppsAndroid, iOSAndroid, iOS
eDiscovery /ComplianceYes - fully integrated to Google Vault so admins can set retention policies, search, and retain data for legal matters https://gsuiteupdates.googleblog.com/2018/02/google-vault-support-for-hangouts-chat.htmlPartial - On Enterprise plan admins can export all data from a channel. Additional cost add-on tools are available that work with the Discovery API https://get.slack.help/hc/en-us/articles/204897248-Guide-to-Slack-data-exports
Conversation ThreadingYes. Built to always thread conversations keeping messages in contextPartial - Does not thread by default but users can choose to thread messages. https://get.slack.help/hc/en-us/articles/115000769927-Message-threads
SecuritySupports all G Suite security features and admin settings such as two-factor authentication, mobile device management for remote wipe, security keys, etc. No separate user directory to manage.Supports two-factor authentication but must be managed separately unless on Enterprise plan and logins are restricted to G Suite SSO. Users must be added/deleted separately. Remote wipe not available without third party apps
Languages28 supported5 supported
3rd party integrationsYesYes - certainly Slack's popularity and eco-system of add-ons has an advantage
Source: Google Sheet Comparison

At Interlock IT we have experience programming integrations to Slack such as auto creating or updating a Google Sheet from within a Slack channel.

Both products have their advantages and disadvantages. Switching a significant user base over to Hangouts Chat from Slack could be challenging. But if your team hasn't started with Slack, Google is offering an excellent ready to go solution for no additional cost.

Certainly feel free to reach out to us with questions, comments, or custom integration needs at Interlock IT.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

G Suite Calendar Interop: share free/busy data between G Suite and Office 365!

Google has recently released a new version of Calendar Interop which includes the much-anticipated support for Office 365. In light of this--as well as the old version being deprecated--we have run into a few clients that found the available instructions a bit hard to follow.

That's where Interlockit.com comes in to save the day! We're getting straight into the technical details in this post, so put on your geek face and pour yourself a fresh coffee before jumping in.

Prerequisites!


  • Access to a G Suite Super Admin account.
  • Access to an Office 365 Global Admin account.
  • One spare G Suite license to use as a role account.
  • You will need to know how to connect to Exchange Online Powershell and run simple powershell commands.
  • Users must not have matching accounts in both G Suite and Office 365; both systems will prioritize internal users and ignore Calendar Interop if an internal user is found during lookup.

Create role account


In order to facilitate sharing of calendar information between your G Suite and Office 365 tenant, a role account must exist on each side.

On G Suite


  • Sign into your Google Admin Console and go to the Users section.
  • Configure a new regular user account (no admin privileges) with an email address of your choosing. I recommend “interop@yourgsuitedomain.com”.
  • It is recommended this account be used exclusively for calendar interop.
  • Go ahead and set a permanent password right away and keep it ins a safe place. We will need to log in to this account to complete steps later in this guide.

*tip: leave the Admin Console open until you have completed this guide, as you will need it in following steps.


On Office 365

  • Configure a new mail-enabled user (no additional privileges) using the New-MailUser cmdlet in Exchange Online Powershell. Example:

    New-MailUser -Name "Calendar Interop" -ExternalEmailAddress interop@externaldomain.com -MicrosoftOnlineServicesID interop@your365domain.com -Password (ConvertTo-SecureString -String ‘yourpassword' -AsPlainText -Force)

  • The name can be anything, so be descriptive.
  • This email address must not exist in Office 365 as a user or contact. The role account shouldn’t need to receive mail, so it doesn’t really matter what address you use here.
  • This email address must use an accepted domain in Office 365. This address will not accept mail, but behaves like the user ID for the role account on your tenant.
  • Set any password you like. It must be within ‘single-quotes’.
  • It is recommended this account be used exclusively for calendar interop.

*tip: leave Powershell open until you have completed this guide, as you will need it in following steps.

Create an Office 365 availability configuration


In order to give our Office 365 role account the ability to feed free/busy data to G Suite, we must create a new availability configuration and assign it to the role account using the New-AvailabilityConfig cmdlet in Exchange Online Powershell:

New-AvailabilityConfig -OrgWideAccount “Calendar Interop”

Make sure you use the same name in quotes used when first setting up the Office 365 role account.

Configure the G Suite admin console

  • Sign into your Google Admin Console and navigate to Apps > G Suite > Calendar
  • Scroll down and expand the “Calendar Interop Management” section.



Add the availability address space in Office 365

  • From your G Suite admin account, open Google’s Credential Generation Tool. Check the box, and click “Generate new credentials”


  • When prompted, sign in with the G Suite role account you created earlier. It will ask for permission to access calendar data. Click “Allow”.

  • Click “Download”, and save the credentials.dat file somewhere safe--you will not be able to retrieve this file again in the future without breaking the setup, requiring you to repeat all the steps in this section.


  • Click “Choose File” and select the credentials.dat file you downloaded in an earlier step.
  • Select “Exchange 2013 or newer, including Office 365”
  • Enter the user ID of the Office 365 role account, in this example we are using “interop@your365domain.com
  • Enter your G Suite domain in the field asking which address space you wish to add to exchange. In this example we are using “yourgsuitedomain.com”.
  • Click “Show Exchange Setup”.
  • You will be presented with the following page:

  • Copy-paste the above section of green text into Exchange Online Powershell. You may need to hit “Enter” once each command completes, until all the commands have been run.

Create contacts for your G Suite users in Office 365


In order for Office 365 to display the free/busy data for a G Suite user, that user must be represented as a contact in the Office 365 system:


You’re all set!

Now you can create a test event in a G Suite user account and an Office 365 user account respectively, to test that each are able to see the free/busy indicator of the other.

*tip: it may take a few hours for the Exchange Online settings in Office 365 to propagate, so if your initial tests don’t work, wait a few hours and try again before taking troubleshooting measures.

Google provides a Troubleshooting tool but it is limited in functionality. If you get lost, give me a shout over at Interlockit.com and we'll get you sorted in no time! Now, don't you feel like you deserve another coffee?


Thursday, February 22, 2018

ProsperWorks CRM integrated contact us/sign up form for your website using Google Forms

ProsperWorks customers frequently ask us about setting up web forms that will automatically create a person (or lead) record and send a personalized email response upon submission.


ProsperWorks has posted a solution based on Wufoo and Zapier but it doesn't send an automatic email reply. It's also simpler and cheaper to use free Google Forms plus free Mailchimp, so we built it!

We loved this solution so much, we opted to use it on our own website.

Our live Contact Us Google Form: http://www.interlockit.com/Home/contact-us

If the email address submitted does not already exist in Prosperworks a Lead record is created instantly and a welcome email is sent using Mailchimp's Automated Welcome Email feature:

If the email address is found the phone number submitted is compared and updated if needed.

In both cases a ProsperWorks CRM Task is created to followup and is assigned to the user of your choice, plus Mailchimp sends a personalized welcome email.

You can even use Mailchimp to schedule automatic follow-ups, which is what we did for our Blink Reports Software Free Trial Sign-ups. This is another Google form we integrated to ProsperWorks CRM and to our Blink Reports for Xero Accounting software running in Python on Google App Engine/Google Cloud Platform. Mailchimp handles DRIP marketing to our free trial signups with a scheduled series of helpful emails.

In the case of the Contact Us Form 100% of the code runs inside the Google Cloud using Google Apps Script. The benefits are speed, simplicity, reliability, and security. It's all managed by Google's massive Cloud Computing resources and the world's best security team. All security for editing the online form and reviewing past form submissions in Google Sheets is managed by your existing Google Account logins.

Here's a code excerpt for the techies like me:

So what does it cost?

  • It's FREE if we can become your G Suite license Reseller for 10 or more users, which is at no additional cost to you.
  • Otherwise cost is $10 per month plus a small setup fee of $99 with discounts available for buying less than 10 G Suite users through us
  • Mailchimp is free for up to 2,000 subscribers or $10/month for unlimited emails
Certainly reach out to us at http://www.interlockit.com/Home/contact-us to sign up or send us any questions you may have!



Thursday, February 15, 2018

Google Drive Backup and Sync for Google G Suite

As we discussed in our prior post Google Drive Backup and Sync plus Google Drive Streaming both work great with your Google G Suite for Business account.

In this post we'll show you how to backup your documents folder, Quicken files, photos and videos with Google Drive.

Google Drive Backup and Sync can both Backup and Sync files to your computer but we recommend turning off the Sync feature and using Google Drive Streaming with your G Suite account. This avoids the consumption of hard drive space and the security risks of storing files locally on your computer.

Download Drive Back and Sync here: https://www.google.com/drive/download/backup-and-sync/ and run the executable to start the installation.

During the initial setup choose the folders you would like to backup, but don't turn on Drive Sync.

Your preferences should look something like this:

Note that we've chosen to backup various folders from the Home Theatre PC (HTPC) including my kid's local user directories where their valuable Minecraft levels are saved. 

We've also enabled the uploading of photos and videos to Google Photos. This way any new photos saved to the selected folders on the local drive from my Sony camera are automatically stored in Google Photos and accessible from any device anywhere, anytime. You can choose Original quality or the free unlimited High quality mode.

Note the "Removing items" option. If you want files you delete in Google Drive from the cloud or from the local computer to be deleted everywhere without prompting then choose "Remove items everywhere". You can also be prompted to remove items or you can choose not to delete items on other devices which may leave lots of orphaned files behind.

If you have a large amount of data to backup the initial backup could take many days to complete but once finished it will only upload the changes as they occur.

If your G Suite license is for G Suite Basic ($5/user/month) you can store up to 30 GB of files, photos (original quality), and emails. Upgrading to G Suite for Business will give you Unlimited storage for $10/user/month (1 TB/user if 5 or less users on the domain).


G Suite for Business at $10/user/month is one of the most cost effective unlimited storage options available since it includes the full G Suite of software, Google Vault and more in the price. Dropbox charges $10/user/month for 1 TB of storage but it does not include email, calendar, Google Docs, Google Meet video conferencing, Google Sites, etc.

Google Drive Backup and Sync is also an excellent replacement to Crashplan who exited the consumer backup space this year.

Certainly contact us at Interlockit.com for assistance or to upgrade to G Suite Unlimited storage!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Backup and Sync for Google Photos and Google Drive plus Google Drive File Stream for G Suite

Are you confused about which Google Drive software tools you should install on your Windows PC or Mac desktop for use with your G Suite for Business account versus your personal @gmail.com account? If so, this first in a series of blog posts is for you.

Working with files purely in the cloud like Google Sheets, and Google Docs is the ideal way to go, but often we need to work with more traditional files stored on our desktop computer like photos, Microsoft Word/Excel, and accounting data like Quickbooks.

Google Drive Backup and Sync

Backup and Sync is an app for Mac and Windows PC's that backs up files and photos safely in Google Drive and Google Photos, so they're no longer trapped on your computer and other devices.

Backup and Sync works for both Google Photos and Google Drive. It replaces "Google Photos Desktop Uploader" and "Google Drive Desktop Sync." Please ignore the click bait headlines that created fears in our customer base that "Google Drive" was going to be shut down. Backup and Sync is the replacement and is an awesome upgrade of the legacy Desktop Sync utility.

As of May 2017 Google Drive had over 800 million daily active users and hosts over 2 trillion files. That's a massive growth curve from 120 million active users in 2013. Google Drive with its lower storage costs and included suite of software is a huge long term threat to popular file sharing solutions like Dropbox and Box.Net.

Google positions Backup and Sync as being for Personal users and Drive File Stream for Business users but using the two in combination has some big benefits that we'll dive into later. Backup and sync is their consumer sync client but G Suite organizations can use it too.

Google Drive File Stream

Drive File Stream lets you see all your files in Google Drive without using storage space on your computer. It behaves much like a traditional mapped network drive letter in Windows File Explorer or a Network Share in Finder on a Mac. It's a key improvement that is allowing our customer base to ditch Windows File Shares for good. Files are streamed to your PC from the cloud on demand for use in your favourite desktop apps.
Drive File Stream includes the ability to save specific files and folders offline, including Team Drives so you can still be productive offline without installing Backup and Sync. It's simple to open files like PDF's from Adobe Acrobat Pro and Microsoft Word directly from your Google Drive. Each time you press the Save button in your favourite app your changes are synced to Google Drive in the cloud. Version management is automatic so you can always roll back to a prior revision of your file.

However, Drive File Stream does not upload your images to Google Photos nor can you tell it to automatically backup your Windows Document or desktop folder from your PC. You can read more about the differences between them here.

On our next blog post we'll dive into installing Backup and Sync for G Suite organizations. In the mean time if you have any questions or would like pricing on Google Drive please contact us at Interlockit.com!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Achieving weight loss and fitness goals with technology

I love crafting business solutions and making software integrate seamlessly for our Interlock IT customers, but it's even better when those solutions can be leveraged to help with personal goals like weight loss and fitness.

Hopefully this post can help you achieve your weight loss and fitness goals by using technology to integrate daily activity level, exercise, and calorie tracking. Did you know that you can even sync your Polar Training Results and Training Targets into your G Suite for Business Google Calendar? This is a great example of IOT (Internet of Things) where multiple devices and software can work together elegantly.

Background and issue

I've been running consistently for 3 years, despite experiencing every pain imaginable as I adapt my lifelong computer nerd body to running.

One of my issues was being very hungry after a Sunday long run and knowing that I needed to eat some extra calories to refuel. What I didn't want to do is overeat and negatively impact my weight loss for the week. A fitness tracker live integrated to MyFitnessPal is a perfect solution to know how much to refuel and still achieve your weight loss goals.

Beginner tips

I recommend that beginners start with a couch to 5K program like C25K. I started with Runtastic and a Wahoo heart rate monitor in May 2015 which has similar beginner walk/run training programs. In fact, I've learned that easy slow running and keeping my heart rate below 130 for the majority of my training is a key to avoiding overuse injuries, consistently enjoying running, and race success. The hard push to 5K I used to do in University was inefficient and uncomfortable, and took the joy out of the sport.

My 2018 Goals

  • Lose 10 to 15 pounds of weight by April 30th
  • Beat my half marathon personal record (PR) of 1:38:14
  • Complete my first full marathon
I completed my first half marathon and set my PR in May 2017. This November 2017--despite sticking religiously to the Polar half marathon training program--I failed to set a new half marathon PR partly because I gained some weight. Losing ten pounds saves a whole minute on a 5K and almost nine minutes on a full marathon. You can see all my PR's and running stats on Strava

My Technology Solution for fitness and calorie tracking

MyFitnessPal

Setup and Configuration

The screenshots and setup below are specific to integrating Polar devices with MyFitnessPal but do some homework and you'll see that Garmin watches, Fitbits, Apple Watches and more can integrate your daily activity and training to MyFitnessPal too.


Connect Polar Flow App to MyFitnessPal

  • On your smartphone open the Polar Flow App, Settings, and toggle on Connect MyFitnessPal. Follow the prompts to login and Authorize Polar to read and write to MyFitnessPal.
  • Note that you can integrate your Polar Training Results and Polar Training Targets to your G Suite for Business or personal Google Calendar with the two toggles in the Polar App Settings (this setting is only available in the Polar Flow smartphone App).
  • Alternatively, you can configure the MyFitnessPal integration via your web browser. Open https://flow.polar.com/settings, click the Connect button for MyFitnessPal and follow the prompts.

  • Next, inside MyFitnessPal on the web turn on Polar Flow Step tracking via the menu bar Apps, Steps. This means both exercise tracked and your steps for the day will be included in the "Exercise" Calories of MyFitnessPal:

Usage

Once Polar Flow is integrated to MyFitnessPal you should see "Exercise" automatically updated in the MyFitnessPal App and on the web from Polar Flow:
The data in the screenshot above shows my daily target of 1500 calories not including exercise; my food logged so far today after my lunch and afternoon snack of 1146; and my calories burned from exercise and steps of 520; leaving 874 calories to eat for my dinner and evening snack. The 1500 calorie target may see too low but remember that this is before exercise and steps (plus, I'm a small guy).

The exercise calories of 520 consists of my run, stretching, and Polar's estimate of my steps for the day:

Tip: Be careful not to eat the example 195 calorie "Polar Flow Calorie Adjustment" on workout days. It assumes that you'll achieve your Polar tracked daily goal of 100% or about 10,000 steps in addition to your workout so it can be overstated on your workout days. Throughout the day you'll see it change based on actual steps whenever your Polar watch syncs to the Polar Flow App. If you review the prior day "Adjustment" calories for the first while you'll get a better feel for how your activity impacts the adjustment. The next day (after a morning sync from your watch) is it adjusted to actuals and the calorie adjustment can even go negative (if you enable this setting in MyFitnessPal) to account for a low level of activity outside of your workout recorded.

Your Progress/weight is also updated automatically from Polar Flow to MyFitnessPal by either using the Polar Scale or by manually updating your weight in Polar Flow on the web in Settings: https://flow.polar.com/settings. You could enter your weight in MyFitnessPal directly but updating it in Polar Flow helps keep its calorie burn calculations more accurate and updates MyFitnessPal anyway.

Conclusions

Just like we can integrate cloud software for our business customers you can integrate your consumer devices into your Google Calendar, MyFitnessPal, Strava, and more to take advantage of each product's unique strengths. With cloud based solutions of today, integration is easy and reliable. Long gone are the days of running complicated unreliable synchronization software on your desktop computer just to get emails on your Blackberry or Palm device, yet many small businesses still suffer through similar headaches with their business software and email systems.

Contact us today at Interlockit.com and let us remove your IT headaches and software integration challenges!