Intermedia Office in the Cloud vs. Office 365

A local Indianapolis dental office has decided not to update their local Exchange software and asked me to review hosted Exchange providers and online office productivity suites from Intermedia and Microsoft. They both are cloud-based and use Microsoft Office products, but each has slightly different features and benefits.

  • Intermedia’s “Office in the Cloud” boasts migration support and has less limitations than Office 365, but no productivity software – it’s only a communications platform
  • Office 365 has a plan that includes email, all of the communications offered by Intermedia (except hosted PBX), and offers cloud and desktop versions of Office software

In order to help the dentist choose a possible plan, I needed to go over some of the features of Sharepoint (Microsoft’s Intranet software) and Lync (Microsoft’s chat software) to see how many bells and whistles he wanted. I boiled all the various choices down to these two plans, which really depended on whether or not he wanted the productivity software or just communications software:

  • Office 365’s E3 plan comes with email, Sharepoint, and desktop versions of Office 2010 for $20 per user per month. The only thing it doesn’t have is the Lync phone services.
  • Intermedia’s Professional plan which comes with migration support, hosted email, and Sharepoint, but no Office applications (online or off) for $12 per user per month.

Here is a diagram I made up to help explain visually the differences between Intermedia Office in the Cloud™ and Office 365™:

Intermedia vs Office 365

Why Microsoft? Why Not Google?

Most of my local Indianapolis clients use Google Apps for their email (Gmail) and Intranet sites (Google Sites), but this particular dental office is a Microsoft shop. It’s what they understand and they didn’t want the learning curve of learning something new or having to pay someone everytime they had a question. While it is true that you can use Outlook with Google Apps, that’s not for everybody. Outlook with Exchange offers many more things you can do with Outlook than Outlook with Google Apps. One example is email directory integration.

Why the Cloud? Why Not Install Locally?

Essentially the business owner is choosing to outsource all of their hardware costs, all of the hardware maintenance, and some of the software support to a managed service provider on the Internet. Instead of paying a large upfront cost for a new server, new software licenses, and the IT installation costs, the business owner is choosing to pay one low, predictable cost per month for a predictable service as a product. Even Dentrix has jumped on the cloud with their newest, Dentrix Ascend software, which runs in Chrome. If you’re considering a jump to cloud apps, consider reading 5 Ways to Compute Cloud Computing ROI.

If you liked this, consider join my mailing list to read more like it



How I Use Evernote

I’ve recently started using Evernote as an experiment on how it might improve my workflow and as a way to keep up to date as a technology consultant. I knew kind of what it was, but had no idea what I would use it for. I didn’t know why you would use Evernote instead of Notes on your iPhone. It seemed that everything Evernote did, there was already something out there that already did that, albeit separately.

I admit I am late to the game as its been around for a while. Evernote was launched in June of 2008 and was made famous by Tim Ferriss in 2011 when he famously told CBS “I couldn’t do my job without it.” My friend, Jason, uses Evernote fanatically and his incessant pitch of the product eventually led me to see what all the hype was about.

If It Aint Broke

EvernoteI was used to emailing myself to take notes or storing ideas in Google Sites via Google Apps or creating Google Docs or by creating Word or Excel documents on my computer that I would then sync using Dropbox. It is/was a mess of a system, but I wasn’t really looking for a better way. You could say I was perfectly content in my mess, but I guess I just didn’t know any better. Consultants like David Allen’s Getting Things Done don’t require a specific set of tools like a Franklin Covey Planner or a Moleskine, but that you use a particular method of location-based activities; sorting; decision making; and action. Evernote can help with all of that, and here is how it is different than using separate apps on your iPhone.

How I Use Evernote

I am by no means an Evernote expert. I don’t even know everything there is to do with Evernote, but here is how I’ve been using it. I’ve started replacing emailing myself notes to making notes in Evernote. I didn’t know how this would benefit me, but I just did it anyway (asah shamah) and the immediate benefit was a cleaner inbox. All I was really doing by emailing myself was creating subsequent cleanup and organizational work later when I would have to reparse the information into either a document or a Google Site. By storing the notes in Evernote I was skipping a step because the note and the repository of the notes were one in the same.

The second benefit of using Evernote was also discovered by accident. I wasn’t sure how Evernote was that much different than making notes on the iPhone Note app. On the surface it is not. Both take text and allow you to send it out. Technically both are available online if you have iCloud enabled and enabled to sync your notes, but here’s how Evernote is different: Evernote allows you to put more than just text into a note and it allows groups of notes to be stored in “Notebooks”. It’s an undercover project management tool that’s accessible from any device. You can put images, files, and even voice recordings all inside one note. That’s pretty different than iPhone’s Note app.

Summary

While I haven’t yet figured out how to share notebooks with other people, I have had them shared with me and I have shared individual notes with other people using text message and email. There is a paid version, which may be required to do more sharing, I’m not sure. A quick browse of their website indicates Premium is required for allowing others to edit notes and for storing larger files within notes. While on the site I also noticed Evernote has more products so that might be worth exploring too. For right now I have more than enough to explore and use in the free app, which is available for iPhone, Android, PC, and Mac. You can use it to take notes on any device, which means that your notes are available almost anywhere you go. That’s powerful and that’s how I use Evernote.

Update 8/30/2013

I’ve been throwing everything into Evernote lately because ‘it’s better than having it sit in my inbox’, but what it’s now starting to feel like is that ‘the action of putting things into Evernote’ is starting to replace actually doing something with the information.

To come at this topic from another perspective: I hardly ever use my Evernote as a reference – I still just go out and Google again or wait for things to come to me. Maybe this will change over time, but I have to keep in mind the main thing, which is:

I’m not using Evernote to store information, I’m using it to help me get stuff done better because of it’s organizational power. If I’m not actually getting any more done because of it, I might as well be printing out the web and storing it in a file cabinet.

I sent this to a friend who said, “I tend to find Evernote is best at info you can’t find anywhere else again. So, paper receipts, bills, work orders, or logs of conversations with vendors all go great in Evernote particularly with OCR.”

If you liked this, consider join my mailing list to read more like it



Creative Avoidance

This is a guest post by Zac Parsons. Enjoy. – Erich

“Ah yes, its Monday.  I have to be focused and productive again.”

“Now that the weekend is over, I have to go back to work.”

“I have to get up early today, or else I will get fired.”

Look at all of the things that we HAVE to do in life.  Really, look at them in your own life.  Write them down if you would like.  How long is your list?  Now, in a certain sense, what you HAVE to do, depends on what the consequence is.  It also depends on what you are relating the action in question to.  In this case, I asked about life.  So your answers should have something to do with eating, breathing, sleeping, etc.  In order to stay alive (to avoid the consequence of death), you HAVE to do these things.  All other “have to’s” in our lives work the same way.  You just need to discover what the consequence is.  The “or else”.

“Want To”

The alternative to a “have to” is a “want to”.  Instead of looking at the consequence, you look at the positive result of the action in question.  You are drawn to this result, and you WANT to obtain it or achieve it.  It’s not something you are running from, it’s something that you are running to.  The difference may seem subtle, but it is HUGE!

To do anything, we need energy.  This is why we eat, breathe, sleep, etc., so that we can build up energy to interact with the world around us.  If everyone in the world was running from what consequences they want to avoid, the world would be chaos.  If everyone was drawn to something and there were no consequences to flee, we would have peace on earth or heaven on earth.  Some people believe that this is how the world will end, in one of those two fashions.  In the meantime, how would you like to live your life?

Subconscious Thought

Our minds work in much the same way.  If we feel like we HAVE to do some sort of task, our minds will come up with all sorts of creative ways to avoid doing the task.  This has been called “creative avoidance”.  We can fill our day with all sorts of tasks and actions that are basically “good” and “productive”, but they keep us from our HAVE to task, so that is where we really subconsciously value them.  Our mind is protecting us from it, since it is associated with the negative consequence of not doing it.  When we understand the positive value of what will be gained from the task, then we WANT to do it!

A Personal Example

This exact thing happened to me today!  I woke up and sat down at my computer to start the work day.  I knew that I had to write an article today, so why not start early?  Well, I noticed that I had some emails in my inbox.  Those have to be looked at eventually, right?  So I sidetracked myself on that.  I had a stack of CDs next to me that were not in my iTunes library.  That will help unclutter my desk, and that’s a good thing, right?  So I spent 30 minutes doing that.  My running shoes are right next to me, I think that I will go out and get some exercise for my body and help to relax my mind!  So I even went off to do that.

My mind can be a genius at getting me out of things.  That’s why I procrastinated with tests and homework all through school.  I allowed myself to be motivated by the negative result, and not by the positive of the completed task.  So, when I locked on to the value of writing my article, I realized that I WANTED to do it.  I saw the value in the completed product.  The words just started flowing.  And what a great feeling that is.

Creative Avoidance Can be Helpful

For a healthy psyche and the accomplishment of your life’s purpose, creative avoidance can be helpful. Jesus said to turn the other cheek when you’re angry, but that is not the avoidance I am talking about today. In Psychology, avoidance means the passive act of not doing something that is good for you and using or doing something else instead that is harmful, or that hinders your personal growth and healing. Procrastination is a first cousin to avoidance, though usually of shorter duration, and with an end result of ultimately doing what is good for you after some delay.

When It’s Dysfunctional to Avoid

Take Jamie for example.  She is hypersensitive to disapproval and rejection, she fears the possibility of being shamed or ridiculed, and these feelings lead to limited interactions with her peers. Jamie”s social avoidance stems from feeling deeply inadequate. As a result, she finds it difficult to have easily satisfying interpersonal relationships. Avoidance in this sense is highly detrimental not only to her personal success, but also to a good quality of life.  If you’ve got to the point where you are avoiding paying your  bills because doing so triggers irrational feelings of scarcity and insecurity then the avoidance may be dysfunctional.

garth-brooksDysfunctional avoidance are activities that harm or hinder clear understanding and longevity in relationships, feeling good about oneself, and having normal effectiveness in the world. These types of thought, feeling, and behavioral avoidance actions are patterns that can create enormous stress, anxiety, and depression. These patterns can be detected in the self-judging, self-blaming remarks we make about ourselves, and in some of the false beliefs we have about what we can’t do.  Be very careful about the way you talk to yourself.  Learning to manage your thoughts will help you manage your actions.

Dysfunctional avoidance is sometimes a faulty coping mechanism that kicks into gear, often without conscious intent. The more they travel that unconscious path, the deeper the “habit ruts” in their brains become. Once in this rut, it’s easier to get stuck in the negative “I can’t” frame of mind, which is often self-fulfilling.

Dysfunctional avoidance is often fueled by patterns of unconscious denial of actual realities. If you find yourself creatively avoiding something, regardless of your motive or intent, ask yourself if what you are doing is justified or for a greater good.  If the results of what you are doing harms yourself or others, think twice about doing it.  One of the biggest avoidances is conflict, but as Garth Brooks said, “The greatest conflicts are not between two people but between one person and himself.”

Creative Avoidance Can Be Useful

Not all avoidance is bad. Sometimes it can be good so long as the timing and time spent allows us to evaluate our circumstances, brainstorm, and/or review technological changes like we wrote about in Determining Your Purpose in Life or Process.

Sometimes creative avoidances can not only be justified, but altogether useful.  For example, avoiding an assignment by taking a walk can be good for your health. And doing chores that need done anyway before doing the the thing in which you are trying to avoid can be good as long as the chores actually needed to get done and you don’t spend your entire allotted time doing them.

Usually, creative avoidance involves choosing one activity over another that might be deemed worthy by an outside party, such as joining the military, but inside you know that the real reason you joined was because you had just broken up with someone and you wanted to get away.  You will still benefit from the military, regardless of the motive.

But, sometimes creative avoidance involves a guilty pleasure in the act of choosing. For example, Jake goes out dancing to avoid doing his homework, and then is unable to complete his homework the next day because he is hungover. We might question if that avoidance choice was creative or dysfunctional, in other words, what was the intent or motive?

How to Know the Difference Between Creative and Dysfunctional Avoidance

To help determine if you or someone else is using avoidance creatively or dysfunctionally, ask the following questions:

  1. Is the activity freeing or binding? – Does this activity allow you to avoid something you don’t like?
  2. Is the activity beneficial or empowering? – Does this activity produce anything that will help you or anyone else?

Answering the question restates the avoidance, which helps us be aware of what motivates our actions.  In this way we can better manage our actions. An en example of a restatement is:

I’m choosing to do this instead of that right now, so that I can return to that when I’m ready with clarity, courage, and a fresh set of eyes.

It is possible to change our thought process in order to change our actions. We can stop dysfunctional avoidance completely if we pay attention to what is real and less of our intuition. If it helps you, start a journal recording when you begin to think of something to do instead of what you’re “supposed” to be doing – and your motivations for doing so or reasons why you didn’t give in.

Creative avoidance can be an adventure, but it can also cost you valuable time and energy. Learning to manage our thoughts and actions helps us see the patterns we can develop in our lives, which gives us the tools and ability to change.