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5 Reasons a Smart IT Strategy is Essential to Business Growth

If you’re struggling with your business IT strategy, you’re among millions of company owners worried theirs isn’t built for scale. Perhaps you’re skeptical why you should be implementing scale strategies into your IT planning?

We recently surveyed some of our clients. Their top three concerns in the coming year are:

  1. Developing advanced cloud-computing technologies into their current systems. It’s no surprise savvy IT departments have discovered the benefits of network more of their systems in a Cloud-based structure.
  2. Migrating more of their systems to third-parties. The cost-savings are obvious. Based on our internal research, more of our clients see the value in outsourcing their security risk prevention to experts.
  3. Analyzing their current IT manpower expenses to pinpoint wasted expenses.

Reason #1: Evaluate Your IT Expenses

Think about buying IT services rather than products. For example, invest in learning the benefit of running application softwares on Cloud servers. The capital investment will be far less than purchasing licensed software for each of your users.

Reason #2: Open Up to Open Source

Smart business owners are beginning to see the benefit of using open source software products. What’s striking is many of these applications mimic ones that can cost as much as $695 per user.

Many companies now use open source word processing and spreadsheet software such as Open Office. It’s bundled with many additional programs similar to ones offered by the costly Microsoft Office.

Reason #3: Internet Telephone

If you haven’t migrated your telephone services to voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), you’re missing an enormous cost reduction in your monthly communications expense. You will be impressed at the savings by converting your telephone services to an Internet-driven broadband connection.

Reason #4: Lease Services Rather Than Own

Give up investing in hardware assets. Instead, consider purchasing Cloud-based server space from one of the hundreds of leading providers. Many CFOs are evaluating their on-site tech-related expenses only to discover it’s becoming cost-prohibitive to own technology.

We recommend taking a hard look at your annual hardware/software investments. Then compare your expenses to renting Cloud server access. You will find the cost is far less than investing in your on-site technology.

Reason #5: Globalize Your CRM

New business prospecting has been transformed over the last five years due to online management services. For instance, migrating your CRM database to SalesForce will give you global access to prospects rather than relying on clunky, outdated in-house software.

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7 Things to consider when hiring an IT Services Company  

ITOutsourcing

Selecting an IT partner who can provide the best support to organization is an important task for any business. If you take the necessary time to do your research and understand some key concepts; finding the right partner shouldn’t be a daunting task. Below are seven questions to ask when shopping for a qualified IT Support Services Company.

  1.  How long has your IT Company been in business for?

According to Gallup research, about 50% of new U.S. companies fail in their first five years. It is important to look for an IT partner that has been successful in their business at minimum 5+ years. It will ease your concerns to know that your IT partner has a successful track record.

  1.  How many employees does your company have? Ask the potential IT partner to provide a breakdown of employees by job titles.

It is important to understand the size of the company you are working with. Usually 20 or more employees would be an ideal size. It is also a recommendation to ask for the specific certifications held by technicians and engineers.

  1.  What are your technical capabilities?

IT companies love technology and would be willing to take on any problem surrounding technology, even if they are not subject experts. To best measure the best IT partner for your company, look to suppliers that can provide reference and experiences that speak to your particular industry.

  1.  Currently, how many clients are part of your cloud or managed IT solutions?

Your business should seek out a company who knows what they are doing and this is an important measurement to consider. At minimum, the IT partner should have a hundred active customers and provide two or more references as you move along in the process.

  1.  Do you have a help desk or do you use outsourced help-desk services and monitoring?

Managed service providers will at times outsource help desk services to lower costs. We’ve found that in most cases, it’s better to have all services in-house with your IT partner.

  1.  Do you measure customer satisfaction for your managed service clients?

A good IT company will be calling their clients and perform surveys, providing reports. Ask for random client surveys that are random. Ask to see a mix set of reviews. Ask for good and a low scoring review. It is important to see how they resolved the customer’s issues. Customer service should be rated by: professionalism, timelines, security, reliability and problem resolution.

  1.  What response times does your service level agreement (SLA) guarantee cover?

A trustworthy IT contract will outline that someone from said managed service provider will respond to request and or issues within a given period of time. This could pertain to helpdesk calls and onsite visits. This also applies to up and downtime of servers and networks. Without these safeguards in place, your business can be susceptible to other pressing higher-priority commitments the service provider is working on.

Evaluating Your IT Department? Take This Checklist!

The role of information systems professionals in the modern workplace is rapidly evolving as cloud solutions provide more affordable options. Businesses of all sizes are now evaluating their IT needs in order to determine whether they are operating as efficiently and effectively as possible.

IT expertise is more important than ever, since businesses rely on their applications and devices to conduct business each day. But automation has also made it possible to operate with minimal staff, which is good news for smaller businesses with limited budgets. As you work to evaluate your own IT department, here’s an all-inclusive checklist for your consideration.

Security and Network Support

The security of your data, applications, and websites is crucial to your success as a business. One data breach can cost your business thousands of dollars in fines and loss of customers, as well as damaging the reputation you’ve worked so hard to build. As you evaluate your IT department, take a careful look at your security as a top priority.

„       Anti-malware measures—Are measures in place to make sure your servers and devices are safe from malware and hacking attempts?

„       Employee education—Does your business actively work to educate employees on the importance of responsible online behavior and password management?

„       Disaster recovery—Is a Disaster Recovery Plan in place to protect your business?

Application Support and Security

If your employees access in-house applications in the course of conducting their work, those applications must also be protected and supported.

„       Password management—How are passwords issued and managed for your applications? Is immediate help available when employees need a password reset or issued?

„       Training and support—Is training available for new employees? If an employee has a problem using the application, is that help available? Are employees satisfied with the level of support they’re receiving?

„        Upgrades and bug fixes—Can employees report issues with the application? If so, how quickly are they resolved?

Desktop Support

Once the backbone of an organization’s IT department, desktop support has dwindled in recent years. Thanks to remote desktop software, support can be outsourced and conducted by phone or live chat. Is this support sufficient?

„       Problem resolution—If an employee experiences difficulty with a system, how is support provided? Are employees satisfied with the quality and turnaround time of this service?

„       On-Site support—When new equipment must be set up or hardware problems are reported, is on-site support available? Are employees satisfied with the quality and turnaround time of this service?

This checklist can help you determine what changes you need to make in your IT department, if any. Whether you decide to maintain current staffing levels, to outsource, or to increase the quality or quantity of your IT staff, a checklist can help decide where you’ve been and where you should go next.

What Can You Learn from JP Morgan’s Data Breach

On the heels of the Home Depot data breach comes another case of customer data being compromised, this time from the largest bank in the United States. JPMorgan Chase reported that information from more than 76 million households and 7 million small businesses may have been compromised when hackers gained access to its systems on an administrative level.

Account holder names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses are thought to have been revealed, as well as internal notes about those account holders. JPMorgan Chase asserts that there is no evidence that information like account numbers, passwords, birth-dates, or social security numbers was leaked in the breach.

What This Means for Business

As TechTarget pointed out, in both the Target and JPMorgan Chase data breach, no full-time Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) was overseeing operations. In the wake of these breaches, businesses are beginning to realize the important role risk management and security play in business today. In the coming years, businesses will likely see the CISO role become a very important specialty in the field of technology, attracting higher salaries and the best talent in the field. For small businesses, these duties will be entrusted to the provider, who will staff the best and brightest to oversee cloud servers for a large number of clients.

How to Protect Yourself

Without information like social security numbers and birth-dates the collected information isn’t enough in itself to risk identity theft, experts say. However, a JPMorgan spokesperson points out that consumers should always keep an eye on their accounts. The biggest problems may come from the email addresses that were compromised in the breach, with this information potentially being used to launch phishing attempts. Through these attempts, information such as social security numbers and account passwords could be obtained. Small businesses should remind users to never click on links or download attachments from unknown parties. When they receive an email about an existing account instead of clicking on the link on that email, users should always go to the site on their own and update any information there.

Safeguarding your business’s applications and systems is your business’s top priority, since securing your own customer data is an important part of your long-term success. By ensuring that your employees keep their own passwords as secure as possible by avoiding phishing attempts, you’ll be taking a vital first step. When working with a cloud provider, be sure to ask questions about the role they take in preventing hacking attempts and keeping your data safe.

3 Reasons Why You Need Human-Touched IT Services

Human-touched IT services_Sep 22, 2014

As businesses increasingly reduce tech support in favor of live chat or knowledge-bases, they’re beginning to realize the value in computer support provided by a real person. Whether that person is a friendly voice on the other end of the phone line or a person who comes to your desk to help, humans have an ability to relate to each other in a way computers never can. Here are three reasons your business still needs to retain the human touch in your IT support.

Technology Lacks Human Reason

When a computer is presented with a problem, that computer is programmed to rely solely on logic for solving it. Humans, on the other hand, have the ability to see the subtle nuances in a problem, using a reasoning ability that is unique to humans. As the user explains the problem, a human has the ability to rule out various possible causes for that problem based on past experience. If the IT support person has worked with that user for a while, he may even be able to narrow down the problem based on knowledge of that user’s daily work activities and technical expertise.

Humans Approach Each User Differently

Even a call center learns to detect a user’s mood and anxiety levels based on the inflection and tone of his voice. With human-touched IT services, a person adjusts his support in response to those clues, tailoring help to match what the user needs. Within seconds of speaking to a user, a technical support person may be able to determine that the user would likely have ruled out the simple things, while a computer would have to require a user to answer a series of questions to arrive at the same conclusion.

Hardware Needs In-Person Support

One of the biggest challenges for companies that are trying to remove the human touch from IT is hardware repair and replacement. Occasionally, an employee will walk in to find a computer, monitor, printer, or copier is suddenly no longer functioning. In-person IT staff will usually keep a spare computer for those instances, getting the user up and running in just minutes while new equipment is ordered or existing hardware goes through extensive troubleshooting. Without the human touch, hardware problems can completely disable a valued team member for a day or longer, with new equipment required to be shipped or purchased locally.

Today’s users are more computer savvy than ever, but they still occasionally need technical support. There will likely never be a replacement for the help an empathetic, experienced IT support person can provide, so businesses should continue to retain it as a supplement to the online and remote desktop support they’re providing.

Follow These Tips to Find Great IT Support Staff

When IT support was a new career, businesses were forced to source promising workers and train them, working with them as they grow. Today, the tech field is teeming with talented, fully-trained professionals in a variety of specialties.

Hiring IT support staff can be especially challenging, considering workers are expected to rise to some fairly high standards in the course of daily work. But by following these tips, you can ensure you put employees in place who will help your organization thrive.

Understand the Position

One of the biggest mistakes companies make in hiring technology workers is failing to fully understand what the job entails. Prior to beginning the hiring process, take time to thoroughly flesh out the job requirements in order to determine the questions you’ll ask in the interview. If possible, involve someone who is well-versed in the field. If you’re hiring a systems architect, for instance, bring in someone who is experienced in the field and can help advise, even if that person is an outside source who consults on a contract basis. The small short-term expenditure will save your business large sums of money in the long term.

Hire an IT Recruiter

Rather than blasting announcements across multiple job boards and hoping for the best, consider hiring a good IT recruiter to bring candidates to you. IT recruiters specialize in locating and placing the best talent in various technology specialties. For a small fee, they can narrow down candidates to those who are best suited to the job, allowing you to choose from there.

Consider Contract-to-Hire

According to the Center for American Progress, a company spends one-fifth of an employee’s salary replacing him or her. This cost includes severance pay, interviewing and training replacement workers, and lost productivity while the position is vacant. Many companies have chosen to make the switch to contract-to-hire for IT positions. These employees are brought in for a predetermined period of time, usually only months, and assigned to a team. As the end of the contract period nears, the team members weigh in on how they feel the contractor is doing in the position. If the employee is a valued part of the team, the company may choose to either extend the contract or hire the employee full-time.

Hiring the right employees is an important part of any manager’s job. With such great resources now available, businesses can find the best technology workers who will then recommend other industry professionals who can flesh out the team.

Moving? Follow These Tips from IT Support for a Smooth Transition

For a business, moving can be a disruptive experience, especially if workers are still using desktop PCs hooked into LAN connections. Even one day of interrupted connectivity can cost a business thousands of dollars, angering impatient customers and delaying payments, billing, and more for weeks.

As your office prepares for its next move, there are a few things you can do in advance to ensure the transition progresses as smoothly as possible. Whether you have IT staff or you’re trying to handle things without the experts, these steps can provide as little downtime as possible.

Contact Service Providers

Your phone, fax, LAN, and wi-fi connections will have to be set up at the new location and disconnected at the old location. While this can be one of the hardest transitions to make seamless, keeping these service providers informed of all important dates can go far. As early as possible before your move date, travel to the new location with a laptop and test network connectivity. It might also help to try a printer to ensure you’ll be able to print on move day. If wi-fi is installed in the new location, test a variety of mobile devices, as well.

Prepare Equipment

Believe it or not, one of the biggest roadblocks in getting set up is simply getting the right computer, mouse, keyboard, and monitor matched up with its corresponding workspace. By placing labels with assigned cubicle numbers on monitors and CPUs, you’ll give the movers a hand and avoid lost pieces. Invest in large, sealable plastic bags to hold all cords and small peripherals and affix a label to the bags, as well. While you’re labeling, don’t forget to add an assigned location number to each printer, copier, and fax machine.

Ask for Help

By contracting with IT support professionals trained in corporate moves, you can turn your move over to those who have experience in providing a smooth transition from one building to another. These professionals will ensure your software and hardware functions as well, if not better, in the new location as it did in your former location, keeping your customers happy and allowing you to resume business as usual while enjoying your new surroundings.

While a move to a new location can be both exciting and frightening, by following a few simple steps, your customers will never know a move took place.

Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview Has Been Released

Microsoft just recently announced the release of Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview. It builds on the release of the Windows 8.1 Preview which was released in June this year. It comes with additional security, management, mobility and more virtualization features that are well suited for business. The preview can be downloaded from TechNet. During the announcement, the company also confirmed the rumors that the life cycle support policy for Windows 8.1 would be the same as that for Windows 8. The support would end on 10th January 2023.

Customers would be given two years to move to Windows 8.1 from Windows 8 after the update has been released. This time-frame is seen as ample enough to allow all their customers to move to Windows 8.1. After the end of that period, the company will no longer provide support for Windows 8, but will only provide support for Windows 8.1 and above.

The preview featured many new features that will definitely generate a lot of buzz. The additional enterprise features that have been included in the list include;

– Start Screen Control. IT departments will now be in a position to control how the layout of the Start Screen on company issued devices will appear. They can control the layout to ensure that key apps are easily accessible by users. The control also makes it possible for IT departments to prevent users from customizing their Start Screen. This will help ensure consistency and uniformity in the work place.
– Windows To Go Creator enables IT departments to create a fully manageable Windows 8.1 desktop that can be on a bootable external USB drive. The drive can easily be used to support bringing your own devices to work, and at the same time, can be given to corporate staff without necessarily compromising security.

– Direct Access enables users to connect via a corporate network without having to launch a separate VPN like it was before. IT administrators can also keep the remote users’ PCs up to date by applying all the latest software updates and policies.

– BranchCache. Employees who work in branch offices will no longer have to download content multiple times from the Wide Area Network. This is because Branchcache caches websites, and files them along with any other content from the central servers locally on the hosted cache servers or the PCs.

– Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI). Users will enjoy a rich desktop experience and will have the ability to play 3D games. It will also be possible to use USB peripherals and to use some touch enabled devices across all types of network whether LAN or WAN for the VDI scenarios. This has been made possible mainly because of enhancements in Windows Server 2012 and Microsoft RemoteFX.

– Applocker: With this feature, IT department can control the apps and types of files that users run on their devices. This will make their devices more secure while also increasing the security of the data the device holds.

– Windows Enterprise Side Loading: It is now possible to side-load Internal Windows apps on domain joined PCs with tablets that are running the Windows 8.1 Enterprise.

The release date of the full version has not yet been announced by Microsoft but it will not be later than August.

CFOs and CIOs can keep up with Business’ growth with Cloud Computing, discovers Deloitte report

The latest issue of CFO Insights from Deloitte investigates the role of cloud computing and focuses on the benefits and decision-making concerns offered by transitioning to this new technology environment.The assessment from Deloitte’s report addresses technology decision-makers, notably the CIOs and CFOs, who will soon need to face the reality that they need to transition their organization’s computing technology, it services, and data to “the cloud”. As cloud computing technology attains wider usage, more businesses will soon have to deal with the decision to shift from an on-premises technology setting to a cloud based one.The idea of cloud computing has prevailed for a long time. The basic premise behind it is that the business can outsource daily management of resources on a need-only basis, identical to buying utility services, such as water and power. However, one crucial factor is that the cloud computing resources are delivered over the Internet.

The Deloitte report underlines the need to have a productive working relationship between the CFO and CIO. The decision to embrace cloud computing is broader in scope than just the information technology department. The CFO can strategize cloud computing to execute financial objectives, and at the same time create a risk intelligent culture. The CIO can increase the visibility of the technology department as an esteemed part of the organization.

Cloud resources can broadly be classified into these four categories: Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Most individuals assume SaaS to be the only cloud computing resource, which involves the administering of software applications on demand. The software applications can range from email, backup and file storage solutions to customer relationship management (CRM) and financial applications.

However, there are other use cases for cloud computing. For example, PaaS is used a software development platform to develop new applications, whereas IaaS is used an on-demand hardware resource platform.

The Deloitte report advocates the introspection of relative costs and benefits of different cloud resources before taking the decision. Most organizations reserve the use of cloud computing to low-risk projects, or tasks ideally unsuitable for on-premises technology.

The most cited benefit by various CFOs and CIOs in their interviews is the flexibility that cloud computing offers; it can scale and react to technology changes very quickly. Significant reduction in infrastructure costs and IT support staff requirements are also a few of the other benefits cited.

However, the CFOs and CIOs also raised a few concerns in their interviews regarding the safety and reliability of using cloud computing. Is the data safe? Where is it stored? Is the data backed up? What should a business do when it needs to shift from one cloud technology provider to another? These are all the questions that are asked frequently an organization before embracing cloud computing.

Nevertheless, the CFOs and CIOs also reported that cloud vendors are more likely to provide higher levels of performance and better security. The vendors have to perform as their business depends on it; if they fail to provide a good service, then they will lose all their clients and reputability.

The report recommends the business to assess its technology needs in the context of its purpose and needs. As the business changes and evolves, the technology also needs to keep up with it. By evaluating the business’ administrative concerns and how the availability of cloud technology will influence the organization, the CFOs and CIOs can make sure that their business transits fluently into a cloud computing environment.

If you’re interested in learning how ComputerSupport.com can help your business save money by utilizing cloud services, be sure to reference our cloud computing consulting services.

Extended Warranties: Are they worth it?

You’re at the store and the cashier asks you if you want the extended warranty and you always say no thank-you.  The decision seems logical: if parts break the manufacturer’s warranty covers it.  Also, when your equipment breaks down it might be time to upgrade anyways.

However, an interesting piece by the Harvard Business Review takes the other side.  The author, Rafi Mohammed postulates that an extended warranty gives piece of mind.  The costs and benefits of extended warranties inflate greatly with the number of machines to consider.

For example, the extended warranty on a Lenovo Thinkpad adds $269 to the $849 price tag.  That extended warranty doesn’t cover accidental damage, which will add on another $429 for four years.  Multiple that cost by 100 for an entire company and you’re running a number close to $40,000.

So is it worth it?  Well, a full service for a laptop’s motherboard and LCD screen costs on average around $900, less than the cost of the warranty.  In this scenario, that means 44% of your laptops have to totally fail in order for the extended warranty to pay for itself within a four-year period.

If your employees are constantly on the go, laptops in tow then maybe half your laptops will break within four-years.  In the end, it all comes down to: should I just buy a new one?