Why Hire a Virtual CIO?

If you’ve ever contemplated beefing up your data security, or offering a new, technology-based service to your customers, or just buying a new office communications system, you may have thought to yourself “I wish we had a CIO around here.”

Of course many companies aren’t big enough to justify hiring a full-time chief information officer who can offer expertise on the technology questions they face. That’s where Virtual CIO services come in.

Like a real CIO, a Virtual CIO, or vCIO, develops a deep understanding of a business and then offers individualized guidance about technology strategies. But, by working on a part-time contract basis, a Virtual CIO is affordable for a much broader range of businesses.

A Virtual CIO’s functions may include evaluating new software or services to find products that provide the most value to a company, looking at business processes and finding technology that can save time and money, and evaluating the way the company handles data to make sure everything is secure and reliable. Getting that kind of support upfront can help a business avoid costly, dangerous mistakes that are difficult to correct.

Virtual CIO clients get regular meetings to discuss their business’s most important needs. Not only does this provide a way to bounce technology ideas off someone with the experience to evaluate them, but it may also generate new concepts that less tech-savvy staff might never have thought of on their own.

If you think a Virtual CIO might make a great addition to your team, please let me know. I’d love to talk with you about how this service could help your business out.

Meet Rob Zinger, Manger of Systems Engineering

ZingerIf you’ve ever been part of a company that has adopted a new email or phone system, you know that these kinds of transitions rarely happen without stress on everyone’s part.

Rob Zinger knows it too. As manager of systems engineering at, he manages major projects like that, and he’s figured out some ways to make sure things go as smoothly as possible. First, Rob makes sure that everyone’s on the same page, and that there’s a liaison at the client company who can quickly relay any issues workers there are experiencing.

“Just through experience we kind of put together what we see as a good game plan,” he said.

It helps that Rob, and his colleagues, stay on top of changes in the technical realm. He said that’s something that comes partly from having a good background in computer systems, but even more from learning new things on the job every day.

“There’s always something interesting,” Rob said. “Once you think you know it all, your knowledge could become useless really fast.”

Rob said he’s learned a lot since joining as one of the IT consulting firm’s first employees five years ago. He now finds it easy to think not just about specific issues with networks or servers but about the big picture—how all sorts of technology combine to keep his clients’ offices working at their most productive.

Rob said he first got interested in computers not out of a particular love of video games or software but because he enjoyed the nuts and bolts of electronics.

“I always liked assembling things, seeing how they work,” he said. “That’s what interests me.”

These days, he said, since he spends all day on computers at work, he hardly ever touches one on his off-time. Instead, he works out, golfs, fishes and spends time with friends. He’s a fan of the Celtics and the New England Patriots, though not so much the Red Sox since Pedro Martinez left.

“I’m very lucky to have witnessed that era in baseball,” he said.

Another thing Rob loves is thinking on his feet, and picking up new skills all the time.

“As soon as you think you know everything, you get yourself in trouble,” he said.

Why IT Consulting?

For some business owners, the notion of outsourcing anything to an outside firm might seem a little scary. It’s attractive to have everyone who’s doing anything for your company working as a dedicated full-time employee.

But these days most businesses can benefit from advanced technologies like cloud computing, remote backup and systems that integrate computer and phone networks.  Often, you won’t even know what technological solutions make sense for them until you see them in action.

That’s where IT consulting comes in. An IT firm can look at the big picture and suggest what investments might make sense. Because they work with multiple clients, they have up-to-date expertise in what other companies are finding useful, which means you can benefit from the experiences of others.

Consulting firms also have a surprising cost benefit. If a company has its own internal IT department, a handful of employees probably have to do everything from overhauling the entire email system to setting up voicemail for a new hire. That means they have to be seriously overqualified—and overpaid—for some of their assignments. With an outside firm, you’re hiring a team that includes people with a variety of experience levels. Often it also means you can have several IT professionals on hand when you need them and none when you don’t.

Here’s another thing about outsourcing IT—it’s probably inevitable, at least for some things. More and more of us are using the cloud every day, even if that just means throwing a file into Dropbox or sharing something on Google Docs, and that means trusting our data to outside parties. IT consulting firms can help businesses do these kinds of things in ways that are more secure—and that also offer extra benefits like emergency backup.

IT firms can work with companies a variety of ways—from troubleshooting email problems to developing a cloud strategy for connecting remote offices. But you probably won’t know which solutions might make sense for your office until you start asking.

Meet Liam Shea, Manager of Customer Support

Liam SheaAs a kid, Liam Shea always liked playing with computers—“seeing what I could do, seeing how I could make it run faster,” he said.

Even while he was in college studying for a career in criminal justice, he found himself pulled toward technology, working for an IT outsourcing company to put himself through school. Four years ago, he came to, where he’s now manager of customer support, and he has no plans to do anything else.

Liam’s work involves overseeing the company’s help desk and making sure that customer IT issues are always resolved within 30 minutes. That requires not just strong technical skills but also the ability to work with busy businesspeople so that technological problems don’t interfere with their work.

Beyond that, Liam meets regularly with ComputerSupport’s clients to strategize about ways they can improve their information systems. Using tickets that have been put in as guidelines, he’s able to make recommendations about areas for improvement within a given company—“how we can be proactive and kind of cut down the ticket volume,” he said.

Liam’s also responsible for making sure ComputerSupport employees who are stationed at clients’ offices stay in the loop with their coworkers at the main office. The company has daily meetings that the remote workers call in to, which help everyone learn from the work that others are doing. But, since the company tries to be a friendly place to work, Liam admitted the meetings usually involve some talk about the Celtics or the new blockbuster movie that everyone saw over the weekend.

Liam said one of the things that drew him to the company was the chance to get in on the ground floor of a fast-growing enterprise—“kind of experience the benefits, as well as the pains of a small start-up company,” he said.

When Liam’s not in the office, you can find him spending time with his nearly four-year-old son, talking superheroes, playing with action figures or heading off to the zoo.

“We’re never sitting still,” he said. “When I’m not here, that’s where my time is usually being allocated.”

The State of the IT Worker

According to a survey done by Information Week, the average IT professional makes 90,000, with a prospective one percent raise, every year. Special skills in things like wireless infrastructure and cloud computing topped one hundred thousand a year. That’s a fair chunk of change. So why is it that forty percent of all IT professionals looking for a new job?

Well, the survey clearly states that salary and benefits are the number one and three concerns respectively with stability between them. That seems like a no-brainer. However, forty percent of responders cited whether or not their opinion and knowledge were valued. I think that’s something that a manager or supervisor has a lot control over. A simple meeting to exchange and discuss ideas could improve office moral. Another factor that stood out was that twenty-two percent of IT professionals cited seeing their work contributing to company success as important. This is an old story on why blue collar workers are happier (at least in the past fifty years). They see the fruits of their labor. If IT professionals can see that their work is actually doing something it will increase their own sense of self.

The IT workplace is evolving. More and more programming and help desk jobs are being sent overseas. If you’re an IT worker and reading the writing on the wall, you should consider an occupation better suited to the post industrial age. All indicators point towards business analysis as the up and coming IT position. Business in the information age is done at a dizzying pace. Combine that with a more unstable economic environment, business leaders require more and more projections. Business Analysis is all about an interdisciplinary approach toward solving problems, utilizing tech savvy and business sense. It’s the way of the future.

Check this video out to learn more:

Legalizing Crowdfunding

Say you’ve come up with the next big thing. A new social media platform that will put Pinterest to shame. An innovative IT outsourcing concept. A better mousetrap.

How do you get it funded?

Traditionally, the answer might have been a venture capital firm or a rich uncle. Now, thanks to a provision of the recently passed federal JOBS Act, it could be a thousand strangers on the Internet.

Crowdfunding is a relatively new way to gather startup capital for a new venture. Essentially, anyone with an idea can post it on their own website or the site of an intermediary company and ask for cash.

The most prominent example of the model so far has been Kickstarter, a site that’s funded a huge variety of creative projects, from video games to theater productions. But people who give to Kickstarter projects generally do so more out of enthusiasm than self-interest. The groups seeking funding offer rewards like backstage passes to their plays or signed copies of their novels, not a share of their profits.

Now, the JOBS Act makes it possible for ventures like these to offer an equity stake to the funders. Venture capitalist Michael Greeley of Flybridge Capital Partners told the New York Times there’s good reason to be enthusiastic about the concept.

“We’ve watched every other industry become democratized by the Internet, so there’s no reason that finance can’t be, too,” he said.

But others are more cynical, worrying that the new rules could allow for the creation of modern-day “boiler rooms” where scammers use high-pressure sales to fleece unsophisticated investors, and let small public companies remain too secretive in their activities. contributor Tim Worstall takes on that line of reasoning, arguing that it’s impossible to regulate against all opportunities for scammers without completely stifling innovation.

Worstall points to British site Crowdcube, which allows small investors to buy a piece of startup companies, though it’s not open to U.S. funders. Where Kickstarter features mostly artistic endeavors, Crowdcube is full of plans to harvest seaweed, produce biofuels and develop new online payment systems. And where Kickstarter participants typically seek a few thousand dollars, Crowdcube companies’ goals are more likely to be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Under the JOBS Act, companies would be able to crowdfund up to $1 million a year, or $2 million if they can provide audited financial statements. There would also be limits on how much any individual investor can put up.

The New York Times story reports that many people in the finance industry question how widely applicable the crowdfunding model will be. It seems likely to be best suited to startups with a lively, interesting story that can attract regular people, not just professional investors. Of course, those are also the sorts of stories that scam artists are fantastic at dreaming up.

Spirinet Named One Of “Next-Gen 250” By

IT Support and IT Outsourcing company Spirinet has been named one of the “Next-Gen 250” by  The “Next Gen 250” is awarded to companies who have zeroed in on lucrative and emerging technologies, among them cloud computing, mobility, virtualization, unified communications, business analytics and business intelligence.  All of the companies on the “Next Gen 250” have only been in business since 2000.

“Being named to the “Next Gen 250” is a great honor,” says Kirill Bensonoff, of Spirinet.  “We pride ourselves on our ability to identify what upcoming technologies will offer the most value to our clients.  At the beginning of the company it was outsourced IT, and as we grow we find that cloud computing has become a key component to our offerings.”

Mr. Bensonoff adds: “Few industries move more quickly than technology, but having a set of core values that define your company’s decision making is extremely helpful.  Our business decisions have always been made by asking these simple questions: How does this technology make life easier for our clients?  What value does it add?  Is it just a new way of doing something, or a better way?”

For more on CRN and CRN’s “Next-Gen 250”, please visit:

About Spirinet:

A premiere provider of IT outsourcing and consulting services, Spirinet has become the full-service IT department of choice for small and medium-sized businesses all over North America. With unique remote technology capabilities Spirinet is also supporting companies with offices world-wide. They are headquartered outside Boston, MA.  They can be contacted at their website, or by phone at (877) 342-5677.

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