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Calculate Your IT Costs and Savings, Now!

Information technology is a part of any business’s budget, but do you know how to set an IT budget? Sure, you know you have to set money aside for computers and software, but how do you know how much? We’ve included a handy calculator to help you determine just how much you’ll save by making technology changes within your organization. Here are a few categories where you can plug in some numbers and see significant savings.

SaaS vs. On-Premise Software

If you’re using software that still requires an installation, you’ll occasionally face new charges. By switching from boxed software to a Software as a Service (SaaS) option, you can ensure your organization always has the latest version of the applications you need to remain competitive. A full on-premise version of Microsoft Office 2013 will cost $399.99 and will be outdated when Office 16 debuts within the next year. Office 365, which will be updated to Office 16 upon release, starts at $5 per user per month. Plug these numbers into the calculator and determine how much your business can save by switching your on-premise software to cloud versions.

Cloud Hosting vs. On-Premise Servers

If your SMB still has on-premise servers, you’re likely dealing with the constant need to upgrade software and replace equipment. Added to this is the burden of ensuring data backups are generated and safely stored and you can probably factor in several major expenses. Over time, servers, tape drives, uninterruptible power supplies, and air conditioning units must be replaced, which can be quite costly. By moving to a cloud hosting provider, you can pay a monthly fee to have all of these tasks handled for you. Compare the cost you’ll pay for your on-site IT infrastructure with what a cloud hosting provider will offer and, over time, you’ll likely see a significant cost savings.

Outsourced Support vs. On-Premise Staff

Talented information technology workers are both expensive and difficult to find. Once hired, an SMB usually has to pay benefits and salary to these employees, whether a business has a full-time need for them or not. By outsourcing technical support, SMBs can access a skill level they might not be able to afford on their own, while also saving money by only paying for the support volume they’ll use.

This handy cost savings calculator can help you plug in the different areas where you can save money, freeing up your budget for other areas. By weighing different cloud options against your on-premise costs, you’ll be able to determine whether a move to the cloud is the right choice for you.

4 Tips on Creating an IT Budget

4 Tips on IT Budget

Information technology is the core of every organization, with a company relying on its equipment, applications, and documents to take care of customers and attract new business. But as time goes on, technology must occasionally be replaced or upgraded. To make sure your business stays on budget each year, it’s important to create an effective, accurate IT budget that keeps your technology current without breaking the bank. Here are a few tips to use when creating your IT budget each year.

Conduct an Inventory

The best way to determine what you’ll need to spend is to inventory what you currently have. Conduct and maintain a thorough inventory of all of your systems, along with the purchase dates. There are many software solutions available that will help you keep up with your equipment, along with reporting features that will extract equipment lists by purchase date.

Track Software Licensing

If any of your software requires licensing, keeping up with those licenses is essential. Businesses can be fined thousands of dollars for installing software without a license on file. Track each software license and budget money each year for software upgrade fees to ensure you’re in compliance. As businesses increasingly go to the cloud for essential tools like word processing and spreadsheets, monthly fees will likely replace renewable software licenses, making budgeting easier.

Set an Equipment Replacement Cycle

As time goes by, it’s easy to put equipment replacement off. Increasingly, businesses are being forced to make the choice between replacing aging equipment or using the opportunity to migrate to the cloud. When a business has a plan in place for making that move, it’s far easier to set a financial plan for the next few years. For PCs, servers, and mobile devices, it’s essential a business set up a replacement cycle to ensure equipment is replaced while it is still functional, rather than waiting until it begins impacting productivity.

Plan for Lean Times

Any business will likely go through times when income is lower than other times. By setting money aside when cash flow is positive, a business will have funds in place to handle those lean times. Unfortunately, many companies let equipment replacement and software upgrades slide during those tough times, leading to serious problems later. An office full of outdated equipment can drain productivity and lead to numerous unexpected failures.

IT equipment and applications take up a large part of today’s business budgeting. It’s important that organizations keep track of all hardware and software in order to ensure finances are set aside each year to keep the information technology infrastructure well funded.

Top 10 New Businesses To Watch

Business is constantly changing, but you can see trends if you look closely at the top businesses. While today’s businesses are very different from those about a decade ago, you can see that most of them are concerned with tech and user interaction. If you follow these trends, then you might be able to make your own successful company.

Mobile Interaction

Many of the top emerging companies are innovating mobile integration so that people can easily access information from their smartphones and tablets. For example, Square has made millions of dollars by giving business owners the ability to use their mobile phones as credit card processing platforms. Sproxil is a service that allows people to see if their medication is real or fake by typing in a code found on the bottle.

This comes as no surprise because mobile technology has taken the world by storm, and those that truly embrace this technology are winning. This also gives more power to the consumer.

Smaller Companies

Today’s major company is bloated, full of middlemen and has very high barriers of entry. For example, it takes millions of dollars to make a major game, and even more to produce a new console.

Ouya is a new console that is fixing this. Not only are most of the games made by independent developers, but all of the games will be free or offer a free demo and the system is only $100. Another major change is that the console is made to be hackable, which embraces a trend that many gamers hoped major consoles would adopt.

Pig Newton is another company that follows this trend. Formed by the comedian Louis C.K., he has introduced a new way of interacting with fans. Instead of going to clubs and major production companies, he offered skits online for just $5. This model has allowed him to sell hundreds of thousands of videos due to the lower price. Decent profit and happy fans, a true win-win.

Business is changing. The major changes are that the customer is really being considered. Instead of having inaccessible and bloated companies, smaller ones are being embraced. If you want to succeed in today’s market, then you really have to cater to the customer. If not, then you might have a hard time competing against these emerging companies.

top 10 businesses to watch infographic

Top 10 businesses to watch

 

Source: www.masters-in-business.net

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?

Half Personal, Half Business: Dual Smartphones

Whenever you give someone a smartphone the first thing they’ll probably do is download Angry Birds.  So how do you keep your work away from your personal usage?

Virtual Splitting

Virtual splitting is a method of partitioning a smartphone’s memory into two halves.  One half is person in which only the user has access.  The other half can be remotely accessed by the company that issued the phone.  This is in case the phone is lost or stolen; the company can remotely erase that partition.  A great example of a readymade solution is Blackberry’s Balance.

Problems Skirting Solutions

You might think that with the ability to just wipe out any compromising data is nuclear option that solves everything.  However, it can become more complicated than that.  For example, AirWatch is an app that allows you to remotely wipe certain data so as to not destroy personal stuff.  You might just want to delete spreadsheets and PowerPoint files, thinking photos should be off limits.

But, employees may use photos to take pictures of important documents.

I suppose you could just impose a strict policy of no personal use of smart devices with business information on it.  But then you’ll be fighting human nature.

Why Choose an IT Support Company?

Every time you turn on the news there’s always another newfangled gadget out there.  With more and more businesses moving onto the Internet, how do you stay on top it all?  A Boston Consulting Group survey showed that small businesses spend only 3% of their advertising budget on the Internet.  One of the major hindrances is that small businesses don’t have the staff or infrastructure to keeping up.  Instead of creating a whole department or relying on substandard acquaintances hire an IT support group.

Why? Three reasons: flexibility, scalability, and transferability.

Flexibility without being flimsy

Every small business is different and thus their IT needs are different. Bringing in an outside IT support group gives you choices without groping around in the dark for a solution.  Any IT support company worth their salt will be able to show you past projects that worked; whether it was increasing up time (time your computers are working) to Cloud security. We currently have 99% up time across all our clients.

Running a small business also means making every second count. Any down time can mean big losses. So, it’s best to choose a company that can offer 24/7 support. Even as a backup plan, if your IT specialist is out then you have someone to turn to. To be able to do that, your it support provider should be able to reach your office fast. So for example, if your business is headquartered in Boston, then you probably need business IT support in Boston.

Scalability

At first, it’s always easy to just put your toe into the water.  Let’s say your initial experience with Cloud data storage for just your accounting needs.  Now you want to back up all your data in the Cloud. To handle and maintain such a network, you’d need to hire more people right?  With an It support company, it’s simple to augment your staff.  This shifts the risks and the costs of finding qualified and reliable people to someone else.

Transferability

As your business grows so do your IT needs. Let’s say you open an office on West coast, three thousand miles away.  You could spend a fortune looking for someone to get that office up and running.  However, if your IT support company already has onsite service to 98% of the United States, then you’re already covered.

In this age of specialization, every business should consider finding experts in fields that they rely on, but can’t master on their own.

How to: Learn from Apple’s tax mess

Apple CEO, Tim Cook, was summoned before the US Congress to testify about his company’s tax practices. The American government is particularly interested in the fact that Apple has $105 billion in foreign accounts and only $43 billion in US coffers.

Keeping their money in low-tax havens like Ireland has saved Apple billion in taxes. But what does that mean for you? Well, you could follow suite in this age of globalization. There should be a disclaimer that we’re IT experts, not tax advisers.

However, there are a growing number of companies and law firms that specialize in creating offshore subsidiaries for smaller businesses. While overseas, your money is tax deferred, meaning you don’t pay taxes on it until you retrieve it. Such capital is either held or written off the books to be invested overseas.

Investing if overseas allows companies to buy inventory the sell it wherever they want. The question should then turn to: Is it legal? Maybe. For now, it shall remain firmly in the grey area.

Should Your Business Accept Bitcoins?

You’ve probably heard of bitcoins.  But what are they, really?  It’s hard to explain so let’s watch this video.

watch?v=Y-w7SnQWwVA

There’s an old saying that everything is worth what its purchaser will pay.  Bitcoins are a great example of that.  They first started trading a few cents apiece.  As of May 23rd, 2013 they are trading at $126 to one bitcoin.

So the real question is: should your business accept them?  In my personal opinion, I’m going to have to say no.  Recently in the news, bitcoin exchanges have been shut down .  Also, because the volatile nature of bitcoins, you may end up worrying about the market rate rather than running your business.

On the other hand, most businesses that accept bitcoin see such transactions as a very small percentage of their total revenue.   However, the fact that bitcoins are untraceable currency from the ether (most currencies are) attracts less than upstanding citizens.

How To: Managing your social media with your Mac

When you first start off you’ll want OS X to be working in favor.  Go to the Apple Menu, that’s the symbol in the upper left corner shaped like an apple.  Under System Preferences, click on Mail, Contacts & Calendars.  From there, you can add various e-mails and social media accounts.  Now every time there’s an update your Mac will make a ding and alert you.

That’s freebie.  However, more advance social media efforts require either a dedicated social media employee or a few products.

If you want to manage your LinkedIn, Google+, more all at once then HootSuite might be for you.   There’s a free version that allows you to do things like auto-publish posts. Basically, the service allows you to interact with all your social media accounts all at once from one screen.  Further, if you want to pay $10 a month you can get tracking statistics, learning tools, and vanity URLs just for you.

Should you crave something a little more exclusive to Macs, then you may want to check out Alfred.  Alfred is a way to launch apps without lifting your hands from the keyboard.  It’s a more comprehensive version of Spotlight.  Theme, codify, and exemplify your work flow.  Alfred is a tool that lets you hit hard, hit quick, and hit often without spending a lot of time.

Social media in a nut shell is the ability for one person to connect to a lot of people in various spheres.  In business it serves a dual purpose of maintaining customers and attracting new ones.  The easier it is for you to do that, the quicker you can return to getting down to business.