Downtime Is Extremely Expensive – Can You Actually Afford It?

Computer Network Downtime

Downtime is bad for business.

Whether you agree or not, it’s a fact – just a couple years ago, small businesses with up to 50 million in annual revenue reported that just a single hour of downtime cost them $8,600.

Computer Network Downtime

Why Does Downtime Cost So Much?

The main cost of downtime is not the fix itself, it’s the halt in your business’ productivity. If an IT-related or natural disaster occurs and takes critical systems offline, employees will be unable to complete their tasks, yet your normal business expenses will carry on.

During that time, you incur all the expenses of running a business without the revenue you would usually generate. Even if downtime does not grind everything to a halt, some of your staff will have to divert themselves from their normal work to mitigate the problem – again reducing productivity. Furthermore, while your systems are down, you can’t deliver services or sell products to current and potential new clients.

Not all of the costs associated with downtime have a tangible price tag. The trust of your clients and the reputation of your company are invaluable assets that can erode with prolonged or frequent downtime issues. A diminished reputation can negatively affect your future business opportunities.

Some downtime is inevitable, but much of it can be prevented and mitigated.

What Are The Primary Causes Of Downtime?

  • Power Outage: If your power source fails, that can lead to a long list of complications like servers going down and lost, unsaved data.
  • Cybercrime: Cybercrime has increased in recent years and is still on the rise. All it takes is one employee opening a malicious attachment and your business data could be held hostage.
  • Human Error: Accidentally unplugging key equipment, overloading the system, and improper installations can all cause downtime, but maintaining certain policies and procedures can cut down on human error.
  • Natural Disasters: Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes happen. Having a plan for getting back to business if the unthinkable happens is the fastest way to recover.

What’s The Best Way To Prevent Downtime?

…by stopping it in the first place.

The best way to approach downtime prevention is proactively – you need to keep an eye out for system issues that can spiral into total stoppages. You need to implement backup technologies and best practices to prevent outages. You need to enhance your cybersecurity to protect against cybercrime.

Unfortunately, that’s a lot for you to handle on your own, especially when have other work to see to. That’s why a managed IT services company can be so helpful. They’ll provide 24/7 active monitoring of your systems, business continuity best practices and cybersecurity services that will keep costly downtime at a minimum.

 

Which Cloud Storage is Right For Your Business

Cloud Storage

Don’t Be Confused When It Comes to Cloud Storage Options

Cloud storage helps your employees share and collaborate like never before. Check out these three popular cloud storage solutions to find the one best for you!  

Cloud Storage

Businesses are making the switch from physical servers to cloud storage to increase productivity and streamline file-sharing capabilities. This short review looks at three of the most popular cloud storage options, OneDrive, Dropbox, and Google Drive, comparing their storage capacity, file-sharing capabilities, and pricing.

All three of these cloud storage solutions offer various plans for both personal and business use. OneDrive and Google Drive also have options to bundle cloud storage along with access to online versions of standard office applications. In this review, we will look only at the lower-priced standalone cloud storage business solutions available from OneDrive and Dropbox and the Business and Enterprise solutions from Google Drive that do include access to GSuite applications.

OneDrive from Microsoft

OneDrive has two tiers of dedicated cloud storage. Plan 1 costs $60 a year and gives you 1 TB of cloud storage. You can opt for Plan 2 at $120 per year if your business has five or more users, and you need unlimited storage. OneDrive does not offer per month pricing. There is a 15 GB limit per individual file.

When it comes to collaboration, OneDrive shines. It is easy to access stored files directly from the Microsoft ecosystem of products, or use the built-in search and discovery tools to find the files you need. Share individual files securely with a link and set permissions to prevent unauthorized changes. Plan 2 also comes with upgraded security, including data-loss prevention, to help you to monitor and protect your confidential information.

Dropbox

Businesses with three or more users can choose either the Standard or Advanced business plan from Dropbox. The Standard plan comes with 3 TB of cloud storage and costs $150 a year or $15 monthly. The Advanced plan is $240 a year, or $25 monthly. With a file transfer limit of only 2 GB per file, Dropbox’s Standard plan may not fit your needs, but its Advanced plan does allow up to 100 GB transfers.

Many, but not all, popular business applications are already configured to connect with Dropbox. Users have the option to share files through a secure link or to use Dropbox Spaces to allow other employees access. Administrators can create private groups for members to share their work.

Google Drive

Google Drive offers a Business plan for $12 a month and an Enterprise Plan for $25 a month. Both come with only 1 TB of storage unless you maintain five licenses. Then you receive unlimited storage. The maximum size of an individual file is 5 TB.

Both plans let you share files with links, and admins can set security controls to manage file permissions. The Enterprise plan offers data loss protection and improved security options.

For most businesses, OneDrive makes the most sense. It is already optimized to work with the Microsoft applications you probably already use. The only major drawback is the 15 TB limitation on file transfers, but this restriction won’t affect most businesses.

Quickly Unlock Useful iTunes Store Applications that Are Blocked in Your Country

Unblocking App Store

Unblock Geo-Restricted App Store or iTunes Content in a Few Clicks

Discover how to quickly gain access to geoblocked apps via the App Store or iTunes with a few simple clicks whether you’re on on an iPhone, iPad, Mac or PC.

Unblocking App Store

Apple’s App Store and iTunes apps give you access to thousands of great games, utilities and social connections. But there are thousands more you can never access due to geographic restrictions.

Why Are Certain Apps Blocked?

Location-based restrictions, known as geoblocking, are actions taken by companies or government regulators. They restrict access to content, including App Store apps, based on your location. You can experience these issues on sites such as YouTube or platforms such as Netflix, where certain content is unavailable to certain users, often due to licensing issues or other legal issues.

Geoblocking is usually done by tracking the unique identifiers known as Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Any request you make to a site or app includes your IP address so the pinged computer knows where to send the requested content. IP addresses are allocated to internet service providers (ISPs) to distribute to their customers and reflect the geographic location of the computer, smartphone or another connected device.

Why Unblock Geoblocked Content?

There are many valid reasons for wanting to access geoblocked content. You may be visiting or living in another country and want to connect with content and functionality unique to your country. Maybe you need to access content that is only available via an app that is restricted at your current location. You might want to compare content presented on different versions of an app.

No matter what the reason, geoblocking can cause frustration for those wanting to access something they can’t connect to. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to unlock this content.

How Do I Unlock Geoblocked Content?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to unlocking iTunes and App Store content in another country. No matter which method you use, be sure to cancel any subscriptions to Apple Music, iTunes Match and other apps associated with your Apple ID.

  • On an iPhone or iPad
    • Open Settings > [Your Username]
    • Click on iTunes & App Store
    • Tap on your Apple ID. Authenticate if asked
    • Click on View Apple ID
    • Select Country/Region
    • Select Change Country/Region
    • Choose a new country, click on Next
    • Accept the Terms and Conditions
    • Enter your payment method
  • On a Mac or PC
    • Open iTunes
    • Click on Account > View My Account
    • Sign in using your Apple ID
    • Press Enter or click on View Account
    • On the Account Information page, click on Change Country or Region
    • Click Agree to the terms and conditions
    • Enter a new payment method
    • Click Continue
  • From your Apple ID profile
    • Log on to your Apple ID account profile
    • Scroll to Account
    • Tap on Country/Region
    • Choose your new country or region. Click Continue when asked to confirm your new selection

Does Unblocking Content Allow Access to All Apps?

The method described above only works for free apps available for iOS devices. If you want to access paid apps, you’ll need to enter a payment method — and billing address – for the country

Switching from one country identity to another on iTunes or the App Store is complex, but can be done, by following these steps:

  • Open App Store > Apple ID
  • Click on Sign Out
  • Open Settings/General
  • Click on Language & Region
  • Select Region
  • Select a new country or region and create a new account by finding an app you want to download in the new country
    • Tap on the app. If a screen pops up that the item is not available, click on Change Store
    • Go to the app listing and tap Get > Install
    • Click Create New Apple ID
    • Select the new country or region and complete the Apple ID creation steps
    • Select None under Billing
  • Switching between stores is now possible by signing out of one iTunes or App Store account and signing back in via another

Accessing content in other countries can be critical for many users. With a few taps, you can open up a world of opportunities.

MSP Vs. In-House: The Pros and Cons

Managed Service Providers

What Are the Pros and Cons of an MSP Vs. In-House IT Services?

Many businesses struggle with how to choose an IT services team. Should you hire in-house or go with an MSP? Learn the pros and cons of each option here.

Managed Service Providers

When it comes to IT services — from daily maintenance and cybersecurity, to new installations and troubleshooting — which is better: Hiring an outside managed services provider (MSP) or employing an in-house IT specialist or team?

This question is not a new one. It’s dealt with in many other arenas where outsourcing a specific task is possible — for example: Marketing, bookkeeping, janitorial services, catering, etc.

Part of making a final decision on matters like these is weighing the pros and cons. If your business is considering the hire of an MSP versus the hire of an in-house IT specialist (or team of specialists), consider the following pros and cons to each option below.

In-House IT: Pros and Cons

Pro: On-site availability

Many businesses like having an in-house IT support person (or a team) because it gives them continual, on-site access to IT help when they need it. Of course, this only extends to business hours.

Pro: Possible deeper knowledge of your company’s internal infrastructure

In-house IT service professionals will generally know the ins and outs of your particular business better than outsourced IT services.

Con: High personnel costs

In-house IT teams should be paid a living wage, which often includes perks such as healthcare services and paid vacation and sick leave.

Con: Lack of support if IT specialist is on vacation or sick

Speaking of paid vacation and sick leave, during those times when your IT staff is away, you’ll have no access to IT services, which could put your business efficiency at risk.

Con: Lots of downtimes

On the other hand, when you don’t require the services of your IT team, you’ll still have to pay them, resulting in a continual outflow of money that’s not actually serving your business.

Con: Lower level of expertise

Of course, this all depends on the IT team you’d hire, but it’s generally accepted that most SMBs won’t be able to support continual training for their in-house IT team. Unfortunately, in the IT support world, continual training is absolutely vital.

Managed Services Provider (MSP): Pros and Cons

Pro: Range of payment options

From the get-go, businesses can choose their level of service when it comes to MSPs. If you’re small and just starting out, you can choose a service level that matches your budgets and your needs.

Pro: Scalability

As your business grows, MSPs allow you to scale up to higher levels of service. That way, you’ll actually be paying for the services you use instead of an unchangeable flat rate, no matter how many services you employ.

Pro: Broader skill base

MSPs specialize in IT services — it’s their bread and butter. As a result, they have a vested interest in staying up-to-date with the most advanced IT service practices available at any given time. They are continually learning, training, and expanding their knowledge and capabilities.

Pro: 24/7 availability

Although it’s true that in-house IT services are always available on-site, MSPs offer 24/7 service — you just have to give them a call. In fact, most MSPs will give you a “minimum response time.” That’s the maximum number of minutes you’ll have to wait if you need their services any time of the day or night, 24/7. It’s generally around 10 minutes to an hour at most.

Con: Lack of full control over IT systems

The biggest con of MSPs is that they’re outsourced. That is, they’re located remotely, and as a result, they’re not on-premise wherever you are. In some cases, this could possibly result in less control over IT on your end.

At the same time, however, it’s important to note that many businesses aren’t interested in this control. They simply need reliable IT services to fix problems, provide security, and occasionally install new hardware or software.

MSPs: The Right Choice for Your Business

The scalability, low-cost, provided expertise and a wide array of support offered by managed services providers make them the best choice for nearly all businesses.

From small startups with low budgets to large enterprises that need top-of-the-line security from the best in the business, IT services that are handled by MSPs consistently rate higher and provide more satisfaction to their clients.

If your business is looking to hire a managed services provider, do your research. You’ll want to find a local MSP with expertise in your company’s particular industry. Finally, look for adequate training and certifications in employees and reputable history of satisfied clients.

Are you ready for the New IOS? Here’s How to find out.

IOS 13

Are you excited about all the new iOS 13 features like Swipe to Type and Improved Dark Mode? Before you install, make sure your device is ready for iOS 13.  

So maybe you’re not ready to pounce on a $1,099 iPhone Pro Max. But you do want the new iOS 13 features. It’s time for a major iOS update. But before you hit “update now”, make sure you’re ready for iOS 13 to ensure a smooth update process. Preparing for iOS 13 isn’t complicated. Just follow these simple steps. But first, what’s new in iOS 13?

What’s New in iOS 13?

Haven’t updated to iOS 13 yet? You have some great new iOS 13 features to look forward to like:

  • Dark Mode – With all the discussion about blue light and the sleep-cycle-impact of viewing a device too close to bedtime, Apple recently released dark mode that eliminates the harsh white light on your screen, replacing it with a dark backlight. In addition, many will find reading on a dark background easier and you’ll experience less eye strain in general.
  • Swipe to Type – Apple is finally catching up on this one. This has been a feature on Android for 10 years. But we all know Apple is never one to follow. This feature may take some time to learn but can save time. It allows you to swipe rather than “press” letters to type. But don’t worry, you’ll have options until you’re ready to relearn typing.
  • Updated Apps – You’ll also see some great smaller updates to apps like Reminders, Maps, Photos and more
  • New Voice for Siri – Apple chose Siri’s original voice after extensive testing. People found in calming and reassuring. But it’s time for a change. Now, instead of a computer-generated voice, “Siri” will respond with actual audio from voice actors. Because the voice is now “Human”, you’re less likely to encounter those funny pronunciations that become tell-tale signs that we’re not hearing a human talking. As AI technology advances, we can certainly expect computer-generated voices to get the nuances of human language right. But for now, it seems, human is the way to go.
  • Privacy and Security – Privacy and security continue to be a top concern for Apple. So you’ll see several behind-the-scenes and in the foreground features that make you safer.
  • iPad iOS – For the first time, Apple’s also releasing an iOS specifically for iPad to enhance use. One of the long-awaited features is “slide and split” that will improve your ability to view and work in two web pages or apps with both viewable on the screen at once. Most of us in business who use iPads know how important this feature is and how frustrating and productivity-killing it can be with split screen is either unavailable or doesn’t work well on a device. So this is great news. In addition, they’re adding a full page markup for iPad and more.

Now, on to preparing for iOS 13.

1. Ask: Is My Device Eligible for the iOS 13

The first step to getting ready for iOS 13 is to check to see if your apple device is compatible. And if it isn’t, these new iOS 13 features, in addition to many of the newer capabilities on iPhone X series or the newly released iPhone 11, may finally convince you that it’s time to upgrade to a new model.

In order to enjoy these new updates you’ll need:

  • iPhone 6S, 6S Plus, or later
  • iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini, or later

These came out around 2015. If you have a 6S, etc, this gives us a good idea about which devices will be compatible with future major updates and you may want to consider upgrading in the next year so that you’re ready for the next iOS. Technology changes fast and often you don’t know what you’re missing out on.

2. Delete Apps You Don’t Use

Updating your iOS is a great time to cut the fat. So delete apps you rarely use.

Remember, they’re still yours. And you can download them for free again if you need them later.

Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of junk on your device? Follow the steps to find out what you’re not using.

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Click iPhone storage.
  3. See when you used each application last.
  4. Click on the oldest ones and delete.

3. Make Sure iCloud Backup Is On

Finally, don’t make the mistake of not backing up your phone before an update. You could lose everything, including spreadsheets, files, photos and more.

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Click your name at the top.
  3. Visit iCloud.
  4. Scroll down and make sure it’s “on”.

If it was off, wait several hours to install the update. Ideally, wait 24 hours to be sure. This gives the Cloud an opportunity to backup your device so that when you upgrade everything is there.

IOS 13

Using the Cloud to Boost Business

The Cloud Business

Boost Business with the Cloud

Using the cloud offers a variety of benefits for your business. Find out more about how you can use cloud technology to boost business.  

The Cloud Business

The cloud has grown in popularity among businesses in all industries. However, if you have not already transferred your business’s data and operations to the cloud, you may wonder if this technology is really in your best interest to expend the time and energy you will need to invest in order to implement cloud computing.

Below are some of the ways the cloud can boost business for your company, making it well worth the investment.

1. The cloud saves you money.

Implementing the cloud for your business prevents you from needed to invest in the same expensive infrastructure and programming of a company with in-house operations. This can save your company a significant amount of money over time.
The cloud can also save your company money by eliminating the need for in-house IT personnel. When you make the move to cloud computing, all of the programs and services you use will be maintained by your provider. Thus, you won’t need your own full-time IT staff.

2. The cloud boosts productivity.

The programs and processes you are able to access when you utilize the cloud are often more advanced and efficient than those you could afford on your own. In addition, if you choose the right provider, your programs will also be more reliable and kept up-to-date at all times. This leads to enhanced productivity overall.

3. The cloud improves collaboration.

With the cloud, it is easier to connect with colleagues, share information and work on projects with others. These improvements lead to more collaboration within your company, which in turn improves outcomes.

4. The cloud grows with your company.

One of the best things about cloud computing is its scalability. You pay only for the services you need, making it much more cost-effective. These services can also be scaled up or scaled down easily when your needs change, allowing for easier growth.
Moving your company to the cloud may seem overwhelming at first, but the potential benefits are clear. If you are not already using the cloud, it is time to start exploring this option and considering how it can improve your business. Before making the switch, be sure to investigate different providers so you can find the one that offers the best services at a fair price.

To Lease or Buy a Copier?

Copier Sales and Lease

Should You Buy a Copier or Lease It?

Trying to decide whether to lease a copier or buy a copier? Find out the pros and cons. See when buying or leasing may be the best option for your business.  

Copier Sales and Lease

No single piece of equipment in the office takes more of a beating than the floor-standing copier.

Day in and day out it endures transitions between high heat and frigid office temps, paper jam tug-of-war, lid slamming and endless pieces of paper traveling at lightning speed across its rollers. All of this demanding work takes a toll on the device, giving it an average lifespan of just five years in a busy office.

Eventually, you’ll find yourself needing to find a replacement and the question arises: should you lease or buy a copier? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. These pros and cons will help you make the right choice for you and your business.

Why Buy a Copier?

When you’re playing the long game, buying a copier is usually the less expensive option–when it comes to the cost of the copier. You’ll avoid finance charges and other fees. You’ll also avoid a hard credit check, which may impact your credit score. If you’re a smaller or growing business, you like to keep your credit as clean as possible.

And even if you did have to put it on credit, the printer is yours after you finish paying for it. Some high-quality floor copiers can last up to 10 years, especially if you’re not a high-volume office. So that may be a very good deal.

Okay. So it sounds like buying is the way to go. But wait! There are some cons to consider.

When Buying a Copier Isn’t Your Best Option

Since the dawn of time, technology has never stood still. And the rate of change is only getting faster. A bought printer may have everything you need today. But no one really knows what businesses may need in 10 years. That could put you at a competitive disadvantage against newer companies in the future with the latest technology.

If you needed to resell that printer because you weren’t using it like you thought or needed to free up cash, you might recoup 50% if you sold it immediately, but in 5 years, it would probably cost more for someone to move it than they’d pay for the copier.

Not unlike a car, it’s not going to hold its value.

If your rainy day fund is tapped out and you’d have to put buying a copier on credit, interest charges may make the copier cost a lot more than you think you’re saving by buying over leasing a copier.

Finally, an aging printer will also begin to require more maintenance to keep it running smoothly. And you might find yourself feeling like you have to keep it past its prime to get your money’s worth. That may cost you in employee productivity and lost wages.

Why Lease a Copier?

Leasing a copier does make sense if you need to have clear terms from month-to-month. You know upfront how much you pay each month and for how long. That’s often easier on the budget. If cash flow is tight and you’d have to finance a bought printer anyway, leasing may actually end up saving you money.

When your term ends, you’re not stuck with a printer that may now be outdated or breaking down. You can upgrade when you renew your lease. Or, depending on the lease terms, you may be able to buy the copier at the end of the lease for a minimal cost if it’s still working for you.

A newer copier needs less maintenance and functions more efficiently, increasing workplace productivity and reducing worker frustration around inadequate technology. If the leased copier needs maintenance or stops working entirely, that’s likely the responsibility of the leasing company.

That’s not an emergency expense you have to worry about.

When Leasing a Copier Isn’t Your Best Option

You will pay more for the leased copier than you otherwise would. Those pros of leasing listed above come at a price. It’s important to realize that those are what you’re paying for, not just the copier. In a way leasing is another way to manage risk. Not unlike buying insurance, you’re paying the leasing company to take on what would otherwise be your risk.

Every business has a certain amount of risk they’re comfortable managing and planning for. Leasing a copier may not make sense for you if you’re in a position where you can effectively manage more risk. That copier may last you 15 years or five. You just don’t know because lifespan is so strongly affected by how your office uses it.

Ultimately, deciding whether to lease or buy a copier is a very company-specific decision. So weigh these pros and cons and you’ll make the right choice for your business.

4 Ways IT Outsourcing Helps Your Business

IT Consultants

Do You Know the 4 Ways IT Outsourcing Improves Business Success?

Many small and mid-sized companies underestimate the drawbacks of not having top-tier IT professionals in place. These 4 benefits highlight the need for change.  

IT Consultants

Are a business decision-maker wondering about when the best time to outsource your IT needs? It was yesterday, and you are already late to enjoy the benefits of working with a third-party tech outfit that specializes in IT managed services.

It’s not uncommon for small and mid-sized companies to operate under the assumption that modest IT needs do not warrant creating a budget line-item on their behalf. Some designate an in-house person with seemingly good computer skills to run virus scans and update applications. Other outfits hire a single technology person to handle the responsibility of overseeing their entire network. Both of these policies are inherently flawed for a variety of reasons. After reviewing the following 4 ways IT outsourcing helps your business, you may gain clarity as to why working with a third-party expert is in your best interest.

1: Removes Peripheral Distractions from Profitable Goal Achievement

As upstart organizations begin to grow into mid-level outfits, the visionaries that propelled their success forward are increasingly beset by issues that detract from primary goals. Budget management, contract negotiations, and supply chains are top-tier items that further a company’s profit-enhancing goals. Tackling these items tends to be a good use of time and energy. If industry leaders are also tasked with maintaining and repairing the tools of the trade, essential issues cannot enjoy the laser focus they deserve.

When an organization shuffles computer and network duties to an employee or even a designated in-house tech person, network problems become part of routine oversight. An experienced third-party managed services provider takes proactive measures to maintain and repair your devices and network without you lifting a finger. Your vision drives the organization. That’s why it’s crucial to all of the key stakeholders involved that IT distractions are a non-factor.

2: Improves Network Efficiency and Productivity

Imagine traveling the road of handing off-network duties to an untrained employee or a designated tech person. Now imagine they call in sick during a critical business productivity cycle. Imagine further, they take a two-week vacation. What happens when your network starts to suffer glitches or goes dark altogether? The answer is simple: You lose revenue.

The reality of owning or operating a business in the technology age is that networks never sleep, they don’t call in sick, and they don’t go on vacation. Maximum productivity and efficiency require organizations to have 24-7 managed IT services in place. When you negotiate an ongoing services agreement with an experienced IT contractor, they can conduct remote updates, scans, and effect problem solving anytime your network runs amok. But that will happen a lot less frequently because high-level maintenance is usually part of the outsourcing package. Experienced IT experts deliver the laser focus to systems that help make your organization successful.

3: Reduces Risk of Cyber Threats and Financial Losses

According to reports, more than 317 million pieces of malware were created in 2018 alone. To put that staggering number into perspective, nearly 100 infectious threats were developed daily. Now add that business risk to the fact that companies suffered financial losses above $600 billion in 2018 and that figure upticked by $100 billion from 2014.

Compounding the genuine risk of doing business with technology is that too many small and mid-sized organizations incorrectly assume that cybersecurity breaches are almost exclusively targeted at large corporations with vast assets. The common misconception may be attributed to heavy media coverage of the massive violations suffered by household-name corporations.

While billion-dollar cybertheft makes splashy headlines, the overwhelming majority of cybersecurity thieves targets small and mid-sized outfits. Hackers, who may be sitting in an internet café halfway around the world, search for subpar network defenses and attack. In plain terms, you are the low-hanging fruit ripe for the plucking.

Outsourcing IT security to a third-party provider improves your cyber defenses from among the weakest links to the strong. Having the latest anti-virus, anti-malware, and next-generation cybersecurity protections in place quietly takes you off hacker hit lists. If these nefarious computer thieves are anything, it’s lazy. They’ll move on from your network and attack someone less secure.

4: Keeps Technology on Cutting Edge

An effective business network enhances employee engagement and productivity. If that sounds like a pie-in-the-sky idea about working on computers, consider the alternative.

When emails are slow to download, or that tedious “buffering” icon spins around, employees tend to disengage from work-related tasks. One moment they are plugging along on your company desktop, the next they are checking text messages, and social media posts on their phone. When that happens, employee engagement and productivity is not diminished — it’s non-existent. It may be even more unsettling to know that experts say that it can take more than 20 minutes to get back on track after task disruption. Sadly, that unnecessary loss of productivity could have been avoided by outsourcing your IT needs to a professional.

Ask Smart Questions about Solutions and Technology Expertise to Find a Superior IT Service Provider

IT Budget

Here Are Top Questions to Ask Potential IT Service Providers

Discover the most important questions to ask about products, quality, expertise, competency, security and breadth when selecting an IT service provider.

IT Budget

Business leaders who want to cut operating expenses, improve efficiency and leverage the newest technologies turn to IT service providers. With the right technology partner, a business can see considerable gains in productivity, communication and data security.

Choosing the right IT service provider is an important decision. Here are a few of the questions to ask to help you make the right choice.

How Do We Know If an IT service provider is a Quality Business?

Determining if a business is run well and according to best practices is often a difficult assessment. Here are some things to look for:

  • Staff Size. If you have extensive needs, a large staff with specialized areas is usually better equipped to handle complex clients. However, a smaller company may get lost in the shuffle of a large organization only focused on the largest clients.
  • Technology Partners. IT service providers cannot do everything by themselves. That’s why the best rely on partnership agreements with high-quality tech companies to deliver specialized products and services. Ask for a list of their partners; strong connections to top companies is a good sign.
  • References. If you encounter an IT service provider that refuses to provide references, walk away. Ask for references from clients that are the same size, in the same industry or facing similar challenges as yours.

What Do We Ask to Determine if an IT service provider is Technically Competent?

You rely on your IT service provider to have the technical expertise to address your needs. How can you assess their technical abilities? Ask about the following:

  • Competencies. Certifications and preferred partner status are good indicators of technical quality and where the IT service provider’s strengths are. Especially in small shops, an emphasis and expertise in Linux may mean they’re not as strong at Windows. Use this space to ask about professional development for their staff and their training commitment.
  • Out of Scope. If you are paying a flat rate for managed services, you need to know what’s included and what isn’t. There are plenty of services that could be included in a package, including network security monitoring, ISP troubleshooting, software and firmware upgrades and patching, hardware installation and server upgrades. Be sure to shop around and know what’s covered by your plan and what is either an extra charge or not available.
  • Disaster Recovery. If a natural disaster or hacker attack hits your company, you need a business continuity and disaster recovery plan in place to reduce the damage and impact. It’s a common service for an IT service provider to offer. But you need to know what your IT service provider’s own disaster recovery plan is. If your IT service provider can’t be up and running quickly after a disaster, they are unlikely to be able to help you.
  • Compliance Coverage. More and more businesses face compliance challenges at the federal, state local and industrial level. Foreign entities are also demanding compliance with mandates, often concerning securing and using personal data. Ask your IT service provider about their experience with the compliance requirements, such as HIPAA, GDPR, PCI or FSMA, that your company has. Inquire about a service level agreement (SLA) that guarantees compliance with the mandates you are required to fulfill.
  • Automation. Advances in automation have taken the place of lots of manual tasks. Your IT service provider should be committed to using automation and AI solutions wherever possible, freeing their staff to work on higher-level projects. If they are not using the most cutting-edge technology, how will they advise you on how to leverage new solutions?

Can We Measure the Service Quality of an IT service provider?

Service is critical when choosing an IT service provider. You want a partner that’s attentive, responsive and effective when you have a critical need. Ask the following:

  • Internal vs. Outsourced. Your IT service provider will promise to deliver an extraordinary range of products and solutions. However, it’s important to know who will be doing the work on your account. Ask your potential IT service provider what work is done internally by their employees and what is outsourced (and why).
  • Strategy and Advising. Some IT service providers focus exclusively on selling you technology solutions. Others take a comprehensive approach. You want an IT service provider that can act as a virtual chief information officer, providing help with technology strategy, budgeting and growth that aligns with your present and future business priorities.
  • Scalability. As your company grows, you need solutions that can scale rapidly as new customers, data and technologies emerge. Be sure to ask how scalable an IT service provider’s solutions are, how they will help improve efficiency, how they will reduce costs and how they will reduce workload.

Thoughtful questions asked consistently of each potential IT service provider puts your business in the best position to select the right technology partner.

Ready for Disaster? Tips for Creating a Smart Business Continuity Plan

Business Planning

Mitigate Disaster with a Comprehensive Business Continuity Plan

When you create a detailed business continuity plan, you can keep disaster from disrupting your operations. See how to get started here.  

Business Planning

When disaster strikes, disruptions to your operations could negatively impact your construction projects, pushing them past the deadline and over budget. And it is not just natural disasters you have to worry about, either.

Everything from serious IT problems to the loss of important team members has the potential to wipe out your operations. That is, unless you have a smart business continuity plan in place. With this plan, you can keep your operations moving along like normal, helping ensure the success of all your construction projects.

Importance of Having a Business Continuity Plan

In optimal conditions, there’s no doubt everything runs like clockwork, as your team works hard to complete their individual tasks. If anyone fails to come through, however, everything could grind to a halt. Furthermore, without writing it out, only a few in your company may know just what everyone should be working on and how it all comes together.

Therefore, you need a business continuity plan just in case serious disruptions leave you without certain team members, equipment, or workspaces. In many ways, this plan is a big-picture overview of everything that goes on at your construction firm. It also identifies all the workarounds you can use when faced with disruptions caused by different disaster scenarios.

Above all, your plan should detail who is in charge of each department in the absence of key players and all the ways they can keep moving forward in their daily duties. With that approach, you can keep major disruptions from throwing your workforce off track or preventing them from completing their tasks.

How to Create a Continuity Plan for Your Business

Without knowing what is on the horizon, there is really no time to waste in creating your business continuity plan. Thankfully, you can easily approach this process by using the following steps.

Take a Complete Inventory of Your Company

Taking inventory of your workforce, contacts, and equipment is the very first thing you must do to create your plan. You will likely need to take a big step back from your construction company to complete this step.

To start, create a list of all your employees, noting the major players in each department. Add their contact information in full, so you can find how to reach out at a glance. Then, create similar records of your material suppliers, clients, and other important contacts.

Next, you can move onto creating a complete inventory of all the equipment used on each of your job sites. Make sure to include their make, model, and serial numbers, so you can find parts or file claims as needed to keep things moving along. In addition, note any local parts suppliers, repair techs, and equipment dealers for those brands to complete your log.

Outline Existing Processes and Highlight Critical Areas

With the completion of the inventory step, you will need to look at your operations. Go from department to department, look at the duties of each employee and how they support other departments. Along the way, busy yourself with creating flowcharts for all the distinct processes used to run your construction company.

Throughout this process, identify your key operations and the major players you depend on to get the work done. Then, see who can fill in if those individuals cannot make it work. Also, add ways employees can workaround specific disruptions and continue to fulfill their core duties.

Identify Temporary Workstations and Keep Them Updated

If your core employees cannot get to their normal workstations, everything should not grind to a halt. But it will unless you have already identified temporary workstations and made the effort to keep them updated.

The workstations should have all the equipment and software normally used by the team and be completely ready for their use. So, create an update schedule and make sure the temporary workstations are included whenever you complete a major equipment or software upgrade. Furthermore, ensure your employees know about the existence of these workstations and how to access them.

Create Your Plan for Maintaining Critical Operations

With your understanding of your core operations, you can create a plan for each of your employees, helping them mitigate the effects of the disaster. Working across all departments, you will need to indicate who is responsible for getting each system back online and up to their normal operating levels. They should have a clear direction on the steps to take and the tools they will need to complete the assigned tasks.

Your plan should cover not only the construction tasks you are responsible for in that moment, but also all the administrative ones. You need to let your payroll department know how to proceed, for example, to ensure they can continue to process payments for all your employees.

Once you are finished creating your business continuity plan, store the main copy in a secure location and provide each department with their own copies.

Don’t Wait — Create Your Business Continuity Plan Today

So, now that you know what to do, there’s really no reason to wait. Start building your business continuity plan today to protect your operations from disaster. Otherwise, your employees could be left without the knowledge needed to keep your business afloat until everything returns to normal.