Six Advantages to Hiring a Local IT Company

Local IT Services Company

Local IT Services Company

Why You Should Choose a Local IT Services Company

Learn about 6 advantages to hiring a local IT services company to support your technology needs, including knowledge of the local economy and proximity when you need support. 

Having a technology partner that understands your business, its needs and its priorities is vital. Technological advantages can differentiate your company from the competition, improve efficiency and improve the bottom line.

One oft-overlooked criterion when choosing a technology company is its location. You want a technology partner that is close to your business and can be available when you need support, guidance or advice.

Here are 6 reasons why choosing a local IT company is the right decision.

1. Faster Response Times

When there’s an emergency, you need to make sure your company’s networks, devices, software, data and connections are available, working and uncompromised. While technology allows many IT issues to be handled remotely, in an emergency, you may want or need in-person expertise to address the issues.

Geographical proximity is also an advantage if you’d prefer someone come on-site to provide an expert assessment.

2. Local Personnel on Your Account

Having a local account manager overseeing your account is a tremendous asset. Having an account manager and other lead staff members locally allows for more physical interactions that allow for better working relationships, strategy development and a stronger long-term relationship.

3. Knowledge of Local Business Market and Climate

By choosing a local organization to support your IT, you’re partnering with a fellow member of your local business community. A local IT services provider knows the makeup of businesses in your area, the strengths and challenges of working in your community and the opportunities available due to location. If your business is in an industry that has many companies working in the same geographical area, your local IT support partner will know about the industry standards and expectations. The local IT company also will be aware of the technology infrastructure available, such as access to the Internet and Internet speed. Armed with that knowledge of the local business scene, your MSP can recommend customized solutions that fully leverage the local characteristics in which you do business.

4. Budget Advantages

Having a local It services provider can save you money. For one, you will not incur large travel costs; usually, the clock starts on onsite service time charges as soon as a tech steps out of the building. Having a long-distance MSP means more downtime for your business while waiting for a technician or consultant to arrive.

5. Same Time Zone

Having a local IT company in the same time zone as your company has an advantage. While ideally, you will partner with an MSP that provides 24-hour support, it’s more convenient to have a partner that has more staff working and available during the same work hours your business is operating. That can make a big difference in terms of responsiveness and resolution time.

6. Peace of Mind

A local IT services company makes life easier on so many levels. With a business partner you can contact easily, can respond to your needs faster, understands your local economy and technical infrastructure and is a member of the same community, you will have more peace of mind. A local MSP provides more reliability and availability when you need it most.

Having a local IT services company as your strategic technology partner is a smart choice.

Everything You Need to Know About the Dark Web

The Dark Web

The Dark Web

What Is the Dark Web and How Can You Stay Off It?

Ever heard of the dark web? It’s definitely not a place you want your company’s information to be. Learn everything you need to know about the dark web here.  

Most people have heard about the dark web in one form or another. It’s a place where criminal activity happens — from the purchase of illegal drugs to the hiring of assassins.

Of course, there is a legal side to the dark web as well; though, most people don’t know about. In fact, the origin story of the dark web is entirely legitimate and is even linked to the government.

Still, as a business owner or CEO, your relationship with the dark web (should you unfortunately have one) will not likely be good. It’s a bad sign if any of your information is found there. That’s why it’s important to know about what exactly the dark web is: Where it came from, what’s on it, and what you should do to stay as far away from it as possible.

What Is the Dark Web?

The dark web is essentially one “section” of the Internet. Specifically, it’s a section that isn’t included in mainstream search engines like Google. So, when you search a normal search inquiry, such as, “Where’s the best hamburger joint in downtown Pittsburgh?” you don’t get results from the dark web.

Instead, this section includes all sorts of illicit goings-on. Mostly, it’s a marketplace for things you shouldn’t be buying because they’re illegal to sell and/or buy. For instance, you can buy lifelong access to Netflix for a small price (six bucks). You can hire someone to hack into someone else’s computer for you and download their data or track their keystrokes. You can purchase credit card credentials. You can obtain prepaid debit card numbers and security codes.

How Does One Access the Dark Web?

We’ll reiterate again that the dark web is not a place you want to find yourself (or your information). However, for the sake of knowledge, we’ll explain that in order to access the dark web, you must download what’s called the Tor browser.

Tor stands for The Onion Router. This is basically the software that makes the dark web operate in the dark.

Where Did the Dark Web Originate?

The dark web began in the late 1990s as a way for the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to better hide their online communications. At this time, The Onion Router or Tor was brand-new.

Soon after its initial creation in 2004, the dark web’s Tor software was released for public use. Since that time, it has ceased to be solely a government resource and has turned into the “back alley” of the Internet.

How Can the Dark Web Affect Business Owners?

The dark web is a potential danger to all businesses of all sizes and in all industries. In fact, it can be a potential danger to individuals as well. But let’s talk about your business and the dark web.

Basically, it has been found that 60% of the web listings on the dark web could harm a business. That’s because, these listings offer individuals searching the dark web ways to obtain things like the following:

  • Customer data
  • Tips for hacking computers
  • Tips for hacking networks
  • Malware
  • Financial data
  • Phishing advice
  • Operational data
  • Intellectual trade secrets
  • Tutorials for cyber crime
  • Remote access Trojans (RATs)
  • Espionage services
  • Credentials access

How Can You Keep Your Business Safe From the Dark Web?

The best way to keep your business safe from the dark web is to have the proper cybersecurity measures in place. This means hiring a cybersecurity team or a managed service provider (MSP) to handle your company’s cybersecurity. Even if you’re a small business, hiring an MSP to have on retainer is a good idea.

They will make sure that you have firewalls and other detectors of malware in place for adequate security. It’s also essential to back up your data and to make everyone who works for or with your company aware of how to avoid phishing attempts.

Lastly, your cybersecurity team should be monitoring the dark web to make sure that none of your information lands there. This goes for personal information for you and your employees, as well as overall company information. Taking these measures is the only surefire way to ensure that your company does not end up on the wrong end of the dark web.

5 Incredible Benefits of Effective Managed IT Services

Business Meeting Talking About Managed IT Services

Business Meeting Talking About Managed IT Services

5 Incredible Benefits of Effective Managed IT Services

Managed IT services are one of the many ways an organization can choose to handle their IT needs. With managed IT services, a third-party handles the entirety of the tasks and responsibilities regarding managing IT and keeping the company running. The difference between this and many traditional third-party services is that it’s provided for a set cost. Instead of having access to an hourly consultant rate, you’ll be paying a flat rate monthly (or annually) in exchange for total coverage.

Every arrangement is slightly different and must be outlined very clearly in the Service Level Agreement (also known as the SLA). This document will arrange not only the cost structure, but also the exact services that are included in the partnership, and the metrics that are used to define success or failure.

There are many reasons that companies elect to go with managed IT services to handle their day-to-day needs. Here are five of the most compelling reasons:

1. Provides Total Alignment Between Both Parties

In a managed services agreement, both parties are aligned for maximum efficiency and performance. Since it’s not an hourly rate, the third-party is incentivized to handle your IT in an efficient and effective manner. Otherwise, they have to spend more time and manpower resolving your issues, which brings down their effective hourly rate.

Additionally, if they don’t live up to the metrics set forth by the SLA, they may be liable for penalties or even complete termination of the contract. In this way, it’s in both companies interest to do the very best job possible.

2. Focuses on Being Proactive versus Reactive

If you’re paying by the hour, the services you’ll receive are going to be reactive. When your company notices an issue, they’ll reach out to the third-party to help fix it. Managed services provide proactive support. Since they’re working for you no matter if there’s a problem or not, much of their time is spent preventing problems in the first place. This results in much smoother daily operations and the avoidance of problems that could potentially hurt your businesses but would be unavoidable with another type of arrangement.

3. Contains Simple Cost Structure

The simple cost structure of managed IT services will be much appreciated by your accounting department and whoever is setting the budget. Instead of seeing costs vary wildly by the amount of support required in a particular month, the amount will be a flat fee. You’ll also likely save a great deal of money versus hiring a fully functional team in-house since you won’t need to pay for things like recruiting, onboarding, benefits, and continued training.

4. Makes Projects Easier to Manage

When you need to roll out a brand-new technology or simply update an existing one, it can take a great deal of time and resources. This is especially true if the third-party isn’t used to the way your business operates each day and has to fit the entire roll out into a small window of time. If you have continuous support, however, it’s a much more manageable process. They can work on the project when they have a spare moment in the day. Since they’re fully integrated into your day-to-day processes, they’ll have a much better idea of how to implement a new system from end-to-end, including training and providing post-launch support.

5. Offers Access to True Experts

Unless you’re a massive organization, it’s unlikely that you can afford to recruit, train, and maintain the very best in the IT field. With an agreement with a top-notch IT firm, you gain access to experience and perspectives that you would be unlikely to otherwise access. These talented professionals will be able to help you with all of your IT needs, from daily maintenance to improving upon your existing systems and processes.

Managed IT services are only one of the many ways that a company can choose to handle its IT needs. However, it offers many advantages over some of the other options, including handling IT in-house and going with an hourly consultant-based fee schedule. If you believe that your business could benefit from controlled costs, improved support, and access to an incredible variety of IT talent, managed IT services might be the best option for your business.

What Is Network Segmentation?

Email User On Segmented Network

What Is Network Segmentation?

Businesses that offer WiFi to their customers or have sensitive data needs should consider network segmentation as a necessary component of their IT solution.

Email User On Segmented Network

With network segmentation, your wireless services are separated into different parts, allowing you to better control access and data flow.

Network segmentation splits your wireless services into different segments or subnetworks. By establishing separate networks, you significantly reduce your company’s security risks.

Instead of putting all your corporate and guest traffic on the same WiFi network, segment the activity to keep sensitive data apart from visitors, reduce risk.

Why?

When devices are connected to the same network, by default they can “talk” to other devices on the same network. That increases the potential for devices to listen to network traffic without any rules or monitoring in place.

The risk is lower if all the devices on your network are trusted and managed by your company. However, you could have a problem when less trustworthy devices are connected, such as guest and visitor smartphones, legacy computers and servers, or employee personal devices.

How Does Network Segmentation Work?

Network segments are designed with their own hardware and only allow credentialed users to access the services. Rules are built into network configurations to determine how devices on subnetworks can connect with each other.

Network segmentation limits the impact if there is a system intrusion by containing the threat within a subnetwork.

What Does a Typical Segmented Network Look Like?

For many small- and medium-sized businesses, there is only a need for a simple, two-subnetwork structure. A corporate subnetwork would be used for company-owned and -managed devices, providing access to the internal company subnetwork and, through a firewall, to the internet.

A guest subnetwork would be built to provide access to the internet only, also through a firewall. It keeps those guest devices disconnected from the corporate subnetwork from the start. Employee-owned devices can also be connected to a guest subnetwork.

Your business, whether it’s a medical practice, retail operation, auto dealership or professional services firm, may want visitors and guests to have WiFi access. It’s an appreciated service for those who need connectivity and do not want to use up their allotted data. If that service is the expectation or norm, you want to make sure it’s done carefully.

What Are the Security Benefits of Network Segmentation?

Security is the primary reason to choose network segmentation. The benefits are considerable

  • Stronger Security Standards. Segmentation allows you to better protect your most sensitive data. With layers of separation among your segmented networks, you’re putting up additional barriers to all users — whether well-intended or not.
  • Slowed Access for Attackers. If there is a breach to one segment of your network, it will be more difficult and take more time for the attacker to reach other parts of your system.
  • Minimized Threat from Outside Devices. Outside devices may have been hacked for the sole purpose of accessing corporate networks when connected. Often hackers install programs that lie dormant until connected to a wireless network. If compromised guest devices are contained within a subnetwork, the impact is minimal.
  • Better Policy Development. Strong network segmentation means your company can better restrict user access. Using a policy of least privilege lets you limit user access to files and systems to only what’s necessary.
  • Limited Damage. Network segmentation lets you reduce any damage inflicted by successful attacks. A breach to a single device within a subnetwork will mean less time and money to repair the damage of a widespread, system-wide assault.
  • Improved Performance. An added benefit of having segmented networks are the performance gains. With fewer devices on each subnetwork, local traffic is minimized and broadcast traffic can be isolated and prioritized.

What’s Needed to Start Network Segmentation?

If your internal IT staff does not have experience with network configuration, it’s a smart move to work with a local managed services provider to complete the project. Your business should do the following in preparation for a segmentation project:

  • Identify your network and data security needs, including the sensitivity of data you use and the business impact of compromised data and system downtime
  • Know where the data you want to keep safe is stored and how they could be separated
  • Determine who needs access to information on your network and limit access to only what is necessary by department or role
  • Identify those who will be responsible for monitoring and maintaining your network. A managed IT services company can do both remotely with net-generation firewall solutions

Network segmentation is a strategic move to keep data protected and accessible only by those who need it.

Small Business Owner? How to Choose Tech Support

Computer Engineer Helping Small Business Owner

Computer Engineer Helping Small Business Owner

Small Business Owner? How to Choose Tech Support

It is an unfortunate truth that many small businesses assume they don’t need to outsource their IT needs to a professional IT company.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, small businesses desperately need IT support — often, because they won’t have the resources to staff an in-house IT department.

Fortunately, IT companies generally offer support contracts that can work in a small business’s favor. Your company will be able to choose the level of support you specifically need. If you only require IT services occasionally, for troubleshooting network problems or setting up new software, for example, you can choose a low-level contract that won’t cost much. If you’re looking for more comprehensive coverage, you can always scale up.

Here are some other important tips to consider when choosing tech support for your small business.

Consider what type of fee structure you prefer.

IT companies generally offer two different types of fee structures:

  • A flat fee due monthly, biannually, or annually
  • A pay-as-you-go structure

Every business is different, but it is possible (and maybe even likely) that your small business won’t benefit from a flat fee payment structure.

This is because you may not actually end up needing the extent of services that a flat fee structure is best for. Larger businesses, certainly, will need to contact and get help from their IT company regularly every week or month. In fact, these companies often have in-house IT. But If your small business only uses IT minimally (for example, just for your website or for inventory ordering, etc.), you won’t use enough of your support package, and paying the flat-rate fee will get expensive.

On the other hand, we must note that niche industries may require a lot of IT tech support — even if your business is small. If this is the case for you, a flat rate monthly or biannual fee could be beneficial.

Look for IT companies who’ve been in the industry a while.

Brand-new IT companies often nab customers by claiming to know the latest trends in IT and how to best handle the most recent wave of cyberattacks. While these are both areas to be concerned about, as a local business or one that’s just starting out, these benefits (if they are actually true in the first place) may not be particularly beneficial to you.

As a small business, you basically want reliable IT support for basic security monitoring, troubleshooting, and possible software or hardware recommendations and/or setups. For this reason, it’s important to search for an IT company that is local and has been in the industry for a long period of time. This means they have the experience, which is exactly what you want. Ask the IT companies you are considering to speak with clients they’ve worked with for a long time so that you can get a handle on the kind of support you’ll be receiving from them.

Find an IT company that can help you grow.

Most small businesses are looking for ways to grow. If this is the case for your business, you should start looking for an IT company who can scale up your services when you eventually need them.

We’ve already stated the importance of having several payment options when it comes to your service level needs. This also comes in handy as you look toward the future of your business. While now, you may prefer a pay-as-you-go structure, you should work with an IT company who offers bigger, broader, flat-rate packages too. The extent of their services should also run the gamut.

With this in mind, also remember that an enormous IT company who won’t be able to provide personalized support to your niche industry isn’t generally recommended. The potential for scalability down the line is key here.

While you may assume that larger businesses are the ones who need all the major tech support, small businesses require IT expertise as well. It’s true that your IT needs may not currently match that of a mid- or large-size enterprise, but investing in the hire of an IT company will surely boost your business’s success as you grow and expand.

Use the simple tips above to locate the optimal IT company for your small business. We’re positive you’ll see the benefits of a good hire right away.

Old School Meetings Revisited

Microsoft Teams

You know running a successful business requires much more than just offering a great product or service. It takes constant engagement and collaboration of all of your employees to produce the best results, and it takes your best effort to remain competitive in a crowded marketplace. Collaboration between employees used to mean lots of daily and weekly meetings. Those long hours stuck in the meeting room often wind up taking a toll on productivity, and this loss of productivity is quite often negatively reflected in a company’s bottom line.

Microsoft Teams

The good news is that modern technology now provides an alternative to the traditional meeting: Online meetings. Conducting meetings online not only saves employees travel time and the expense of attending a meeting in person, but quality online meeting software provides the tools that make hosting a meeting more convenient and more efficient than ever before.

Many companies used to avoid online meetings because they were complicated to set up, time-consuming to maintain, riddled with technical problems, and expensive to purchase. But now there are no more excuses. Microsoft offers businesses of any size a quick, powerful, and inexpensive way to streamline meetings: Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Teams Rooms.

What is Microsoft Teams and What is Microsoft Team Rooms?

Microsoft Teams is an ideal way to keep everyone who works at your company, as well as your partners and shareholders, in the loop and working in concert. Microsoft Teams is a suite of communication tools, including web-based, allow employees access to secure and private chat, file sharing, critical business apps, and the video meeting software, Team Rooms. Microsoft Team Rooms eliminates many of the hassles and time-sucking aspects of face-to-face meetings while still allowing them to be productive.

Whether you are having a 1-to-1 meeting or hosting a webinar for hundreds of people, Microsoft Team Rooms goes beyond many of the standalone online meeting solutions to give you the features which really matter to you. A few of these standout functions are easy scheduling, one-click joining, automated note-taking, extensive whiteboarding tools, along with the ability uploading files and share desktop screens. The best part is that Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Team Rooms is part of the Office 365 subscription you probably already use!

How Can Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Team Rooms Help to Make Your Next Meeting Better?

When it comes to hosting a productive meeting, you need a system that you can depend on no matter what. Microsoft Team Rooms has you covered by:

  • Offering a single platform accessible through desktop computers, mobile devices, and dedicated video conferencing systems. Whether your meeting attendees are at your home office, in the field or even at home, accessing Microsoft Team Rooms is a breeze. Everyone will be able to participate fully using one seamless and secure application.
  • Securing your data. As part of the Office 365 suite of applications, Microsoft Team Rooms reduces the security risk of transmitting your private data using another video conferencing solution. Microsoft is dedicated to protecting your information.
  • Making administration and maintenance a snap. Even if you have a dedicated in-house IT department, you want it to concentrate on running your business, not your video conferencing software. Setting up Microsoft Team Rooms is intuitive, and if your employees ever run into problems, assistance is always available.
  • Providing almost infinite scalability. Do you host a variety of meetings from small groups to large webinars? You don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on dedicated video conferencing equipment, use any smart monitor or computer-attached screen. Do you have a lot of new hires? They can immediately access Microsoft Team Rooms meetings with their Office 365 account through their computer!
  • Supporting post-meeting follow-ups. Since Microsoft Team Rooms is part of the Office 365 suite of applications, if you choose, your employees will continue to have access to notes and files after the meeting. This accessibility makes it a snap for your employees to work together and reduces the amount of time it takes to complete a project.

With the quality tools you need to host an online meeting, the collaborative tools you need for your employees to be productive, and a price point you can’t believe, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Team Rooms are a comprehensive online meeting solution.

Which Office 365 Plan Works Best for Your Organization?

Microsoft Office 365 Plans

Microsoft Office products have become ubiquitous throughout a range of industries, and there are more choices than ever before to find the suite of professional office software tools you need to run your business effectively.

While you can still find Office products available for a single licensing fee (Office 2019, for example), most businesses are turning to Office 365 as a subscription software solution that offers a range of powerful tools, including cloud storage and seamless sharing integration across devices.

Microsoft Office 365 Plans

But if you’re ready to move forward with a subscription-based Office 365 solution, you’ve still got to narrow it down for the right product. Will your business benefit from the Business or Enterprise option? If you choose Enterprise, which level makes the most sense for your organization? Read on for a breakdown on how to choose the best Office 365 product for your team [OPTIONAL CTA] and feel free to reach out to us at any time for support or guidance in making the transition to Office 365.

Choosing Between Office 2019 and Office 365

The key distinction between Office 2019 and Office 365 is connectivity. Office 2019 is different in the way you purchase and use it, but more importantly, it does not offer any of the cloud-connected features of Office 365. For businesses wishing to utilize the power of cloud storage as well as greater choice in terms of features and connectivity, the subscription-based Office 365 is the way to go.

Business vs. Enterprise

If you operate a small business, you can find several Office 365 Business options that provide licenses at a set rate per user for up to 300 users. Select either basic plans that focus on cloud storage solutions to more advanced options that also include desktop access to products like Microsoft Word and Excel, as well as cloud collaboration system, SharePoint. Opting for Office 365 Business is a good move if you’re keeping an eye on your budget, but still want to access many of the staple features that Office has developed over several decades. To take full advantage of the cloud tools, larger businesses will want to opt for Office 365 Enterprise options, which offer unlimited data storage, including archive and mail storage. Enterprise plans also allow for greater interaction and collaboration across platforms like SharePoint, which is another bonus for larger companies with employees in multiple sites.

Which Enterprise Level is Right for Your Business?

If you run a larger business, or have a small business with high data storage needs, then choosing Office 365 Enterprise is probably the right choice. Microsoft currently offers 3 levels of service: E1, E3 and E5.

The first level, E1, offers basic office tools, including Word, Excel, and SharePoint, at a reasonable monthly rate. E3 includes these tools as well as additional connectivity–and the protection to go with it. Data loss prevention and encryption are among several tools that Office 365 customers at the E3 level will be able to take advantage of. To consolidate your entire suite of digital solutions into one overarching tool, the E5 level of Office 365 Enterprise includes advanced protection for your company’s data, plus communication tools and video conferencing platform options to best accommodate larger business and keep them in compliance.

As you find the right next move for your organization, feel free to reach out to {company} today to assess your needs and the potential solutions that today’s Office products can provide.

What Is Managed IT Services & Who Provides Services

Managed IT Services

As managed IT services have grown in popularity, you’ve probably heard the concept touted often as the answer to your business’s IT woes. Still, there can be plenty of mystery on the topic. What is managed IT services, exactly? How do organizations integrate managed IT services into their existing business and workflows? Also, who provides these services? In today’s business blog we’ll answer these questions and more.

What Is Managed IT Services Exactly?

Managed IT services is a broad term describing any scenario in which a company (that’s you) partners with a vendor, called a managed service provider (or MSP), to handle some or all IT responsibilities for the company.

The exact services that MPSs offer range pretty widely. Companies, too, vary widely in terms of their IT infrastructure and needs, as well as exactly which IT responsibilities they choose to outsource to an MSP. Some firms may contract with an MSP to handle absolutely everything about their IT infrastructure. More commonly, companies will outsource only certain portions of their IT workload.

It’s a little easier to understand the concept of managed IT services by looking at some examples of how they are currently being used in several types of organizations.

How Do Organizations Utilize Managed IT Services?

Businesses implement managed IT services in a whole host of ways. Here are a few examples.

Some companies look to a managed service provider to handle all or nearly all its IT needs. Growing small businesses, for example, may not have much (or any) in-house IT presence. They need capabilities that they don’t have, and they find it simpler and more affordable to contract with an MSP than to build out their own in-house IT team.

On the other end of the spectrum, a medium or large business with an established in-house IT team might look to a managed service provider to alleviate some stress on that team. A larger firm might outsource helpdesk-level support, for example. In doing so, the company would empower its in-house team. Free from the distractions of troubleshooting workstations and managing software installs, the in-house IT specialists can focus their attention on the higher-level tasks they were hired to do.

Businesses of any size can also look to an MSP to fill a specialized need. Some areas of IT have unpredictable costs, and others are simply cost-prohibitive for many smaller businesses to build on their own. Some areas can be difficult to hire for, too. Examples of specialized needs that can be met through managed IT services include cyber security, information security and compliance, and cloud services.

What Are Reasons to Choose a Managed Service Provider (MSP)?

Businesses who have embraced the managed IT services model do so for a wide variety of reasons. Some are unique to specific industries, but many are universal. Here are a few reasons it likely makes sense for your business to choose a managed service provider for your managed IT services needs.

Scaling for Growth

Scaling your IT infrastructure has real costs when you do it in house. You need additional equipment, additional floor space to house the equipment, and additional personnel to install, run, and monitor the equipment. Managed service providers, on the other hand, already have the equipment. They’re running servers for dozens of businesses, so they have automatic capacity when you need more. They can leverage the economy of scale in a way you can’t.

Growth isn’t just measured in headcount, either. Device count continues to increase, too. Employees expect to be able to interact with systems using their work computer, laptop, tablet, and phone—both on site and off. Your in-house team doesn’t have the time to support all these device issues. A managed service provider does.

The Talent Gap Is Real

If you have an in-house team, are you having trouble keeping it fully staffed with well qualified people? You’re not alone. One reason is that the US has reached full employment, making domestic hiring more difficult than ever before.

Another more serious reason is the digital talent gap. In 2017 (that’s before we reached full employment), 54% of companies were having difficulty finding workers with the right digital skills. It’s not gotten better.

Fill your business’s talent gap by partnering with an MSP. The right MSP will have the specialties you’re missing and will be able to work in harmony with your in-house team.

IT Managed Services

Who Provides Managed IT Services?

If your business is looking into working with a managed service provider, you may be asking who provides managed IT services. The good news is you have plenty of options. There are quite a few local providers offering managed IT services in every metropolitan area, and there are a few global players as well. We’ll get to that distinction, but first, a word on services offered and specialization.

Services Offered and Specialization

The first question businesses should ask is whether an MSP offers the services they need. Not every MSP has exactly the same offerings or experience, so don’t be afraid to ask pointed questions. Don’t just ask whether they offer a given service; ask how many clients they’ve served with it.

Some industries, like healthcare or finance, have developed specialized IT needs. Accordingly, some MSPs specialize in specific industries or technologies. In short, look for niche players if you’re in a niche industry.

Local vs. Global MSPs

Choosing a local firm means getting local, boots-on-the-ground support. The best local firms offer a wide spectrum of services, including extended hours, and have the infrastructure and personnel depth you need. You’ll get individualized attention and you’ll support your local economy.

Choosing a global firm like Amazon’s AWS gives you access to more raw power and, often, innovative technology others can’t match. Customer service, on the other hand, can be a bit impersonal, and fixing on-site problems can take time.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a quality local managed services provider, we’re here for you. Contact us today to get started.

What Can A Business Impact Analysis Do For Your Organization?

Business Impact Analysis

Business Impact Analysis

When a company functions at a high level, productivity and profitability appear seamless. But it’s also incumbent on decision-makers to understand the potential ramifications for business disruption. Without a working knowledge of how a breakdown in one area of an operation impacts the other moving parts, viable solutions remain out of reach. Determined industry leaders take proactive measures to conduct a business impact analysis (BIA), so they are prepared for adversity.

Importance of a BIA

One of the primary reasons that some organizations fail to conduct the initial and subsequent BIAs is that it seems abstract. It’s common for CEOs and other decision-makers to have earned their position through experience and expertise. That offers a sense of confidence they can captain the ship during a crisis. A decade or two ago, that may have been sound thinking. However, today’s technology-driven companies are far removed from nuts and bolts fixes.

Data loss, hackers, malware infiltration, or just lost connectivity between departments can down an outfit’s productivity. Such realities create a burden to have multi-level solutions available that often are outside a CEOs area of expertise. Business leaders are wise to tap department heads to review likely and even unlikely vulnerabilities and develop a contingency plan for as many critical interruptions as imaginable. Consider this pair of foundation ideas in terms of your operation.

  • Idea 1: Your company functions like a living organism with each system relying on the others for its health and vitality.
  • Idea 2: Certain parts of the whole are more crucial to survival and long-term success. These areas require heightened resources.

With this anatomy analogy in mind, consider your operation with the perspective that specific departments and systems are vital. If the heart, brain, or lungs of your operation shut down, so does the entire company. Stubbing your toe, on the other hand, may only slow things. The point is that certain aspects of any business are critical, while others are support.

Once department heads are tapped to conduct a BIA due diligence and submit a report, leadership is tasked with understanding how all the moving parts work. With this in mind, first-run BIAs generally require interdepartmental meetings or communication to ensure key stakeholders are on the same page.

Motivation for Conducting BIA Due Diligence

Having the support and blessing of the leadership team remains critical to a thorough BIA. When such stakeholders view this as just an additional duty impeding their daily, profit-driving work, potential challenges are unlikely to get the due diligence necessary for improved success when a crisis occurs. Before moving forward, direct communication and articulation of why thoroughness is a priority must be established. Clarifying the following benefits of a BIA early in the process may improve team motivation.

  • BIA delivers management with vital data to make real-time decisions to ensure business continuity
  • BIA delivers insight about interdepartmental reliance
  • BIA provides a playbook for employee roles in critical situations
  • Identifies company-wide priorities for sustaining operations during crisis
  • Provides a tangible road map to restore full operations

At the end of the day, the BIA removes the fear of the unknown and puts guidance in its place. That offers otherwise panicking employees the confidence their jobs are secure and empowers them to work through adversity.

Working through the Tedious BIA Process

Getting leadership and rank-and-file employees on board to undertake a BIA is not a difficult sell. The bottom line for everyday workers is that it provides a rare level of job security. Infusing that positive attitude will likely go a long way toward working through the sometimes tedious information collection process. For each department or aspect of the company, data collection is necessary.

  • Lead function of a process or department
  • Detailed analysis of department function and processes
  • Disruption analysis and timetable regarding increased impact
  • Identify interdepartmental disruption
  • Analysis of the financial, legal and regulatory impact of disruption

With a detailed report, departmental leaders garner an enhanced understanding of impacts across the organization. Each department head can identify likely and unlikely disruptions and craft realistic solutions or ways to bridge crisis. This information can be compiled and shared with the goal of building a final report.

Value of a Comprehensive BIA Report

The final report moves beyond the data collection and single department solutions. The concept is to deliver a company-wide plan of action. It generally proves beneficial to make a hardcopy or online report that articulates reasoning, goals, strategies and empowers employees during duress. These are headings often found in a comprehensive BIA report.

  • Executive Summary
  • Analytic Methods Used
  • Potential Department or Function Disruption
  • Impact of Disruption
  • Protocols to Mitigate Disruption
  • Guidance for Organization Restoration

CEOs and other decision-makers generally enjoy enhanced confidence in their leadership abilities following a comprehensive BIA. It’s also imperative to set a schedule for BIA updates and create a policy that requires emerging technologies, business developments, and other evolutions to be included in the report. In many ways, a BIA gives everyone in your organization security.

Size Doesn’t Matter: 7 Ways Small Businesses Should Think Big

Small Business Tips

Small Business Tips

You may be a small business, but there’s no reason you have to think or act small. Today’s technology innovations offer small businesses all sorts of powerful tools that just a decade ago weren’t available or were only affordable to large firms. Technology can help small businesses think like big ones in all sorts of ways. Here are 7 ways small businesses should start thinking bigger.

1. Embrace the Cloud

There are numerous cloud-based technologies that can help your small business punch above its weight. By embracing the cloud, you can save money, improve your staff’s productivity, and expand or contract IT operations far easier than you could without the cloud.

Entrust things like email and calendar hosting, file storage, and video chat to cloud-based software and infrastructure solutions. Most small businesses will pay less for a cloud solution than they would to purchase and maintain servers and software. This is due to the economy of scale: your cloud provider is operating at a very large scale, so the cost of adding just a bit more server space is negligible. Without cloud services, your small business shoulders all the unique setup and maintenance costs all your own.

2. Improve Your Website

Sometimes the difference between a successful small business and a failing one is as simple as the quality of their website. Your website is your digital storefront, but it’s also your digital billboard, white pages, classified ad, and more. If it looks terrible or doesn’t function well, you’re sending a poor message to your customers and prospective customers.

If revamping your website is more than your business can do well in-house, consider contracting with a vendor for this crucial task. Many managed service providers offer this service or can contract with qualified vendors who do.

3. Leverage Social

Your business needs a social presence, even if it’s small. This is true of all small businesses, but the smaller your business, the more important grassroots tools like social become. Share content regularly (including photos and videos) and encourage your most loyal customers to do the same.

As your brand’s social presence grows, it’s important to keep an eye on your reputation. What are people saying publicly about you? Is there anything you need to intervene on? Social can be a great avenue to see what challenges your customers are facing.

4. Use CRM Software

Customer resource management (CRM) software is the way big businesses keep in contact with customers in an organized fashion. CRM software isn’t limited to large firms, though. Affordable cloud-based options that work well with small business are available.

5. Big Data Isn’t Everything

Big data helps big companies win, right? That’s what we’re always hearing, and there’s truth to it. That said, we’ve all seen plenty of examples of big data leading companies astray, like “targeted ads” that miss completely or hyper-local campaigns that come off as fake or out-of-touch.

As a small business, you have access to something big businesses don’t: real, interpersonal data. Call it “small data” if you like. You likely know your customers much better than large firms do. Write down the things you learn. Better, input that information into your CRM software. You have the ability to send more personal notes than your large, faceless competitors. Capitalize on this.

6. Plan to Plan

You have a business plan in place, but as you grow, does your business plan grow with you? Your small business runs the risk of losing focus as it grows. Employees and leadership get so focused on daily tasks that they don’t keep their eyes on the overall plan. In other cases the overall plan becomes outdated and less applicable. Schedule time each year to review your business plan and goals, just like the big guys do.

7. Don’t Go It Alone

Lastly and most importantly, don’t go it alone as a small business. Your business is unique, set apart by some feature, product, or ethos that your competitors don’t have. Focus as much of your energy as possible on that thing, on your core competencies. As much as possible, divest yourself from other things.

One of those other things, for most businesses, is IT. Partnering with a managed service provider (MSP) to implement and support your IT infrastructure can save you money and increase productivity. You’ll also gain access to a deeper bench of IT professionals than you could afford to keep in house. If you’re ready to explore what we can do as your MSP, contact us today.