5 Ridiculous Ways Technology Transforms Your Industry

Technology Transformation

Incredible Ways Technology Has Changed How We Do Business

How has technology transformed your industry? Explore 5 important ways technology has recently changed how we do business, delight customers and grow businesses  

Technology Transformation

It doesn’t matter which industry we’re in. Technology is a must. It makes things faster, safer and better when used right. It can propel our businesses and leave competitors in the dust. But many businesses are simply unaware of what’s out there and just how accessible it is to any size business. Here are five incredible types of technology that are completely reshaping how we do business.

1. Big Data Revolutionizes Data-Driven Decisions

As business leaders, we’ve always made decisions based upon the available data. But more recent advancements in data collection and analysis have made it easier and more cost-effective to gather data and put it to work. We can make smarter decisions about the direction of our companies where we once had to rely solely on gut instinct.

We can enhance customer experiences to not only increase sales but to raise that net promoter score, building trust, loyalty and powerful word-of-mouth.

2. We Reach Customers in More-Effective Ways

87% of purchases now begin online. This doesn’t mean they buy online, just that they found the product or service online.

Digital marketing technology is a business technology that has transformed how we connect with customers. We can now more precisely target audiences to enhance the relevance of our ads to specific customer bases.

Thanks to the pay-per-click model, we don’t pay for advertising that doesn’t work. And thanks to optimization tools we continually improve strategies to find what does work.

Digital marketing allows us to reach customers where they find new products and services through:

  • Search engines
  • Social Media
  • Review Websites
  • Influencers

3. Virtual Reality Gives Employees Real-World Training

From healthcare to aviation to manufacturing, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are helping schools and businesses train employees in very lifelike situations. Employers can help employees become more comfortable in likely scenarios by allowing them to experience it in an artificial environment first. They can learn how candidates may perform at their jobs before sending that job offer to get the best people into important roles.

4. Enhanced Business Continuity Tools Reduce Down-time

From more effective ways to keep business and customer data safe to data backup to re-routing of important functions to remote locations, advancements in technology are making it easier for businesses to both avoid disasters (physical and virtual) and keep moving when disaster strikes.

Developing a strategy, deploying tools effectively and putting a plan into action, of course, take know-how, but those involved in business continuity planning now have a wider range of tools for the business continuity tool belt.

5. Better Technology for Less Cost

It’s not news to anyone that technology gets cheaper the longer it’s in use. And by now many amazing technologies have been around long enough that they’re getting very affordable, even for small business. Yet, many businesses still aren’t taking advantage of them because they don’t know what’s out there.

That’s why it’s important to work with technology experts who can introduce you to technology you’ll find useful to cut costs, enhance productivity, delight customers and more. To learn more about how technology is disrupting every industry, follow our blog.

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.

Building a Rock Solid Cybersecurity Plan

Cyber Security

Cybersecurity Plan

Cybercriminals may be going into a stealth mode, but that doesn’t mean that cyberattacks are slowing down — quite the opposite, in fact. According to the 2018 SiteLock Website Security Report, attacks increased by 59% and accelerated going into December. Record numbers of businesses are being infiltrated by hostile actors, with data breaches affecting hundreds of millions of users in a single attack. This all comes during a time when cybersecurity costs are accelerating as more organizations scramble to bring expensive systems and well-paid IT assets online to help protect their business from attack or assist with recovery. By the year 2021, damage to businesses is expected to exceed $6 trillion annually from cybercrime alone. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to manage the complexity required for a comprehensive cybersecurity plan alone, but these basics will give you a starting point to managing the risk to your organization.

Understanding “Current State” Security Practices

Many organizations begin crafting their cybersecurity plan by reviewing and documenting the current state of their risk-reduction efforts. This could include everything from data structures and storage locations, physical and cloud-based infrastructure models, third-party vendors and other connections. This “current state” report gives you a comprehensive view of the organization and allows you to capture potential risk centers that will need to be addressed in the future.

Balancing Security Needs with Business Requirements

It’s a fact of life that IT professionals are often in top demand, making it difficult to implement the full range of cybersecurity protections that proactive leaders feel are necessary. This balancing act may take place as ongoing negotiations between business and technology teams as the risks of not taking specific steps to tighten security are weighed against the potential benefits of new functionality. IT teams need to have a full understanding of how data and applications are utilized throughout the organization, including how remote partners or staff members are connecting into business applications and databases. Going through this process prompts conversation around the replacement value of particular platforms. Where an IT team may feel that an older platform could be deprecated without undue business impact, one particular unit may be utilizing that data in an unexpected way. In this instance, business and IT leaders will have to negotiate whether it makes sense to enhance the security or simply move to a newer alternative.

Crafting Your Plan and Training Your Staff

Understanding all of the various assets that your business has available allows you to gain a more holistic view of the business, a crucial element of any successful cybersecurity plan. Define replacement or bypass recommendations for each of your core business assets, and then fully document any changes that need to be made to reduce the risk of a breach or the effect of any malware or ransomware attacks. Having the plan in place also requires determining the training level that your staff will need. According to Cisco, the majority of malicious file extensions are made up of popular files such as Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, making ongoing training an important part of any cybersecurity strategy.

Small and mid-size businesses are the organizations least likely to have a formal cybersecurity plan in place, but these businesses are a high-risk target that is extremely attractive to hackers. Managing the complexity associated with the various platforms and data sources is often cited as a significant challenge for over-taxed IT personnel. Making regular cybersecurity reviews a priority can help your organization not only stay safe online but also identify processes challenges that need to be addressed to improve operational efficiency. Even with a rock-solid cybersecurity plan in place, that doesn’t mean your organization is completely safe. Instead, it means that you’re ready for an attack and are able to respond appropriately and in a timely manner — which can save your company hundreds of thousands of dollars in the event of a breach.

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.

How to Keep Your Business Safe From the Dark Web

Dark Web

Dark Web

Assassins for hire, drugs by mail order, and fake passports: What do all these things have in common?

You can find them all on the dark web.

“Okay …” you may be thinking, “Sounds like a blast — but how does this affect me and my business?”

Well, most likely, you’re not surfing the dark web for fake travel documents and drugs by mail. But as it turns out, the dark web can affect you and your business. Most notably, your information can end up there — and that’s exactly where you don’t to find it.

Below, we’ll learn more about what the dark web is, how it came into existence, and how you can protect your business from the trouble that lurks there.

First Thing’s First: What Is the Dark Web?

The dark web began much more innocently than one might assume. In fact, at its very beginning in the late 1990s, it was the brainchild of a government entity, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL).

The NRL’s main goal was to cloak their online presence, effectively protecting their clandestine communications online while also anonymously monitoring the world market and getting access to hidden data without a trace. The software development stage went by the name The Onion Routing Project and resulted in the creation of Tor (The Onion Router).

Whether you’d call these beginnings “innocent” or not, to be sure, the NRL never anticipated their creation to morph into the toxic netherworld it is today. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the software was for government use only, but in 2004, it was open-sourced and went public, effectively creating an anonymous web browser for anyone and everyone to use.

What Is Tor?

Tor or The Onion Router is the software program used by the dark web. Normally, when you surf the web, you can be traced wherever you go because you always have an IP address trailing your clicks and searches.

Tor facilitates an Internet browser that messes with your device’s IP address, effectively enabling you to travel around the Internet anonymously. It does this by bouncing your IP address to a multitude of diverse locations. As a result, if someone were to attempt to track your site visits when you were using Tor, it would be an impossible challenge to pinpoint your exact location. For Tor to work, individuals from around the world “donate” their Internet browsing devices (computers, tablets, etc.) so that the bouncing IP addresses have more places to land.

So, the Dark Web Provides Anonymity and Privacy – How Does That Put My Business at Risk?

While Tor and the dark web can be used for good (namely, identity protection, which is often beneficial to whistleblowers or journalists, for example), it can also protect criminals. And it does protect criminals — lots of them.

Cybercrime is the number one thing going on on the dark web, and unless you have good reason to require the benefits of The Onion Router, the dark web is definitely not a place you want to find your information. This is what we mean by being wary of your business getting mixed up with the dark web.

There are numerous threats that the dark web poses to businesses of various sizes, industries, and backgrounds. This is where cybercriminals can learn how to obtain information such as access codes and passwords, credit card information, gift card information, customer data, and more. It’s also where they can sell such information to third parties who can then do with it what they please.

In other words, you should want to know the moment your company name, address, or other company-related information is noticed on the dark web because what happens next is bound to be bad.

How Can Businesses Protect Themselves From the Dark Web?

Essentially, you can protect your business from the dark web by doing two things: Ensuring a strong setup of cyber privacy practices (hiring a cybersecurity-savvy IT company) and monitoring the dark web so that you’re notified the moment your information is found there.

The latter can be a part of the services you outsource to your IT company because actual dark web monitoring involves getting dark web access and knowing how to accumulate, parse, normalize, validate, refine, and enrich what you acquire. If you don’t know how to do that yourself, professionals can come to your aid.

While the dark web may be a place that helps good journalists and few others stay hidden and anonymous, it’s predominantly a place of crime and misdeeds. Keep your business safe from the dark web by knowing the risks and taking the appropriate precautions.

Should Your Business Outsource IT Operations?

Outsourced IT Operations

There never seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished, and that goes double for small business owners. When you’re top dog in charge, every small problem or frustration heads your way. Technology support is one of the key complaints from staff members, especially when there are problems with slow network connections or aging computers. You need your staff members to be contributing 110% every day, and that goes for your network infrastructure as well. If you’re struggling with finding the time to respond to dozens of IT challenges while also driving your business forward, it may be time to consider outsourcing your IT operations so your internal teams can focus on the future.

Outsourced IT Operations

Predictability in Pricing

Whether your business is running on a shoestring or you have a healthy budget, it is tough to get hit with an unexpected bill that can reach tens of thousands of dollars. If your business experiences any type of disaster event that affects your technology, the cost to get everything back up and running can be staggering. The word “disaster” makes you think of something that won’t happen to you, but the reality of technology disasters is much different. Malware and ransomware are rampant in small businesses, with approximately 60% of all data breaches occurring in a small business. When you work with an IT managed services provider, you have an added layer of support for your team that is priced consistently throughout the year. Plus, you have the peace of mind knowing that you have experts that are an extension of your business who already understand your infrastructure — a great step towards being able to rebuild it successfully.

Reducing Overhead — and Improving Quality of Service

Technology is extremely complex and hiring all of the specialists that you truly need to run a complex business would be exorbitantly expensive. With outsourced IT operations, your staff has a platform of consistent support that they can trust to always be there when they are needed. Response times are guaranteed so staff members can focus on doing their job instead of stressing about whether their technology is working properly or quickly enough for their needs. An added benefit is the access to a stable of trained professionals with a broad range of technical knowledge in fields such as cybersecurity, network engineering, customer support, data utilization and more.

Scale Your Business With Ease

Growing your business technology used to be expensive and stressful: how can you make a major purchase of hardware and software based on the scale you think your business will be for the next few years? If you’re in an active growth stage, a poor decision could be disastrous. Either you end up with inadequate hardware that won’t support your business, or you overspend and have crucial capital reserves tied up in resources that aren’t being fully utilized. With IT managed services, scaling your business couldn’t be easier. Bringing a new server online is no longer a tortuous process of weeks, but can be accomplished very quickly by your external support team. Adding software licenses and data storage capacity is also easier, allowing you to focus on growing your business and providing exceptional service to your customers.

Enterprise-Level Technology — Sized for Your Business

It would be difficult for a small business to afford to implement the same type of advanced help desk software, cloud-based software and security measures that you would receive as a client of a managed IT services company. IT support companies are able to afford enterprise-level technology as they are spreading the costs between a variety of clients. You benefit from the advanced tech at only a fraction of the price. Your help desk support requests become more predictable and your business becomes more secure — all while you’re gaining the benefits of an enhanced network infrastructure to power your business.

Outsourcing your IT operations may not be for every business, but the majority of small businesses can see a significant benefit by reducing the burden on internal technology professionals. As an added bonus, the active monitoring provided by IT support specialists can help ensure that your business is protected from cyberattack, with quick remediation and support if you do experience an attack. Accelerate your business growth and support the innovative ideas of your teams when you rely on trusted, experienced technology professionals to provide support for your business.

Cutting These Two Corners Could Lead to Business Disaster

Cost Cutting Technology

Cost-cutting measures are not unusual for organizations as they traverse the standard lifecycle of products and services. What you decide to cut during the lean times can have just as much impact as to where investments go when your business is flush with cash. Some organizations start their cuts in advertising and marketing but eventually make their way to technology projects. Managing expenses and balancing them with the associated risks is a critical task in organizations, but there are two places where the risk simply isn’t worth the savings in expense reductions: cybersecurity and proactive support for your business technology. Reducing your funds in these two vital areas could cause a negative impact on the organization that has a ripple effect felt for years to come. Here’s why these are the two places that you should never cut corners in your business.

Protecting Your Organization’s Business Systems and Data

Cybersecurity is a broad term that refers to a range of activities including hardware protection, software patches, password requirements, staff training, server maintenance, cloud-based controls and more. There is no simple definition of what can be included in cybersecurity and business requirements change on a fairly regular basis. This alone makes it difficult to set a budget and stick with it — or reduce it over time. The ever-changing nature of threats that can effectively cripple an organization in a very short period of time means that your business will need to continually invest in learning and growth opportunities to reduce the risk to your organization.

Data protection is another facet of cybersecurity that demands consideration. From the 2018 GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) to more recent requirements in various states, data privacy and compliance has come to the forefront of the security conversation. Businesses must first wrangle and then protect sensitive personal, health and financial data — not to mention securing their business systems from infiltration by hackers. Skimping on these critical tasks or attempting to do them in-house with limited resources can open your organization to significant fines if you’re found to be non-compliant with global or state-supported regulations.

Smoothing the Cost of Technology

It’s always tempting to cut out what could essentially be considered insurance: the ongoing maintenance and support of your technology hardware and software. When your business reverts to paying only for systems that are broken and unable to be used, you’re left with a hodgepodge of user complaints due to slowdowns that aren’t “bad enough” to be sent out for repair. Plus, you’re looking at a hefty fee for getting any break-fix work done quickly — and forget about being able to budget effectively by guessing what could potentially require repair or replacement during the year.

Proactive maintenance of your business systems allows business users to maintain a high level of productivity while also factoring your technology costs at a reasonable level throughout the year. It can be extremely challenging when you’ve exhausted your budget for break-fix support for the year, only to find that it’s only the beginning of the third quarter. In that case, you’re either siphoning funds from other crucial projects or trying to limp through the remainder of the year until you can reset your budget and resolve outstanding problems. Investing in proactive maintenance means you don’t have to question whether a fix is “important enough” to be resolved as long as the issue is within your service threshold.

Protecting your business from unnecessary risk can feel like a full-time job for busy technology leaders. Fortunately, IT managed services providers are able to help with both proactive maintenance and providing the high level of cybersecurity expertise that is needed to help protect your business from both current and emerging threats.

Which Application Rules Supreme: Outlook or GMail

Office 365 or GMail

Office 365 or GMail

Currently, 30% of email addresses change every year. The majority of these changes are business related. No one wants to deal with the problems that come with changing personal contact information. Quite often, personal emails are attached to personal bills and subscriptions as well.

When the big change happens and it is time to make a move, is usually away from a smaller email platform into one of the two behemoths – Microsoft Outlook and Google Gmail. These two email providers have become the blue chip operators in what is now an essential part of everyone’s life.

What is so good about Outlook in Gmail? Are there aspects of one that makes it better than the other? We are here to look at the subtle differences between the two so that you can make an informed decision about which is better for you.

The Basics

The Outlook and Gmail user interfaces couldn’t be more different from each other. Outlook seems more business oriented on the surface, while Gmail’s UI maintains a feel that you might get from last year’s tech startup. In short, Outlook is Baby Boomer; Gmail is Generation Z.

Outlook is all about add on features while Gmail brings a “what you see is what you get” mentality to the forefront. Both services come as part of a larger suite that make a lot of money for their respective companies. If you go Pro with Outlook or Gmail, you will actually be purchasing Microsoft Office 365 or Google G suite. The first requires an annual commitment, and the second is based on a monthly subscription plan.

The Tools

So the cat out of the bag – Outlook and Gmail are actually loss leaders for the business suites that Microsoft and Google hope to sell to you eventually. Microsoft Office 365 has all of the industry standard programs that we are used to – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and all of the newer injuries that have become business staples such as OneDrive, OneNote and Microsoft Teams.

Believe it or not, Google is actually the challenger brand in this arena. Its Calendar and Hangouts tools are definitely name brands, but other aspects of its business suites such as Keep, Sites, Forms, Drive and Currents have not quite hit mainstream acceptance.

The result is the difference between a set of features that you know and love (Outlook) or a possibly wider and more robust feature set with a learning curve (Google).

Organization

If you are actually doing good business, your email is going to be a place of constantly changing activity. This is your mission-critical location, and some of the emails that you receive are essential in making mission-critical decisions. Keeping your emails organized is one of the most important things that you can do for your business. Outlook and Gmail have two entirely different philosophies for this.

Outlook works on a method of organization that predates the Internet. Its traditional system of folders looks and feels like a file cabinet. Anyone who makes use of Gmail can tell you this is definitely not the way that Google organizes things. Gmail uses labels and tags and allows you to customize your experience much more. If you know what you’re doing, you can quickly tier your email system and get to your most important emails more quickly. If not, then your email will probably look like a jumbled mess every time you open it.

The Company

With such powerful companies underwriting the programs, it is difficult to look past the influence of the brand. When you use Outlook, you have the advantages of Microsoft behind you. One of the most important features that Microsoft offers is the ability to completely delete unread emails from existence. This is simply not possible with Google, although Gmail offers many other advantages that are difficult to overlook. Gmail offers extended power of Google search and all of the associated features that Alphabet has now monopolized, meaning that you have an extremely powerful suite of tools behind you every time you open your Gmail.

So who wins the battle of emails between Outlook and Gmail? This is actually a question of your business philosophy. If you like more traditional, old-school methods of thinking and organizing yourself, the outlook is probably the brand for you. If you are a New Age thinker who wants a personalized digital experience, then Gmail will probably suit you better. There is no right and wrong; only good and bad for you.

How Much Should A Company Invest In Information Technology?

Business IT Budgets

Business IT Budgets

The rapid increase in technology use in businesses has affected every industry. Across all businesses, the need to keep up with the competition means paying attention to what technologies are available and incorporating the right tech tools as they become viable. Whatever your business, you know that you need to invest in information technology to excel in your industry. But how much should you invest, exactly? To determine your IT budget, you need to look carefully at your industry, your business goals and most importantly, what you can reasonably expect information technology to do for you on your path towards those goals.

Putting Technology Investment in Context

Depending on what stats you read, it appears that businesses spend anywhere from 3% to 6% of their budget on IT. The average spend on tech is expected to go up in the coming years, but no one is quite sure how much it will increase. It makes sense to expect an increase, of course, given the drastic increase in tech adoption across all facets of daily life and business. But the amount of increase is hard to be certain of because no one is sure exactly what the future holds.

What is clear is that an IT budget is necessary for building and maintaining a business. However, the size of that budget can vary considerably depending on the business and the industry that business is part of. In a study conducted by Deloitte, it was found that banking and securities spent 7.16% of their budget on IT—the most of any industry—while construction spent the least at 1.51%. Other industries spent somewhere in between. Such a large difference in spending is indicative of a spectrum of need for IT that differs significantly depending on the business. Those differences make it impossible to define a one-size-fits-all budget percentage for IT for all businesses. There are simply too many variables to consider.

How to Determine How Much Your Company Should Spend on IT

Guidelines on how to determine your own IT budget can be much more useful than a blanket statement about how much you should spend. By knowing what questions to ask, you can get the answers you need to form your own ideas about what your company needs as far as IT goes.

Some questions you can ask include:

Do we need an IT budget?

The answer to this is an obvious “YES”, but it is worth coming up with your own reasons for having a budget to begin with. The closer you look at your circumstances, the more apparent it will be that IT is simply a part of doing business and an area that you will always have to navigate as a company. And it is not enough to put off IT decisions until you make a split-second purchasing decision financed by extra cash you have lying around—not if you want IT to generate reliable results. For long-term success, you need a specific budget.

What is the budget for?

IT investments should serve to further your business objectives. Pulling a random number out of the air is not going to achieve optimal outcomes. The budget should be set to ensure that you can use the technology you need to achieve the outcomes you desire. Of course, to answer this question, you may need to clarify your business objectives and your IT needs. The CIO, CMO and other business leaders can work together to set guidelines for what needs to be accomplished and the budget can be built from there.

Are we spending more just because?

Knowing that business spending on IT is increasing in many industries is useful, but just because others are doing it does not mean that you need to do it. Increasing spending on IT is not enough on its own to improve your business. That increased spending needs to have a purpose. Maybe you are upgrading important infrastructure. Or, perhaps you know of a new tech tool that is virtually guaranteed to make you more competitive. Just make sure that an increased budget has a purpose.

Is the budget based on current economic conditions?

Some businesses are still stuck in a recession mindset. They try to avoid any extra spending because they think it is a necessity for survival. But if the economy has picked up, it is vital to take advantage of increased revenue to bolster your technology while you can. The better you equip your company to move into the new age now, while you have the resources, the more capable your company will be of weathering any storms to come.

The reality of IT budgets is that they need to be customized to the business using them. Fortunately, the process of determining the IT budget can greatly improve your company’s understanding of where it is, where it is going and how technology will help it get there.

Managed IT Helps Your Bottom Line: 6 Ways How

Managed IT Services

Managed IT Services

Here’s an honest truth: managed IT services cost money. With any business expenditure, it’s a good idea to understand the value that the expenditure will bring to the organization. We believe businesses can improve on many fronts by implementing managed IT services. One of the biggest areas of benefit is financial. Here are 6 ways that implementing managed IT services helps your bottom line.

Increase Productivity

Equipment downtime can be a huge detriment in any business setting. In the “break it fix it” model, businesses operate normally until something breaks, then work stops. If it’s IT equipment, the in-house IT team descends and attempts to fix. If, after some amount of time has passed, IT decides the problem is beyond them, they call in outside help. Then they wait. And wait. And wait some more. Work isn’t getting done while that piece of equipment is down. Waiting for an outside specialist can cost your company in a big way.

With managed IT, your managed service provider (MSP) is the outside specialist. As soon as something goes down, the MSP is on it, bringing their skills and specialties to bear on the problem. Use managed IT to get your business back up and running faster than the traditional model can.

Stabilize Monthly Spending

With the “break it fix it” model, your IT spend can spike wildly from time to time. When a high-value piece of your IT infrastructure goes down or even just needs replacing due to age, your costs soar. Companies self-managing their IT services also face sudden spikes in software upgrade costs.

Managed IT can stabilize your monthly IT spend. In this model, you pay a stable monthly rate for service regardless of how much or how little help you need in a given month. Software upgrades (or, more likely, subscription and licenses) are rolled into this monthly fee as well, removing those software spikes from your budget. Your finance team will appreciate this predictable expense.

Lower Your Initial Investment

Along the same lines, you can lower your initial IT infrastructure investment through managed IT. Depending on the terms of your agreement, some amount of your equipment may be owned by the MSP. The less equipment you have to purchase yourself, the lower your initial IT infrastructure investment.

Every MSP agreement is different, customized to the needs of the client business. If up-front costs are an obstacle for your business, be sure to craft a service agreement that lowers these costs.

Lower Overall IT Infrastructure Costs

Even if your MSP isn’t providing all your hardware as part of your plan, you’ll still lower your overall IT infrastructure costs in many MSP arrangements. For example, if hosting, storage, and backup are part of your MSP agreement, you eliminate some of your need for on-site servers. You’ll save money on hardware, power, and even real estate — since you won’t need space to house those servers.

The same principle applies to a number of other functions, including network monitoring and security. You won’t need to devote systems and system resources to functions that you offload to a managed IT provider.

Free Your IT Staff

Partnering with a managed IT services firm frees your IT staff to do what matters most. Contrary to what many assume, the goal of implementing managed IT isn’t necessarily reducing staffing levels. Sure, some larger businesses may benefit from reducing a bloated, inefficient in-house team, but the real value in managed IT service is freeing up your in-house team.

Your existing IT staff adds value to your company by wholeheartedly pursuing whatever high-value IT interests your business has—or, at least, it should. Many times, though, IT employees are too busy troubleshooting PCs and malfunctioning equipment to focus on the IT elements that are truly core to your business. Enlist a good MSP to handle the day-to-day IT troubles (among other things), and you’ll enable your IT staff to focus in and add value in the areas that are truly critical to your business.

Scale Your Business

It’s great to be a part of a growing business, but the growing pains are real. Scaling your business can cause IT headaches: new equipment is needed for each new employee, not to mention all the behind-the-scenes tech infrastructure, like server space, bandwidth, and software licensing.

Managed IT is the solution here, too. Your MSP has far more capacity than you need, so they can handle scaling issues during periods of growth or reduction.

Conclusion

By now it’s clear: that managed IT can help your bottom line. If you’re ready to begin the conversation about how we can help you, contact us today.