Incorporating the IoT to Improve Connectivity to Your Customers  

IoT Business

Learn how the advent of the Internet of Things has improved device connectivity and enabled businesses like yours to delivery consumer-driven solutions.  

IoT Business

The Internet of Things (IoT) was first conceptualized in 1982 through the internet connection of a Coke machine at Carnegie-Mellon University which was able to report inventory levels and the temperature of vended sodas. From this beginning 37 years ago, IoT has led to greater connectivity between all types of devices for the purpose of providing and sharing data. What would have been unimaginable 50 years ago in our parent’s and grandparent’s time has been realized today as televisions, refrigerators, telephones, and other types of consumer electronics have been enabled to talk to one another.

IoT has also helped businesses like yours learn a lot about your customers. The way in which consumers interact with IoT-enabled devices provides businesses with valuable data which can be used to transform products and services and solidify customer loyalty. This leads to the development of additional products, increasing the things-to people ratio, which is the amount of consumer products owned per person. As the things-to-people ratio continues to grow, businesses have seen the development of smart homes, smart phones, autonomous vehicles, etc., as well as an increase in the generation of data which enables machine learning and greater human-to-computer interactions.

This white paper is an exploration of the advances in IoT and how it is moving greater automation of connectivity. This automated connectivity is critical as the number of IoT devices grows, warranting cost effective ways to remove the complexity of these connections. Businesses understanding the importance of managing the connectivity of their IoT devices will be best positioned to gain market share.

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

A simple definition of Internet of Things is the ability of all things, people, machines, objects, etc. to transfer data between each other over a network. Each of the things interacting through the IoT network are given what is called a unique identifier (UID), which is a label or identifier assigned to the IoT things (i.e. people, machines, objects).

IoT connectivity is responsible for moving the number of connected devices from millions to billions. According to business consultancy groups McKinsey and Gartner, there are more than 26.7 billion IoT connected devices in 2019. The number of things to people in 2020 is projected to be 26 times more in 2020, while the number of connected devices will grow by three times as many or 75.4 million in 2025. The popularity of IoT can be seen in the use of smart and connected devices in the home. This includes applications such as smart thermostats, smart locks, and smart refrigerators. Smart security, one of the poplar home uses for IoT connectivity, has a market expected to grow to $22 billion by the year 2021. Additional markets expected to grow as a result of IoT are home entertainment systems and energy management technology.

How IoT Has Spawned Greater Connectivity

The global IoT market is worth $1.7 trillion in 2019. Of this amount, 35 percent or $595 billion of this value is attributed to hardware, such as smart home peripherals, smart phones, etc. Countries North America, Western Europe as well as China make up two-thirds of the installed IoT devices. It is also worthy to note that, on average, 127 new IoT devices are connected to the internet every second across the globe. Industry is also gravitating toward a greater use of IoT connected devices. Industrial IoT, which comprises 17 percent of the IoT related projects on a worldwide basis, has a market value projected to reach $110 billion in 2020.

Growth of Personal Digital Assistants

The development of new devices has advanced connectivity and has also been responsible for this growth. Over the past years, the advent of personal digital assistants (PDAs) or virtual assistants, from Apple’s Siri, to Google Voice has meant less reliance on manual typing and a greater dependence on voice assistance. The global intelligent PDA/voice assistance market was worth $2.4 billion in 2018and is expected to increase a total composite average growth rate (CAGR) of 40.4 percent for the period (2018 – 2025).

IoT Growth in the Healthcare Industry

The healthcare industry has been a direct beneficiary of IoT connectivity. Such innovations as robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) have helped healthcare sector providers diagnose disease, manage chronic conditions, and bring the cost of care for patients and providers. The healthcare IoT market value was $60 billion in 2014 and expected to reach a value of $136 billion in 2021, a CAGR of 12.5 percent. Growth in the connected devices segment of the market is projected to be the best for the healthcare industry. Asia-Pacific countries are expected to experience a CAGR of 17 percent for the measuring period of 2015 – 2021. Why is IoT important to the Healthcare sector? It provides companies with the ability to grow therapies and processes useful in meeting needs and improving healthcare outcomes through improved:

  • Monitoring of patient health
  • The operation of healthcare clinics
  • The management of workflow
  • Imaging connectivity
  • The measurement of the effectiveness of fitness, health and wellness programs
  • The development of new drug therapies

IoT +37 Years: What Does the Future Hold for Connectivity

The future of IoT is more than bright. The explosion in the growth of IoT connected devices, over 300% between 2019 – 2025, is forcing businesses to invest in this technology to experience a cut of the nearly $500 billion in profits generated from more than 2 billion devices in use in 2019 alone. Companies are maneuvering to position themselves as leading innovators in the development of IoT devices and products. For example, Google invested $3.2 billion to purchase Nest products and paid another $2.1 billion to acquire FitBit, in a bid to compete with competitor Apple’s Apple Watch. These acquisitions are strategic moves designed to gain further control of the IoT market and offer an array of products which can capture valuable consumer data and further the development of needed products.

IoT has not reached its zenith in terms of depth or breadth of market. What was thought to be the limit when smartphone technology was first introduced to the market more than 25 years ago on August 16, 1994 (IBM’s Simon Personal Communicator), the world and consumers have seen an astronomical amount of growth in the number of devices (“things”) with the capability to interact with us and each other to provide important data and operate free of human-to-computer interaction. Automated homes equipped with functions which can clean your floors, issue notifications when you are running low on milk, provide real time video and alerts when an intruder approaches your home are more than the dreams of 1960s science fiction writers like Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick.

Bottom Line

Businesses that learn to involve themselves in IoT connectivity will find themselves at the leading edge of this technological advancement. IoT means a greater opportunity for profitability through the mining of data and predictive analysis provide by data scientists to determine consumer interests, wants, and needs. The application of IoT in a business setting helps businesses leverage knowledge gained from their customers in ways unforeseen when the internet was first made available to the general population. IoT connectivity leads to higher profits and better consumer loyalty, as seen in the rapid growth of IoT’s market value.

Businesses will also come to understand that improvements in their IoT offerings will lead to improved employee morale. IoT connectivity provides businesses with valuable consumer data which in turn leads to the creation of products designed to improve quality of life. The data gleaned from IoT devices can be synthesized efficiently and seamlessly, creating a data-driven environment which reduces employee stress and leads to greater creativity. This is another benefit IoT connectivity provides your business and its bid for greater profitability.

It is important to recognize that any limits on IoT connectivity are those which consumers set. A greater reliance and dependence on digital devices to provide us with the comforts of daily living will be tempered by attempts by hackers and other nefarious actors to compromise these machines for their personal gains. Proper monitoring and safeguards must be put in place; businesses must constantly gauge consumer interest for the next best thing and balance that desire against the ability of that “thing” to provide a solution and not be another gadget that is a potential hazard. A proper read of the data IoT devices provide will help guide business toward smart development in keeping with the dramatic increase in value in the IoT market, leading to better products, happy consumers, engaged employees, and a better envisioned world.

Why Managed Detection and Response is a Valuable Tool for Small to Medium Businesses

Managed Detection

Managed Detection and Response could be the solution businesses are looking for in a world where cybercrime is on the rise and security experts are hard to find.  

Managed Detection

Cybersecurity is becoming much more than just a buzz word as cyberattacks on businesses increase and companies face the challenge of finding skilled cybersecurity professionals. By 2022, there could potentially be as many as 1.8 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs, a pain point for many small to medium businesses.

While cybercrime continues to threaten these very businesses, many are wondering if there is a solution to these challenges. How does a company protect significant amounts of data with limited IT and security staff? The answer comes in the form of specialized teams of security and threat analysts, or Managed Detection and Response.

Managed Detection and Response (MDR)

Similar to other Managed Service Providers, companies that specialize in MDR work to provide cybersecurity support to companies that are either lacking skills or time to manage security. What makes Managed Detection and Response unique is its comprehensive approach to dealing with threats.

MDR requires both technology and human analysis to effectively and proactively detect, remediate, and eventually eliminate cyber threats. Where other providers offer an overall software and hardware-based alert system, they are often limited in their ability to respond to, research, and diagnose the number of alerts that happen daily.

With managed detection and response, analysts sift through alerts to determine if they require action. When a response is required, they offer immediate support in resolving the issue and determining its source so that a threat of that type is less likely to occur again.

MDR also takes a proactive approach to threat detection—also called threat hunting—that helps companies determine the overall state of their cybersecurity measures. Specialized analysts are able to research why or how a threat is occurring, resulting in a more comprehensive solution. This same skill set allows them to see beyond the individual incident and understand the greater need behind your network, server, and endpoint data protection.

Improving Your Cybersecurity Defenses

While cyberattacks on big companies dominate the news headlines, it is small to medium businesses that are facing the majority of threats—and they are doing it unprepared. At least 43% of cyberattacks are directed at small businesses, but very few are prepared to deal with the onslaught. On average, these attacks cost businesses $200,000, which is more than many of them can handle.

Managed Security Services provide necessary firewall and perimeter protection for your network, and prove to be helpful in providing alerts when anomalies arise. But the amount of protection most companies need can only come in the form of a specialized and highly trained in-house security team or an MDR.

As cybercrime continues to increase, protecting more than just your company’s network perimeter will be key to improving your cybersecurity defenses. Finding and outsourcing your security needs to Managed Detection and Response could be the best way forward in a world where cybersecurity is an essential part of your company’s future.

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.

 

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.

Communicate Consistently With Customers About Their Technology Needs and Your Value

MSP Customer Communication Leads to Deeper Long-Term Retention

Discover why it’s important that your managed services provider develops a regular communications schedule with each customer and what messages to convey.

MSP Communication

Managed services providers (MSPs) know that customer retention is a critical element of business success.

Communicating with your MSP customers is a must. But knowing how, when and what to communicate makes a difference.

How Frequently Should We Communicate with MSP Customers?

The frequency of communication is as much an art as it is a science. There may be some customers, especially those who are new, in the midst of a major project or in the throes of strategic planning, when more frequent contact and communication is necessary.

Face-to-face communication is the most effective means of communication, allowing for both a better give-and-take and a clearer interpretation of body language.

Ideally, you’ll schedule at least monthly in-person communication with your customers, meeting both with principals and other employees to understand what’s working and what could be improved. This communication, which includes a healthy dose of active listening, helps your customers feel heard, valued and respected, even if it’s an informal conversation over coffee and doughnuts.

What Brings Value to MSP Customer Communications?

Your customers look to you as more than a service provider. You’re also a valued advisor. You want your communications to have several elements that can bring value to your customers and how they perceive their relationship with you. These do not need to be a sales pitch, and usually should not be, but rather opportunities to demonstrate your expertise and insights, including:

  • Identifying solutions before you’re asked. If your client has, for example, recently had several cyberattack attempts that were the result of phishing attempts, you may want to suggest a heightened approach to employee education, including campaigns that test their responses to sample attack emails.
  • Looking forward. You want to provide insights on technology trends, emerging solutions and challenges, whether it’s a new version of software, regulatory changes affecting their business or the sunsetting of an operating system. Providing information that helps the customer consider the possibilities is a compelling way to demonstrate your value. These conversations can often unearth concerns and priorities that previously were not expressed.
  • Find synergies and partners. Look for connections and introductions you can make among your customers. You can also identify opportunities for partnerships or bartering opportunities, such as working with a printing company client to produce signage and business cards in exchange for a discount on provided IT services.

Value-added conversations that help your customers think in new ways are a powerful way of deepening customer relationships.

What Points Are Worth Repeating to MSP Customers?

One of the greatest outcomes of better customer communication is the opportunity to reinforce high-value and valuable services that are already being used or possible. Your communication should regularly reinforce some of the core values of working with a managed services provider. Driving these points home helps to make renewals, upgrades and the purchase of new services much easier.

Those key points are small reminders of why it makes sense for your customers to work with you, including:

  • Cost savings. Produce and walk your customers through how their managed services are reducing costs through improved efficiency, fewer downtime costs, lower operational costs for data centers and reduced internal IT staffing
  • Predictable costs. Customers need to be reminded that a fixed monthly cost for a range of IT services — help desk, vendor management, storage, disaster recovery, cloud hosting and security — means more budget certainty and fewer unanticipated technology expenses.
  • Less downtime. MSPs should tout their reliability and the high levels of uptime for services and systems. While these may be contractually mandated, it’s still an effective reminder of how committed your company is to their business operability levels.
  • Insurance. People and businesses purchase insurance to protect what matters most. That’s one way to frame managed services: insurance for your most critical systems, operations, processes and data.

A strategic approach to customer communications pays major dividends with regular, trusted and valued discussions.

5G Networks Present Need for Improved Security

5G Networks

The Security Risks Are Real with Coming Rollout of 5G Networks

Discover what the arrival of ultra-fast 5G networks means for cybersecurity, driven by the significant number of devices that will be connected to each network.

5G Networks

As ultrafast 5G networks emerge, so too do potential cybersecurity threats. For security experts, the unknowns make predictions for what risks to address more challenging

What is 5G?

5G is a new approach to wireless connectivity. It features speeds 20 to 100 times faster than the existing fastest speeds on 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks. 5G (which stands for the fifth generation of wireless technology to be available in the United States and worldwide) networks also will support larger numbers of wireless devices.

Given the proliferation of connected devices (the Internet of Things), the ability to connect more objects without affecting performance is a significant benefit.

How Does 5G Technology Differ from Previous Network Solutions?

5G delivers faster speeds and lower latency due to fundamental changes in the network structure. Among the key changes are:

  • Use of higher radio frequencies than 4G, allowing for more data to be transmitted at faster speeds
  • A new technology, Massive MIMO (multiple input multiple output) that uses targeted beams that follow a connected user around a cell site, providing better capacity, coverage and speed. Massive MIMO acts like a spotlight, directing the technology in a specific direction, as opposed to existing 4G tower technology that’s more like a floodlight, firing data in all directions, wasting power and energy.

What Are the New Cyberthreats?

With any new technology comes the new potential of attacks and intrusions. With 5G, more devices can be connected at once, more data is flowing, and data exchange happens at a far more rapid pace. Here are some of the main challenges that come with the new wireless protocol.

  • More Devices Means Lack of Scalability. Today, companies that have large numbers of connected devices on their networks find it difficult to manage and secure these objects. As those businesses adopt 5G, they may be managing hundreds if not tens of thousands of devices. The challenges of scalability of security solutions will only magnify.
  • New Risks Will Emerge. Today, most cybersecurity solutions focus on traditional connected devices — desktop computers, servers, smartphone and other mobile devices. 5G increases the opportunity to connect more types of objects. With each newly connected object comes an increased network threat, another possibility for hackers to expose a security flaw in a device that’s not updated or fully protected.

    5G also encourages more businesses to invest in connected devices as part of their business operations. That means a growing number of new devices, interfaces and technologies.

    Consider the potential number of smart devices in your home — refrigerator, coffee machine, washing machine, doorbell, television, digital assistant and security system are all connected and potential targets.

  • More Privacy Issues. More entities are passing laws and regulations that govern how data can be stored, transmitted and used. That means organizations using 5G will need to comply with multiple regulatory hurdles related to information collected by, stored on and used by connected devices.
  • Unknown Capabilities. Today’s network security systems and processes are constructed to monitor traffic and identify potential threats based on activity and data, all in real time. Doing so allows them to detect and contain suspect activity quickly. The solutions are designed to work with the existing bandwidth speeds and restrictions. With the higher capacity and speeds of 5G, that model may go out the window. New protocols are necessary for encryption, monitoring and prevention, which may mean existing firewalls may no longer work with 5G.

    Yet with few 5G networks operational, there is little to baseline for testing or assessment. Hardware will likely need to be upgraded, processes changed and new guidelines developed and implemented.

  • Integration and Automation. Today’s solutions can operate independently of other systems, but the impending 5G revolution means integration and automation will need to become part of future solutions. Security solutions will need to connect to the entire IT operation and data will need to be synchronized throughout multiple security layers.

What Can the Security Profession, Carriers and Businesses Do to Prepare for 5G Security Needs?

The solution to 5G security challenges will be multilayered and the responsibility of multiple parties. Among the key changes necessary are:

  • Carriers will need to extend firewall protection to cover new distributed networks of connected devices
  • Improved authentication and management of devices
  • Self-updating, self-reporting, self-hardening and self-healing devices will need to become the norm
  • Access and discoverability protocols will need to be built through multiple layers

The benefits of 5G are significant. With the right security programs and solutions in place, it’s likely to be a big leap forward in connectivity.

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.

Top Reasons to Jumpstart Your Business’s Paperless Initiative

Paperless Society

Jumpstart Your Business’s Paperless Initiative

Want to “go paperless” with your company? See the many benefits of paperless business and learn how to jumpstart this initiative for effective results.  

Paperless Society

Many businesses toy around with the idea of “going paperless,” but what’s actually in it for the companies who decide to go through with it?

To be sure, not all businesses are cut out to go paperless. Certain documents in certain industries simply must be in paper form. Therefore, depending on your industry and unique company needs, you may end up unnecessarily complicating affairs if you try to do everything digitally.

At the same time, a great many companies will benefit significantly from making this change. Below, we’ll go over the specific reasons why it might be a good idea for your company. First, though, let’s define what going paperless actually means.

What Does It Really Mean to “Go Paperless”?

The term “going paperless” simply refers to the shift from printed documents to digital documents. For example, instead of printing invoices, order forms, and tax documents, a company would issue all of these documents digitally, sending them via email or storing them as files.

What Are the Top Reasons to “Go Paperless”?

You’ll save money.

Cloud data storage is a lot less expensive than on-premise data storage. Moreover, on-premise data storage forces you to pay for the maximum amount of storage you may need upfront. With cloud storage, you can easily scale your storage capacity up or down, depending on your needs.

In addition, the products and tools needed to print, scan, and copy your company’s documents is extremely expensive. Printers and copiers alone can cost thousands of dollars, and fixing and maintaining them is expensive as well. With a paperless system, these tools become obsolete. Of course, you’ll also save a bundle on paper and ink.

You’ll have document access from everywhere.

Most businesses who go paperless store their documents in the cloud. When you do this, access to these documents is available wherever you can find an Internet connection. This makes it easier to hire remote workers, send employees on work trips, and access important information even when you’re away from the office.

You’ll save time.

Consider the time it takes to print, scan, copy, collate, organize, and store all of your paper documents. Additionally, remember that when you have a huge number of documents to contend with, protocols and systems must be developed, instituted, and monitored. Lastly, think about how long it takes to find a specific document within your files.

All of these tasks are time-consuming, and in any business, time is money.

When you switch to a digital system of document storage, you’ll be saving an immense amount of time. Documents can be digitally created, copied, sent, edited, and stored. There’s no need to run to the printer or search through endless boxes for the paper file you need. When searching for files, you can simply pop a few keywords into the search bar of your data storage system, and voilà — it will appear!

You’ll save space.

Consider how much space you currently use to store paper documents. From old tax returns and invoices to printed data and memos, an accumulation of individual sheets of paper can actually take up quite a lot of room.

Digital documents, on the other hand, are virtually invisible. As long as you have enough data storage capacity available, you’ll gain tons of physical space when you make the switch to a paperless system.

You’ll ensure better security of your data

While it’s possible for cloud-stored data to be compromised, it’s much more likely that sensitive files will be stolen or accidentally destroyed in paper form. This may happen as the result of a crime or simply because of a flood, fire, or another natural disaster.

Online data, on the other hand, can be encrypted. With the right security team on your side, you can apply layered security systems to your cloud storage protocol in order to better protect your data.

What Are Some Tips for Jumpstarting Your Business’s Paperless Initiative?

When going paperless, use the following tips to make the transition easier and smoother.

1. Start with a plan.

All paperless initiatives should begin with a plan. Sit down with your management team, and create a day-by-day, week-by-week schedule for setting up whatever paperless system you choose.

2. Go slow.

Before springing a new system on your employees, it’s essential that you predict all possible complications. You’ll also want to anticipate how going paperless will affect your employees, clients, and customers, and warn them of the changes that will be made.

3. Get help.

Lastly, don’t forget to seek professional help with the technology aspect of your new paperless system. A managed service provider can help you set up a secure, easy-to-use cloud storage system and offer extremely useful assistance for making the overall transition.

Managed Services SLAs: What Should You Expect to See?

Managed Services SLA

Key Things to Look for in Your Managed Services SLA

When you hire an MSP, you must sign a service level agreement. Here’s how to evaluate your SLA and ensure you’re getting what you expect from this relationship.  

Managed Services SLA

As if choosing the right managed service provider wasn’t enough, it’s also crucial to make sure that the SLA (service level agreement) you develop between your company and your managed service provider is sound and satisfactory.

Below, we’ll go over what you should expect to see within your managed services contract (SLA). We’ll also discuss how you should review this document with your lawyer to ensure you’re getting the proper value out of this relationship and doing what’s best for your business.

What does an SLA set out to do?

The core goal of a service level agreement between a company and the managed service provider they are hiring is this:

To outline the payment structure and service responsibilities of both parties and to specifically define and document exactly what services the MSP will offer, including what hardware and software is covered, daily monitoring services, troubleshooting services in emergency situations, response times, and more.

Of course, all service level agreements will be slightly different. Some will offer more or less information. Certain SLAs will include information about items such as liability protection for the managed services company. Still others will go into detail about expected performance standards.

What should you look for in your managed services SLA?

Your managed service provider will draw up the service level agreement. Ostensibly, this is a service level agreement they use and have used with all of their clients. It will, of course, be modified to fit the parameters and needs of your business and the unique relationship the MSP has with your business.

However, it should follow a general format. When your MSP shows you the service level agreement they have drawn up, you should expect to see the following:

Services Provided by the MSP

This section will outline exactly what services the MSP will be providing to you on a regular basis. This will often be based on the specific level of service that you have agreed to pay for.

For example, if you own a medium-sized business and the MSP you are working with has three levels of service, you may choose the mid-level of service as you don’t need the extent of services offered to larger businesses.

How Problems Are Managed

The overall services your MSP will provide will be based on daily, monthly, quarterly, etc. services. These are systematic tasks that will be undertaken regularly (such as monitoring security or providing software updates).

On the other hand, your SLA also needs to outline how troubleshooting and problems will be handled by your managed service provider. If you have an issue, for example, you’ll need a protocol for managing:

  • Responsibility: What areas of your company’s IT are they (your MSP) managing and monitoring?
  • Emergencies: What constitutes an emergency?
  • Response Time: If and when you report an emergency, what is the minimum timeframe that your managed service provider will respond within?
  • Reporting Method: How do you report an emergency? Will this vary based on the time of day or week? What information do you need to provide?

When Your MSP Is Available

Lastly, your SLA should outline when your MSP will be available on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis. What if you have problems in the evening after business hours? On the weekend? On a holiday? All availability times and any applicable extra charges should be documented.

Going over your SLA with your lawyer

Once you are satisfied with the service level agreement you have been provided with by your MSP, make sure to go over it with your lawyer. They’re on your side and will, therefore, be able to determine if any aspect of the SLA is unfair to you legally or could present potential problems.

Taking your time when reviewing your service level agreement will put your mind at ease and increase the likelihood that you and your managed service provider will enjoy a strong working relationship.

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.