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.

 

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.

What Are the Top Tips for Choosing the Best IT Company?

Two IT Company Professionals Working

Two IT Company Professionals Working

What Are the Top Tips for Choosing the Best IT Company?

Website outages, cybersecurity attacks, and any number of other IT incidents can cost your company hundreds or even thousands of dollars — every minute. For this reason alone, you need an outsourced IT company who is competent and highly qualified to handle your IT needs.

But how do you choose the best IT company?

Naturally, the IT needs of each individual business will vary. A medical practice will need IT assistance that specializes in privacy as well as cybersecurity because they’ll have a tremendous amount of sensitive data in their systems. On the other hand, your industry may require less focus on privacy and more focus on the particular type of software that you use.

Finding an IT company who specializes in your industry is the first step to locating optimal IT support.

Here are some other tips to keep in mind when choosing an IT support company for your business.

1. Look for experience.

As is always the case when you contract out services, you need to look for experience. It may be tempting to work with a brand-new, up and coming IT company in your area, but something as important as IT support warrants hiring a company who’s been in the business for at least a few years.

To establish that the IT companies you are considering have enough experience to get the job done right, ask to speak with their current or past clients. Also, ask for the list of credentials that their support staff possesses. These are the individuals you’ll be working with regularly, and you want to look for certifications and schooling in IT-related fields.

Lastly, make sure the experience that these companies have is related to your industry, specifically. We’ve already touched on this a bit, but it’s important to reiterate that it’s better to find an IT company who specializes in your industry than to find night one who claims they can “do it all.” Many IT companies specialize in healthcare IT, transport IT, or other specific industries, which means they know and understand these industries inside and out. That wants you want.

2. Choose a local company.

Some IT companies will claim they can take on your business from across the state or the nation. While this is possible, it’s unlikely you’ll get the level of quality service you actually deserve. It’s much better to go with a local IT company who you can work with directly.

In many situations, you’ll actually need IT support staff from your MSP (managed service provider) to come to your business for installations, troubleshooting, or network setups. This shouldn’t have to be a huge production. Having a local IT company available for quick service calls is a huge advantage.

3. Look for forward-thinking companies.

Not only do you want your IT company to focus on maintaining your current network and system structure, but you also want them to propel your business forward. Whether fast or slow, growing should be a primary concern for any business.

Some IT companies are more capable at scaling their services than others. Essentially, you want to find a company who will propel your business forward with their own IT ideas. They also need to have the employee-power and IT resources to scale your business up with ease and efficiency. As you expand, you don’t want to have to switch IT companies.

4. Make sure you can choose your level of service.

Again, needs vary where IT is concerned. You certainly do not want to pay for services you don’t need and won’t use. For this reason, look for an IT company who offers a range of service levels.

Most IT companies offer at least two or three levels of service. For example, they may offer an entry-level fee for simply monitoring your systems and alerting you as soon as possible if there’s a breach. If you require network setups, software installations, and other management services, you‘ll naturally want a higher level of service. Having options is the main concern here.

No matter what IT company you choose, it’s important to take your time, and do your research. Your IT company will be one of your business’s most important assets. Hire well, and you’ll reap the benefits of easier daily operations, higher returns on investment, and ultimately, more business opportunities.

Microsoft Office 365 and Your Business: Boost Productivity with the Right Tech Tools

Modern Workplace

Office Workers In A Modern Workplace

Microsoft Office 365 and Your Business: Boost Productivity with the Right Tech Tools

The workplace is becoming more and more digital every day. New tech tools are developed regularly, and most have the same goal—to make your life easier. While some new developments end up making life harder because they are hard to learn, cumbersome, or have glitches or bugs, most are specifically designed to be easy to understand and use. Getting things done faster and more efficiently is a huge driver for technology generally, but that is especially true today.

Defining the Modern Digital Workplace

The “Modern Digital Workplace” is a phrase used today that describes utilizing the technology that is most useful for your team. It helps your team by:

  • Making collaboration easier
  • Training and educating faster and more efficiently
  • Compiling documents and information in an easy-to-use and access way
  • Automating processes, to the extent possible, in a way that make sense for your industry and your team
  • Improving digital processes not only internally, but also with partners, suppliers, and other third parties

Technology, when used properly, can make the entire workplace run in a much smoother, more efficient way. New tools allow your team to meet the needs of customers, and the business as a whole, better. When goals are easier to accomplish, productivity gets a huge boost.

The Obvious Connection: Technology and Productivity

In general, the new digital workplace focuses on improving three key areas of a company. These include the following:

  • Employee Collaboration. When employees can team up and get work done easier, it makes projects faster and more efficient. Sometimes talking to one another is the best way to come up with new ideas and simply ensure that everyone is getting their job done effectively and promptly. Making sure that information and the ability to connect with one another is all on one platform is one of the best ways to encourage and foster this type of collaboration.
  • Content Collaboration. Many teams work on the same content at similar times. Being able to share documents, files, and even external information at the same time can be a huge time saver within a company.
  • Business Application. Administrative processes, such as workflow, forms, and rules, can often be automated in a way that cuts down significantly on processing time and time spent requesting or obtaining status updates. Even something as simple as creating digital versions of forms and allowing employees or third parties to input the information themselves can be a huge time saver in many industries.

Transparency regarding work product and processes is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your team is getting their work done and creating a final product that is the best version that you can provide.

Certain technologies often focus on a different area of these three overarching ideas. Some attempt to address all of them, while others target just one or two sections of particular concern. When all three can be addressed, you have a powerful system that encourages accountability, efficiency, and, in turn, productivity.

Office 365’s Role in the Modern Digital Workplace

Office 365 has been created with the Modern Digital Workplace in mind. It is specifically designed to address these three major concerns in an easy-to-use way.

While Office is commonly associated with their most popular programs, like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, they have a whole host of programs that can significantly boost your team’s productivity because they make collaboration and transparency ridiculously easy.

Outlook

Microsoft’s email program, Outlook, has been a staple for many businesses for years. Outlook is more than just email, however. Users can use the calendar to schedule meetings and create task lists. They can also create contact lists and share documents through OneDrive. Outlook’s key focus is employee collaboration.

Microsoft Teams

This relatively new feature allows employees and third parties to chat, share documents, work on documents at the same time, schedule meetings, have audio and visual video calls, create notes, and more. It is also integrated with several very popular apps and services, including OneDrive, SharePoint, Yammer, Dynamics 365, and Skype.

Delve

Microsoft Delve shows what your team is working on, popular documents, and provides insightful information to workers who might be interested in them. Employees develop profiles, and they can find and organize information based on interests. It also allows workers to search for documents that are connected through SharePoint and OneDrive.

Yammer

Yammer is similar to a social networking site, but it is limited to your employees and other workers. It is designed to encourage communication throughout your organization. Its focus is on ensuring that information is accessible and shared at virtually every level.

Microsoft Planner

This tool allows your team to create new plans, assign tasks, share files, and organize projects. You can easily see what people are working on and get updates on progress for various tasks. This type of open communication makes assigning projects and getting status updates easy and more efficient.

SharePoint and OneDrive

OneDrive is a straight-forward means to share files, both internally and externally. SharePoint uses sites and files, team news, lists, libraries, and more to encourage collaboration on documents and files. Both are based on sharing information in the cloud.

Microsoft Flow

This tool is focused on making internal processes easier and more efficient. It helps automate and exchange data. It has built-in alerts and notifications to help address organizational processes like approvals, multi-stage processes, and more.

Using Office 365 to Help Your Business

Every company is different. Office 365 has enough unique tools focused on making your company better that you are bound to find something that fits well for your needs. Encouraging collaboration and automated processing can lead to huge productivity boosts for your business.

Habits You Want From Your Technology Partner

IT support partnership

Habits You Want From Your Technology Partner

When you are running a business, you want your technology to integrate well with the other tech you use in your business and with your overall IT platform. When you run into situations where your tech fails to integrate well, it can cause serious problems—leading to lost productivity, lost data, and general inefficiency that is not desirable for any business.

IT support partnership

Choosing technology partners requires looking carefully at how those partners play with others. You want to know that your tech will integrate and operate well, which means you want a tech partner that is interested in ensuring cross-compatibility and integration. Many tech partners will be interested in such cooperation, but not all will. It is important to know what to look for in such a partner to ensure that you team up with a business that you can rely on.

Tech Partner Habits—Must-Haves from a Tech Partner

1. Interest in improving the overall experience, not just the bottom line

There are plenty of tech partnerships that develop to increase profits. After all, money drives business and it only makes sense for companies to seek arrangements that will improve their profitability. But creating the best customer experience requires more than just a focus on profitability—it also requires a real and sustained interest in ongoing improvement, which necessitates cross-pollination.

You want a partner who wants to ensure that everything works and strives to avoid tech silos that inhibit customers and companies alike. However, you also want a partner who will offer ideas for improvement and accept constructive feedback for their own improvement. The sharing of knowledge and insight and interest in such sharing makes a great tech partner.

2. Willingness to be part of a team

It may seem like asking too much for a tech partner to treat your business and the other tech vendors you work with as a team—but the fact is, you need a team player to achieve your goals. Sure, it can take some serious self-reflection on the part of one business to decide to team up with another business and actively engage in such teamwork, especially if there is a fear of missing out on extra earnings. But the long-term benefit of teamwork will yield future rewards that are otherwise unachievable. The tech partner that is willing to forgo a little extra profit today for benefits for the entire team, later on, is one worth keeping.

3. Interest in a long-term partnership

Many of the best results are only achievable through long-term planning and implementation. Some tech partners may see the option of a partnership as more of a short-term advantage that is not worth maintaining for the long-term. These potential tech partners fail to realize that whatever short-term benefits they can get now will pale in comparison to the benefits they could realize through long-term engagement and partnership. Of course, the challenge of long-term relationships is that they typically require some sacrifice on the front-end. Tech partners that are wise enough to see the value in such early sacrifice are more likely to benefit your business in the future.

4. Desire to contribute to the partnership

One of the best ways to facilitate a successful partnership in technology is to give as much access to your technology base as possible. There are many reasons for this need. For example, by giving as much open access to their technology base and IT stack as they can—within reason—a tech partner can make it much easier and faster to develop integration between their tech and the tech of other partners. The harder partners have to push to gain access to the information they need, the longer it will take to achieve true integration. It is possible that with enough pushback on access, a partner could just give up on the idea of achieving integration and go somewhere else.

5. Seek regular and open communication

The need for communication in business is significant when partnering with tech vendors and service providers. You want a company that will keep you up to date about everything that is going on—at least all the things that are relevant to you and your business—and you want a company that will take your need to communicate seriously. When you want to communicate, your partner should be available or make themselves available at a reasonable time. You also need to know what your partner wants and expects out of the business relationship, just as your partner should know what you want and need out of the partnership.

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.

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.

Your Windows 7 Checklist

Windows 7 Checklist

Windows 7 Checklist

When you’re working hard to grow your business, you can get caught up in things that take your attention away from your technology. Before you know it, your IT system isn’t up to speed because you failed to update an operating system. We don’t want this to happen. This is why we’ve provided a checklist about Windows 7, its approaching End of Life (EOL), and what you should do.

It’s Time To Upgrade From Windows 7

Extended support for Windows 7 will end on January 14, 2020. This means that Microsoft won’t provide security updates for PCs running Windows 7. This could put your IT system at risk for security and reliability issues.

We recommend that you plan your upgrade now. And, if you run a business, we advise that you skip Windows 8 and upgrade to Windows 10 Pro.

Skip Windows 8 and Migrate To Windows 10 Pro

Windows 8 product enhancements (mainstream support) ended back on January 9, 2018. And reliability and security patches will end on January 10, 2023 (the end of extended support). This may seem like a long time from now, but if you’re upgrading anyway, shouldn’t you use the most current Windows program? Windows 10 Pro offers the very latest technology, and it’s built for business use.

Windows 10 Pro Will Benefit Your Business

  • Increased Security is incorporated with ongoing protections like Windows Defender Antivirus, BitLocker, a Firewall and more (at no extra cost to you).
  • Windows Remote Desktop ensures that you can access your files from any PC or tablet with an internet connection.
  • Automatic Cloud Storage will store and protect your Word, PowerPoint and Excel files from system crashes.
  • Sign In 3 Times Faster by using Windows Hello with Facial and Fingerprint Recognition.

Take Advantage of New Features In Windows 10 Pro

  • Windows Ink with Touch Screen & Digital Pen Capabilities
  • Windows 10 Pro pairs with Office Documents and Other Apps
  • Microsoft Edge with faster and safer web browsing, automatic form filling, type or write on webpage capabilities, and much more
  • Cortana voice-activated digital assistant integrates with your calendar and other Windows apps.

You Have Two Choices For Upgrading

1. Migrate your existing machines to Windows 10 Pro.

2. Replace your old computers with new Windows 10 devices.

Consider This Before You Migrate To Windows 10 Pro

Are your current apps compatible with Windows 10? (Check Microsoft’s App Directory to be sure.)

Do your existing computers meet these system requirements?

  • 1GHz processor or faster
  • 1GB RAM for 32-bit; 2GB for 64-bit
  • Up to 20GB available hard disk space
  • 800 x 600 screen resolution or higher
  • DirectX 9 graphics processor with WDDM driver

There are 2 Migration Tool Options

1. Windows Easy Transfer

  • For a small number of computers or a single customized deployment.
  • Transfer files and settings via a network share, USB flash drive, or Easy Transfer cable.
  • Can’t use a regular USB cable to transfer files and settings

2. User State Migration Tool (USMT) 10.0

  • Best for large-scale automated deployments.
  • Uses .xml files to control which user.
  • Accounts, files, and settings are migrated.
  • Use for side-by-side migrations for hardware replacements, and wipe-and-load migrations.

Test The Quality & Performance of Your New System

Use the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ABK) to test the quality and performance of your system, and to customize Windows images for large-scale deployments.

Need Help Upgrading To Windows 10 Pro?

We’re always here to help and answer your questions