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.

How to Hire Qualified Computer Specialists

Computer Repair

Need to Hire a Computer Repair Specialist? 5 Criteria to Consider

Are You Ready to Hire a Computer Repair Specialist? Read about the 5 Criteria You Need to Evaluate to Avoid Hiring the Wrong Person and Costly Mistakes  

Computer Repair

Computer use in the U.S. has grown exponentially in the last decade. Over 15 million computer devices were shipped out to users per year in 2003, according to industry data. That amount rose to an astonishing 65 million per quarter in 2015. With that many devices in consumers’ hands, computer repair specialists are a must for personal and enterprise users when something goes wrong. However, when it comes time to decide who to hire, knowing what criteria to look for can mean the difference between a mediocre and an excellent result.

Experience Levels

When deciding to hire a computer repair specialist or vendor, ask about the length and type of experience the specialist has. A specialist that has years of experience with the types of devices your organization has is ideal. If hiring a specialist from a local or national vendor, ask how employees or contractors are selected. Some vendors, for example, will only hire contractors that have successfully completed various industry certifications.

Education and Training

Hiring specialists that possess a formal degree in computer science or information systems can help improve the quality of service you receive. Industry certifications specific to general computer repair and troubleshooting, Apple, and Microsoft devices can also help. Specialists that keep up to date with industry trends and changes through continuing education courses is another good sign you will receive excellent service. Yet, industry certifications and degrees alone are not as important as years on the job and skills.

Device Types

Take a look at what types of devices your organization has and what devices require ongoing or periodic support. Some repair technicians will be highly specialized in certain types of devices, such as tablets or desktops. Repair specialists may only work on specific brands like Apple or Dell. Another important consideration is determining which repairs and devices can be supported internally versus externally. Simple repairs like replacing or upgrading RAM might be able to be completed by your internal IT department, depending upon the device brand and type. Other repairs like replacing a motherboard could be more complicated and require the device to be shipped into a vendor’s depot or replaced with a similar unit.

Cost

The cost of hiring a qualified computer repair specialist is usually at the top of most organizations’ criteria. Although it can be tempting to choose the vendor or specialist that offers the lowest price, this may not always be the best option. Consider whether there will be extra fees for issues that come up after the initial repair is completed. Also, check into whether completed repairs come with a warranty and how long the warranty lasts. Keep in mind that while the price of the service is not necessarily equated with quality, choosing smaller vendors or individual repair specialists will likely provide you with the best value.

Recommendations

Ask peers for recommendations on qualified computer repair providers. If the vendor or specialist is local, visit the location as a potential customer to see how the specialist responds. Assess whether you were treated courteously, whether the technician attempted to listen to your problem, and what repairs the technician recommended.

Which Cloud Storage is Right For Your Business

Cloud Storage

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

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

Cloud Storage

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

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

OneDrive from Microsoft

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

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

Dropbox

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

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

Google Drive

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

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

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

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.

Is Your Business Prepared to Take Action to Upgrade Windows OS Before January 2020?

Windows 7 End of Support

Is your business still using Windows 7? If so, it’s time to take serious action to upgrade to Windows 10 before the service cycle ends for this popular platform.  

Very early in 2020, there’s a situation occurring that has the potential to affect thousands of businesses across the US. No, it’s not a direct cybersecurity attack from a known threat vector. Instead, it’s the end of the functional lifecycle of one of business’s most beloved operating systems: Windows 7. While some businesses have been in denial that they needed to upgrade, it’s not unusual for small to mid-size businesses to still be running Windows 7 even with the deadline looming only a few months away. For the past 10 years, Windows 7 has provided a secure and stable OS for business, but regular patches and security upgrades will no longer be released for Windows 7 past January 2020 — leaving your computers open to the dangers of cyberattacks.

Don’t Put Your Business at RIsk

Hackers have been watching Windows 7 more closely as it nears the end of its lifecycle, looking for vulnerabilities that can be quickly exploited once maintenance has expired for the platform. While Windows upgrades are delivered every few years, they have a general window of a useful lifetime of 10 years. After that period, Microsoft eliminates free support and provides only very limited paid support options for your business. It’s not unusual for businesses to skip upgrading their operating systems and still be on a Windows 7 platform. As of 2019, there are still approximately 36% of computers accessing the internet from a device running Windows 7.

Steps You Can Take to Avoid the Impending January 2020 Deadline

Depending on the size of your business and how many computers are utilizing the Windows 7 operating system, there are a variety of options for upgrade. You can install updates on individual computers manually, and there are a few options for getting access to a free upgrade version of Windows 10. Unfortunately, you might find that your computers are not quite fast enough or new enough to handle an in-place upgrade and you might need to either purchase new machines or make adjustments to your current business machines to get them ready. Windows 10 has different operating system requirements than Windows 7 or even Windows 8, and might place too heavy of a load on older machines.

Don’t wait any longer to upgrade to the latest and most stable version of Windows operating system: Windows 10. With only a few months left before the end of the full maintenance cycle, Windows 7 is quickly becoming one of the most dangerous items in your technology landscape, a problem that can be quickly rectified by working with your local trusted technology solutions provider to create an upgrade schedule. If you aren’t comfortable upgrading directly in the few months that are left to your business, there are plenty of options for short-term maintenance that your proactive IT partner can help you explore.

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.

The Evolution of MSPs and the Benefits of Using Them

Managed Service Provider

MSPs and How They Developed Over Time

MSPs provide specialized services to small businesses who may not be able to hire a full staff of professionals.  

Managed Service Provider

Small business owners with limited resources can’t always afford to hire the professionals they need to help manage their business. They have the same basic needs as larger companies, just on a smaller scale. The problem is that, unlike their larger counterparts, they don’t have the budget or the resources to allow for such extravagances. In an attempt to fill these needs, MSPs were formed.

What Is an MSP?

An MSP, or managed service provider, is a company or team of professionals that offers specialized services to small business. They can be hired on contract or to perform specific jobs. MSPs are made up of professionals who have the advanced training needed to provide a variety of services that fall within their industry. There are MSPs in almost every industry. Professional service providers from each MSP can be hired one at a time or as a team to ensure the right people are selected for each job.

Different Types of MSPs

There are several different types of MSPs. IT and security management are two of the most common. There are also MSPs that deal with digital marketing and data analytics that help small companies reach larger audiences with strategically targeted marketing plans. IT companies help small businesses by setting up their digital network and making sure it runs efficiently. While the IT professionals work to protect the company’s information, security management MSPs help to protect the outside. They can install security systems and provide video surveillance cameras that allow the owners to see their property day or night.

The Reason Behind Their Growth

The main reason behind the explosion of growth that MSPs are experiencing has to do with filling a niche. MSPs provide specialized services for an affordable price. The owner of the small business only has to pay for the amount of time used or the services that are provided. With little money in the budget for hiring someone full time, using an MSP allows for the business owner to get the services they need at a manageable cost.

Why They Are Needed

One of the main benefits of hiring an MSP to perform specific tasks is that allows the owner to do what they do best. Manage their business. By focusing all of their attention on their business, they are able to maintain continued growth. Many small business owners don’t have the knowledge or experience to handle certain parts of their business. Hiring an MSP team of professionals allows them to hire someone with the knowledge and experience they need only for as long as they need them. This means better control of their business and not worrying about going over their already tight budget.

MSPs have grown considerably over the last few decades. Small business owners no longer have to worry about their lack of experience costing them money. Now they can turn to the professionals they need to take care of the tasks that sometimes went overlooked in the past.