Ready for Disaster? Tips for Creating a Smart Business Continuity Plan

Business Planning

Mitigate Disaster with a Comprehensive Business Continuity Plan

When you create a detailed business continuity plan, you can keep disaster from disrupting your operations. See how to get started here.  

Business Planning

When disaster strikes, disruptions to your operations could negatively impact your construction projects, pushing them past the deadline and over budget. And it is not just natural disasters you have to worry about, either.

Everything from serious IT problems to the loss of important team members has the potential to wipe out your operations. That is, unless you have a smart business continuity plan in place. With this plan, you can keep your operations moving along like normal, helping ensure the success of all your construction projects.

Importance of Having a Business Continuity Plan

In optimal conditions, there’s no doubt everything runs like clockwork, as your team works hard to complete their individual tasks. If anyone fails to come through, however, everything could grind to a halt. Furthermore, without writing it out, only a few in your company may know just what everyone should be working on and how it all comes together.

Therefore, you need a business continuity plan just in case serious disruptions leave you without certain team members, equipment, or workspaces. In many ways, this plan is a big-picture overview of everything that goes on at your construction firm. It also identifies all the workarounds you can use when faced with disruptions caused by different disaster scenarios.

Above all, your plan should detail who is in charge of each department in the absence of key players and all the ways they can keep moving forward in their daily duties. With that approach, you can keep major disruptions from throwing your workforce off track or preventing them from completing their tasks.

How to Create a Continuity Plan for Your Business

Without knowing what is on the horizon, there is really no time to waste in creating your business continuity plan. Thankfully, you can easily approach this process by using the following steps.

Take a Complete Inventory of Your Company

Taking inventory of your workforce, contacts, and equipment is the very first thing you must do to create your plan. You will likely need to take a big step back from your construction company to complete this step.

To start, create a list of all your employees, noting the major players in each department. Add their contact information in full, so you can find how to reach out at a glance. Then, create similar records of your material suppliers, clients, and other important contacts.

Next, you can move onto creating a complete inventory of all the equipment used on each of your job sites. Make sure to include their make, model, and serial numbers, so you can find parts or file claims as needed to keep things moving along. In addition, note any local parts suppliers, repair techs, and equipment dealers for those brands to complete your log.

Outline Existing Processes and Highlight Critical Areas

With the completion of the inventory step, you will need to look at your operations. Go from department to department, look at the duties of each employee and how they support other departments. Along the way, busy yourself with creating flowcharts for all the distinct processes used to run your construction company.

Throughout this process, identify your key operations and the major players you depend on to get the work done. Then, see who can fill in if those individuals cannot make it work. Also, add ways employees can workaround specific disruptions and continue to fulfill their core duties.

Identify Temporary Workstations and Keep Them Updated

If your core employees cannot get to their normal workstations, everything should not grind to a halt. But it will unless you have already identified temporary workstations and made the effort to keep them updated.

The workstations should have all the equipment and software normally used by the team and be completely ready for their use. So, create an update schedule and make sure the temporary workstations are included whenever you complete a major equipment or software upgrade. Furthermore, ensure your employees know about the existence of these workstations and how to access them.

Create Your Plan for Maintaining Critical Operations

With your understanding of your core operations, you can create a plan for each of your employees, helping them mitigate the effects of the disaster. Working across all departments, you will need to indicate who is responsible for getting each system back online and up to their normal operating levels. They should have a clear direction on the steps to take and the tools they will need to complete the assigned tasks.

Your plan should cover not only the construction tasks you are responsible for in that moment, but also all the administrative ones. You need to let your payroll department know how to proceed, for example, to ensure they can continue to process payments for all your employees.

Once you are finished creating your business continuity plan, store the main copy in a secure location and provide each department with their own copies.

Don’t Wait — Create Your Business Continuity Plan Today

So, now that you know what to do, there’s really no reason to wait. Start building your business continuity plan today to protect your operations from disaster. Otherwise, your employees could be left without the knowledge needed to keep your business afloat until everything returns to normal.

Will Your Business Be Impacted by the End of Microsoft Exchange 2010?

End of support Microsoft Exchange 2010

End of support Microsoft Exchange 2010

Will Your Business Be Impacted by the End of Microsoft Exchange 2010?

Exchange 2010 has been a great program for businesses for many years, but its time is now winding down. Find out what this means for your business. 

All good things must come to an end. For Microsoft Exchange 2010, that end will happen at a date in the very near future: January 14, 2020. Migrating away from an integral piece of business software can take some time, so if you’re not already planning this shift for your business it’s time to get started! While Microsoft is encouraging people to shift away from the perpetual license option and go towards Office 365, you can also move to Microsoft Exchange 2016 if you don’t want to move to the cloud. At the end of a product’s lifecycle, the manufacturer determines that the vast majority of individuals and businesses have already moved on to a new platform, and they stop providing new features, security and bug fixes, time zone updates and support. In today’s world, your email server is your first line of defense against malware and ransomware — making the lack of security updates a key reason for taking the time to upgrade before time runs out on your support.

What Does the End of a Software Lifecycle Really Mean?

As with most software companies, there are several stages in the lifecycle of Microsoft Exchange and other Microsoft Office products. They are generally defined as mainstream support, extended support and service pack support. Mainstream support is generally guaranteed for a minimum of five years after product ships and is valid while the vast majority of people are still actively using the platform. Extended support generally lasts another five years, and includes a more limited support infrastructure. There are limitations on the work that the software teams are willing to do on products in this stage of life: non-security hotfixes are not released and there are no new functionalities added to the platform. While the platform is still considered secure and supported, this stage is an indication that it’s time to start your search for what comes next. In the final stage, you only receive critical security updates and little else in terms of support.

Why It’s Time to Move On . . . Quickly

Exchange 2010 doesn’t support an in-place upgrade, meaning you’ll need to find the time and IT staff hours to migrate completely — setting up new servers and mailboxes if you decide to go the route of another perpetual license option. Moving to Office 365 may be a good option for your business, but there is still a bit of setup required before you can make this move. With only a few months left before security updates are no longer provided, many organizations are scrambling to be sure they beat the deadline and maintain a platform that is fully protected and receives regular security patches. Email is a mission-critical application for your business, making it crucial to ensure that you’ve made a decision and have a game plan in place long before January 2020.

Upgrade Options Available

There are a few different ways to get out of the woods if you’re still running Exchange 2010. It may seem intuitive to simply upgrade to Exchange 2013, but that product has already completed Phase I and II of its lifecycle and is no longer receiving cumulative updates. Exchange Server 2016 is a better option if you prefer to stick with perpetual licensing models, but the product is already several years old. Updating to the most recent version of Exchange 2019, which was released in late 2018, seems like the best option — but it’s important to note that you must first upgrade to 2016 before making the jump to 2019 versions. Moving to Exchange Server 365 may provide a range of benefits for your organization such as better integration, improved security and continuous updates but it’s also important to note that there are additional decisions to be made around the other aspects of Office online.

Finding the right solution for your business does take time and analysis, but it’s vital that you take the first steps soon to reduce the risk to your organization. Critical patches for Microsoft products are released on a fairly regular basis, and your business can be opened to cyberattackers if you miss a single update — much less several security updates. Completing your migration will provide your technology team with peace of mind knowing that your most important channel of business communication is fully protected by an up-to-date Exchange server.

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.

How to Achieve Digital Success

Man Looking at IPad with Graph

As the business world continues to evolve, digital transformation becomes even more important for every company, regardless of the industry. However, successfully moving into the digital arena and remaining on top requires companies to make the right choices when it comes to their money and their time.

Man Looking at IPad with Graph

Below are some tips to help your company achieve ongoing digital success.

1. Create a designated budget for digital projects.

In order to become a digital success, monetary investment is always required. Carve out a section of your budget that will be dedicated to digital projects only. In general, your digital expenses should represent at least five percent of your annual expenses. However, depending on your situation, you may decide to scale this amount up or down.

2. Involve your employees.

Investing money in digital projects alone is not enough to guarantee your success. You must also involve your employees in these endeavors. Every employee on your staff should be aware of your goals with regard to digital projects, and some of your employees should be working exclusively in roles related to digital.

3. Stay on top of emerging technologies.

The digital world is always changing, with new technologies on the horizon every day. To be successful digitally, your company needs to be aware of the new technologies as they emerge so you can incorporate them into your operations when appropriate.

4. Consider digital when looking for new talent.

Bringing your current employees onboard with your digital projects can be helpful, but it isn’t enough to ensure lasting success in this arena. As digital continues to become more widespread, hiring employees who are comfortable with technology becomes even more important for every company. When looking for new talent to add to your team, make digital skills a priority.

5. Make use of data.

To improve customer experiences digitally, your company needs to invest in and utilize data. Data allows you to customize every customer’s interactions with your company so he or she can have the highest level of satisfaction possible. Data also allows you to gain valuable insights about every aspect of your business’ operations so you can identify strengths and weaknesses.

6. Seek professional assistance.

Bringing digital to your company successfully can be a challenge, especially if you aren’t an expert in this field and/or if you have many other responsibilities. If you aren’t sure how to incorporate digital into your daily operations, consider hiring a consultant or even a full-time digital team to help you make the most of your investments and your efforts.

These are just a few of the strategies you can use to make your company a digital success. Keep in mind that success rarely comes overnight, so ongoing effort will likely be required before you will see the results you desire.

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.

Should Your Business Outsource IT Operations?

Outsourced IT Operations

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

Outsourced IT Operations

Predictability in Pricing

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

Reducing Overhead — and Improving Quality of Service

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

Scale Your Business With Ease

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

Enterprise-Level Technology — Sized for Your Business

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

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

What Is Managed IT Services & Who Provides Services

Managed IT Services

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

What Is Managed IT Services Exactly?

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

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

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

How Do Organizations Utilize Managed IT Services?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scaling for Growth

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

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

The Talent Gap Is Real

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

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

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

IT Managed Services

Who Provides Managed IT Services?

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

Services Offered and Specialization

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

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

Local vs. Global MSPs

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

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

Conclusion

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

Outsourcing IT Makes Sense for Small Businesses: 7 Reasons

Woman Outsourcing Technology Support

Woman Outsourcing Technology Support

If you’re a small business owner, you have plenty of things to worry about. IT shouldn’t be one of them. We think it makes complete sense for most small businesses to outsource their IT needs to a managed service provider (MSP). Here are 7 reasons.

1. Focus on What Makes You Unique

This first reason is a big one. Small businesses have limits on how many people they can hire. If you try to keep all your IT in house, you’ll devote a decent number of your hires to IT once you reach a certain size.

Here’s the problem: your business isn’t IT. (If it is, you probably don’t need this guide!) Outsourcing your IT frees up capital and office space that you can instead devote to your core business. Outsource your IT so you can better focus your staff on whatever it is that makes you unique.

2. Access More Skill

With an in-house IT team, you’re limited to whatever number of specialties you can afford to hire. Your IT team will work hard, and its members will stretch their skills and find a way to accomplish things outside their skill set. Their work won’t always be done in the best way, though. By outsourcing your IT, you gain access to a broader range of skills and certifications. You can rest easy knowing that it was done right from the get-go.

3. Do More, Faster

Related to the previous point, your IT needs will be met faster by a dedicated team of experts than by a small but well-intentioned in-house team. All that time the in-house team spends poking around looking for answers to problems that lie outside their specialties is the time you’re paying for. With an MSP you’ll usually get the right answer, right away.

4. Reduce Personnel Costs

When you hire in-house IT staff, you’re on the hook for all the associated personnel costs, like insurance, FICA, and so forth. These costs are often hidden and can be burdensome for small businesses. With an MSP, you pay a fixed monthly rate, and you don’t have to worry about administrative personnel costs. The MSP takes care of those for its employees.

5. Reduce Infrastructure Costs

Outsourcing IT to an MSP isn’t solely about reducing IT headcount and the costs associated with personnel. You can also save IT infrastructure costs by using an MSP. Service agreements vary, but some will include some or all hardware in the monthly fee. You can avoid large spikes in expenses for new equipment by choosing this kind of service agreement.

Your MSP can also move much of your IT infrastructure to the cloud, eliminating the need to house costly servers at your business. The less IT infrastructure you have on site, the less you pay to power and maintain that equipment.

6. Free Your Existing IT Team to Focus

For larger small businesses, outsourcing IT usually isn’t done with the intent of drastically reducing or eliminating IT headcount. It’s more about allowing your existing IT team to focus in and specialize.

If your IT staff has grown beyond just one or two generalists, you likely have some highly capable, highly qualified individuals on your team. Here’s a scary proposition: go ask those people how many hours a week are eaten up doing low-level IT errands like helping John in Accounting with basic computer questions or reminding Sarah from Accounts not to reply-all to emails?

Outsourcing your basic IT functions to an MSP allows your existing IT team to focus on their areas of specialization. You’re also free to assign in-house assets to IT functions that are core to your business or are proprietary.

7. Gain After Hours Support (Without Paying Overtime)

Outsourcing your IT needs to an MSP with a 24/7 service agreement means instant access to support anytime. With an in-house IT staff, you’ll end up paying overtime if a system goes down after hours. You may also have to wait for that IT staffer to physically arrive to fix the problem.

When you outsource, you get near immediate remote support, without the overtime. This is a great benefit to small businesses of all varieties and sizes. You’ll benefit even more from after-hours service if you have virtual team members or even satellite offices in far-flung time zones.

Conclusion

We’ve covered just 7 of the many reasons that outsourcing IT to a managed service provider is the right choice for small businesses. Do you have questions about specific aspects of working with an MSP? Let’s chat. We’re ready to answer.

How to Find the Right IT Services Company

IT Services Company

If your business has made the decision to contract with an IT services company for IT support, you’ve made the right choice. However, you’re not done yet. You still need to choose the IT services company that’s best for your business. In most markets, you’ll have choices — maybe too many choices. Use these criteria for how to find the right IT services company to narrow down your search.

IT Services Company

1. Size Matters

IT services firms come in all shapes and sizes, from boutique outfits with just a few employees to massive firms with multiple physical locations. Make sure you evaluate the size of an IT services company compared to the size and needs of your business. The right IT services company will be transparent about how many employees they have in various roles or departments, and it will have sufficient capacity to meet your needs.

2. The Right Competencies

IT services companies are generally quite competent. If not, they go out of business pretty fast. So “Are they competent?” is the wrong question. The right question to ask is whether they have the right competencies. Create a comprehensive list of your business’s hardware and software use. Don’t just ask whether the company can support what you’re using. Ask for proof that they have already successfully done so with other businesses.

3. Industry Familiarity

Along the same lines, ideally, you want an IT services company that already understands your industry. Throwing industry jargon at your IT vendor is unavoidable, so it’s important that they understand that jargon. Ask how many companies in your industry the firm has worked with previously. The more, the better.

4. Location, Location, Location

In general, we recommend giving preference to local firms. If you need on-site service, local firms can handle this directly. A distant IT support company has to find a local vendor and hope for good availability.

Finding a provider close by isn’t always possible, and it’s not feasible if you’re a multi-site organization. Still, smaller companies will benefit from choosing a local provider.

5. Service Providers Have Rules, Too

Many IT services companies have their own rules about which businesses they will take on. Before a company makes it onto your short list, make sure your business is actually qualified. For example, some service providers have upper or lower limits for the number of workstations supported, meaning if your business is too large or too small, they won’t serve you. Others may refuse to support specific hardware or software types, or they may narrow their field of clients to specific industries.

Conclusion

These are a handful of the areas you should consider when choosing the right IT services firm. If you want to ask us these or other questions, let’s get a conversation going.

Managed IT Helps Your Bottom Line: 6 Ways How

Managed IT Services

Managed IT Services

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

Increase Productivity

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

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

Stabilize Monthly Spending

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

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

Lower Your Initial Investment

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

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

Lower Overall IT Infrastructure Costs

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

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

Free Your IT Staff

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

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

Scale Your Business

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

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

Conclusion

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