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.

What Is Network Segmentation?

Email User On Segmented Network

What Is Network Segmentation?

Businesses that offer WiFi to their customers or have sensitive data needs should consider network segmentation as a necessary component of their IT solution.

Email User On Segmented Network

With network segmentation, your wireless services are separated into different parts, allowing you to better control access and data flow.

Network segmentation splits your wireless services into different segments or subnetworks. By establishing separate networks, you significantly reduce your company’s security risks.

Instead of putting all your corporate and guest traffic on the same WiFi network, segment the activity to keep sensitive data apart from visitors, reduce risk.

Why?

When devices are connected to the same network, by default they can “talk” to other devices on the same network. That increases the potential for devices to listen to network traffic without any rules or monitoring in place.

The risk is lower if all the devices on your network are trusted and managed by your company. However, you could have a problem when less trustworthy devices are connected, such as guest and visitor smartphones, legacy computers and servers, or employee personal devices.

How Does Network Segmentation Work?

Network segments are designed with their own hardware and only allow credentialed users to access the services. Rules are built into network configurations to determine how devices on subnetworks can connect with each other.

Network segmentation limits the impact if there is a system intrusion by containing the threat within a subnetwork.

What Does a Typical Segmented Network Look Like?

For many small- and medium-sized businesses, there is only a need for a simple, two-subnetwork structure. A corporate subnetwork would be used for company-owned and -managed devices, providing access to the internal company subnetwork and, through a firewall, to the internet.

A guest subnetwork would be built to provide access to the internet only, also through a firewall. It keeps those guest devices disconnected from the corporate subnetwork from the start. Employee-owned devices can also be connected to a guest subnetwork.

Your business, whether it’s a medical practice, retail operation, auto dealership or professional services firm, may want visitors and guests to have WiFi access. It’s an appreciated service for those who need connectivity and do not want to use up their allotted data. If that service is the expectation or norm, you want to make sure it’s done carefully.

What Are the Security Benefits of Network Segmentation?

Security is the primary reason to choose network segmentation. The benefits are considerable

  • Stronger Security Standards. Segmentation allows you to better protect your most sensitive data. With layers of separation among your segmented networks, you’re putting up additional barriers to all users — whether well-intended or not.
  • Slowed Access for Attackers. If there is a breach to one segment of your network, it will be more difficult and take more time for the attacker to reach other parts of your system.
  • Minimized Threat from Outside Devices. Outside devices may have been hacked for the sole purpose of accessing corporate networks when connected. Often hackers install programs that lie dormant until connected to a wireless network. If compromised guest devices are contained within a subnetwork, the impact is minimal.
  • Better Policy Development. Strong network segmentation means your company can better restrict user access. Using a policy of least privilege lets you limit user access to files and systems to only what’s necessary.
  • Limited Damage. Network segmentation lets you reduce any damage inflicted by successful attacks. A breach to a single device within a subnetwork will mean less time and money to repair the damage of a widespread, system-wide assault.
  • Improved Performance. An added benefit of having segmented networks are the performance gains. With fewer devices on each subnetwork, local traffic is minimized and broadcast traffic can be isolated and prioritized.

What’s Needed to Start Network Segmentation?

If your internal IT staff does not have experience with network configuration, it’s a smart move to work with a local managed services provider to complete the project. Your business should do the following in preparation for a segmentation project:

  • Identify your network and data security needs, including the sensitivity of data you use and the business impact of compromised data and system downtime
  • Know where the data you want to keep safe is stored and how they could be separated
  • Determine who needs access to information on your network and limit access to only what is necessary by department or role
  • Identify those who will be responsible for monitoring and maintaining your network. A managed IT services company can do both remotely with net-generation firewall solutions

Network segmentation is a strategic move to keep data protected and accessible only by those who need it.

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.

How Do I Choose a Cloud Computing Model?

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing

How Do I Choose a Cloud Computing Model?

No matter what your company or organization specializes in, it’s sure that you have some form or forms of data that needs to be stored, well, somewhere.

Before the invention of cloud computing, most company data was always stored on-site — that is, in the hard drives at a place of business. Additionally, some businesses may have had data stored on remotely-located hard drives or discs; but the majority of data was “in the building.”

Naturally, you can see how this would be dangerous — both for you as a business owner and your clients, customers, and investors. Sensitive data such as customer specs or financial information could be easily stolen, corrupted, lost because of a computer glitch, or even destroyed in a fire.

Today, with the advent of cloud computing. The bulk of these worries are gone. Nearly all major companies, organizations, governments, and many individuals use the cloud.

What is the cloud and what is “cloud computing”?

The first thing to know about “the cloud” is that it’s not a physical thing like a computer or a hard drive. Instead, this term refers to a virtual space or a select part of the Internet — the part that stores data.

Just as you can surf the web from anywhere in the world as long as you have an Internet connection, you can also access the cloud from anywhere in the world — plus whatever you store there. Again, you simply need an Internet connection. In this way, many people simply define the “cloud” as a metaphor for the Internet.

“Cloud computing” is the generally recognized term for all computing actions done in or via the cloud. Therefore, cloud computing refers to cloud-based data storage, but it also means cloud-based:

  • Data management
  • Content delivery
  • Access to applications and software
  • Delivery of services

Should your business be using cloud computing?

Before we dive into how to choose a cloud computing method, let’s talk about why you should be using cloud computing — and you absolutely should be.

Cloud computing provides numerous benefits that old-fashioned computing methods just can’t live up to. Specifically, cloud computing provides:

  • Mobility and Efficiency: You can work on the cloud from anywhere. Allow your employees, customers, clients, and investors to access the best that your company has to offer, without worrying about weighing down the system or collapsing your infrastructure.
  • Ultimate Security: The cloud provides the best security available when it comes to storing your sensitive data. Even when hardware and equipment fails, you know your data will be stored safely and backed up.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: With non-cloud computing solutions, you must anticipate the extent to which you’ll use your storage space and other computing needs beforehand. Cloud computing allows you to scale your cloud services up or down, based on your unique needs.
  • Strategic Value: Cloud computing methods are always updated with the latest software and the newest tech. This gives your company a competitive edge. Plus, there’s no need to toss outdated technology or revamp your entire network, which would otherwise set your company timeline back significantly.

What method of cloud computing should my business use?

This depends on the organization’s specifications, needs, and goals. There are three basic methods of cloud computing to choose from.

Private Cloud Computing

This model of cloud computing provides dedicated use to your company’s data and systems over a private IT infrastructure. This is a good model to choose if you are particularly concerned about confidentiality and security. Only a trusted third-party or your company’s internal resources team should manage a private model of cloud computing, and you should only give access to those within your company.

Public Cloud Computing

This method of cloud computing allows your business’s resources (software, platforms, infrastructure) to be available to the general public. In some cases, these types of cloud computing models are offered to the public for free, but they may also be sold by a pay-per-usage model.

Hybrid Cloud Computing

As the name suggests, the hybrid cloud computing model blends a public cloud and a private cloud. The hybrid model is mostly by companies who need to operate both models, and thus, the two are integrated into one overarching system.

Resources in the cloud are easier to access, manage, and recover after an equipment malfunction. By switching your business to one of the cloud computing models outlined above, you’ll have a competitive edge and complete control of your company’s data and systems.

Your MacOS Is Under Attack: 2019’s Biggest Malware Threats

MacOS and Malware

Your MacOS Is Under Attack: 2019’s Biggest Malware Threats

MacOS and Malware

The Mac operating system (MacOs) has frequently been hailed as one of the best systems for its resiliency to malware and typical viruses. But the days of MacOs standing strong and tall with no worries have really always been a misconception. Mac systems are just as vulnerable to the beefed-up, intelligent malware threats that are out there today.

SentinelOne published a lengthy review of the MacOs malware at the end of 2018, but in a new release, SentinelOne also stated that there has actually been an uptick in the numbers of new types out there attacking users. Here is a look at some of 2019’s biggest MacOs malware threats that every Mac-reliant business owner should know.

1. OSX.Siggen: A Malware Download from a Malicious Domain

Masquerading as a helpful app called WhatsApp, OSX.Siggen is actually a latched-on malware that slips in during a regular app download. WhatsApp is a fake social media platform, and the download looks super enticing when users come across it. However, once added to MacOs, the app runs with a backdoor designed to take administrative control over the system.

2. KeyStealDaemon: Password Hijacker

This dirty malware showed up in February of 2019, but by June it was still running strong. Apple allowed a patch several years ago designed for another purpose, but KeyStealDaemon can create administrative privileges for itself by slipping through. Unfortunately, this malware allows the person behind the scenes to get into the system and steal pretty much any password you have stored. The good news is, if you have properly updated your system, KeyStealDaemon can be booted out because it cannot break through.

3. CookieMiner Slips In and Steals Credentials

Toward the end of January 2019, a cryptominer showed up with its own installed backdoor to induce a threatening combination of technologies to steal cryptocurrency exchange cookies and passwords for Google Chrome. The worrisome thing about CookieMiner is this: experts believe that the malware could potentially have the rare ability to bypass things like authentication processes that involve multiple factors. If CookieMiner is capable of gathering enough cookies and credentials, cryptocurrency wallets can be virtually pickpocketed right in plain sight.

4. Mokes.B Puts On a Good Act

Persistence agents running amuck on your MacOs with familiar names may never be spotted, especially if they are calling themselves things like Firefox, Skype, or Chrome. This is precisely how Mokes.B avoids suspicion when it latches onto the operating system in application support folders and tracking files. Mokes.B is super-scary because it can gain the ability to take actual screenshots whole you are on pertinent screens, but it can also record keystrokes to steal date you are keying in.

5. A Variant of OSX.Pirrit Has Shown Up

OSX.Pirrit caused a lot of problems a few years ago, but this malware never really disappeared altogether. Instead, new family members under the old parent app are still being found on MacOs, and they are not being detected as they would otherwise be when acting as OSX.Pirrit. The aim of this malware is to make money from redirect actions that occur as a result of a browser infection, but there are rumors that PIRRIT is potentially capable of stealing data as well.

6. OSX.Dok Reroutes User Traffic

OSX.Dok gets into a system and installs a securely tucked-away Tor version location on a Mac system. User traffic hitting a site gets sent to an onion server instead of where it should be, which is a major problem for business owners needing to protect sensitive customer actions when they think they are on an e-commerce website. One of the scariest things about OSX.Dok is the fact that it can steal even SSL encrypted internet traffic maneuvers. Older versions of this software were thought to be banished, but new versions continually pop up.

Even though there are so many Mac users who think they are covered by some unseen immunity from malicious software, these risks are there and the growing list of 2019 proves that fact. Attackers deploying these software programs are targeting those easy-to-break barriers, so something like an improperly updated computer or even an unsuspecting employee can leave a business computer wide-open for an attack.

Why Is Wi-Fi So Slow on My Phone?

Wifi slow

Wifi slow

Just about nothing is more frustrating when using a smartphone than connecting to a sluggish or broken Wi-Fi network. In most places, mobile data is so effective and speedy these days that we just can’t accept a Wi-Fi network performing worse than our mobile networks can.

If you’re dealing with obnoxiously slow speeds on your mobile phone, here are some tips to try.

1. Isolate the Problem

Your first step is to isolate the problem. First, toggle off Wi-Fi altogether. Does your phone respond quickly with Wi-Fi turned off? If so, you’ve determined that Wi-Fi is the problem. You can skip to step 2.

If your phone is still sluggish with Wi-Fi turned off, it’s time to check whether the problem is your connection or the device itself. Use a speed tester, like the app from speedtest.net, to see how fast or slow your cellular connection is. If you get a bad result, you’re likely in a bad coverage area. If you get a good result, though, then your phone’s sluggishness isn’t related to your internet speed. Chances are there is something wrong with the device itself, or perhaps it’s just too old and needs to be replaced.

2. Check Your Router Location

Next, check your router location. Wireless routers have range limits, too. If you’re far away from your router or if there are thick walls or furniture between you and your router, your speed will be diminished. Try operating right next to the router and see if your speeds improve.

The best location for your wireless router is the center of your home or office, away from any walls or furniture. Of course, this is rarely practical. Get creative and find an inventive way to place your router in a good location.

3. Check Router Strength

All routers have limits, and some have a stronger broadcast strength than others. If improving your router’s location doesn’t do enough, you may need to upgrade to a model with a greater range.

4. Watch Out for Noise and Competing Networks

Certain electronic devices create noise that can weaken your Wi-Fi network’s performance. Anything that emits wireless signals or even electromagnetic radiation can interfere. Cordless landline phones, walkie-talkies, and even microwaves can interfere. Position your router away from devices like these.

You also want to watch out for competing networks. The more wireless networks are competing for the same spectrum space, the worse the performance. In a high-density situation like an apartment complex, you may encounter this kind of network crowding. Your wireless router has the ability to change which portion of the wireless spectrum it uses. Review the documentation that came with your router to learn how to do this. You may want to download a Wi-Fi analyzer app to help determine the best spectrum space for you.

5. Consider Network Congestion

Another reason for slow Wi-Fi is network congestion. Your home or business internet bandwidth has its limits. So does public Wi-Fi.

On a lower speed home network, consider who else is using your connection and what they are doing with it. Gaming and streaming can eat up a lot of bandwidth. Perhaps your Wi-Fi is slow because others are using up all your bandwidth. The same principle is in play with public Wi-Fi networks.

If you’ve tried all these steps and still aren’t getting the performance you need, give us a call. We can help you solve your connection issues!

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.

Size Doesn’t Matter: 7 Ways Small Businesses Should Think Big

Small Business Tips

Small Business Tips

You may be a small business, but there’s no reason you have to think or act small. Today’s technology innovations offer small businesses all sorts of powerful tools that just a decade ago weren’t available or were only affordable to large firms. Technology can help small businesses think like big ones in all sorts of ways. Here are 7 ways small businesses should start thinking bigger.

1. Embrace the Cloud

There are numerous cloud-based technologies that can help your small business punch above its weight. By embracing the cloud, you can save money, improve your staff’s productivity, and expand or contract IT operations far easier than you could without the cloud.

Entrust things like email and calendar hosting, file storage, and video chat to cloud-based software and infrastructure solutions. Most small businesses will pay less for a cloud solution than they would to purchase and maintain servers and software. This is due to the economy of scale: your cloud provider is operating at a very large scale, so the cost of adding just a bit more server space is negligible. Without cloud services, your small business shoulders all the unique setup and maintenance costs all your own.

2. Improve Your Website

Sometimes the difference between a successful small business and a failing one is as simple as the quality of their website. Your website is your digital storefront, but it’s also your digital billboard, white pages, classified ad, and more. If it looks terrible or doesn’t function well, you’re sending a poor message to your customers and prospective customers.

If revamping your website is more than your business can do well in-house, consider contracting with a vendor for this crucial task. Many managed service providers offer this service or can contract with qualified vendors who do.

3. Leverage Social

Your business needs a social presence, even if it’s small. This is true of all small businesses, but the smaller your business, the more important grassroots tools like social become. Share content regularly (including photos and videos) and encourage your most loyal customers to do the same.

As your brand’s social presence grows, it’s important to keep an eye on your reputation. What are people saying publicly about you? Is there anything you need to intervene on? Social can be a great avenue to see what challenges your customers are facing.

4. Use CRM Software

Customer resource management (CRM) software is the way big businesses keep in contact with customers in an organized fashion. CRM software isn’t limited to large firms, though. Affordable cloud-based options that work well with small business are available.

5. Big Data Isn’t Everything

Big data helps big companies win, right? That’s what we’re always hearing, and there’s truth to it. That said, we’ve all seen plenty of examples of big data leading companies astray, like “targeted ads” that miss completely or hyper-local campaigns that come off as fake or out-of-touch.

As a small business, you have access to something big businesses don’t: real, interpersonal data. Call it “small data” if you like. You likely know your customers much better than large firms do. Write down the things you learn. Better, input that information into your CRM software. You have the ability to send more personal notes than your large, faceless competitors. Capitalize on this.

6. Plan to Plan

You have a business plan in place, but as you grow, does your business plan grow with you? Your small business runs the risk of losing focus as it grows. Employees and leadership get so focused on daily tasks that they don’t keep their eyes on the overall plan. In other cases the overall plan becomes outdated and less applicable. Schedule time each year to review your business plan and goals, just like the big guys do.

7. Don’t Go It Alone

Lastly and most importantly, don’t go it alone as a small business. Your business is unique, set apart by some feature, product, or ethos that your competitors don’t have. Focus as much of your energy as possible on that thing, on your core competencies. As much as possible, divest yourself from other things.

One of those other things, for most businesses, is IT. Partnering with a managed service provider (MSP) to implement and support your IT infrastructure can save you money and increase productivity. You’ll also gain access to a deeper bench of IT professionals than you could afford to keep in house. If you’re ready to explore what we can do as your MSP, contact us today.

SharePoint Introduces Intelligent Workplace Through Home Sites

Sharepoint Homesites

Sharepoint Homesites

Microsoft recently announced major enhancements to Microsoft 365 (yes, you read that right — Office 365 is now a part of Microsoft 365), including significant upgrades to SharePoint. The innovation with perhaps the greatest potential is Home Sites. In today’s tech blog, we’ll explore what Microsoft is up to with this new feature.

SharePoint Home Sites

If you’ve used Office 365 for any length of time, you’ve probably come across SharePoint. Most users know it as the name of the cloud storage component of Office 365. SharePoint has also been the underpinnings of some companies’ intranet sites for the better part of a decade.

SharePoint home sites is a huge evolution for the intranet component in the Microsoft 365 platform. Corporate vice president for OneDrive, SharePoint, and Office Jeff Teper calls them “a dynamic, engaging, and personalized employee experience for your organization.” What are home sites exactly, though?

Intranet, Evolved

SharePoint home sites are Microsoft’s vision for the future of the workplace intranet. They are intelligent — powered by AI, and they provide a landing page for employees that customizes based on the employee’s role.

Here are a few of the new features in SharePoint home sites.

  • SharePoint home sites include powerful Microsoft Search technology that reaches every corner of the company’s intranet.
  • SharePoint home sites intelligently share content that’s relevant to users depending on each user’s position in the company.
  • SharePoint home sites pull together collaboration tools like Yammer and Stream into one location that’s customized for each user.
  • SharePoint home sites offer additional personalization options, allowing users to customize their page for maximum productivity.

What SharePoint Home Sites Can Do for You

Part of the strength of home sites is their customization options, but users and organizations will see benefits even with a straight “out of the box” deployment. Here are a handful.

News, For All

By default, home sites serve as an organization-wide news source. Anything published as news to the home site is shown to every user as organizational news. With SharePoint home sites, you can take your news out of the email vortex and put it front and center on your home site.

A Powerful, Connected Page

Home sites are also linked up with the newly enhanced SharePoint start page, which allows you to jump right into work. The search box provided is also powerful and connected. It’s powered by Microsoft Search, and it reaches across your enterprise—anywhere the user has access to.

Low Barrier to Entry

Another feature is the low barrier to entry. With home sites, you can build out an intranet portal in just minutes, not months. You don’t need to know how to code, and you can brand your site to fit your company image.

Conclusion

Are you ready to take the leap to Microsoft 365 and explore SharePoint home sites? We’re here to guide you. Contact us today!