SD-WAN and MPLS Battle: Which Is Better?

SDWAN or MPLS

SDWAN or MPLS

What’s your favorite: red or blue? Sometimes there are no wrong answers to a question, and that may be the case when you consider the various infrastructure options of SD-WAN vs. MPLS. Can one be truly considered “better” than the other? It depends on the goals and requirements of your organization as well as the existing infrastructure that you are working with. Let’s unpack whether SD-WAN or MPLS is the winner when it comes to selecting a protocol for your network traffic. With the growth of SaaS platforms and cloud-based storage and computing, this question is looming large in the mind of IT leaders throughout the world.

Understanding SD-WAN: The Frisky Upstart

Wide Area Networking (WAN) has been around for decades, with a centralized bandwidth controller that is used to direct traffic within your organization. Policies and procedures are fed into traditional branch routers that then find the most efficient method for providing your application with the connectivity that you need. Expanding WAN can be expensive and configuration can be fiddly, which makes SD-WAN all the more attractive due to its flexibility for deployment. With SD-WAN (Software-Defined networking in a WAN), virtualization is leveraged to reduce the physical footprint and reduce the overall complexity of your networking practices. To keep it simple, you are much more likely to meet the expectations of your employees and customers with SD-WAN because you’re relying on a more flexible method of delivery for your business networking rules.

Understanding MPLS: The Hardened Contender

Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) has been driving the business of doing business for many years and is a stable system for carrying data in high-performing networks. While it’s traditionally been used in telecommunications, there are plenty of organizations using MPLS to direct internet traffic, too. Where MPLS really shines is in applications such as VoIP, video conferencing or virtual desktops due to the high packet availability and low loss of quality. Sound and video quality are exceptional, and the protocol is highly predictable in nature. There are some key disadvantages such as bandwidth cost and the potential that lower-rated applications or services could be slower or have slightly degraded quality due to de-prioritization by the “traffic cop”. This protocol was great in a time when there were fewer demands on overall bandwidth, but today’s hungry cloud-based applications can quickly eat through your monthly allotments.

Advantages and Disadvantages of MPLS and SD-WAN

Without a full understanding of the particular needs of your business, it would be difficult to pick a winner between these two contenders for Top Protocol. SD-WAN offers the global availability, scalability and control that you need at a more reasonable price point, while MPLS allows you to boost the priority for crucial traffic moving through your network. MPLS practically guarantees a higher level of quality for the most important traffic within your business, while SD-WAN offers an added layer of security that might be a big selling point for organizations in today’s climate of rampant cybercrime. SD-WAN is generally considered to be more cost-effective and scalable — even though it is slightly less reliable than MPLS implementations.

Which Is Better for Your Business?

There is no clear and true winner in this battle, but you might be interested to know that Gartner released a recent whitepaper entitled: SD-WAN is Killing MPLS, So Prepare to Replace It Now. That seems like a pretty strong statement, especially considering that the research firm also notes that MPLS still far outstrips SD-WAN in terms of usage. Hybrid and internet-only WANs are on the rise as infrastructure leaders continue to look for ways to boost network efficiency and speed while reducing the possibility of a devastating security event. SD-WAN allows for an additional measure of control when it comes to security, which may be one of the reasons that IT leaders are moving in this direction.

There are no perfect answers that will fit the needs of every organization, but SD-WAN comes out on top in terms of price and scalability, while MPLS edges out the competition when it comes to overall reliability and reduced packet loss. One thing is for sure: this conversation will continue!

UEFI Rootkits

UEFI Rootkits

UEFI Rootkits

Whether you are a cybersecurity expert or not, there are some security risks that every business leader needs to be aware of—and UEFI rootkits definitely fall into that category. These nasty computer viruses are uniquely dangerous to your computer systems because they do not get wiped out when you reformat your hard drive or reinstall your operating system. Instead, they stick around in your computer’s flash memory and pop right back up again when you try to start using the machine. It is important that everyone be aware of UEFI rootkits to minimize their spread and limit the damage they can do to your systems.

UEFI Basics

To understand what makes UEFI rootkits so difficult to deal with, you first need to understand the basics of how modern computers are set up. You have probably heard the term BIOS before. The basic input/output system was the firmware used for decades to start your computer up, among other functions. But in recent years BIOS was replaced by Unified Extensible Firmware Interface or UEFI. UEFI is also used to boot up your operating system, among other tasks. Because it needs to be able to start up everything else, UEFI resides in your flash memory—the same place that the UEFI rootkit resides once it infects your computer.

What UEFI Rootkits Do

The genius of the UEFI rootkit is that it is placed in the one area where you are unlikely to get rid of it using normal security measures. It infiltrates your UEFI on your flash memory. The specific location of the virus is ideal to keep it coming back again and again. The antivirus does not find it. Even wiping the hard drive does not touch it. Only a very targeted effort to remove it from your UEFI will eliminate the problem from your machine.

The Challenge of Getting Rid of a UEFI Rootkit

For most computer users, the basics of security begin with running antivirus and antimalware products. But the majority of these products will not even look at your UEFI, which means they are not going to find a UEFI rootkit. The next step, which is typically considered quite drastic, is to wipe your hard drive and reinstall your operating system. Almost every computer virus can be eliminated by taking this step. Once you wipe the hard drive, you wipe out the virus. Yes, you have to go through the inconvenience of reinstalling everything—which can be very inconvenient, depending on what your business computers have installed and the kind of work you are doing. But it is usually a surefire way to eliminate a virus.

What can be so frustrating for businesses is that even taking the drastic measure of wiping and reinstalling does not solve the problem. You can even swap out the hard drive and install a brand new hard drive. When you consider that applying all of these fixes could take days for companies with tens or even hundreds of computers, you can appreciate how maddening it would be to have the problem persist.

What Can Businesses Do to Prevent UEFI Rootkits?

There are a few things that businesses can do to prevent these nasty viruses from showing their ugly heads:

1. Educate those that need to know.

Whatever IT staff you have, even if it is just a computer-savvy employee that keeps things going smoothly, should be educated on UEFI rootkits. When people know about them, it becomes much easier to address the problem. If you have taken the normal steps to eliminate the virus and it keeps popping up, you could have a UEFI rootkit problem on your hands.

2. Consider getting new hardware if you do not have Secure Boot capabilities or something similar.

Secure Boot is a solution used on modern computer systems to prevent unauthorized access to the firmware. It requires that anything attempting to make a change to the computer’s firmware have a security code to make changes. If it does not have the security credentials, no changes can be made. Older machines do not have Secure Boot capabilities.

3. Verify that your Secure Boot configuration is properly set up.

Secure Boot is not a fix all. It does need to be properly configured to work as intended. Make sure that all of your Secure Boot systems are properly configured to prevent anyone from accessing your firmware when they should not.

A Whopping 94% Of Businesses Don’t Leverage The Software They Purchase

Computer Software

Computer Software

Businesses spend a significant amount on their software solutions, but 94 percent of them don’t get the expected value out of them. Many roadblocks stand in the way of bringing new solutions into the office, from a lack of consideration for the end user to choosing platforms that can’t scale with the company’s growth.

Problems During Procurement

The issues start during the procurement process. End-user feedback is essential for choosing software that will boost productivity and provide an adequate return on investment. If you lack end-user buy-in, then they’re not going to be enthusiastic about a system that’s not making their work life better. Make it easy for employees to send in feedback about the new software options throughout the procurement process. Emphasize the benefits of the new platform to workers.

Insufficient Training

Once the software is in place, workers may have a hard time with its functionality if they lack sufficient training. A change management plan should include multiple training resources and sufficient time for the end users to learn about the new solution and what they can do with it. The training should begin once you make a decision on the solution you’re deploying.

Clashes With Current Workflows

The software may require people to deviate too far from well-established workflows. Consider the current workflows and manual processes that are in place. The solution should replace time-consuming manual tasks and those that are prone to human error. Streamline current workflows without completely doing away with their structure. Employees will appreciate the familiar workflows and improvements in speed and efficiency.

Using Off the Shelf Software for Complex Problems

Off the shelf software is attractive for the speed of deployment and lower cost than custom development. However, specialized industries may require functionality that is not available with a standard solution. Workarounds may take too much time and effort. The opportunity cost can be far greater than the custom development price.

Lack of Centralized Data

Siloed data can lead to many problems, including repeated work, time wasted trying to find files, and lost data. Bringing data together in a central database is an important feature for any system that you’re deploying in your organization.

Difficulty with Content Sharing and Collaboration

Documents get shared and teams work together on a regular basis. The solution that you choose should support these activities. If you use the centralized data suggestion above, then streamlining content sharing is not difficult. Many modern solutions also include collaboration features to allow teams to easily work together.

Grow with Company

You might not know what your growth rate will look like in five years, but you do need software that can adapt to your changing needs over the years. If you purchase a solution that is built for your current capacity and nothing more, then it’s going to fail as your organization grows. It’s common for cloud-based solutions to allow you to scale up and down seamlessly as demand changes.

It’s important to diagnose why employees refuse to use the software offered to them. Once you understand why they aren’t enthusiastic, you can address the underlying issues and present new options.

Top Criteria for Selecting the Best IT Support Company

Selecting A New IT Company

Selecting A New IT Company

Researching IT support companies can lead to confusion — and quite a headache! You may have started down the path of finding a technology partner due to internal frustrations or a lack of time to support basic technology needs, but your search can quickly expand due to the number of potential partners in the marketplace. Trying to determine exactly the level of support that you need and the associated costs may feel like an exercise in futility, but there are some basic tenets that will help you find the best IT support company for your needs. From reviewing the pricing models to service levels, here are the key considerations that will help you determine which partner is right for your business.

1. Does Your IT Support Company Offer Flexible, Scalable Contracts?

Technology solutions are rarely one-size-fits-all, and your IT services partner should recognize this and be able to provide you with customized recommendations that will meet your unique business needs. This could mean shorter contracts so you can evaluate the working relationship to support packages that provide you with scalable options that are designed to grow with your business. Your IT services partner should feel like they are on your side, making recommendations that will save you money while providing you with the support that your business desperately needs to grow.

2. Does Your IT Support Company Focus on Ongoing Education?

Technicians with industry certifications in various platforms should indicate to you as a client that your technology partner is placing an emphasis on ongoing education. The technology landscape changes dramatically in the course of several years. If your IT professionals are not maintaining their certifications or growing their body of knowledge, it can be challenging for them to provide your business with the support that you deserve. Key certifications to look for include Microsoft Silver or Gold Partner Certifications and CompTIA Certifications, to name a few. Your partner should be able to demonstrate that they value ongoing education by setting aside time for team members to attend training or continue their education.

3. Does Your IT Support Company Value Proactive Security and Account Management?

Proactive account management is crucial to your business success, as your IT services partner should be continually looking for ways to save you money and improve the efficiency of your operations. This should include a bi-annual or quarterly review of your business, that truly digs into the details and provides you with actionable recommendations. The right partner will be able to peek into the future and call out items that could become a problem in the future, so you can resolve them before they negatively impact your business operations. Active security measures are another valuable aspect of your partnership, as your IT services technicians are continually reviewing network activity to discover discrepancies so remediation of any problems can begin immediately.

4. What Are the Stated Response Times for Your IT Support Company?

There is no slick or easy answer that you should be looking for in terms of response times, as that can vary based on the needs of your business. Some businesses may find that getting a response within several hours is perfectly acceptable, while others need to get help desk support in a matter of minutes. What you are looking for is the best match for your business: an IT support company that is able to provide you with workable response times at an acceptable cost.

5. Is Your IT Support Company Aggressive About Cybersecurity?

Protecting your business assets is a mission-critical task for your IT support company, and they should treat it as such. You need to know that you will have access to cybersecurity professionals who are actively reviewing your account on a regular basis to ensure that all appropriate precautions are being taken to protect your digital assets. This includes everything from user training to backup and data recovery processes, all of which must be in line with your business needs.

Sometimes, it’s not a matter of finding the best IT support company — it’s a matter of finding the best fit for your business. You’ll want to consider everything from the support you want to receive from your account team to the quality of the training that technicians receive on an ongoing basis to find the best IT support company to meet your unique business needs.

How Can Reliable Phone Services Help Our Company?

Managed IT Services

Phone Services

Communication is essential for any business today. Being able to connect with colleagues and customers is critical for getting work done.

That means having a reliable, features-packed phone system that lets you communicate effectively while in and out of the office. Without a powerful business phone solution, you’re at a competitive disadvantage.

Below is a closer look at some of the advantages of having a reliable phone system for your business.

How Can A New Business Phone System Save Us Money?

Most older private branch exchange (PBX) phone systems are simply not built for today’s business needs. With PBX phones, you’re sending signals via older telephone lines and paying for each incoming and outgoing call. These per-call costs add up. Instead, a voice over internet protocol (VoIP) solution provides you with predictable monthly rates and unlimited call volume. You’ll also no longer have to pay to maintain and manage your phone equipment stored on location. Instead, users connect via an internet connection with cloud-based reliability and call clarity. PBX phone users typically pay for each line and any carrier costs or contractual change orders. If your power goes out, you also lose your phone system until the power is restored.

What Is Different About VoIP Systems?

There are many advantages to installing a VoIP system, including:

  • Call Clarity. With VoIP, your calls are transmitted via a high-speed internet connection, resulting in better call clarity and reliability.
  • Technical Support. Use a managed IT partner to oversee your cloud-based VoIP phone system, and you’ll have access to remote support, on-site support and maintenance, vendor management and asset tracking.
  • Comprehensive Security. With a trusted technology partner helping to implement and maintain your VoIP solution, you’ll know that a comprehensive approach to security is in place. The security measures may include:
    • Automated installation patches and updates
    • Network security
    • Monitoring 24/7 of all routers and switches
    • Traffic control and prioritization based on company-set policies
    • Non-compliant call detection and alerts
    • Toll fraud detection
  • Scalability. As your business grows, you need a phone system that can expand accordingly. VoIP systems allow for easy addition or removal of users, extension changes and other administrative changes from an intuitive dashboard interface.
  • Simple Set-Up. Transitioning to a new cloud-based phone system is a process with little to no user disruption. An adaptor can convert most existing desktop phones, which can then be plugged directly into your office internet connection. Both desk phone s and smartphones can access new features without the need for additional hardware purchases or installation.

What Are Some of the New Features VoIP Provides?

VoIP systems provide great features that will improve the way your team communications. Here’s a look at some of the most popular:

  • Unified Messaging. You’ll be able to access voicemails from any device when the messages are forwarded to your email account. You can retrieve the messages, listen to them and forward to the appropriate party no matter what device you’re using or where you are.
  • Find Me, Follow Me. If you want to be accessible no matter where you are, use this feature to have calls “follow” you from device to device. A caller may ring you first at your office and then have the call routed to your smartphone, your home office phone line or your hotel room while on the road. Providing this level of availability lets you serve your customers well with always-available access and connectivity. – your calls can ring at your office, then your cell phone, then your home office or hotel room while traveling – always maintaining the appearance that you are available to your clients.
  • Conference calling. Connect multiple parties internally and externally.
  • Connectivity. VoIP gives your company the ability to record phone calls and conferences. These files can be emailed to those who were unable to attend the session.
  • Automated phone attendants. Staff managing your phones will be able to manage incoming calls, see who is available and route calls as needed.
  • Desk-to-desk calling. Connect with colleagues in multiple locations by directly dialing extensions.

How Does VoIP Affect Smartphone Users?

Your phone system capabilities extend to mobile users using different devices and operating systems. You can use mobile applications to leverage many of the capabilities of your VoIP system, giving remote or traveling employees to connect easily to colleagues no matter where they are.

Choosing the right phone system is an essential decision for businesses of all sizes. Cloud-based phone systems give you the best options for today’s business needs.

What Makes An Awesome IT Services Provider?

Awesome IT Service Provider

Awesome IT Service Provider

 

Technology is continually changing, and keeping up with the updates to your crucial infrastructure and software can feel like an overwhelming task. Many organizations begin to look for an IT managed services provider as they start to scale, but how can you know who to trust? You’re placing your mission-critical systems and devices in the hands of a technology partner. Here are some key questions that you should ask any new IT services provider to determine if they will offer you the impressive level of service that your business deserves.

1. Your IT Services Provider Should Listen

While there are similarities between businesses in the same vertical, no company is exactly the same as any others. Your IT managed services professional should take the time to listen to your concerns instead of immediately offering cookie-cutter responses to the problem that they assume you have in your organization. A true partner will listen to your needs and then slot in their proficiencies to make your organization stronger and more resilient.

2. Have Availability That Meets Your Business Needs

Are all of your problems going to occur during working hours? Probably not — and your IT managed services provider (MSP) should have qualified resources available around the clock so your customers and staff aren’t left waiting in the event of a service outage. Carefully read through any offering contracts or service agreements to be sure that the response times meet the needs of your business before you make your final vendor selection.

3. Provide Recommendations for Key Strategies

Whether that means budgeting or disaster recovery planning, a true technology partner will always be on the lookout for ways that they could save you money or help improve the efficiency of your business. This could come during the budgeting cycle, when they let you know that some of your hardware could be replaced in the coming year. Another time that your IT managed services partner should help your business is by leveraging their knowledge of various industries to share best practices in backup and disaster recovery.

4. Retain Security Experts on Staff

Cybersecurity is a constantly changing realm, and it would be very challenging for a single staff member to keep up-to-date with security advances as they’re made available. Keeping software patched and hardware updated is also a very time-consuming task, making these two ideal ways to leverage your managed services provider. You should be able to feel confident that your MSP is regularly running security tests and actively monitoring for hacks.

5. Proactively Update and Test Your Systems

The time when you could rely on reactive technology management to maintain the security of your systems and data is gone. Instead of waiting for something to break, your services provider should be actively seeking upcoming updates and creating a schedule for an application that is consistent with the needs of your business. This will help your business stay on the right track for reliable growth in the future.

6. Help Appropriately Scale Your Business Infrastructure

Making a single wrong decision early in a technology build-out can have disastrous consequences down the line. Your IT managed services provider should have the experience with businesses similar to yours that allows them to peek into the future and curtail any decisions that might cause your business to be less flexible or scalable in the future. While customizations are nearly inevitable when it comes to technology, a truly remarkable services provider will look for and recommend tools that are an exceptional fit for your business first — before they recommend expensive platform changes.

Finding the best IT managed services provider requires time and trust on both sides, but everything starts with open dialog. Your team must be able to detail your current needs as well as how your business is expected to scale in the future as well as a rough timeline. Your IT services provider should be able to tease these details from your project team so you have a shared understanding of how to move forward in lockstep. From a deep understanding of cybersecurity to a willingness to listen to your needs: an awesome IT managed services provider is not a mythical creature!

How Much Does Managed IT Services Cost?

Managed Services Pricing Guide

Managed Services Pricing Guide

You have probably seen managed IT services offered from one or more providers in your area. The option of having your IT needs managed by an outside company has obvious appeal—you do not need to maintain a full-time IT staff, or at least as many IT employees, which should save your business some money. However, as a manager or business owner, you know it is important to read between the lines before jumping on just any opportunity that presents itself. How much does it actually cost to use managed IT services?

Managed IT Services Pricing Depends on Multiple Factors

The cost of having your IT needs managed by an outside provider depends on multiple factors. Each business has specific technologies that may be relatively simple or quite complex. The more complex the technology, the more it costs to maintain. And the level of management you can choose from varies as well. Managed IT services range from basic to comprehensive and are priced accordingly.

So What Does it Cost?

If you are looking for a direct answer to the question of what managed IT costs, you can estimate that your business could pay anywhere between $75 per user to $300 per user. The range is broad and maybe not terribly useful at first glance, which is why we encourage you to read on—and ultimately to speak to a reputable service provider to get a quote based on your specific situation and needs. Now let’s delve deeper into how managed IT services are priced so you can get a better idea of what your costs may be.

What Are Managed IT Services?

The biggest challenge with determining the cost of managed IT services—as we are attempting here—is the fact that there are so many services that fall under the umbrella of “IT”. Your business may have drastically different IT needs than another business. That being said, we can look at the basics of managed IT services to get a clearer picture of where your business may fall on the spectrum of technology service needs.

First, let us define what managed IT services means. At the core, managed IT means your IT needs, whatever those may be, are managed by an outside company. A team of experts offers to manage your IT needs, or at least a portion of those needs, for a fee. There is a huge range of services that fall into the IT category, though, which means managing a company’s IT could mean managing 10, 20, or 1,000 different things.

Network Support For Small Businesses

Managed IT services are presented as a way to save money because outsourcing IT management is typically more efficient for most businesses than employing a team of IT professionals. IT is a deep, complex subject, requiring extensive training in specific technologies and practices. Employing a team with the skillset to manage all your IT needs is costly, which is why only large corporations tend to do it. For small and mid-sized businesses, it often makes more sense to outsource IT management. With outsourcing, you only pay for the services you need, much like you would for legal services or other specialized, potentially high-cost services.

The Two Basic Approaches to Managed IT

Managed IT services fall under two broad categories—fully managed IT and partially managed IT.

Partially Managed IT Services

Some businesses have one or more employees that are tasked with managing IT. You may have specific IT needs that require a dedicated IT team to handle in-house. Even if you do not have an absolute need for an in-house IT person or group, you may just feel more comfortable having someone or a team there, in-person, every day to deal with certain IT tasks.

For businesses with existing IT personnel, IT service providers offer partially managed IT services. You can choose what they manage and when. Partial management can range from providing support for tasks that are exceptionally complex—possibly beyond the skill or workload of the in-house IT team—to providing support for routine tasks like security or backup administration.

Fully Managed IT Services

For many small to mid-sized businesses, the most economical and efficient option is to outsource all IT management. Instead of trying to determine what kind of IT employees you need, how many, etc., you can consult with a service provider who can give you expert insight, advice and the service necessary to keep your business technology running smoothly 24/7. A reputable managed IT services provider will be capable of collaborating with you and other leaders in your organization and deliver industry-leading services that an in-house team may struggle to match.

How Managed IT Service Pricing Works

The price for managed IT services varies by region, provider and customer. That being said, there are a few basic concepts that can help you understand how pricing works. These include:

Per User Pricing

Many service plans will be based on the number of users that are being monitored and cared for. You can calculate your users fairly easily—whoever is using the technology in your company can be considered a user. In today’s technology-driven workplaces, you can usually expect every employee to be a “user.” Anyone in your business that uses a PC, Mac, laptop, mobile device, tablet or anything else that requires IT support is someone you should count towards your total users.

Per Device Pricing

While per-user pricing is probably the most common, per device pricing is also a possibility. Instead of pricing services based on how many people are using the technology, the provider may offer to charge based on how many devices your business uses. You would include all the devices you want to be covered—which really should be every device that sees any use in your company—including PCs, Macs, laptops, tablets, mobile devices, etc.

Pricing Should Be Clear and Easy to Understand

Any reputable IT services company will be very clear about what your services will cost and what will be covered by the fees you pay. It will all be documented in your contract, so you can verify what you agree to before you sign anything or hand over any money. Clarity is beneficial for both you as a customer and for the IT company as they can justify their actions—or inaction—based on the contract that you both agreed to.

Managed Services Pricing

The Managed IT Service Options Available

IT management services are further broken down into service levels. The names that different providers use may vary, but you can expect services to fall into three general tiers:

1. Basic IT Services—Lowest Price Initially, But Variable Costs Are High

The entry-level IT management services are offered at the lowest recurring price. They involve basic monitoring of your systems and can cost around $70-150 a month. The services you get at this level are akin to having a security team keep track of your server. The organization pays close attention to what is going on and lets you know if anything seems off.

There are obvious benefits to having this kind of security and oversight, but the benefits are limited and the cost can go up quickly if you need any additional assistance. This is especially true if you do not have an IT team to address things when they do go wrong. If you need the IT service provider to do anything beyond monitor and notify, you can expect to pay between $50 and $300 per hour for assistance—depending on the complexity of the problem that needs to be solved.

It may be possible to purchase a block of time from the service provider at a discounted rate. If you can negotiate a contract for a block of time, you can have the IT provider work on issues until that block of time is used up. Of course, you will need to decide which issues are worth using the block for, and which may need to wait until next month when you have another block of time—or pay for a full-priced solution right now when you need it.

2. Mid-Range IT Services—Considered the Best Value for Most Businesses

As with so many things, the lowest priced option is often more expensive in the long run. IT services are no different. A mid-range managed IT service is more expensive up front, but can often save money over time as your service provider is able to help you avoid issues before they become major—and read to address issues immediately when they are easiest to solve.

Once you get into mid-range services, you are hiring more than just a monitoring service. You are hiring a team to serve as your IT provider in most if not all ways. The team will definitely keep track of your systems and notify you when something of concern pops up. But they will also take the initiative to solve those problems without the need for you to make unnecessary decisions—like whether you want to pay extra for the help. You have already hired the team at a rate that allows them to go into action now instead of later.

The services you can get, for a flat fee, may include:

  • IT planning
  • IT strategy
  • IT design
  • System backups
  • 24/7 IT support (possibly unlimited)
  • On-site support
  • Remote support
  • Disaster recovery

Mid-range IT management services are usually priced based on the number of users you have, or the number of devices you need support for.

Typical charges per user range from $50-$200 per user.

For per device services, pricing will be based on the type of device. For servers, you could pay between $120-500 per server. Workstations may cost between $30-120 per station. Firewalls can cost between $25-100, while switches may cost between $10-50 per switch.

3. High-End IT Services—Only Necessary in Certain Circumstances

The high-end of managed IT services is only necessary for certain types of businesses—specifically those that need full hosted or cloud systems. If the IT service provider needs to provide your business with the majority, or your entire infrastructure, then your fee will include the cost of providing that infrastructure. You get the full scope of services for the increased cost of the high-end pricing, including the use of the system and the support services you need with that system—as well as all the services offered in mid-range plans. A fully hosted service may cost $300 or more per user, per month, depending on the complexity of what is provided.

Managed Services Provider

Some Factors to Consider With Pricing Managed IT Services

IT service providers are in business, just like you, so they need to price their services in a way that keeps them in business. As with most, if not all, businesses, IT service providers base their pricing on how much time and resources they will need to devote to the customer to get the job done. The harder the job, the more they need to charge. And the more unpredictable the job, the more pricing needs to account for possible spikes in time and resources required for the customer.

When an IT company is deciding how much to charge you, they will consider the following factors:

How Complex is Your Technology Matrix?

Your technology matrix includes all of your technological devices and the ways that they need to interact with one another. The more devices, the more variety, the more connectivity that must be maintained, the higher the workload the service provider will expect. Your system or systems may include:

  • Laptops
  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Desktops
  • PCs
  • Macs
  • Servers
  • Workstations
  • Antivirus software
  • Wi-Fi for internal use
  • Wi-Fi for guests
  • Web filtering
  • Personal devices
  • Cloud applications
  • Unique connectivity issues—like warehouse use or outdoor use
  • Business software

This is a very small list of potential devices, software and circumstances. You can see how the complexity of a system can increase rapidly, even if you are not what is considered a technology-oriented company.

Do You Have an Existing IT Team?

At first glance, it is easy to assume that having your own IT team would make the job of the outsourced team easier—but this is not always true. Integrating with an existing team presents its own challenges. If you are just hiring the outside team for a specialized task it may be economical, but the price of individualized services is not necessarily the best deal. The more control the outsourced team has the better they can predict their workload, which can make for a better deal with pricing.

Do You Need Individual Services or Comprehensive Services?

When an IT management company is monitoring your system and tells you of a problem, you have the option of hiring that company to address the issue. The actual monitoring work is relatively low demand, which is why it is inexpensive. But actually addressing the issue requires bringing in an IT professional to examine the problem, identify a solution and implement that solution. The IT company only has so many employees, which means taking care of your problem may mean pulling a team member off of a current project to deal with the problem.

The cost of having your service provider address issues on a per case basis reflects the challenge of dealing with problems as they arise. But when you pay for comprehensive services, like with a mid-range plan, you are compensating the company to keep an employee on-hand for your issues. There may still be some juggling of resources to meet unexpected needs, but much of the workload of handling your systems has been accounted for.

What Will My Managed IT Services Cost?

You cannot get an accurate quote for your specific situation from an article, but you can use the information provided here to identify where your needs lie on the spectrum of potential services. Take a close look at your business and IT needs and consider the following:

  • Do you have your own IT staff, or do you want to have one or more staff members devoted to IT?
  • What is the complexity of your technology? (Answering this question with real accuracy may be difficult to do without the assistance of an IT professional. Even so, it is worth considering to get a ballpark idea of what you will be asking the IT service provider to do for your business.)
  • Will you be satisfied with remote services, or do you want to have someone on-site at least part of the time?
  • Do you need a full network provided for you, or do you have a network on-site?
  • Are you interested in a low initial price point for basic monitoring services—with the potentially high cost of individual services as needed? Or do you that a flat fee for everything would be more appropriate for your needs?

Things to Consider if you Do Have Internal IT Staff

When you have your own IT staff, there is an additional layer of questions you need to ask yourself. Having an “IT” team can mean a lot of different things. You could have one or more serious IT professionals on staff that have the credentials and training to handle a wide variety of tasks. Or, you could have an employee that does basic technology support—that may or may not even specialize in IT. Maybe you have something in between these two scenarios? As you can see, your situation may be entirely different than that of another business.

If you have a serious IT team, you can decide if maintaining that team makes sense for your business. If it does, you can consult with that team to determine what kind of outsourced services you need. If it does not make sense to keep the team, you could consult with different IT providers about how they might take over the role of your team.

If you do not have a serious IT team, it may make more sense to outsource and move your existing IT people—if you have any—to roles that they are better suited for.

Are There Other Options Besides Managed IT Services?

While managed IT services are the recommended choice for most businesses based on cost and efficiency, there are other options available. These include:

On-Demand IT Services

There are a lot of different names for this kind of service, including pay-as-you-go, break-fix, hourly and time & materials. They all refer to the concept of paying for IT services only when you need them. The term break-fix sums the idea up perfectly. If your team breaks something, the IT provider will fix it. Given the unpredictability involved, the cost for these services tends to be high. It may cost anywhere between $50-300 an hour depending on the job, along with the cost of any materials needed.

Block Time

This is a lot like on-demand, as you still get the help you need on demand, but because you pay early you get a discount. You can arrange a deal where you pay for a block of time. When something breaks, you contact the IT provider and let them know you need help. They work for as long as the amount of time you have paid for. If you need more time, they will generally charge you at the hourly rate.

Support from Your Software Vendor

Some software vendors will provide support for their specific products. The support may be included in the price of the software. Usually, you will need to pay extra for support, which may cost thousands or tens of thousands depending on the software.

Get an Accurate Quote—Contact Your Preferred IT Services Provider

As you know, technology can be confusing and frustrating when things start to go wrong. The idea behind managed IT services is that you can keep confusion and frustration to a minimum by outsourcing the management of your technology systems.

If you would like to know precisely what managed IT services will cost for your business, please contact us. We are standing by to give you a quote based on your unique needs.

Effects of A Data Breach on Small Business

Data Breach Small Business

Data Breach Small Business

The information that no business owner or technology director wants to hear: there’s been a data breach. These chilling words can put your brain into overdrive, trying to triage the problem before you even know the full extent of the problem. What will be the impact on customers? On staff? On vendors? Is this simply a temporary bump in the road, or will your business never truly recover? How you’re able to react and your level of preparedness will be the deciding factors in the level of devastation that a data breach can wreak on your business. A recent report from TechBeacon shows that it takes an average of 191 days — over six months — for companies to even identify a breach, much less begin remediation on the road to recovery. Even more frightening, with as many as 7 in 10 of all organizations in the U.S. suffered some sort of data breach over the past several years, with the average breach costing upwards of $3.6 million.

What Are the Immediate Impacts of a Data Breach?

Once you find that your organization has been the target of a cyber attack, your technology team and external vendor partners immediately create a plan of attack. This could include everything from launching an effort to stop the vulnerability that allowed the breach to ensure that your data is restored from external backups as needed. Each of these steps can take time away from your daily operations, while also negatively impacting your overall customer service, manufacturing, eCommerce and staff productivity in general. Plus, there are the additional costs associated with external consultants who are working quickly (and expensively!) to restore your operations and data access. There are also expansive regulatory issues to handle such as technical investigations and regulatory filings about the breach and impact on the public. You can quantify these costs with a little work, but there are some hidden costs that lurk behind the scenes in an extensive data breach. Organizations are reporting thousands of hours required by forensic analysts who are attempting to put together the true nature of the breach.

Loss of Data = Loss of Reputation and Loss of Business

Your customers trust you to be a secure citadel for their sensitive personal, health and financial information. How can you explain to the public that data breaches happen every day? Customers are much less likely to be understanding of your business challenges when they’re personally affected by a data breach. You need to have a plan in place to respond to data breaches urgently, transparently and with empathy, or you could lose a significant amount of business due to lack of consumer confidence in your organization. Finally, you’ll need to put a communication plan in place that includes informing all of your stakeholders about the data breach and how it could affect them. These costs and the time required to get your business back to full operations may make it sound appealing to consider cyber insurance.

Should I Invest in Cyber Insurance?

Just as with other business risks, it makes sense to protect against known threats such as fire, flooding — and cyberattacks. Unfortunately, cyber insurance can be incredibly confusing and there are no guarantees that the expensive investment you make in insurance will cover the specific incidents that could occur at your organization. Even comparing different benefits and offerings can be extremely complex and off-putting for business owners. Instead of buying this questionable insurance, many small to mid-size businesses are instead investing in cybersecurity solutions and comprehensive backup and data recovery strategies.

How Can I Protect My Business From a Cyberattack?

If you don’t have a plan in place to handle data breaches or other cyberattacks, it is never too late to get started! With an average cost per record of $148, according to the 2018 Cost of Data Breach Study, a little prevention against a cyberattack can pay major dividends in the future. Are you confident that your organization has all the safeguards and protective mechanisms in place to maintain adequate security or quickly discover a breach in the event of a cyberattack? A comprehensive cybersecurity solution provides you with a high level of protection that includes:

  • Active monitoring and reporting
  • Vulnerability assessments and remediation
  • Intrusion detection
  • Behavioral monitoring
  • Compliance reporting
  • Agile integration with internal platforms
  • Asset discovery
  • IT and business user training
  • Best practices and process recommendations
  • Extensive backup and disaster recovery planning

When you fail to plan for a cyberattack, you’re essentially planning to fail! In today’s world, it’s rarely a question of if your business will be targeted and more a question of when.

What Are the Benefits of Active Monitoring?

Working with a partner who offers active monitoring of your systems means you have a cybersecurity professional on your side at all times. Someone who is familiar with the footprint left behind by intrusions, and intimately knows the steps required to heal the breach and regain secure control of your systems. Your technology services partner should invest in ongoing education and recommend an aggressive security posture to protect your business. With active monitoring, you may still experience a cyberattack, but you may be able to limit the intrusion to certain systems or records — effectively saving as much of your data as possible through quick action in executing a pre-defined strategy.

As you can see, the effects of a data breach can be far-reaching and extremely expensive. It’s crucial that your business is fully prepared for any eventuality, and that includes an extensive data breach. The faster you’re able to identify the breach and heal it, the better your chances are for long-term business viability. Your technology services partner can provide you with customized recommendations to help protect your business from this pervasive problem.

Why Is ITSM Important For Local Business?

ITSM

ITSM

With today’s businesses moving a large portion of their information technology operations to the cloud, having holistic IT services management is more important than ever before. Making this shift provides organizations with an unprecedented level of flexibility, and cloud solutions are generally more affordable. However, you may find that you’re introducing a greater level of complexity as you bring on additional integrations and cloud-based solutions. Having a trusted IT services management partner allows you to focus on the core growth of your business while shifting the bulk of responsibility for IT operations to your services management team. See how making this move helps local businesses thrive.

What is ITSM?

Information Technology Services Management (ITSM) goes by a variety of different titles. You may hear this referred to as managed services, IT outsourcing, IT consulting and more — but it all boils down to finding a partner with the technical expertise to support your organization’s IT operations. Internal IT teams often retain responsibility for setting strategy and oversight, while the more tedious daily processes and larger integrations are moved offsite to your partner’s teams. This allows you access to a broader team of professionals with expertise in a variety of different platforms, infrastructure setups and methodologies.

How Does ITSM Help My Local Business?

As businesses grow, their technical challenges become increasingly complex and are often more than one or two IT professionals can handle internally. Working with an IT services management organization allows you to reduce inefficiencies in your business and reduce the workload on key technical staff. You’ll find enhanced operational efficiency and reduced operating costs, along with a vastly improved customer experience for your internal users and customers. With an external review of your software implementations, you are likely to enjoy enhanced access control and governance of your crucial business systems. Your IT services management professionals are also able to help bring consistency to your process and automate them whenever possible. You’ll find that your teams are able to collaborate more fluidly — both internally and with your customers or vendors.

What Types of Services Does an ITSM Offer?

The wide scope of the landscape — where there are thousands of solutions for each IT project — simply requires knowledge that is too broad for a single, small team. ITSM helps your local business by helping weed through some less-than-ideal solutions to find exactly the options that are right for your business.

This could include providing a range of platforms and services:

  • Cloud-based storage
  • Backup and disaster recovery procedures
  • Antivirus and anti-malware solutions
  • Office 365 and productivity software licensing and implementation
  • Active monitoring of your network for data breaches
  • Remediation and resolution management
  • Help Desk support
  • Software Integrations
  • Universal control dashboards
  • Threat assessments and staff training
  • WiFi and endpoint management

These are only a few of the solutions that a full-service ITSM partner can provide for your organization.

Will an ITSM Team Understand My Business?

Sure, it might take your technology professionals a bit to get up to speed on your specific core competencies and the challenges that your organization offers, but these individuals are accustomed to working with a variety of organizations and will quickly learn what makes your business unique. Plus, they’re able to leverage all of their knowledge of past engagements to help see what works, what doesn’t — and how to make the most out of the teams that are available. Your IT services management team will look across the organization at people, processes and technology in order to help visualize your work and understand where changes can be made to wasteful processes.

If your organization is embarking on a digital transformation project — or even if you’re simply trying to get your technology team out of the weeds with daily help desk requests — ITSM offers some true benefits for your business. You can increase the agility and responsiveness of your business while ensuring that daily business processes are interrupted as little as possible. See how ITSM concepts can help provide the cement that you need between your business and technology teams to lead your organization into the future.

Top Advantages To Local Small Business When They Outsource IT Services

Outsourced IT Services

Outsourced IT Services

Small business growth is a challenge of keeping up with success without crumbling under commercial weight.

Many improvements needed to reach the next stage of success can be prohibitively expensive, leading to debt and risky gambles that could fail from random chance even if you’re doing everything right.

Tech growth opportunities are becoming more affordable every day. Here are a few details to help you understand how tech outsourcing can improve your business growth.

Reduce Utility Costs

How much power does it take to run a server? What about a room of desktops?

Do you think that equipping everyone with a smartphone or tablet will solve your electrical problems? Not if they still need a server to manage files or run a website.

What about your network equipment? If your business is growing and has heavy network needs, you’re still paying for routers, switches, and hubs. What is the electrical load on those devices?

The answer to those questions is different for every business, but they’re still a cost that can be observed. Every minute of every connected device means more ticks added to your company’s electrical meter, and that adds up over time.

Not every business can operate as a lean, agile tech dream that swipes its way through the cloud. Many businesses still need desktop computers or all-in-one solutions for heavy-duty computing tasks.

Servers are still necessary for any business, whether it’s to share bulk files through the business, host a global customer-facing website, or render complex graphics. All of these tasks generate heat, which means more electricity used in cooling from air conditioning systems.

This could be a good time to discuss the best way to cool a server room. Discussions about central air versus directed pipes, water cooling for high-performance graphic design or scientific research computer may be necessary.

You could build a data center for your growing, small business. You could also struggle through a swamp of growth, making it harder to break that plateau between a small business and a powerful enterprise.

Or you could make it someone else’s problem.

Cloud Computing Turns Tech Needs Into Simple Services

Outsourcing IT services such as web servers, file hosting servers, backup systems, or even workstations is easier than ever. There may be a lot going on in the background, but for you, it’s simple: power up, log on, and access your cloud services.

Almost anything digital can operate across cloud computing. Your business could use a standard internet connection to log into outsourced servers that hold your business files and work with virtual computers that do a lot more than the standard desktop or laptop.

Virtualization allows you to spend less money on powerful workstations. Basic, reliable workstations can be installed to log in, and as long as they can handle a few basic office tasks, they can log into a virtual server.

This server and its virtual workstations are carved from massive cloud computing resources to fit the mold of what you need. Virtual machines can be erased and rebuilt quickly, and can be configured to fit greater needs as long as you give virtualization engineers a reliable set of requirements.

It all comes together to an easier to understand, consistent, and probably lower bill for your tech assets. Your business can grow on the cloud, and you can perform estimates to figure out when—if ever—you need to split off to your own IT infrastructure.

Keep in mind that great businesses still use these services as they grow to behemoths that control global commerce. Just because they can afford to build their own systems doesn’t mean it’s efficient, and it can be more cost-effective to seek outsourced IT partnerships for specific projects.

Do you have high-security data that can’t be compromised? By all means, protect what needs protecting and outsource anything else.

That said, be sure to bring up your security requirements with a system engineer. You may discover that their security standards are higher than your own, or you could enter an agreement to modernize your security.

By working with outsourced IT professionals, you’re not just buying a single service and ignoring them for everything else. If your partnered professionals lack the skills or resources for a specific task, they know where to find someone who fits the job.

Reduce Staffing Overhead

How much does the average IT professional cost? It’s more than just their salary.

When hiring a technician or engineer for a necessary, meaningful position, they need to work at peak efficiency. Just like the hardware and software they manage, a technician needs maintenance, updates, and continued relevance in the business.

A good technician can handle the task at hand. A great technician grows into new challenges, searches for other tasks that leaders may not have noticed, and innovates.

To create a great environment for IT professionals, a business needs to provide training and encourage participation in multiple industry events. They need to have their finger on the pulse of your business ventures and know their own tech potential, which often means reaching into other industries.

While doing all of this, IT professionals need to do the job that you give them. They also need to sleep. They probably need a personal life, but the work-life balance is always a touchy subject.

The question is simple: can you afford that kind of technician?

If your business isn’t creating a bleeding-edge engineer as an incubator of industry progress, neither you nor that technician is reaching their greatest potential. You’re paying them for a specific set of tasks, and in order to grow, that technician will need to reach outside of the business for their growth.

If they reach too far, you may lose that technician and the few growth opportunities you were able to pay forward. Instead, create a partnership with a business that deals in technician growth.

Outsourced IT solutions from managed IT businesses will give you access to trained technicians who are ready to handle your challenges. You are the task, the goal, and the client. You are not, however, responsible for building an entire technician.

Education And Training A Benefit, Not A Cost

Your business is still part of that growth and still provides benefits. Like any profession, experience is a steady march forward through workplaces, job sites, and challenges. Someone else is helping that technician grow, and that’s okay.

Unless your business is centered on IT education—or if you’re an engineer who really likes taking other engineers under your wing—this is a better deal for everyone involved. Tasks can be spread out across multiple technicians who can handle the same projects, but you’re quoted for the service that you purchase.

You’re not responsible for posting job applications on Indeed or CareerBuilder. You’re not responsible for sending technicians to expensive seminars with questionable benefits.

While there’s nothing wrong with taking interest in an outsourced technician’s training or even suggesting a path, the distinction is important: your business won’t sink or swim if you’re not paying for their classroom and self-study growth.

Contact an IT support professional to discuss other ways to enhance your business growth.