Incorporating the IoT to Improve Connectivity to Your Customers  

IoT Business

Learn how the advent of the Internet of Things has improved device connectivity and enabled businesses like yours to delivery consumer-driven solutions.  

IoT Business

The Internet of Things (IoT) was first conceptualized in 1982 through the internet connection of a Coke machine at Carnegie-Mellon University which was able to report inventory levels and the temperature of vended sodas. From this beginning 37 years ago, IoT has led to greater connectivity between all types of devices for the purpose of providing and sharing data. What would have been unimaginable 50 years ago in our parent’s and grandparent’s time has been realized today as televisions, refrigerators, telephones, and other types of consumer electronics have been enabled to talk to one another.

IoT has also helped businesses like yours learn a lot about your customers. The way in which consumers interact with IoT-enabled devices provides businesses with valuable data which can be used to transform products and services and solidify customer loyalty. This leads to the development of additional products, increasing the things-to people ratio, which is the amount of consumer products owned per person. As the things-to-people ratio continues to grow, businesses have seen the development of smart homes, smart phones, autonomous vehicles, etc., as well as an increase in the generation of data which enables machine learning and greater human-to-computer interactions.

This white paper is an exploration of the advances in IoT and how it is moving greater automation of connectivity. This automated connectivity is critical as the number of IoT devices grows, warranting cost effective ways to remove the complexity of these connections. Businesses understanding the importance of managing the connectivity of their IoT devices will be best positioned to gain market share.

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

A simple definition of Internet of Things is the ability of all things, people, machines, objects, etc. to transfer data between each other over a network. Each of the things interacting through the IoT network are given what is called a unique identifier (UID), which is a label or identifier assigned to the IoT things (i.e. people, machines, objects).

IoT connectivity is responsible for moving the number of connected devices from millions to billions. According to business consultancy groups McKinsey and Gartner, there are more than 26.7 billion IoT connected devices in 2019. The number of things to people in 2020 is projected to be 26 times more in 2020, while the number of connected devices will grow by three times as many or 75.4 million in 2025. The popularity of IoT can be seen in the use of smart and connected devices in the home. This includes applications such as smart thermostats, smart locks, and smart refrigerators. Smart security, one of the poplar home uses for IoT connectivity, has a market expected to grow to $22 billion by the year 2021. Additional markets expected to grow as a result of IoT are home entertainment systems and energy management technology.

How IoT Has Spawned Greater Connectivity

The global IoT market is worth $1.7 trillion in 2019. Of this amount, 35 percent or $595 billion of this value is attributed to hardware, such as smart home peripherals, smart phones, etc. Countries North America, Western Europe as well as China make up two-thirds of the installed IoT devices. It is also worthy to note that, on average, 127 new IoT devices are connected to the internet every second across the globe. Industry is also gravitating toward a greater use of IoT connected devices. Industrial IoT, which comprises 17 percent of the IoT related projects on a worldwide basis, has a market value projected to reach $110 billion in 2020.

Growth of Personal Digital Assistants

The development of new devices has advanced connectivity and has also been responsible for this growth. Over the past years, the advent of personal digital assistants (PDAs) or virtual assistants, from Apple’s Siri, to Google Voice has meant less reliance on manual typing and a greater dependence on voice assistance. The global intelligent PDA/voice assistance market was worth $2.4 billion in 2018and is expected to increase a total composite average growth rate (CAGR) of 40.4 percent for the period (2018 – 2025).

IoT Growth in the Healthcare Industry

The healthcare industry has been a direct beneficiary of IoT connectivity. Such innovations as robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) have helped healthcare sector providers diagnose disease, manage chronic conditions, and bring the cost of care for patients and providers. The healthcare IoT market value was $60 billion in 2014 and expected to reach a value of $136 billion in 2021, a CAGR of 12.5 percent. Growth in the connected devices segment of the market is projected to be the best for the healthcare industry. Asia-Pacific countries are expected to experience a CAGR of 17 percent for the measuring period of 2015 – 2021. Why is IoT important to the Healthcare sector? It provides companies with the ability to grow therapies and processes useful in meeting needs and improving healthcare outcomes through improved:

  • Monitoring of patient health
  • The operation of healthcare clinics
  • The management of workflow
  • Imaging connectivity
  • The measurement of the effectiveness of fitness, health and wellness programs
  • The development of new drug therapies

IoT +37 Years: What Does the Future Hold for Connectivity

The future of IoT is more than bright. The explosion in the growth of IoT connected devices, over 300% between 2019 – 2025, is forcing businesses to invest in this technology to experience a cut of the nearly $500 billion in profits generated from more than 2 billion devices in use in 2019 alone. Companies are maneuvering to position themselves as leading innovators in the development of IoT devices and products. For example, Google invested $3.2 billion to purchase Nest products and paid another $2.1 billion to acquire FitBit, in a bid to compete with competitor Apple’s Apple Watch. These acquisitions are strategic moves designed to gain further control of the IoT market and offer an array of products which can capture valuable consumer data and further the development of needed products.

IoT has not reached its zenith in terms of depth or breadth of market. What was thought to be the limit when smartphone technology was first introduced to the market more than 25 years ago on August 16, 1994 (IBM’s Simon Personal Communicator), the world and consumers have seen an astronomical amount of growth in the number of devices (“things”) with the capability to interact with us and each other to provide important data and operate free of human-to-computer interaction. Automated homes equipped with functions which can clean your floors, issue notifications when you are running low on milk, provide real time video and alerts when an intruder approaches your home are more than the dreams of 1960s science fiction writers like Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick.

Bottom Line

Businesses that learn to involve themselves in IoT connectivity will find themselves at the leading edge of this technological advancement. IoT means a greater opportunity for profitability through the mining of data and predictive analysis provide by data scientists to determine consumer interests, wants, and needs. The application of IoT in a business setting helps businesses leverage knowledge gained from their customers in ways unforeseen when the internet was first made available to the general population. IoT connectivity leads to higher profits and better consumer loyalty, as seen in the rapid growth of IoT’s market value.

Businesses will also come to understand that improvements in their IoT offerings will lead to improved employee morale. IoT connectivity provides businesses with valuable consumer data which in turn leads to the creation of products designed to improve quality of life. The data gleaned from IoT devices can be synthesized efficiently and seamlessly, creating a data-driven environment which reduces employee stress and leads to greater creativity. This is another benefit IoT connectivity provides your business and its bid for greater profitability.

It is important to recognize that any limits on IoT connectivity are those which consumers set. A greater reliance and dependence on digital devices to provide us with the comforts of daily living will be tempered by attempts by hackers and other nefarious actors to compromise these machines for their personal gains. Proper monitoring and safeguards must be put in place; businesses must constantly gauge consumer interest for the next best thing and balance that desire against the ability of that “thing” to provide a solution and not be another gadget that is a potential hazard. A proper read of the data IoT devices provide will help guide business toward smart development in keeping with the dramatic increase in value in the IoT market, leading to better products, happy consumers, engaged employees, and a better envisioned world.

How to Hire Qualified Computer Specialists

Computer Repair

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

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

Computer Repair

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

Experience Levels

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

Education and Training

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

Device Types

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

Cost

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

Recommendations

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

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.

Why Every Business Needs Cybersecurity

Business Investment in Cybersecurity

Business Investment in Cybersecurity

Why Every Business Should Invest in Cybersecurity

Cyber security is essential to businesses of all sizes. Learn how to keep your business up to date and protected from the most common digital threats.  

Cybersecurity is no longer a concern exclusive to large corporations. Since the infamous attacks on Equifax, Target, and Apple, cybercriminals have started to shift their focus towards smaller businesses. Without proper security protocols, small businesses are sitting ducks even for novice hackers.

In recent years, the cost of data theft targeting small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) has risen significantly. The Ponemon Institute reports a 17% increase in the average cost of theft and damages, and a 26% increase in the average cost of disruption to operations. The threat has prompted many SMBs to invest more heavily in third-party data security services.

Cybersecurity in a Continuously Evolving Digital Space

Ever-evolving technology makes the world more connected, but also makes data more vulnerable to attackers. Gone are the days when an antivirus, firewall, and email filter were enough to earn a passing cybersecurity grade. As criminals refine and improve their methods of attack, businesses and IT professionals must step up their defenses.

The most recent trend in cyberattacks is a shift towards SMBs, many of which lack the breadth and depth of data security that larger corporations are likely to have. Illicit tactics such as email phishing, direct hacking, and installing ransomware can spell big trouble for SMBs. If your data is compromised, the results can extend to your customers and other members of your supply chain.

Consequences of a Data Breach

The fallout from a data breach depends on the scale of the attack and the value of the data stolen. Hackers may be able to seize control of accounts, drain funds, freeze assets, and access sensitive customer information. If you operate in the healthcare or financial sectors, you may be liable to pay reparations in addition to suffering the cost of stolen capital and the inability to continue operations. The cost of a large-scale data breach can devastate even the wealthiest of corporations, and will most certainly overwhelm a small business.

How to Improve Cybersecurity

A common misconception is that only large corporations can afford effective cybersecurity. In most cases, implementing cybersecurity isn’t merely a matter of money, but of proper training and awareness. A Ponemon Institute study linked 54 percent of data breaches to employee or contractor negligence. This includes email phishing, which is often the first step attackers use to conduct large scale theft of usernames, passwords, and other sensitive data.

Educating and training your employees on cybersecurity minimizes the risk of data theft at the point of contact. Your business should have protocols to identify signs of phishing, choose secure passwords, and grant or deny access to information. You can also inform your customers about how to keep their information secure. Taking this two-pronged approach shows customers how committed you are to keeping their data safe.

Being proactive and spreading the word on cybersecurity threats will help you protect your business from hackers. Whether you’re a multinational corporation or a two-person mom-and-pop shop, your customers rely on you to safeguard their data. Implementing the latest security practices lets them know that you value their trust.

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.

Intel Humiliated by Losing CPU Market Share to Eager AMD

Intel Processors losing to EMD

Intel Processors losing to AMD

Intel Humiliated by Losing CPU Market Share to Eager AMD

Intel’s continued problems with delivering CPUs are expected to go on throughout the fall and potentially 2020. Intel’s CEO Bob Swan told shareholders during their second-quarter conference call that the delays in processor deliveries would continue until September.

The fallout benefits AMD, which increased its market share from 9.8 percent in 2018 to 18 percent by the end of June 2019.

Why is Intel having trouble shipping CPUs on time?

The culprit is Ice Lake, Intel’s high volume 10nm processor. The chipmaker announced Ice Lake at CES 2019, but the processor hasn’t been forthcoming in the volumes Intel promised. The 10nm project has slowed Intel’s other chip line production. Lower-end processors have especially suffered, leading to supply chain problems for manufacturers, retailers, and customers.

What are Intel’s problems with the 10nm CPU?

The current problems continue Intel’s struggles with 10nm chips which date back to 2013. Intel’s initial goal for 10nm CPUs was 2015. Year by year, Intel has pushed back the deadline for 10nm CPUs. Intel’s second-quarter conference call gave late 2019 as the deadline — but the real date is more likely to be 2020 for most people who want to buy PCs with the new CPU.

The bottom-line culprit is engineering choices. Intel’s 10nm design selections have consistently held mass production back on its 10nm CPU project. As problems continued, Intel responded by refining its 14nm CPU performance and production process. TSMC and Samsung have 10nm CPUs, but their performance is equivalent to Intel’s 14nm CPUs.

What is so good about increasingly tiny CPUs?

Intel and its competitors, including AMD, are continuing R & D on smaller and smaller gate-size processors. Smaller gate sizes allow more CPU cores, or they enable a smaller die for the same performance as a larger CPU.

Smaller CPUs also use less power and generate less heat, a must for mobile devices and laptops. With desktop PCs, heat and power consumption aren’t as important, so processor performance can be improved in other ways.

How have Intel’s supply problems affected its business?

Intel’s stock has increased 6% since January 2019 according to Fortune, but rival AMD’s stock has gone up 83%. Nvidia’s stock has risen 25% since January.

The supply problems are mirrored by leadership problems at “Chipzilla.” Intel’s former CEO Brian Krzanich resigned in June 2018 when a relationship with a former employee was disclosed. Krzanich’s replacement Bob Swan is credited with improving company morale and redirecting the floundering 10nm CPU team.

Has AMD taken advantage of Intel’s delays?

AMD is gaining market share with scaled-up production of 12nm circuits. The Santa Clara-based chipmaker is gaining market share from Intel with its Ryzen 14nm and 12nm CPUs. It has announced 7nm Ryzen and Rome CPUs. AMD’s year-to-year market share in desktop computers grew from 12.2% in the first quarter of 2018 to 17.1% by the first quarter of 2019. In notebooks, AMD’s share grew from 8% to 13.1 %.

AMD also expects the number of Ryzen CPU notebooks to grow significantly in 2019, with desktop units growing by 30% and notebooks by 50%. Lenovo, the world’s #2 PC manufacturer, will be using Ryzen 7 Pro 3700U chips in its upcoming ThinkPads.

Which Intel and AMD news should industry pros and investors watch in upcoming quarters?

Intel has delayed shipments of all of its CPUs, not just the promised 10nm Ice Lake and variant chips. Rivals AMD and Nvidia have taken advantage of ongoing delays to ink new deals with major companies including Lenovo.

Investors and industry pros should keep an eye on CPU market shares for the rest of 2019 and into 2020. This will indicate if the agile upstarts are going to continue to take on “Chipzilla” and change the landscape of computing power in 2020 and beyond.

Small Business Owner? How to Choose Tech Support

Computer Engineer Helping Small Business Owner

Computer Engineer Helping Small Business Owner

Small Business Owner? How to Choose Tech Support

It is an unfortunate truth that many small businesses assume they don’t need to outsource their IT needs to a professional IT company.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, small businesses desperately need IT support — often, because they won’t have the resources to staff an in-house IT department.

Fortunately, IT companies generally offer support contracts that can work in a small business’s favor. Your company will be able to choose the level of support you specifically need. If you only require IT services occasionally, for troubleshooting network problems or setting up new software, for example, you can choose a low-level contract that won’t cost much. If you’re looking for more comprehensive coverage, you can always scale up.

Here are some other important tips to consider when choosing tech support for your small business.

Consider what type of fee structure you prefer.

IT companies generally offer two different types of fee structures:

  • A flat fee due monthly, biannually, or annually
  • A pay-as-you-go structure

Every business is different, but it is possible (and maybe even likely) that your small business won’t benefit from a flat fee payment structure.

This is because you may not actually end up needing the extent of services that a flat fee structure is best for. Larger businesses, certainly, will need to contact and get help from their IT company regularly every week or month. In fact, these companies often have in-house IT. But If your small business only uses IT minimally (for example, just for your website or for inventory ordering, etc.), you won’t use enough of your support package, and paying the flat-rate fee will get expensive.

On the other hand, we must note that niche industries may require a lot of IT tech support — even if your business is small. If this is the case for you, a flat rate monthly or biannual fee could be beneficial.

Look for IT companies who’ve been in the industry a while.

Brand-new IT companies often nab customers by claiming to know the latest trends in IT and how to best handle the most recent wave of cyberattacks. While these are both areas to be concerned about, as a local business or one that’s just starting out, these benefits (if they are actually true in the first place) may not be particularly beneficial to you.

As a small business, you basically want reliable IT support for basic security monitoring, troubleshooting, and possible software or hardware recommendations and/or setups. For this reason, it’s important to search for an IT company that is local and has been in the industry for a long period of time. This means they have the experience, which is exactly what you want. Ask the IT companies you are considering to speak with clients they’ve worked with for a long time so that you can get a handle on the kind of support you’ll be receiving from them.

Find an IT company that can help you grow.

Most small businesses are looking for ways to grow. If this is the case for your business, you should start looking for an IT company who can scale up your services when you eventually need them.

We’ve already stated the importance of having several payment options when it comes to your service level needs. This also comes in handy as you look toward the future of your business. While now, you may prefer a pay-as-you-go structure, you should work with an IT company who offers bigger, broader, flat-rate packages too. The extent of their services should also run the gamut.

With this in mind, also remember that an enormous IT company who won’t be able to provide personalized support to your niche industry isn’t generally recommended. The potential for scalability down the line is key here.

While you may assume that larger businesses are the ones who need all the major tech support, small businesses require IT expertise as well. It’s true that your IT needs may not currently match that of a mid- or large-size enterprise, but investing in the hire of an IT company will surely boost your business’s success as you grow and expand.

Use the simple tips above to locate the optimal IT company for your small business. We’re positive you’ll see the benefits of a good hire right away.

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

Modern Workplace

Office Workers In A Modern Workplace

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

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

Defining the Modern Digital Workplace

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

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

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

The Obvious Connection: Technology and Productivity

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

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

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

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

Office 365’s Role in the Modern Digital Workplace

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

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

Outlook

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

Microsoft Teams

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

Delve

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

Yammer

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

Microsoft Planner

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

SharePoint and OneDrive

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

Microsoft Flow

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

Using Office 365 to Help Your Business

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

Habits You Want From Your Technology Partner

IT support partnership

Habits You Want From Your Technology Partner

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

IT support partnership

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

Tech Partner Habits—Must-Haves from a Tech Partner

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

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

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

2. Willingness to be part of a team

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

3. Interest in a long-term partnership

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

4. Desire to contribute to the partnership

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

5. Seek regular and open communication

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