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.

Why Managed Detection and Response is a Valuable Tool for Small to Medium Businesses

Managed Detection

Managed Detection and Response could be the solution businesses are looking for in a world where cybercrime is on the rise and security experts are hard to find.  

Managed Detection

Cybersecurity is becoming much more than just a buzz word as cyberattacks on businesses increase and companies face the challenge of finding skilled cybersecurity professionals. By 2022, there could potentially be as many as 1.8 million unfilled cybersecurity jobs, a pain point for many small to medium businesses.

While cybercrime continues to threaten these very businesses, many are wondering if there is a solution to these challenges. How does a company protect significant amounts of data with limited IT and security staff? The answer comes in the form of specialized teams of security and threat analysts, or Managed Detection and Response.

Managed Detection and Response (MDR)

Similar to other Managed Service Providers, companies that specialize in MDR work to provide cybersecurity support to companies that are either lacking skills or time to manage security. What makes Managed Detection and Response unique is its comprehensive approach to dealing with threats.

MDR requires both technology and human analysis to effectively and proactively detect, remediate, and eventually eliminate cyber threats. Where other providers offer an overall software and hardware-based alert system, they are often limited in their ability to respond to, research, and diagnose the number of alerts that happen daily.

With managed detection and response, analysts sift through alerts to determine if they require action. When a response is required, they offer immediate support in resolving the issue and determining its source so that a threat of that type is less likely to occur again.

MDR also takes a proactive approach to threat detection—also called threat hunting—that helps companies determine the overall state of their cybersecurity measures. Specialized analysts are able to research why or how a threat is occurring, resulting in a more comprehensive solution. This same skill set allows them to see beyond the individual incident and understand the greater need behind your network, server, and endpoint data protection.

Improving Your Cybersecurity Defenses

While cyberattacks on big companies dominate the news headlines, it is small to medium businesses that are facing the majority of threats—and they are doing it unprepared. At least 43% of cyberattacks are directed at small businesses, but very few are prepared to deal with the onslaught. On average, these attacks cost businesses $200,000, which is more than many of them can handle.

Managed Security Services provide necessary firewall and perimeter protection for your network, and prove to be helpful in providing alerts when anomalies arise. But the amount of protection most companies need can only come in the form of a specialized and highly trained in-house security team or an MDR.

As cybercrime continues to increase, protecting more than just your company’s network perimeter will be key to improving your cybersecurity defenses. Finding and outsourcing your security needs to Managed Detection and Response could be the best way forward in a world where cybersecurity is an essential part of your company’s future.

4 Dangers of Hiring Printer Companies to Manage Your IT Services

Printer Repair Companies

4 Reasons Not to Hire Printer Companies

Thinking about saving money on your IT services with a printer company? Learn about the pitfalls and dangers of relying on support from companies without expertise.  

Printer Repair Companies

Hiring a printer company to take care of your IT services can seem like a great solution. You won’t have to consult with multiple vendors or negotiate multiple contracts. A printer company might even offer to take care of all of your IT services for less than what you’re currently spending. However, there are several reasons why you should not trust a printer company as your single vendor for all of your organization’s IT needs. Although you may pay less, that lower price comes with a higher cost – substandard service and support.

The delivery of substandard service and support from printer companies occurs due to the following:

  • A lack of experience
  • An inability to understand the true nature and components of IT services
  • Inadequate resources directed towards developing IT and IT services
  • Unstable organizations due to conflicts between printing and IT services

Insufficient Experience

By design, printer companies are specialists in troubleshooting and maintaining two items – printers and copiers. While these companies are experts at providing service on these types of devices, branching out into the world of IT services is not something these companies have done in the past. Even though the staff may have basic troubleshooting, sales, and customer service experience under their belts, they may only have limited experience with the complexities of managing networks.

Lack of Understanding

Since printer companies do not have decades of experience with IT services, there is often a skill and knowledge gap. Without an understanding of and experience with more complex computing devices, troubleshooting skills may be limited. Computing devices, servers, and network equipment are more intricate than printers or copiers. In order to configure, deploy, maintain, troubleshoot, and fix this type of equipment, advanced and interdependent knowledge is necessary. It is far easier for printer companies to overlook the source of a problem with network dependent devices and the network itself simply due to a lack of skill.

Inadequate Resources

Since these companies specialize in printers and copiers, it is more difficult to devote internal resources to IT services. This means that there may be little put into research and development, training staff on the skills they need to support IT services, and a lack of support staff designated to managing IT services for clients. In other words, printer companies tend to overpromise and underdeliver when it comes to supporting services and devices outside of printers.

Instability

When printer companies try to branch out into IT services, it can cause internal conflict. Staff that is managing printers and copiers may not be able to keep the company afloat, due to the fact that the company is not reinvesting what it should into its printer expertise. Consequently, both sides of the business begin to suffer, and animosity develops. Leaders within the company may decide to cut out IT services altogether, leaving clients without support.

Quickly Unlock Useful iTunes Store Applications that Are Blocked in Your Country

Unblocking App Store

Unblock Geo-Restricted App Store or iTunes Content in a Few Clicks

Discover how to quickly gain access to geoblocked apps via the App Store or iTunes with a few simple clicks whether you’re on on an iPhone, iPad, Mac or PC.

Unblocking App Store

Apple’s App Store and iTunes apps give you access to thousands of great games, utilities and social connections. But there are thousands more you can never access due to geographic restrictions.

Why Are Certain Apps Blocked?

Location-based restrictions, known as geoblocking, are actions taken by companies or government regulators. They restrict access to content, including App Store apps, based on your location. You can experience these issues on sites such as YouTube or platforms such as Netflix, where certain content is unavailable to certain users, often due to licensing issues or other legal issues.

Geoblocking is usually done by tracking the unique identifiers known as Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Any request you make to a site or app includes your IP address so the pinged computer knows where to send the requested content. IP addresses are allocated to internet service providers (ISPs) to distribute to their customers and reflect the geographic location of the computer, smartphone or another connected device.

Why Unblock Geoblocked Content?

There are many valid reasons for wanting to access geoblocked content. You may be visiting or living in another country and want to connect with content and functionality unique to your country. Maybe you need to access content that is only available via an app that is restricted at your current location. You might want to compare content presented on different versions of an app.

No matter what the reason, geoblocking can cause frustration for those wanting to access something they can’t connect to. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to unlock this content.

How Do I Unlock Geoblocked Content?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to unlocking iTunes and App Store content in another country. No matter which method you use, be sure to cancel any subscriptions to Apple Music, iTunes Match and other apps associated with your Apple ID.

  • On an iPhone or iPad
    • Open Settings > [Your Username]
    • Click on iTunes & App Store
    • Tap on your Apple ID. Authenticate if asked
    • Click on View Apple ID
    • Select Country/Region
    • Select Change Country/Region
    • Choose a new country, click on Next
    • Accept the Terms and Conditions
    • Enter your payment method
  • On a Mac or PC
    • Open iTunes
    • Click on Account > View My Account
    • Sign in using your Apple ID
    • Press Enter or click on View Account
    • On the Account Information page, click on Change Country or Region
    • Click Agree to the terms and conditions
    • Enter a new payment method
    • Click Continue
  • From your Apple ID profile
    • Log on to your Apple ID account profile
    • Scroll to Account
    • Tap on Country/Region
    • Choose your new country or region. Click Continue when asked to confirm your new selection

Does Unblocking Content Allow Access to All Apps?

The method described above only works for free apps available for iOS devices. If you want to access paid apps, you’ll need to enter a payment method — and billing address – for the country

Switching from one country identity to another on iTunes or the App Store is complex, but can be done, by following these steps:

  • Open App Store > Apple ID
  • Click on Sign Out
  • Open Settings/General
  • Click on Language & Region
  • Select Region
  • Select a new country or region and create a new account by finding an app you want to download in the new country
    • Tap on the app. If a screen pops up that the item is not available, click on Change Store
    • Go to the app listing and tap Get > Install
    • Click Create New Apple ID
    • Select the new country or region and complete the Apple ID creation steps
    • Select None under Billing
  • Switching between stores is now possible by signing out of one iTunes or App Store account and signing back in via another

Accessing content in other countries can be critical for many users. With a few taps, you can open up a world of opportunities.

5G Networks Present Need for Improved Security

5G Networks

The Security Risks Are Real with Coming Rollout of 5G Networks

Discover what the arrival of ultra-fast 5G networks means for cybersecurity, driven by the significant number of devices that will be connected to each network.

5G Networks

As ultrafast 5G networks emerge, so too do potential cybersecurity threats. For security experts, the unknowns make predictions for what risks to address more challenging

What is 5G?

5G is a new approach to wireless connectivity. It features speeds 20 to 100 times faster than the existing fastest speeds on 4G long-term evolution (LTE) networks. 5G (which stands for the fifth generation of wireless technology to be available in the United States and worldwide) networks also will support larger numbers of wireless devices.

Given the proliferation of connected devices (the Internet of Things), the ability to connect more objects without affecting performance is a significant benefit.

How Does 5G Technology Differ from Previous Network Solutions?

5G delivers faster speeds and lower latency due to fundamental changes in the network structure. Among the key changes are:

  • Use of higher radio frequencies than 4G, allowing for more data to be transmitted at faster speeds
  • A new technology, Massive MIMO (multiple input multiple output) that uses targeted beams that follow a connected user around a cell site, providing better capacity, coverage and speed. Massive MIMO acts like a spotlight, directing the technology in a specific direction, as opposed to existing 4G tower technology that’s more like a floodlight, firing data in all directions, wasting power and energy.

What Are the New Cyberthreats?

With any new technology comes the new potential of attacks and intrusions. With 5G, more devices can be connected at once, more data is flowing, and data exchange happens at a far more rapid pace. Here are some of the main challenges that come with the new wireless protocol.

  • More Devices Means Lack of Scalability. Today, companies that have large numbers of connected devices on their networks find it difficult to manage and secure these objects. As those businesses adopt 5G, they may be managing hundreds if not tens of thousands of devices. The challenges of scalability of security solutions will only magnify.
  • New Risks Will Emerge. Today, most cybersecurity solutions focus on traditional connected devices — desktop computers, servers, smartphone and other mobile devices. 5G increases the opportunity to connect more types of objects. With each newly connected object comes an increased network threat, another possibility for hackers to expose a security flaw in a device that’s not updated or fully protected.

    5G also encourages more businesses to invest in connected devices as part of their business operations. That means a growing number of new devices, interfaces and technologies.

    Consider the potential number of smart devices in your home — refrigerator, coffee machine, washing machine, doorbell, television, digital assistant and security system are all connected and potential targets.

  • More Privacy Issues. More entities are passing laws and regulations that govern how data can be stored, transmitted and used. That means organizations using 5G will need to comply with multiple regulatory hurdles related to information collected by, stored on and used by connected devices.
  • Unknown Capabilities. Today’s network security systems and processes are constructed to monitor traffic and identify potential threats based on activity and data, all in real time. Doing so allows them to detect and contain suspect activity quickly. The solutions are designed to work with the existing bandwidth speeds and restrictions. With the higher capacity and speeds of 5G, that model may go out the window. New protocols are necessary for encryption, monitoring and prevention, which may mean existing firewalls may no longer work with 5G.

    Yet with few 5G networks operational, there is little to baseline for testing or assessment. Hardware will likely need to be upgraded, processes changed and new guidelines developed and implemented.

  • Integration and Automation. Today’s solutions can operate independently of other systems, but the impending 5G revolution means integration and automation will need to become part of future solutions. Security solutions will need to connect to the entire IT operation and data will need to be synchronized throughout multiple security layers.

What Can the Security Profession, Carriers and Businesses Do to Prepare for 5G Security Needs?

The solution to 5G security challenges will be multilayered and the responsibility of multiple parties. Among the key changes necessary are:

  • Carriers will need to extend firewall protection to cover new distributed networks of connected devices
  • Improved authentication and management of devices
  • Self-updating, self-reporting, self-hardening and self-healing devices will need to become the norm
  • Access and discoverability protocols will need to be built through multiple layers

The benefits of 5G are significant. With the right security programs and solutions in place, it’s likely to be a big leap forward in connectivity.

Security Checklist for Business

Business Security Consultant

Security Essentials for Business

Cybercrime is on the rise, and businesses must be proactive with their cybersecurity programs. Learn what to look for when choosing an MSP for your organization.  

Business Security Consultant

Cybercrime is on the rise, and businesses must stay on top of their data security. A managed services provider (MSP) can help protect your organization’s data from breaches and cyber attacks. However, not all MSPs offer the services and features businesses need to stay on top of the latest threats. Below is a checklist you can use to decide if an MSP provides the optimum value in the short and long term.

Proactive Protection

Every MSP worth considering will have a proactive process in place to minimize issues and quickly resolve problems as they arise. Common red flags include a break/fix pricing model and overage charges. These usually point to an MSP that operates inefficiently and doesn’t prioritize your time, money, or security.

Below are some green flags that point to proactive MSP:

  • They provide you with up-to-date security software that you can use right from your desktop.
  • They provide round-the-clock administration of your network and servers.
  • Their help desk is easily accessible and includes a comprehensive knowledge base.
  • They communicate and implement an IT strategy that fits how your business operates.

Fast Round-the-Clock Response

Smaller MSPs may not have enough staff to respond to issues in a timely manner, let alone resolve them efficiently. Data travels 24/7, and you need an IT solution that can help you at any hour. Experienced MSPs employ a large team of IT professionals to ensure that all of their customers receive prompt service. They are also more likely to use state-of-the-art tools to detect, prevent, and resolve issues before they threaten your data.

A Team of Experts

Nearly every MSP will claim to be expert IT gurus. But talk is cheap, and failing to delve further into an MSP’s qualifications may cost you. Here are a few indicators that an “expert” MSP lives up to their advertisement:

  • They have a team of experts that specialize in every aspect of cybersecurity including software, hardware, cloud services, and networks.
  • They provide regular training and certification programs to their employees and have low turnover.
  • They document all services and processes provided.

Personalized Security Evaluation

Lesser MSPs will sit back and wait for you to call them about an issue. A reliable MSP will analyze your organization and create a strategic program that addresses its strengths and weaknesses. They will share and review these documents with you to ensure you understand the state of your cybersecurity and goals moving forward.

Scalability

A smaller MSP may provide great value for the time being, but they may fall behind when your business grows. A high-quality MSP understands the needs of small businesses and large enterprises alike. They have the tools and personnel ready to adapt to your evolving needs and goals. They may offer multiple price tiers, but communicate each plan to you clearly before you sign up.

Value

Pricing alone is a poor indicator of the actual value an MSP provides. Some will undercut their competitors while providing far less value, while others may charge a premium for inflated solutions that you don’t need. On the other hand, trustworthy MSPs will offer a fair price and stick to it. Don’t let the numbers fool you. Examine the content behind the price tag and you’re sure to make a smart choice.

Reputation

You wouldn’t hire someone without checking their references, and you shouldn’t choose an MSP without reading reviews. Many MSPs will post customer testimonials on their website, but there’s no real way to verify their legitimacy. Criminals may even pose as MSPs to get their hands on your valuable data. Search for the MSP’s name on unbiased review sites and read comments on their social media pages. A strong candidate will have a high percentage of positive reviews and be active on social media to answer questions and provide assistance.

Hopefully, this guide has helped you make the best choice regarding your MSP. Don’t be afraid to refer to this list when interviewing MSP candidates. You’ll get a much clearer picture of their offerings and be better equipped to choose who to trust with your sensitive data.

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

Windows 7 End of Support

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

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

Don’t Put Your Business at RIsk

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

Steps You Can Take to Avoid the Impending January 2020 Deadline

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

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

Top Reasons to Jumpstart Your Business’s Paperless Initiative

Paperless Society

Jumpstart Your Business’s Paperless Initiative

Want to “go paperless” with your company? See the many benefits of paperless business and learn how to jumpstart this initiative for effective results.  

Paperless Society

Many businesses toy around with the idea of “going paperless,” but what’s actually in it for the companies who decide to go through with it?

To be sure, not all businesses are cut out to go paperless. Certain documents in certain industries simply must be in paper form. Therefore, depending on your industry and unique company needs, you may end up unnecessarily complicating affairs if you try to do everything digitally.

At the same time, a great many companies will benefit significantly from making this change. Below, we’ll go over the specific reasons why it might be a good idea for your company. First, though, let’s define what going paperless actually means.

What Does It Really Mean to “Go Paperless”?

The term “going paperless” simply refers to the shift from printed documents to digital documents. For example, instead of printing invoices, order forms, and tax documents, a company would issue all of these documents digitally, sending them via email or storing them as files.

What Are the Top Reasons to “Go Paperless”?

You’ll save money.

Cloud data storage is a lot less expensive than on-premise data storage. Moreover, on-premise data storage forces you to pay for the maximum amount of storage you may need upfront. With cloud storage, you can easily scale your storage capacity up or down, depending on your needs.

In addition, the products and tools needed to print, scan, and copy your company’s documents is extremely expensive. Printers and copiers alone can cost thousands of dollars, and fixing and maintaining them is expensive as well. With a paperless system, these tools become obsolete. Of course, you’ll also save a bundle on paper and ink.

You’ll have document access from everywhere.

Most businesses who go paperless store their documents in the cloud. When you do this, access to these documents is available wherever you can find an Internet connection. This makes it easier to hire remote workers, send employees on work trips, and access important information even when you’re away from the office.

You’ll save time.

Consider the time it takes to print, scan, copy, collate, organize, and store all of your paper documents. Additionally, remember that when you have a huge number of documents to contend with, protocols and systems must be developed, instituted, and monitored. Lastly, think about how long it takes to find a specific document within your files.

All of these tasks are time-consuming, and in any business, time is money.

When you switch to a digital system of document storage, you’ll be saving an immense amount of time. Documents can be digitally created, copied, sent, edited, and stored. There’s no need to run to the printer or search through endless boxes for the paper file you need. When searching for files, you can simply pop a few keywords into the search bar of your data storage system, and voilà — it will appear!

You’ll save space.

Consider how much space you currently use to store paper documents. From old tax returns and invoices to printed data and memos, an accumulation of individual sheets of paper can actually take up quite a lot of room.

Digital documents, on the other hand, are virtually invisible. As long as you have enough data storage capacity available, you’ll gain tons of physical space when you make the switch to a paperless system.

You’ll ensure better security of your data

While it’s possible for cloud-stored data to be compromised, it’s much more likely that sensitive files will be stolen or accidentally destroyed in paper form. This may happen as the result of a crime or simply because of a flood, fire, or another natural disaster.

Online data, on the other hand, can be encrypted. With the right security team on your side, you can apply layered security systems to your cloud storage protocol in order to better protect your data.

What Are Some Tips for Jumpstarting Your Business’s Paperless Initiative?

When going paperless, use the following tips to make the transition easier and smoother.

1. Start with a plan.

All paperless initiatives should begin with a plan. Sit down with your management team, and create a day-by-day, week-by-week schedule for setting up whatever paperless system you choose.

2. Go slow.

Before springing a new system on your employees, it’s essential that you predict all possible complications. You’ll also want to anticipate how going paperless will affect your employees, clients, and customers, and warn them of the changes that will be made.

3. Get help.

Lastly, don’t forget to seek professional help with the technology aspect of your new paperless system. A managed service provider can help you set up a secure, easy-to-use cloud storage system and offer extremely useful assistance for making the overall transition.

Managed Services SLAs: What Should You Expect to See?

Managed Services SLA

Key Things to Look for in Your Managed Services SLA

When you hire an MSP, you must sign a service level agreement. Here’s how to evaluate your SLA and ensure you’re getting what you expect from this relationship.  

Managed Services SLA

As if choosing the right managed service provider wasn’t enough, it’s also crucial to make sure that the SLA (service level agreement) you develop between your company and your managed service provider is sound and satisfactory.

Below, we’ll go over what you should expect to see within your managed services contract (SLA). We’ll also discuss how you should review this document with your lawyer to ensure you’re getting the proper value out of this relationship and doing what’s best for your business.

What does an SLA set out to do?

The core goal of a service level agreement between a company and the managed service provider they are hiring is this:

To outline the payment structure and service responsibilities of both parties and to specifically define and document exactly what services the MSP will offer, including what hardware and software is covered, daily monitoring services, troubleshooting services in emergency situations, response times, and more.

Of course, all service level agreements will be slightly different. Some will offer more or less information. Certain SLAs will include information about items such as liability protection for the managed services company. Still others will go into detail about expected performance standards.

What should you look for in your managed services SLA?

Your managed service provider will draw up the service level agreement. Ostensibly, this is a service level agreement they use and have used with all of their clients. It will, of course, be modified to fit the parameters and needs of your business and the unique relationship the MSP has with your business.

However, it should follow a general format. When your MSP shows you the service level agreement they have drawn up, you should expect to see the following:

Services Provided by the MSP

This section will outline exactly what services the MSP will be providing to you on a regular basis. This will often be based on the specific level of service that you have agreed to pay for.

For example, if you own a medium-sized business and the MSP you are working with has three levels of service, you may choose the mid-level of service as you don’t need the extent of services offered to larger businesses.

How Problems Are Managed

The overall services your MSP will provide will be based on daily, monthly, quarterly, etc. services. These are systematic tasks that will be undertaken regularly (such as monitoring security or providing software updates).

On the other hand, your SLA also needs to outline how troubleshooting and problems will be handled by your managed service provider. If you have an issue, for example, you’ll need a protocol for managing:

  • Responsibility: What areas of your company’s IT are they (your MSP) managing and monitoring?
  • Emergencies: What constitutes an emergency?
  • Response Time: If and when you report an emergency, what is the minimum timeframe that your managed service provider will respond within?
  • Reporting Method: How do you report an emergency? Will this vary based on the time of day or week? What information do you need to provide?

When Your MSP Is Available

Lastly, your SLA should outline when your MSP will be available on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis. What if you have problems in the evening after business hours? On the weekend? On a holiday? All availability times and any applicable extra charges should be documented.

Going over your SLA with your lawyer

Once you are satisfied with the service level agreement you have been provided with by your MSP, make sure to go over it with your lawyer. They’re on your side and will, therefore, be able to determine if any aspect of the SLA is unfair to you legally or could present potential problems.

Taking your time when reviewing your service level agreement will put your mind at ease and increase the likelihood that you and your managed service provider will enjoy a strong working relationship.

To Lease or Buy a Copier?

Copier Sales and Lease

Should You Buy a Copier or Lease It?

Trying to decide whether to lease a copier or buy a copier? Find out the pros and cons. See when buying or leasing may be the best option for your business.  

Copier Sales and Lease

No single piece of equipment in the office takes more of a beating than the floor-standing copier.

Day in and day out it endures transitions between high heat and frigid office temps, paper jam tug-of-war, lid slamming and endless pieces of paper traveling at lightning speed across its rollers. All of this demanding work takes a toll on the device, giving it an average lifespan of just five years in a busy office.

Eventually, you’ll find yourself needing to find a replacement and the question arises: should you lease or buy a copier? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question. These pros and cons will help you make the right choice for you and your business.

Why Buy a Copier?

When you’re playing the long game, buying a copier is usually the less expensive option–when it comes to the cost of the copier. You’ll avoid finance charges and other fees. You’ll also avoid a hard credit check, which may impact your credit score. If you’re a smaller or growing business, you like to keep your credit as clean as possible.

And even if you did have to put it on credit, the printer is yours after you finish paying for it. Some high-quality floor copiers can last up to 10 years, especially if you’re not a high-volume office. So that may be a very good deal.

Okay. So it sounds like buying is the way to go. But wait! There are some cons to consider.

When Buying a Copier Isn’t Your Best Option

Since the dawn of time, technology has never stood still. And the rate of change is only getting faster. A bought printer may have everything you need today. But no one really knows what businesses may need in 10 years. That could put you at a competitive disadvantage against newer companies in the future with the latest technology.

If you needed to resell that printer because you weren’t using it like you thought or needed to free up cash, you might recoup 50% if you sold it immediately, but in 5 years, it would probably cost more for someone to move it than they’d pay for the copier.

Not unlike a car, it’s not going to hold its value.

If your rainy day fund is tapped out and you’d have to put buying a copier on credit, interest charges may make the copier cost a lot more than you think you’re saving by buying over leasing a copier.

Finally, an aging printer will also begin to require more maintenance to keep it running smoothly. And you might find yourself feeling like you have to keep it past its prime to get your money’s worth. That may cost you in employee productivity and lost wages.

Why Lease a Copier?

Leasing a copier does make sense if you need to have clear terms from month-to-month. You know upfront how much you pay each month and for how long. That’s often easier on the budget. If cash flow is tight and you’d have to finance a bought printer anyway, leasing may actually end up saving you money.

When your term ends, you’re not stuck with a printer that may now be outdated or breaking down. You can upgrade when you renew your lease. Or, depending on the lease terms, you may be able to buy the copier at the end of the lease for a minimal cost if it’s still working for you.

A newer copier needs less maintenance and functions more efficiently, increasing workplace productivity and reducing worker frustration around inadequate technology. If the leased copier needs maintenance or stops working entirely, that’s likely the responsibility of the leasing company.

That’s not an emergency expense you have to worry about.

When Leasing a Copier Isn’t Your Best Option

You will pay more for the leased copier than you otherwise would. Those pros of leasing listed above come at a price. It’s important to realize that those are what you’re paying for, not just the copier. In a way leasing is another way to manage risk. Not unlike buying insurance, you’re paying the leasing company to take on what would otherwise be your risk.

Every business has a certain amount of risk they’re comfortable managing and planning for. Leasing a copier may not make sense for you if you’re in a position where you can effectively manage more risk. That copier may last you 15 years or five. You just don’t know because lifespan is so strongly affected by how your office uses it.

Ultimately, deciding whether to lease or buy a copier is a very company-specific decision. So weigh these pros and cons and you’ll make the right choice for your business.