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.

How to Protect Your Business from SHTML Phishing

Email Phishing

Email Phishing

Protecting Your Data from SHTML Phishing

Data security is vital to any business. Learn how SHTML phishing works and how to minimize the risk of your data falling into the hands of attackers.

Email phishing has been in the playbook of hackers since, well, email. What’s alarming is the scope in which criminals can conduct these attacks, the amount of data potentially at risk, and how vulnerable many businesses are to phishing attempts. Here’s what you need to know to spot the hook and protect your data from being reeled in.

How Does Email Phishing Work?

A phishing email typically contains an attachment in the form of a server-parsed HTML (SHTML) file. When opened, these shady files redirect the user to a malicious website often disguised as a legitimate product or service provider. The website then requests sensitive information such as the user’s address, date of birth, social security number, bank account number, etc. in exchange for providing said product or service.

Users who comply end up giving their information to a criminal who may then sell it to various illegal organizations. Victims may end up losing money and having their identity connected to criminal activity. The attackers may even offer to sell the information back to the owner for a hefty ransom. For businesses, the damages can be irreparable. Phishing is often the launchpad for large-scale cyber attacks, and businesses that fall victim can lose not only cash and assets, but the trust of current and would-be customers.

Who Does SHTML Phishing Target?

While many individuals fall victim to phishing, the main targets are businesses in the banking and finance sector. The sender may use a seemingly legitimate email address, often posing as a trusted, reputable organization. They may goad users to open attachments by claiming to be the IRS, a wealthy businessman offering a lucrative deal, or, ironically, a security provider offering to scan the user’s computer for vulnerabilities. While many phishing attempts are obvious, some can be convincing, and all it takes is a hasty click to give the phisher what they want.

Types of SHTML Phishing

Depending on the attacker, a phishing attempt can range from simple and generic to detailed and personalized to fit the target. For businesses that conduct large quantities of transactions, a phisher may send a simple email claiming to provide a receipt for their purchase. Others may send invoices. Sophisticated attackers may gather information about the business including its suppliers, partners, and even names of individual employees. They may then create fake accounts disguised as these trusted entities, fooling the target into giving away sensitive data. While most phishing attempts fail, a convincing premise combined with a busy, distracted user can equal success – and disaster.

Potential Signs of SHTML Phishing

Being proactive and training your employees to spot phishing is the best line of defense. Here are some potential red flags that may, but not always, indicate that an email is a phishing attack:

  • Poor spelling and grammar
  • Strange characters and punctuation
  • Email addresses comprised of a seemingly random combination of letters and numbers
  • Emails claiming to offer large sums of money
  • Emails claiming that you owe a large sum of money
  • Emails claiming that your data is at risk and offering protection
  • An overly lengthy or short email body
  • Attachments with file types you don’t recognize

How to Protect Your Business from SHTML Phishing

While there’s no way to guarantee that your business will be 100% safe from phishing attacks, you can take precautions to greatly minimize your risk of becoming a victim. Many email clients have rules that automatically filter out suspicious or spam emails. Savvy IT professionals can create additional rules to identify and block phishing emails.

The greatest defense is training every employee to recognize the red flags, especially the not-so-obvious ones. Make basic data security a part of the onboarding process, and hold presentations and seminars several times a year to keep employees aware and bring to light any new threats they should look for.

Data security is more relevant than ever, and businesses need to stay up to date on the latest cybersecurity threats. Is your business taking the necessary precautions to keep phishers away?

Everything You Need to Know About the Dark Web

The Dark Web

The Dark Web

What Is the Dark Web and How Can You Stay Off It?

Ever heard of the dark web? It’s definitely not a place you want your company’s information to be. Learn everything you need to know about the dark web here.  

Most people have heard about the dark web in one form or another. It’s a place where criminal activity happens — from the purchase of illegal drugs to the hiring of assassins.

Of course, there is a legal side to the dark web as well; though, most people don’t know about. In fact, the origin story of the dark web is entirely legitimate and is even linked to the government.

Still, as a business owner or CEO, your relationship with the dark web (should you unfortunately have one) will not likely be good. It’s a bad sign if any of your information is found there. That’s why it’s important to know about what exactly the dark web is: Where it came from, what’s on it, and what you should do to stay as far away from it as possible.

What Is the Dark Web?

The dark web is essentially one “section” of the Internet. Specifically, it’s a section that isn’t included in mainstream search engines like Google. So, when you search a normal search inquiry, such as, “Where’s the best hamburger joint in downtown Pittsburgh?” you don’t get results from the dark web.

Instead, this section includes all sorts of illicit goings-on. Mostly, it’s a marketplace for things you shouldn’t be buying because they’re illegal to sell and/or buy. For instance, you can buy lifelong access to Netflix for a small price (six bucks). You can hire someone to hack into someone else’s computer for you and download their data or track their keystrokes. You can purchase credit card credentials. You can obtain prepaid debit card numbers and security codes.

How Does One Access the Dark Web?

We’ll reiterate again that the dark web is not a place you want to find yourself (or your information). However, for the sake of knowledge, we’ll explain that in order to access the dark web, you must download what’s called the Tor browser.

Tor stands for The Onion Router. This is basically the software that makes the dark web operate in the dark.

Where Did the Dark Web Originate?

The dark web began in the late 1990s as a way for the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) to better hide their online communications. At this time, The Onion Router or Tor was brand-new.

Soon after its initial creation in 2004, the dark web’s Tor software was released for public use. Since that time, it has ceased to be solely a government resource and has turned into the “back alley” of the Internet.

How Can the Dark Web Affect Business Owners?

The dark web is a potential danger to all businesses of all sizes and in all industries. In fact, it can be a potential danger to individuals as well. But let’s talk about your business and the dark web.

Basically, it has been found that 60% of the web listings on the dark web could harm a business. That’s because, these listings offer individuals searching the dark web ways to obtain things like the following:

  • Customer data
  • Tips for hacking computers
  • Tips for hacking networks
  • Malware
  • Financial data
  • Phishing advice
  • Operational data
  • Intellectual trade secrets
  • Tutorials for cyber crime
  • Remote access Trojans (RATs)
  • Espionage services
  • Credentials access

How Can You Keep Your Business Safe From the Dark Web?

The best way to keep your business safe from the dark web is to have the proper cybersecurity measures in place. This means hiring a cybersecurity team or a managed service provider (MSP) to handle your company’s cybersecurity. Even if you’re a small business, hiring an MSP to have on retainer is a good idea.

They will make sure that you have firewalls and other detectors of malware in place for adequate security. It’s also essential to back up your data and to make everyone who works for or with your company aware of how to avoid phishing attempts.

Lastly, your cybersecurity team should be monitoring the dark web to make sure that none of your information lands there. This goes for personal information for you and your employees, as well as overall company information. Taking these measures is the only surefire way to ensure that your company does not end up on the wrong end of the dark web.

5 Incredible Benefits of Effective Managed IT Services

Business Meeting Talking About Managed IT Services

Business Meeting Talking About Managed IT Services

5 Incredible Benefits of Effective Managed IT Services

Managed IT services are one of the many ways an organization can choose to handle their IT needs. With managed IT services, a third-party handles the entirety of the tasks and responsibilities regarding managing IT and keeping the company running. The difference between this and many traditional third-party services is that it’s provided for a set cost. Instead of having access to an hourly consultant rate, you’ll be paying a flat rate monthly (or annually) in exchange for total coverage.

Every arrangement is slightly different and must be outlined very clearly in the Service Level Agreement (also known as the SLA). This document will arrange not only the cost structure, but also the exact services that are included in the partnership, and the metrics that are used to define success or failure.

There are many reasons that companies elect to go with managed IT services to handle their day-to-day needs. Here are five of the most compelling reasons:

1. Provides Total Alignment Between Both Parties

In a managed services agreement, both parties are aligned for maximum efficiency and performance. Since it’s not an hourly rate, the third-party is incentivized to handle your IT in an efficient and effective manner. Otherwise, they have to spend more time and manpower resolving your issues, which brings down their effective hourly rate.

Additionally, if they don’t live up to the metrics set forth by the SLA, they may be liable for penalties or even complete termination of the contract. In this way, it’s in both companies interest to do the very best job possible.

2. Focuses on Being Proactive versus Reactive

If you’re paying by the hour, the services you’ll receive are going to be reactive. When your company notices an issue, they’ll reach out to the third-party to help fix it. Managed services provide proactive support. Since they’re working for you no matter if there’s a problem or not, much of their time is spent preventing problems in the first place. This results in much smoother daily operations and the avoidance of problems that could potentially hurt your businesses but would be unavoidable with another type of arrangement.

3. Contains Simple Cost Structure

The simple cost structure of managed IT services will be much appreciated by your accounting department and whoever is setting the budget. Instead of seeing costs vary wildly by the amount of support required in a particular month, the amount will be a flat fee. You’ll also likely save a great deal of money versus hiring a fully functional team in-house since you won’t need to pay for things like recruiting, onboarding, benefits, and continued training.

4. Makes Projects Easier to Manage

When you need to roll out a brand-new technology or simply update an existing one, it can take a great deal of time and resources. This is especially true if the third-party isn’t used to the way your business operates each day and has to fit the entire roll out into a small window of time. If you have continuous support, however, it’s a much more manageable process. They can work on the project when they have a spare moment in the day. Since they’re fully integrated into your day-to-day processes, they’ll have a much better idea of how to implement a new system from end-to-end, including training and providing post-launch support.

5. Offers Access to True Experts

Unless you’re a massive organization, it’s unlikely that you can afford to recruit, train, and maintain the very best in the IT field. With an agreement with a top-notch IT firm, you gain access to experience and perspectives that you would be unlikely to otherwise access. These talented professionals will be able to help you with all of your IT needs, from daily maintenance to improving upon your existing systems and processes.

Managed IT services are only one of the many ways that a company can choose to handle its IT needs. However, it offers many advantages over some of the other options, including handling IT in-house and going with an hourly consultant-based fee schedule. If you believe that your business could benefit from controlled costs, improved support, and access to an incredible variety of IT talent, managed IT services might be the best option for your business.

How Do I Choose a Cloud Computing Model?

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing

How Do I Choose a Cloud Computing Model?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should your business be using cloud computing?

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

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

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

What method of cloud computing should my business use?

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

Private Cloud Computing

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

Public Cloud Computing

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

Hybrid Cloud Computing

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

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

Why Is Wi-Fi So Slow on My Phone?

Wifi slow

Wifi slow

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

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

1. Isolate the Problem

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

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

2. Check Your Router Location

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

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

3. Check Router Strength

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

4. Watch Out for Noise and Competing Networks

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

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

5. Consider Network Congestion

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

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

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

Ransomware’s Cruel Greed: Proven Security Protects Your Business

Ransomware

Ransomware

Cybercriminals lock victims out of computer and network files – sometimes destroying data – and extort cash to get that data back. That’s a ransomware attack, costing businesses billions worldwide.

Ransomware can spread by the simplest of user actions. Email phishing, or Business Email Compromise (BEC) – fraudulent and deceptive emails posing as legitimate messages – is perhaps the most common propagation method. Social media clickbait, particularly using fake accounts masquerading as friends or colleagues, is common also. Simply visiting an infected website can corrupt your system, even if the user doesn’t click anything on the web page.

How common is ransomware? There’s bad news and good news. The bad news: attacks are extremely common, with thousands of organizations being probed every day. The good news: savvy IT professionals are fending off attacks, so infections are still comparatively rare. However, attacks are on the rise and cybercriminals are growing more sophisticated.

Ransomware attacks are hitting businesses of all sizes, from a few employees to enterprise corporations. Individuals get infected also, especially those without good antivirus protection. Government agencies and health care organizations have become prime targets.

Data Loss and Financial Risk

Ransomware encrypts computer files and network drives, then demands a ransom in exchange for a decryption key. Most victims end up paying the ransom. Ransomware can be difficult, if not impossible, to crack, and paying the ransom can be the only way to get data back.

Costs of recovery can be enormous. The ransom itself can run from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, even approaching $1 million dollars. The real cost of recovery runs easily into the millions. FedEx reported losses of more than $300 million before operations were fully restored. The total cost to US business is estimated at $75 billion or more per year, with downtime costing around $8,500 per hour.

Cybercriminals typically demand payment in Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency affords substantial anonymity, making it nearly impossible to track perpetrators. Even if they could be identified, cybercriminals often work over international borders. Jurisdiction issues makes prosecution almost impossible.

Preventing Ransomware

Ransomware protection is a complex endeavor involving technology, education and best practices. You need the right tools – the right information – and the right business processes.

Key steps to protect your data include:

  • Maintain up-to-date antivirus/malware protection, especially on email. Do your research for best programs, including buyer reviews on popular online retail sites.
  • Perform regular external backups, and quarantine them from your network as soon as they’re completed. Keep archival history as much as possible.
  • Train employees. Malware is most often spread by human behavior, e.g. clicking an email phishing link or social media clickbait. Proper training can minimize risk by educating staff about the risk of suspicious links.
  • Maintain strong firewall protection to minimize the risk of a single infected machine spreading malware into your network.
  • Keep all enterprise software updated with the latest releases and patches. Software firms are constantly improving security, and outdated software is riskier.
  • Administer IT user permission security so employees have access only to the software and functionality required for their job roles.
  • Disable macro scripts on files shared via email – an important component of training.

Along with preventative measures, create a contingency plan. If you are hit with ransomware, you’ll be better prepared to cope if you have plans in place to continue operations and speed up recovery.

Setting up a cryptocurrency wallet should be part of the contingency plan. If your business is hit – and you decide to pay the ransom – you’ll be able to pay much sooner if you already have this in place.

See these resources for more detail on what you can do to protect your business.

What to Do If Infected

More than half of targets don’t report ransomware attacks, according to FBI estimates. This is likely driven by concerns over bad publicity. Financial and business process recovery is bad enough without adding in a PR nightmare.

However, it’s critical to notify the FBI if your systems are infected. The FBI is the lead federal agency for cybercrime. Their investigative and technology capabilities are state-of-the-art, and no one is better equipped to help you understand your options and recover your data.

The FBI suggests that you do not pay the ransom. The decision is up to your company leadership, and it’s true that most victims do pay. In many cases, the cost of paying the ransom is far less than the potential losses from operational downtime.

Ransomware removal often involves wiping systems clean and restoring uninfected files from backups. It’s a delicate business best left to a professional cybersecurity company.

It Can Happen to Your Business

Ransomware and cybercrime are on the rise. Costs to businesses are going up.

Education and preparation are the best defenses against cybercrime. Responsible management needs to be proactive. Threats are real, cybercriminals are serious, and today’s IT professionals are armed with the tools and the knowledge to keep their companies safe.

What Is Managed IT Services & Who Provides Services

Managed IT Services

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

What Is Managed IT Services Exactly?

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

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

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

How Do Organizations Utilize Managed IT Services?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scaling for Growth

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

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

The Talent Gap Is Real

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

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

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

IT Managed Services

Who Provides Managed IT Services?

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

Services Offered and Specialization

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

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

Local vs. Global MSPs

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

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

Conclusion

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

What Can A Business Impact Analysis Do For Your Organization?

Business Impact Analysis

Business Impact Analysis

When a company functions at a high level, productivity and profitability appear seamless. But it’s also incumbent on decision-makers to understand the potential ramifications for business disruption. Without a working knowledge of how a breakdown in one area of an operation impacts the other moving parts, viable solutions remain out of reach. Determined industry leaders take proactive measures to conduct a business impact analysis (BIA), so they are prepared for adversity.

Importance of a BIA

One of the primary reasons that some organizations fail to conduct the initial and subsequent BIAs is that it seems abstract. It’s common for CEOs and other decision-makers to have earned their position through experience and expertise. That offers a sense of confidence they can captain the ship during a crisis. A decade or two ago, that may have been sound thinking. However, today’s technology-driven companies are far removed from nuts and bolts fixes.

Data loss, hackers, malware infiltration, or just lost connectivity between departments can down an outfit’s productivity. Such realities create a burden to have multi-level solutions available that often are outside a CEOs area of expertise. Business leaders are wise to tap department heads to review likely and even unlikely vulnerabilities and develop a contingency plan for as many critical interruptions as imaginable. Consider this pair of foundation ideas in terms of your operation.

  • Idea 1: Your company functions like a living organism with each system relying on the others for its health and vitality.
  • Idea 2: Certain parts of the whole are more crucial to survival and long-term success. These areas require heightened resources.

With this anatomy analogy in mind, consider your operation with the perspective that specific departments and systems are vital. If the heart, brain, or lungs of your operation shut down, so does the entire company. Stubbing your toe, on the other hand, may only slow things. The point is that certain aspects of any business are critical, while others are support.

Once department heads are tapped to conduct a BIA due diligence and submit a report, leadership is tasked with understanding how all the moving parts work. With this in mind, first-run BIAs generally require interdepartmental meetings or communication to ensure key stakeholders are on the same page.

Motivation for Conducting BIA Due Diligence

Having the support and blessing of the leadership team remains critical to a thorough BIA. When such stakeholders view this as just an additional duty impeding their daily, profit-driving work, potential challenges are unlikely to get the due diligence necessary for improved success when a crisis occurs. Before moving forward, direct communication and articulation of why thoroughness is a priority must be established. Clarifying the following benefits of a BIA early in the process may improve team motivation.

  • BIA delivers management with vital data to make real-time decisions to ensure business continuity
  • BIA delivers insight about interdepartmental reliance
  • BIA provides a playbook for employee roles in critical situations
  • Identifies company-wide priorities for sustaining operations during crisis
  • Provides a tangible road map to restore full operations

At the end of the day, the BIA removes the fear of the unknown and puts guidance in its place. That offers otherwise panicking employees the confidence their jobs are secure and empowers them to work through adversity.

Working through the Tedious BIA Process

Getting leadership and rank-and-file employees on board to undertake a BIA is not a difficult sell. The bottom line for everyday workers is that it provides a rare level of job security. Infusing that positive attitude will likely go a long way toward working through the sometimes tedious information collection process. For each department or aspect of the company, data collection is necessary.

  • Lead function of a process or department
  • Detailed analysis of department function and processes
  • Disruption analysis and timetable regarding increased impact
  • Identify interdepartmental disruption
  • Analysis of the financial, legal and regulatory impact of disruption

With a detailed report, departmental leaders garner an enhanced understanding of impacts across the organization. Each department head can identify likely and unlikely disruptions and craft realistic solutions or ways to bridge crisis. This information can be compiled and shared with the goal of building a final report.

Value of a Comprehensive BIA Report

The final report moves beyond the data collection and single department solutions. The concept is to deliver a company-wide plan of action. It generally proves beneficial to make a hardcopy or online report that articulates reasoning, goals, strategies and empowers employees during duress. These are headings often found in a comprehensive BIA report.

  • Executive Summary
  • Analytic Methods Used
  • Potential Department or Function Disruption
  • Impact of Disruption
  • Protocols to Mitigate Disruption
  • Guidance for Organization Restoration

CEOs and other decision-makers generally enjoy enhanced confidence in their leadership abilities following a comprehensive BIA. It’s also imperative to set a schedule for BIA updates and create a policy that requires emerging technologies, business developments, and other evolutions to be included in the report. In many ways, a BIA gives everyone in your organization security.

Which Application Rules Supreme: Outlook or GMail

Office 365 or GMail

Office 365 or GMail

Currently, 30% of email addresses change every year. The majority of these changes are business related. No one wants to deal with the problems that come with changing personal contact information. Quite often, personal emails are attached to personal bills and subscriptions as well.

When the big change happens and it is time to make a move, is usually away from a smaller email platform into one of the two behemoths – Microsoft Outlook and Google Gmail. These two email providers have become the blue chip operators in what is now an essential part of everyone’s life.

What is so good about Outlook in Gmail? Are there aspects of one that makes it better than the other? We are here to look at the subtle differences between the two so that you can make an informed decision about which is better for you.

The Basics

The Outlook and Gmail user interfaces couldn’t be more different from each other. Outlook seems more business oriented on the surface, while Gmail’s UI maintains a feel that you might get from last year’s tech startup. In short, Outlook is Baby Boomer; Gmail is Generation Z.

Outlook is all about add on features while Gmail brings a “what you see is what you get” mentality to the forefront. Both services come as part of a larger suite that make a lot of money for their respective companies. If you go Pro with Outlook or Gmail, you will actually be purchasing Microsoft Office 365 or Google G suite. The first requires an annual commitment, and the second is based on a monthly subscription plan.

The Tools

So the cat out of the bag – Outlook and Gmail are actually loss leaders for the business suites that Microsoft and Google hope to sell to you eventually. Microsoft Office 365 has all of the industry standard programs that we are used to – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and all of the newer injuries that have become business staples such as OneDrive, OneNote and Microsoft Teams.

Believe it or not, Google is actually the challenger brand in this arena. Its Calendar and Hangouts tools are definitely name brands, but other aspects of its business suites such as Keep, Sites, Forms, Drive and Currents have not quite hit mainstream acceptance.

The result is the difference between a set of features that you know and love (Outlook) or a possibly wider and more robust feature set with a learning curve (Google).

Organization

If you are actually doing good business, your email is going to be a place of constantly changing activity. This is your mission-critical location, and some of the emails that you receive are essential in making mission-critical decisions. Keeping your emails organized is one of the most important things that you can do for your business. Outlook and Gmail have two entirely different philosophies for this.

Outlook works on a method of organization that predates the Internet. Its traditional system of folders looks and feels like a file cabinet. Anyone who makes use of Gmail can tell you this is definitely not the way that Google organizes things. Gmail uses labels and tags and allows you to customize your experience much more. If you know what you’re doing, you can quickly tier your email system and get to your most important emails more quickly. If not, then your email will probably look like a jumbled mess every time you open it.

The Company

With such powerful companies underwriting the programs, it is difficult to look past the influence of the brand. When you use Outlook, you have the advantages of Microsoft behind you. One of the most important features that Microsoft offers is the ability to completely delete unread emails from existence. This is simply not possible with Google, although Gmail offers many other advantages that are difficult to overlook. Gmail offers extended power of Google search and all of the associated features that Alphabet has now monopolized, meaning that you have an extremely powerful suite of tools behind you every time you open your Gmail.

So who wins the battle of emails between Outlook and Gmail? This is actually a question of your business philosophy. If you like more traditional, old-school methods of thinking and organizing yourself, the outlook is probably the brand for you. If you are a New Age thinker who wants a personalized digital experience, then Gmail will probably suit you better. There is no right and wrong; only good and bad for you.