Using Managed IT Services to Save You Money

Managed IT Services

How Using Managed IT Services Saves You Money in the Long Term

Wondering how to make your business’ IT run better without costing more? One popular option to consider is managed IT services companies. 

Managed IT Services

Digitization. Network. Security. Mobile. As the average business sees more and more complexity in their IT requirements, it can become harder and harder to keep up with the necessary changes to protect your business’ interests and sensitive data. But what if the process could be easy without costing an arm and a leg? Managed IT services can provide this level of care, often at the same or even a lower cost than you would see using in-house employees. Here’s a quick look at how managed IT services can help make your business more efficient and effective.

Using Managed IT Services to Save You Money

Let’s start by defining what a managed IT service is and is not. A managed IT service provides you with a range of services. You pay a monthly subscription cost, and in exchange, the service takes care of your IT needs that are covered under those services. These services can include software updates, managed software-as-a-service options, backup services, website management and similar possibilities. Because they are responsible for these IT assets, these assets are carefully managed to provide you with optimum performance, security and efficiency.

Increase team efficiency by reducing downtime.

Well-run IT systems allow your employees to work at their highest levels of efficiency instead of focusing on computer problems and wasting their time updating systems and on hold with a help desk. Wouldn’t you rather have your people focusing on what your company is best at, promoting growth? When there’s a problem with your IT assets under your managed IT service, your employees don’t have to worry about fixing the problem – the managed IT service handles the entire process.

Every week, 140,000 hard drives fail. An estimated 44% of companies believe that an hour of downtime costs them about $10,000. Instead of having your companies having to stop their work and deal with distractions caused by an IT failure, they can simply continue on another device while the managed IT service takes care of the problem.

Enjoy peace of mind with better network and data security

Every day, we hear about another company that has had its data exposed through a security breach. In fact, in the first four months of 2018, over 260 million records containing sensitive data were exposed. You don’t want your company to be the source of the next big data breach, losing your company’s credibility and trustworthiness in the market, do you?

When you work with a managed IT service, their primary focus is making sure that your IT assets are current on all security patches, updates and anti-virus software, not the rest of the activities that your company undertakes. That allows you to focus on building your business, rather than about whether you’ll be one of the 60% of companies that go out of business within six months of a major data disaster.

Lower your company’s overall IT costs.

Though it seems counterintuitive that hiring out your company’s IT needs would save your business money, it’s actually been proven time and again. If you don’t hire a professional into your company, thinking it’s an unnecessary expense for a small business, then you’ll have employees wasting time trying to troubleshoot their own computer issues or waiting on hold for help desk personnel. Even if you do hire in a professional to handle your in-house work, how will they spend their time if there isn’t enough work to keep them occupied?

For these reasons, businesses typically find that the expense of a managed IT service is lower than that of trying to manage their own IT assets in-house. Because the managed service is only focused on the IT costs of your company and is focused on improving their own efficiency, these companies are focused on providing you with the most efficient service possible. They’re able to share the cost of education, new technology and equipment across a number of clients, reducing the cost.

As you can see, working with a well-run managed IT service can save your company time, money and potential risk. Are you ready to consider the options that are available to you? We offer a range of services, either in a package form or a la carte, should you only want help with a couple of areas. Please feel free to reach out today to discover how we can help your business get ahead through solid managed IT service solutions.

4 Ways IT Outsourcing Helps Your Business

IT Consultants

Do You Know the 4 Ways IT Outsourcing Improves Business Success?

Many small and mid-sized companies underestimate the drawbacks of not having top-tier IT professionals in place. These 4 benefits highlight the need for change.  

IT Consultants

Are a business decision-maker wondering about when the best time to outsource your IT needs? It was yesterday, and you are already late to enjoy the benefits of working with a third-party tech outfit that specializes in IT managed services.

It’s not uncommon for small and mid-sized companies to operate under the assumption that modest IT needs do not warrant creating a budget line-item on their behalf. Some designate an in-house person with seemingly good computer skills to run virus scans and update applications. Other outfits hire a single technology person to handle the responsibility of overseeing their entire network. Both of these policies are inherently flawed for a variety of reasons. After reviewing the following 4 ways IT outsourcing helps your business, you may gain clarity as to why working with a third-party expert is in your best interest.

1: Removes Peripheral Distractions from Profitable Goal Achievement

As upstart organizations begin to grow into mid-level outfits, the visionaries that propelled their success forward are increasingly beset by issues that detract from primary goals. Budget management, contract negotiations, and supply chains are top-tier items that further a company’s profit-enhancing goals. Tackling these items tends to be a good use of time and energy. If industry leaders are also tasked with maintaining and repairing the tools of the trade, essential issues cannot enjoy the laser focus they deserve.

When an organization shuffles computer and network duties to an employee or even a designated in-house tech person, network problems become part of routine oversight. An experienced third-party managed services provider takes proactive measures to maintain and repair your devices and network without you lifting a finger. Your vision drives the organization. That’s why it’s crucial to all of the key stakeholders involved that IT distractions are a non-factor.

2: Improves Network Efficiency and Productivity

Imagine traveling the road of handing off-network duties to an untrained employee or a designated tech person. Now imagine they call in sick during a critical business productivity cycle. Imagine further, they take a two-week vacation. What happens when your network starts to suffer glitches or goes dark altogether? The answer is simple: You lose revenue.

The reality of owning or operating a business in the technology age is that networks never sleep, they don’t call in sick, and they don’t go on vacation. Maximum productivity and efficiency require organizations to have 24-7 managed IT services in place. When you negotiate an ongoing services agreement with an experienced IT contractor, they can conduct remote updates, scans, and effect problem solving anytime your network runs amok. But that will happen a lot less frequently because high-level maintenance is usually part of the outsourcing package. Experienced IT experts deliver the laser focus to systems that help make your organization successful.

3: Reduces Risk of Cyber Threats and Financial Losses

According to reports, more than 317 million pieces of malware were created in 2018 alone. To put that staggering number into perspective, nearly 100 infectious threats were developed daily. Now add that business risk to the fact that companies suffered financial losses above $600 billion in 2018 and that figure upticked by $100 billion from 2014.

Compounding the genuine risk of doing business with technology is that too many small and mid-sized organizations incorrectly assume that cybersecurity breaches are almost exclusively targeted at large corporations with vast assets. The common misconception may be attributed to heavy media coverage of the massive violations suffered by household-name corporations.

While billion-dollar cybertheft makes splashy headlines, the overwhelming majority of cybersecurity thieves targets small and mid-sized outfits. Hackers, who may be sitting in an internet café halfway around the world, search for subpar network defenses and attack. In plain terms, you are the low-hanging fruit ripe for the plucking.

Outsourcing IT security to a third-party provider improves your cyber defenses from among the weakest links to the strong. Having the latest anti-virus, anti-malware, and next-generation cybersecurity protections in place quietly takes you off hacker hit lists. If these nefarious computer thieves are anything, it’s lazy. They’ll move on from your network and attack someone less secure.

4: Keeps Technology on Cutting Edge

An effective business network enhances employee engagement and productivity. If that sounds like a pie-in-the-sky idea about working on computers, consider the alternative.

When emails are slow to download, or that tedious “buffering” icon spins around, employees tend to disengage from work-related tasks. One moment they are plugging along on your company desktop, the next they are checking text messages, and social media posts on their phone. When that happens, employee engagement and productivity is not diminished — it’s non-existent. It may be even more unsettling to know that experts say that it can take more than 20 minutes to get back on track after task disruption. Sadly, that unnecessary loss of productivity could have been avoided by outsourcing your IT needs to a professional.

Why is Effective Business Continuity Management Important?

Business Continuity Management

Why is Effective Business Continuity Management Important?

Business continuity management (BCM) denotes how organizations plan for and respond to risks. Mission-critical functions must continue to run after disruptions such as bad weather or hackers.

Business Continuity Management

A business continuity plan documents how your organization will continue to operate after a natural or man-made disaster, severe market conditions or sudden changes in leadership. This could be anything from a stock market crash to a hurricane to the death or dire illness of a key leader. BCPs are hot topics thanks to growing legislation and increased risks related to data security and other events. Every organization would benefit from adopting some kind of BCP framework, however modest.

What is Business Continuity Management?

Business continuity management (BCM) denotes how organizations plan for and respond to risks. Mission-critical functions must continue to run after disruptions such as bad weather or hackers. Smart planning also makes it possible for employees to return to business as usual quickly.

How Does Business Continuity Work?

The most effective way to achieve transparent, seamless risk management and disaster recovery is via a business continuity management system. This may require some outside assistance since any BCMS adopted should follow international standard ISO 22301 requirements. All businesses can begin the first phase themselves, however, by building a continuity plan that identifies and minimizes risks.

What’s the Big Deal With ISO 22301?

ISO 22301 lays out a road map for an effective BCMS and is the most credible resource for successful business continuity management. Becoming ISO 22301-certified signals to clients that your company has a game plan in case disaster strikes — certification helps clients decide that your firm is a solid investment for their business.

This certification proves to prospective clients that your organization will continue to provide the products or services they need, even if an emergency arises. It also gives you an:

  • Independent evaluation of your business continuity management, providing assurance or offering areas for improvement
  • Accredited certification with regular audits to ensure continual improvement
  • Oversight of regulatory requirements to ensure legal compliance. This could include the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or new state and federal privacy regulations impacting customer data collection and storage.

What’s is Disaster Recovery vs. BCM?

People are often confused by the difference between these two terms. They aren’t synonyms. Business continuity deals with relocation and business functions while disaster recovery, which is a subset of business continuity, deals with the technical recovery of systems and resources.

Disaster recovery outlines how to recover technical functions, sites, operations and applications. A business continuity plan may contain many disaster recovery plans.

What Are the Key Components of a BCP?

A successful business continuity plan includes the following:

  • Succession plans for key employees
  • Identification of critical functions with priority identified
  • All employees’ contact information and role in the plan
  • Tested backup strategies

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?

Why Every Business Needs Cybersecurity

Business Investment in Cybersecurity

Business Investment in Cybersecurity

Why Every Business Should Invest in Cybersecurity

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

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

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

Cybersecurity in a Continuously Evolving Digital Space

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

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

Consequences of a Data Breach

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

How to Improve Cybersecurity

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

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

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

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 to Know When to Outsource IT

Group of people discussing Outsourcing IT

Nearly every company must now rely on technology on a daily basis. For most companies, the role of technology will only grow in the future, making it even more important for all companies to have the tech support they need at all times. Depending on the situation, companies may hire employees to handle IT in-house, or they may outsource IT to a third-party provider.

Group of people discussing Outsourcing IT

The information below will help you determine whether it is time for your business to consider IT outsourcing.

Benefits of Outsourcing IT

Before you can decide whether outsourcing is right for you, you must first understand the reasons you might choose this path. Below are some of the potential benefits of outsourcing IT:

  • Fewer headaches – When you outsource IT, you no longer have to worry about maintenance, upgrades, repairs or any other technological problems.
  • Fewer expenses – Outsourcing IT is cost-effective, as you won’t have to pay for full-time employees to handle IT.
  • Scalability – Outsourced IT services can be scaled up or down to meet your needs as your company evolves.
  • No interruptions – When IT is outsourced, you won’t need to deal with downtime or other workflow interruptions related to IT issues.
  • Better use of in-house resources – Many businesses delegate IT responsibilities to existing employees when they can’t afford to hire full time IT personnel. With outsourcing, you will no longer need to split your employees’ focus in this way.

Downsides of Outsourcing

Although outsourcing IT offers several benefits, there are downsides as well. For example, you won’t have as much control over your operations as you would have if you kept IT in-house. In addition, if your provider is in a different time zone or has a heavy workload, communication can be problematic. Finally, if your business is small, outsourcing may be too expensive.

Should You Outsource?

Deciding whether to outsource IT to a third-party provider can be a challenge for any company, and there are many factors to consider. If you aren’t sure whether outsourcing IT is right for your company, simply compare your options and weigh the pros and cons. Remember to evaluate the potential for cost savings, as well as the impact on your day-to-day operations. It’s also a good idea to learn about the services available to you so you will know what you should expect if you choose to outsource.
If you decide to proceed with outsourcing, it is important to consider multiple providers before making a selection. Choosing the right IT provider can make all the difference in the success of your company. Remember that the cost of outsourced services is not the most important factor. Making sure that you are receiving reliable, high-quality services is essential. Interview each of the providers you are considering and ask them about the services they provide, the fees they charge and the customer support they offer. You should also read reviews from past customers to find out how others have felt about the services they received from the provider in question.

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.

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

Modern Workplace

Office Workers In A Modern Workplace

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

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

Defining the Modern Digital Workplace

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

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

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

The Obvious Connection: Technology and Productivity

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

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

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

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

Office 365’s Role in the Modern Digital Workplace

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

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

Outlook

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

Microsoft Teams

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

Delve

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

Yammer

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

Microsoft Planner

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

SharePoint and OneDrive

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

Microsoft Flow

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

Using Office 365 to Help Your Business

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