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4 Critical Ways IT Support Improves Your Business

If you’re afraid that IT support is going to be more costly for your business than without it, think again. The ways that companies do business with one another continuously changes as technology rapidly advances. In order to keep up, you need to be up to date with your servers, computers, phone systems, Internet connection and mobile devices. IT support from a company like Cognoscape with their CognoCare services will benefit your business by taking the burden off of in-house tech “experts” so you can focus on making a profit. To understand the benefits better, here are 4 critical ways that IT support improves your business.

 

Increase Your Profits

IT support will allow your business to make more money in several ways. First, the hardware that is offered with the support services will save you from having major expenses upfront. You will instead pay a flat fee monthly that is affordable, because you will only be receiving what your business requires. Second, your IT team can help your business centralize everyday tasks to one location, making for better economic efficiency. An example of this is to have a department, such as billing, able to work from one location instead of having several areas set up, reducing employee costs. Using email support or online chatting may be cheaper than customer service calls for support. Your IT team will make it possible for your employees’ productivity to flourish and produce more revenue by applying the best technological strategies to increase your company’s efficiency.

 

Less Stress

Unless your are extremely tech savvy, it can be stressful to try and figure out what has gone wrong when a system crashes, devices are not compatible, or you need a network update. With an IT department’s support, they will handle it all, and make sure you’re current with security and equipment updates. This way, you can focus on your company and making money.

 

Affordability and Scalability

IT solutions, such as CognoCare will sit down and decide exactly what your company needs, so you’re not paying for any unnecessary extras. If a piece of equipment breaks, you won’t be forking over hundreds or thousands of dollars for a new one. Instead, the IT support team will take care of it for you at no extra cost above your monthly flat rate. As your business grows, you will need your technology to grow too, so that your whole team and company can keep up with the expansion. IT support will be there to help you blossom and give you the technology you need when the time comes so you can keep up with increasing demands.

 

Less Downtime

Without IT support, you’re stuck wasting your time trying to either fix it yourself, or find someone who can. When you have CognoCare, you know that it will be handled immediately, and you won’t have that down time trying to get it repaired. In business, time is money, and you’ll be increasing your profits when you don’t have to spend it servicing your technology yourself.

5 Critical Technologies To Keep Your Business Running During the Zombie Apocalypse

It’s no secret that zombies have taken over the entertainment world in the past few years, thanks to The Walking Dead. You don’t have to be a fan of the show to appreciate zombies, since they have been a fascination of humans since the B.C. era. The question is: when the apocalypse happens, will you be ready? Everyone will be running for food and water, but how will you protect your business from the invasion of these flesh-eating monsters? Here are 5 critical technologies your business needs to stay afloat during the zombie apocalypse.

 

  1. Cloud Storage

Storing your company’s important data on hard drives, CDs and flash drives may seem secure, but it won’t hold up when zombies are tearing your space apart looking for brains to munch on. Storing your data in the cloud is much safer because it is not on the premises and you will be able to access the information from anywhere that retains Internet connection during the crisis. If employees need to access the data, they can do it without leaving the house and risking their lives.

 

  1. Nusura Simulation Deck

Just because you’re stuck in the apocalypse doesn’t mean you have to get behind on your social media updates. Created by a former FEMA deputy public affairs officer, the Nusura Simulation Deck app, simulates social media reactions to emergency announcements and posts them on your behalf. This way, there isn’t the pressure of Tweeting the wrong content in your state of panic, making your company look silly and unprofessional. The app emulates the most popular social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

 

  1. Cognoscape’s Wifi Service

Cognoscape takes the time to build your business a custom wifi solution to meet your everyday needs, so you’re not over-paying and getting exactly what your business requires to be efficient. The company provides excellent customer service to diagnose any problems that arise. This is an important service to have when the zombies strike for a couple reasons . First, wifi will allow you to stay online when they destroy the tangible connections. Second, Cognoscape can be there to help you get through the disaster with their excellent service skills.

 

  1. Asset Tracking Solution

The zombie apocalypse will no doubt cause mass confusion and chaos. In the midst of this, your business can be turned completely upside-down and all your important equipment and tools will get lost. An asset tracking solution will keep track of everything important and allow you to find it instantly. You’re already going to be in a panic, no need to make it worse.

 

  1. BoostTurbine 4000 Portable Charger

When you’re worrying about saving yourself from bloody monsters, chances are you will forget to charge your important mobile devices. It may be difficult to find a plug-in during this difficult time, so you need a battery backup pack to help you out. The BoostTurbine 4000 has a hand crank turbine power generator and a rechargeable lithium battery, with a USB port to charge your tablets and phones. Four minutes of cranking gets you enough power to talk for a minute or send a few texts, in dire emergencies when the lithium battery has died.

Data Loss Can Cause You To Shut Down

52 Small and medium sized businesses today are relying more than ever on IT systems to efficiently run their business, support customers and optimize productivity. These systems house sensitive digital data ranging from employee and customer information, to internal emails, documents and financial records, sales orders and transaction histories. This is in addition to applications and programs critical to daily business functions and customer service.

While corporate-level data losses and insider theft are well publicized, many smaller businesses have also become casualties of data loss and theft. Following a significant data loss, it is estimated that a small-to-medium sized business can lose up to 25% in daily revenue by the end of the first week. Projected lost daily revenue increases to 40% one month into a major data loss.

According to The National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, 93% of companies that have experienced data loss, coupled with prolonged downtime for ten or more days, have filed for bankruptcy within twelve months of the incident while 50% wasted no time and filed for bankruptcy immediately. Finally, 43% of companies with no data recovery and business continuity plan actually go out of business following a major data loss.

Still, a survey conducted by Symantec SMB revealed that fewer than half of SMBs surveyed backup their data each week. Only 23% of those surveyed said they backup data every day and have a business continuity plan in place.

Businesses play on a much bigger playing field than they did two decades ago. Any disruptive technological event – even the smallest of incidents – can have an amplified impact on day-to-day business and profitability. Being proactive with data recovery solutions, and having emergency response procedures in place prior to a disruption or data disaster, is the only way to minimize downtime and soften the impact of such events. CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

Is That a Business Continuity Plan in Your Pocket or a Bunch of Jargon?

67 Technology is full of difficult jargon. To further complicate things, certain terms are often used in a different context between one publication or service provider and the next. An example of this is the usage of backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity. These terms are commonly used interchangeably, often resulting in confusion. In an effort to alleviate some of this confusion, let’s describe each physical process. You will see an overlay among all three, although they are each different processes.

Backup – In IT lingo, the most basic description of backup is the act of copying data, as in files or programs, from its original location to another. The purpose of this is to ensure that the original files or programs are retrievable in the event of any accidental deletion, hardware or software failure, or any other type of tampering, corruption and theft.

It’s important to remember that the term “backup” refers to data only and doesn’t apply to the physical machines, devices, or systems themselves. If there were a system failure, disk crash, or an onsite physical disaster, all systems would still have to be replaced, rebuilt, and properly configured before the backed-up data could be loaded onto them.

Disaster Recovery – Backups are a single, albeit crucial, component of any disaster recovery plan. Disaster recovery refers to the complete recovery of your physical systems, applications, and data in the event of a physical disaster like a fire; hurricane or tornado; flood; earthquake; act of terror or theft.

A disaster recovery plan uses pre-determined parameters to define an acceptable recovery period. From there, the most satisfactory recovery point is chosen to get your business up and running with minimal data loss and interruption.

Business Continuity – Although backup and disaster recovery processes make sure that a business can recover its systems and data within a reasonable time, there is still the chance of downtime from a few hours to many days. The point of a business continuity plan is to give businesses continuous access to their technology and data, no matter what. Zero or minimal downtime is the goal.

Critical business data can be backed up with configurable snapshots that are instantly virtualized. This allows files, folders and data to be turned on and restored in seconds. Bare metal restores of hardware, where an image of one machine is overlaid onto a different machine, is also utilized along with cloud replication for instant off-site virtualization.

Many businesses also keep redundant systems and storage at a different physical location than their main site as part of their business continuity process. They may also outline procedures for staff to work remotely off-site. Some businesses or organizations may go as far as to have printed contact lists and other critical data stored off-site to keep their business moving if a disaster wipes out power and their ability to access anything electronically.

This should clarify the differences between backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity solutions. Choosing what works best for your business will come down to your current IT infrastructure, your budget and how much downtime you can reasonably accept.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

3 Steps to Improved BC/DR Planning


Step 1 – Recognize the Need and Importance

Business continuity and disaster recovery strategies tend to be on the to-do lists of many SMBs, but they are often delayed as more urgent business issues emerge. U.S. businesses lose roughly $1.7 billion in profit each year from network outages according to the same 2011 CDW business continuity survey referenced earlier. Obviously, it isn’t smart business for an SMB to let business continuity and disaster recovery planning become an afterthought.

To structure a solid business continuity plan, SMBs must be prepared for all possible disruptions. It is important to note that business continuity goes beyond being prepared for natural or man-made disasters. We are now so technologically dependent that BC/DR plans must be in place to counter any disruption – big or small – that threatens business and profitability. Internal technical or infrastructure failures or cyber-attacks are obvious examples. Small internal “single-points-of-failure” can bring down an entire operation.

 

Step 2 – Impact Analysis and Risk Assessment

Constant availability is critical to success. In order to minimize downtime, it’s important to determine what technology is behind each phase of your business operations. Knowing the technology infrastructure of your business allows for a comprehensive impact analysis and a better grasp of the impact on business operations when specific technology fails or becomes unavailable – even for a short period of time.

Determining what could unexpectedly bring down each piece of that infrastructure is risk assessment. Risks come in the form of either internal or outside threats. Internal threats can be anything from an application failure, disk crash, and server malfunction to human error or a bitter employee. External threats can vary depending on location – natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, floods, and fires, as well as man-made events like power outages, acts of terror, and accidents can knock out services. Additionally, our dependency on technology leaves firms susceptible to cyber-attacks like malware, computer viruses, phishing schemes, and the theft of personal mobile devices used for work purposes.

While major disasters do occur, and shouldn’t be overlooked, it is the smaller everyday disruptions like power outages, server crashes, email issues, equipment failure, and lost or corrupted data that pose the bigger risk to business.

Doomsday prepping may be the rage these days, but a sound BC/DR plan typically begins by focusing on addressing the day-in and day-out disruptions first. Documenting, reviewing, communicating, and testing the effectiveness of smaller response scenarios will better prepare businesses for potential disasters and longer-term disruptions.

 

Step 3 – Look to Recent Tech Trends That Simplify Planning

Recent technology developments like server and desktop virtualization, cloud computing, and mobile devices are beneficial to SMBs looking for BC/DR solutions.

Virtualization – BC/DR preparedness may be the most compelling reason to consider virtualization. Virtualization allows businesses to condense data and applications onto fewer servers – taking up less space and consuming less power. Virtualization allows small-to-medium sized businesses the benefit of high availability (HA) without the added expense of building a backup data center. Operations can be restored faster as the entire system can be brought back in a single virtual container.

Cloud Computing – More firms are moving to the cloud for backup services. The cloud has enabled small and medium sized businesses to backup operations away from their primary location and enhance their business continuity process at a reduced cost.

Cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) packages often come with built in business continuity solutions that can automate data backup processes onsite or off-site – spreading out risks and minimizing the impact of a disaster. Data, servers, software, and tools can be stored in the cloud and remain safe if a business is hit by a computer virus or disaster. The cloud also allows remote workers to access an organization’s communication and collaboration tools, further allowing for “business as usual” in the event of a serious disruption. 32

Although it is understandable that ownership and upper management at small to medium sized businesses are hesitant to spend money, BC/DR planning is a lot like insurance. It is human nature to think that bad things won’t happen to you, but the investment pays off the when you’re hit by an extreme event or emergency.

New technology trends and the back-up-as- a-service, remote backup, and online backup services provided by MSPs have given SMBs the ability to safeguard their business operations at a reasonable cost. Money and resources can no longer be an excuse for a lack of solid BC/DR solutions. There is way too much at risk. Plan now and CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery for Small Businesses

31 As a small business owner, you owe it to yourself, your employees, stakeholders, and any customer you serve to honestly answer this one question: Is your business resilient enough to withstand short or long-term interruptions to its operations?

The answer should be immediate. If you have to pause or think for one second before responding, the answer is no. Each day of business brings with it unforeseen risk. Whether it’s catastrophic weather conditions, cyber- security threats, or the vulnerabilities of the technology we’re dependent on to perform daily work functions, there must be both a business continuity (BC) and disaster recovery (DR) plan in place. There must also be complete confidence in the effectiveness of the BC/DR strategies that are implemented.

The truth of the matter is most small-to-medium sized businesses (SMBs) aren’t doing nearly enough when it comes to continuity and disaster planning. It’s inconceivable that in this era where smaller businesses store more sensitive data than ever before, and the risk of losing this data is so great, that a 2011 Systematic survey revealed that up to 57% of small businesses still have no business continuity or disaster recovery plan in place.

A few years ago, a study conducted by Forrester Research concluded that 66% of businesses with fewer than one hundred employees admitted to having no tested response to not just tech issues like a downed server or network but disasters, emergencies, and power outages.

Let’s break down some of the potential costs of short and long-term business interruptions, why far too many SMBs don’t have a solid business continuity/recovery plan in place, and the necessary steps SMBs can take to get prepared.

 

A Competent BC/DR Strategy Is a Must

Often misconceived as a problem for the “big guys,” business continuity is a concern for businesses and organizations of all sizes – whether there are 5 or 5,000 employees. The costs of having no solutions in place are too high for many smaller companies to rebound from.

Several hours of unplanned downtime can result in thousands of dollars lost each hour. That’s the kind disruption a small business may face from a shorter-duration tech issue or power outage. Imagine the consequences of longer lasting outages, where a business may be down for days or weeks, as seen in natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, or acts of terror like the 2001 World Trade Center attack.

Beyond the immediate tangible costs of outages like lost productivity and revenues, there is also an intangible domino effect that may be harder to quantify. The repercussions can greatly exacerbate the total losses over time, for instance:

  • Customers/Clients Jumping to a Competitor: The web hosting company1&1 Internet, Inc. reported that 72% ofweb users admit to abandoning a businessfor a competitor if they can’t instantlyaccess a company website or encounternumerous error messages, problemsplacing an order, or issues accessing onlinefeatures/support. People want immediategratification today and will take theirdollars elsewhere if they don’t get it.Even more alarming is the fact that 58%are likely to never return, which meansthe loss of long-term revenue streams.Perhaps they may be more forgiving inthe event of a crisis like a natural disasterbut there will still be those who go to acompetitor and never come back.
  • Word-of-Mouth/Negative Brand Reputation: Thanks to the power of socialmedia, those frustrated by instances ofdowntime will take to Facebook or Twitterto quickly spread their vitriol. Brandbuilding and reputation managementare critical to small businesses. Anynegative attention and publicity broughton by downtime can have long lasting consequences.
  • Disgruntled Employees: In small companies or organizations, the burden of troubleshooting recurring tech issues or getting a system back online will typically fall upon the shoulders of an already busy, possibly overworked, employee. This multi-tasking employee will have to sacrifice bigger priorities to constantly play damage control. He or she will sometimes have to do this outside of normal work hours and may be pulled away from projects that generate revenue. If they aren’t happy about this, they may seek employment elsewhere. Both high turnover and the inability to use an employee’s knowledge and skill set for revenue generating tasks are costly to small-to-medium sized businesses.

Too Many SMBs Aren’t Prioritizing BC/DR Plans

Businesses are fueled by information. They are defined by their ability to efficiently and safely handle the data and vital information they generate or process on a daily basis. It is this data that keeps their day-to-day business functioning, ensuring optimal customer service and interaction. While protecting data is a priority for large enterprises, small-to-midsize business owners have the same responsibility but are challenged by limited budgets. For a start-up, the entire focus must be customer-facing, with few resources directed at anything not driving short-term revenues.

This means far too many SMBs today are failing to employ some very basic safeguards to ensure BC/DR.

A September 2011 CDW Business Continuity Straw Poll suggested that 82% of U.S. service disruptions could be reduced or altogether eliminated by even the most basic BC/DR plan. So why aren’t more SMBs taking these precautions?

  • Failure to Recognize a Problem: Most SMBs don’t think about business continuity or disaster recovery until it’s too late and they’re scrambling to recover after being taken down. It’s ironic since so much focus goes into keeping a business sustainable by growing sales, or outdoing the competition, yet a vital part of “staying in business” is overlooked when it comes to their supporting technology.
  • Intimidating and Complex Planning Tools: SMBs looking to streamline costsand simplify procedures will sometimeswrite off BC/DR practices as unnecessary.Those who do recognize the importanceof preparedness are often overwhelmedby the complex technical jargon thataccompanies business continuity planningand don’t know where to begin when theyhear terms like “business impact analysis”and “risk assessments.”
  • They Feel as if They Can’t Afford It and They’re On Their Own: Decision-makers may know they’re living on theedge without a tested strategy, however,they don’t realize that new technologytrends, and the availability of productslike managed service providers (MSPs),can reduce costs and save on resources.MSPs can leverage their knowledge of anSMB’s specific needs with the numerouscloud and hosted backup and recoverytools currently available today.

Create a plan. CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

 

Outsourcing Isn’t a Dirty Word – Meet Your IT Team’s New Best Friend: Managed Services

Small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) generally don’t have the resources to fully support all IT infrastructure needs. Even if your business has one or several in-house IT technicians on payroll, they’re often so bogged down by routine daily tasks that their talent is wasted. The very core of your business infrastructure is jeopardized if they’re overworked and vulnerable to error. This employee isn’t adding nearly as much value to your business as they should be. It’s not a good place for them or you.

According to the research group Gartner, over 65% of IT budgets go towards tasks that do nothing more than keep the lights on. This means SMBs investing in their technology aren’t necessarily improving operations and efficiency or enhancing their security. They’re just keeping the wheels turning.

The concept of “managed services” has evolved through the last decade. Today, managed service providers (MSPs) are being used by small businesses to cost-effectively manage, service and support their IT processes. MSPs are often called in as an alternative to adding additional in-house staff. Unfortunately, this also means MSPs are typically seen as a threat to the job security of any IT employee that fears they’re about to be replaced by “outsourced” help.

A hybrid approach, utilizing managed services, cloud services, and internal IT support can truly be the best of all worlds. They simultaneously help SMBs achieve a greater return-on-investment (ROI) on their IT costs while allowing existing in-house IT resources to be channeled into more valuable development roles.

  1. A Happier, Less Overwhelmed In-House IT Staff

Many of those never-ending mundane tasks performed by in-house IT support on a daily basis can be automated. While this could easily be interpreted as suggesting on-site staff aren’t necessary, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Your current IT support can leverage all of the benefits of MSP services such as: 28

  • Proactive management
  • Remote monitoring
  • End-user help desk
  • 24/7 network operations center
  • Disaster recovery/business continuity solutions
  • Security audits/updates

These services free your in-house IT support from much of the routine daily maintenance and support taking up most of their workday. This enables them to expand their role and work on more meaningful projects. They’re also happier on the job since they’re no longer perpetually overwhelmed or feeling as if they’re wearing too many hats.

In this case, MSPs remove the burden of routine tasks from internal IT support, allowing them to make better use of theirtime. With access to the MSP ticketing and monitoring system, and support from the 24/7 Network Operations Center (NOC), in-house IT have help identifying and addressing system issues before they become business disrupting problems.

Additionally, daily interruptions like constantly having to run to Susie’s computer to figure out why her system is running slow can instead be handled by the Help Desk.

  1. Guided Focus, Direction and Prioritization

Working with a MSP gives existing in-house IT support some much needed focus and direction. MSPs commonly offer a complimentary consultation and network assessment that evaluates the overall performance and health of your IT infrastructure. From there, the MSP will recommend the products or services most beneficial to current IT needs.

This evaluation helps internal IT determine what system oversight and future planning they should be doing. A queue can be created where projects are evaluated and ranked by what’s most critical. Any regular system maintenance tasks can be performed by the MSP while in-house IT can focus on processes that will drive down costs or potentially increase revenue.

  1. Fewer Instances of Failure and Human Error

A high percentage of costly security breaches are the result of human error. This is often because IT employees are stretched too thin and overlook vital security measures, such as applying tested security patches or updating antivirus software programs. Working with a MSP will eliminate much of the work overload that often leads to system or security vulnerabilities. Systems can be backed up in the cloud for an immediate full system restore if needed. Internal IT support will no longer bear sole responsibility for the constant availability and security of stored data.

Many of the issues that become costly business disruptions for SMBs, such as downtime-inducing hardware, software, and application failures, are completely preventable if they’re detected and addressed early enough.

It’s a reality that your systems run 24/7, but you likely don’t have the resources right now for a 24/7 IT staff.

Existing in-house IT support will find their workload to be much more manageable with the help of MSP services like the Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) tool and the 24/7 NOC. Systems are monitored around-the-clock through a comprehensive interface that can even be viewed on a mobile device. Alerts will notify the in-house IT staff of any potentially threatening issues on the horizon.

30 Many SMBs have some incredibly gifted and skilled IT employees on staff that are burdened with way too any responsibilities and tend to get stuck in a routine each day. These employees would be solid contributors to your business if they weren’t running around extinguishing tech fires and handling monotonous tasks that are below their skill-level.

A good MSP acts as an extension of the business they’re servicing. SMBs and MSPs will work very closely together but caution must be taken, as any internal IT staff will likely consider a MSPs presence to be intrusive and a threat to their job security.

SMBs must convince their internal staff that embracing the cloud and leveraging the service desk and RMM tools of a MSP will only make their jobs more manageable and less stressful. Freeing them from manual tasks will allow them to work on projects that matter- developing applications, concepts, and strategies that will benefit the company or organization’s bottom line rather than spending the day tending to the intern’s computer after she clicked a malicious link in a phishing email. Your existing onsite IT support can do much more for your business as you cut costs by exploiting the industry’s best practices, latest tools, and newest technology.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment from us.

8 Cold Hard Truths for SMBs Not Worried About Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

27 The foundation of any successful business continuity solution is the ability to retrieve data from any point in time from anywhere. When the topic of data recovery and business continuity comes up, you get the feeling that many decision makers at smaller businesses and organizations wish they could channel their inner six year old, simply cover their ears, and sing “La, la, la. I Can’t Hear You. I’m Not Listening.” Everybody things bad things only happen to other people. Just because we hear about a fatal car accident on the morning news, doesn’t mean we fixate on that news when we ourselves get into a car and drive to work. So no matter how many times the owner or CIO of a small to midsize business (SMB) hears of other small businesses being crippled by hurricanes, tornados, fires, or flooding, they aren’t necessarily overcome with fear to the point that they feel an urgency to take action. Sure, they may think about backup and data recovery solutions a little more that day, but not enough to initiate immediate change or reverse a lenient approach to their processes. If you fall into this category, here are eight cold hard truths to consider

  1. It isn’t natural disasters or catastrophic losses like fires that take down small businesses but something far more sinister – malware. Cyber attacks through malware have grown exponentially in the past four years. Malware is hitting everything from PCs to Macs to mobile devices and it’s inflicting damage.
  2. Over half of the small businesses in the U.S. have experienced disruptions in day-to-day business operations. 81% of these incidents have led to downtime that has lasted anywhere from one to three days.
  3. According to data compiled by the Hughes Marketing Group, 90% of companies employing less than 100 people spend fewer than eight hours a month on their business continuity plan.
  4. 80% of businesses that have experienced a major disaster are out of business within three years. Meanwhile, 40% of businesses impacted by critical IT failure cease operations within one year. 44% of businesses ravaged by a fire fail to ever reopen, and only 33% of those that do reopen survive any longer than three years.
  5. Disaster recovery solution providers estimate that 60% to 70% of all business disruptions originate internally – most likely due to hardware or software failure or human error.
  6. 93% of businesses unable to access their data center for ten or more days filed for bankruptcy within twelve months of the incident.
  7. In the United States alone, there are over 140,000 hard drive crashes each week.
  8. 34% of SMBs never test their backup and recovery solutions – of those who do, over 75% found holes and failures in their strategies.

It’s critical that small businesses review their backup and disaster recovery processes and take business continuity seriously. Given the vulnerabilities associated with the cloud and workforce mobility, the risk of critical data loss today is quite serious and firms must be truly prepared for the unexpected.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

Consider More Than Email When Choosing a Cloud-Based Email Provider

When it comes to deciding on a cloud-based email provider, small-to-medium sized businesses have two primary choices – Google Apps or Microsoft Office 365. In talking with SMB owners or technology decision makers, we’ve found that many have pledged their allegiance to Google and don’t want to hear a pitch for Microsoft. Many are adamant that they have everything they need in the core offerings of Google Apps – Gmail, Docs/Drive, Hangouts, and Sites.

While these are undoubtedly solid offerings, they are more than individual products. How about comparing Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 in regard to the collective experience as a whole? By looking at the sum of their respective parts, many may find that Google Apps is actually limiting them to a degree. Here are a few examples

  • Pricing – Google has a one-size fits all approach to pricing. This approach is contradictory to the biggest selling point o 24 f Cloud technology, which is to pay for what you use, just like your electric or gas utility bills. By comparison, Microsoft lets users pay for only what they need.
  • Google Drive Lacks Efficiency with MS Office Files – While the Google Drive cloud storage app is fairly adept at handling native files, MS Office files are treated like the plague and must be downloaded, edited, and re-uploaded into the Google Drive. From there, expect to see formatting inconsistencies such as missing text boxes, images, graphics, watermarks, charts and more. In comparison, Microsoft provides more uniformity from document to document whether it’s sourced from a desktop version of Office or any web browser via the cloud.
  • Google Hangout Is More for Friends than Business – Google Hangouts, Google’s video chat and group conferencing tool, is deeply rooted in their social network Google+. There is nothing inherently wrong with Google+ besides the fact that it’s still kind of new and lifeless in comparison to other social media sites. However, in order to participate in a Hangout, users must have a Google+ account. This means external users without any Google accounts are shut out of meetings. On top of that, Google Hangouts limits meetings to no more than ten participants. By comparison, Microsoft Lync is all-inclusive and is even available to those on Google and Apple platforms. With the ability to include 250 meeting participants, Lync can even replace GoToMeeting for online conferencing.

As you can see, choosing a cloud-based email provider involves a lot more than determining who can best solve your email problems today. SMBs must also factor in which provider will best address their business document storage and unified communications the best tomorrow. In this regard, Microsoft Office 365 may have more of an “It” factor than Google which seems to have adopted an “our way or the highway” mentality and is less supportive of anything outside of the Google bubble.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

4 Essential Pieces to Any Small Business BYOD Strategy

Believe it or not, once upon a time, kids at the bus stop didn’t have cell phones and the mobile device strategy of many businesses was typically you’ll take what you’re given, refrain from using it for any personal use, and the data may be scrubbed clean whenever we please.

We’ve come a long way.  Today, businesses really have no choice but to let employees use personal devices for work purposes.  Blurred lines now make it difficult to differentiate between what is professional and what is personal.  A company or organization may partially pay for an employee’s tablet computer or smartphone, but that same device is used to upload photos to Facebook or download torrents of this season of Game of Thrones.

Naturally, security and privacy issues are a concern since these devices synch to the company network.  Larger corporations may be able to hire IT support or produce sophisticated BYOD guidelines for employees to adhere to but smaller businesses have limited resources.

In fact, recent surveys suggest that the small business sector is doing very little to preemptively prepare for potential network security risks that could arise with the use of BYOD devices.  This could prove to be disastrous.

According to market stats from a survey conducted by Cisco in 2012, approximately 88% of employees are doing business on personal devices.     However, only 17% of companies currently have a BYOD security policy in place, and only 29% of companies have plans to implement a mobile device security plan in the near future. 22

Implementing a comprehensive BYOD policy right now, rather than when it’s too late, is important.  We’ve compiled a list of four items that any business currently building a BYOD strategy must consider.

  1. It must clearly be outlined what specific devices are permitted for work use.
  2. The company/organization must have the ability to remotely delete company-sensitive data from mobile devices without the device owner’s permission.  Remote deletion capabilities are much more refined these days; simplifying the removal of enterprise-related data from devices, while leaving other content like personal photos, contacts, apps and music downloads intact.
  3. Written policies should be put into effect that correspond with terms of use policies and any guidelines pertaining to remote/telecommute workers or the sharing of sensitive data.   There should be clearly defined consequences for violating any or all policies.
  4. Employee privacy should be discussed within the BYOD policy since employees often use these devices to check personal email, browse or post to Facebook and Twitter feeds, instant message, and store personal documents, photos, music and movie downloads.   Employees must understand that employers still have access to the content stored on these devices.  Location tracking, which gives employers the ability to locate employees, is also something to discuss since many people don’t necessarily welcome that kind of surveillance.

It is understandable that BYOD and more mobile employees have some small business owners feeling anxious and nervous.  But mobile management tools, periodic conversation, security checks, and research will do wonders when it comes to keeping small businesses safe.

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