When it comes to choosing an IT company there are typically two types of business models to choose from, a break fix or a proactive IT company.
What is Break-Fix IT support?
Break-Fix IT support is a company or person that you call when you have a problem or have something that needs to be done. Simply put, if something breaks, you call this company to come in and work on that issue.
What is Proactive IT support?
Proactive IT support is when you hire an IT company that actively monitors your equipment 24/7 and notice issues before they arise and cause significant downtime.
So what makes the most sense for your company? Many business owners look at the cost as the main factor when deciding. For break-fix solutions, clients are charged every time they place a call, submit a help desk ticket or have a tech visit their physical location. This will likely look like a low cost until 3 months after you’ve signed your contract, you have several issues arise and the cost is higher than you ever imagined, making it to where you don’t use the services for every IT issue that might arise.
On the other hand, when you work with a proactive IT company, typically you are billed monthly and everything is included in that monthly charge. Unlimited helpdesk tickets/calls and site visits are included in a single monthly fee. The reason this type of model makes the most sense for businesses is that your IT company is actively monitoring your infrastructure and can handle issues before they arise, which saves you money in the long run.
So what does a typical break fix IT model look like? What can you expect on a monthly basis?
Trip charges = $50 / visit
Onsite visit = $90 / hour with a one hour minimum.
Remote phone support is billed at the $90 but only in 15min intervals
So let’s say that your current business has a total of 30 employees, or rather, 30 computers that need support. If your business needs IT support 22 days out of 31 days of the month, you would pay $2500 just in trip charges and the 1hr onsite charges before the techs even started working on any of the issues on those particular days.
Of course, this wouldn’t be happening every month, because most business owners see a bill like this and end up telling their employees not to call to have their issues repaired. This isn’t in the best interest of your own business, because when you have IT issues, your business doesn’t run as smoothly as possible.
What’s the solution?
When you decide to work with a proactive IT company, you essentially get an all-inclusive deal under one consistent monthly payment. Your monthly payment includes, monitoring, trip charges, helpdesk tickets and unlimited support for your infrastructure.
The best part? You won’t have any surprise invoices and you can focus on the core of your business needs.
While you have hundreds of options when considering what type of IT solutions provider to work with, it’s important to weigh the benefits and select an IT company that is in line with your business objectives as well as understands the vision for your business as your needs grow.
When it comes to data backup, there are usually several questions that come up. Your data is one of the most important assets in your business and protecting it, or rather, backing it up is essential to being successful.
- Managing and Minimizing Storage Requirements
When planning your backup solution you will first want to look at how much data you will need to back up. But you don’t want to look at only your current data but you expected data. There are several ways to calculate and predict your data growth so make sure to take advantage of them to build your backup solution to grow over the next few years.
Just taking a data backup of your data isn’t enough, you need to have a “Backup of your backup.” What this means is to have a solution in place that stores or replicates your data to an offsite facility in case something happens to your home location, you won’t lose your data. Some solutions include tapes which are sent to an offsite facility, and replicating your data to an offsite data center.
- Consider Security of your Backup
IT professionals like to talk about security throughout your entire business, and your data is no different. When picking a location to store your redundant backups be sure to consider the safety of your data. The offsite location needs to be a place that will spare your data from a local disaster.
- Build a Retention Plan
Some might feel that storing the data from the beginning of time sounds like a good idea, but it’s good practice to let some of the data go. This will not only free up space in your data plan but allow your backup solution to serve you for longer. So be sure to carefully plan out your retention plan and when to roll your data.
- Plan for Accessibility
How will you access your backup? How long would it take for you to backup critical files in a hurry?
Considering the amount of time to access and restore your backups is very important. You can have a solution that requires you to call tapes back and pull data off of them or you can have a setup that allows you to restore files instantly from a backup server or appliance.
Looking for the right data backup solution for your company might be tedious or overwhelming. However, once you have a plan and process in place, you will be able to rest easy and focus on doing what you do best.
We’ve all been there.
You sit down and start to work only to realize that it takes what feels like forever to load the webpage. This is when you realize that you have slow internet, so what do you do? What’s the next steps to improve on this dire situation?
For your small business you will want to have what is called Business Class Internet. Most providers will provide this service, at a cost of course but it can give you the edge that your company might need.
There are two main benefits to having business class internet.
- Dedicated Internet speeds: What this mean is that if you are paying for 15mb of upload and download speed then you have full access to that speed. In some home internet plans you may be paying for 15mb but you may also be sharing that with others in your apartment or block.
- Static IP addresses: Your internet service provider (ISP) will allow you to purchase a set of static IP addresses so that you can always have the same IP address. This will allow you to setup websites and VPN access for remote access to your site.
Getting business internet is pretty simple, you can reach out to us and we would be more than happy to provide you with a few different options for your area, simply email us at email@example.com or contact us here. You can also reach out to your internet provider and ask them about their business class plans.
If you aren’t really sure what internet speed you have or need there are a few things you can do to check.
- You can run a speed test on your connection to see what your speed is for both up and down. Websites like speedtest.net allow you to see what your speed is in just a few minutes.
- Consider your need for bandwidth, what is normal, how much is too much? If you are working from your home office something like 15mb-20mb down and 5mb up is more than enough to get the job done. But what if you’re a small business with 15 to 30 people? You could reach out to your provider for usage reports over the last several months and see if you are constantly at your peak, in which case you might want to consider upgrading your speed. For most small businesses 20MB up and down is a good starting point.
Having a fast internet connection helps all of the areas of your business be more productive and can save you money in the long run.
When it comes to finding the right equipment for your employees or new hires, where do you start? There are so many different options when it comes to IT hardware that it can seem overwhelming. We’ve outlined some helpful steps so that you can find the right fit for your employees.
First, you want to look at the form factors and find out which of the below 3 works best for your business.
Laptop or Microsoft Surface Machines
The mobile form factor can be used for several different types of employees. If they are an employee that will be at their desk all day but require a workstation when they go home, a larger laptop with a docking station at the desk might be a better option than a smaller laptop or surface.
The larger size will normally be cheaper and provide a larger screen when working at home. If they are a sales rep or always on the go then the surface might be a better option because if it’s light weight and battery life.
Desktop computers are going to be your cheapest option so I always recommend to really asses the employees role and see if having a stationary machine will work for them. You can get the same or better specs as a laptop at half the cost. These workstations work well for customer service reps, general office employees and most administrative positions.
If you’re looking to keep your costs lower, these will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Thin Clients are not typically something you would see in a small business but they do have a role within some organizations.
So what is a thin client? A thin client is a client designed to be especially small so that the bulk of the data processing occurs on the server. Due to its size, there isn’t a hard drive disk on the client and very minimal specifications. There are benefits to having thin clients in your organization like reduced energy bills, simplified management for your IT department, enhanced security, and increased productivity.
However, these types of networks take quite a bit to setup and maintain. You will find that you will require a full IT staff to correctly maintain the hardware which will be added costs in salaries and benefits.
The server becomes the single point of failure and terminal servers are required to be replaced every 3 to 5 years.
From a user perspective, there is a learning curve with administering thin clients and terminal servers, and will require more training for the employees who will be using these.
Some business owners believe that thin clients are more cost effective than standard desktops, however, this isn’t the case anymore.
After deciding the best form factors for your employees, you want to take a look at what is inside the machine.
Do you require a CD/DVD drive?
In today’s time you can probably get by without a CD/DVD drive, but if you still have some legacy programs that require a CD it is still very inexpensive to have this feature.
How much memory will you need?
Memory or RAM is what allows your computer to do multiple things at once quickly, it holds programs in a temporary memory for quick access. If you plan to be doing a lot of things at once then the more the better. Rule of thumb is to get 8GB of RAM at the minimum.
How much hard drive space?
Today the typical size is 500GB, if you have a server and require people to store information there then this should be plenty. In most cases 500GB will be enough unless you are working with very large data. If that’s the case, look at a solution with more than 500GB of hard drive space.
How big of a CPU do your employees need?
In today’s market you really have to choose between I5 and I7 processors. The I7 of course is better but may not always be for you, i5 will be more in laptops, if you are using any software that is very process heavy the i5 is enough.
Do you require dual monitors?
For me this is a must and once you have 2 monitors it will be for you too. Some employees who work simultaneously in programs will most likely need dual monitors, while those employees in admin roles might only require one.
Altogether, choosing the right hardware for your employees is essential in order for your staff to be the more productive and efficient during their work day.
So you have decided it’s time to hire an IT Managed Service Provider, but you have no idea where to start? We’ve outlined 15 questions to ask to make sure you’re making the best decision for your company.
1. What do you do?
This sounds simple, but many companies call themselves a Managed Service Provider so having a clear understanding of the exact services they can provide for you and more importantly if they meet your needs should be first and foremost.
2. Where are you located?
Finding out where the company is based can give you ease of mind. They have an office in your city? That’s great and hopefully means they will respond quicker when those emergencies come up. Likewise, you’ll be able to build a relationship with this MSP and your IT consultant can learn about your business in order to better serve your technology needs.
3. Who are some of your other clients?
References are everything. Working with an MSP who doesn’t work with companies your size or perhaps doesn’t have a client base at all should be a red flag. For us, our clients would be more than happy to hop on a call to give us a reference for potential clients and this is something that is common across many service based companies.
4. What experience do you have and what is your background?
Perhaps you don’t have an in office IT employee and the MSP will manage all IT Helpdesk and IT projects, therefore knowing their technical background is extremely important. Think of it this way, it’s better to ask these questions prior to having your network go out at 2AM and not being able to get the issue solved due to the lack of technical ability from your MSP.
5. What’s the cost?
This sounds simple, but many IT Managed Services Companies charge very differently. Do they charge based on every time you pick up the phone? Put in a helpdesk ticket? Drive to your location? More than likely the answer to that is yes, and these fees add up quickly. (Interested in not paying those fees? Check out our custom IT Services for more info)
6. How do you implement?
Almost all MSPs will need to install software onto your company devices in order to manage them remotely. Find out how they do this. After hours when it won’t disrupt your working hours or in phases over the course of several days? The main thing is that it shouldn’t be a headache for you or your business.
7. What is your IT project process?
MSPs don’t just manage your computers and handle desktop support, they also can recommend IT solutions and manage the entire process of these projects. Find out what this looks like, as it will vary from each provider.
8. How long does it take before we are up and running under your service?
It’s always important to know when your service begins. Is there a waiting period or can you start making calls the moment you sign the dotted line? Sometimes there’s a lead time to get your company set up on their side of things.
9. Setup fees?
Just like knowing the monthly costs or monthly surcharges, it’s important to know if there are set up fees. It’s also good to ask about these costs as some MSPs will waive this fee for you. If you happen to work with us, you’re in good hands as we don’t charge set up fees.
10. Is there a contract?
We live in a day and time where you can sign up for Netflix for one month and cancel with no added fees. Contracts are becoming this way in the MSP world. Make sure you aren’t signing a 3 year contract or a contract that doesn’t make sense for your business. Or even better, find an MSP that doesn’t require a contract that way you are in complete control of your IT services.
11. Vendor management?
Ever had problems with software and had to sit on hold trying to resolve them? This is something that your MSP should handle for you. Although several IT companies don’t handle vendor management, this is a HUGE benefit for you, as it’s one less thing you have to worry about. A good MSP will agree to work with the vendors, a great MSP will tell you that they will work with any vendor to resolve any issues before you ask.
12. Equipment/software markup?
It’s more common for MSPs to charge mark ups on the software and hardware that you purchase therefore it’s extremely important to find out what that mark up will be. $100? $200?
Our clients who have a custom IT solution pay no markup – that’s right, we pass along all of our savings directly to you.
13. Willing to work around your budget?
The IT services that you pay for need to work for you and that includes within your budget.
Sure, you might lose some services or pay a little more when you need added services but finding an MSP who is willing to find a solution within your budget is something to look for.
14. Trip/labor charges?
These types of charges will make your monthly fee sky rocket. Find out these fees ahead of time, or find an MSP that doesn’t charge for trips or labor. The fact is, if you are being charged $70 to roll a truck to your site and then $110/hr for a tech to fix an issue on site, you have just spent $180 for him to just show up. The way I look at clients from an MSP’s point of view, is if you are paying me a monthly fee to manage and maintain your systems, and something breaks, why do you have to pay me again to fix something that was covered under that monthly contract?
15. List the services covered under a typical contract?
Of course you will ask this, and the MSP should provide you with a scope of work. If they do not, do not sign any paper work until that is provided. The scope of work is what the MSP is responsible for under the contract or agreement. Make sure the items that were quoted are in the SOW.
Without these questions you could find yourself quite unhappy with services provided by an MSP. Most of these are common sense, but just treat the MSP like you are interviewing a new candidate for a position. You are the one in control of your IT services and asking the right questions before signing the dotted line can save you a lot of time, effort and headaches.
You’ve decided it is time to start making improvements to your IT infrastructure, but where do you start? What takes the front of the list and what can wait?
I have found that these questions can be answered by asking this one question: What is important for your business to keep growing and running? Consider what items will increase your productivity and keep your business from being interrupted.
For most companies these are the top things that should always be in place and in good working order.
- A well setup Domain and Active Directory infrastructure.
- Provides a quick way to add new users to the network
- Gives you superior control over security permissions for shares, files and devices on the network
- Increases overall network security by requiring administrator passwords to add devices to the domain
- Allows you to apply Global Policies to all machines in a given group (Ex. Screen locks after 10 minutes, turn on remote desktop for all machines, apply printers to all machines)
- Group Shares controlled by a file server is one of the best ways to control, manage and monitor data on your network.
- Allows you to control access by user or group to files and folders
- Give you a single place to store files for departments, no hunting files
- Insures that important data is backed up
- A Print server may not seem like a big deal but when you start to have 5 or 10 printers it can be a handy thing to have for your business.
- Allows you to put multiple drivers for multiple operating systems
- Print jobs are stored on the server not on the workstations
- Adding a printer to a PC is easy and controlled
- Efficient way of managing and adding printers
- A good network backbone (network switches) is always important.
- Weather you have 1 or 10 switches, which ones you have is important. If you are running a switch with a max speed of 10MB then you will experience a slow internal network connection.
- When considering switches, look at max speed per port, if they are dumb switches or managed and if they are POE (power over Ethernet) or not. Most IT professionals will always recommend a 1GB network which means that all ports on your switch are 1G max or 1000MB.
- POE is always a good feature to look into because wireless devices and phones can sometimes run off of power from the Ethernet port.
- Firewalls are the MOST important part of your network and can be very basic or extremely advanced.
- Protects from intrusions
- Port scanning
- DDOS attacked
- You can control what your employees can access on the internet
- Some even have reports so you can see users usage of the internet and even sites visited
- Email is one of the most used tools in any company, in most years it is even the most chosen tool to manage projects.
- Make sure that the email is reliable and fast
- Consider implementing a cloud based email solution for less administrative management and more cost effective.
Altogether, your IT infrastructure plays an important part of your business. Always set your goals and then begin making changes in order to meet those business goals.
You probably keep hearing that you need to get a better firewall for your business? However, you might not fully grasp what a firewall is or the benefits it has on your company’s infrastructure.
I like to call firewalls the gate keeper of your network – in short, it encompasses all sorts of things like:
- First line of defense against outside attackers.
- Prevents your computers from connecting directly to the internet.
- Stops employees from browsing non-work related websites.
But on a deeper level, it routes traffic from outside sources to computers and servers on your network.
When you travel or work remotely, a firewall that is configured correctly is what allows you to access your data while away at the office (VPN, or external facing sites your company has).
The firewall is, in my opinion, the most important piece of equipment your company will invest in.
A cheap firewall lacks the features to protect your company’s data and devices. However, I don’t usually recommend the most expensive firewall for our clients.
The biggest key feature for IT professionals in general is the threat management system and how a firewall detects and mitigates those threats.
Did you know that BP fights off 50,000 cyber-attacks a day?
I recently had a conversation with the CEO of an Energy Investment company that stated, “We are small, no one is going to want our data and even if they did what would they do with it.”
While this response is very common amongst small and medium sized businesses – cyber criminals don’t really want your data. They get affirmation from hacking into your network and can then control your computers to help them gain access to other networks.
Even if the data is sensitive, the firewall could be the matter of allowing your customer data to be leaked or not. It’s a small insurance policy for your company to invest in.
In today’s connected world, it’s not if you are going to be attacked by cyber criminals but when.
When it comes to your business nothing else matters but being able to provide your products or services to your clients. When I talk to business owners the one key factor that keeps coming up is what happens if your network crashes, your internet goes down or some malicious ransom-ware like Crypto-locker infects your system. Those items are more likely to happen than a natural disaster (flooding, tornado, hurricane, etc.) Most of these companies have backups of their data that’s stored either on their servers or old clunky LTO tapes on site.
Let’s go through a scenario, its 10am on a Wednesday and everything is working fine, your company has a major deal in the works and then the fear hits. Your network has just shut-down for reasons unknown. Everything you had worked on was on the network and now it’s inaccessible. You call your IT Company or IT person to get this resolved as soon as possible. They go through the typical steps to try and mitigate the problem. The IT guys tell you that they need to restore the data and need to get the tapes out of storage. Now, you wait. Could be minutes, could be hours or even days to get the data restored depending on the type and size of data that was lost. This is one of the main reasons Why Tape storage is a dying technology!
In today’s IT world more and more backup admins and IT companies are now pushing their companies to a BDR solution.
A Backup and Disaster Recovery solution is a game changing aspect for companies in the sense of business continuity. A BDR solution has varying levels of abilities and service. In a simple description, you are able to backup all of your data as you did before with an in-house server. That server can in turn replicate to the cloud, allowing your business to operate from anywhere with an internet connection.
Quorum’s quick 5min demo of how they are able to give you complete business continuity, whether you have a complete internet or systems failure you can be assured that you can be up and running as if nothing ever happened. Your network outage just became a trip to the nearest internet connection.
The next problem when I have offered this suggestion to business owners is, WOW that sounds great!
But, it also sounds expensive.
They are right, to get a system like this you will pay a little more on the front end. But when each client takes into account the cost of an outage that include things like salaries, potential deals, potential products sales, services lost, resources lost and recreating all of the lost data, they understand the value of a complete backup and disaster recovery solution.
If you aren’t backing up your data, it could end your business when you experience an outage. With any backup technology whether its tapes, another server, or a Backup and Disaster Recovery solution you are purchasing insurance for your data.
Finding the best antivirus protection might seem overwhelming with all of the different options available. However, if you are running a business, the last thing you need slowing you down is a virus running rampant throughout your IT infrastructure and putting your assets at risk.
Do you ever think, “I’d be so much more productive if I invested in a typewriter?”
Surely, you’re laughing, but I can remember visiting my grandparent’s office as a child and the only things on their desk were:
- A desk calendar.
- One of those really cool calculators that made receipts.
- AND a really dusty typewriter.
There were no computers and the term Wi-Fi hadn’t been coined. However, because their customers, vendors and competitors didn’t have computers and cellphones, they weren’t missing out on anything.
It’s impressive how far businesses have come in the past 30 years because of the ever-changing technology. Imagine going to work and not having a computer, or email, or internet. It would be a very long day.
Today, an average household has 5 connected devices. Because your customers and competitors use technology throughout the entire day, your business has to stay up to speed.
Technology is the driving force behind every business and without it, it’s nearly impossible to conduct your day to day operations. But what’s worse, is when the technology in your business is holding you back from your business goals.
Technology in your business should make you more efficient, save you time and in the end, impact your bottom line in a positive way. Without a secure infrastructure in place, your employees aren’t able to do their job to the best of their ability.
If you find yourself getting frustrated with dealing with your network or find that you are losing precious time during your day waiting on an application to load, it might be time to look into your current IT infrastructure. It’s essential to take the time to invest in your technology to ensure that the technology in your company is working for you and not against you.