Blogs

Why Your Business Needs a vCIO to Succeed

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If you have plans to expand your business, your technology needs to scale with you and support your growth. But, your IT team is too busy with day-to-day tasks to perform comprehensive assessments, research the newest tech innovations and create a strategic roadmap for the future. Hiring a costly executive to oversee your IT might be out of the question, but you’re not out of options. Enter a virtual CIO, or vCIO – an expert or team of experts focused on managing your high-level IT needs, for a fraction of the cost of an in-house CIO.

Here are four reasons your business needs a vCIO to succeed:

Creating a Plan for the Future

Your IT might be keeping pace with your needs today – but, without a strategic plan for growth, the technology underpinning your business gives you headaches or fails altogether. A vCIO assesses your current technology infrastructure and consults with you about your business goals to develop a detailed roadmap for the future. This ensures that your hardware, software, applications and other technology solutions align with your needs, and that you’re not wasting time and money on technology that won’t bring you closer to your goals.

Ensuring Business Continuity

Do you have a backup and disaster recovery plan in place? Do you know where your data is stored and how to access it if your primary systems fail due to a natural disaster, cyber attack or employee error? A vCIO designs a disaster recovery strategy tailored to your business, so you’re protected from every angle. They monitor your network 24/7 for potential disruptions and resolve them before they impact your business. Additionally, a vCIO mitigates the risk of downtime and data loss while updating or migrating systems.

Making Smart Investments

New products and services always sound good – but, how do you know if they’ll actually provide a strong return on investment? Virtual CIOs stay up-to-date on tech innovations and understand which ones will support your business now and into the future. Your vCIO can also help you prepare for aspects of the transition that would otherwise cause unexpected hiccups. Make decisions with confidence, knowing that you’re choosing the best investments for your business.

Meeting Industry Requirements

Whether you’re in healthcare, retail, financial services or another industry, you face a long list of regulations – and failing to comply results in crippling fines. Virtual CIOs develop industry-specific experience, so they can help you meet regulations such as HIPAA and PCI, stay current with standards and protect your customers’ data – and your reputation. They can also make recommendations on the best software programs and applications for your specialized business needs.

Virtual CIOs help you achieve success by adding value to your operations – without the full-time salary, benefits and office space of an in-house CIO. Interested in learning how a vCIO can impact your business? Contact us today to find out.

Why Should You Consider IoT? The Good, the Bad and the Integration

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As technology progresses, we’re finding new ways to keep all of our devices connected for a seamless user experience. This idea is called the Internet of Things (IoT), and it works for more than just computing devices – it also includes mechanical and digital objects.

From microwaves, washing machines and lamps to televisions, projectors and security systems, connecting your technologies is a powerful concept. Gartner predicts that IoT will be a $1.9 trillion industry by 2020. So, what do you need to know to take advantage of this trend to grow your business?

The Good

The IoT helps you track behavior in real-time and enhances situational awareness, but what does that actually mean for you? Imagine it’s 6 pm, and you’re cooking dinner while listening to music. You connect your mobile device to your surround-sound television. Your technology keeps track of your activity, and IoT uses that information to analyze what you’re doing, viewing or listening to in real-time. Using that data, you’ll gain a customized experience. You skip a slower song, and your devices react by adjusting algorithms to produce fewer slow-tempo songs. Now, imagine how you can use IoT to enhance your customer’s experience. You can use the data you collected to figure out when their technology needs updated or to identify breaches based on location and trends.

The Bad

It’s important to note that the more devices connected to the Internet, the more vulnerable your information is to unauthorized users. By connecting your mobile device to your home security system, your business’s Wi-Fi, your email and more, you open up a variety of entry points for hackers and other cyber criminals to access and manipulate your systems. But, even the bad isn’t all bad – a reliable IT partner can keep your endpoints protected by multiple layers of security.

The Integration

When considering an IoT approach, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What are the goals of my business?
  • What is my realistic budget?
  • Which solutions make the most sense for my business?
  • Should I integrate technology all at once or in stages?

A managed service provider can help you answer these questions while ensuring IoT devices are properly integrated and secured. Integration begins with identifying your needs, determining which solutions work best for your business needs, then deploying those solutions, testing services post-deployment and protecting your endpoints.

Adopting the IoT approach impacts your business significantly. The vast amount of data and services available can shape your daily workflow. For more information on how IoT can affect your business, or to start implementing IoT, contact us today. We’ll help you work through the good, the bad and the integration.

5 Lessons 2017 Taught Us About IT Disaster Recovery

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We can look back on 2017 as the worst of times – when it came to disasters, at least. Severe weather, data breaches and global hacking attempts affected thousands of businesses, costing them an estimated $926 to $17,244 for every minute of unplanned downtime. Instead of letting the unthinkable damage your business, fight back with these five strategies:

  • Back Up Your Data to the Cloud

Following Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria, hundreds of businesses found their physical equipment and servers submerged in water. Storing data on-site is convenient, but an unexpected disaster can wipe away years of information in the blink of an eye. Migrating your data to the cloud means your information is protected and readily available – and you’ll never have to start from scratch.

  • Prepare for a Remote Workforce

Even after the Thomas wildfire in California was contained, smoke and poor air conditions made it impossible for many employees to return to their offices. Anything from a severe storm to surprise pest control treatments can force employees out of their workspaces, so have a plan in place that will allow your team to access necessary tools from any Internet-enabled location.

  • Monitor for Breaches and Respond Quickly

A massive breach of data from Equifax – one of the three largest credit agencies in the US – lasted from May to July and wasn’t reported publicly until September. The Social Security, credit card and driver’s license numbers of more than 145 million consumers were compromised, and victims rushed to protect themselves against potential identity thieves. Avoid losing your customers’ trust by proactively monitoring for breaches, shutting them down promptly and providing a full inventory of the damage to those affected.

  • Don’t Underestimate Human Error

People are unpredictable – that’s why 90 percent of cyber security issues stem from human behavior. Employee negligence is the number one cause of data breaches at small to medium-sized businesses. Comprehensive training can close the gap, but it’s not foolproof. Combine your team’s efforts with strong cyber security policies.

  • Update Outdated Software Programs

The WannaCry Ransomware Attack, which resulted in hackers taking control of more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries, targeted a weakness in outdated software for which a patch was already available. Hospitals, airlines, police departments and more were brought to a halt, and paying the ransom did not result in the return of data. Update your software regularly to fix vulnerabilities and avoid becoming an easy target for hackers.

Don’t panic. A solid IT disaster recovery plan will protect your business and get you back up and running with minimal – if any – hassle and downtime. Unsure where to start? We learn the ins and outs of your business to develop and implement a customized recovery plan. Contact us today to get started.

Four Ways Cloud Computing Can Future-Proof Your Business

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We hear a lot about the cloud and cloud computing lately. Some businesses don’t actually know what the cloud is, what it can do for them or where they can even find it – let alone start using it. The cloud isn’t just a passing fad – cloud computing is here to stay and it’s quickly become the best way to future-proof your business.

So what is the cloud, exactly? At its intrinsic level, it’s a collection of computers, servers, and databases that are connected together in a powerful way that users can lease access to share their combined power. Cloud computing is scalable so that buyers can choose to increase or decrease the amount of computing power they need.

Sounds a bit intangible, doesn’t it? Send your company’s precious data up to this “cloud” in the sky, and then what? “Is it worth it?” “Will it help my business grow?” “Is it safe?”

Yes, yes and yes. Major business owners are comfortable enough with cloud computing to future-proof their business, and the impact is global. Media giant Forbes, whose focus is business and IT, has projected that cloud computing will be a $162 billion industry by the year 2020. As it stands now, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is at 19% meaning more and more industries are making the cloud business-critical. Their report also stated that 74% of IT CFOs attribute the most measurable growth to cloud computing.

So what does this mean to you and your company? If you’re looking to ensure your business has longevity in this economy – no matter your niche – then you need to seriously consider making the move to cloud services. Here are five ways that cloud computing will future-proof your business:

  1. Security for your data – The cloud’s security architecture is multi-layered, and safeguards against the weaknesses that allow cyber attacks to occur. There are different types of security controls employed: deterrent controls, preventative controls, detective controls and corrective controls. All of these things work in tandem to protect your sensitive information and intellectual property, especially where federal compliance regulations are an issue.
  2. Unlimited mobility – Self-hosting your legacy software and platforms for years places a major stressor on already overworked network servers. The time spent maintaining your hardware and its performance can cost you both productivity and dollars. Application hosting in the cloud gives users the real-time ability to access data from any device, anywhere and at any time. Your staff could be spread across the globe and still collaborate in real-time on projects.
  3. Scalability – The cloud grows with you. The combined computing power of users in the cloud is scalable so that buyers can dynamically increase – or decrease – the amount of computing power they lease. That flexibility is quite a cost-saver when you consider the impact on your IT budget if you have to upgrade your on-premises servers after you have outgrown your old network.
  4. Cost reduction – Given the speed of cloud growth and accessibility, it’s been easier, faster and less expensive for software developers to roll out applications as compared to traditional onsite platform development. That cost savings gets passed on to users. You don’t have to buy hardware until you need it, and you don’t have to plan for peak capacity, since most traditional servers are only used at 15% of their capacity. You only pay for what you use.

Lost production hours are a killer when you’re trying to migrate data from one network to another. Firms that handle their own migration on average take 2 months and up to $3,000 to do it. Partnering with a managed IT services provider (MSP) to handle your move to the cloud reduces – and even eliminates – downtime and speeds up deployment by managing your data with new integrated tech solutions, upgrading your performance seamlessly. That’s where we come in.

Moving to the cloud is power. Power to give your company future longevity. And the best way to harness that power is by partnering up with a great MSP, one whose expert team can handle the entire process from start to finish. Give us a call and let us help move you into the future with cloud computing.

What? You’re Not Using Office 365? Five Reasons Why You Need to Start Right Now

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If you missed your invitation to the party, here it is. Chances are that your competition is already using the Microsoft Office 365 suite of tools to maximize their productivity and grow their business, so why aren’t you? This is a powerhouse of a platform that will change your business culture and deliver immediate results, and now it’s more affordable than ever.

 

O365 is more than just another software product – it’s an integrated experience of applications and services with a familiar face. It encompasses Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote and OneDrive – available on ALL of your devices, no matter the operating system. That’s right – O365 is OS-agnostic and works on Windows-based PCs, Android devices, Mac OS and iOS. It also offers the options of these services: Exchange, SharePoint, Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams. Overwhelming, isn’t it? We’ve got a solution for you. (Hang in there, we’re getting to that.)

 

Microsoft has been providing solutions for some of the biggest companies in the world for decades. Now, with O365, they’ve raised the standard for business growth. Imagine bringing together all of your people, processes and technology and being able to manage all of that productivity seamlessly, all through cloud computing. Office 365 makes that a reality. And if you’re not onboard with it yet, here are five reasons you need to be:

 

  1. Ramp Up Your Productivity

Giving your staff the tools to produce their very best work not only raises morale but positively affects your bottom line. The 2018 “Forrester Consulting Report on the ROI of O365” concluded that the group of applications and services that make up O365 cut support time by 50%, saved mobile/field employees at least one hour per day and afforded analysts, managers and sales people the opportunity to make better and faster decisions because they had information in real-time. More productivity means better revenue and happy clients.

 

  1. Worry-free IT Performance

O365 integrates seamlessly with your existing system and network. With 24/7 support available, you don’t just add O365 to your productivity tool box, O365 becomes your tool box. To get every last drop out of all the services that make up Microsoft Office 365, you need a great partner to manage it. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

 

 

  1. Cost Reduction

Office 365 is more affordable than ever (subscriptions start at $12.50 per user per month) with all monthly updates and service packs included, and also 1 TB of cloud computing storage per user. Small to medium businesses will love the reliability and security, but even the largest of firms will benefit from this powerful suite of tools. Forrester also concluded in their report on O365 that the delivered 3-month ROI was a whopping 378% (source: 2018 Forrester Research “The Economic Impact of Microsoft Office 365”).

 

  1. Increased Data Security

Worried about your data’s safety when it comes to cloud computing? Don’t be. Microsoft Office 365 offers choices, like Hybrid Cloud Computing, and incorporates exclusive, proprietary security features to protect your sensitive data. They have also added in a Compliance Manager to help you meet the standards necessary to keep you in business.

 

  1. Real-time Collaboration with Ease

Dream it, design it, create it – then edit and share it in an instant with anyone on any device to any device in real-time. With features like multi-party HD video conferencing, content sharing, team chat and shared calendars, your people can collaborate with the person in the next room, next regional office or across the world seamlessly. Think of all the time and resources wasted in the past trying to get everyone on the same page for a project, using the same processes and technology. With O365 implemented, those days are long gone.

 

We mentioned before that all of the tools, processes and services encompassed within Microsoft Office 365 can be overwhelming if you don’t where to start. And if you’re not properly managing it – or it’s beyond the scope of your IT department – you’re not getting the full benefits or tapping its complete potential. You need a solid managed IT services provider in your corner.

 

Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We can offer you seamless integration with your existing servers and network, 24/7/365 assistance, transparent fixed monthly billing (so there aren’t any surprises) and show you and your staff how to wring every last drop out of O365’s platform. You concentrate on running your business, we’ll handle your Office 365.

 

What are you waiting for? Give us a call today, and let’s discuss how O365 can grow your business!

5 Reasons You Need Unified Communications

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As Told by Our Experts

Communication is essential to the success of your business. Whether you’re collaborating with team members or meeting with new customers, it’s imperative that you optimize the communication process. But, you knew that. Not because some fancy corporation told you it was crucial, but because 95% of people in the workforce say that face-to-face interactions are essential to building long-term business relationships. But, did you know that unified communication solutions are your best chance of boosting the way you collaborate? We asked our experts and here’s why they said it’s your best option:

  1. Gives You Call Control | When someone contacts you, whether they’re looking for more information on your products or looking to purchase your services, are they instantly connected with the right person? Maybe… sometimes. But, what about those other times – the times when someone calls and becomes frustrated with the back-and-forth of call transfers and hold time? Unified communications (UC) puts you back in control. When someone calls, you’ll know precisely why they’re calling before you say “hello,” helping them get to the right person the first time.
  2. Integrates Your Platforms | Deploying a new process and system is difficult if it doesn’t work with your current software solutions. That’s why integrating with existing platforms is an essential part of the decision-making process. UC connects with your instant messenger, fax machine, web applications, video conferencing devices, CRM and more to leverage efficiency and minimizes downtime.
  3. Enhances the Way You Conference Call | There’s just something about meeting customers and team members face-to-face that helps drive conversations. The majority of communication is nonverbal, between facial expressions and tone of voice. That’s why video conferencing has a ton of benefits for the workplace. UC makes conversing in real-time feasible. By using IP addresses, you can talk with, and see, multiple people from all different locations without skipping a beat.
  4. Increases the Availability of Your Team | When conversing with your team, you probably find that it’s easier to get your answer quickly when you go see your colleague in person. But, did you know that you’re wasting more time looking around the office than if you were able to contact them directly? With UC, you can instantly message or call your colleague to get the answer you need quickly and efficiently. Whether someone is working from home, in a meeting or gone for lunch, you’ll reach them without stepping away from your workspace.
  5. Places Accountability Where It’s Due | One of the largest downsides to traditional phone systems is that you never know which employee is talking to which customer (unless you ask). With UC, you trace every call from dial to “end call.” If you’re talking to customers, you’ll know with whom they’ve previously conversed, and if you’re talking internally to your team, you can track and record your conversations with colleagues.

Deploying unified communications is only one way to make communication easier. Are you ready to ramp up the way you conduct conversations?

 

Contact us today to learn about our other telecom and managed services – let’s optimize your productivity.

5 Technologies You Need to Power Your Remote Workforce

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Working from Anywhere Has Never Been Easier  

 

In a tech-driven world where digital is king and consumers are demanding transparency and reliability, working from anywhere becomes crucial to the success of your business. But the IT challenges that come with working remotely are intimidating, and you’re not always sure how to get started. Managed services is your answer, and here are five ways managed services can help get you started:

  1. Mobile/Wireless/Endpoint Protection | Accessing confidential information from personal devices is all well and good as long as they’re kept safe. From theft to phishing emails, personal devices create opportunities for cybercriminals to obtain your customer’s data. With endpoint protection services, you gain a multi-layer security approach to ensure your laptops, tablets and mobile devices are safe.
  2. Server & Network Management | Protecting your business begins at the core—your network. Working remotely, you need the ability to work on encrypted documents and files from the server, but also, to monitor and maintain a distributed IT infrastructure. With server and network management, you gain a secure connection to your network, so you can access encrypted files and other crucial data while maintaining a multi-location network connection.
  3. Office 365 | Working with your team is one of the toughest challenges of the remote workforce. With Office 365 services, you gain access to advanced applications including Skype for Business, Word and Excel. You’ll collaborate with team members—from any mobile device—in real-time on a single document and converse using Skype.
  4. UC & VoIP | Meetings are a large part of your day—you need tools that allow you to continue the conversation away from the office. Unified Communications and VoIP make conversing easier with call conferencing features and reliable call connectivity. By using your IP address instead of a physical phone, you can call into a meeting from any of your devices.
  5. Cloud Hosting | Connecting with your team is increasingly difficult without a single source for projects and ongoing files. With cloud hosting, your network, servers, applications and critical documents are encrypted and hosted from a single location. This makes it easier for your team to work from multiple locations and a variety of devices.

Whether you’re working from an airplane terminal or from the comfort of your favorite coffee shop, working remotely is easier than ever with a managed service provider. As your partner, we’ll provide managed services designed to make your life easier without raising your operating costs.

 

Contact us today to learn about our other services, and how we can help you safely work from anywhere.

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Is PCI Compliance Just Too Complex?

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Turn on the screen, open the newspaper or scroll through social media and you’re sure to see a headline of another cyber hacking or breach of security. Why? Many businesses are extremely susceptible to data breaches and the worst part – it’s at their customers’ expense. Take a look at these three major data breaches from the past and the heavy fallout:

  • Home Depot – Malware infected Home Depot’s point-of-sale systems resulting in 56 million credit cards compromised.
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill – Hackers used malware to gain access to customers’ credit card information that affected roughly 2,250 restaurants.
  • TJX Companies – More than 45 million credit card numbers were stolen from TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods over a period of 18 months before they were able to detect and halt the breach.

Here’s the kicker, these breaches could have been avoided through PCI compliance. Inadequate software solutions and policies created a major gap in security for Home Depot, and the use of antivirus software failed to monitor the network for unusual behavior. The case of the Chipotle hacking could have been avoided with stronger security measures and better monitoring systems. And, reports show TJX companies failed to comply with nine out of the twelve PCI requirements.

So, if hackings are on the rise and businesses know they’re vulnerable, what’s going on? Is PCI compliance just too complex?

PCI is comprised of 12 security requirements, and while the number of businesses achieving full compliance with their annual review reached a record of 55.4 percent last year, nearly half of companies fall out of compliance within a year. Once you’ve reached compliance, the challenging part is maintaining it. You need routine testing and the ability to recognize and remediate any issues quickly.

The truth is, PCI compliance isn’t too complex – you just need a dedicated expert who understands the requirements. We don’t want you to become the next big headline of another data breach, the consequences are too great. We can help. Contact us today for your free, no-obligation PCI compliance audit. Your customers will thank you.

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3 Things To Assess Before 2018

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With the New Year right around the corner, it’s tradition to take time to reflect on the past, present and future. Think about your technology… “Oh, the new floppy discs just arrived.” “Do they have free Wi-Fi on the plane?” “We’re going to have to push back our meeting. I have a 5:15 on Saturn and can’t make it to Mars on time.”

The New Year presents big opportunities to dream big and set goals that you work towards tirelessly. This year, we want to help you make a big resolution that you can keep – making your technology work for you, not against you. Here are three things you should assess to prepare for the New Year:

1. Infrastructure:
A lot can change in the year, and the same goes for technology. Your infrastructure must be reliable, secure and scalable to keep up with current trends and new innovations.
Are you getting the most from your IT infrastructure?
Do you have the right combination of technology solutions to meet your needs?
Are you confident you have room to scale as you grow?

If you’re shaking your head, it might be time to take a close look at where your infrastructure can improve.

2. Cloud:
Cloud is a big player in technology because of the added benefits of reliability, manageability, mobility and more security. But as far as assessing your current cloud solutions, here’s some things you should think about:
Are you out of storage space?
Do you need more bandwidth?
Is it time to renew any application subscriptions?

If you haven’t implemented some form of cloud into your business model, you’re already a few steps behind your competition. Maybe you should start your New Year’s resolution by adding a cloud strategy to your 2018 plan.

3. Security:
This past year was a big reminder that you need to be prepared for anything – cyberattacks, floods, hurricanes and fires. While you may not have been directly impacted, you don’t want to suffer the consequences if something happens in the upcoming year.
Do you have a business continuity plan?
If your servers went down right now, could you access your data?
Are you actively protecting your email, applications and networks from cyber criminals?

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to evaluating your security. If you’re looking to greet the new year with confidence, it might be best to get a complete security and vulnerability assessment.

By taking the time to assess your infrastructure, cloud and security, you’ll be able to ring out the old and ring in the new for good times ahead. If you’re not quite sure where to start, we’d love to extend a helpful hand by taking a look at your technology and talking strategy to make 2018 the best year yet. Contact us today.

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Three Ways Your Managed Services Provider Minimizes IT Downtime

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What do you think of when you hear that the server/network/system is down? Is it customer dissatisfaction, loss of productivity, your bottom line? It should be all three of these. Luckily, you can take proactive steps to minimize the cost of downtime. But it can be tricky if you don’t have the essential expertise and time needed to manage your IT.

That’s why you hired a managed services provider (MSP)—to be the one-stop solution to all your IT related challenges. We provide you with a variety of solutions that keep your systems optimized and minimize downtime. Let’s take a look at the top three things we do for you.

1. Customized Business Continuity Planning
You can let out a sigh of relief knowing that if something goes wrong you have a team of tech experts in your corner. As your trusted IT partner, we learn how your business operates, analyze your current system, determine your business continuity needs and create a customized plan to maximize uptime. Plus, we make it easy to access your data when an IT outage does occur.

2. Cloud Computing Solutions
Moving your important data and documents to the cloud gives you quick and easy access to them should your server go down. But, the migration of all that data can be time-consuming and complicated. We make the process of migrating your data to the cloud as simple as possible while improving efficiency and lowering costs.

3. On-Demand IT Support
IT challenges don’t work on a schedule. You can’t waste time searching for solutions after hours when a single hour of downtime could cost you more than $100,000. That’s why we offer on-demand IT support, so you can get the solutions you need, when you need them.

You’re serious about minimizing downtime. That’s why you partnered with us. We want you to get back to work knowing that even if the worst-case-scenario happens, you’re just a phone call away from having your system back up and running. Let’s get started today.

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