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The mystery of Managed IT
I thought this week I would take the opportunity to dig in a bit about Managed IT services. In our industry, it is such commonplace that many IT owners take a big leap and assume that all business owners should understand the concept of Managed IT.
This however, is just not true. So if you take a trip back well over 10 years now, the process for taking care of your computers went something like this:
- I notice something weird is going on with my computer.
- I ignore it for quite some time until it drives me crazy.
- I finally cant take it anymore and call IT.
- The IT company comes out, bills me for the work and we move on.
Now there are some inherent problems with this. First, the end user and/or owner just doesn’t want to call IT. It could be that they are too busy, don’t want to have another unexpected bill, or just feel they can work around the issue. Whatever the reason may be, it’s causing a delay in fixing an issue and this issue may be a lot worse than it seems.
Now enter Managed IT services. We often ask this question to help business owners understand the concept. What if the problem never occurs? You may ask, how could that be? Computers always break.
The fact of the matter is that we can easily compare computers to your car. You hear that knocking noise every time you turn left. It’s not that bad. You can let it go, but one day your wheel falls right off the car and you are in for a multi thousand dollar repair! Why should your most valuable asset in your business be any different?
As a Managed IT Service provider, we take on your network from top to bottom. We put systems and processes in place that help prevent “The Big One.” And even better, no surprise bills. You can budget your IT costs with one fixed price every month. And furthermore, we are no longer profiting from your computer failures. We only profit by keeping your company up and running smooth.
This is what we call a Win Win!
Think about it and give us a ring if you want to learn more.
It’s everyone’s favorite application. Since its introduction, it has revolutionized the way we communicate, both personally and professionally. It has had a major impact on how companies market themselves, communicate with vendors, send out press releases, rally employees and alert clients to their latest and greatest promotion. The ease, low-cost and speed of e-mail in marketing is the biggest reason why our inboxes are overflowing with spam.
In response to the ubiquitous outcry, “I hate spam,” governments have crafted new regulations surrounding the use of e-mail; and if you are one of the millions of companies using it for marketing, then it’s important that you familiarize yourself with these laws. But the danger doesn’t stop there…
Even if you don’t get caught by the feds for violating the rules of e-mail usage, you can still end up on a blacklist with the major ISPs such as Yahoo!, AOL, and MSN. Once you get blacklisted, you are considered guilty until proven innocent, and ALL the e-mail you send won’t get through, even to people who want to receive it—a consequence that could end up hurting your business more than a fine.
So what are the basic guidelines of e-mail marketing?
First and foremost, make sure you are only sending e-mail campaigns to people who have solicited (requested) to be on your distribution list. This is called “opting-in” or subscribing, and e-mails sent to these folks are considered “solicited e-mail.” You are perfectly within your rights to send them messages; but if you got their e-mail address by any other means and they did NOT specifically request to be on your list, that’s considered “unsolicited e-mail” or spam. Sending promotional e-mails to people who have not requested it is not only illegal, but annoying…so don’t do it!
Next, make sure you provide directions on how a person can remove themselves from your distribution list in EVERY e-mail. The best place to put this information is at the very bottom of your message. You should also include your full company name and contact information at the bottom so no one can blame you for cloaking your identity—another legal “no-no” of e-mail marketing.
Finally, when sending e-mail, we recommend using a service such as ConstantContact. These web-based applications will help you manage your e-mail distribution list with automatic opt-out and opt-in tools and will keep your e-mail server off an ISP’s blacklist.
Naturally, you want to make sure the information you are sending is interesting and relevant. No one wants more junk filling up their inbox so the better you are at marketing, the better your results will be. E-mail is not a magic marketing bullet that will solve all your marketing problems, but used correctly, it can certainly help you reach more customers and build stronger relationships with the people you already do business with.
Your Network may be the weak link!
You know the old saying, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link” or something like that. Well what if the weakest link is your network? You may have all of the latest technology in your computers. Heck, they’re lightning fast when you create a word document, but why does it take 10 seconds longer to open that word doc when it’s on your server?
Maybe you have a network issue. As many of you know, I’ve been doing this type of work for over 20 years, and you’d be surprised how often I step into an office with speed issues and find the old 10/100 switch installed on a network. Now for those of you who don’t know what the heck I’m talking about. Back in the day… a 10/100 switch was the bomb. Jumping from 10mbps (megabits per second) to 100 was just awesome.
But many of you don’t realize, that Gigabit is where it’s at, and you can even go way faster then that (Fiber…anyone?)
Another possible bottleneck can be your actual wires in the building. If your wiring was done more that 10 years ago, it’s certainly worth taking a look at it. If it says CAT5 on the wire as opposed to CAT5E or CAT6, your wire is causing a problem for you. CAT5 network wire can only handle up to 100mbps without having issues.
So take a look at these items on your network and see if you have any of the above bottlenecks in your network. If so, give us a call, or call us anyway and we’ll do a quick audit for you for free. Just click here.
There are so many different ways to backup data, but is your data secure? That is the real question here. And beyond that, how fast can I get my data back in the event of a disaster? It’s best to not just look at this from the data backup perspective, but from the recovery perspective. Let’s start here. In the event of a total catastrophe…say a hurricane knocks down your building, how fast would you need that data back to get your business up and running? And do you just need that data, or do you need the programs that make all of your data work? Your invoicing system? Your parts management system? Your accounting system? Dispatching software? It’s much deeper than just backing up those loose files. Every minute that you are down is costing your a lot of money. So always start by asking this question: If my server goes down, how fast do i need that entire server back up and running? How does 30 minutes sound? We can do that!
A Talking Virus!
Can you believe how creative these criminals are getting. Turn up your volume a bit and listen. This scared the heck out of one of our clients. Fortunately, it’s an easy fix for us. If you ever see “or hear” this, give us a call.
My Data Is Backed Up, So I Can Recover It Fast, Right?
Here’s a big (and scary) misconception you might have about your data backups: backing up your data guarantees a fast recovery. It does NOT! In short, data backup is nothing more than copying files. There are a number of ways data can be backed up, both manually and automatically—and you don’t need to know all the technical ins and outs of them. But what you DO need to know is whether your current backup is set up in a way that would allow for the fastest possible recovery time in the event of a disaster or data-erasing event. You might be shocked to find out it’s not as fast and easy as you’d like to think.
Disaster Recovery Vs. Data Backup
Let’s start by defining what “disaster recovery” is. Disaster recovery is the process by which you will RECOVER the functionality of your data, software programs, devices and business operations in the event of a “disaster.” A disaster can be as simple as a server crashing or a more catastrophic event such as a tornado. But here’s the real kicker: MOST data loss is not due to a natural disaster such as a flood, hurricane, tornado, etc. Most data is lost because of simple human error, such as employees accidentally deleting files, faulty hardware or even a virus or hacker attack that brings down your entire network.
Because most businesses believe “that could never happen to me,” they are caught completely off guard when there’s a major outage or files get deleted or corrupted beyond recovery. They THINK because they have things “backed up” they can instantly get those files back and start working again. Not so.
Here’s a perfect analogy: Let’s suppose you could back up all the personal items you have in your house—your clothes, furniture, valuables, etc., and somehow maintain a copy of everything in a warehouse 1,000 miles away from your current residence. Now let’s suppose (and God forbid) your house burns down, destroying everything with it. You’d be relieved that you had a copy of everything somewhere else, so it’s not a total loss (which, by the way, is why your backups need to be OFF-SITE, not on devices in your office).
But here’s the problem: If your house burned down, you might have a copy of everything you own, but you no longer have a place to put it. So, for starters, you have to rebuild the house. Next you have the project of getting everything out of that storage unit into your NEW house. Then you have to rearrange everything. This is exactly how most backup systems work UNLESS you are running “image” backups. An image will allow you to restore your server, PC, device, etc., FAST because you’re not backing up single items but, instead, the ENTIRE HOUSE.
BYOD, or “bring your own device,” is one of the fastest-growing trends for all businesses. With almost all applications moving to the cloud, it’s no longer necessary to have a traditional network with laptops and PC connected. But is it a GOOD idea to give employees that freedom? Here are some pros and cons about employees using their own laptops, tablets, and smartphones for work.
The pros of BYOD:
• You save money because you no longer have to purchase new hardware when you hire someone.
• Your employees will be using devices they’re comfortable using, which often makes them more productive and less frustrated when working.
• If the equipment malfunctions, the employee bears the responsibility and cost of repair. However, some employees may expect you to pay for this since they are using it for work purposes as well.
The cons of BYOD:
• What if that employees leaves? Since they own the device, they may have confidential information stored on it. How can you extract and/or erase that if you won’t have ownership of the device?
• How do you ensure security? This is the biggest downside and needs to be carefully considered. What happens when your salesperson’s six-year-old downloads a virus? What if your accounts-payable person loses their device at Starbucks? What if they’re using their device to use file-sharing sites that are riddled with viruses? If you’re a publicly held USA corporation, you’re governed by the federal Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). The Act is designed to protect against fraud by creating verifiable security controls to protect against disclosure of confidential data, and tracking of personnel to detect data tampering. If your business accepts credit card payments, you need to be compliant with the 12 regulations of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). If you’re in or you support the health-care industry, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act demands that all HIPAA-covered businesses prevent unauthorized access to “Protected Health Information” or PHI (patients’ names, addresses, and all information pertaining to patients’ health and payment records).
In our opinion, we don’t recommend mixing personal and work devices because it invites too many security and privacy issues. With viruses and online threats at an all-time high, you need to lock down and protect your company “environment” as much as possible by issuing company-owned devices, laptops and computers that are monitored and properly secured, backed up and protected