Checklist: Do You Need a Virtual CIO?

Amid your daily responsibilities, are you making time to strengthen your cybersecurity, create a disaster recovery strategy and plan other value-added IT initiatives? Like most small and medium-sized companies, you probably don’t have enough time in the day to devote to protecting and advancing your business technology. A virtual Chief Information Officer (vCIO) serves as an executive-level member of your team, helping you maintain a competitive advantage by successfully leveraging the right technology for your business.

Do you need a vCIO? Answer these questions to find out:

Do you know where your data is stored and how to access it in case of a disaster?

Your primary systems can fail without warning when you face a natural disaster, malicious cyberattack, power outage or employee error. Do you have a process in place to quickly retrieve your mission-critical data? Do you know how long your business can be down before it dramatically impacts your bottom line? Knowing the answers to these questions is imperative – The US Bureau of Labor found 93 percent of companies without a disaster recovery plan are out of business within one year of suffering a major data disaster.

Do your employees know how to safely use their mobile devices for work?

With the rise of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, organizations are using mobile devices more than ever. Mobile devices can improve your team’s flexibility and productivity – in fact, a study by Cisco found that companies with BYOD processes save an average of $350 per year, per user. However, they also open your business up to additional cyberthreats. Companies that are serious about implementing BYOD must deploy end-to-end security software and institute company-wide training to minimize incidents.

Do you have a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy in place?

When enterprise companies like Macy’s, Apple and Facebook get hacked, you hear about it on the news – but you probably don’t hear about the thousands of small and medium-sized businesses that suffer cyberattacks each year. The worst part is that, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance, 83 percent of small businesses have no formal cybersecurity plan and 69 percent have no plan at all. This isn’t a job that can be left to a single person, and even if you have an internal IT team, these tasks will take up the majority of their time.

Are you aware of new technology that could improve your operations?

Technology is constantly evolving and providing new opportunities for businesses, but the latest technology isn’t always the greatest and what works for others might not work for you. If you’re not entirely confident that a new solution or product will actually provide a strong ROI, you could be wasting thousands of dollars. Most business owners don’t have time to thoroughly research every new product or determine whether it will be a good long-term fit for their company, so they make the wrong investments or opt not to invest at all.

If you answered “no” to one or more of these questions, you need the assistance of a virtual CIO. For a fraction of the cost of hiring an in-house CIO, you get access to a team of IT experts who help you develop sound business continuity, BYOD and cybersecurity policies – all while keeping your technology costs down and leveraging new technology to keep you competitive. To learn what a vCIO can do for you, contact us now.


4 Must-Have Tools for Your Team

You’re always searching for the latest and greatest tools to improve your team’s collaboration and productivity, but wouldn’t it be nice to know that the solutions you wanted to implement would actually do what you need them to? Often, applications are implemented as an end-all-be-all solution, but they don’t integrate with existing apps or cost more over time than your budget can accommodate.

What could the right tool mean for your business? A study by the McKinsey Institute found that teams improved productivity up to 25 percent through increased collaboration. That’s why finding the right tool for your specific needs is critical to improving the efficiency of your business. To get started, check out these four must-have tools and applications:

 

Cisco Webex

With crystal-clear video quality, Webex keeps your clients and team connected. Call in to a meeting over an Internet connection from anywhere in the world and discuss projects and tasks, share documents and presentations, and eliminate conversation barriers. Cisco protects your video conversation with data encryption and a multi-layered security solution to keep your connection safe.

 

Slack

Slack is a messenger application that offers nearly instantaneous responses from peers and clients. With an unlimited number of channels to share tasks, get feedback from clients and adjust expectations for project deliveries, Slack keeps your entire team on the same page. Include plugins like Jira or Dropbox and seamlessly send documents using a secured channel.

 

Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft applications like Word, Excel and PowerPoint have played a critical role in the way businesses perform – now, Office 365 provides the same powerful software in a digital format. Access and edit your documents from anywhere with an Internet connection. Collaborate with your team and make changes to the same file in nearly real-time to streamline your deliverables while eliminating the risk of losing progress.

 

Yammer

Similar to Facebook, Yammer provides an internal communication platform for professionals. Set up groups and post status updates to the group’s news feed, tagging all necessary parties. Whether your client needs to share files and photos with your entire team, or you’re looking to update your peers on the status of a project, Yammer gives your team full visibility on what’s happening and when.

 

Cloud-based collaboration tools provide the applications you need to improve productivity and efficiency without the costly hardware and software deployments. For more information or to get help implementing the right cloud-based solution for your business, contact us today.


Cloud 101: How to Leverage Innovative Cloud Technologies

The cloud is a complex but critical environment for driving efficiency and reducing operating costs. By collaborating with technologies like edge computing – which processes data at the edge of your network – and utilizing project management techniques, the cloud automates processes and provides a variety of environments to fit your unique needs.

From public and private to hybrid solutions, the cloud easily integrates with your existing solutions and empowers your applications to do more without increasing your budget. Using cloud bursting techniques, you can move applications and resources between private and public cloud environments to reduce expenditures and streamline processes. But that’s not the only way to leverage innovative cloud technologies:

 

A hybrid cloud solution provides flexibility.

Businesses bounce back and forth between public and private cloud options to determine which one makes the most sense for their situation. Hybrid is often counted out as it’s complicated to leverage on your own.

With a strategic IT partner, you can rake in the benefits of hybrid cloud environments without the pressures of managing or implementing it yourself. Plus, an IT expert can suggest which cloud environments would work best to resolve your challenges and scale to fit your business.

 

The cloud makes IoT and edge computing possible.

While Internet of Things (IoT) and Internet of Everything (IoE) use the cloud to communicate with devices and other machines to provide a seamless experience, edge computing builds off IoT to provide an efficient and streamlined data transfer. By using real-time data and analytics, edge computing reduces the burden on your network while keeping your devices connected.

By adopting edge computing and leveraging IoT, you can enhance your customers’ experience and gain accurate data for insights and profile-building. Discover how your customers view your products and make their purchases, then using edge computing streamline that data and quickly transport it to the necessary departments – reducing response times and improving ROI.

 

Automation and AI alleviate the burden on your cloud administrators.

As cloud adoption continues to grow at unprecedented rates, system admins are struggling to keep up with the time-consuming, repetitive tasks involved in managing a cloud environment. This results in businesses spending too much money on tedious tasks and losing the focus of their experts.

By implementing autonomous AI processes, you can lessen the burden of labor-intensive tasks like copying and extracting data and prevent duplicated efforts. AI platforms support data governance, so you can ensure you’re meeting compliance standards while distributing work more evenly and improving your overall workflow.

With us as your partner, you’re already a step ahead of the competition. We’ll help you implement innovative cloud technologies so you can leverage powerful tools designed to clean up your operations and improve your ROI. For more information on how to leverage cloud technologies and how we can help, contact us today.


3 Strategies for Conquering Ethics & Privacy

From implementing blockchain to securing data with encryption and disaster recovery solutions, protecting your business’s and customers’ confidential data is crucial to strengthening your reputation and ensuring privacy. But, as more companies come under scrutiny for their data policies, it’s important to understand where digital ethics comes into play for your business.

Digital ethics involve the moral decisions that are made in regard to the virtual world. Are you collecting data without users’ permission? Are you selling that data to the highest buyer? What you do with the confidential information you’ve collected contributes to your digital ethics.

Understanding digital ethics can be overwhelming – but these three strategies can help you stay on top of it:

 

  1. Monitoring

You should monitor everything – from internal technology usage and system security to how users are visiting your site. By analyzing this data, you’ll gain insight into your team and customers, including if they leverage technology for its intended use or if they navigate/utilize tech in unexpected ways.

By monitoring your security, you can ensure your customers’ and business’s confidential information is safe from threats like cyber criminals, natural disasters and disgruntled employees. A multi-layered security solution including data encryption, threat detection software, disaster recovery plans and other security initiatives provides a holistic approach to protecting your data from all angles.

 

  1. Transparency

Being transparent about what information you’re tracking and how you’re using customer data is essential to building trust and strengthening your digital ethics. If you think to yourself, “I don’t want my customers to know I track that,” then you may have discovered a digital ethics issue.

Transparency isn’t easy, but it plays a critical role in creating trust between your business and customers. Knowing what does and doesn’t violate your customers’ privacy is key to navigating digital ethics.

 

  1. The Right Balance

Walking the fine line between being helpful and being intrusive can be challenging. While your customer data collection may have the best of intentions – improving their experience, reducing their time talking with customer service, reminding them of products they have left in their cart – it doesn’t always strike the right chord. By creating a value alignment that shows the value to customers as prominently and clearly as it does for your business, you can create a win/win scenario.

Algorithms for personalizing experiences and collecting and exchanging data don’t have to feel more intrusive than supportive. By implementing these three strategies, you can find the perfect balance that works for you and your customers. For more information on how to deploy a multi-layered security solution that keeps collected data safe, contact us today.


5 Trending Tech Gifts Rated from Practical to Ultra Cool

What’s more challenging to you, buying gifts for people who like to have all the cool stuff or shopping for those with more practical tastes? We all know people on either side of the spectrum, though most are somewhere in the middle. How do you get the right gift for each of them?

To make your shopping a little easier, we’ve rated five trending holiday tech gifts by how cool they are. We’ve even created a coolness scale for them, from one ice cube for the most practical gifts to five ice cubes for the ultra-cool. Regardless of their coolness rating, each of these gifts is hot right now, and that’s a good thing.

One Ice Cube

Nest Learning Thermostat

By programming your thermostat for you without any instructions, the Nest Learning Thermostat makes your life so much easier it’s actually a little bit cool – and that’s saying a lot for a thermostat. Nest pays attention to when you raise and lower the temperature, so it can take over the task of programming itself for you. For all the practical people you know, Nest is a very smart gift.

Two Ice Cubes

Linksys Velop Mesh WiFi

You know that moment when you make yourself nice and comfy with your laptop or tablet and then realize that you have no WiFi in that part of the house or yard? Give someone on your list the Linksys Velop Mesh WiFi and they will never have that experience again. Each node covers 2,000 square feet. Additional nodes can be daisy chained together to achieve 100 percent WiFi coverage.

Three Ice Cubes

Amazon Echo Show

The second-generation Echo Show raises the coolness factor with a 10.1-inch HD screen, premium speakers and video call capability. Alexa awaits every command, from turning lights on and off to playing your music to showing you recipes, photos, movies and much more. Eight microphones allow Alexa to hear you even when music is playing. Echo Show is a gift many people don’t realize how much they’ll love it until they have it, and that’s pretty cool.

Four Ice Cubes

Xbox or PS4

Sure, these gaming systems have been around for a long time, but so many people play games on other devices that when they finally get a chance to play on an Xbox or PS4, the first words out of their mouths are usually, “This is cool!” Playing Fortnite on a big screen Full HD or 4K TV is eminently cooler than playing on a phone or laptop. Plus, the gaming system doubles as a streaming device for the TV. Everyone wins.

Five Ice Cubes

iPhone XS

How do you make the coolest phone even cooler? Leave it to Apple. Upgrades to face recognition security and speaker sound quality top the list, along with new color choices. Those inclined to having phone accidents will appreciate that the iPhone XS can handle a deeper and longer fall into water. On screen, the dynamic range has been boosted 60 percent, which means the darks are darker and the lights are lighter. Still the ultra-coolest.

Our Gift to You

We also have one very cool and extremely practical gift, just for your business. We will come to your office to evaluate and report on how well your current technology is serving your business. No fee, no obligation - it’s on us. Contact us today.

 


Office 365 blog

4 Statistics that will Have You Rethinking Office 365

Moving to the cloud can be a big decision for any business. And it makes sense to take every precaution for your employees and your customers. Office 365 has been gaining a lot of recognition for its simplicity and big benefits. So what’s keeping you from making the move? Don’t let your own reservations hold your team back. If you’re not already using Office 365, read on to see a few statistics that might sway your decision.

According to Global Business Travel Association 1.3 Million Business Trips Occur Each Day in the U.S

The mobile workforce is on the rise and Office 365 is the solution that keeps everyone connected – from virtually anywhere. So, whether your team is in and out of meetings, traveling for a business trip or posted up at a local coffee shop, they’ll still have access to everything they need to keep up with their workload.

According to Project Management Institute Approximately 33% of Projects Fail Completely Because of Poor Communication

Miscommunication and working in silos creates an environment that’s anything but successful.

With Office 365, gone are the days where one person makes edits to a document, and then emails it to another person so they can make changes too. This process is messy and leaves too much room for mistakes. Instead, take advantage of Microsoft’s collaborative capabilities, so you can have your whole team editing the same document and see the changes happening in real time.

According to Contingency Planning and Strategic Research Corporation 96% of All Business Workstations are Not Backed Up Regularly

What happens when your data isn’t backed up? It goes missing, and now you’re in big trouble. Storing your information safely in the cloud is the easiest way to protect it. So, whenever you change a document, update an Excel spreadsheet or basically do anything in Office 365, everything is automatically saved. You’ll always know where your data is and can easily access it – no matter what. 

Companies can save up to 60% on Licensing Fees with Office 365

Office 365 is extremely appealing for small businesses who don’t want to deal with high upfront costs. Instead, you get a flexible monthly bill that allows you to add or decrease the number of users based on your needs. Plus, you’re not locked into a contract and you can change plans at any time to suit your growing business. 

Office 365 is an obvious choice for businesses that want to encourage communication and collaboration, have the ability to access their information no matter what and want lower technology costs. If you don’t want to do accomplish these goals, then yes, stay away from Office 365. Otherwise, it might be a smart decision to give us a call. We can help you with Office 365 migration and make sure you’re set up for success.


unified communications

Make the Switch to Unified Communications

The Top 5 Reasons to Help You Make Up Your Mind

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. Unified communications (UC) helps optimize the communication process by providing features like video conferencing, call control and more. So, why haven’t you made the switch yet?

Adopting unified communications is a big decision that requires asking some tough questions: is it the best choice for your business in the long-term? Does it make financial sense to invest? How easy is it to integrate with existing solutions? There’s a lot to consider, so we found five reasons to help ease the decision process.

Reduce the cost of multi-platform solutions.

UC includes video conferencing, call control, presence and other solutions that are typically bought separately.  By integrating all of those features, you not only create a seamless technology experience, you reduce the number of fees you’re paying for each platform.

Connect your team with improved availability.

No matter where your team is located – different offices, states or countries – you’ll have a direct line to the person you need. Using instant messaging and UC solutions, see when someone is available or when they’re in a meeting, so you can stay connected with your team easier.

Provide a better customer experience with call control.

Nothing is more frustrating for a new or existing customer than being placed on hold for extended periods of time and experiencing multiple call transfers. With call control, you know exactly why a customer has called, who they’ve already talked to and how long they’ve been waiting before you say “hello.”

Clean up your workflow with employee accountability.

With traditional phone systems, it’s difficult to track which team members are talking to which customers. UC optimizes your work processes by minimizing the finger-pointing. You’ll see exactly which team member spoke to which customer and how long they conversed.

Improve productivity with streamlined communications.

By uniting your communications, you not only reduce the amount of back-and-forth between your internal team, but you minimize the call-holding times of your customers. UC uses direct communication methods to boost productivity, reduce wait times and help solve your customer’s challenges faster.

When it comes down to it, deploying unified communication solutions is easy with the right partner. Contact us today to learn more about our UC services and how we can help you optimize your telecommunications.


remote workforce

Thinking About a Remote Workforce?

Learn How to Solve the 3 Toughest Challenges

So, you’re thinking about implementing a remote workforce, huh? That’s smart… like, saving-thousands-of-dollars smart. With transportation and car-related expenses—on average—your employees are spending a thousand dollars a month in gas, insurance and vehicle maintenance. But, working remote comes with its own challenges. Does your business have what it takes to save your employees and your organization money while remaining productive and efficient? To get started, you’re going to need some help from managed services.

Communication

The Challenge | Whether you’re talking to your team or answering questions from your customers, communication makes up a significant portion of your day. It’s also the toughest challenge while working remotely. You need solutions that accommodate working from anywhere while providing the efficiency of working in the office.

The Solution | There are two main managed services that optimize your communications while working remotely. VoIP leverages IP telecom solutions that allow you to converse with colleagues and customers at the same time from virtually anywhere. While Office 365 provides Microsoft’s most powerful productivity tools including Skype for Business, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more, so you can collaborate with team members in real-time. 

Security

The Challenge | Mobile devices—especially off-site—increases risk of breaches, security gaps and downtime. If your personal devices have full access to confidential data, then you fear a data breach if your device is lost or stolen. Since most cyberattacks occur through email, keeping mobile and other devices that are connected to your email safe is critical to protecting your organization.

The Solution | With endpoint protection you keep your laptops, tablets and mobile devices safe from cybercriminals. You’ll gain training on how to protect your personal devices and gain extensive security procedures for keeping your hardware safe from phishing emails, ransomware, viruses and other cyberattacks. 

Access

The Challenge | Protecting your network from unauthorized users and malicious attacks start with restricting access. But, finding that IT sweet spot between giving your team the resources they need to succeed and limiting access from damaging intent is difficult to pinpoint. You need a solution designed to keep your business and customers protected.

The Solution | Keeping your business safe and your customer’s data confidential begins with network security services. Your systems are analyzed, and security procedures are implemented to close gaps in your defenses. Plus, we’ll give proper authorization to certified users and create a multi-layer approach to protecting your network, servers, hardware, and ultimately, your business.

Keeping your employees, customers and business safe while working remotely isn’t difficult, but it does require the expertise of an IT professional. We’re here to help make the transition from office to coffee shop easy and painless. So, you’ll save thousands and have the freedom to work wherever.

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