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VersaTrust Blog

VersaTrust has been serving the Texas area since 1997 , providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Mental shifts to make before cloud migration

Productivity, collaboration, freedom. These words are often touted when the benefits cloud technology are mentioned. But do all businesses that make the cloud switch achieve these? Unfortunately the answer is no. Some businesses flounder in the new technology, and some even become less productive because of it. So how can you avoid such a fate? Well, attitude plays a big role. Here are three mental shifts to make before your cloud migration.

Consider cloud value over costs

When considering the cloud, too many business owners get hung up on costs. Instead, it makes more sense to think about how the cloud impacts their business and saves them money. The old saying, “you have to spend money to make money” is ever so true here. And as a business owner, the cloud is no different than any other investment you took to grow your organization. That’s why you should remember the cloud provides you value, such as the ability to work anytime, anywhere, and easier collaboration.

And of course, you shouldn’t just think of how the cloud benefits yourself, but also your IT managers and staff. In fact, before migrating to the cloud, why not go ahead and ask your IT leaders just how the cloud will benefit your business? They’ll likely mention how it can boost the productivity levels of all your employees, while making everyone’s job easier.

Think “strategy” before migration

Once you’ve considered the value the cloud provides, you’ll likely have some ideas of what goals you’ll want it to accomplish at your business. If you haven’t, now is the time to do so - before signing up for the service. Let’s say for example, you want to gain the productivity benefits of your staff being able to work from anywhere at anytime. How can you do this? When you roll out the cloud in your company, have the specific goal of increasing mobile use or adoption among employees. Talk with your IT leaders to devise a plan they can implement.

When it comes to your other cloud goals, clearly define them beforehand and then talk with your IT staff to come up with the nuts and bolts plan to accomplish that goal. By doing this, you’ll achieve much better results with your cloud service.

Learn to love the quickly evolving nature of the cloud

As the cloud is still a new technology, it is rapidly changing. New updates, features and enhancements are rolled out regularly, and if you want to get the most out of your cloud it’s best to keep up. Of course, this is a scary idea for many business owners and IT managers alike as the old way of doing things is rolling out new features and apps over long periods of time.

Some cloud services make it easier than ever to keep up with changes. Let’s take Office 365 for example. Adding users and implementing new changes can take mere minutes. Yes, it may be scary to do so, but remember, Microsoft and your IT managers are in your corner - they are there to support you. Of course, you may still have some bad memories from updating your legacy technology. Let us assure you, updates to Office 365 are nothing like this and require a small learning curve. Most new features are intuitive by nature, making adjustment to these changes painless and problem-free.

One of the best ways to assure your cloud updates go as smoothly as possible is to have an IT leader who’s enthusiastic about the technology be responsible for managing it. A cloud enthusiast is much more likely to be up-to-date on the newest features and enhancements and can quickly share with you whether or not an update will benefit your business.

When it comes to cloud migration for your business, it’s pretty much an all or nothing decision (unless of course you go with virtualization, which is a different topic altogether). The cloud will become an integral part of your business, and you and all of your staff will interact with it on a daily basis. So be prepared for a big transition and a big payoff of higher productivity and connectivity for you and your staff.

Are you ready to embrace the cloud with a solution like Office 365? Give us a call, and talk with us about a cloud migration today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Technology ROI 101

Your technology needs to produce a return on investment. If it doesn’t, you’re wasting you and your staff’s time and money. But how can you ensure you gain that coveted ROI you’re after? What does it actually mean to have a positive ROI? And how can you tell if you have one? Here are a few tips for calculating the true costs of a new technology investment.

ROI basics

What does it mean to have a positive return on investment? It’s pretty simple. A positive ROI means the results a technology produces are greater than or equal to the amount of time and money invested. Obviously you want a positive ROI, but when is the right time to consider it? Should it be before or after you make a technology purchase? The answer is both. Before purchasing, you want to carefully consider whether a technology service or product is worth your money. Then months after you’ve implemented it, you should analyze whether or not you made a good investment. Doing this enables you to learn from your mistakes (if you made one) and make a wiser technology purchase next time.

Also, don’t forget to look at your technology currently in use. Ask yourself, is your technology simply keeping the lights on? Or is it providing a solid foundation for your business to grow? If the answer is the former, there are likely better options out there worth trying.

How to calculate ROI

When calculating ROI, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Here is a simple formula to get you started.

ROI = net gain/cost
Example: You spend $100 and make $150. Your net gain is $50
ROI = 50/100 = 50%

If you’ve yet to purchase a service or new equipment, you obviously don’t know how much profit it will generate. So you’ll have to do a bit of guesswork and estimation. It’s also important to consider some intangibles. Think about the productivity costs of staff time, disruption, and frustration (because most of us don’t work effectively when frustrated). Let’s take staff time for example. How much time will your staff save if you implement a Managed Services solution? With your employees no longer having to put out IT fires daily, what if your entire staff saves 50 hours a week because of it? How much does that add up to in saved salary expense? It’s important here not just to think about the savings in time, but also what your staff could be doing with those extra 50 hours. They could put those hours towards marketing or growing your business. And that alone could make up for the costs of the technology investment itself.

Intangibles don’t just apply to saving time, frustration and disruptions, but also the costs of implementing the new technology. For example, how much time will be required to train your staff on the new technology? What’s the cost of that? Also, how much time will it take to migrate from your old system to the new one? You should consider all of these when estimating your ROI.

Lastly, don’t forget to consider the unique circumstance of subscription purchases. Since you are usually paying these on a monthly basis, it can be a bit tricky to add up real costs. That’s why it’s important to use a timeline for these. For example, if you subscribe to software as a service, what’s the cost of that plan over the course of one year or five? How much money will you save over that time span?

What’s the benefit?

Besides the staffing example mentioned above, consider how a technology investment can create new revenue streams. For example, an investment in VoIP opens up an opportunity to offer video consulting to clients in parts of the country (or even world) that would normally be out of reach. This obviously leads to a new revenue stream and increased profits. So ask yourself, can the technology you’re considering create new revenue streams?

Next steps

Before making a technology purchase, it’s wise to talk with both management and end users about your decision. If you fail to consult your end users before implementation, they may disagree with your decision and therefore take longer to adapt or even rebel against it. Checking with them beforehand gives them a chance to offer valuable feedback on how it will be used in the trenches, and will get them onboard with the technology if you implement it. As for your management team, they can be a valuable resource to bounce ideas off of and gain insights about the technology you may have overlooked.

Lastly, ROI does not need to be calculated for every purchase. If you need to buy something small, like a new keyboard, just go and buy it. Save your ROI calculations for much larger investments that can have a dramatic impact on your business.

If you need help determining the ROI of a potential technology investment, feel free to give us a call for a chat. Our experts can help you determine the true benefits of a given technology and help you make a wise investment.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Monitoring employees online. Is it right?

Whether or not to monitor your employees' computers can be a tricky decision. While part of you may think it’s unethical, you also may question if your staff are spending too much time on non-work related activities, and taking advantage of you in the process. So, should you monitor? Here are some pros and cons of monitoring, and some tips to effectively do it if you decide it’s right for your business.

The case for monitoring

There are a number of reasons why monitoring your employees is a good idea. Doing so can help you:
  • Protect your organization from data theft or harm - because some disgruntled employees may try to steal from you or corrupt your data.
  • Ensure you have a harassment free workplace - because cyber harassment (sexual or otherwise) happens among employees.
  • Ensure staff are complying with policies - not downloading illegal programs or spending time on websites with illegal or hostile content.
  • Provide evidence in case of a lawsuit - heaven forbid this happens, but if an employee participates in illegal activities on your business’s computers, monitoring can provide evidence of it.
The sad fact of the matter is that many businesses who monitor end up discovering that employees are doing things they’re not happy about. Research by Nancy Flynn, the executive director of the ePolicy Institute in Columbus, Ohio, revealed that two thirds of companies monitor their employees, and half of them have fired employees due to their behavior on email and the web.

Cons

Of course there are some potential downsides to monitoring that you should be aware of as well. These include:
  • Productivity loss - monitoring can kill employee morale, and therefore you may see a hit in their productivity if they feel you distrust them.
  • TMI and lawsuits - you’ll likely learn about the personal lives of your employees that you would’ve never known about had you not monitored. You may discover their political or religious views, sexual orientation or medical problems. This could potentially open up your business to privacy or discrimination issues if you or your management team act negatively on this information.

Monitoring guidelines to follow

If you decide to monitor your employees, here are a few tips you should follow.

1. Create written policies

When you decide to monitor, ask yourself, are you doing it for security purposes? Is it to ensure your employees are not wasting large amounts of time on Social media? Whatever the reasons, it’s smart to balance your policies with the expectations of your employees. If you’re too strict with your monitoring, you could create that atmosphere of distrust we mentioned above. So set guidelines for acceptable use of email, social media, web surfing, instant messaging, and downloading software and apps. Also, in your policy, include how monitoring will be carried out and how data will be secured or destroyed.

2. Tell your employees

It’s important to inform your employees about your monitoring. If they find out you’re doing it without their knowledge, you could create resentment among them or even face legal issues. And just by letting staff know, you may actually see a boost in productivity as it could deter them from wasting time on the web.

When you tell your employees, explain why you’re doing it and the risks your business faces from misuse of digital assets. Reassure them you’re not doing it to spy on their personal life, but only attempting to create a compliant and law abiding workplace. Because their activities will now be less private, encourage your staff to keep their personal communication to their smartphones. Also, provide a copy of your written policy to employees to read over and sign.

3. Get the right technology tools

While there are many technology tools to monitor your employees, bear in mind, you don’t need to follow their every move. In fact, you shouldn’t as it will not only waste your time, but also cause you to find out more information than necessary. So look for technology that will alert you to potential problems, so you can focus on more important things. Lastly, you may also want to consider technology that can block certain content, like porn or hate websites, as employee access to this content could create larger problems.

Whether or not to monitor your employees can be a tricky decision but, if implemented correctly, could benefit your business in making it more secure and even more productive. For more information about security and other IT support tools, get in touch. We’ll make our best effort to help however we can.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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How to be more productive in life and work

Between your customers, vendors, employees and other moving parts of your organization, it can be difficult to find the time to focus on your business. On a daily basis, you likely have to deal with dozens of tasks, and oftentimes don’t finish them all. So how can you fix this? How can you be more productive, complete your to-do-list and get out of the office on time? There are a couple of key productivity principles and technology solutions that can help.

Have a single focus

When Bill Gates and Warren Buffet were asked what the single most important reason for their success in life was, both answered with a single word: focus. It is that important. When you work on one task for an extended period of time, the quality of your work is at its highest. What’s more, you’ll also finish that task in a shorter amount of time than if you had to stop and start it repeatedly due to distractions.

This principle of focus can be applied to many areas of business and life. Whether you’re writing a report, sharing time with your family, or simply reading a book for your own pleasure, the quality of that experience improves with the more uninterrupted time you dedicate to it. Now, when it comes to IT and technology, this same principle can have a tremendous impact on your business. Not only do technology distractions - such as constantly breaking computers, security breaches, and slow servers - hurt your productivity, but they also crush your spirits. How can you focus on growing your business like this? This is where an MSP comes in. They can help eliminate all IT interruptions so you get back to doing what you do best - running your business. What’s not to love about that?

Obey Parkinson’s law

If you ever pulled an all-nighter as a university student, you may be familiar with Parkinson’s law. The principle states that the time it takes to complete a task expands or shrinks depending on the time allotted for it. For example, when you were hitting the books in high school or college, you may have noticed that a few students (and maybe you were one of them) would put off an important paper or project to the last moment and still end up getting an A. While at the same time, other students would take weeks to complete the same project or paper and only manage a B. So how did this happen? This peculiar phenomenon is the magic of Parkinson’s law at work. When you have less time to work on a project, you focus only on the important aspects of it. Oftentimes this is all you need to do a good job.

So whether it’s a company meeting or the amount of time you put towards researching your next vacation, apply Parkinson’s law to increase everyone’s focus and ensure you’re not wasting valuable time on the task. As for your IT, give your in-house staff a reasonable, yet specific amount of time, to complete a task. This will ensure they finish the job in a timely manner, and then move on to other projects. Alternatively, you can simply outsource all of your IT to an MSP for a single, flat monthly fee, and never have to worry about it to begin with.

Use technology to become superhuman

As human beings, technology enables us to become more than we could have ever dreamed of. Apps like Evernote can enable us to remember every valuable piece of information we encounter. Cloud technology can bring a remote workforce scattered around the country together so they can work on the same project simultaneously. VoIP gives you the ability to video-chat with business partners, loved ones, and friends while they’re as far off as Bangkok or Baghdad. Technology is reshaping not only the business world, but also the life of every individual on the planet. So when it comes to your own business, is your company going to take advantage?

We hope that these productivity tips will help improve your life in and outside of the office. If you’d like to know more about how IT can transform your business, to make it more efficient and profitable, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Understanding the types of virtualization

Whether your business is hit with a brief power outage or an extreme weather disaster, any kind of interruption to your organization’s productivity can cut into your profits. That’s why it is important to have a business continuity plan and utilize BC tools to ensure your organization can stay in operation at all times. Here are some of the key strategies many companies rely on to keep their doors open.

Backup your data, applications and servers

Today, companies are more dependent than ever on IT and their business data. If these critical components suddenly become inaccessible, can your business stay open? For most business owners, the simple answer is no. This is why backing up these elements is vital to your business’s success. Backing them up ensures they can be restored quickly in the event of a disaster, security breach, or damage to IT equipment.

Obviously, to ensure the accessibility of your IT, you need to backup all your data, applications and servers regularly. The keyword here being “regularly”. While in the past most businesses would do this on-site and with tape backups, today more and more businesses are using the cloud. Some of the prime reasons for backing up to the cloud are as follows:

  • Affordability
  • Backups can be automated, therefore saving you time
  • Cloud providers usually backup your data to multiple locations (so if one of their facilities goes down, your backup is still safe at another site)
  • Backups can be accessed from anywhere, whether it’s at an employee’s home or at an alternate office
  • If you need to use it, backups can be restored quickly

Virtualize servers and desktops

When you virtualize your servers or desktops, they can be used at any location - be it at your workplace, home, or a coffee shop in the Bahamas. In terms of business continuity, this is useful in case your main office suddenly becomes unusable due to a disaster such as a flood, a break-in, or if you’re simply unable to get there because of hostile weather conditions.

Have a backup power supply

Power outages essentially zap all your employees productivity. No electricity means no work. And that means you’re paying them to do nothing. Having a backup power supply like a generator will ensure that when the electricity goes down, your employees can continue working. A good solution is an uninterrupted power supply (UPS). When you have this, a power outage will not affect your employees ability to work. They can work seamlessly through it, as if nothing ever happened. Also, if you have a server room, the UPS will ensure your vital servers stay cool.

Utilize social media

Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or Google +, most people are on at least one social network these days. And if there is any kind of weather-related disaster, social media is usually one of the first places customers, colleagues, staff and vendors will check to see the status of your business. This is because even if the phone lines or local power goes out, social media is usually accessible. So when it comes to business continuity, have at least one active social media account you use to keep your customers and followers informed.

Implement Unified Communications

Unified Communication (UC) can essentially create a virtualized communication infrastructure. That means instead of your communication tools - like phones, instant messaging, video calls - all being stored locally at your workplace, you can access them anywhere. So for whatever reason if your office is inaccessible, employees can still use your phones and other communication tools from their homes. What’s more, UC tools can route business calls to your employees smartphones. That means they’ll never miss an important call, even if they’re not in the office.

So there you have it, five tools to ensure your business operates continuously no matter what comes your way. If you’d like to implement business continuity technology in your business or develop a continuity plan, we’re happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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How to avoid potential VoIP pitfalls

When it comes to saving money for small businesses, VoIP is one IT tool that is all the rage. For many organizations, it can cut phone expenses in half. So obviously the benefit of a VoIP system can be enormous. But is there a catch? With some VoIP providers, there certainly is. So when you’re ready to install this new technology for your business, here are some common VoIP pitfalls to be aware of.

  1. Poor call quality
  2. Complicated and frustrating management of the VoIP system
  3. Negative on-hold experience for customers
You’re likely aware that a drop in call quality can tarnish the reputation of your business and result in a loss of profits. So obviously, issues like the three mentioned above may sound alarming. So does that mean that you should avoid installing a VoIP system altogether? Probably not. The thing is, VoIP isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it is likely the future of telephony service for many businesses around the globe. Any technology that has the power to dramatically cut costs, such as VoIP, is here to stay. And as the service continues to evolve, it will become even more powerful and versatile.

In the meantime, what can you do to ensure your business doesn’t suffer any of these three problems? There are a couple of solutions.

Know what you want out of your VoIP phone solution

If your business handles hundreds of customer service calls a day, your telephony needs will be different than a business that is mainly using their phone system as a method for internal communication. This is why it’s important to know exactly what you want out of your VoIP phone solution. Do you want your employees using it to make sales calls? Do you want to use it to simply answer a few customer service calls a day and communicate between internal staff? Will you be holding video meetings on it? If you know what you want out of your VoIP system in advance, it sets you up to have a practical discussion of your needs with a VoIP provider. And that leads to our next point.

Find an experienced, trusted service provider

When it comes to VoIP, who you choose as your provider can make or break the success of your new phone system. It really is that big of a deal. The three problems listed above can all be avoided with an experienced VoIP provider installing and maintaining your system. They can let you know the strengths, weaknesses and limitations of the technology, and give you realistic expectations of what you’ll get from the service. This ensures you aren’t let down and that you don’t suffer a bad telephony experience that irritates customers.

A trusted VoIP provider will have experience and has likely installed hundreds of VoIP systems. They can help you define a strategy that meets your business’s specific needs, provide recommendations on system design and management, and enable your business to get the superb call experience your customers expect. Additionally, the right VoIP provider will also provide training and support to ensure you understand how to use the system most effectively, and will be a quick phone call away to help you if problems bubble up.

And if you’ve already installed a VoIP system that’s turned buggy?

Although it’s better to consult with an experienced VoIP provider before your initial installation, it’s not too late to correct course. A trusted VoIP provider can help you resolve many of the issues you’re experiencing. Don’t settle for a VoIP system that hurts your business. You can make VoIP work for your business, and save thousands of dollars in the process.

If you need advice installing a new VoIP system or fixing your current one, don’t hesitate to call us. Our experts can provide you the consultation, support and service that enables your business to enjoy the costs savings and power of VoIP. Call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Boost productivity when working from home

If you think the idea of working from home sounds too good to be true, it’s not. Since the advent of the Internet, many business owners are open to the adoption of telecommuting, a strategy that allows their employees to work remotely in order to save commuting costs and time while increasing productivity. But of course, working from home can pose a few challenges of its own. In this article we’ll go into details as to how you can work productively at home.

One of the major concerns that business owners have when allowing people to work from home is the limited amount of control they have over their staff. Companies fear that most employees might become unproductive if they become their own boss and are responsible for managing their own hours. While it is easy for remote employees to feel disconnected from work, if you make communication a top priority, telecommuting can actually work wonders.

So have you been given the privilege to work from home? Check out the following tips to ensure a productive day.

Get dressed

It’s important not to dress too casually when working at home. That’s why wearing your pajamas while working can be counterproductive. There’s no need to choose an overly formal attire - like a suit with a tie - but at least wear something comfortable yet presentable that will help you get into a work frame of mind.

Create a focused workspace

Select a workspace that’s neither too comfortable nor uptight. The best method to get into the mindset of ‘going to work’ is to create an environment that allows you to easily focus on the tasks at hand. This can be a room with a door to keep out family members, or simply a space that’s free from all sources of distractions such as your smartphone, snacks, or the television. But in the end, it all comes down to personal preference - do you enjoy working in a clear space, or a cluttered chaos? Would background music distract you or help you concentrate? Do you like working in a bright environment, or prefer a dim area? Take these into consideration before choosing your workspace.

Plan ahead

The secret to working more productively is to have an organized plan of action. Write down the plan so you can prioritize tasks properly and schedule what needs to be done and when it must be completed. Also, it’s always helpful to know your most productive hours. This is so you can schedule your most challenging tasks during those hours and set aside easier ones in your least productive periods.

Stay away from social media

Social media is considered by many as the biggest time and productivity killer. So if your duties don’t involve managing your company’s Twitter account or responding to customers’ requests via Facebook inbox, you should steer clear from these social networking sites. There are many applications out there that allow you to block social media websites and notifications, but of course you wouldn’t have to resort to such measures if you can exert some self-control and discipline.

Invest in technology

Another thing to consider about working from home is the technology to help you work easier, such as a second monitor. Sometimes you will also need certain tools to stay connected to your company, clients, and colleagues. These tools may include but are not limited to web conferencing software, document sharing applications, or screen sharing programs.

These tips will turn your home into an office that will keep your working hours productive and disciplined throughout the day. If you’re looking to implement IT solutions that will encourage a more productive work environment, get in touch with our experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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The keys to a successful Office 365 migration

Microsoft Office 365 is growing in popularity as more and more businesses make the move to the cloud. However, without proper planning and testing beforehand, you could get stuck in the middle of the migration process, end up with duplicated data, or even have to abort the transition completely. Needless to say, all of these scenarios could result in serious network downtime. But you can easily avoid a migration nightmare by considering these key points before making the switch to Office 365.

Do your research

Researching Office 365 can seem a little overwhelming at first, but it will certainly give you a good idea of how everything will work, and what you can expect before, during, and after the migration process. You should understand and anticipate how your business’s daily operations will change when you make the move to a cloud-based platform. You also need to be aware that traditional Microsoft Office programs and Office 365 applications are completely different in terms of functionality, features, and interface.

Create a checklist

Most businesses fail to create a comprehensive migration checklist, because they tend to focus on the technical aspects without addressing other areas that are critical to the migration’s success. These include elements such as training, informing users, and gathering adoption feedback. You can start by drafting a step-by-step plan that clearly defines the phases of the migration process, and then keep refining the plan until everything is covered.

Check email settings

For a seamless transition, you need to synchronize accounts between your active directory domain and Office 365, by using Microsoft’s Azure Active Directory Synchronization tool. Don’t forget to point your company’s mail exchanger record to Office 365, so new emails will be sent directly to the new mailboxes in Office 365. Misconfiguration of email sync during the migration could flag your organization’s email as spam, disrupting the communication process with your clients and partners.

Choose your migration

Each migration plan looks different, and you should choose the one that best fits your needs. Generally, Office 365 migrations can be divided into three categories:
  • Cutover migration - this is a single provisioning and transfer of mailboxes, users, contacts, and mail groups to Office 365. The cutover process can handle up to 2,000 mailboxes, and the migration time depends on the number of users and mail volume.
  • Staged migration - if you don’t want to migrate all your resources at once, staged migration is a good alternative. It allows you to move mailboxes in smaller batches over a much longer period of time.
  • Hybrid migration - this type of migration is perfect for organizations that need to move more than 2,000 mailboxes and wish to run local Exchange servers and Office 365 simultaneously.

Test everything

Once you have broken down the whole migration into various phases, it will be easy to design a testing procedure for each phase. Standard testing processes include migrating a small amount of data, sending and receiving emails, and application trials, in order to ensure that everything works as expected. The more components you can test before migrating to the platform, the less chance there is of your company facing issues afterwards.

If you’re considering an Office 365 migration, why not let our expert technicians do the job for you? We can migrate your resources seamlessly and smoothly without disrupting your business. Get in touch today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Don’t virtualize without answers

For small or medium-sized business, getting a leg up on the competition can be the difference between simply surviving and thriving. One way of doing this is by embracing virtualization. Many SMBs have used virtualization techniques to great effect, but implementing a change can be difficult and time-consuming. Here are a few questions you should ask before virtualizing your office.

Sure, virtualization does sound fancy and expensive but, if done correctly, it can be of great benefit to your company. The process involves removing your physical equipment and instead running everything on virtual machines. This allows you to reduce expenses on equipment like servers - and, depending on your needs, even computers - while also freeing up valuable space in your office.

Before you start enjoying these benefits, or even beginning the process of virtualization at your company, there are questions you’ll need to be prepared to answer. We’re going to reveal three of the most important ones you should consider.

Who will handle the project?

Like any massive IT project, who will be overseeing the implementation of the new technology is vital to its success. There will be a lot to consider depending on whether you have an in-house IT department or utilize a Managed Services Provider to take care of your technology. Let’s take a brief look at the things you need to think about with each one.

In-house IT department - If you have IT staff on-site, the most cost-effective option would be delegating the virtualization to them. However, being cost-effective and being practical don’t always align in this situation. Before trusting your IT department with this project, you’ll want to get a better idea of their current workload, as well as what experience they have with virtualization technology. It could be in everyone’s best interests to outsource the project if you don’t believe your IT staff has the time or experience to get the project done.

Managed Services Provider - A lot of MSPs can help with the planning and execution of virtualization projects. This is normally a good thing, but make sure to ask a lot of questions in order to get a better understanding of what they do and don’t offer. Realistically, they should be able to make recommendations for your specific company and industry that align with your business goals. If you notice a lot of broad generalizations or get pigeonholed to a specific hardware manufacturer, you might consider talking with one or two other IT providers about your virtualization project.

Will you virtualize everything at once, or a little at a time?

This is a question that takes a lot of SMB owners by surprise. Many believe virtualization to be an either/or scenario, but the reality is that you can virtualize as much or as little of your technology as you want. Some businesses who are confident in the technology do it all at once, but a lot of companies take an incremental approach to their virtualization projects.

Normally, your answer to this question will come down to who’s managing the project and what your budget is. It’s not unusual for a business to start by virtualizing a few of their servers at a time. This allows you to better see just how the process works and what the benefits are. However, if you’re ready for a full-scale office virtualization, then by all means go for it; this will allow you to streamline everything into one project.

What about your applications?

Before you start the virtualization process, it’s good to come up with a list of which applications, if any, you need to be hosted at your premises. Sometimes a company may have one or two applications that they do not wish to be hosted on virtual servers. This is something you will want to take into account before the project begins, especially if you are virtualizing all of your servers. There is nothing worse than ditching everything only to realize afterwards that one or more of your applications need to remain on a physical server at your office.

We can help your organization turn virtualization into a realization. And if you’re impressed by our rhyming skills, you should check out our IT project management skills. We can help your business with all of its technology needs.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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The difference between FXS and FXO

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) systems are designed to provide a reliable and cost-effective telecommunication environment for businesses. If you’re looking to deploy a VoIP telephony system for your company, you’ll probably come across the acronyms FXS and FXO from time to time. But what exactly do these phrases mean? Here, we’ll explain the difference between FXS and FXO, so you can choose the perfect VoIP system for your business.

FXS and FXO are the interfaces for analog telephony, also called POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). Using these interfaces enables a call to be established - the ports provide the necessary electricity, dial tone, and call signal.

What is an FXS port?

FXS stands for Foreign Exchange Subscriber, a port that connects the router or access server to end-user equipment such as office phones, fax machines, or modems. In other words, it is a plug on the wall that delivers dial battery, loop current, and ringing voltage to the device, so that the analog signal can be transmitted.

What is an FXO port?

FXO stands for Foreign Exchange Office, a port on the end communication device, such as an office phone or fax machine. The FXO connects the device to the FXS port, as well as to the outside telephone line, requesting the dial tone needed to initiate a call.

How the connection works

In order for a call to work, a telecommunication line from an FXO port must be connected to an FXS port, and vice versa. The process for making calls is simple: when your FXS and FXO ports are connected, you will receive a signal from the telephone company through the FXS port in the wall. This signal is then transmitted to the FXO port connected to the device so that, when you pick up the phone, you hear the dial tone. Then you dial the phone number, which is passed as Dual-Tone Multi-Frequency (DTMF) digits to the FXS port, allowing you to make the call.

When you’re receiving an inbound call, on the other hand, the FXS port receives the call, then sends a ring voltage through the FXO port to your end device. The phone will ring, and you can pick it up to answer the call.

FXS, FXO and VoIP

The signal transmission process becomes more complex when you implement an additional network element, such as VoIP gateway. You need an FXS gateway to connect one or more lines to a VoIP system or provider. You’ll also need an FXO gateway to connect the VoIP system with analog phone lines, and to translate the analog phone line to a VoIP call.

In summary...

  • FXS is a plug on the wall, and FXO is a plug on the phone
  • FXS provides the dial tone, and FXO requests it
  • FXS is a port that receives a call; FXO is a port that initiates it
Want to learn more about FXS, FXO, or VoIP? Give us a call and our telephony experts will be happy to help.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Security rules for SMBs to follow

While small businesses lack the big budgets of their enterprise counterparts, that doesn’t make security any less of an issue for SMBs. In fact, small and medium businesses are more and more often the target of cyber criminals precisely because they generally have fewer security measures in place. So to ensure your business has enough security to stay protected, here are a number of rules every SMB should follow to keep themselves secure.

Recognize where your most critical data lies

Is it in the cloud? Hard drives? Backup disks? Mobile devices? Whether or not you have the budget and resources to adequately secure all of your data, the critical data that your business relies on must be sufficiently secure. If you’re unsure of what that is, ask yourself which data you would need to access within 24 hours of your business suffering a major disaster, in order to ensure your operations remained up and running. Once you’ve answered this question, talk with your IT managers to determine the security measures that need to be implemented to protect your most vital data.

Learn the basics

After you’ve bulletproofed your critical data, it’s time to arm your network with the basics. If you haven’t already done so, ensure that you have anti-malware protection on servers and endpoints, and firewalls for both wireless and wired access points.

If you have the budget, it’s worth seeking outside counsel from an IT expert fluent in today’s security best practices. They’ll ensure your business is protected from the latest cyber threats. However, if you don’t have the budget, then it’s time to take matters into your own hands. Read up on security trends, join technology networking groups, and ask your fellow business owners about their own IT security policies.

Cash a reality check

Bad things happen to nice people. Tornadoes, fires, thieves, and faulty technology couldn’t care less about how your business donates to local charities and supports your community’s youth sports clubs. What’s more, hundreds of small businesses across the country suffer severe data loss each year. Ignorance and turning a blind eye will not protect you, so make a wise decision and automate your data to be backed up daily. This allows your business to remain in operation if you’re hit by a security breach.

Dispose of old technology properly

Whether it’s a computer, server or tablet, any device that stores data on it must be properly disposed of when it conks out. Specifically, the hard disk must be destroyed completely. And remember, proper data disposal is not only limited to technology, as critical information is also revealed on paper files. So if you’re migrating the content of physical documents to the cloud, make sure to shred the paper versions too.

Mind your mobiles

The mobile age is here, and along with it come employees who may access your business’s critical information via their smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. Recognize that many of these devices have different operating systems that require varying security measures. You and your IT manager should be aware of this, which leads to our last point...

Think policy

Have a policy for all your company’s devices. If you don’t inform your employees they shouldn’t access company information via their phones or tablets, then they’ll likely assume it’s okay to do so. But thinking policy doesn’t pertain only to mobiles. You should also determine acceptable online behavior for your employees, as well as how data should be shared and restricted. Put this in writing, and then have your employees read and sign it.

Of course, it’s not always wise to be overly restrictive. Rather the point is to have policies in place and make everyone in your organization aware of them because if you don’t each staff member will make up their own rules.

Are you concerned your business’s security isn’t up to par? Need the guidance of a seasoned IT provider who specializes in security? Talk to us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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4 ways technology kills your productivity

Technology can bring a world of productivity and ease to your business, but it also comes with many disadvantages. If you don’t use technology wisely, it can become a constant distraction that prevents your business from moving forward. So how can you use technology more effectively? And what are the IT issues that are holding you back? Let’s look at four of them.

Broken Flow

To grow your business, boost profits, and create a valuable product that people will love, you need to develop an extreme amount of focus. Psychology refers to a process known as Flow, where the brain gets into a positive psychological state and people not only become incredibly productive and creative, but also perform at their best. They achieve both quicker and higher-quality results. In fact, a study by the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company revealed that top executives were five times more productive when they were in a state of flow. So what does this have to do with IT? Technology that constantly breaks or malfunctions will prevent you and your employees from getting into a state of flow.

Distraction

Let’s face it, broken technology is a distraction for many small to medium-sized business owners and their employees. And between the daily onslaught of internal email, social media, and meetings, staff are already distracted enough. If you throw faulty internet connections and servers into this equation, it obviously makes the problem even worse. One researcher from the University of California even found that once an employee is interrupted from their original task, it can take around 23 minutes for them to return to it. That adds up to not only a whole lot of wasted time, but also wasted money. Do your business, yourself, and your employees a favor: get your technology working seamlessly, because it’s one less distraction for your staff to deal with. An MSP can help.

Lack of expertise

People are most productive when they focus on what they do best. If your staff is not equipped to handle your IT problems, they shouldn’t be dealing with them. And if IT issues are killing your productivity on a daily basis, then your tech department is likely understaffed or not knowledgeable or effective enough to handle your problems. This is where an MSP can come in. MSPs focus on cleaning up IT issues for dozens of companies day in, day out. This is all they do, and that means they are specialists. So why not hand off the chore of technology to someone who knows what they’re doing? Then you can focus on what you do best: managing, leading, and growing your business.

Email

As already mentioned, email is undoubtedly a distraction that is a bane for many modern-day businesses. Email can consume you and your employees’ day if you let it. So doesn’t it make sense to try and get it under control? A few ways you can do that include checking your email only at specific times of the day, unsubscribing from email lists that you don’t often use, and signing up for email and spam protection with your local MSP - who can help you keep the unnecessary emails out of you and your employees’ inboxes.

If you’re interested in learning how an MSP can help resolve your technology problems, get in touch with our experts today. We have a staff of seasoned professionals who have the singular focus of making your technology run seamlessly. And we’re ready to help your business become more productive.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Preparing your business for VoIP

Voice over Internet Protocol, commonly known as VoIP, is on the rise among businesses of all sizes, owing to its numerous benefits and advantages. It allows you and your employees to make and take phone calls over the Internet using your existing broadband connection, saving substantial amounts of money while increasing workflow efficiency. If you’re considering VoIP for your business, here are some of the most important aspects you need to address before making the switch.

Network

Implementing a VoIP phone system presents challenges of its own. For one thing, VoIP service cannot tolerate any kind of network interruption. You need to ensure you have alternative physical links to carry all of your VoIP traffic in the event that you lose your primary path. An uninterrupted power supply (UPS) should also be installed. This way your Ethernet switches and VoIP devices won’t lose connection and go offline in case of power failure.

Security

As with other networks, VoIP is susceptible to cyber security threats and breaches. If you don’t have reliable and preventative security measures in place, you could fall victim to information theft and malicious attacks. Your best bet is to deploy a dedicated internal firewall to monitor the traffic flow and protect your systems from security threats.

Bandwidth

VoIP is dependent on the bandwidth of your Internet. Therefore, an accurate estimation of bandwidth consumption is crucial for proper planning in order to accommodate VoIP traffic. You need to perform tests to ensure you have enough bandwidth to handle the inbound and outbound call traffic. Relevant information includes the number of users, the number of handsets, the duration of calls, and data usage levels.

Budget

VoIP is no doubt a long-term money saver for your business, but switching over from a traditional phone system, or a fresh installation, involves a cost. You need to take into account the expenses of purchasing the equipment required for VoIP installation, such as VoIP phone cables, external power supplies, and routers. Installation costs may vary greatly, but it is worth the investment if you’re looking to take your communication systems to the next level.

Staff

Employee involvement and understanding is key to a seamless and successful VoIP integration. You can assign one, or a group, of your staff members the responsibility of learning about and managing your new VoIP systems. They can be the go-to person for any enquiries from other staff members. It is recommended that you ask a dedicated specialist to equip your staff with the information needed to utilize VoIP to its fullest potential. While most people are already familiar with video conferencing software such as Skype, it helps to create user guides and manuals to educate those that aren’t as tech-savvy.

VoIP implementation can often be a hassle if you undertake it alone. With the help of dedicated professionals, however, the whole process can become much easier, less expensive, and more rewarding.

Get in touch with us today and we’ll answer any questions you have on preparing your business to embrace this groundbreaking technology.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Save energy in your data center

Is your data center sucking up energy? Are the costs of maintaining your server rooms out of control? For many business owners, the server room and data center are foreign lands they’d like to pretend don’t exist. But whether you acknowledge it or not, they could be costing you hundreds of extra dollars every month. Here’s what you can do to reduce costs.

Perform an energy audit

There’s a good chance your IT staff has never once thought about how much energy your server room and data center are consuming. So, the first step to rectifying this problem is to identify just how much power is being sucked up.

To get you started, here are a few questions to ask:

  • How much of the data center’s power budget goes to support systems?
  • How much goes to IT systems?
  • How much IT output do you get for every kilowatt/hour of power sucked up by your data center IT systems?
Answering these questions will help you determine just how efficient, or inefficient, your data center actually is.

Decrease the IT workload

When you save a single watt of energy at the server level, it can result in a total saving of nearly three watts in your data center costs.

So how do you decrease the IT workload? Virtualization is a common and effective tactic. Instead of wasting money on cooling your own servers in your data center, with virtualization you can have them hosted by your IT provider and then their technology delivered to you through the Internet. This allows you to eliminate some of your servers from your office and therefore reduce cooling costs.

For alternate ways to decrease server workload, you can also:

  • Eliminate unused servers
  • Consolidate servers
  • Purchase more energy-efficient technology

Mind your humidity and temperature levels

Because many non-IT personnel are terrified of the data center and simply don’t understand it, often they falsely believe that the room must be kept as cold as the North Pole in order to protect sensitive data. This is simply not true. While it is true that excessively high temperatures, humidity or dry conditions can harm your data, most modern-day data center equipment is incredibly durable and can tolerate a much wider range of humidity and temperatures than in decades past. Because of this, it is highly likely you can get away with a lot less cooling and dehumidification than you thought possible. That said, it’s wise to consult with an IT professional before doing this to ensure you don’t damage your data.

Another innovation that can help you cool down your data center more economically is utilizing an economizer system. This technology uses cool air from the outside to provide “free” cooling cycles for your data center.

Want more tips on reducing your overall IT bill? Curious to learn more about virtualization? Call us today to learn from one of our experts.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

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Business continuity challenges


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