Monday, May 25, 2015

Inquiring SMBs Want to Know... What's the Difference Between a Help Desk and NOC?

5 Tips for SMBs to Improve Search Engine Rankings…

Inquiring SMBs Want to Know... What's the Difference Between a Help Desk and NOC?

It's no secret that any growing small-to-medium sized business must monitor and manage its business technology in the most cost-efficient way. The tricky part is figuring out how to do this without sacrificing the overall experience of the end-user. End-users can be clients and customers or employees. Both rely on the efficiency of a firm's network, servers, and applications, and the availability of the company's data center.

Thanks to the evolution of managed services, it's actually possible these days to reduce costs, which strengthens IT support and infrastructure. It's just a matter optimally integrating all available resources.

It's a Staffing Conundrum for Most SMBs

Most SMBs tend to be short staffed. This isn't just another reference to the many SMBs with little to no onsite tech support. While that's true, and problematic, it's actually all operations that tend to be short staffed.

Small yet growing companies and organizations aren't just short on tech support; it seems like even their administrative assistant needs an assistant to keep up. Customer support and sales teams are also overworked, and often hindered by having to understand and troubleshoot tech problems when they have no tech expertise whatsoever.

There is no, "Hold for a moment, Sir. I'm about to transfer you to our tech support team." There is no tech support team.

This is where managed service providers (MSPs) step in to save the day. MSPs help SMBs better manage their technology to achieve greater ROI (Return-on-Investment). One way they do this is by augmenting a SMBs existing on-site staff with the remote support of a 24/7 Network Operations Center (NOC) and Help Desk.

What's the Difference Between a NOC and Help Desk?

This question is asked a lot because it's really not uncommon to see both referenced interchangeably, which leaves many to assume they are one in the same. They are not. Here is the easiest way to distinguish between the two.

NOC: Most of the work performed by a NOC focuses on the network and systems. The NOC can almost be viewed as a mission control center. They monitor and manage an IT network. A 24/7 NOC typically monitors the network and system security, performance, and backup processes.

Help Desk: The Help Desk is more customer-oriented. The Help Desk has interaction with the end-user, or someone representing the end-user, to directly respond and resolve technical problems as they arise. Customers or employees can typically reach the Help Desk by clicking a support icon, emailing them, or dialing a toll-free number.

Do the Help Desk and the NOC Interact?

Although the NOC and Help Desk are different, they do work together, along with any in-house tech support, to provide cohesive tech solutions to end-users. The Help Desk typically has three tiers of support and may sometimes have to escalate tickets to the NOC for resolution.

This open communication, and ease of escalation, improves the end-user experience and serves as a proactive cost-efficient approach to managing SMB technology.

Contact us at Complete Care IT

Monday, May 18, 2015

Understanding Managed Services and How They Benefit SMBs

7 Must Haves for Your Small Business Website

Understanding Managed Services and How They Benefit SMBs

Small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) receive a lot of calls each day from slick sales people peddling the next technology trend that's going to save them money and revolutionize how they do business. They're all too quick to caution that if you don't listen to them, you'll fall behind the times, and eventually be swimming in a sea of debt and out of business.

No doubt you've heard, or you've at least read about, the benefits of managed services. Managed services refer to clearly defined outsourced IT services delivered to you at predictable costs. You know the exact IT services you'll be getting and what you'll pay for them. There is no surprise sky-high bill for services rendered. So are solicitation calls that pertain to managed services worth listening to? We think so. Then again, we're in the managed services industry. There may be a bit of a bias here.

How Managed Service Providers Work

Managed service providers (MSPs) use remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools to keep an eye on their performance and overall health of the IT infrastructure that powers your business operations.

Your MSP should have a 24/7 Network Operations Center (NOC) that acts as your mission control center. If the monitoring alerts them to any issue with your servers, devices, hardware or software, they respond quickly to resolve the issue.

Additionally, the NOC performs regular systems maintenance such as

  • Automated tasks like the cleaning of temporary files
  • Applying tested security patches as required
  • Installing virus and Malware protection
  • System backup and disaster recover/business continuity processes

Additionally, your MSP should give you access to a Help Desk that services your customers and employees – speaking to and working with them directly as if they're part of your staff.

This proactive maintenance, stabilization of your IT environment, and rapid as-needed remediation helps SMBs control technology costs and better serve the end-users who rely on their technology.

Is Managed Services Better than Other Ways to Manage IT

We find that far too many companies have no real perspective about how much IT management costs them. Let's review some of the alternatives to managed services.

Hiring In-House IT Support

Typically, a firm with anywhere from 20-60 employees may feel that one person can manage their technology. Understand that this one full-time employee can demand a significant salary since they'll have to be proficient with desktop, server and network support, and interact with both end-users in the Help Desk role and management. They will likely be overworked and vulnerable to error or oversights that may prove to be costly. And what happens if they're out sick or on vacation?

The Break/Fix Mentality

The majority of smaller companies take this route because they feel as if they're too small for a more sophisticated 24/7 approach to IT management. They also feel pressure to direct all resources on the product or service, not behind-the-scenes operations. They decide to use on-call IT techs when broken technology has already disrupted business. The on-call team's response time and overall lack of familiarity with your systems extends downtime and proves to be a much more expensive resolution to IT management. It's reactive, not proactive, and it's a costly mistake too often made.

This is why many SMBs today feel that managed services are the most cost-effective way to support their IT infrastructure and the best way to get more bang for their buck.

Contact us at Complete Care IT

Monday, May 11, 2015

Are Managed IT Services Right For You? A Few Things to Consider

Are Managed IT Services Right For You? A Few Things to Consider

How do you get a small business to recognize the value of manages IT services? In the start-up environment, we encounter an eclectic bunch of personality types. There is a reason people become entrepreneurs or C-level execs. When we meet the owners or decision makers at smaller companies and organizations, we can tell right away why they're where they are. They're visionaries. They're risk takers. They're competitive. They want to be in charge.

Therefore, they aren't always quick to place the fate of their business technology in the hands of a third party. They've come as far as they have by being in control and they're hesitant to give up that control. But we've learned a few things along the way.

For example, the Type A personality is highly independent but also very competitive. So we tap into the competitive advantage that managed IT services gives them.

The Type B personality is creative and doesn't like static routines. But their ears perk up when they hear terminology like "cutting-edge" and we can then paint the big picture for them once their listening.

But anyone we do business with has to be committed to the efficiency, security, and stability of their business technology to see our value proposition. And they have to recognize that managing their IT infrastructure is an investment they cannot take lightly.

So here are a few things we commonly have to address before any deal for managed IT services is signed.

Is my business large enough to even consider managed services?

There is an old adage that size doesn't matter (ahem... we're talking about in a fight) but SMBs must always think big to get big. The truth is, any company, regardless of its size or the number of people they employ, will run more efficiently if its technology is monitored, maintained, and managed properly.

These are facets of your operations that drive profitability and give our Type A personalities that competitive edge they crave. And they can rest easy whenever business is booming because their technology is built to sustain their growth. That's the big picture that our Type B personality can appreciate.

How is making another IT investment a cost-savings move for my business?

There are still many SMBs who feel a greater focus and investment should go towards their core operations or marketing and sales. They only worry about technology when it breaks, figuring they'll just call a service technician to come to the office and fix whatever the problem is. Or buy some new hardware at Office Depot.

There are some very obvious flaws to this strategy.

  • You're paying way too much when it's way too late – An issue that was likely preventable with early detection has escalated into a full blown business disruption and that on-call technician likely charges a high hourly rate, on top of hardware replacement costs, and may not get to your site right away. Being proactive rather than reactive to technology issues is important.

  • Don't forget productivity killers – It's taking your employees too long to boot their computers. Servers and applications are running slowly. Employee devices are full of Malware. Non-technical employees are running around troubleshooting tech problems. If you see this, your present approach to IT management is killing employee productivity and your bottom line.

  • What happens internally is noticed externally – Don't think for a second that customers or clients don't notice outdated or slow internal technology and mismanagement. If your site or applications are down often, run slowly, or your customer service rep tells them "I'm sorry, our system is down", they're noticing and it's hurting your business.

When all is said and done, professionally managed IT services will give you a competitive edge, guarantee your business is always leveraging the newest most cutting-edge technology, and enhance your relationships with customers and clients – all while reducing costs.

Contact us at Complete Care IT

Monday, May 4, 2015

Relax...Windows XP Doesn't Have to Be Such A Headache

7 Must Haves for Your Small Business Website
Understanding Managed Services and How They Benefit SMBs

Small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) receive a lot of calls each day from slick sales people peddling the next technology trend that's going to save them money and revolutionize how they do business. They're all too quick to caution that if you don't listen to them, you'll fall behind the times, and eventually be swimming in a sea of debt and out of business.

No doubt you've heard, or you've at least read about, the benefits of managed services. Managed services refer to clearly defined outsourced IT services delivered to you at predictable costs. You know the exact IT services you'll be getting and what you'll pay for them. There is no surprise sky-high bill for services rendered. So are solicitation calls that pertain to managed services worth listening to? We think so. Then again, we're in the managed services industry. There may be a bit of a bias here.
How Managed Service Providers Work
Managed service providers (MSPs) use remote monitoring and management (RMM) tools to keep an eye on their performance and overall health of the IT infrastructure that powers your business operations.

Your MSP should have a 24/7 Network Operations Center (NOC) that acts as your mission control center. If the monitoring alerts them to any issue with your servers, devices, hardware or software, they respond quickly to resolve the issue.

Additionally, the NOC performs regular systems maintenance such as
  • Automated tasks like the cleaning of temporary files
  • Applying tested security patches as required
  • Installing virus and Malware protection
  • System backup and disaster recover/business continuity processes
Additionally, your MSP should give you access to a Help Desk that services your customers and employees – speaking to and working with them directly as if they're part of your staff.
This proactive maintenance, stabilization of your IT environment, and rapid as-needed remediation helps SMBs control technology costs and better serve the end-users who rely on their technology.


Contact us at Complete Care IT

Monday, April 27, 2015

4 Reasons You Should Migrate from WindowsXP NOW

5 Things SMBs Can Do Right Now to Preserve Their Network and Systems

4 REASONS YOU MUST MIGRATE FROM WINDOWS XP NOW

Any business still using the Windows XP operating system must come to terms that their borrowed time is coming to an end. On April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer support XP. Microsoft has continued to support XP through three releases – the unfortunate rollout of Vista followed by the Windows 7 and Windows 8 releases. By ending its support of XP, Microsoft is acknowledging that Windows 7 and 8, unlike Vista, are the successors of XP and they’re finally ready to move on. But what does this mean to small businesses that aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to XP?

The research firm Gartner has projected that roughly 15% of small to midsize businesses will still be running Windows XP on at least 10% of their PCs when Microsoft support ends. While migrating from Windows XP is complex - requiring a detailed plan, fixed budget, testing, deployment, and training - SMBs today can’t continue to put it off. The Windows XP migration process needs to get underway sooner rather than later with April 8th cutoff date looming. Here are four reasons why SMBs must migrate now from XP.

  • Businesses in industries with compliance regulations requiring up-to-date software to protect information, such as the financial sector, may face legal repercussions with the continued use of an outdated operating system. Such vulnerabilities could allow attackers to literally take over and cripple any PC that continues to run XP.

  • While Microsoft has recently extended XP anti-malware updates through July 2015, without Microsoft updating other XP security patches, businesses that continue to run XP will be exposed and defenseless against new threats specifically designed to exploit XP.

  • XP compatible printers, scanners, and software such as McAfee and Symantec, will no longer be made.

  • The longer XP is used, the greater the liability becomes, and the more expensive it will get for small businesses to continue supporting an unsupported operating system.

Time is no longer on your side. It’s time to finally migrate from Windows XP before it negatively impacts business productivity, reputation, and your bottom line.

Contact us at Complete Care IT

Monday, April 20, 2015

Breaking News: Downtime Kills Small Businesses

Breaking News: Downtime Kills Small Businesses

Downtime is bad news for any business whether big or small.

A recent two-hour New York Times' downtime occurrence sent Twitter ablaze and their stock price plummeting.

Google going down for one to five hours resulted in lost revenue up to $500,000 and decreased overall web traffic by 40%.

We know what you're thinking. Holy crap, Google makes $100,000 an hour? Yeah... insane, huh?

While the hourly cost of downtime for a small-to-medium sized business won't be nearly as large as that astronomical Google figure, downtime is often more detrimental to smaller companies. Smaller enterprises are more susceptible to downtime and are neither large nor profitable enough to sustain its short and long-term effects.

Downtime Leads to Unhappy/Unproductive Employees

Even the happiest of employees become dissatisfied when they can't perform basic day-to-day job functions or properly service customers or clients.

While some employees may use downtime as an excuse to lean back, put their feet up, and comfortably collect their hourly pay, we're talking about those employees who come to work to actually work.

And don't forget your IT guy or tech crew. They can't necessarily sit back and twiddle their thumbs when downtime occurs because they're typically taking the brunt of the storm. They will ultimately grow tired of the daily routine of having to put out fires and having neither the additional manpower nor resources to change things for the better.

These things lead to high employee turnover and the expenses that come with training and re-training a revolving door of employees.

Downtime Leads to Customer Dissatisfaction

Customers and clients grow weary whenever critical components of your operations – or the services they either expect or pay for - cannot be accessed.

Nearly 50% of customers will move on to a competitor if they encounter downtime of five minutes or more. These customers represent significant lost revenue.

While some suggest this is a bigger problem in the retail sector, other types of businesses are impacted as well. Have you ever clicked a link from search engine results only to quickly bolt when the page didn't load, you couldn't complete an online transaction, or you were greeted with a "Technical Difficulties – Be Back Up Soon!" message?

Did you give up on finding what you were looking for or did you wait it out? You did neither. You went back to Google and found someone else offering a similar service or product that satisfied your yearning for instant gratification.

Downtime Ruins Your Reputation

One of the most commonly overlooked consequences of downtime is the hit your company's reputation takes online. In this age of social media, one person's bad experience is broadcast to dozens or even hundreds of followers. Bad news spreads faster than ever and has lasting repercussions.

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently." -- Warren Buffet.

Protect Your Bottom Line

The challenge for small businesses has always been how to minimize single-point-of-failure downtime using their limited IT resources. This is why downtime kills so many small businesses. They can't prevent it and they can't react quickly enough.

Thankfully, there are end-to-end business continuity solutions available today that integrate Remote Monitoring and Management (RMM) software, 24/7 access to a Network Operations Center (NOC), and advanced backup and disaster recovery solutions to alleviate this issue.

Not only do these methods minimize downtime and get businesses back up and running quickly, but they can reduce the cost of technology infrastructure maintenance by as much as 80 percent.

It's time that small businesses stop being victims to the silent killer that is downtime.

Contact us at Complete Care IT

Monday, April 13, 2015

What You Can Learn from Business Regulator's Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Recommendations

Understand How Data Loss Can Happen…

What You Can Learn From U.S. Regulator's Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery Recommendations

U.S regulators have recommended that all futures and securities firms review and update their current data backup, disaster recovery, and business continuity solutions.

Prompted by closures in the equities and options market in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Regulators including the SEC, FINRA, and the CFTC contacted firms to assess the impact Hurricane Sandy had on their operations

The regulators asked each firm for specifics regarding any backup disaster recovery (BDR) and business continuity plan (BCP) they had in place prior to Hurricane Sandy. The responses they gathered were compiled to develop a list of best practices and lessons learned.

The regulators have since gone on to suggest that all firms refer to these best practices and lessons as part of reviewing and improving upon their current BDR and BCP procedures. By doing this, the regulators hope that firms will be better prepared for similar events. Regulators feel that a comprehensive BDR and business continuity strategy will help firms improve responsiveness and minimize downtime.

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) have always stressed the importance of the BDR and BCP solutions they offer to small-to-medium-sized businesses. That said, it doesn't hurt to see what government regulators recommend to those handling our money. We've summarized portions of the full report, addressing only the parts that we feel can easily be applied to SMBs. The full report can be read here at http://www.sec.gov/about/offices/ocie/jointobservations-bcps08072013.pdf.

Widespread Disruption Considerations

True business continuity plans go beyond technology. What is the probability of a widespread lack of telecommunications during a disaster? We're talking no Internet and no cell phone coverage. Large-scale events can knock out power and limit our access to drinkable water and food supplies. Getting around may be complicated. Roadways might be inaccessible and fuel may be scarce. Part of being prepared for the unknown is to assess how any plausible scenario would impact day-to-day operations and services.

A critical component to business continuity planning is remote access. Every employee should have the ability to efficiently work from home if a disaster strikes or blocks access to the office. If there is no power or no Internet and phone, alternatives should be defined to carry out key operations.

Alternative Location Considerations

The implications of region-wide disruptions must be factored into the location choices for backed-up data centers. Keeping backups within close proximity may seem like a smart strategy to ensure they're readily accessible, but this does you no good if it's a region wide disruption.

When it comes to supporting business critical activities at an alternative location, what will be the site's staffing needs? How about office space, equipment, and available resources? Printed copies of the business continuity plan, contact lists, and other business documents and manuals should also be kept at the alternate site if electronic files can't be accessed.

Vendor Relationships

Any critical vendor relationships should also have an adequate business continuity plan, as they may be affected by the same event as you. Vendors risk ratings should be considered based on the quality of their BDR and BCP strategies.

Telecommunications Services and Technology Considerations

The telecommunications infrastructure must be enhanced. Consider secondary phone lines, backup mobile phone services with different carriers, emergency Wi-Fi spots, and cloud technology.

Review and Testing

Annual full BCP tests should be conducted. If the business continuity plan changes often, more frequent testing is recommended. All personnel should be trained for their specific role in the plan.

Contact us at Complete Care IT