Your business is bound to have unique qualities and offerings that make it stand out from the crowd. But one thing that all organizations, no matter how big or small, rely on is a sound technology infrastructure and the right IT solutions to support long-term growth.
In 2013, Dell and Intel published the results of a study of approximately 1,000 small to midsize businesses (SMBs) and found that technology plays a huge role in their success. In fact, 77 percent of respondents said that technology is the key to their growth. On top of that, 69 percent of startups and SMBs said that some form of technology supports daily operations within their business.
Without having the right IT solutions to support your work processes, you wouldn’t be able to carry out basic functions within your company. Here are three IT solutions that every organization could benefit from.
Hosted Phone Systems
The rise of hosted phone systems has transformed the business communications landscape. Unlike traditional landline telephone service, hosted phone systems are managed and maintained by an outsourced phone provider who handles everything for you. From initial installation to ongoing maintenance and upgrades, your phone needs are always taken care of. Because hosted phone systems exist off-premise and use VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) technology, you can experience increased security, flexibility, and cost-efficiency.
Remote Desktop Applications
Having the right IT solutions can allow your workforce to make better use of remote capabilities and mobility. Imagine having access to your work computer, and all the critical data stored on it, even when you’re out of the office. With the cloud, you can have remote access whenever you want – giving you a competitive edge when it comes to running and improving your business. Remote desktop applications allow you to stay connected even when you’re not physically at your desk. By being able to view or modify your documents and files from your computer, smartphone, or tablet, you can get more done while you’re on the go.
Proactive Support & Maintenance
What’s the difference between reactive and proactive support? Reactive IT support means your technology only gets fixed after something goes wrong. With proactive support, you have a team of technical specialists constantly monitoring your network for potential issues that could disrupt your business. This means that your network has a drastically better chance of staying healthy and free of security risks, cyber attacks, and glitches. With managed services, you gain unlimited IT solutions and support that boosts your success. By outsourcing your IT, you not only free up time to focus on the core of your mission, but you also gain valuable access to technology experts who always have your best interests at heart.
To learn more about the IT solutions we offer here at NCGIT, contact us today for a free consultation! We’d love to meet with you.
Now that the new year is here, you’re probably looking to upgrade your technology. Perhaps you’re not utilizing cloud computing and are looking to provide ways to take your SMB to enterprise level. How do you know if cloud computing is right for you? Here are some common pros and cons that may help you make a better-informed decision.
PROS of Cloud Computing
- Improved Disaster Recovery Features
Since your data is no longer housed on a physical server, you don’t have to worry about disasters or human mishaps from wiping your information. If it does happen, your data is saved and easily accessible. You can also set your technology to run automatic backups as frequently as you’d like so you won’t be more than an hour behind.
- Increased Collaboration and Work Flexibility
Is your business one where several people need to work on one document at the same time? Cloud computing improves collaboration by allowing numerous users to work on a project simultaneously, receiving real-time updates. It’s not restricted to the office either! Your employees have the freedom to work anywhere on any device.
- Environmentally Friendly
In today’s world where global warming is a real threat to the environment, companies should be doing all they can to reduce their carbon footprint and mitigate damage. By using cloud computing, your company can drastically reduce carbon emissions generated from energy consumption. Using the cloud is not only a good way to save your planet but can also put you on the governments good side.
CONS of Cloud Computing
- Internet Connectivity
Having a consistent Internet connection is critical to cloud computing. If your connectivity is spotty or goes out completely, your business is stuck until you can get back online. It’s always recommended – even for companies with great Internet connections – to have a redundant backup plan in place. After all, even the best, most powerful servers do go down once in a while. It’s best you’re prepared.
- Ongoing Costs
Cloud computing is fairly inexpensive to start up and is paid for monthly. You’ll get the benefits of having your cloud server and data stored and maintained by your IT provider. However, it’s always important to look at your budget first before investing in a solution. While in-house networks are expensive up front and require additional upkeep, it may end up saving you money in the long run.
This is always a big concern for companies debating on whether or not to invest in cloud computing. By working through the cloud, you’re trusting a third party with your data. Some businesses may not want to use cloud computing due to compliance regulations. However, if your IT department doesn’t have the resources it needs to effectively protect your data, cloud computing may be the best option!
NCGIT can help you evaluate whether or not cloud computing is the right solution for your small to medium sized business. They have all the resources needed to show you exactly what benefits you stand to gain from the cloud.
If you follow football at all, you’ll notice this is a seemingly great year for the New England Patriots. With an 10-2 overall win-to-loss ratio, the Patriots are going into Game 14 against the Houston Texans with a strong upper hand despite not having the home field advantage. How do they maintain such a strong lead on the field? Easy, they utilize unified communications blended with a perfected strategy.
Football is the Ultimate in Unified Communications
Sports in general are a very interesting concept. Whether it’s hockey, baseball, soccer, or, of course, football, numerous people from all walks of life come together to form a team, all working towards a common goal: to win the game. So how does all this great talent sync up? We all know that football teams have playbooks that outline the multiple plays a team can make during a game. They study it, practice it, and implement it over and over again in order to get it perfected. They use signals on the field to indicate their next move to the player downwind and communicate with each other via hidden ear pieces in their helmets. They have the general managers (and sometimes team owners) eyes looking over the field to get a bird’s eye view of the game, relaying information down to the head coach and ultimately into the ears of the players on the field. They have huddles to discuss their next plan of action and can call timeouts to review or change the strategy. It’s a very well oiled machine.
Gaining the Competitive Advantage
When you implement unified communications in your workplace, you suddenly gain a competitive advantage in your market. Businesses experiencing poor communication and planning are less efficient and lack the increased revenue needed to stay in the game. They often have trouble syncing up, leading to decreased quality and customer satisfaction. Instead of studying the playbook and working with their coworkers to win the game, they decide to play in the dark and ultimately lose the game. That’s bad for a business (think Cleveland Browns bad.) By having unified communications, your team mates can all be on the same page in regards to your business strategy. You’ll be able to connect with your clients on a higher level and meet their expectations more effectively, leading you to win the game!
Don’t Place Yourself in a Position to Lose
So, in terms of football, whose team would you rather play for: The Cleveland Browns, playing in the dark without any real sense of direction, or the New England Patriots, effectively communicating with each other to stay ahead of the game? The answer seems simple.
Thanks to smartphones putting a handheld console in everyone’s pocket, video games are more popular than ever. In 2013, the video game industry pulled in over $21 billion in sales, and today, more adult women identify as video game players than do teenage boys. Aside from providing hours of entertainment and brain workouts, video games can actually make entrepreneurs better in business. The same skills that make an individual a successful gamer are the traits that lead to business success. Below we discuss video game principals that can be applied today to make us better at managing or running a business.
Learn That Success Means Constant Improvements With Video Games
All successful video games have improved on their original versions with each addition to their franchise. Games like Super Mario Bros, Madden NFL, Call of Duty and HALO are excellent examples of games where the developers did not wait for everything to be perfect before releasing their first edition. Instead, they continually relied on their broad spectrum of customers to play the games and help them find their flaws and areas that need improvement. Video games can teach business leaders that success is an ongoing process.
Video Games Demonstrate a Quick-Win Culture
When you’re playing a video game, you experience short-term wins. Most successful games are designed with these short-term wins so that a habit of success is instilled in the long-run. It is up to business leaders and owners to create and celebrate a quick-win culture in order to foster the long-term success of their company. This requires setting up achievable, actionable near-term goals and a clear picture as to how those goals lead toward the broader objectives of the business. Video games can replicate this experience with their design, which breaks them down into checkpoints, worlds, levels and stages. These measures of progress keep our interest in the game and will work the same way for keeping your staff engaged in achieving business goals.
Video Games Make Saving a Habit
The more complex that video games have become the more important that the saving progression has become to successful completion of the game. Saving lets players start in the same spot where they left off. Just like a business entrepreneur, gamers spend hours collecting, working and advancing. Since no one wants to repeatedly start over from square one, it makes perfect sense for business owners to build redundancies and backups for the most critical systems for the success of the enterprise. It is also a good idea to practice personal backup protocols, by capturing lessons learned so we do not fall into a routine of making the same mistakes over and over again. The most successful professionals, executives and even world leaders have benefitted from keeping a work journal, written or digital.
Network security refers to any actions that have been designed to protect your online network. These actions especially safeguard the reliability, integrity, usability and safety of your data and network. Competent network security zeroes in on a range of threats and prevents them from entering or growing within your network. A secure network foundation can help your business stay competitive, adapt to changes quickly, add new users easily and grow into international markets. Below we discuss in further detail the productivity benefits of network security for your business.
Less Mental Stress
How can your business be productive when the boss’s mind is always on whether or not there will be a security breach due to negligent employees? Network security offers you peace of mind and less stress because it is a way of safeguarding your company from security threats. This is important because hackers are constantly developing new ways of stealing your data and compromising the operations of your business. Network security frees up your mind so that you can concentrate on business ideas.
Less Downtime With Network Security
When you have a secure network, you will not be spending time handling data breaches and other network security issues. This allows for more time to empower employees to be productive. Your software and hardware will also be saved from the harm that can come from these security breaches. There will no longer be the wasted downtime that comes from losing critical data. Instead, you and your staff can focus on job responsibilities and growing the business without unnecessary interruptions.
Go Wireless With Confidence
When your business starts to grow, it will most likely need to broaden its physical space. Using a wireless network allows your employees to remain connected to business applications without the expenses and limitations of wiring. A secure network gives you the extra confidence that your sensitive information, like customer data, will be safe when you go wireless.
Stay in Touch Securely With VoIP Phone
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems deliver communications over the Internet as opposed to the traditional wired phone or common cellular services. With network security, you can use VoIP phones that have a much greater signal range and provide more capabilities (advanced call forwarding, find me/follow me, visual voicemail, management portal and more). Wireless VoIP phones allow your team to meander about the sales floor, office, warehouse or campus while answering customer questions and accessing company data. This improves productivity by not keeping your staff chained to their desk phones.
Communicate Via Your Computer
A secure network means you’ll be able to confidently communicate from your computer in a number of ways. Speed up the process of your daily operations with tools such as instant messaging, voice and video tools, Web conferencing, and presence applications that regularly update user locations and availability. With a secure network you can even take part in a video conference with an easy-to-use phone interface housed on your computer. This saves lots of time and money on traveling to get to a meeting.
Contact us with all of your questions regarding network security. Our staff is always ready to assist you all your security needs.
A disaster recovery plan should incorporate all the necessary components for continuing business operations following a major natural or man-made disaster and take into account these disruptions can range from a few hours to several days or weeks. Successful plans share many of the same characteristics, but should be tailored to the needs of your business.
Look at the Big Picture
A disaster recovery plan needs to consider all departments within your business and incorporate the unique requirements to get each department back in operation. IT needs may comprise a large portion of the plan as that may allow employees to access business operations remotely if they have capabilities at their home or an off-site location. Having a plan to get accounting operations functioning will allow you to continue to receive payables, compensate employees and have funds and capital available to pay for any repairs, equipment or consultants that may be needed.
Test, Test and Test Again
Creating a disaster recovery plan is futile if you don’t test it in advance of needing it. Employees need to be well versed with their responsibilities. Testing will allow you to see what areas need improvements and adjustments and will show if any areas were overlooked completely. Once approved, a recovery plan should be reviewed and tested annually at a minimum, or any time a major change is implemented in your business’s infrastructure.
Back It Up
There are a variety of ways to back up your data and just as many factors in determining the best option for your business. Tape back-ups are still common but should be updated at the end of each day and taken off-site every evening to be most effective. Remote back-up is becoming more popular and there are different options available with regards to frequency and availability, depending on your budget and business needs. Consider instituting a policy to back-up laptops and other mobile devices.
Don’t Forget the Basics
More than one person at your company should have a copy of the plan offsite, so it can be referenced in the event your office is completely inaccessible. Your plan needs to include a list of all employees and their contact information, including multiple methods of contact, as some events will impact the ability to use landlines, mobile phones and/or the Internet. Essential employees should all have a back-up contact who can aid in recovery in the event a member of the team is incapacitated or unavailable. The plan should implement a system for informing employees and clients as to the status of your office and business operations. You will also want to include a listing of bank accounts and insurance policies (along with related contacts) and a list of key vendors, account numbers and passwords. These lists should be reviewed and updated more frequently than the plan itself.
Utilizing professional services ensures that your company stays up-to-date with the latest in technology. By routinely updating computers, servers and other devices used for your business you increase productivity while guaranteeing your company is running efficiently. This decrease of work related stress is achieved by an increase in organization, an improvement in communication and customer service, an increase in overall mobility and accessibility and improved recoverability and continuity of business.
Professional service consultants dedicate their time to producing and implementing custom infrastructure designs that will best benefit and help your company to do business. This design increases the network’s ability to function by improving server speed and uptime. Acquiring this higher level of organization means that your daily tasks will progress more smoothly while taking less time to be completed, which will minimize the amount of stress that generally comes when conducting said tasks in an unorganized network environment.
Improvement in Communication
Keeping your devices and network up-to-date means that the connections and applications will run at their greatest efficiency. This allows for faster and more reliable communication within the system and between users. The real-time communication will prove to increase output and overall business performance by making sure users receive notifications, messages and important emails without interruption. And without the lack of delay that is common among older or outdated cabling, your work will become less of a hassle and more of an enjoyable, tension free experience.
Increased Mobility and Accessibility
With the newer features that professional services will provide you with, come an added benefit, mobility. The use of professional services allows your employees to expand upon the places that they can work and how they work. Increasing and advancing the abilities of both the devices and the systems within your business, ultimately gives people liberty to access documents on the go and from places outside the office. This gives them the opportunity to improve and control where they work, which undoubtedly limits the amount of stress that an individual would be susceptible to while increasing the quality of work that they put out.
Recoverability and Continuity
One of the greatest stressors related to businesses is loss of progress or work that can be a consequence of poor system upkeep. Professional services provides you with a way to safeguard your important documents and projects by maintaining and building upon your network’s integrity and functionality. Keeping in mind that the company’s needs are what is most important in business, professional service consultants design the infrastructure with future goals in mind. This is prudent to business continuity and the reduction of stress in the work place, as the designed network will always be one that works for and with the company.
Thanks to the wonderful advent of technology, employers have the ability to hire job seekers from around the globe, and job seekers have the ability to work from the comfort of their home, so long as they have a computer and a reliable Internet connection. Known as telecommuting, instead of commuting to work in the traditional way, technology is the mode of commuting, and it’s a trend that is growing quite rapidly in business.
With the rising trend of telecommuting, many business owners want to know if it is beneficial. In short, yes, it is. If you’re a business owner, take a look at more detailed reasons why telecommuting can help your business flourish.
For some reason there is a stigma attached to telecommuting, and that stigma is that it decreases productivity. Many people have the idea that workers will slack off when they are off site; that they won’t get their job done, and that, of course, can have a huge impact on productivity. However, this idea couldn’t be any more false. Given the fact that employees are more likely to be motivated to work because they are in a comfortable environment, and the fact that they want to retain their telecommuting position, they are very inclined to get their work done. In fact, a study conducted at Stanford University found that people who telecommute full time are 13% more efficient than those who work on site.
Telecommuting allows employees to have a better quality of life. They are able to be involved in their children’s lives, they don’t have to sit in rush hour traffic, they can work from the comfort of their own home and they can work in a way that best suits their needs. An increased quality of life = happier employees.
Yet another benefit of telecommuting is that it leads to fewer turnovers. Again, this relates to the improved quality of life that telecommuting allows for. When employees are happy with work, they are far more likely to stay with a company. Less turnover means greater success for your business and a reduction in costs. Every time an employee leaves a position, you have to invest more money to train a new employee, and that cost can really add up. Not to mention the fact that a high turnover rate also means less productivity for your business.
This is a benefit that is often not thought of, however, it is definitely a huge perk to telecommuting. Since employees don’t have to drive to work, pollution from car exhaust is greatly reduced. Now, if everyone could telecommute, imagine how much fresher the air would be.
Ask yourself, what is the goal of my job and position as a business leader? Where does IT monitoring factor into your answer? It doesn’t, and it doesn’t for your non-IT employees either. As a business owner and mentor, you need an IT partner on your side, and it does not have to break the bank. Having an IT partner is critical to your business’ success, but you just may not know it yet. Explore the five main reasons why having an IT partner is important.
1. Your business can cut expenses
An in-house IT team can be pricey and pay-by-occurrence solutions can quickly smother your company’s budget. Nothing is predictable when you run a business, especially when technology is concerned, but your IT can be. An IT partner does not charge by individual services, but it delivers constant support and maintenance for a low, predictable rate. If something happens, you will not have to fear a large bill. Business owners and the IT departments that support them do not have to stress about technology; the partner takes on the responsibilities and supports your business can focus on the operations that make money instead waste it.
2. Your IT partner creates a personalized business strategy
There is no one-size-fits-all technology model, but too many businesses rely on large, blanket systems because they do not feel as if they have access to affordable tools and resources to carefully tailor a unique IT strategy. An IT partner reviews your business’s unique needs, future goals and concerns, and strategically devises the best IT plan for you and your business, not anyone else’s.
3. Risk is low and security is high
Your business reduces threats by eliminating the risk for intrusions and data loss. Customers, clients, vendors and partners are not likely to do business with a company that has an unreliable safety, security and plan for data recovery. Your IT partner ensures your business has firewall and network infrastructures, e-mail and web-based attack prevention, backup and disaster recovery services, and 24/7 system monitoring.
4. Business receives 100% attention
When your business collaborates with an IT partner, your company is not just another number. Your IT partner provides 1-on-1 support, security and monitoring. An IT partner addresses your business’s needs and concerns swiftly and without compromising the current flow of daily operations.
5. Productivity increases
The smallest changes can dramatically increase employee productivity. When your employees can focus on their jobs and maintain constant communication, domestically, internationally, and remotely, without worrying about IT problems and security challenges, productivity soars. When your employees are working, they can meet more clients, close more deals and reach out to more prospects, all of which result in more money flowing within the business.