August 27, 2015

The building out of new office space should be an incredibly exciting moment for your company.  Whether you’ve outgrown a current space or you’re opening up another location, this type of project represents a great transitional event for your firm.

But while in the midst of a build out, any sense of joy or accomplishment is wiped out by the sheer load of to-do items associated with such a project.  Every aspect is overwhelming, with IT being especially onerous given its importance to your business and foreign-ness (to most people).

We’re here to help pull back the curtain on some of the typical mysteries when it comes to how you go about building out a new IT infrastructure.

IT Room
This is not a closet, or a corner of someone’s office.  The IT room is the central repository of your core technology equipment and services (such as Internet and/or phone circuits).  You should designate an area of the new space that can be physically secured, has ample electrical capacity, and allows for cool air to circulate and hot air to vent out.  You should treat the IT room like a safe that guards your company’s most valuable assets.

Voice & Data Cabling
Any wireless connectivity you want in the new space will still require physical cables of some sort.  And depending on how much data your users will download and upload on a daily basis, nothing produces a more stable connection that a physical cable.  While you may save a good bit of money by installing the fewest cables possible, we’ve found with few exceptions that companies ultimately end up installing the voice and data cables.  But doing so after the fact makes the job even more expensive than doing it right off the bat.

Power
Little known fact for you: all of your electronic devices will need a power connection.  We’re being a bit sarcastic, but given how this should surprise no one, you’d be amazed how many people forget about installing enough power for their devices/machines/equipment.  Complicating this a bit is that some machines, such as servers, malfunction printers, A/V systems, should have dedicated circuits, so as not to be sharing power with any other machines.  This will minimize power surges to those machines, which can easily blow out power units on your IT equipment.

Furniture
We understand that you want cool/funky/pretty furniture in your space.  But your selection of furniture should reflect the needs of your IT and your employees.  Desk space should be large enough to accommodate users’ devices and their physical cable connections (both Internet & power).  You’d be surprised how important the choice of swiveling desk chair is for computer users with two or three monitors.  The new office furniture will inevitably contribute to the comfort, productivity, and collaboration of your employees.

Wireless
Wireless connectivity has advanced to a point where it can serve as the primary option for entire offices.  While not the recommended option – especially for voice services – if you want to go “fully” wireless, proper planning is a must.  Given the flood of wireless signals that will saturate your new space from building neighbors, a proper plan and layout will ensure you maximize the capabilities of your wireless access points, maintain a secure network, and allow users full mobility throughout your office.

The new office space will most likely be your corporate home for years, so you should plan for your IT accordingly.  While you can’t always predict where technology will evolve, you do know that for your business to compete, your IT will be part of the solution.  Keep these five areas in mind during any build out your technology should have the capacity to grow right along with your company.

#PokeTheBear

August 20, 2015

Let’s say you’re in the business of selling widgets.  Your widget company relies on marketing a great product, offering affordable prices, and providing unbeatable customer support.  These are all things your customer sees up front, in your store and on your website.  These are what keep them coming back for more widgets!

What the customer doesn’t see, however, is the multi-layered IT system you rely on to run your business.  The in-house engineering team uses complex design programs to create your widgets.  The dispatchers call up online orders and use sophisticated tracking software to deliver widgets to doorsteps around the country.  Even the executives – YOU! – utilize cloud-based CRM tools to mine a database of existing customers and potential prospects.

Now image all that technology suddenly disappears (aka crashes).  What your customers don’t see has a direct impact on what they can see, order, and receive.  How quickly your IT returns to full functionality determines just how big an impact that outage has on your business.

Here are 3 key reasons why all small businesses (and even the biggest widget vendor!) need solid IT support:

Opportunity cost
Sure you could maybe, possibly, probably figure out any number of IT issues that arise on a day to day basis.  If unplugging and rebooting doesn’t work, you can always spend time (hours) Googling the potential resolution, right?  In reality, what takes you a business day to figure out, a knowledgeable IT professional will likely resolve in far less time.  So, not only is your technology up and running, but you have available time to actually work on improving your business.  (Plus, you have reduced your frustration level by a magnitude of 50.  Made up number.)  You may think being your company’s IT support is saving you money, but in reality, you’re missing out on opportunities that will be way more valuable to your business in the long run.

IT can build and repair
A solid IT resource will patch up any issues that you encounter unexpectedly.  If it’s a matter of resetting a password or installing the latest security update, they can do so remotely and get your IT back on track without missing a beat.  They will know how to return to lingering issues at a later time and make a better fix.  More so, the best IT resources build systems to minimize your downtime or provide ready recoveries from those inevitable issues.

They know more.  Period.
Remember this proven fact of the IT world: a professional who eats, sleeps, and breathes technology simply knows more than those who dabble.  You wouldn’t hire a lawyer to perform heart surgery, just as you wouldn’t hire a doctor to defend you in court.  They’re called experts for a reason.  A solid IT resource is your company’s general practitioner.  You rely on them to help keep your technology healthy, and when it’s sick, to provide a reliable cure.  It’s what they do.

Your widget company – every company – needs stellar IT support now.  Check out previous postings about how to pick a solid provider and maintain that relationship.  Your technology is a vital element of your business, treat it as such.

#PokeTheBear

August 13, 2015

It almost – almost – goes without saying that technology moves at a rapid pace.  To paraphrase an old aphorism, the device/machine you buy at the store today is obsolete by the time you get it home.

But is the latest and greatest always the best way to go, especially for your business?  It’s easy to think that if you aren’t downloading or updating with each new release of a technology that you’re becoming obsolete.  But that’s simply not the case.

Here are three quick reasons why you should be patient and bide your time before upgrading to a new technology release. This goes for recent Windows 10 upgrade to the soon-to-come newest iPhone.

Compatibility
To immediately upgrade to the newest system ignores the simple fact that it will take time for devices and other systems to reach optimal compatibility.  Third-party vendors, such as those that may provide your accounting software or customer resource management, will not always put forth the effort to ensure their services run on the newest release.  It takes a lot of time, money, and effort for these vendors to figure out how to get their services running on a new platform.  If they don’t see ready adoption of that new platform, they may wait to issue an update, which could be problematic for your business if you’ve already gone through a platform upgrade.

Bugs, bugs, bugs!
Beta testing can only catch so many errors in the coding of new systems.  (Just look at all the updates notices you get on a daily basis.)  Such is the nature of technology, because not every use can be replicated during testing.  Our philosophy is always to let someone else play guinea pig and sort out issues with a new release.  Getting a new tool and having it break right away is incredibly frustrating.  Why put yourself through that just to say you were first to buy something?

Is it worth it?
Most upgrades or new releases will cost you money, both in directly buying the device/machine/service, and going through the upgrade process.  You must be sure that the latest and greatest is “worth” it.  This is especially true if your current systems/services meet your requirements and are running smoothly.  We perform a standard cost/benefit analysis, and unless there is an overwhelming argument to upgrade, we stay put.  It might be your most prudent move.

We understand the perceived pressure to keep up with the competition, or to have the sexiest device to roll off the assembly line, but it doesn’t always pay to be on the leading edge of technology.  Sometimes your current IT are those comfortable shoes you dare not replace.

#PokeTheBear

August 06, 2015

In a previous posting (June 25th to be exact) we talked about three things to consider when selecting an outsourced IT service provider.  You conduct a thorough search and choose a vendor.  You can now relax, right?  Afraid not.

Now the second phase of the relationship comes into focus.  Even the strongest partnership between a client and outsourced IT vendor requires consistent attention on the client’s part.  While any good IT vendor is not going to breach that partnership, blind trust is not the way to go with any IT vendor (or any vendor for that matter). 

Because your business needs technology, and you need someone to manage that technology, you’ll eventually need to trust somebody.  That can put your business and employees in a delicate position, but if you regularly check on your vendor and your technology, then you’ll be in a position to know how well that relationship is working.

With that said, you should always have the current administrator usernames and passwords to all your IT systems.  Those are the keys to your technology kingdom, and they are your property.  There should never be a time where an outside vendor doesn’t provide you with that information.  Not having these items in your possession puts you in a vulnerable position and doesn’t speak highly of your vendor.

The keyword is transparency.  While you may not be a “techie,” your IT vendor should make you fully aware of what’s going on your IT environment.  Where is your data backup?  How do you access that backup?  When do warranties/licenses expire?  Is any of your equipment end of life/support?  So on and so on and so on.  While you may not want to know all this, you should know all of it.

#PokeTheBear