How an MSP Can Help Reduce Time Spent Managing Technology Vendors

Companies choose products and services in order to make their businesses run more efficiently. This may mean deploying multiple technologies and services that are required to work well together and this can cause issues associated with managing multiple Vendor Managementtechnology vendors and having a thorough knowledge of the various technologies employed. When companies spend an inordinate amount of time managing multiple vendors  — we call this “vendor fatigue”.

Implementing or troubleshooting a technology that has to interact with another can create situations where every vendor involved will insist their product or service is working fine, and any issues must be on the other vendor’s service or product. This can result in a tedious series of escalating phone calls and mounting frustrations and a great deal of wasted time.

A Managed Services Provider (MSP) can help.  Having an MSP involved that has a deeper understanding of the interactions between these technologies will help provide more detailed information to the vendors’ support staffs and escalate issues quickly past Tier 1 support to resolve them.

MSPs can help even earlier in the process by providing advice about which technologies work together reliably and which vendors have good support, based upon their many years of experience with the products and vendors.

Many companies don’t realize that MSPs can bring this added value by being involved in the pre-planning stages of technology implementations.  Getting the right advice early can prevent the frustration a company encounters when heading down the wrong path trying to resolve issues and the missteps along the way.  MSPs provide ongoing technology consulting and post technology implementation vendor management, which can save time, money and headaches.

Some MSPs don’t offer vendor management as part of their suite of services.. Having an MSP handle vendor management is just another way for an IT support provider to leverage their experience to add value to your organization.

Clare Computer Solutions’ MSP NetCentral includes vendor management in addition to IT budgeting, IT consulting and having the peace of mind that a company’s technology infrastructure is expertly managed. Contact us to learn more about NetCentral.

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At the Heart of Great IT Support is Response Time

When you choose your IT support provider, two things are paramount: Technical skills and response time. One is fairly easy to gauge, and the other is a little tougher.

Technical skills are fairly easy to verify. Tests and certifications can give you a reasonably reliable indication of a person (or company’s) skill level for IT support.

Response time is trickier. Some companies decide the best way to ensure quick response isResponse time to have an in-house IT support staff.  The downside of this approach is, it’s a challenge to hire staff with all the skills a company may need (some skills are needed every day, and some far less often), and enough capacity to tackle whatever may come up (critical failures, larger implementations, upgrades and projects). Also, smaller staffs are often impacted by vacation and illness.

Third party IT providers, such as an MSP (Managed Service Provider) can be used as a company’s entire IT department, or as a supplement to the company’s in-house IT staff, and with great results. But how do you choose an MSP that will be able to deliver the response times you will need?

To assess an MSP’s response time capabilities, here are three things to look for, and ask about:

Ability to Work Remotely

Modern technology enables about 80% of IT support to be handled remotely – so driving time is never going to be a problem for these issues. If the MSP you’re considering isn’t handling the majority of their support via remote means, they’re wasting too much time driving.

Capacity

Great technical skills, remote access and the best of intentions won’t be of any use if an MSP doesn’t have any available resources when you’re network is in trouble. Verify that your prospective MSP has a large enough staff, and clear procedures in place for prioritizing service calls to ensure someone will be available when you need help fast.

Verifiable Service Levels

Promises and effort are great, but they’re not necessarily reliable indicators of an MSP’s ability to respond quickly in a consistent manner.  A truly mature service organization will have internal mechanisms in place to constantly track and measure service performance against specific goals. And the most important goal is response time. Ask your prospective (or current) MSP – what is your response time commitment? How often are you meeting it?

Consistently excellent service from a provider requires an organization with a tightly controlled set of processes to achieve their goals. And the process should constantly be monitored and measured – in real time and in periodic reviews.  If your MSP can’t demonstrate that they have these procedures in place, then they are depending on luck, and your business cannot depend on luck.

Clare Computer Solutions has been providing managed services since the early part of the century and we have proven, repeatable processes in place to ensure consistent response times for our clients. Contact us to get started.

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3 IT Projects That Can Transform Your Business

With so many options to improve your IT infrastructure, do you know which may have the biggest impact on your business? Have you been putting off IT projects because they are too complex or you don’t know where to begin?

There are some projects that can have such a positive effect on your business, they are wellIT projects worth considering and this may be the perfect time to do them. Here are 3 projects that can transform your business and provide benefits for months, or years to come.

Adopt Virtualization in the IT Infrastructure

As the servers in your network reach the end of their useful lifespans, they could be replaced by virtual machines. Virtualization has a number of benefits, including: reduced energy costs (less physical servers use less A/C and electricity), better business agility (new virtual machines are quickly deployed as needed), better disaster recovery (quicker restoration of a crashed server) and reduced management costs.

Utilize Cloud Services

Not everything works in the cloud, but certain workloads lend themselves very well to cloud computing, and in these areas, the benefits (lower management costs, capacity on demand as needed, greater mobility, improved business continuity capabilities) are very real.

Institute a Business Continuity Plan

Technology today can enable your business to have an affordable, and workable business continuity plan to have your business up and running remarkably quickly after even a major disaster. The technologies mentioned above (Virtualization and Cloud Services) can be used to make your business resilient to a wide variety of events that, just a few years ago, could have threatened the survival of the business.

The secret to the success of any IT project is to hire the right IT professional services firm. Clare Computer Solutions can ensure that projects are well-planned, executed on time and on budget. The benefits to having an approach to your long term IT infrastructure starts with a plan, a budget and a project. Contact CCS to learn more about how to kick start an IT special project and receive a FREE 1 hour consultation.  Visit: clarecomputer.com

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3 Ways a Managed IT Services Program (MSP) Can Reduce Costs For Your Organization

Clare Computer Solutions has been providing managed IT services since 1990. As trends in IT support shift towards managed services there is misleading and confusing information regarding the cost benefits to companies that utilize managed services for IT support. Below are 3 ways a Managed IT Services Provider (MSP) can reduce costs for Save Money on Techyour organization.

1) Reduced Network Downtime

Network downtime is more expensive than companies realize. If 20 or more employees aren’t able to perform their work because the network is not working, the costs can be in excess of $10,000 per hour.  If a Managed Service Program can deliver 4 LESS hours of downtime per year, at a cost of $2,000 a month this is an example of cost savings and benefits to having an MSP.

2) Expand IT Support and Broaden Knowledge Expertise Without Hiring

There are times when an organization’s one-person IT staff may not be enough to manage the workload, but there isn’t enough work to hire an additional fulltime person. Companies often feel as though they are forced to choose between over-working their staff, or over-staffing. Both scenarios end up wasting money. An over-burdened staff will get behind in crucial duties or make mistakes. An overstaffed IT department will not deliver a good return on the salary investment. An IT department may experience a lot of turnover, as bored engineers seek more dynamic opportunities.

Having a Managed Services Provider contract with the right provider will smooth out cost spikes for IT expenses, personnel and equipment costs due to changing needs. In addition, there will be fewer errors and increased accountability and visibility into the performance of your IT infrastructure.

3) When Information Technology is Integrated into the Business Goals Everyone Wins

An IT infrastructure supported by a Managed Services Provider is more reliable, but there are other benefits. The IT infrastructure should be developed and maintained to meet the business’ needs, every day, and into the future. The organization’s efficiency increases and expands when a technology plan is built into the business plan. New technology is continuously being considered with outdated is technology cycled out and new technology brought in when needed—all to help the business achieve specific goals. IT expenditures are budgeted, steady and predictable. A stable, reliable IT infrastructure leverages technology to ensure that the business is as efficient as possible, and that reduces the overall cost of doing business.

Measuring the true cost of IT is not just examining the amount paid to the IT staff or 3rd party provider, but reviewing the true cost of downtime and not having your organization’s IT properly managed. Having the right MSP provides cost prevention measures as well as valuable IT knowledge and support. When technology is developed as an integral part of an organization’s business operations they will deliver greater value, efficiency and agility to their partners, employees and customers so that everyone wins and the organization can meet the demands of the marketplace.

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3 Signs That Your Organization May be Ready For Managed Services

Not every business needs a Managed Services Provider (MSP) for their technology. There is a tipping point where the company’s reliance on the IT infrastructure, and the complexity of the infrastructure indicate that the company will derive the best value from anetcentral_logo_web MSP, rather than just “as needed” IT support services. Here are 3 signs that will help you realize when your company will need an MSP.

Declining Tolerance for Downtime on the Network

In a very small office, the consequences of the network being down are not necessarily catastrophic. Yes, it’s an emergency of sorts, but often a small office can tolerate the time it takes to make a call to their IT provider and the time it takes for help to arrive.

At some point in a company’s growth, though, the cost of downtime is devastating, and it requires that arrangements are made to keep the company’s IT infrastructure under the care of a MSP, who will share in the risk and responsibility of ensuring that all the technological tools have a higher availability.

Significant Growth and/or Expansion

The skills required to manage a network with multiple locations are quite different than managing a single-site network. Similarly, if the IT environment is a hybrid of cloud and on premise elements, it can add to the complexity of managing and maintaining the network. It can be difficult to staff for the needs of a network like this.

Some days, support may require a team of high-level network experts, and other days, much simpler user based desktop support. An MSP can provide the range and depth of expertise as needed.

Network Has Devices, Software and Services from a Variety of Vendors

Once a network spans several locations and a mixture of cloud and on-premises environments, the sheer number of vendors can make support very complex when interactivity becomes an issue. Any vendor’s Tier 1 support is inclined to blame the other vendors when a problem arises, but an MSP with a deep understanding of all the technologies can greatly accelerate problem resolution, which mean less downtime.

Studies have shown that outsourcing management of IT infrastructure by an MSP can reduce the recurring in-house IT costs by 30-40 percent and bring about a 50-60 percent increase in efficiency (See Markets and Markets report). Isn’t it time your company took advantage of these benefits? Clare Computer Solutions has been providing Managed Services for well over a decade – contact us today to get started!

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The Top 4 Criteria for Choosing a Managed Services Provider (MSP)

A decade into the new millennium, most companies now realize that the Managed Services paradigm is a better value than simply hiring an IT support firm to fix problems, or supplement the in-house staff as needed. With a Managed Service Provider (MSP), both IT Dept Meetingthe client and the provider share the risk and responsibility to keep the IT network running.

So how does a company choose their MSP? Industry vendor certifications alone don’t tell enough – effective network management has a lot to do with process and procedures. How can this be verified?   Here are the top 4 things to look for when evaluating an MSP.

Capacity

Modern tools may enable a very small organization to become a Managed Services Provider. Many things that used to require site visits can now be done by remote means. Sooner or later, though, some percentage of an MSP’s client base is going to require some “hands on” service. Make sure the MSP you choose has enough people to effectively service their client base. What’s the size of their field force?  Helpdesk team? How many service requests do they handle per month?

Procedure

Managing multiple networks takes a very organized operation, with state-of-the-art procedures and tools. There should be a definable, and repeatable process for receiving service requests (whether generated by clients or monitoring tools), evaluating them, prioritizing them and assigning resources to resolve each one. Any good MSP should be able to describe this process clearly and concisely and provide metrics as to how they meet their service level goals and how they track their performance against those goals.

Experience

Managed Services may be the “new” paradigm, but it’s really been around for a number of years. An MSP that’s only now getting into the game is unlikely to be as effective as one that’s been through the growth pains and has deep experience with the procedures and tools that constitute the best practices in this field. Similarly, ask about the MSPs staff – do they have enough experience to be considered experts in Managed Services, too?

Communication

If a company decides to rely on an MSP to manage all or part of their Information Technology infrastructure, it doesn’t mean they should be “out of the loop”. The MSP/Client relationship is a partnership, and that means information about the health of the IT infrastructure needs to flow back to the client company on a regular basis, in the form of monthly reports and regular meetings. Similarly, to get the maximum value out of the relationship, the client company should seek to get the MSP involved in strategic planning, to ensure the network will continue to meet the company’s needs as it grows.

All of this takes a lot more effort than picking a technology repair service out of the Yellow Pages. But technology is such an important part of business – it really makes sense to find an MSP that can partner with your company to take on the responsibility of keeping that technology up-to-date and working at optimum levels.

Clare Computer Solutions has been in business since 1990, and been providing Managed Services since 2003. Our employees average 8.8 years with the company, and over 20 in the industry. Learn more at www.clarecomputer.com/ccs-news-CCS-employee-retention. Contact us today to get started!

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IT Security Is a Company Responsibility

Perhaps you’ve seen some of the discussions regarding an impending “Digital Pearl Harbor”. What this term refers to is a potential major cyberattack that would cripple some part of our infrastructure (financial, oil production, communications, electrical, etc.), wreaking devastation on the nation (or the world) that would rival the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack.

But a far more likely threat is from the cyber criminals and malware that are constantly trying to steal your data or disrupt your IT systems. Some of the think tank experts have commented that IT security practices and measures taken on the individual and corporate level make the “Digital Pearl Harbor” scenario much less likely.

So, how can you protect your company (and maybe protect the world in the process)?

Here are three areas to consider in order to shore up your company’s defenses against cyber-threats.

Layered Defense

This notion is as old as civilization. To protect something, make an attacker have to pass LayeredDefensesthrough layers of defense to succeed. So, the router that handles your company’s internet connection needs to have all the appropriate security measures in place, including keeping the firmware up to date. There needs to be a firewall, and servers need to have anti-virus software on them, and everything needs to be regularly patched and kept up to date. All of the users’ machines should have software to find viruses, and to detect infected websites they may visit.

Education

Technical security measures are effective – most of the time. Even with regular updates, the possibility exists that something will come along a day or two before the software companies can mitigate it with an update. In times like this, a workforce that is well educated about security and trained to use good IT “hygiene” can save your company a lot of trouble. Everyone should learn how to be suspicious of unexpected emails, and be wary of emails (even from trusted senders) that may have links to infected websites.  Educate your users about “phishing” attempts and how to spot them. Warn against weak passwords, have them written down where someone could find them.

Process

Once you have your layered defenses in place, and your workforce is educated, you’re not done. You need a process in place to ensure devices are kept up date, retired machines are removed the network, new employees are trained, and policies are in place that define your company’s security stance. Security needs to be ingrained in the It infrastructure, and it needs to be a part of the overall corporate culture. Everyone needs to buy into this notion, from the C-level executives down to temp workers and interns.

Chances are, a lot of these safeguards are already in place at your company. If not, now is the time to plug those security holes, and keep vigilant. Often, your company will benefit by having a second set of eyes check your network and your security practices on a regular basis  Clare Computer Solutions has been helping companies implement security measures for decades and we can help your company, too.  Contact us now to get started!

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Tailor Your Cloud Services to Your Corporate Culture

Dozens of vendors, including most of the most well-respected names in technology, have rushed to meet the growing demand for cloud-based services. And, in most cases, these vendors’ cloud services are a reflection of their approach to technology in general.

In the extreme DIY (do it yourself) side of things, you have companies like Amazon Web Cloud ComputingServices, who have had a cloud presence longer than most. Their cloud offerings are devoid of marketing fluff, or any attempts at user-friendliness. If you can’t follow the instructions, you shouldn’t be there. Prices are low – or seemingly so, so long as you carefully design your cloud environment to deliver just what you need.

Google has also been an early player in the cloud application space, and has positioned itself to compete with Microsoft. Like Microsoft, it has a suite of productivity apps and other cloud services. In the Platform-as-a-Service world, it was early-to-market as well. But it retains some of the DIY aspects of cloud pioneers, and has had some trouble gearing up to support hordes of users with varying skill levels.

Bringing technology to the masses is something Microsoft has always excelled at and it has made them an industry giant. They saw the potential in the cloud and have brought their marketing and user-centric expertise to the game, with Office 365 and Azure.

All of this variety is a win-win for the companies that are looking to fold cloud services into their IT infrastructures. Firms with strong technical acumen on staff can make good use of the services at Amazon or Google and not worry about paying for attractive graphical user interfaces, or deep interoperability between productivity suite applications.

On the other hand, a company with a workforce long accustomed to the Microsoft environment will have an easier transition to a cloud or hybrid infrastructure if the tools they using retain the look and feel of the on-premises office network.

Companies need do their return-on-investment (ROI) calculations carefully when choosing their cloud path.  It’s not enough to simply compare monthly fees. There are costs associated with support, productivity and training, and these need to be understood and factored into the equation.  Also, since many cloud services are often priced on a consumption-based model, it’s important to have a good handle on what you’re going to need with regards to storage, bandwidth and CPU.

Clare Computer Solutions can help your company devised a cloud strategy that will fit your needs perfectly.  Contact us now to get started!

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IT Support Services Must Match the Needs of the Modern Office

Information technology (IT) changes all the time. Not only does hardware and software Network is the Platformchange month by month and year by year, the platforms themselves change.  The introduction of mobile computing, cloud computing and virtualization completed changed the IT landscape. This means support for IT has had to undergo changes as well.

IT support used to mean installing new computers and fixing computers that were broken. Then networks became the norm, and with them came servers to be maintained, and IT support services came to encompass the infrastructure itself.

Along the way, companies learned that keeping the network working was more cost-effective than simply addressing problems, and IT support providers became Managed Services Providers (MSPs). In this paradigm, the goals for the provider and client are neatly aligned – both sides want the network to stay running at optimal levels. Contrast that with the earlier “breakfix” model, where the service provider needed things to fail in order to generate revenue.

Networks without Borders

Now the network itself is breaking free of traditional brick-and-mortar restraints. Thanks to the innovations mentioned in the first paragraph, a company’s IT infrastructure might encompass multiple platforms in multiple geographic locations. Moreover, that infrastructure is likely to consist of equipment, software and services from a variety of vendors. This requires a completely different skill set on the part of the IT service provider.

IT Consulting is in Demand

As maintenance and management of the network elements become more automated, the services in demand from companies lean more towards technical IT consulting.  Companies need help and advice to design, implement and manage these multiple platforms. The agility in the hybrid cloud infrastructure also means a greater need for strategic advice on how, and when to deploy other network services to attain the company’s goals.

In addition, with multiple vendors in play, expertise is needed to ensure all the disparate parts are working together, and resolve complex issues rapidly.  Without expert help, problems can get mired in Tier 1 support levels, with each vendor insisting another vendor is the cause of the problem.

This is all good news for business, because there are real benefits to a technology landscape where a company can pick and choose precisely the tools they will need to meet their strategic goals. And with a capable IT consultant, like Clare Computer Solutions, even small-to-medium size business can take advantage of these technologies!

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Is Your Business Committed to a Supportable IT Infrastructure?

IT ConsultingInformation technology (IT) is a necessary part of nearly every business these days. If that technology has been deployed grudgingly, by dribs and drabs, to solve specific problems that cropped up over the years, network support can be very expensive and frustrating. Often, each new fix just seems to expose weaknesses elsewhere.  Don’t blame technology for this! Here’s how businesses fall into this trap:

Technologies are applied as needed only

The technological tools your business uses have to work together, and if the network was built in numerous unrelated steps, it’s likely there will be interoperability issues. Every so often, it is a good idea to look at your business, and imagine how the ideal IT infrastructure would be, and compare your existing one against that, and take steps to close that gap.

Technologies are chosen on price only

This happens frequently, when technology is purchased to solve a specific problem. The driving force behind the buying decision is quick deployment without spending too much. The result often includes equipment that is not professional-grade. For example, a wireless access point designed for home use will lack vital features with regards to interoperability, speed and security, and the problems this can cause will cost you far more than the better equipment would have!

Technologies are used until they fail

Your network consists of a number of components that work together and if one fails, it affects productivity across the office environment. For that reason, it’s important to keep tabs on the network assets and plan for an orderly rotation to get aging devices replaced before they fail.  If network equipment seems expensive, compare those costs to the costs of network downtime, lost productivity and emergency repairs – it’s a good investment!

It’s important for your business to have and maintain a supportable IT infrastructure. Larger enterprises have staff who are responsible for ensuring the company’s IT infrastructure is working optimally and up-to-date at all times, but small-to-medium enterprises often have trouble staying ahead of this. An IT consulting firm like Clare Computer Solutions can bring CIO-level expertise to your company and let you focus on running (and growing) your business. Contact us today to get started!

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