How IT Budgeting Can Make a Huge Difference for Your Company

Do you see your company in this scenario?

XYZ Corp was struggling to get orders out on time, keep track of product, and maintain positive customer experiences. They knew that their aged IT systems were to blame, but didn’t know where to begin to get things in order and the anticipated expense kept them in a pattern of “bandaid” fixes and crisis management.IT Budget

When they learned of the free budgeting and strategy sessions Clare Computer Solutions (CCS) is offering, they knew they needed to give it a try. In the initial meeting they learned how, with the help of assessment tools and skilled technical consultants, they could very quickly know the sources of their troubles and the priorities that would remedy the most critical pain-points first. They decided to take the first step.

In a brief 4 hour assessment, CCS identified that their server infrastructure was aged, software updates had not been applied, memory utilization was extremely high, and that the log files showed repeated failures of various types. They also identified that the overall network design was not optimal for the way they were trying to work and that many of the workstations had unsupported operating systems.

During the strategy session, CCS explained the findings and how these various problems were contributing to the poor performance. It was simple for them to identify the greatest pain-points, how they were affecting the business, and what the priorities needed to be to bring about the most immediate relief. Additionally, CCS was able to show how taking these steps would establish systems that XYZ Corp could build upon for their future objectives.

After identifying the priorities, CCS outlined a budget proposal spreading the expenses for the various mini-projects over the course of one year. At that point, it was easy to see how step-by-step XYZ Corp could remedy their most immediate problems and build a system that they could rely on and grow with.

XYZ’s CFO was very impressed. “Having a clear picture of what needed to be done, spelled out in a phased approach, enabled us to make these improvements without negatively affecting our cashflow.”

These same benefits could apply to your company – and it all starts with a free IT budgeting session. This is the perfect time of you to be thinking about your company’s goals and plans for next year. Make sure your technology will support those goals! Contact us to get started.

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Section 179 Deduction Can Help Your Business Purchase Hardware/Software Before the End of 2015

There are government incentives for the purchase of capital equipment such as hardware and software before the end of 2015. Please visit the Section 179 Website and consult with your tax specialist prior to purchase.

The Section 179 Deduction has been announced for 2015 and the current deduction limit is $25,000 (This could change – there are efforts underway to increase this amount). This means businesses can deduct the full cost of qualifying equipment from their 2015 taxes, up to $25,000. The equipment must be purchased and put into use by midnight, 12/31/2015.

Clare Computer Solutions can assist you with a recommended implementation plan for upgrading your equipment, infrastructure and software applications. We are here to help you and help you save money.

Contact us or call (800) 339-0690 ext 148 for a FREE 2015 IT budget consultation about what your specific company may require and then refer to the Section 179 website for more information about available incentives for your business:

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Healthcare Providers: The Time to Plan Your IT Budget is Now

Autumn has begun, so this is the time to create the budget for the coming year. Does your budget include addressing your practice’s IT needs?

IT costs can be controlled and predictable when steps are taken to properly maintain the IT infrastructure and cycle out aging IT assets in an orderly manner.

Here’s how to address this in 3 manageable steps:


Take stock of what your IT infrastructure is right now. In a small medical practice, this might be done visually, but generally, it’s much better to utilize a software tool to “discover” what you have, and output that information in a diagram and an accompanying asset list.


Often, the assessment will reveal some things that have to be addressed immediately, and if that’s the case, take steps to repair what’s truly not working.  It can ensure your office’s operations are stable and properly running as you address the next step, which is more strategic.


Forget technology for a minute. What are the goals for your practice over next 1, 3 or 5 years?  How do you envision the future? Then compare that vision against your current IT infrastructure and decide how that environment would have to change to accommodate Budget time!your practice and its operations if those goals are met.  Also, is your current technology helping you meet HIPAA requirements? How can you ensure your technology will be appropriate for your future needs?

For a lot of Healthcare Providers, this type of strategic IT planning is not in their skill set. This is the responsibility of a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or a Chief Information Officer (CIO) – to create a technology roadmap to match your practice’s goals.  Clare Computer Solutions provides strategic IT planning and consulting, acting as a “Virtual CIO” to help practices just like yours achieve their goals. We can help you, too – contact us today to get your IT budget started!

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Insist upon Transparency from IT Service Providers

One of the things companies struggle with if they choose to outsource part or all of their ITTransparency support is the fear of losing control. Having a third party managing a company’s IT should not mean relinquishing control of, or visibility into, the IT infrastructure, however. Companies have a right to insist upon transparency from IT service providers.

The relationship between a company and third party service providers works best when information flows freely and easily between the two parties. Therefore, it’s important that the client understand what the provider is doing on their behalf, and have ready access to information about the network.

On the other hand, the whole reason for outsourcing aspects of IT management is to shift focus towards the core business and let the 3rd party handle the ongoing support of the company’s IT. So how can a useful balance be struck? Here’s how a successful client/provider relationship should work.

Access to Network Management Dashboards

Service providers may take responsibility for clients’ networks, but they don’t actually own them. It makes sense for the owners to be able to view the status of their network – even if it’s in a “view only” mode.

Access to Network Login Credentials

There’s no justifiable reason why management personnel for a company would not have access to the network login credentials. It’s a safeguard against the provider going out of business, or if the business relationship becomes strained.

Monthly Network Health Reports

Even if outsourcing the IT Support relieves the burden of day-to-day network management, the IT Infrastructure is a vital part of the business and management needs to be aware of the health of that part of the business through monthly metrics. And management needs to read those reports and understand them.

Periodic Strategic Reviews

The information contained in a quarter’s worth of monthly reports is extremely valuable. From this, trending data can indicate what parts of the IT infrastructure will need to be replaced or upgraded and when. Company goals set by management can also factor into the IT roadmap and enable the company to ensure their technology will meet their needs as they meet their growth goals.

When the relationship between a company’s management and their IT staff (whether it’s in-house or outsourced, or a mixture) is a partnership with common company-focused goals, then the company can truly leverage the power of technology to compete in the marketplace and prosper. Clare Computer Solutions has long advocated this approach with our NetCentral managed service program, and our clients wouldn’t have it any other way. Contact us to get started with NetCentral.

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Don’t Ignore Your PCs In Your Disaster Recovery Plans

Disasters come in all shapes and sizes. An event that renders your office unusable qualifies as a major disaster, and dealing with that should be a major focus of your Disaster Recover (DR) plan.  Having a server fail would have a widespread adverse effect on your business too, so there should have schemes in place to mitigate that risk on your business.

What about the PCs (desktop computers) in your office?

In today’s business world, workers use a variety of devices to do their jobs – computers, laptops, tablets, and smart phones.

But for most office workers, the desktop PC is where they do most of their work, and despite the proven wisdom of having important data centrally located, a lot of important data is still being stored on desktop PCs.

What constitutes a disaster for a PC?  Here are two common examples.PC crashed

PC hardware/operating system failure – Desktop machines have steadily improved in quality and come down in price for years, but they still fail. One unfortunate side effect of the lower price of these devices is, it often isn’t worth the trouble to spend much time trying to fix one when it breaks.

PC becomes infected by malware – The variety of ways a computer can become infected with malware has grown both in number and sophistication over the years, and despite anti-virus or anti-malware programs, sometimes a PC becomes unusable due to infection, and getting rid of the infection may become more costly than replacing the machine.

Regardless of the lower out-of-pocket costs for a replacement PC, the loss in productivity while purchasing and setting up a new machine, and the cost of data lost forever all affect a company’s bottom line. An office with say, 50 desktop users is likely to have one or more machines acting up at almost any given time. What can be done to mitigate this?

Desktop backup and imaging is very cost effective. In this scheme, software backs up all the PCs’ images (usually to a local Network Attached Storage device). Then, if a PC fails completely, that image can be used to quickly set up a replacement machine to be identical to the failed one.  If a user’s machine gets infected, the machine can be re-imaged to a backup dated prior to the infection!

There are all types of disasters, and thankfully, technology exists to minimize the effect they can have on your business. Clare Computer Solutions is managing hundreds of PCs protected in this way, and we have seen it pay for itself time and time again. Contact us to get your PCs covered by image backup.

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Why Your Company Needs a Virtual CIO

Companies of almost any size these days have an IT infrastructure of some kind. As a company grows larger, it becomes necessary to make arrangements to have that technology supported – whether by ad hoc (break-fix) service, or through an ongoing proactive support arrangement.

Either way, this type of support is tactical in nature. Yes, the network needs to be kept running so the company can leverage the benefits of the technology for its day-to-day Virtual CIOoperations. But what about strategic support?

In large enterprises, this falls under the purview of the Chief Information Office (CIO). As technology is integrated into the heart of the business operations, it makes sense that technology enters into the strategic discussions as well. A CIO would be privy to the company’s growth plans and be involved in mapping out initiatives to ensure the company’s technology will meet their needs as it grows.

The CIO is also involved in the IT budgeting process. An IT budget will take into account the ongoing costs of maintaining the IT Infrastructure, and include technology refreshes and anticipated projects. By having a detailed yearly IT budget, there are far fewer unanticipated IT expenditures to adversely affect cash flow. Also, having orderly plans for refreshes and IT projects enable these to occur with minimal disruption to the operations of the business.

The challenge for many businesses though, is they can’t afford a full-time CIO. They are trapped in a wholly tactical place when it comes to technology, and this can be an impediment to growth. So, why not “rent” a CIO from Clare Computer Solutions?

Clare Computer Solutions (CCS) provides CIO-level services (Virtual CIO) as part of our NetCentral Managed Services Program. This closes the loop to encompass tactical AND strategic support for your company’s IT Infrastructure. This includes IT budget planning, strategic advice, and planning for all IT initiatives. Contact CCS to get started, because your business needs a CIO.

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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.


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:

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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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