3 Considerations When Planning Your Future Information Technology

I’m sure many of you have heard of the age-old adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” No business owner should see this as a surprise. Yet, when we chat with new clients and their peers, it seems like they were winging information technology(IT) until now.

Many local businesses are surviving on a day-to-day basis. Some even feel they barely have time to plan for what is going on this afternoon. Tomorrow will begin to seem overwhelming, and the recipe for disaster is born.

Here Are the Three Important Reasons Why You Should Take the Time to Plan for Tomorrow:

1. Your Business Depends on It:  How many of us have thought about businesses growing in a healthy, reliable fashion when executing your sales efforts consistently. It’s critical that you and your team understands the full capabilities and metrics tied to your business efforts. By planning for your technology future, employees will begin to thrive, finances become more predictable, and the stress levels around technology drop. Your internal staff members aren’t left with trial and error. By preparing your information technology today, you can battle the fires of tomorrow.

2. Putting-Out Fires Isn’t Productive:  Many local business owners become regularly stuck fighting information technology fires. That’s unfortunate because, in the larger scope of things, it feels like work is being accomplished, but no situation has been remedied. Your information technology partner should be working within your business, not on your business. This path of neglect is also one leading to high stress and minimum growth.

3. Life Happens:  Employees can get sick, or decide to leave the business unexpectedly, even with proper planning, there’s absolutely no margin for error at this point. Sometimes, businesses are faced with opportunities, that demand immediate action, again delaying the time to think about what advantages, and needs your business now has for technology.

How Can WE Fix This?

As IT people and not miracle-workers, we can create a fully-encompassing management solution for your technology. Putting out the fire, of one of the largest problem with local companies today, aging technology.  As a trusted IT partner in the Bay Area, we understand that there are many substitutes that come close to the care, and customer satisfaction provided by our staff.

If your business has been having technical issues, you owe it to yourself, and your work, to give an expert a call. To begin a no-cost conversation regarding your information technology, feel free to reach out to any of our friendly staff for further assistance.

 

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How to Devise a Budget that includes your Disaster Recovery Plans

Planning and disaster recovery, more importantly, budgeting, is one of those tasks few business continuity managers look forward to completing every year. After all, it can become a pretty involved, and complicated processes for anyone, often seen as sobering to tally-up the final bill. Love-it or hate-it, devising a business disaster recovery (BDR) budget is a necessary evil which nobody can avoid. On the bright side, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure you spend wisely on a disaster recovery budget.

Rally the Troops

Call in the troops with a rallying cry for disaster recovery to protect the entire organization. By design, planning and budgeting should involve the CEO, or top-level management, and department leaders across the company — not only IT. Key members from varying departments like sales and customer service can drive budgeting needs by contributing valuable insights on how systems and resources are used, performing, and the maintenance needed. Business owners and CIOs can see what the plan entails, and decide how to best execute the proposed strategies while staying within the budget.

Know What’s Important

After you’ve rallied the troops and the advocates, your next step would be to focus the bulk of your disaster recovery planning efforts around your most precious asset. For most, business begins and ends with data. Data can be perceived as analytical, or informational bits and bytes that make up the information that runs your business.

Commonly, these budgets should be structured in a way, to cover vital company information from various angles. An example of this can be found at some level of most businesses. The entire organization uses a firewall(s), to ward off network attacks at the perimeter level. Anti-virus and end-point protection halt threats on production servers or prevent data encryption. Although the equipment varies from one company to another, but eventually technology breaks. Having an on-site, and an off-site backup plan will ensure that your business line data can be recovered fully, and reliably.

Business Risk Weigh-out

Now it’s time to hone in on actual disastrous scenarios. This is when your staff can assist in identifying the biggest threats to your business. Begin to engineer strategies to minimize the exposure and risks to data. Your hardware and data’s physical location is always a factor, but most organizations should thoroughly plan for both natural and accidental disasters. Although you might have prepared a comeback from fire or flood, have you given thought to disgruntled employees? What about cybercriminals, and hacking?

From here, we can begin working on a budget that properly reflects, the tools and resources needed to put your strategy in place. Our managed service partners have the freedom to budget in anything from training internal-staff in advanced cybersecurity measures to our network monitoring process. Your budget must cover the workforce needed to spring into action during these disaster recovery scenarios.

Prioritize Your Assets

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in disaster recovery planning is treating each system and process as equals. Why? Because it often leads to employing “grade-A” protection across your infrastructure. Not quite sure where your resources rank in the pecking order? Well, this is where a detailed business impact analysis (BIA) comes in handy. A BIA will identify each resource in your environment. It will also help drive your budgeting efforts based on their order of importance.

Fund Your Budget Wisely

Smart budgeting is about setting your limits and staying within those very boundaries. Your ability to stay within that safe zone will largely depend on your organizational structure, but some companies are already allocating a sizable portion of their budget towards disaster recovery services. Typically, we see those that operate disaster recovery as its own separate line-item, taking a more targeted approach for every department.

Your Peace-of-Mind

Unfortunately, things don’t always go according to plan. Failed backups or lapses in communication, these roadblocks can lead to stumbling over the hurdles to recovery. Your disaster recovery can be seen as an ongoing process, without a time constraint, you can periodically test your solutions along the way.

If your company is struggling to get over any of the hurdles on the road to successful disaster recovery, contact us to begin a no-cost, no-obligation conversation with one of our friendly staff members.

managed service resources for building SMBs technology stance

8 Warning Signs You’re Using the Wrong IT Service Solution

Dreading your company’s technology review because you can’t show how your technology is performing? Have a provider suffering from a lack of ideas on how to truly accelerate technology?  You’re not alone – these are common symptoms for Bay Area businesses having selected the wrong managed IT service solution.

Who could blame you? The marketplace is crowded with vendors and tools that promise to deliver exactly what you need. Even the “do-it-yourself” path, with homegrown systems or spreadsheets, can seem like you’re moving in the right direction.

Sooner or later, you will sense “something is wrong,” but you can’t quite put your finger on what exactly. If that’s you or could become you, check out these 10 warning signs that your company needs to make a change:

8 Warning Signs You’re Using the Wrong IT Service Solution:

1)  Lacking a consolidated point-of-service for all technology related matters

2)  Tired of burning service hours on re-active support instead of proactive thinking?

3)  Bouncing between different relationship and account managers within your IT support’s organization?

4)  Weeks have passed without any word from your account manager or that IT Guy you hired

5)  There’s no personalization – Your IT support never seems to know your network, let alone, your name

6)  No one owns the roadmap for projects, unplanned work, updates, and changes

7)  The “out-of-the-box” support solutions were over positioned, and  don’t deliver

8)  Your “good enough,” functionality isn’t good enough for your management team

Coming to the Realization That You Didn’t Make the Right Choice?

Make a change — your next quarter doesn’t need to be a repeat of this quarter. The bottom-line is that executives need to know technology is being supported by scalable trustworthy, technology partner. This includes building a check-list of “would-like-to-have” features, “must-have” features and “deal breakers.”

Reference your list closely as you vet future products and solutions. Finally, it’s smart to secure feedback from others in your industry or channel. Consider inviting potential solution providers to your site, to your team a solution demo.

There’s no doubt this process is rigorous. But, it’s what’s required to find the best IT support and service solution for your organization. Contact Us – for a no-cost, no-obligation, conversation regarding unlocking the true potential of your business network and managed IT service solution.

Your Internal Teams Greatly Benefit from a Managed IT Service Provider

Having a Managed IT Service Provider (MSP) in your IT mix can free-up internal staff for more strategic projects, like that app you always wanted, or those file-sharing tools your employees need. Establishing a strategic partnership with your IT vendor is essential to the relationship’s success. After 30 years in the IT Service realm, these are the biggest misconceptions, surrounding your current MSP, and internal teams.

“Bargain-Shop” Managed IT Service Provider

Organizations are continuing to turn towards MSPs to handle certain IT functions, as an extension of their internal teams. Although it appears most businesses see the value of augmenting a Managed Service Provider, many are looking for the “cheapest” option available.

This highlights the very reason an organization turns to a Managed IT Service Provider in the first place – for change. Cost-savings were always seen as benefits to Managed IT Services, but many have shifted their mindset, from finding the lowest price to hunting for the greatest value.

Look for MSPs that have experience in your industry, and speak less about technology. Across the board, you want a partner that can explain business outcomes, and how services can help shorten the roadmap to your goals, not pushing product.  Managed Service Providers share business perspective, not technology pushed by vendors. The only way to avoid “deadbeat-IT” is by leveraging outside partners that carry proven track records with established clients.

Top Managed Service Providers Extend Proficiency and Reach

Your MSP usage doesn’t have to be confined to break-fix services related to hardware and its availability. Many CIOs are looking for MSPs that can deliver advanced services, like virtualization, converged-infrastructure or Security-as-a-Service.

With an increase in demand for services around network analytics, business intelligence, and application monitoring, your service provider should have an evolving offering. One that meets the demands of a dynamic technology landscape. It should be noted, a shift with some MSPs has begun, as we’ve seen several refuse the extension to support legacy infrastructure and outdated software.

Partners, NOT Replacements

While more and more companies are relying on outside help for IT needs, MSPs should complement your internal team, rather than replace it. Instead, this frees up existing assets to focus on core business functions, to better utilize company resources. Many of our clients have claimed it brought IT departments, “out-of-the-shadows” and allowed them to focus on core initiatives, a win-win for your IT staff.

Your MSP should provide you with strategy, documentation, repeatable process, access to their ticketing portal and friendly staff welcoming your calls. Company technology doesn’t have to keep you up at night.

Contact Us – to discover how Managed IT Services with Clare Computer Solutions can begin to benefit your business overnight.

Why Documenting Your Infrastructure Is Crucial to Your Next Tech Project

Things move fast in business, but they move even faster in technology. Because of this, many business’ Information Technology (IT) infrastructures are poorly planned and can be fixed once a user can document technology. Technological tools are often deployed to address a specific problem, without consideration to the entire infrastructure.  Decisions are made to address short-term issues with little or no regard to the company’s long-range plans.

When a company wants to plan for growth or improve its technology, it becomes increasingly more difficult to get a handle on the current situation, which makes strategic planning nearly impossible.  You can’t find the finish line if you can’t find the starting line!  Here are some suggestions:

Perform Regular IT Assessments

Ideally, every change or addition to your IT infrastructure would be properly documented immediately, but with the pace of technology and the advent of the “Bring Your Own Device” movement, this may not be practical.   But once or twice a year, an assessment of the entire Technology infrastructure should be performed, this provides technology managers inside your company the ability to make better, more informed decisions than ever before.

Cycle-Out Unused/Obsolete Assets

Clutter grows on its own, whether in an attic or in an office.  Apply the notion of “Spring Cleaning” to the business and at least once a year, get rid of computers and devices you don’t use or need.  Aging or unused devices have grown to become the largest security threat, followed closely behind by remote desktop protocol. As technology begins to age, you will notice resources being pulled-away, incrementally, in as supportable life-span is nearing its end.

Documenting Your Infrastructure

When the time comes to implement a sweeping growth initiative, you will need an up-to-date, accurate and relevant view of your current infrastructure.  This should consist of both asset lists (devices, computers, software licenses) and a network diagram.

When you document technology, you can manage your technology. But who’s got time to do all this stuff?   Who have the skills to apply this level of organization?

Clare Computer Solutions have the tools and the experience to handle IT documentation quickly and efficiently if you’re tired of half-done network diagrams, that never seem to stay updated. We handle multiple networks, so we can apply this broad experience to provide expert advice on your company’s technology strategies. Contact us now to get started!

10 Reasons Why SMBs Are Vulnerable to Security Attacks

They say recognizing a problem is the first step in solving it. But when it comes to cybersecurity, many SMBs don’t believe they have a real problem on their hands. Many simply believe that hackers will focus their attention exclusively on large and well-heeled organizations, and aren’t interested in smaller businesses. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and it’s this mentality that leaves businesses highly susceptible to attacks.

1) Not If, but When
Many small businesses don’t invest sufficiently in IT security resources and protection. This may be due in part to the fact that they may not know they’re being targeted. According to the Ponemon Institute 2016 State of SMB Cybersecurity Report, hackers have breached 50% of the 28 million small businesses in the United States have no clue they’re being targeted.

2) Evolving Threat Landscape
Trying to keep pace with the changing nature of cyber threats is a full time. Many cannot afford the cost of internal IT security staff, which is why it’s imperative that their MSP keep them protected from zero-day threats.

3) Users Don’t Always Know Security Best-practices
In the last year, phishing was involved in 90% of breaches, which makes end users both the weakest link and the first line of defense. The best way to counter this threat is to train and educate end-users on the impact of their online behaviors. A well-trained user can help prevent threats like ransomware, drive-by downloads, keyloggers, and many more.

4) Lack of Effective Security Policies and Protocols
Companies should have documented policies in place to ensure all passwords are strong and regularly changed. Although these actions are “status-quo,” two-factor authentication is many. Access rights to network files, folders, and file shares need to be tightly controlled to avoid malware wreaking havoc on networks.

5) Exposure to Multiple Vector
All the ways that users’ can interact with the internet must be considered, from emails, attachments, links, to web browsing and network activity. Effective endpoint security starts with protecting each of these vectors from cyber attacks. Featuring multi-layered protection to defend you from threats that use different exploits to gain access to your network.

6) Complex Security Creates Admin Challenges
Consider not only the costs of buying cybersecurity software but also the operational expenses of the latest in security technology. Systems that use best-in-class solutions paired with minor automation can make security both more affordable and more effective. Using these solutions allows internal teams tasked with administration’s job easier.

7) Out-of-Date Systems
By following a rigorous patching regime, you can avoid many of the application vulnerabilities used to comprise networks. At times, patching can feel unimportant, but with the help of our staff, and a little automation, patching management has become smoother, and more cost-effective. WannaCry, 2018’s biggest cyber-scare could have been avoided completely by simply patching systems to best practices.

8) Murky Network Visibility
Having accurate information about your network technology, and what’s connected to it, is vital in protecting users from both internal and external threats. Network monitoring tools can identify network anomalies and counter threats before they do harm to your systems. Knowing can be half the battle, and being able to pinpoint affected systems and the potential path of destruction.

9) Poor Backup Practices
Faced with attacks like ransomware, SMBs must have an effective back-up and retention policy. 60% of companies that suffer from a cyber attack are out-of-business within 6 months due to the sheer amount of data loss. There are many on and off-premise cloud-based backup systems that will help avoid such fate. Unfortunately, for companies willing to pay the ransom these days, it will not guarantee you will get your data back.

10) Compliance
Regulations affect several of the largest industries, and securing endpoints are a routine compliance requirement for most. It has become vital to understanding your compliance obligations and ensuring sufficient security is in place, to protect your business.

Clare Computer Solutions has the tools and experience to handle any aspect of your IT security. With tools to assess and remediate vulnerabilities. Clare Computer Solutions handles multiple networks, so we can apply this broad experience to expertly advise on your company’s technology strategiesContact us today to begin the conversation on securing your business.

Your Security Policies Protect More Than a Multi-Generational Workforce

Every generation approaches technology differently. A 55-year-old, manager is going to think about data-security differently, then a 22-year-old just starting their career. Recent studies have shown that different generations have dynamic attitudes and behaviors regarding digital security, requiring businesses to move from a one-size, “fits-all mentality,” to a more tailored approach. Could this new-age workforce be your next vulnerability?

Viewing Security Policies Differently

Recent studies conducted by our partners, “Webroot Security” have shown, younger generations, think about online security less than their older counterparts. Younger generations can/will make the assumption, inherent levels of security, exist in the workforce. This is even more of a reason for layering security and to establish a plan via company-wide, security policies.

A 2016 Webroot survey found, despite a reputation for being less “tech-savvy,” 49% of baby boomers reported having anti-virus solutions installed on their devices; only 10% more than millennials. The survey found, that 49% of millennials were concerned about someone gaining access to their social media accounts, versus 33% concerned with someone gaining access to their email accounts.

82% of millennials re-use passwords for websites and applications, compared to 70% of baby boomers. It was also reported, that 86% of baby boomers hardly download free applications or software to work devices without consulting your company designated IT support.

Our partners, at Citrix, surveyed workers to find which generation posed the greatest risk to sensitive information in the workplace, and millennials received 55% of the vote. It should be noted – baby boomers as being the most susceptible to phishing and social engineering attacks. (33%)

Tailor Your IT Security Approach

  1. Identify and build contextual access controls so users have access to apps and data; nothing more.
  2. Automatically prevent employees from running unauthorized apps on corporate hardware or worse, networks.
  3. Extend protection to mobile platforms, but give users the freedom to access data securely on the go.
  4. Embrace virtualization and containerization for critical apps and data.
  5. Gain visibility via analytics, so you can be proactive about security.
  6. Increase Cyber-Awareness Training for users.

These steps won’t solve every security problem, but they will go a long way in helping to better secure your workforce; regardless of age.  With the cyber-landscape evolving faster than ever, applying education, training, and remediation with the assistance of your staff has become paramount. Like many, knowing where to start is half the battle, and if you need a kickstart – Contact Us – to schedule your free Cyber-Awareness Training today.

 

Your Advantages When Outsourcing IT Through an MSP

More security threats emerge every year, leaving many businesses to begin the search for outsourcing their IT tasks to a Managed Service Provider (MSP). An MSP allows businesses to focus on core-objectives, instead of resolving IT issues. Without the necessary experience, trying to fix IT problems on your own can lead to higher costs, when compared to letting a professional service provider take care of issues as they arise.

When trusting your private-business data to a third party, you want to work with a company focused on maintaining the lowest level of risk. In addition, when deciding on an MSP, do thorough research and make sure all your requirements are met.

Here Are 5 MSP Benefits Your Business Can Reap When Building a Partnership

#1. Reducing Cost

Reducing cost is a major benefit for most businesses using an MSP. Working with a wide variety of clients, expired IT Companies know what services can help bring your costs to a minimum. As an MSP, we make costs more convenient, charging monthly – making it no surprises for our clients. Keeping your needs covered, so your free to concentrate on your business.

#2. Infrastructure Updates & Procurement

As you know, setting up IT infrastructure isn’t only about purchasing the hardware, installing software, and configuring it to your network. Regular updating and upgrading are critical to the security of your business. MSPs help business owners keep IT infrastructure, up-to-date and able to take-on such business tasks.

#3. Scalability

As you grow and expand, the ability to scale IT environments are needed for a company’s survival. Scaling is one more task companies can outsource, and another benefit your MSP can provide. MSPs help leverage current infrastructure investments, paring with innovative thinking to provide users a robust solution.

Many business owners fear falling behind the technology curve because the costs to recover can become far too great. MSPs can assist in implementing only business-critical changes to IT environments as business needs change. As a technology partner, your MSP should assist in achieving a better ROI.

#4. Use your staff more effectively

An MSP helps your internal IT team by freeing them from the day-to-day operations of your network. If you’re without an internal team, you’ve probably the been forced to rely on a “technically-gifted” staff member to handle user inquiries or on-site issues. With outside assistance from an IT expert, your team can do what it was hired to do, increase their productivity, and move the company ahead

#5. Security

Regardless of your employee count, IT security will protect your most critical business data. Outsourcing your security to an MSP that is aware of the latest trends, will bring the appropriate essential for network defense. An MSP provides peace-of-mind in term of security, for your cloud, and on-premises infrastructure.

 

Why YOU need a Strong Network Foundation to Support Emerging Tech

To take advantage of any opportunities in “Internet of Things (IoT)” and “Artificial Intelligence, (AI)” you must invest in robust wireless networks and with fast connections to any cloud applications. If you were building a house, you wouldn’t start with the windows. You would start by building a strong foundation. By laying the groundwork for future innovation, many businesses have capitalized on the competitive advantage, over there rival’s uptime.

Such is the case with small businesses and emerging technologies.

Where it makes business sense, your competition is investing in the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and other emerging IT solutions.  In order to make those deployments successful, you must first ensure you have strong and well-designed wired and wireless networks with fast connections to cloud services where possible, to power IoT and AI platforms. Many of the leading security applications use AI to create a security landscape, to familiarize it’s applications, with threats beyond our borders.

Without a strong network foundation, your business lacks the ability to effectively compete for new customers. You will begin to lack the customer service, and quality your customer’s were once assured. While it might seem obvious, companies shouldn’t rush head-first into adopting leading-edge technologies without assessing and ensuring the network can handle such workloads. Once that scalable and secure network infrastructure has been deployed, you can layer your advanced technologies on top.

How You Can Build a Strong Network Foundation

The first thing a business should do is assess its current network technology and refresh any strategies to determine: What is the state of your network now and what do we want it to be? Companies that do this on their own, won’t catch everything, and technology partners can use automated tools for a deeper dive. This assessment involves the checking of network health and any underlying infrastructure. A trusted partner should always be consulted when developing a new strategy for what the company.

After that, partners design the architecture of the network. Often, this involves taking systems and combining them into a core IP-based network. Whether your network spans across several locations or just one. Knowing what you already invested in, is half the battle. With a network assessment; businesses received increased perimeter security, alongside reports disclosing the age, and workload on current server environments. Throughout all of this, network security should be top of mind. The process can also be streamlined and orchestrated via a managed service provider.

Low-latency connections deliver the response you need and to the customers you want. Without this foundation, your business sits on a house of sand – It’s time to build the foundation.

Contact Us – To get started on your journey in assessing your infrastructure, with our arsenal of deep-diving tools to discover, the depths of your network.