How to Put Together a Powerful Video Conferencing System For Business

Workplaces are becoming more disparate, and travel is getting more expensive. Companies are looking for alternatives to align objectives, create a sense of community, and generally drive business in the right direction. Video conferencing can replace the traditional meeting by allowing workers from all over the world to connect, share information, and make sure that everyone is pointed in the right direction.

What is video conferencing?

Video conferencing is the next evolution of the conference call. It allows employees and offices to connect without needing to be in the same physical location. Video conferencing adds the benefit of face to face interactions without the need for expensive travel. It also means that remote offices can share information and connect directly.

Why is it important for business?

Video conferencing does more than replace traditional meetings or conference calls. Video conferencing has several significant benefits for modern businesses.

Enables a digital workforce

More companies are using digital workers who are located around the world. This is a great choice for finding the right talent, understanding local cultures during expansion, and creating a global understanding of business. More than 80% of companies allow some level of telework. But connecting workers and creating culture can be difficult when everything is conducted via email. A face-to-face meeting can help workers connect with the people they work with.

Saves money

Companies save money with video conferencing because they don’t need to pay for expensive travel. Traveling around the world is exciting, but it also weighs on the company budget. Some travel may still be necessary, but by connecting remote offices digitally, businesses can minimize what’s needed.

Boosts productivity with remote team members

Culture and companionship at work is a huge productivity booster for team members. When someone is working remotely and feels disconnected from their workforce, they’ll be less focused and get less work done. By creating a sense of team, workers are more likely to keep on top of their work and stay organized, maximizing productivity.

So how do you find an exceptional video conferencing system?

There are several different options you should look for in order to make your conferencing system work well for your business.

  • Have space for enough people. If you expect everyone in your company to attend a video conference, make sure the software you choose has the capability of connecting that many individuals. It’s a good idea to future proof your system; make sure you have the ability to add more channels in the future if you need to.
  • Video quality. Although the user’s device will have a big influence on video quality, the system itself determines how much data it can transmit, and how quickly. Making sure your system is HD video capable will help keep pictures clear and detailed.
  • Group messaging. Sometimes a team member has a question that doesn’t need to be asked of the entire meeting. Being able to have small side conversations while the meeting is occurring can be helpful and reduce interruptions.
  • File sharing. Don’t remember to send a file after the meeting; send it to all screens during the meeting so that details can be discussed as necessary. The ability to share screens can also be beneficial.
  • Multiple connection methods. Expect that employees will be connecting through desktops, laptops, tablets, cell phones, and conference rooms. Ensure that the software can handle all types of devices connecting. Allow for regular calling in options, in case someone can’t use their video connection for some reason.
  • Recording. Minutes are a good way to record some aspects of the meeting, but not all of them. Recording the meeting can be a great way to share it with those who aren’t able to be present, or to use it as the foundations for a later webinar.

If you’re not sure how to construct a solid video conferencing system for your business, reach out to experts who can help you get started.

How Cybersecurity Fits Into Disaster Recovery

Having a disaster recovery plan is essential when you’re trying to keep your business and its reputation safe. In addition to focusing on details such as how you’ll function during adverse weather, you need to focus on cybersecurity. By learning more about the way cybersecurity and disaster recovery intersect, you can reduce the impact on your business if the worst happens.

Decide what requires your protection

The essence of a disaster recovery plan is to protect your organization’s data. To ensure your plan is extra-efficient, you need to choose exactly what it is you’re going to protect.

For example, if your business represents many clients, and you need to hold information about them to continue operating, what information is the most important? After you’ve identified the type of information that’s most important, you can move onto protecting it against one of the biggest cybersecurity threats: ransomware.

According to Business Insider, ransomware generates around $25 million for hackers each year. As it’s such a financially juicy target, it’s safe to assume that your most important information is at risk too. By gathering that data and backing it up in a safe space such as the cloud, you can lessen the impact if ransomware takes hold.

Treating all devices as a gateway for disaster

Most people in the United States own a smartphone. Many also have their own laptops and tablets. As a result, more employers are allowing employees to access company information remotely. The benefits of remote access include being able to work at home, working during a commute, and being able to contact the office while on business trips.

Unfortunately, every device that can access your business’s information is a gateway for a disaster. At the same time, those same devices can act as vital tools when disasters strike elsewhere. To prevent devices from becoming disaster gateways, ensure employees receive ample training on cybersecurity threats and identifying phishing emails. To make the most of your employees’ devices, ensure they’re equipped with everything they need for remote access when adverse weather hits.

Consider where you’ll need to mitigate impacts

It’s an unfortunate fact that disaster will hit all businesses at some point. While that may be certain, it isn’t clear just how badly the effects will be. Although you can’t predict the future, you can try to offset impacts in advance.

To offset impacts in advance, consider what the most disastrous element of a cybersecurity threat would be. For example, if a successful DDOS attack were to bring your website down and prevent customers from making transactions, how could you minimize downtime? Or, if a data breach results in highly sensitive information leaking elsewhere, what steps can you take to reduce the impact on your clients?

For most businesses, the biggest impact of a cybersecurity disaster is financial. On average, breached client records cost an organization $150 for each one. In the healthcare industry, the cost rises to $429. You may benefit from identifying potential costs to your business during a disaster and then consider ways to prevent or reduce them.

When examining how cybersecurity and disaster recovery intersect, always create a solid plan. If your business encounters any changes, ensure you update your plan accordingly. It’s always worth reviewing your plan as time goes on too, so you can make sure you’re abreast of the latest threats.

ISG Technology Announces Project RecognITion on National IT Professionals Day

Overland Park, KS, September 17, 2019 (Newswire.com) – ISG Technology announced today that it is launching Project RecognITion – A salute to the heroes of modern business. The initiative seeks to honor the IT professionals who work tirelessly to keep businesses productive, connected and secure.

Starting September 17th, coworkers, end-users and executives across the Midwest are being encouraged to visit ProjectRecognITion.biz to nominate the IT professionals that go above and beyond for their organizations. Nominees will be honored during the month of October in a variety of ways including a series of celebration events across five Midwest cities.

“Our team works alongside and supports some really talented IT professionals at the organizations we serve,” said ISG CEO Ben Foster. “Project RecognITion is our way of helping the business community see who some of these hard working individuals are.”

The initiative launches on National IT Professionals Day – a holiday that started four years ago to bring awareness to the important role IT professionals play in today’s world. The holiday is observed every third Tuesday in September, and utilizes #ITProDay on social media to drive awareness.

“We love the idea behind IT Pro Day so much that we decided to take it to a whole new level,” continued Foster. “We’re looking forward to hearing the stories people will share about their IT superheroes.”

Foster also added that Project RecognITion is supported by many of ISG’s strategic partners including Veeam, Cisco, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Aruba, Nimble Storage and Western Digital. Online nominations will be open until Friday October 4th at ProjectRecognITion.biz.

For media inquiries:
Scott Strickler​
sstrickler@isgtech.com
913.826.6058

What UCaaS Is, and All The Things It Covers

Just based on the language, unified communications seems pretty simple to understand. Bringing all of your communications under one provider umbrella is a smart, cost-saving idea that isn’t inherently new. Delivering this as a service is also familiar (UCaaS), perhaps more so than with other online IT solutions. But UCaaS encompasses much more than just the obvious phone, text, and email communication methods. There’s so much more to UCaaS.

What is UCaaS?

Think of all the ways a business communicates daily. Even inside an office, people call each other, email back and forth, and maybe send instant messages to each other. Larger companies with more disparate workforces might also utilize video conferencing and video calls.

The purpose of UCaaS is to make communication between companies and clients simpler. It brings all the various communication methods that companies use under one service provider; that provider often manages the implementation and upkeep of the communication solution as well.

If you can imagine a way to get in touch with a client or coworker, the odds are good that a top-notch UCaaS company can make it happen for you.

What are the major components of UCaaS?

  • VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol is nothing new, but its rapid adoption as an enterprise level telephony solution is. From either end of the connect, a VoIP call isn’t inherently different from a regular phone call; what’s different is the method of communication. Instead of information being transmitted through an old-fashioned landline, data packets are transmitted from one end of the call to the other through internet connections. This is similar to how your cell phone works, but it also gives businesses multi-line solutions that can be tied to desk phones. And, it gives users the option to log into their accounts from anywhere in the world to make a call. Say goodbye to long distance phone call costs; with more than 80% of Americans owning a smartphone, your workers are already primed to adopt this technology.
  • Conferencing – Web, audio, or video conferencing are great ways to connect offices around the world, bring teleworkers into a conversation without needing them in the office, and more. High quality conferencing systems allow for many different users in a single meeting, let you record the meeting for later use or reference, highlight speakers, and more.
  • Messaging, Email, and Texting – The vast majority of individuals have their smartphones in their hands more often than not. This means your employees can be reached by text, messaging, or email. The same is true for your customers and clients. In fact, many customers would prefer to get a text or start a chat with a company rather than call them – yet few businesses offer this opportunity. UCaaS can help you make this a feasible business option.
  • Integrated Communications – This is one of the newer and more exciting features of UCaaS. Your UC software can mesh with your CRM programs to pull up customer data as you’re talking. AI based on previous recorded calls can give you crucial information about the customer on the line and let you know how to best address their needs.
  • Flexibility – UCaaS companies are aware that your business isn’t static, and the best companies are ready to grow with you. Many management businesses offer the ability to choose the services you need, then add on as your business expands. Companies aren’t one-size-fits-all, and neither are their communications needs. Great UCaaS companies understand that.

Instead of relying on half a dozen different programs and systems to keep your business connected, bring all of your communications under one united umbrella. You’ll be glad you did.  

The Most Important Types of Recovery Sites For Business

The worst disaster recovery plan a business can have is no disaster recovery plan at all. Business disasters come in many forms, from digital attacks to power outages to natural disasters. According to government statistics, 40% of the businesses that shut down due to a natural disaster never reopen, and of those that do reopen, 25% fail within a year. It’s impractical to say that every one of those businesses would have survived with a viable disaster recovery plan, but it’s absolutely reasonable to say that strong disaster recovery plans help keep companies open and minimize losses during and after disasters.

When we talk about different disaster recovery options, there are three types of recovery sites that you should know about: hot, cold, and warm sites.

Hot sites

A hot recovery site is basically a fully functioning replication of your current business data. All servers and networks are in place, all data is available, and in some cases, you even have office space available. Should disaster strike your primary location, all you have to do is get people to your secondary location and you’re back to business.

Cold sites

A cold site is, logically, the opposite of a hot site. It has no infrastructure in place and no data backups. In some cases, it’s just rented office space that has tech capabilities and temperature control. To get up and running in a cold site, you would have to bring in hardware, connect it, and reinstall data and programs.

Warm sites

A warm site is somewhere in the middle of these two options. It may have some infrastructure in place, but your data would need to be brought in and the site would need to be brought up to full speed before you would be able to resume business operations.

What’s right for your business?

Choosing what type of site is appropriate for your business has a lot to do with how much downtime your company can tolerate. For many tech-centric online companies, any amount of downtime is unacceptable. Some companies calculate the cost of their downtime as more than half a million dollars an hour. If a day of downtime costs more than running an expensive hot site, a hot site is still a reasonable cost.

If your business can tolerate being out of commission for a day or two, however, using a cold site might be completely appropriate. A warm site can also be a good hybrid approach, where certain mission critical operations are ready to go in just a few hours if necessary, but the bulk of business operations will be available within a day or so.

Whatever type of disaster recovery site you choose, make sure it’s located in an appropriate space. Having a hot site set up in your building, or even on the other side of town, isn’t safe or useful for your business. Your site should be far enough away that a physical disaster – a hurricane, major flood, or a power outage, for example – at your primary location won’t affect your recovery site.

The speed at which you can recover cloud-based information can also play a role in choosing what type of recovery site is appropriate for you. After all, if you’re basically running your business through virtual machines in cloud operations, all you need is an active internet connection and a viable computer to get back to business; no transporting of tape backups required.

If you’re not sure what type of disaster recovery site is best for your business, the right choice is to consult with an expert in disaster recovery. They can help you figure out what’s mission critical for your business, how much downtime you can tolerate, and the best way to get your business running again in the event of a disaster.  

How to create an effective BYOD policy

If you want to let your employees use their personal devices for work-related activities, then you should learn how to create a secure and effective bring-your-own-device policy for your business.

Here’s what you need to know to get started on the right foot.

Understand the potential threats of BYOD

You can’t write an effective BYOD policy until you understand the potential threats of letting employees use their smartphones for work. Some of the biggest security threats of BYOD include:

  • Malicious websites and apps that compromise your network security
  • Lost devices that give unauthorized users access to sensitive information like email contacts, phone numbers, contracts and any data stored on your company’s network and apps
  • Employees who don’t understand the importance of keeping personal information separate from work data and apps
  • Jailbroken (rooted) smartphones that no longer include the manufacturer’s security features

Since BYOD can put your business’s security at risk, it’s not a bad idea to have a professional perform a security risk assessment that will uncover your current vulnerabilities.

Know the benefits of BYOD

Now that you know the potential threats of BYOD, you might wonder why businesses allow it.

When done correctly, BYOD can offer your business several benefits. A lot of companies feel that the benefits outweigh the risks. Besides, they know that creating an effective BYOD policy will mitigate some of those risks.

Benefits that you can expect from adopting a good BYOD policy include:

  • Increased productivity
  • Saving money by transferring the cost of mobile devices to your employees
  • Making remote work days possible, which will appeal to younger Millennial workers who prefer flexible schedules

Related: What’s an IP phone and why is it amazing for business operations?

How to craft an effective, secure BYOD policy

If you decide that you want to take advantage of BYOD’s benefits, then you will need to write a BYOD policy that protects your security, business and employees. Follow these four tips to make your BYOD as effective as possible.

1. Use straightforward language

People can only follow policies that they understand. Use straightforward language and avoid technical jargon so your employees will know how to follow your BYOD policies.

2. Authorize certain apps for business use

BYOD can make it easier for employees to use shadow IT, such as apps that you haven’t authorized. Unauthorized apps could contain vulnerabilities that give hackers access to your network. Choose cloud services that your employees can use, and ask them to avoid apps that haven’t been reviewed.

Related: 4 solid file sharing options for SMBs

3. Require anti-malware software

If your employees are going to connect to your network, then you need to make sure they use devices with reliable anti-malware software. Choose an option that matches your business needs. If the software costs money, pay for it. You don’t want someone to put your security at risk over a few dollars.

4. Educate your employees

Your BYOD policy should include an educational requirement to make sure your employees know how to use the internet, apps and other tools safely. For instance, they should know the warning signs of a phishing attempt and how to spot a fake website.

BYOD comes with a lot of benefits, but you have to take some precautions to make sure you keep your business and employees secure. If you need help, reach out to your managed IT services provider. They can review your security standards and help you create effective policies that will offset some of the BYOD policy

5 steps to prepare your business for Windows 7 end of support

It’s official: Microsoft is soon retiring support for its Windows 7 platform. Windows 10 has been slow to gain popularity with Windows users since its release in 2015, and even now, just under 40% of these users still run Windows 7.

If you’re still holding on to Windows 7 and wonder what its End of Life means for your business, here’s everything you need to know — including why you should upgrade to Windows 10 sooner rather than later. 

Windows 7 End of Life — when it’s happening

Microsoft has announced that it’s withdrawing support for Windows 7 from January 14, 2020, but what does this mean?

  • You can still use Windows 7, if you want to. Your OS won’t simply stop working
  • Microsoft will no longer offer tech support for Windows 7
  • There won’t be any more security upgrades or patches developed for Windows 7

The good news is that you can run Windows 7 for as long as you want to. But the question is: do you want to?

Keeping Windows 7 versus Upgrading to Windows 10

You’re probably wondering if it’s really worth the upheaval of installing new software, and maybe even buying new hardware, when Windows 7 still works from January 15, 2020. Here’s why it’s worth the upgrade.

Reduced cybersecurity

Since Microsoft won’t provide Windows 7 users with cybersecurity support from January 15, 2020, you’re more at risk. Hackers may well take advantage of these unsupported systems and target confidential data contained in the connected devices.

Loss of revenue

System downtime, particularly downtime caused by cybersecurity issues, costs money. On average, just one breached record costs SMBs $148 and 69 days’ worth of downtime.

Without the latest security patches available, Windows 7 devices will be especially vulnerable.

Inefficiency

If your OS crashes more frequently because it’s unsupported, then the workplace is less efficient. What’s more, you’ll miss out on any new efficiency features that Windows 10 has to offer.

Preparing for Windows 7 End of Life: A 5 Step Guide

If you’re making the switch to Windows 10, here are 5 tips to get you started.

1. Plan to succeed

Set out a timeline for phasing out Windows 7 and introducing Windows 10. Take an inventory of your current infrastructure and set a budget for making changes. Stagger the replacements by, say, only upgrading a handful of devices at a time. That way, there’s a chance to sort out teething problems without causing much downtime.

2. Identify what can’t be upgraded

It might not be financially or commercially possible to upgrade all your hardware at one time, or install Windows 10 on every device. Prioritize what must be upgraded and enlist the help of IT specialists to keep your Windows 10 devices running on a separate server from Windows 7 models. 

3. Backup your files

There’s always a chance you’ll experience compatibility issues or a technical error when switching software. Before you make any changes, backup your existing files and store them somewhere safe. The cloud is a convenient and scalable storage option that’s compatible with Windows 10.

4. Change your hardware

If your hardware is between 3-5 years old, it’s probably worth switching replacing them with newer models so they have the space and tech specifications to handle Windows 10. You can always keep some Windows 7 computers as backups.

5. Train your staff

Since it’s a new OS, there will inevitably be staff training needs. Start the process as soon as possible so that staff have time to learn the new hardware and software. This is also a great time to ask IT service providers for help with managing the transition.

If you’re still unsure how Windows 7 End of Life planning affects your business, we’re here to help. Contact us today for more information and advice on Windows 10 integration.

3 ways to ensure your business is protected from cyber threats after Windows 7 end of life

Your business and many others have run on Windows 7 for years. Now, come January 14, 2020, your entire office’s operating system is going to stop being supported by Microsoft. What does this mean for your business and its cyber safety?

Here are 3 ways you can ensure your technology environment is safe and secure following Windows 7 end of life.

Option 1:  Pay for Windows 7 extended security updates through Microsoft

Perhaps the simplest and most trustworthy solution for many businesses who need to stay on Windows 7 is to purchase extended security updates through Microsoft.

There are plenty of benefits to getting extended security updates. The obvious is that you’ll still be getting direct support from the software’s manufacturer. That sort of inside knowledge and accountability is important, for certain.  On top of that, it’s hard to match the resources that Microsoft has when it comes to awareness of the cybersecurity landscape.

If you’ve trusted Microsoft with your cybersecurity thus far, this solution is perfect.

Unfortunately, this service isn’t free. Microsoft doesn’t want to keep supporting Windows 7, so to keep getting these extended security updates you will be paying.

Right now, the pricing they have set forth is a per device cost that increases every year past the end of life of the operating system. From January 2020-January 2021, it will be $25 per computer. The year after the price goes up to $50 per device.  And the doubling trend keeps going year over year.

For the short term, this solution is perfectly viable. If your business needs an extra year to migrate over to Windows 10, paying $25 a device for extended security updates is the right move. Beyond that? Well, you’re throwing your money into life support for a dead operating system. Seems like a waste, doesn’t it?

Option 2: Rely on third-party security solutions

If you find the cost of extended security updates from Microsoft to be a little costly or not reliable enough, there are a slew of third-party solutions available.

The most important thing to consider when applying this solution to your business is to ensure that you have the correct cybersecurity in place. It can be difficult to find a one-stop top-to-bottom security solution. It’s even more difficult if you don’t have an expert on staff to manage it.

Some of the best options for third-party security are to deploy a reliable VPN and endpoint protection solution.

VPNs, or virtual private networks, are essential if your employees ever access any part of your technology infrastructure off-site. If you use Office 365 or any cloud-based solutions, VPNs ensure that anyone accessing materials over an outside internet connection are not opening your technology infrastructure up to cyber threats. For most modern businesses, VPNs are essential.

Endpoint protection is what most people think of when they think of anti-virus. It ensures that each machine it is installed on is capable of blocking cyberthreats that try to attack it. Usually, the softwares cost $10-15 per user.

Endpoint protection can be a great baseline of cyberthreat protection. If you are around enterprise size or want top-of-the-line security, endpoint protection simply won’t be enough.

Option 3: Migrate to Windows 10

Okay, so this one isn’t really a tactic to keep you on Windows 7. But there’s no easy way to put it; if you’re on Windows 7, you need to start creating a plan to migrate to Windows 10.

Sure, the other solutions presented work on some level. But in the end, they are simply bandaids you can use while you migrate your business over to Windows 10. Whether it’s tomorrow or 3 years from now, you eventually need to move off of Windows 7.

That’s the bad news, but there is plenty of good news.

Windows 10 enterprise is $84 a seat. That’s cheaper than paying for Windows 7 extended security updates past the three-year mark. It’s less of a headache than trying to piece together your own triage unit of third-party cybersecurity solutions. And, on top of that, you get the added benefits of Windows 10.

Things like regular updates, security or otherwise. Clean integration with Windows 365. A slew of cloud services your business can leverage on the daily.

It means not trying to carry your business into the future on the back of a dead operating system.

We know it can be a huge hassle to move your entire business over to a new operating system. What about all of your files? Your user preferences? What about the fact that Susan in accounting finally, after three years, knows where all of her Excel files save to?

You don’t need to worry about that, because there are companies out there who specialize in managing this exact sort of migration.

MSPs like ISG know the ins and outs of operating system migration. We can handle your file backup, your individual computer set up, your organization plan and your rollout schedule.

You don’t need to feel like the burden of migration falls only on you. Managed service experts are here and ready to ensure your migration to Windows 10 goes off without a hitch.

A 6-part checklist to setting up VoIP

VoIP technology is hardly a new thing.

In fact, it’s easily the current standard for forward-thinking businesses. But there are plenty of small businesses that have yet to make the move to VoIP. And even if you currently have VoIP phone service, it’s never a bad idea to re-evaluate your current plan to ensure it fully meets your needs.

But this isn’t something you want to plunge into without any prep work. Instead, there are some critical questions you should answer before you make a single change—and that’s what we’re going to cover in this article.

“. . . finding the right VoIP solution for your particular situation can be one of the more complex business IT decisions you’ll face.”PC Mag

Why you need a VoIP plan

Whatever you use for telephone service, either POTS or a VoIP solution, we’re talking about an important part of your business communications.

Even with the rise of email and IMs, there are still plenty of times when the best communication option is still a phone call.

As soon as your SMB graduates beyond the point that a single phone line meets your needs, you have a whole new world of options.

There are all kinds of advanced features available out there, along with providers and plans that run the gamut in terms of service quality and pricing.

The worst thing you can do is just pick one. Instead, we recommend a strategic approach.

Your VoIP-readiness checklist

The checklist below will help you decide exactly what you need and will help ensure the VoIP partner you work with is a good fit for your business.

And if you feel you’d be more comfortable with a little help, reach out to your managed IT services provider. They already know your network and should be able to provide you with consultation and support.

✔ Determine your needs

First things first.

Decide how many users you’ll need VoIP service for and what bare-minimum features you’ll need (like voicemail and the ability to transfer calls).

Why?

The number of users is important because that number will help you hone in on the service plan you’ll need from any VoIP providers you shop. The minimum features are important for a whole different reason.

VoIP services come with a lot of bells and whistles. So many that it’s easy to get lost in the options. Start by deciding what your minimum requirements are so you don’t accidentally talk yourself into advanced features you don’t really need later.

Strategic add-ons are smart. Features that sound nice but don’t really bring value should be avoided.

✔ Decide if you want or need hardware

VoIP phone systems can be entirely software based. If you opt for omitting hardware, you can run your entire phone system with headsets connected individual workstations and/or smartphone apps.

There are pros and cons to this approach.

You’ll definitely save money, but there’s a learning curve, too. And some of your employees may not be crazy about the idea of wearing a headset instead of picking up a receiver, which feels familiar.

✔ Make sure your internet connection is up to par

Most likely, your internet connection is just fine for VoIP service. Most business plans provide more than enough bandwidth to support voice calls as well as standard internet traffic.

That said, what if your internet traffic is higher than the average? Or what if you have a particularly slow business plan for internet service? Or what if you have a bandwidth cap?

Know what you’re working with before you start researching specific options. If you need to upgrade your bandwidth first, take care of that.

✔ Decide on a budget

Make note of the fact that so far, we haven’t suggested you start comparison shopping. There’s a good reason for that. The first four items on this checklist should all happen before you start shopping—including setting your budget.

There are options all over the map in terms of features, requirements and budget. Decide what you’re actually prepared and able to spend before you give serious consideration to any options.

“Your business might be small, maybe even downright tiny, but moving to VoIP can give you the power and presence of a much larger company.”Forbes

✔ Comparison shop VoIP providers

Once you know all of that, then it’s time to shop.

Do your homework. Don’t get lured into anything by one slick-talking sales rep or one particularly dazzling website. Look at reviews, compare features, and read the fine print.

Make your final buying decision as dispassionately as possible.

✔ Create a transition plan

Finally, when everything else is done and in place, create a transition plan. You won’t want to move to your new VoIP service during a busy season or on the day of the week when you get the most phone traffic.

Plan to switch things over during a slower time, and have people on hand to test the new system to make sure everything is working the way you expect it to.

A final suggestion

VoIP services are a great option for SMBs, but like all business technology, you’ll get the most out of VoIP when you have solid support. If you don’t already have a managed IT services partner, we suggest that you think about getting one.

Not only will that make the switch to VoIP easier, but it will also benefit your business across the board.

7 questions to ask before creating a business backup procedure

Data backup is so essential to modern business operations that it’s easy to forget how important it is. That’s unfortunate because data backup is extremely important.

If something happens to your network—anything from a short period of downtime to a ransomware attack that completely wipes your system—your data backups are the only thing between you and a complete and total disaster.

That’s because your data backups are basically an insurance policy. If anything happens to your original data, there they are, waiting to save the day.

But it’s not enough to know that backups are important. You still need to develop a backup strategy for your company, and that’s where this article can help.

“Backups should be as frequent as possible while not impacting the service quality and performance of the system.” – CIO

There’s no one-size-fits-all option

Data backup is like so many forms of IT support for SMBs. A cookie-cutter, a one-size-fits-all approach just isn’t going to meet your needs. That said, some form of backup is better than nothing, so don’t ditch your current backup plan until you have another one in place.

But if you have no backup procedure (or if you’re updating your backup procedure), there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it.

The right way is going to be highly customized to ensure that everything about your backup process protects your data and sets you up for success if you ever need to restore your data.

Which brings us to the 7 questions you should ask before you develop your new backup strategy.

7 critical data backup questions

The questions below will walk you through the strategic process of determining exactly what you need from your data backup service. We recommend that you go over all of these questions and your answers with your managed IT services provider.

In fact, your MSP should walk you through some version of these questions before making any backup recommendations.

1. What are your backup goals?

The core goal of all data backup strategies is the same—protect and maintain data. But why do you want to protect your data?

Are you storing sensitive data about your customers or employees? Do you rely on historical reports for future forecasting and performance? What would happen if you suddenly lost all your data and had to start over tomorrow?

Answering this question is important because it sets the stage for the rest of your strategic planning. When you have a firm understanding of what’s at stake, it’s much easier to really invest in the process.

2. How much do you need to backup?

How much data are we talking about? The type of data doesn’t really matter—yet. First, determine the total amount of data you have.

That number matters because it will help you decide how much total backup space you need. And don’t assume a 1-to-1 ratio. The general rule is that for every 1 terabyte of original data you have, you’ll need 4-5 terabytes of backup space.

3. How big are the files you’ll be backing up?

Now that you have a total number, what’s the average size of each file? Are you backing up a few hundred text files? Those are generally small and take up relatively little space.

Or do you have a massive portfolio of images and videos? Because those can be much bigger.

Average file size matters because bigger files can take longer to transfer. You’ll combine your answer to this question with your answer to the next question to help decide what type of back (onsite, offsite or hybrid) would serve you best.

4. How important is speed when accessing your backup files?

Offsite backups are generally safer simply because there’s distance.

If something happens to your office, like a fire, an offsite backup will be unaffected. Your data remains safe. Onsite backup servers might not protect you as well.

On the other hand, offsite backup tends to take longer to restore. If speed matters, offsite backup alone may not be the way to go. You may want a hybrid backup solution—both offsite and onsite—so that you have the protection of offsite backups with the speed of onsite backups.

5. What’s the ideal scenario for restoring data from your backup files?

Let’s go back to that terrifying question. Suppose you lose all your data all at once and you have to begin the process of a full data restoration. What’s the best case scenario at that point?

Do you need everything back in place in a matter of hours? Would days or even weeks be okay? How will you maintain business operations if you need to work remotely for a while?

You’re planning for a potential disaster. Ask yourself what the smoothest possible recovery would look like for you, your staff and your customers. Now, what kind of data backup enables that?

6. Are you subject to any regulatory requirements?

If your business is subject to compliance rules, they may limit some of your data backup options. You may not be able to use offsite backups, for example. Or you may need to ensure there’s a specific level of security in play first.

The cost of compliance violations is high. You don’t want to go through all the work of developing a backup strategy only to discover you’ve left yourself open to a regulatory fine.

7. Are you sure about the security of your data backups?

Finally, give some thought to the level of security your data backup plan provides.

If you’re using an onsite server, do you have both software-based and physical security precautions in place? If you’re using an offsite option, does the backup provider guarantee cybersecurity?

Don’t assume everyone else out there takes security as seriously as you do. Think it through and ask.

The right backup option for you

If you work your way through these 7 questions, you’re much more likely to arrive at a backup strategy that fully protects your data. And don’t forget to reach out to a data backup pro if you feel out of your depth.

After all, protecting your data matters. Make sure you give this the time and attention it deserves.