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How to enhance business collaboration with the right technology

It goes without saying that the right business technology can improve productivity. For example, a software upgrade or switch may mean that employees can now telecommute more. They can create, write and edit documents with one another in real time even if they’re on opposite sides of the world.
However, not all small business owners think about collaboration and technology strategically. Some may look at a collaboration tool and decide to use it without 100 percent understanding why they’re choosing this specific tool over another. Is it really the right tool? What makes it the strongest tool for the needs of the business? Is it trying to fix something that is not broken? Strategic thinking helps SMB owners recognize the areas in which collaboration gives them the greatest value.

Anticipate the needs of the business

Your business won’t be the same in two years as it is today. Even a mere week or month from now, it’ll have changed. One thing that’ll remain constant, though, is the need for collaboration. The right collaboration technology will be able to grow or evolve with the needs of the business, at least for the next year or two. A basic example: If your business plans to expand its telework options next year and you’re choosing new software now, it makes sense to factor in how friendly a program is for teleworkers or any telework-specific options it has (ex: does it have time tracking? Video calls?).

Streamline processes instead of bloating them

Collaboration isn’t always effective. In fact, the wrong tools or approach can seriously hamper a business. Take an SMB owner who would like employees to work together more on creating project presentations. One question to ask before implementation would be whether there actually is a need for more collaboration in this area. Have project presentations been lacking? If so, why? If they have not been lacking or the underlying reasons aren’t addressed, then the SMB owner risks tying up his or her employees’ time with an unnecessary or wrong collaboration tool.
Similarly, if new collaboration software means that the employees in your department have to take an extra step to collaborate with workers in another department, it may not be the best choice.
Collaboration is supposed to make things easier, not harder. There’s such a thing as collaboration burnout. Managers today may spend 85 percent of their time in meetings, on email and on the phone. It could be that the right technology for your business decreases this percentage and frees up more time for managers to do other things.

Fit the technology or approach with the company culture

This point expands a bit on “collaboration burnout.” The culture of some SMBs is 24/7 work. In other words, employees are expected to be reachable at any time. That works just fine for some employees and companies. However, if you don’t own this type of business, it’s important to choose collaboration programs or goals that reflect your norms. Alternatively, you can take extra steps to uphold your values when collaboration is so easily available.
For instance, if an employee calls in sick and your company uses a BYOD policy, you may be tempted to ask her to work from home that day. Depending on how sick she is, this move could actually result in less productivity and collaboration.

Learn more about the business

Here’s how you can maximize your collaboration tools:

  •    Focus on the problem/goal and not so much on the technology itself.
  •    Give serious consideration to tools that employees already love and that have been proven.
  •    Take a look at the big picture and the total cost of using this collaboration technology.
  •    Make sure that your IT services provider understands your needs.

To address these issues, you have to learn more about your business, and that’s a good thing!

Why does your business need a proper backup policy?

Backing up your business information is as crucial as conducting daily business itself. Which is why you need a solid backup strategy.

With a proper backup policy, you can secure all your business data—files, documents, client and customer correspondence, and in-house or remote team communications.

No matter which industry or sector you serve, proper backup is pivotal. Data loss can seriously cripple a business of any size. A good backup strategy is the best way to avoid losing essential information due to systems failures, security breaches or plain old human error.

What can a network backup do for my company?

There are several benefits of having a backup policy for your business.

  • Any kind of data loss incident hurts. But when all your business data is backed up, you can bounce back quickly.
  • Data backups tend to lessen the impact and length of downtime. The less downtime you experience, the more you can get done . . . and the more profitable you are.
  • Backups often save you and your staff from duplicate work. Even if it’s easy to rebuild that report, do you really want to waste the time?
  • You’ll be prepared if you ever have to work through an audit or even annually when you complete your business tax preparations.

Ultimately, a well-developed backup strategy serves to protect your business by protecting your company data. That impacts your organizational efficiency, your cybersecurity and even your reputation.

Granted, the best case scenario is to never actually need your data backup. But the moment you need it, you’ll be so glad it’s there.

Related: How big data is changing the game for backup and recovery

How important are backups for my new business?

Occasionally, new SMB owners feel the need for backup isn’t as pressing. After all, there’s not as much data. A backup strategy can feel like something you can take care of later.

We strongly advise against waiting.

Network backups are of paramount importance. It’s far better to backup all your company data from the very beginning.

And if your SMB has been around awhile, it’s just as important to stay on top of backups. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you haven’t needed a backup yet, you won’t need one in the future.

All about human error

Network backup plays an instrumental role in reducing human error. Think about it. How many times have you, yourself, accidentally deleted the wrong thing? Now imagine the potential for impact if the same thing happened at the network level.

Read about how backups saved Toy Story 2

Human error is a real factor. It will be for the foreseeable future. Data backups are perhaps the best way to insulate your company from the risks of human error.

Automated the process

Automation is big in the IT industry for good reason. Automation makes repetitive tasks easy, routine and consistent. It’s perfect for backup.

As you work with your managed IT services provider to set up your custom backup strategy, make sure the process is automatic. Manually saving all network files to an additional hard drive is not a thorough backup process.

Automatically backing up all files to a secure cloud server, on the other hand, is.

A word about the cloud

The cloud is a convenient location for network backups—if it’s a good fit for your business. Be sure to think through this from all possible angles. You’ll need to take the following into account:

  • The level of security provided by your cloud vendor. This is a good thing to think about for all cloud solutions—backup and otherwise.
  • Any regulatory requirements for your industry. If your cloud provider doesn’t meet your industry’s compliance guidelines for security, for example, then the cloud may not be an option.
  • How quickly do you need to be able to access backups? Cloud backups typically take a little longer to access than local backups.
  • Scalability options with your cloud vendor. If your company grows, can you easily add space?

If cloud backups aren’t an option for your business, you can back up everything locally. In some cases, this is actually preferable. We recommend a thorough, strategic conversation with an IT consultant if you’re not entirely sure which is the best fit for you.

The compelling benefits of getting on a video conference call

If you work in an office setting, chances are you have been on a conference call at some point. Conference calling was once considered the epitome of productive technology. Allowing people from all across the country to participate in the conversation was revolutionary. And, of course, it is still widely utilized today.

However, in the modern office, there is a better option.

Since its arrival, the web-based video conference call has made a huge impression on businesses and users alike. Sometimes the littlest changes have the biggest impact. Simply by allowing participants to engage visually with one another, rather than relying solely on audio communication, video conference calls have changed the way that we do business.

What follows are the top four benefits of choosing video conference calls over traditional conference calls.

Engage remote employees

Between 20 and 25% of Americans worked from home in 2017, according to the Virtual Vocations Year-End Report. That’s an increase of 115% since 2005.

If you have any employees working remote, it may be difficult for them to feel engaged and connected other team members. Regular video conference calls allow you to establish and maintain a face-to-face connection with remote employees. According to a study done by Forbes, 92% of participants felt that being able to “see” remote employees increased the sense of connection and trust between employees.

To do so without video conferencing would require the employees to regularly commute to the office, adding time and expense on the part of both you and your employee.

Related: Utilizing video conferencing to improve enterprise efficiency

Improve communication

One of the biggest problems with regular conference calls is communication issues. By introducing video components, visual cues are restored to communication.

While this may seem like a minor thing, nonverbal communication makes up a significant portion of the communication between people. In a video conference call, it is incredibly helpful to know whether Harry or Ron is speaking at the moment. It’s also important to be able to see the expression on Ron’s face to help interpret whether his comment about employee overtime is a joke or whether he is being serious.

Improved communication means fewer errors in judgment when it comes to situations like these. Video conferencing reduces confusion because people are able to connect unspoken elements with spoken communication, thereby clarifying confusing situations.

Related: Recognizing the rise of unified communications

Require attention

One of the downsides of the traditional conference call is that you are just sitting there on a phone for an hour. Most of us are guilty of getting side-tracked as we click through emails or scroll through the news of the day.

One benefit of video conferencing is, much like an in-person meeting, people can see you. It is much harder to slack off or distract yourself when the VP can see what you are doing. While she might not be able to tell if you are reading an email, you would certainly never get up to go make a sandwich in the middle of the call.

Video conferencing requires a level of attention and engagement that traditional conference calls just don’t.

Related: Schools improve student engagement, understanding with video conferencing

Add visual aids

While the use of regular conference calls might save time and the expense of travel, it can be very difficult to follow along with an audio conference call.

Video conferencing has the added benefit of being able to utilize visual aids. Visual aids can be anything: from a slideshow or a video to a whiteboard, photographs, or even physical objects. Visual aids add interest to the meeting and also help to increase understanding.

This increases individual concentration and allows participants to absorb and remember more information.

The compelling benefits of getting on a video conference call

 

If you work in an office setting, chances are you have been on a conference call at some point. Conference calling was once considered the epitome of productive technology. Allowing people from all across the country to participate in the conversation was revolutionary. And, of course, it is still widely utilized today.

However, in the modern office, there is a better option.

Since its arrival, the web-based video conference call has made a huge impression on businesses and users alike. Sometimes the littlest changes have the biggest impact. Simply by allowing participants to engage visually with one another, rather than relying solely on audio communication, video conference calls have changed the way that we do business.

What follows are the top four benefits of choosing video conference calls over traditional conference calls.

Engage remote employees

Between 20 and 25% of Americans worked from home in 2017, according to the Virtual Vocations Year-End Report. That’s an increase of 115% since 2005.

If you have any employees working remote, it may be difficult for them to feel engaged and connected other team members. Regular video conference calls allow you to establish and maintain a face-to-face connection with remote employees. According to a study done by Forbes, 92% of participants felt that being able to “see” remote employees increased the sense of connection and trust between employees.

To do so without video conferencing would require the employees to regularly commute to the office, adding time and expense on the part of both you and your employee.

Related: Utilizing video conferencing to improve enterprise efficiency

Improve communication

One of the biggest problems with regular conference calls is communication issues. By introducing video components, visual cues are restored to communication.

While this may seem like a minor thing, nonverbal communication makes up a significant portion of the communication between people. In a video conference call, it is incredibly helpful to know whether Harry or Ron is speaking at the moment. It’s also important to be able to see the expression on Ron’s face to help interpret whether his comment about employee overtime is a joke or whether he is being serious.

Improved communication means fewer errors in judgment when it comes to situations like these. Video conferencing reduces confusion because people are able to connect unspoken elements with spoken communication, thereby clarifying confusing situations.

Related: Recognizing the rise of unified communications

Require attention

One of the downsides of the traditional conference call is that you are just sitting there on a phone for an hour. Most of us are guilty of getting side-tracked as we click through emails or scroll through the news of the day.

One benefit of video conferencing is, much like an in-person meeting, people can see you. It is much harder to slack off or distract yourself when the VP can see what you are doing. While she might not be able to tell if you are reading an email, you would certainly never get up to go make a sandwich in the middle of the call.

Video conferencing requires a level of attention and engagement that traditional conference calls just don’t.

Related: Schools improve student engagement, understanding with video conferencing

Add visual aids

While the use of regular conference calls might save time and the expense of travel, it can be very difficult to follow along with an audio conference call.

Video conferencing has the added benefit of being able to utilize visual aids. Visual aids can be anything: from a slideshow or a video to a whiteboard, photographs, or even physical objects. Visual aids add interest to the meeting and also help to increase understanding.

This increases individual concentration and allows participants to absorb and remember more information.

The post The compelling benefits of getting on a video conference call appeared first on ISG Technologies.

Source: my isg

5 things your infrastructure monitoring and alerting should include

Today’s businesses have numerous options when choosing network monitoring systems. Some decide to rely on cloud-based or on-premises tools. Regardless of the option that your company selects, you need to make sure your infrastructure monitoring and alerting tools have the right tools.

Include the following five features in your monitoring and alerting tools to protect your network and avoid data loss.

Data visualization

The ability to capture data from customers and devices gives companies more opportunities to provide efficient services that anticipate needs. Unfortunately, few humans can work with vast amounts of data. The numbers bleed together and become incoherent.

Even the results of data-mining algorithms can perplex business leaders. Data visualization, however, organizes information in ways that the human brain can comprehend quickly. The charts display obvious trends and deviations that are nearly impossible to detect when reviewing raw data.

Data visualization also makes it easier for business leaders to understand the results of infrastructure monitoring and alerting. Instead of receiving a report with data showing unwanted, inconspicuous use, you can get reports that arrange data into graphs and charts. That way, you can optimize your IT infrastructure to improve client services, boost productivity, and avoid security threats.

Metrics tracking

Depending on how you use your IT infrastructure, you may not notice declines in speed and predictability. At the same time, your staff members may wonder why it suddenly takes so much longer to process information.

Metrics tracking helps ensure that your network does its job well. By tracking the right metrics, your IT team could even predict downtime. Instead of becoming a victim of downtime, you can prepare a solution that limits disruptions.

Customer tracking

Your business’s success depends on strong customer services. Without happy customers, your business won’t last long.

Customer relationship management (CRM) tools capable of sending alerts will help you and your sales team keep people happy with your services. For instance, you may receive an alert when the CRM notices that your client has ordered products recently. It can also boost sales by sending notifications that encourage clients to buy additional items or take advantage of upcoming sales.

Customer tracking tools that send alerts to customers and employees may boost your company’s success without forcing you to hire more people or devote more time to communications.

Proactive security monitoring

Malware continues to plague SMBs. As malware becomes more sophisticated, it’s possible that unknown threats could hide on your network for weeks or months before someone discovers it.

Proactive security monitoring eliminates that possibility by constantly checking your network for files and applications that don’t belong. Just because your network was pristine an hour ago doesn’t mean that an employee hasn’t fallen victim to a phishing ploy.

Not every business decides that proactive security monitoring is necessary. Those that do, however, get to take a proactive stance that improves their security.

Agility

The fact of the matter is that you don’t know what monitoring and alerting tools you will need in the near future. Technology evolves quickly, so it’s nearly impossible to predict which trends will arise within just a year.

An agile infrastructure can incorporate the latest tools to keep up with new technology and help you stay competitive.

The need for agility helps explain why so many CIOs choose Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). IaaS doesn’t commit you to specific tools. Instead, you can rely on your service provider to update your infrastructure with the latest technologies.

Monitoring and alerting that meets your needs

After a thorough review of your current infrastructure, you should consider which of the above tools could help your business improve its security, productivity and success.

The SMB Quick Guide for Upgrading Office Technology

“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.”

— James Belasco & Ralph Stayer, Flight of the Buffalo

If you run a small business, you already know two things about change. One, it’s inevitable. And two, it’s hard.

One would think that the inevitable nature of change would eventually make it easier to stomach, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, a couple of years ago McKinsey & Company reported that (at that time) an overwhelming “70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support.” (We suspect the number isn’t much lower today.)

But when you consider why change is so hard, that makes sense.

The Science of Change

As a recent article in Forbes pointed out, the default human response to change is fear. In a more primitive time, change often meant danger. Our ancestors survived because they feared change.

While that’s fascinating in its own right, it’s also frustrating. If you’re a business owner and you’re ready to upgrade your office technology, you have to also be ready to deal with how your staff will handle change. It’s not as simple as just saying, “We’re using these applications now.” Frankly, that never works.

No, if you want to lead your company through a change in office technology, you need to be prepared.

The Office Technology Revolution

But why change anything? If the tools you’re using now are working, why not just keep using them? Because the way we do business is changing.

It’s hardly a secret that cloud adoption is steadily growing. Gartner predicts that we’re just a few years away from the day when the vast majority of businesses will rely on cloud services of some kind.

If your office technology is still primarily onsite, it’s time to consider a shift. Cloud solutions offer multiple advantages over local hardware and software, including improved flexibility, scalable growth, remote access and (in many cases) cost savings.

Changing Office Technology

Of course, that leads us back to the problem we started with. If it’s in your best interest to consider upgrading your current office technology to cloud-based solutions—and it is—then how do you go about doing that successfully?

At ISG, we’ve gone to great pains to make it as easy as possible to shift your office technology to the cloud. Not only do we take care of all the technological legwork, but we’ll even help your employees acclimate, too.

All of this is possible with our Modern Office Foundation bundle. Here’s how it works.

Top-tier Tools

Our Modern Office bundle comes with the very best office technology tools available. At the top of that list is Microsoft Office 365.

Office 365 is the premier productivity suite because it’s a powerful, robust tool that includes everything your business needs to stay on top of your projects. There’s cloud-based email, standard applications like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, as well as top communication and collaboration solutions like Teams, Sharepoint and OneNote.

And you’ll get it all with the Modern Office Foundation bundle.

Seamless Transition

No matter how good the tools, if transitioning from your current solutions to new office technology is rough, your employees aren’t likely to see the value. That’s why working with a skilled partner like ISG Technology is so important.

We’ll take care of your implementation, allowing for a hassle-free adoption period. Trust us—you’ll be glad you didn’t tackle this on your own.

Employee Training & Support

A lot of our competitors offer some kind of migration service. That’s not terribly unique. But what really sets us apart is our employee education and support.

We offer monthly Innovation Training sessions to ensure your staff gets the most possible value out of your office technology tools. In addition to that, our help desk support is second to none. It doesn’t matter if one of your employees is dealing with something as simple as a lost password or something more complex, we’ll be there.

And because our approach is both proactive (through training) and reactive (through support), you’ll always be covered.

The Right Kind of Change

Office technology is changing. While it can be tough to keep up, ISG’s Modern Office Foundation bundle makes it a lot easier.

If you’d like more information about our Modern Office Foundation bundle, feel free to contact us today. We’ll be happy to show you how we can help upgrade your office technology without any hangups.

White Paper: Hyper-Converged Executive Report

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We see hyper-convergence as a new IT infrastructure model that leverages the power of software-defined technology to tightly integrate end-to-end compute, network, storage, and management resources. The result is quicker deployment, faster response to business demands, simplified administration, and reduced operating costs. See how you can:

  • Move faster
  • Respond to opportunities faster
  • Launch initiatives faster
  • Produce results faster

Staying Relevant Requires Flexible IT

In the new Idea Economy, the ability to turn an idea into a new product or business has never been easier or more accessible. Competitors are everywhere, creating disruptive waves of new demands and opportunities.

Today, an entrepreneur with a good idea has access to all of the infrastructure and resources that a traditional Fortune 1000 company would have, and they can pay for it all with a credit card. They can rent compute on demand, get a SAAS ERP system, use PayPal or Square for transactions, they can market using Facebook or Google, and have FedEx run their supply chain.

The days of needing millions of dollars to launch a new company or bring a new idea to market are fading fast. You don’t have to look any further than more recent companies such as Vimeo, One Kings Lane or Dock to Dish–or with more common names like Salesforce, Airbnb, Netflix and Pandora to see how the Idea Economy is exploding.

And how about Uber? Uber’s impact has been dramatic since it launched its application to connect riders and drivers in 2009.  Without owning a single car, it now serves more than 250 cities in 55 countries and has completely disrupted the taxi industry. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency says that cab use has dropped 65 percent in San Francisco in two years.

This presents an opportunity and a challenge for most enterprises. Cloud, mobile, big data and analytics give you the tools to accelerate speed and time to value. Technology helps you combine applications and data to create dramatically new experiences and new markets.

Creating and delivering new business models, solutions and experiences requires harnessing new types of apps, data and risk as well as implementing new ways to build, operate and consume. Technology no longer simply supports the business, it IS the business.

But most organizations have been built with rigid, inflexible IT infrastructures that are costly to maintain and that make it difficult, if not impossible, to implement new ideas quickly. To succeed in today’s Idea Economy, you need an IT infrastructure that lets you pivot when the inevitable disruption arrives.