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Your guide to developing a risk management framework

From cybercrime to unscheduled downtime, risks and threats are just as much of a problem for small and medium-sized companies as they are for large corporations. Here’s why developing a risk management framework is so vital to staying in control of your business – and here are some tips for drafting your own strategy.

Why a risk management framework is important 

The reality is that downtime costs, on average, between $300,000 and $400,000 per hour. According to recent studies, however, at least 51 percent of costly downtime is avoidable with the right risk management strategy. Risk management is so important, then, because it allows you to plan for disasters and other downtimes. 

With careful planning, you can mitigate the financial and reputation costs associated with downtime, cybercrime, and system failures. It all comes down to your risk management framework.

Steps to creating your risk management framework 

Creating your risk management framework is simpler than it seems. To help you get started, here are some of the key steps you should be following.

Set goals

Establish clear objectives for your risk management framework. Understand what you’re trying to achieve and why it’s important. This helps to keep your framework relevant to your business and your specific needs. 

Identify your major threats

Consider the risks and threats that your company faces. These risks may vary by sector; for example, if you’re in healthcare, data breaches are a major possible risk. Once you’ve identified the risks facing your company, you can move on to the next stage. 

Rank the risks and prioritize them

Some disasters are more likely to affect your business than others. For example, if you operate in a region prone to earthquakes or natural disasters, safeguarding your data and your infrastructure is a major concern.

Establish processes 

Decide how you’ll tackle each threat and establish processes for dealing with them. For example, if cybersecurity is a major concern, set up regular network monitoring and ascertain how you’ll keep your security software up to date.

Undertake procedural testing

Risk management strategies are only effective if you know that they work. Test your threat response time if, for example, malware infiltrated your systems, or a fire broke out. 

Finally, make sure employees understand what to do if they discover a problem. Don’t leave anything to chance – there’s no such thing as overpreparing for risks. 

Review regularly 

The final step for creating a basic risk management framework is establishing an audit and review procedure. You must review the risks affecting your business at regular intervals, and particularly before and after periods of growth or transition. 

You should also establish a procedure for auditing your existing security and risk management protocols, and amend them if they’re no longer working. 

Finally, make sure you have a proper reporting procedure in place. Keep your managers and key personnel informed of any updates to your risk management protocols, and ensure they’re fully aware of any potential or emerging risks and how to deal with them. 

Take action 

Risk management is critical for any business. An effective risk management framework can help you streamline your operations, minimize downtime, and reduce wasted resources. For more information on risk management and developing a framework for your business, contact us today.

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.

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.

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

It wasn’t that long ago that a traditional phone system was one of the non-negotiables for any serious business. And by “traditional phone system,” we’re talking about a physical PBX (Private Branch Exchange) complete with actual phones on every desk.

My, how things have changed.

Today, progressive SMBs are more likely to use IP phones than traditional phone service, and for good reason. The benefits are compelling. Not only that, but there’s a good chance your managed IT services provider can help with the setup and maintenance of an IP phone system, making the transition easier than you might expect.

What is an IP phone?

First things first, though. What is an IP phone?

IP phones are most often referred to as VoIP phones. VoIP stands for “Voice over Internet Protocol,” and it’s basically what it sounds like—a phone connection over the internet.

An IP phone system makes use of VoIP technology instead of traditional phone service, sometimes referred to as POTS, or “Plain Old Telephone Service.”

“Voice over IP (VoIP) has gone from alternative technology to the primary way that businesses and many homes implement voice communications.”PC Mag

VoIP or POTS?

As mentioned above, POTS was the standard just a few years ago. Stable, reliable VoIP service is a relatively new technology, but it’s quickly outpacing POTS. An IP phone system can deliver far more value than POTS, giving SMBs options that used to be limited to enterprise-level companies.

We’re going to get into the specifics below, but for now, there’s one key distinction to hone in on. VoIP systems give you more. More options. More ways of staying in contact. More value for the expense.

POTS is still an option, and some SMBs will still opt for it, but we strongly recommend IP phone systems for SMBs that are growth-oriented.

What IP phones do for SMBs

We’ve talked up IP phones. Now it’s time to share why we believe VoIP phone systems are better for SMBs. Below are several specific advantages of IP phones, but this list is not exhaustive.

If you really want strategic insight into what an IP phone system can do for your business, we recommend talking to a VoIP expert.

“Today companies seeking a new communications solutions are more likely to consider a cloud-hosted VoIP system over a traditional phone service.” TechRepublic

Ditch the hardware

VoIP phones are software-based, which has the potential to benefit small businesses in two ways. First, it means you won’t have to make a hefty investment in new equipment to go from POTS to VoIP. Second, it means you won’t have to worry about the costs associated with maintaining physical equipment.

If you prefer having a physical phone at each desk, there are phones designed to work with VoIP service. Alternately, you can just use a headset connected to your computer or use an app on your mobile phone.

Boost your scalability

Because IP phones don’t require hardware, they’re scalable in a way traditional phone systems could never be. Adding a new line can be as simple as making a couple of quick changes to a web-based dashboard. No need to call in a specialist to install a new physical phone.

For a growing SMB, this is crucial. It’s one less thing you have to deal with when onboarding a new team member.

Take your phone with you

Mobile apps make it possible to have your work phone on you all the time . . . without having to give out your personal cell phone number, carry two phones or pay for an extra mobile line.

Whether you do a lot of traveling for your business or just have the occasional meeting across town, the portability of IP phones is a huge plus.

Go beyond voice

IP phones are integrated with all kinds of features that go beyond voice-only communication. Everything from video conferencing to file sharing is possible, making collaboration at a distance easier than it’s ever been.

Plus, the advanced features that used to be so expensive only enterprises could afford them are standard in many VoIP packages.

For a fraction of what it used to cost, you can give your SMB a big business feel.

Deliver on value

Speaking of cost, SMB leaders are universally interested in the bottom line.

Some VoIP providers will promise savings no matter what, but to be candid, that’s just careless. We can’t guarantee you’ll save money.

But here’s what we can promise.

You’re not likely to get the same value from POTS as you will from an IP phone system. You might be able to pay slightly less for POTS, but you’ll be taking such a big step down in features that it’s simply not worth it.

Moving your SMB to an IP phone system

If you’re interested in getting VoIP service for your company, there are two ways you can move forward. The first is to research available services on your own and plunge into a DIY solution. If you don’t mind doing some homework, this is one of those things you could handle on your own.

However, we recommend talking to a VoIP expert. First, a pro will know all about the available options and will be able to help you find the one that matches your needs best. And second, you’ll save a ton of time. There are a lot of VoIP providers out there. An expert can help you hone in on the one that works for you much more quickly than you’ll be able to find one on your own.

Either way—shopping for yourself or talking to an expert—IP phones are definitely the best communication option for SMBs.

Mitigating disaster risk and downtime for hospitals

In July 2018, Blount Memorial Hospital in Tennessee had a nightmare experience. Their electronic health records (EHR) system was offline for three days. During that time, 90 doctors were unable to access patient records.

Appointments were canceled. People didn’t receive care.

When the whole thing was said and done, the hospital’s board of directors made the decision to invest in a $30,000 backup system to ensure nothing like that would ever happen again.

What’s at risk

Hospitals and other medical services businesses are in a unique position when it comes to disaster recovery and downtime readiness. This isn’t just a matter of lost profits, damage to your reputation, or inconvenience for your employees and customers. The health and wellness of people are at stake.

As a result, every kind of medical services provider has an obligation to go above and beyond to mitigate the risk of downtime and prepare for possible disasters.

Practical measures

In advising these businesses about disaster recovery, the core of our standard advice is the same for hospitals, physician practices and other medical businesses. Prepare. Don’t just wait for disaster to strike. Have a plan.

When it comes to the medical industry, there are specific forms of preparation that are uniquely important. Below are some of the things medical providers should do to lower the risk of downtime and prepare for outages.

Expect downtime

First and foremost, let go of any expectation that downtime won’t happen to you. Your hospital isn’t exempt. Your office isn’t the exception. Downtime happens to just about every business. It can (and will) happen to yours.

That’s an important step in preparation because you won’t take a disaster recovery and downtime plan seriously if you think you’ll never have to use it.

Create a communications plan

A communications plan is essential for any disaster recovery plan. Your doctors and staff need to know whom to contact, how communications will be conducted, which channels will be used for what purpose, and what communication activity is most essential in the event of downtime.

Be specific. Spell out exactly who should be in contact with whom, and make sure everyone knows the plan well ahead of time. Update it when you have changes in your system, your policies and in your personnel, if appropriate.

Develop a downtime toolkit

Downtime toolkits “contain paper copies of clinical documents and procedures to follow when their EHR is not available.” A downtime toolkit may also include a read-only database of patient records as an emergency backup system.

This is a critical resource, but one that absolutely requires the help of an IT consultant. A doctor’s office that deals in non-emergency care may not need a full downtime toolkit, but every hospital should have some kind of system for continuing to provide healthcare, even if the entire local network goes offline.

Consider an on-site fallback generator

On-site generators can help in situations where a power outage is to blame for downtime. However, power outages are only one of several things that can take an IT network offline. While an on-site generator certainly makes sense (particularly for critical care facilities), this alone will not protect your hospital from every form of downtime.

Perform downtime drills

EHR simulation drills will give you an idea of how prepared your hospital’s staff are, and they will give your staff a chance to understand and experience what to expect when the real thing strikes.

As a recent article in EHR Intelligence notes, “Strategizing to fill gaps in care that crop up during EHR downtime simulations can help to reduce the risk of slowdowns, delays, threats to patient harm, or billing problems during real instances of EHR downtime.”

Enlist some help

Finally, no hospital should be without professional help when it comes to downtime readiness and a disaster recovery plan. If your in-house IT department isn’t fully prepared to take on this crucial task, find an IT consultant with experience supporting the healthcare industry to help you and your team.

With the right preparation, downtime won’t stop your hospital or medical practice from providing the care your patients rely on.

7 critical questions you should ask when choosing a cloud computing provider

There’s no question that cloud computing is on the rise. More and more businesses are turning to cloud computing as their default setting. But with so many options to choose from, how do you select the right provider for your business?

Here are seven critical questions you should ask when choosing a cloud computing provider.

1. What cloud computing services do you provide?

There are many different types of cloud services such as a public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud. If you already know what type of service you want, your first step is to make sure your potential provider offers that service.

More than likely, though, you know you want to move to the cloud, but aren’t sure which type of service would work best for you. A good cloud computing provider should not only be able to explain the services they offer, but help you to determine which cloud computing services would best meet the needs of your business.

2. How secure is your cloud computing?

Security should be at the top of any list when data and networking is concerned.

Cloud security, just like network security, ensures your data stays safe. Ask potential providers what network and server-level security measures they have in place to protect your data. Security measures to look for include encryption, firewalls, antivirus detection and multifactor user authentication.

3. Where will my data be stored?

Since cloud computing involves the storage of data at off-site locations, the physical location and security of those data centers is just as important as online security.

SSAE 16 and SOC 2 Type II certifications are the best indicator that your provider’s products, systems and data are compliant with industry security standards.

4. How will my business be able to access the cloud?

One of the benefits of cloud computing is its flexibility and ease of access. You’ll want you understand how you will be able to access your data on the cloud and how it will integrate into your current work environment.

If your company is poised to grow in the near future, you may also want to ask about scalability and your provider’s ability to meet your growing needs.

5. What is your pricing structure?

Pricing for cloud computing can vary greatly, so make sure you understand how and for what you will be charged.

Ask about upfront costs and the ability to add services as needed. Will services be charged hourly, monthly, semi-annually, or annually?

6. How do you handle regulatory compliance?

Understanding the many laws and regulations, such as GDPR, HIPAA, and PCCI, that pertain to the collection and storage of data can be intimidating. That’s why one of the benefits of hiring a cloud computing provider is having security experts take care of regulatory compliance for you.

You’ll want to make sure your provider is constantly working to stay up-to-date on the latest rules and regulations that may affect your data.

7. What customer support services do you offer?

Cloud computing never sleeps and neither should your provider’s technical support. Getting help when you need it is important, so you’ll want to ask your provider if they provide 24-hour technical support, including on holidays.

Ease and availability of reporting problems is also important so ask about phone, email, and live chat support options. You may also want to ask about your provider’s average response and resolution times.

Asking these questions can help you find the right cloud computing provider for your business. And getting the right answers is only a phone call away—call your managed IT services provider to start the process today.

How to include your MSP in your backup and disaster recovery plan

An incomplete or poorly prepared backup and disaster recovery (BDR) plan can result in unacceptably long outages and lost revenue for your company.

Unfortunately, busy IT employees don’t always have the time to update BDR plans or test them thoroughly. Partnering with your managed IT services provider (MSP) to improve, refine and test your plan offers a simple way to ensure the effectiveness of this valuable resource.

Here are some of the ways your MSP can help you make sure your backup and disaster recovery plan is everything it should be.

Identifying stakeholders

The infrastructure staff and senior managers aren’t the only stakeholders crucial to the success of your BDR plan.

Your MSP can help you identify others in the company who should be involved, such as database managers and application testers. These employees can offer valuable insights and help you identify resources you’ll need to restore your systems.

Setting milestones

It’s not unusual to overlook a crucial milestone or two when developing your BDR plan timeline. Like most IT projects, BDR plans involve multiple stakeholders each tasked with carrying out a small piece of the plan.

MSP staff will help you evaluate the entire plan to ensure that important milestones are noted, including those related to network connectivity, resources, infrastructure, storage, proof of concept, storage replication, recovery point objectives, testing and backup data.

Anticipating disaster scenarios and determining responsibilities

Fires, floods and cyber threats may be the first things that come to mind when you think about disasters, but as British Airways found out in May 2017, even seemingly small problems can lead to major issues. A power surge and outage led to the cancellation of 75,000 flights and forced the airline to pay $68 million in passenger compensation.

Although a power outage should have been a minor blip, the surge also destroyed the airline’s backup system, complicating restoration. The story illustrates the importance of developing a secondary backup plan in your BDR plan.

In addition to assisting you in creating a backup plan, your managed IT services provider will also help you ensure that your employees understand their roles should a disaster occur.

The MSP team can assist you in breaking down specific tasks in the BDR plan, determining which staff members will be responsible for each detail, and creating a communication plan in the event that your team can’t communicate through its usual channels.

Providing documentation

Lack of documentation can doom your BDR plan, yet it’s a common factor in incomplete plans. When Disaster Recovery Journal surveyed 1,000 firms, the publication discovered that 31.5 percent had incomplete BDR plans.

If your key stakeholders haven’t had the time to document crucial processes and instructions, that knowledge will be lost if they ever leave the company. MSP staff will work with your internal staff to develop the documentation needed to fully restore your systems after a disaster or outage.

Additional IT support

In the process of creating a backup and disaster recovery plan, it sometimes happens that you’ll discover other areas where your IT support may be lacking. If you wish, your MSP can jump in and provide either one-time consultation or ongoing IT support to ensure you’re completely taken care of.

Your backup and disaster recovery

Sooner or later, every company experiences some sort of disaster.

Whether a cyberterrorist hacks your website, an employee makes a big mistake, or a hurricane destroys your data center, a comprehensive backup and disaster recovery plan is the key to resolving disruptions quickly.

Partnering with your MSP will help you ensure that your plan will actually work when it’s needed.

Why patching should always be a priority for IT network health

Having a sound IT infrastructure is crucial for every organization.

From network security to hardware and software implementation, your IT plan should always reflect company objectives and directives. But you also need a safe and secure operating platform.

That’s why patches should never be overlooked when it comes to network health and digital environment stability.

“Software updates are important because they often include critical patches to security holes.” – McAfee

What can patching do for my IT services?

Patches are software updates for your OS and other executable programs. Patches offer temporary fixes between full releases of software packages. Similarly, they can help maintain your IT network stability via.

Here’s some of what patching typically addresses:

  • Software bugs fixes
  • New or updated drivers
  • Fixes for new and existing security vulnerabilities
  • Fixes for software stability issues
  • Automatic upgrades for software and apps

Related: The CIO’s guide to lowering IT costs and boosting performance

Will patching tackle the latest viruses and malware?

While antivirus applications are part of any IT security package, patching is designed to integrate with existing systems and improve usability across the board.

At its core, software patching is essentially a convenient way to update applications and supporting data. This, in turn, updates, fixes and improves overall performance. These updates fix bugs within your software and IT infrastructure, resulting in safer and more efficient digital workspaces.

That said, patching does play a key role in vulnerability management.

With digital intrusion and network hacking at an all-time high, you need a timely, effective solution for implementing corrective measures. Sadly, most clients tend to overlook the importance of patching for mitigating risk.

Patches benefit your IT network in the following ways:

  • Identify and mitigate network security vulnerabilities.
  • Facilitate the seamless integration of operating systems and software apps
  • Ensure critical business processes and protocols run smoothly
  • Provide another critical layer of cybersecurity protection
  • Stop malware, viruses, adware and even ransomware from quietly running in your background systems

Looking for a complete cybersecurity plan? Check out The 2018 cybersecurity handbook.

How are patches delivered to my IT network?

Security and network patches are automatically inserted into codes of your existing software and apps.

This is done with little-to-no interruption of your daily business tasks, though there are times when patching requires user permission. In many organizations, patches are handled by the in-house IT teams or by the organization’s managed IT services provider.

Patching is essential for system success

The important thing is that you don’t ignore patching. Because patches rarely feel critical in the moment, it’s surprisingly easy (both for IT departments and individual users) to simply put off the patching process. That has the potential to leave you open to all kinds of nasty vulnerabilities.

Patching your programs may not seem all that important, but it really is vital to your overall network health.

“The takeaway for CIOs: Keep your work computers updated with patches on a regular basis and apply emergency patches as needed.” – CIO

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.

Getting the most bang for your buck from outsourced help desk support

In 2017, 32 percent of companies around the world chose to outsource their help desk support services. This fairly high percentage shows that many businesses know that they can get better services by outsourcing their help desk needs to experts.

If you want to outsource your help desk support needs, then you need to know how to get the most bang for your buck. You need an IT support partner with reasonable prices, strong expertise, impeccable customer service and the ability to support the tools you rely on.

Follow these four tips to make sure you choose a partner that can help your company succeed.

Find a company with a reliable ticket escalation process

What seems like a small problem at first can quickly turn into a significant issue that needs to be addressed immediately. The more efficient a company’s ticket escalation process works, the sooner you can find a solution to your IT problem.

Few companies have the resources and expertise to create a reliable, efficient ticket escalation process. Before outsourcing its help desk services, employees at John Deere often had to wait days before their IT staff could find helpful solutions. After outsourcing its help desk support, the company benefited from increased end-user service levels, reduced downtime and reduced IT costs.

By handing its help desk needs to a group of experts, managers at John Deere also found that they had more time to focus on core projects. None of these advantages would have been possible without a reliable ticket escalation process handled by experienced professionals.

Outsource to a company with an easy ticket solution

Your employees need a simple way to submit tickets and contact the help desk for support. When choosing a partner, look for a company that lets your employees submit tickets via phone and an app. That way, your employees can use the solution that feels more comfortable to them.

By making the process as easy as possible, your employees will experience fewer disruptions so they can focus on completing their assigned tasks.

Choose a passionate partner that exceeds your expectations

According to Outsourcing Insight, companies should look for several features when choosing partners for help desk support. Some of the most important features include:

  • A passion for helping people solve problems
  • A focus on problem-solving skills
  • Good communication
  • Interest in collaborating with clients
  • A group of professionals with technical expertise and a personal touch

Essentially, you want a partner that exceeds your expectations by lowering costs, giving you access to resources that you wouldn’t have otherwise, and decreasing your IT complexity. Without those key features, what’s the point?

Avoid outsourcing options that don’t set your business up to thrive.

Compare prices and outsource with a company that fits your budget

If you want to get the most bang for your buck, then you need to compare prices and outsource with a company that fits your budget. Most companies actually find that they can save significant amounts of money when they outsource managed help desk support.

SMBs often find that they stand to save the most money from outsourcing. When you have a small workforce, hiring full-time help desk employees can hit your payroll budget particularly hard. By outsourcing, you avoid the costs of paying employees, providing benefits and training workers.

When you’re ready to benefit from help desk support from true professionals, contact your IT support provider to learn more about how they might be able to help. Most managed IT services firms offer some form of help desk support.

Just be sure you don’t shy away from asking the hard questions. The goal of outsourced IT support is to make your life easier and create better efficiency within your organization. Carefully consider the options before you make your choice.