4 Things to consider before choosing an MSP

Incorporating technology into business operations can be challenging because it’s always evolving. Many companies simply can’t keep up — this is why many of them turn to managed IT services providers (MSPs) for their tech needs. Read on to learn more about them.

MSPs defined

MSPs are companies composed of specialists from various IT fields. They deliver various IT services (e.g., cloud computing, cybersecurity, backup and disaster recovery) and proactively manage their clients’ IT systems under a subscription model.

Selecting the best MSP

While there are numerous MSPs out there, not all of them are equipped to meet your company’s unique needs. You can only achieve optimum IT results by selecting the right MSP.

Here are some criteria to keep in mind:

  • Depth of skills and experience – An MSP should have the skills and experience that go beyond basic software installation, maintenance, and upgrades. They should also have strong expertise in advanced IT functions, such as database management, cloud technology, security, and cross-platform integration, so they can keep pace with your company’s growing IT requirements.
  • Financial stability – With IT being the backbone of your business operations, you need an IT partner who will be there for the long haul. Assess their stability by looking into their annual reports and financial statements. Check how many clients they have and their customer retention numbers. Also, read customer reviews and testimonials online customer reviews and testimonials.
  • Competitive service level agreement (SLA) – An SLA is a contract that dictates the standards that your MSP must meet. It should be able to answer these questions: Do they offer 24/7 support? Can they conduct remote and on-site support? What are their guaranteed response and resolution times? If they fail to meet their committed service levels, do they offer rebates or money-back guarantees?
  • Third-party vendor partnerships – Pick an MSP with an ongoing relationship with the technology vendors (e.g., Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce) whose products you already use in your IT environment. Verify the partnership the MSP has with those vendors. The higher the partnership level, the more vendor certifications the provider has, which means they can provide plenty of expertise to your business.

Choosing the right provider is a crucial decision that will impact your business’s performance and success. If you want to learn more about how MSPs can support your business, contact us today.

This post was originally published on this site

Your business needs a business continuity plan — here’s why

Do you know why some small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) fail during the first five years of operation? Poor leadership is one reason, inadequate capital is another. Another possible cause is the lack of preparation for major disruptions like natural disasters and cyberattacks. If you want to prevent this from happening to your business, you need a business continuity plan (BCP).

What is a BCP?

A BCP is a predefined set of protocols on how your business should respond in case of an emergency or natural disaster. It contains contingency plans for every aspect of your organization, including human resources, assets, and business processes.

Key threats to business continuity

Various types of threats can affect SMBs such as:

  • Natural disasters: These are natural phenomena such as floods, storms, earthquakes, and wildfires.
  • Man-made disasters: These include cyberattacks, intentional sabotage, and human negligence.
  • Equipment and utility failures: These include unexpected power failures, internet downtime, and disruption of communication services.

How to build an effective BCP

If your company does not have a BCP in place, now is a good time to create one. These steps will help you formulate an effective BCP that will ensure your company keeps running even during a major crisis.

  1. Perform a risk assessment
    To create an effective BCP, it’s important to identify the risks to prioritize. Start by identifying potential threats that may impact your daily operations. List down as well industry risks, geographical area, rising trends, and issues that your stakeholders may encounter. Next, categorize the risks based on the level of impact, likelihood of occurrence, or other criteria.Once risks have been identified and a plan has been developed, carefully identify any possible gaps. Collaborate with your team to identify any weak points in the plan, and make changes as necessary.
  2. Perform a business impact analysis (BIA)
    A BIA will help you determine how a disruption can affect your company’s current functions, processes, personnel, equipment, technology, and physical infrastructure. IT will also help you calculate the potential financial and operational loss from each function and process affected.
  3. Identify your recovery options
    Identify key resources for restoring your business to minimum operational levels. Some recovery options you can take include using data backups, allowing employees to work from home or operating from a secondary location.
  4. Document the plan
    Make a record of the BCP and store the document in a secure location, preferably an off-site one to reduce the risks of loss or damage in case of a disaster.
  5. Test and train
    Once your BCP is in place, your continuity team needs to perform tests regularly to identify gaps and make necessary changes to ensure the plan’s effectiveness. They also need to conduct regular employee training so that everyone knows their respective roles should a disaster strike.

Having an effective BCP is a great way to ensure your business can quickly recover after a major disaster. If you’re thinking about creating a BCP for your company but don’t know where to start, give us a call today.

This post was originally published on this site

Fix these unpleasant-looking website elements now

According to the cliché, one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But in marketing, looks do matter. Having an attractive website design is often your first opportunity to make a good impression on potential customers. So if your site’s looks aren’t up to par, visitors may close the web tab and you lose the chance of making a sale. Here are some things to tweak on your website to pique viewers’ interest and close more sales.

Photos

From product shots to team photos, high-quality images are arguably the most attention-grabbing element you can have on your website. Blurry, outdated, or irrelevant pictures tell site visitors that you don’t care about their browsing experience. In-house photos are the best option, but stock images shouldn’t cause any problems as long as they are optimized for mobile viewing and relevant to your content.

Navigation

Aside from having subpar images, linking to nonexistent pages is one of the best ways to turn site visitors away. Make sure site navigation is a breeze, and remove outdated or irrelevant pages. You can’t sell 404 pages to customers, and if that’s all visitors can find, your chances of making a sale will be close to nil.

Copywriting

It’s important to keep all of your product or service descriptions as straightforward as possible — the last thing you want to do is to confuse your customers. If what you’re selling has detailed information such as dimensions or technical requirements, make sure that the item descriptions are clear and concise. They should also be easy to find but not obtrusive.

Promises to site visitors

Any website that ships products should make its returns policy as visible as possible. This establishes trust early on in the buyer’s journey. Explicitly stating terms of return is also important because some online shoppers make purchase decisions based solely on the clarity of a return policy.

Even if you don’t run an eCommerce site, you still need to prominently display privacy commitments, such as those mandated by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

About Us page

To further create a connection with your site visitors, your brand needs a relatable story behind it. Every company website should have an About Us page that describes its team, culture, and what sets the business apart from the competition. Some customers buy products and services based on a business’s mission or vision, and some make decisions according to their impression of the people behind the business. Whatever your story is, make sure your About Us page is accessible from any page on your site.

The bottom line

With more revenue coming in from online channels, small- and medium-sized business owners can’t afford to overlook the importance of creating a fully functional, aesthetically pleasing, and easy-to-navigate website. If your budget is tight, there are DIY site builders specifically geared toward small businesses. With a relatively low monthly expenditure, you can also hire a managed website provider who will design and maintain your site for you.

Your website’s overall look and design can make or break a sale. For more information on building a modern website, call us today.

This post was originally published on this site

Fix these unpleasant-looking website elements now

According to the cliché, one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But in marketing, looks do matter. Having an attractive website design is often your first opportunity to make a good impression on potential customers. So if your site’s looks aren’t up to par, visitors may close the web tab and you lose the chance of making a sale. Here are some things to tweak on your website to pique viewers’ interest and close more sales.

Photos

From product shots to team photos, high-quality images are arguably the most attention-grabbing element you can have on your website. Blurry, outdated, or irrelevant pictures tell site visitors that you don’t care about their browsing experience. In-house photos are the best option, but stock images shouldn’t cause any problems as long as they are optimized for mobile viewing and relevant to your content.

Navigation

Aside from having subpar images, linking to nonexistent pages is one of the best ways to turn site visitors away. Make sure site navigation is a breeze, and remove outdated or irrelevant pages. You can’t sell 404 pages to customers, and if that’s all visitors can find, your chances of making a sale will be close to nil.

Copywriting

It’s important to keep all of your product or service descriptions as straightforward as possible — the last thing you want to do is to confuse your customers. If what you’re selling has detailed information such as dimensions or technical requirements, make sure that the item descriptions are clear and concise. They should also be easy to find but not obtrusive.

Promises to site visitors

Any website that ships products should make its returns policy as visible as possible. This establishes trust early on in the buyer’s journey. Explicitly stating terms of return is also important because some online shoppers make purchase decisions based solely on the clarity of a return policy.

Even if you don’t run an eCommerce site, you still need to prominently display privacy commitments, such as those mandated by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

About Us page

To further create a connection with your site visitors, your brand needs a relatable story behind it. Every company website should have an About Us page that describes its team, culture, and what sets the business apart from the competition. Some customers buy products and services based on a business’s mission or vision, and some make decisions according to their impression of the people behind the business. Whatever your story is, make sure your About Us page is accessible from any page on your site.

The bottom line

With more revenue coming in from online channels, small- and medium-sized business owners can’t afford to overlook the importance of creating a fully functional, aesthetically pleasing, and easy-to-navigate website. If your budget is tight, there are DIY site builders specifically geared toward small businesses. With a relatively low monthly expenditure, you can also hire a managed website provider who will design and maintain your site for you.

Your website’s overall look and design can make or break a sale. For more information on building a modern website, call us today.

This post was originally published on this site

What companies tend to get wrong about business continuity

Every business owner knows that having a business continuity plan (BCP) is crucial to surviving any disaster. However, some still tend to overlook certain aspects of a BCP strategy, causing the plan to go up in flames. Ensure a solid BCP by knowing these five critical mistakes to avoid.

Mistake 1: Not considering the small details

Once you’ve created a general business continuity plan, you need to think about the specifics to ensure that what you envision is executable. This includes fleshing out logistical considerations like medical aid and technology support.

For instance, you need to inform partner medical providers about your BCP so that they can make arrangements in advance. This may entail asking for key personnel whom your employees can directly contact if they ever need medical support during an incident. You may also need to figure out how your employees can securely access company data in case they can’t physically come to the office. Planning for the tiniest details may save your data and your employees’ lives, so run through your strategy regularly to ensure that they’re up to date and still effective.

Mistake 2: Failing to plan for employees

Companies that can bounce back after unexpected incidents are those that have thought about their employees’ needs when making a BCP, so plan every detail that may concern your staff during a disruption, from evacuation routes to emergency communication procedures. Doing so will ensure that your employees have everything they need to survive the worst.

Discuss your strategy with your employees and ask for their input in matters that concern their safety or ability to work. Also, let them know that you will be there to support them and their families in the event of a crisis. This way, your employees will have peace of mind knowing that the company is there for them, and this, in turn, ensures their loyalty.

Mistake 3: Not showing your employees how the BCP works

While many business owners worry about downtime, they may neglect to explain to employees how to effectively execute the BCP to minimize lost productivity.

Your staff are part of your overall plan, so they must know the BCP strategy to be able to carry out their roles satisfactorily. Demonstrate exactly how your employees are supposed to respond during a crisis, such as informing them who they’re supposed to contact during a natural disaster and what they’re supposed to say to clients if systems are down. Walk them through where and how they will work when the primary office is inaccessible. Then, have your staff do these tasks until they’re confident that they can perform them when a disaster strikes.

Mistake 4: Putting greater priority on operational continuity over employee safety

When an incident occurs, it’s understandable for business owners to assess the disaster’s impact on business. But being solely concerned with operational continuity and neglecting employees’ well-being and safety has consequences, too.

Check on your people first, as they are crucial in executing processes. If you have a data backup plan but no one to facilitate it, then your plan — no matter how meticulous — is rendered useless. Make sure that your workforce is reachable, safe, and able. Make it a priority for the crisis management team to contact your employees and see what help may be given to make their situation better. Supporting your team when the worst happens is a guarantee that they can get back on their feet and return to work more swiftly.

Mistake 5: Not having the right tech solutions in place

You shouldn’t wait for a natural disaster to hit before setting up a toll-free hotline that employees can call in for regular updates. You also shouldn’t wait for a data breach before you start looking for ways to secure your data backups. Without the proper technology solutions to mitigate an incident, your business might face increased risks, prolonged downtime, and steep revenue loss.

Talk to your IT department or consult with a technology specialist to ensure that you have all the tech safeguards you need in case things go south. The right IT solutions will streamline company-wide communication, secure workloads, and most likely minimize downtime.

Want to learn more about business continuity and how it can help your business? Contact us today.

This post was originally published on this site

What companies tend to get wrong about business continuity

Every business owner knows that having a business continuity plan (BCP) is crucial to surviving any disaster. However, some still tend to overlook certain aspects of a BCP strategy, causing the plan to go up in flames. Ensure a solid BCP by knowing these five critical mistakes to avoid.

Mistake 1: Not considering the small details

Once you’ve created a general business continuity plan, you need to think about the specifics to ensure that what you envision is executable. This includes fleshing out logistical considerations like medical aid and technology support.

For instance, you need to inform partner medical providers about your BCP so that they can make arrangements in advance. This may entail asking for key personnel whom your employees can directly contact if they ever need medical support during an incident. You may also need to figure out how your employees can securely access company data in case they can’t physically come to the office. Planning for the tiniest details may save your data and your employees’ lives, so run through your strategy regularly to ensure that they’re up to date and still effective.

Mistake 2: Failing to plan for employees

Companies that can bounce back after unexpected incidents are those that have thought about their employees’ needs when making a BCP, so plan every detail that may concern your staff during a disruption, from evacuation routes to emergency communication procedures. Doing so will ensure that your employees have everything they need to survive the worst.

Discuss your strategy with your employees and ask for their input in matters that concern their safety or ability to work. Also, let them know that you will be there to support them and their families in the event of a crisis. This way, your employees will have peace of mind knowing that the company is there for them, and this, in turn, ensures their loyalty.

Mistake 3: Not showing your employees how the BCP works

While many business owners worry about downtime, they may neglect to explain to employees how to effectively execute the BCP to minimize lost productivity.

Your staff are part of your overall plan, so they must know the BCP strategy to be able to carry out their roles satisfactorily. Demonstrate exactly how your employees are supposed to respond during a crisis, such as informing them who they’re supposed to contact during a natural disaster and what they’re supposed to say to clients if systems are down. Walk them through where and how they will work when the primary office is inaccessible. Then, have your staff do these tasks until they’re confident that they can perform them when a disaster strikes.

Mistake 4: Putting greater priority on operational continuity over employee safety

When an incident occurs, it’s understandable for business owners to assess the disaster’s impact on business. But being solely concerned with operational continuity and neglecting employees’ well-being and safety has consequences, too.

Check on your people first, as they are crucial in executing processes. If you have a data backup plan but no one to facilitate it, then your plan — no matter how meticulous — is rendered useless. Make sure that your workforce is reachable, safe, and able. Make it a priority for the crisis management team to contact your employees and see what help may be given to make their situation better. Supporting your team when the worst happens is a guarantee that they can get back on their feet and return to work more swiftly.

Mistake 5: Not having the right tech solutions in place

You shouldn’t wait for a natural disaster to hit before setting up a toll-free hotline that employees can call in for regular updates. You also shouldn’t wait for a data breach before you start looking for ways to secure your data backups. Without the proper technology solutions to mitigate an incident, your business might face increased risks, prolonged downtime, and steep revenue loss.

Talk to your IT department or consult with a technology specialist to ensure that you have all the tech safeguards you need in case things go south. The right IT solutions will streamline company-wide communication, secure workloads, and most likely minimize downtime.

Want to learn more about business continuity and how it can help your business? Contact us today.

This post was originally published on this site

Protecting your data from hurricanes

Hurricanes damage property and put lives at risk. If you’re not prepared, hurricanes can also disrupt your operations and put your business through extended downtime. In this blog, we’ll help you quickly regain access to your data and get your business back to operational mode after a disaster.

Determine recovery hierarchy

Certain parts of your IT system are more mission-critical than others. Ask yourself which systems and/or data must be recovered in minutes, hours, or days so your business can resume operations quickly

For example, you may find that recovering sensitive customer information and eCommerce systems take priority over recovering your email server. Whatever the case may be, prioritizing your systems ensures that the right ones are recovered quickly after a disaster.

Pay attention to location

First and foremost, your backup site should be in a hurricane-free zone. Ideally, your off-site facility should be located at least 100 miles away from your main location. If this isn’t possible, make sure it is built to withstand wind speeds of 160 miles per hour (as fast as Category 5 storms) and is supported by backup generators and uninterruptible power supplies.

You should also request an upper floor installation or, at the very least, keep critical IT equipment 18 inches off the ground to prevent water damage in case of floods.

Use image-based backups

Unlike fragile tape backups, image-based backups take “snapshots” of your systems, creating a copy of the OS, software, and data stored in them. From there, you can easily boot the virtual image on any device, allowing you to back up and restore critical business systems in seconds.

Take advantage of the cloud

The cloud enables you to host applications and store data in high-availability, geo-redundant servers. This means your backups can be accessed via the internet, allowing authorized users to access critical files from any device. Expert technicians will also watch over and secure your backups, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of enterprise-level backup facilities and IT support.

Back up your data frequently

Back up your data as often as possible, especially during disaster season. If your latest backups were created on September 15th and a storm makes landfall in your area on the 28th, you could lose nearly two weeks of data.

Test your disaster recovery (DR) plan

After setting up your backups, check whether they are restoring your files accurately and on time. Your employees should be drilled on the recovery procedures and their responsibilities during and after a disaster. Your DR team should also be trained on how to failover to the backup site before the storm hits. Finally, providers, contractors, and customers need to be notified about how the hurricane will affect your operations.

As cell towers and internet connections may be affected during a hurricane, make sure your company forums are online and have your employees register with the Red Cross Safe and Well website so you can check their statuses.

It’s nearly impossible to experience disruptions during disasters like Harvey or Irma, but with the right support, you can minimize downtime. If you’re concerned about any natural disasters putting you out of business, call us today. We offer comprehensive business continuity services that every company should have.

This post was originally published on this site

Protecting your data from hurricanes

Hurricanes damage property and put lives at risk. If you’re not prepared, hurricanes can also disrupt your operations and put your business through extended downtime. In this blog, we’ll help you quickly regain access to your data and get your business back to operational mode after a disaster.

Determine recovery hierarchy

Certain parts of your IT system are more mission-critical than others. Ask yourself which systems and/or data must be recovered in minutes, hours, or days so your business can resume operations quickly

For example, you may find that recovering sensitive customer information and eCommerce systems take priority over recovering your email server. Whatever the case may be, prioritizing your systems ensures that the right ones are recovered quickly after a disaster.

Pay attention to location

First and foremost, your backup site should be in a hurricane-free zone. Ideally, your off-site facility should be located at least 100 miles away from your main location. If this isn’t possible, make sure it is built to withstand wind speeds of 160 miles per hour (as fast as Category 5 storms) and is supported by backup generators and uninterruptible power supplies.

You should also request an upper floor installation or, at the very least, keep critical IT equipment 18 inches off the ground to prevent water damage in case of floods.

Use image-based backups

Unlike fragile tape backups, image-based backups take “snapshots” of your systems, creating a copy of the OS, software, and data stored in them. From there, you can easily boot the virtual image on any device, allowing you to back up and restore critical business systems in seconds.

Take advantage of the cloud

The cloud enables you to host applications and store data in high-availability, geo-redundant servers. This means your backups can be accessed via the internet, allowing authorized users to access critical files from any device. Expert technicians will also watch over and secure your backups, allowing you to enjoy the benefits of enterprise-level backup facilities and IT support.

Back up your data frequently

Back up your data as often as possible, especially during disaster season. If your latest backups were created on September 15th and a storm makes landfall in your area on the 28th, you could lose nearly two weeks of data.

Test your disaster recovery (DR) plan

After setting up your backups, check whether they are restoring your files accurately and on time. Your employees should be drilled on the recovery procedures and their responsibilities during and after a disaster. Your DR team should also be trained on how to failover to the backup site before the storm hits. Finally, providers, contractors, and customers need to be notified about how the hurricane will affect your operations.

As cell towers and internet connections may be affected during a hurricane, make sure your company forums are online and have your employees register with the Red Cross Safe and Well website so you can check their statuses.

It’s nearly impossible to experience disruptions during disasters like Harvey or Irma, but with the right support, you can minimize downtime. If you’re concerned about any natural disasters putting you out of business, call us today. We offer comprehensive business continuity services that every company should have.

This post was originally published on this site

Here are 5 mistakes to avoid when investing in IT

Investing in new IT solutions can make your team more productive, ensure compliance with industry regulations, and improve the outputs you deliver to your customers, among other outcomes. But if you really want to maximize the returns you gain from any new tech investments, make sure to avoid these common mistakes.

Spending without finding the perfect fit

Advertisers would have you believe that the newest technology will solve all your problems. While the latest cloud or virtualization offering will likely improve things for many companies, they may not work for everyone.

Don’t let the flash and hype of new products impress you. Carefully think about the results you want to achieve with technology. Make a list of your goals and see if they can be fulfilled through a new IT investment. A good IT provider should guide and not confuse you and should see to it that you make the best choice.

Believing everything will magically work together

As technology evolves, it tends to become more user-friendly, helping people work better and faster. However, some solutions do not follow that route and many business owners mistakenly assume that their new tech investments will work well with their existing IT systems.

Incompatible technologies can result in massive and costly downtimes that can cripple your business. Therefore, you need to be smart and do your research, or consult an IT professional before making tech purchases.

Not training your team

Just because you’ve found and purchased powerful new technology that integrates well with your existing infrastructure doesn’t mean you can set them and forget them. New systems won’t magically boost your company’s outputs and increase its bottom line. To achieve your desired results, your team will have to know how to use your tech investments first.

Keep in mind that not all of your employees may be able to quickly get a handle on new tools. Some may simply prefer the technologies they’ve become accustomed to. If you can, have IT experts who have considerable experience in your new tools train your staff. Because of their knowledge, these specialists will know how to simplify complicated steps and can offer tips on how to get the most out of your tech investments. Your IT provider is a good place to start when looking for an expert who will handle training.

Forgetting your budget

More and more IT solutions are packaged with pay-as-you-go monthly pricing. While this is a great way to help you avoid a large upfront capital investment, implementing too many different technologies quickly without thinking about recurring costs can exhaust your finances.

Think carefully before opening your wallet. Do a little research, draft a budget, or get help from a consultant. These steps will spare you from a lot of frustrations in the future.
Not getting feedback

Before you purchase new tech, consult the employees who will be using the new technology on a daily basis. Remember that not everyone may feel at home with fresh tools. They might even discover some downsides you aren’t aware of.

Need an IT professional to create a complete technology solution for your business? We’re happy to serve you.

This post was originally published on this site

Here are 5 mistakes to avoid when investing in IT

Investing in new IT solutions can make your team more productive, ensure compliance with industry regulations, and improve the outputs you deliver to your customers, among other outcomes. But if you really want to maximize the returns you gain from any new tech investments, make sure to avoid these common mistakes.

Spending without finding the perfect fit

Advertisers would have you believe that the newest technology will solve all your problems. While the latest cloud or virtualization offering will likely improve things for many companies, they may not work for everyone.

Don’t let the flash and hype of new products impress you. Carefully think about the results you want to achieve with technology. Make a list of your goals and see if they can be fulfilled through a new IT investment. A good IT provider should guide and not confuse you and should see to it that you make the best choice.

Believing everything will magically work together

As technology evolves, it tends to become more user-friendly, helping people work better and faster. However, some solutions do not follow that route and many business owners mistakenly assume that their new tech investments will work well with their existing IT systems.

Incompatible technologies can result in massive and costly downtimes that can cripple your business. Therefore, you need to be smart and do your research, or consult an IT professional before making tech purchases.

Not training your team

Just because you’ve found and purchased powerful new technology that integrates well with your existing infrastructure doesn’t mean you can set them and forget them. New systems won’t magically boost your company’s outputs and increase its bottom line. To achieve your desired results, your team will have to know how to use your tech investments first.

Keep in mind that not all of your employees may be able to quickly get a handle on new tools. Some may simply prefer the technologies they’ve become accustomed to. If you can, have IT experts who have considerable experience in your new tools train your staff. Because of their knowledge, these specialists will know how to simplify complicated steps and can offer tips on how to get the most out of your tech investments. Your IT provider is a good place to start when looking for an expert who will handle training.

Forgetting your budget

More and more IT solutions are packaged with pay-as-you-go monthly pricing. While this is a great way to help you avoid a large upfront capital investment, implementing too many different technologies quickly without thinking about recurring costs can exhaust your finances.

Think carefully before opening your wallet. Do a little research, draft a budget, or get help from a consultant. These steps will spare you from a lot of frustrations in the future.
Not getting feedback

Before you purchase new tech, consult the employees who will be using the new technology on a daily basis. Remember that not everyone may feel at home with fresh tools. They might even discover some downsides you aren’t aware of.

Need an IT professional to create a complete technology solution for your business? We’re happy to serve you.

This post was originally published on this site