Using A Password Manager

Password ManagerWith the vast amount of secure, sensitive, or private information stored online and on business servers, there are endless warnings about the importance of strong and secure passwords, and using different passwords for each of your accounts. Passwords need to be difficult to guess for hackers and impossible for random computer programs to create. There are tons of ideas of how to create strong passwords, including using random letters, numbers and symbols, words that can’t be found in the dictionary, and using lower and uppercase letters.

With all the precautions, it’s often hard to remember your passwords when you have need of them. Add to this the fact that you are not supposed to write them down, and most of us just can’t keep all our passwords straight. In the end, if you have a strong password and can’t remember it, what good does it actually do you and your business?

To solve this problem, there are password manager programs. A password manager program is one that generates random passwords for all your different accounts and then securely stores that information.

How does it work? When you sign up for a password manager program, you’re given a master user name and password. Then, whenever you go to a site that needs a password, instead of creating a unique on for that site, you simply type in your master user name and password. If it’s a new account, the password manager program will automatically create a password for you for that site. If it has already been created, the program will automatically enter your information. It can also be set up to automatically input your personal information, such as address, phone number, etc. A good password manager program will interface between all your technology, including your mobile devices.

The difference between a password manager program and a browser-based password manager (like the ones in Chrome, Firefox, and Explorer) are that password manager programs store your information in encrypted files. This adds an important layer of protection that doesn’t exist in the browser programs.

If you’re concerned about always having strong and secure passwords for your business files and accounts (and don’t want to forget them all), consider using a password manager program. It’ll help make sure all your files remain safe and private.

smartphone, mobile banking

Mobile Technology: Commerce

To finish our discussion on how mobile technology is changing that way that we do business, in this article we want to focus on the commerce aspect. For small business owners, mobile technology can have a huge impact on how you handle the buying, selling, and all money aspects of your business.

Mobile technology can be involved in collecting and recording money in your business in many different ways. One of the major ways is through purchasing. Through the creation of mobile websites and apps, businesses can reach their customers through their mobile devices. Once the customer is on your site, the mobile technology allows you to accept and process orders electronically from your customers. If you create a mobile sized catalog, you can also have it delivered to your customers on their mobile devices.

Mobile technology also gives businesses another opportunity to offer loyalty cards, coupons, or vouchers to your customers. These perks can be sent directly to your customers on their mobile device, which can then be presented in the store to redeem the deal.

One huge asset to delivering these deals with mobile technology is that you have the option to offer them based on your customer’s location. The location-based technology in many mobile devices can help you target specific geographic areas. It also allows you to track and monitor people who use or purchase your product based on their location, allowing you to be more effective in your overall marketing strategy.

Mobile technology is also having a huge impact on event ticketing. Customers can buy and cancel tickets through their mobile devices, even up to the last minute. You can also have your system set up to accept electronic tickets, which your customers display on their mobile device. This is extremely convenient for the customer, who can use the tickets immediately instead of having to wait for tickets in the mail or worry about printing them off at home.

Lastly, mobile technology can help you track and record your revenues and expenses. Mobile banking allows you to access your account information at any time. It also allows you to check account balances, deposit checks (with your smartphone camera) and transfer funds. Many brokerage accounts also have mobile-friendly sites or apps, which means that you have instant access to any stocks, bonds, or other accounts that you hold. This allows you to stay updated on your business finances no matter where you are.

And this is only the beginning. As mobile technology continues to advance, the ways that it interacts with and enhances your possibilities as a business owner will also continue to expand.

mobile marketing

Mobile Marketing

As we discussed in our previous post, mobile technology is rapidly changing the way that we do business. Small business owners who want to stay competitive have found it increasingly important to integrate various mobile technologies into their work place. In today’s look at mobile technology, we are going to focus on how mobile technology is affecting small business marketing.

Mobile technology has opened up numerous new avenues through which small businesses can do their marketing and advertising. Text messaging (SMS), mobile apps, mobile websites, QR codes, IVR messaging, and banner ads are just a few of the ways that businesses have been targeting potential customers on their mobile devices. So what is it about mobile technology that makes this sort of marketing effective?

The first big benefit of mobile technology is that it can effectively reach customers in a medium where they spend a lot of time. Our society is becoming more and more attached to mobile devices. Smartphones and other mobile devices are continuously handy, increasing the potential exposure of a customer to your marketing message. And mobile marketing is not just for teenagers. In fact, the biggest purchasers of mobile devices are in the 35-44 and the 45-54 age brackets.

In fact, there are multiple studies supporting the idea that your customers are seeing more and more on their mobile devices. Some of the findings from these studies are listed below (source).

  • Text messaging (SMS) is one of the quickest ways to reach an individual. 97% of mobile users will read the text message within 15 minutes and 84% of them will respond to a text message within an hour.
  • The average mobile marketing push has a response rate of 12-15%, with some companies seeing as high as 60%. This is in comparison with direct mail marketing, which has a response of about 2-3%.
  • About 40% of mobile users have expressed an interest in receiving mobile coupons.
  • Mobile websites are in as high demand as PC websites.

Due to the ability of many mobile softwares to “read” the website or information that an individual is looking at, marketing can become more targeted. After reading the information on the site, the software can run an ad that is related to that information, delivering a message that is relevant to that particular customer.

As technologies continue to develop, mobile devices will continue to impact the ways that small businesses handle their marketing campaigns. And that’s not the only area that will continue to evolve. In our next mobile technology post, we will look at how it is affecting small business commerce.

mobile technology

Mobile Technology: Uses and Benefits

In the world of small business, it’s important to take advantage of anything that can give you an edge – whether it be making you more productive, more accessible, or more visible to your potential customers. One of the technologies that has recently changed the world of small business is mobile technology. From the cell phone to the tablet, the evolution of mobile technology has changed the world of business forever. In our next two posts we’ll take a closer look at the advantages, possibilities, and necessary considerations of mobile technology for small businesses.

In the beginning, the first big convenience offered by mobile technology was the ability to always have your phone with you. The possibility of answering and making calls when you were out of the office drastically improved the accessibility of business owners and their employees. The next convenience was the possibility of checking your email outside the office, which increased productivity. Since then, updates and discoveries in applications, software, and integration possibilities have blown door of potential benefits wide open. With each passing day, mobile technology is changing the ways that the world does business.

Today there are many different options in the mobile technology solutions. Some of these include:

  • Mobile websites
  • Mobile applications
  • Mobile commerce
  • Mobile infrastructures
  • Mobile communications
  • Mobile marketing
  • GPS tracking

The biggest benefit to mobile technology continues to be communication. Still, security issues are also an important addition to basic feature set. Visit Car Trackers Club website for simple and affordable GPS car tracker. Smartphones, laptops, tablets, and PDAs have given business owners unprecedented access to their employees, customers, and vendors. Not only does a cell phone mean that you can make and take calls at any given moments, but the applications on smartphones and tablets give you instant access to the internet and social media. Businesses have found that mobile technology allows them to communicate in all sorts of ways, including the ability to:

  • Make presentations to customers
  • Download information
  • Give quotes and estimates while in the field
  • Make continuous updates while traveling

Part of this communication includes the ability to get instantaneous feedback from your customers. Businesses who take advantage of this feedback have been able to speed up their research and development phases, which allows them to stay one step ahead of the competition. This includes not only product upgrades resulting from existing problems, but also new designs. As a bonus, customers who have given feedback feel as if they have been a part of the process and have had a voice in the development of the product.

In our next few articles we’ll continue the mobile technology discussion with a look at how it is affecting both marketing and commerce in the small business world.

smartphone

Bring Your Own Device: The Pros and Cons

In our last post we discussed the rising trend of small business owners having their employees “bring your own device” (BYOD) to work.  This trend has many benefits for small businesses, but also raises some concerns.

Benefits
For the company there are several instantaneous benefits of having employees bring their own electronic devices:

  1. The bottom line. The company receives the benefits of having the added technology without incurring the cost of supplying all the equipment.
  2. Shortened learning curve.  When employees bring in their own devices, they are already familiar with how they function, which can improve their efficiency.
  3. Expanded horizons. When employees are bringing their own technologies into the office, the business has an opportunity to experience and learn about other methods of technology and interaction.  This introduction can make business owners aware of communication and business possibilities that they never knew existed.

Disadvantages
One of the biggest concerns about BYOD is the ability of the company to manage the use of the employee’s mobile device.  In fact,  in a recent report on mobile devices, only 51% of IT managers said that they had an effective strategy for dealing with this issue.  Some of the biggest challenges include:

  • managing the device
  • securing the device
  • increased need for storage
  • increased need for servers

Security remains at the forefront of the worry list, with concerns over the handling of important or sensitive business information. It is vitally important that the company can keep data secure while accommodate the “work anywhere at any time” freedom that BYOD brings.

While there are legitimate concerns, BYOD is a trend that continues to grow. For small businesses that want to keep up with the pace of technology, it is a viable option to help your business grow and thrive.

mobile devices

Bring Your Own Device: The Trend

In today’s tech savvy world, many small businesses have the desire to outfit their employees with the technology that will help their business thrive. That includes smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices. However, many businesses struggle with the financial reality of supplying every employee with a smartphone, laptop, or tablet. This has led to a trend of business asking employees to BYOD – bring your own device.

In a recent study on mobile devices in small businesses, 75% of mobile device users agree with the idea that a mobile device is critical to their job and 67% believe that their business would lose their current competitive ground without their mobile devices.

What is it about these mobile devices that make them so valuable to the small business? In the study, 94% of mobile device users agreed that their devices made them more efficient in completing their assigned tasks. Their view is not far off from their IT managers, 85% of which agreed that mobile devices had made the overall company more efficient. Mobile device users sited benefits such as improved communication between the personnel in the field and the office, an increased availability to customers, increased productivity of employees, improved customer service, an increase in collaboration between fellow employees, and an overall streamline business process.

The smartphone, with its ability to access the Internet and email as well as a number of helpful apps, is currently the most popular choice for employees. However, IT managers agree that the use of tablets is going to substantially increase over the next few years.

In the most simple of terms, bring your own device means simply that: the company allows its employees to use their own mobile devices at and for work. Many businesses have started asking employees to provide their own devices to cut down on business expenses. This also gives employees more control over the devices they use at work. In our next post, we’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of the BYOD trend.

 

Why it pays to spend more on business class hardware

There so many hardware choices out there that business owners are often left scratching their heads as to what hardware choices to make to get the best ROI. The answer depends very much on the nature of your business and what you do with the hardware, but below are some general guidelines that can help you to make smarter hardware purchases.

All the major hardware manufacturers have divided their product lines into a business segment and a home segment. There are several important differences that distinguish the two lines.

The first difference is the operating system (OS). Business class machines generally come bundled with Windows Professional. At first glance, this may not seem like an important thing, but for business computing it’s critical. The home version of Windows is not capable of being part of a domain and therefore is very limited on how it can be networked and managed. In addition, if you have servers that house your applications and tie into an active directory, they will not be available to you if you are running a home OS. Bundling Windows Pro with the purchase of a new machine is generally a money saver as well, so keep that in mind when making your purchases. This is also an excellent way to purchase the Microsoft Office Suite and save yourself the time and expense of upgrading it later.

The next thing that business class hardware gives you is hours and hours more testing. Business machines are tested by the manufacturers to a much higher standard than their home line counterparts. This translates into lower hardware maintenance costs and reliability where it counts. Years of experience tell us that there is a significant difference in hardware reliability between business class and home systems. Downtime is costly to any business owner, so getting the increased reliability can be a lifesaver.

Another thing to consider is warranty. Most home systems come with a 1-year warranty. The majority of these warranties often require you to mail the system into the manufacturer and have a turnaround time of 2 weeks or more. That translates into significant downtime for end users. In contrast, business class machines can be purchased with 3+ years of next business day warranty. If the hardware has a failure, the manufacturer will dispatch a technician the next day to do the repair free of charge. If you exercise this warranty once out of 3 machines you purchase, it pays for the cost of the warranty on all three. It’s also good to consider the cost of downtime for hardware that doesn’t have warranty.

The last thing to consider is the hidden costs of purchasing the home line hardware. When you see a deal on a shiny new laptop for $500, it can be tempting. A computer is a computer right? What many people don’t realize is the total cost of that $500 laptop. Usually they will come with a home operating system and a one-year warranty. To make the machine work with their business network the user often ends up purchasing a copy of Windows Pro for $180. Then they have to pay to have the operating system reloaded on that machine. They miss out on savings for bundling the purchase of Microsoft Office, and 2 years down the road when their hard drive fails they spend a couple hundred dollars on repairs. In addition they are down for a much longer time than they would have been otherwise. What does downtime cost you? Once you do all the math, it adds up and that $500 laptop doesn’t seem like such a good deal anymore.

Consider these things when making your hardware purchases and you’ll see why it pays to spend more on business class hardware. If you have any questions about what hardware is right for your business, contact the pros at i.t.NOW!

Windows 8 Tablets for Business

The new rage in mobile computing is the tablet, but some businesses have been left scratching their heads on how they can successfully integrate these devices into their networks. The main issue with most tablet devices is that they don’t run an operating system that is compatible with the business applications that you use on a daily basis. The answer to that will come largely through a new generation of tablets that run a full blown version of the new Windows 8 Pro operating system.

There are a couple important distinctions to make here. One is that not all Windows 8 operating systems (OS) are created equal. Windows RT comes preinstalled on the majority of Windows tablets, but is very limited in what it can do when compared to the Pro version. Windows RT is a touch-optimized OS that comes with the basic set of office 2013 applications, but you can’t install the majority of your business applications on it. RT also can’t be joined to a domain and is short a lot of the goodies that you get with Pro. If you want to be able to work on a tablet, you probably want one that runs Win 8 Pro.

There are a bunch of Windows 8 tablets that have just come out or are scheduled soon. Considering the above, I’ll highlight 3 that run Win 8 Pro and might be good picks. Here they are, in no particular order:

The Surface from Microsoft
We’ve all seen the ads plastered on TV and other media. The Surface RT came out a little while back, and the Win 8 Pro version arrived last month. Here are some quick specs on the Surface.

CPUDual-core 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5-3317U[7]
Storage capacity64 GB (23 GB available) or 128 GB (83 GB available)[8] and microSDXC slot
Memory4 GB dual-channel DDR3-1600 (25.6 GB/sec)
Display10.6 inches (27 cm) 1920 x 1080 px[9] (208 ppi) ClearType HD screen with 16:9 aspect ratio
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 4000
Input10-point multi-touch screen, pen input, ambient light sensor, 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyroscope, compass, dual microphones
CameraFront: 1.2 MP, 720p HD
Rear: 1.2 MP AF, 720p HD
Connectivity2×2 MIMO Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n), USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort
Dimensions10.81 inches (27.5 cm) (w)
6.81 inches (17.3 cm) (h)
0.53 inches (13 mm) (d)
Weight2 pounds (910 g

Microsoft Surface The Surface will be able to run most of your business applications, join a domain, and has some pretty nice hardware for a tablet. It also comes with some accessories that add functionality. The touted type cover is built to snap easily onto the tablet to give you full keyboard functionality. Thin and lightweight, it is a good option. One important note is that the Surface does not have any type of docking capability, so for mobile professionals that like to be able to dock when they are in the office, this may not be the best fit.

The Latitude 10 Windows Tablet
Dell has come out with another great option to compete with Microsoft’s first foray into the hardware business. The Latitude 10 is specifically designed to be durable for mobile business users, runs a full version of Win 8 Pro, and has some cool accessories to go with it. Here are some quick specs on it.

Processor1Intel® Atom™ Processor Z2760 1.8GHz with Intel® Burst Technology, 1.5GHz HFM, 600MHz LFM
Operating System Options1Microsoft® Windows 8 32-BitMicrosoft ® Windows 8 Pro 32-Bit
Memory22GB DDR2 SDRAM (800MHz) integrated
Graphics2 OptionsIntel® Graphics Media Accelerator (533MHz)
Display10.1” IPS (1366 X 768) Wide View Angle LED with Corning® Gorilla® Glass, Supports Capacitive 10 Finger Touch and Optional Wacom Active Stylus
Storage3 OptionseMMC up to 128GB
Optical Drive OptionExternal USB DVD+/-RW (optional)
Multimedia OptionsHigh quality speakers, stereo headphone/microphone combo jack, integrated/ noise reduction array microphones, integrated 720p HD front facing video webcam, 2MP front facing camera, and 8MP rear facing camera
Battery Options2-cell (30Whr) Lithium Ion battery (swappable) Optional 4-cell (60Whr) Lithium Ion battery (swappable)
Power/Charging Options30 Watt AC adapter
Charge via micro-USB charging portCharge via optional docking station
ConnectivityWireless LAN + Bluetooth (Standard): Dell Wireless™ 1536C (802.11 a/b/g/n 1X1) and Bluetooth 4.0 LE Combo CardMobile Broadband4 & GPS Options:
Dell Wireless ™ 5565 HSPA+ Mini Card Option
Gobi™ 4G LTE Multi-mode (Dell Wireless™ DW5806 for AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless) Option
Ports, Slots & ChassisUSB 2.0, SD Memory Card Reader, Docking Connector, Stereo headphone/ Microphone combo jack, Mini-HDMI, Micro-USB charging port, Micro-SIM (WWAN-only)
InputCapacitive multi-touch and optional Wacom active stylus
Expandability (optional)Latitude 10 Series docking station with 4 USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit LAN, HDMI, Power Input and Audio Output
Peripherals Options1Griffin® Survivor™ Protective Case, Dell Soft-Touch Case, Timbuk2 Cases, Mini- HDMI to DVI/VGA/HDMI/USB/Power Cable Choices, 3M Privacy Films, Charging Carts, Monitors, Wireless Keyboard/Mouse combo
Dimensions & Weight8Width: 10.8”/274.0mmHeight: 0.4”/10.5mm with standard 2-cell battery 0.64”/15.9mm with optional 4-cell batteryDepth: 7.0”/176.6mm
Starting Weight: 658g/1.45lb with 2-cell battery
Regulatory and Environmental ComplianceRegulatory Model: T05GRegulatory Type: T05G001

The Latitude Windows tabletThe Latitude 10 with Windows 8 Pro can join a domain, run all of your business applications, and has some cool accessories and the all-important docking capability. The hardware isn’t as nice as the Surface for processor or memory, but it should do the job for most routine tasks. Weight and size are comparable to the Surface, but the screen resolution isn’t as high. This would likely be a good pick for a user that needs to be able to dock and doesn’t do any high-powered computing.

The Thinkpad Tablet 2
Lenovo released their new Windows tablet offering a little bit ago to pretty decent reviews. It’s comparable to Dell’s offering and designed for business users. It boasts a full version of Windows 8 Pro, can join a domain, and has docking capabilities and some cool accessories. Here are some quick specs.

PROCESSOR OPERATING SYSTEM INTEGRATED GRAPHICS
Intel® Atom™ Processor Z2760Dual-core™, four-thread, up to 1.80 GHz processorWindows® 8 x86 (32-bit)Windows® 8 Professional x86 (32-bit)Windows® 8 Single Language x86 (32-bit)2
Windows® 8 China Only x86 (32-bit)2
Intel® Integrated HD SGX545 GFx(12 bit, 1080P Video @30fs, DX9)
DISPLAY RESOLUTION MEMORY
10.1 inch (16:9) IPS, LED Backlight, anti-glare, 5-finger multi-touchHD WXGA (1366×768) (720p)2GB LPDD2 SDRAM
HDD WLAN a/b/g/n (MOB LGA) WWAN (TFF)
32GB/64GB (e-MMC)802.11 a/b/g/nBluetooth® 4.0Gobi 4000 (LTE /HSPA+)5 (for US with AT&T only)Ericsson (HSPA+) (ROW markets)
MAIN BATTERY A/C ADAPTER SENSORS
25 days: Connected Standby150 hrs: MP3 playback (LCD off, HW off loading)10hrs: Video streaming (720p, HW offloading)5V 10W AC/DC AdapterGPSCompassAmbient Light Sensor
Proximity Sensor
Sensor Hub
BUTTONS/SWITCHES PORTS CAMERA
Button: Windows with Logo and Power On-OffSwitch: Audio Volume Up/Down, Rotation Lock and Reset to disconnect Battery input(1) USB 2.0(1) Mini HDMI(1) MicroSD Slot
(1) Docking Connector
(1) 3.5mm Mic/Headphone Combo
Front: 2MP, 720P HD Webcam with LED (inside LCD)Rear: 8MP, Auto Focus with LED Flash (outside LCD), Motion JPG
MICROPHONES SPEAKERS DIGITIZER AND PEN
Dual-array Digital Microphone with Noise Cancellation, VoIP and Noise Suppression(2) Stereo 1W, 8ohmOptional
DIMENSIONS WEIGHT
10.1” x 6.9” x 0.34”
(262.6 x 164.6 x 9.8mm)
565g (1.25lbs) – Wi-Fi only
585g (1.29lbs) – Wi-Fi + Pen/Digitizer
600g (1.3lbs) – Wi-Fi + Pen/Digitizer + 3G/4G

There are a lot of good options for those that are looking for a portable Windows tablet that can run all of their essential business applications. To help select the one that is best for your specific business needs, contact the professionals at i.t.NOW.

Data Backup and Recovery Solutions from i.t.NOW

In 2011, Bluffdale City was looking for a way to consolidate and upgrade its data backup and recovery needs. To do so, Bluffdale representatives searched for a company that provided a comprehensive and time-tested data backup and recovery solution.

Enter i.t.NOW.

i.t.NOW is a Utah-based provider of I.T. solutions including data backup and recovery, cloud computing, desktop virtualization and more.  The company’s i.t.BDR offering gives organizations the ability to effectively and frequently back up vital company data (as often as every 15 minutes) in secure off-site storage areas, and recover that data when needed.  Whether a company experiences an earthquake, fire or some other type of disaster, i.t.NOW can get it back up and running with little to no down time.

As fate would have it, Bluffdale’s city offices experienced an event that essentially destroyed their in-house data and computer systems: a lighting strike! Luckily, i.t.NOW was ready for the challenge.

First, with its frequent data backups and constant system monitoring, i.t.NOW immediately detected the power surge from the strike. The event destroyed Bluffdale City’s backup power supply and its servers wouldn’t restart. To fix this problem, i.t.NOW implemented an off-site server. And because i.t.NOW’s data backups run as often as every 15 minutes, it was able to restore Bluffdale City to its most recent backup.

In fact, i.t.NOW had the city back up and running in less than 30 minutes!

Second, i.t.NOW ran the city’s entire data center and computing needs for two days while a replacement power supply was ordered—all on i.t.BDR software from i.t.NOW.  Once the new power supply arrived, i.t.NOW transitioned Bluffdale back to its old network after hours.

To learn more about i.t.NOW and its comprehensive I.T. services, contact us or call (801) 562-8778.

10 Ways to Save on I.T. in a Soft Economy

By Phil Robinson, Owner and Founder at i.t.NOW

1. Pay a Flat Monthly Rate
One of the best ways to control I.T. costs is to partner with a service provider that charges a flat monthly fee to maintain your I.T. systems. This performance-based approach motivates your I.T. provider to prevent problems and keep your systems running smoothly because if your system goes down they have to do more work and incur more costs. On the other hand, paying for I.T. repairs on an hourly basis rewards your service provider for letting things go and could tempt you to postpone preventive service calls. With a flat monthly rate, you can budget for most I.T. expenditures. Don’t work with someone who earns more when things break; reverse the game so you both feel the pain if your system goes down.

2. Back Up Your Data Offsite
Most businesses know that they should back up their data on a regular basis, but they may not realize that they can save thousands of dollars by hiring a trusted partner to manage their backups for them offsite instead of using onsite hardware, software, tapes, and storage. Offsite backups also increase data security and reduce data restoration times. Even when you outsource your data management, offsite backup solutions have the lowest total cost of ownership because they reduce overhead and do a better job of protecting and restoring valuable data, come what may. It’s easy to forget to check your backups to make sure they are working correctly. Find a partner to whom you can entrust this mission-critical task so you don’t have to wonder whether you’re really backed up.

3. Consider Subscribing to Software as a Service (SaaS)
You can either buy software one time and install and maintain it on every computer or you can subscribe to it as a hosted online service and do away with installs, maintenance and support. Subscribing to Software as a Service (SaaS) can help lighten your I.T. load and has the potential to reduce software start-up expenses through flexible on-demand pricing. However, it’s important to weigh the comparative cost of a continuous expense rather than a one-time purchase. You should also be aware that hosting configurations can vary. Some SaaS software vendors host applications on their own web servers while others may outsource their hosting needs to a third-party application service provider (ASP), which can help to further reduce server hardware costs.

4. Conduct Routine Maintenance
Nothing enhances the reliability and performance of a computer network more cost effectively than routine maintenance. Without it, your network’s performance can become sluggish and unstable over time and can ultimately jeopardize your company’s productivity, network security, and workflow. Preventive service and timely upgrades help to minimize downtime and reduce your exposure to ever-changing viruses and security threats. In today’s real-time world, even short-lived delays in responsiveness can erode hard-won customer confidence and loyalty, causing short-term savings from I.T. shortcuts to morph into long-term losses when inevitable I.T. incidents hit.

5. Proactively Manage and Filter Your Internet Bandwidth and Content
The line between personal time and work time continues to blur in unprecedented ways. According to MSN Money’s “Smart Spending” Blog, here’s a quick recap of how current usage patterns break down:

      • Research. 61% of workers use the Internet for non-work-related research and activities while they are at work. Among these workers, 37% said they spend an average of more than 30 minutes of their workday on non-work-related online activities, and 18% said they spend an average of an hour or more.
      • E-mail. When it comes to digital correspondence, 20% of workers send six or more non-work-related e-mails per day. Among this group, 22% spend more than 30 minutes during the typical workday doing so.
      • Blogging. 9% of workers surveyed have a personal blog, and while nearly a quarter (23%) of them spend time blogging at work, only 9% of them spend 15 minutes or more blogging during the typical workday.
      • Social networking. 41% of workers surveyed have a MySpace, Facebook or other social-networking page. More than one-third (35%) of them spend time on their social-networking page during the workday, with 8% spending 30 minutes or more.

It’s one thing to allow employees to receive some personal e-mails or look at the latest news headlines, and quite another to suffer employees who spend their days downloading music, installing free applications, or perusing adult Web sites. Even if employees manage to surf and download without infecting their machines, such usage can still negatively affect business networks.

Streaming audio or video requires a lot of bandwidth and if too many employees spend their days watching news clips or listening to a radio stream online, it could significantly slow down your business’s mission-critical network applications. Controlling and monitoring this access can increase employees’ capacity and productivity.

The good news is that affordable Internet filtering and bandwidth management solutions are readily available, including some, like the ContentProtect Security Appliance, that combine both functions in one box.

6.     Kill the Kilowatts
If you have multiple servers, all requiring proper cooling and electricity, you may be able to consolidate them onto less hardware. “Virtualizing” servers allows one server to act as many, sometimes with a ratio as high as 15:1. This is made possible by using products like VMWare and Microsoft’s Server 2008 products. With a virtualized server, a company can add new servers into their environment without purchasing new hardware. This lowers energy and maintenance costs, and reduces upgrade expenses. Even consolidating two servers into one can save more than $600 per year in energy costs. VMWare has a free starter edition, so server consolidation is easier and more cost effective than you think.

7.     Beware of the “Accidental Techie”: Focus on what you Do Best
A lot of small- to medium-sized companies have an unofficial “accidental techie,” who has somehow become the go-to person when computer problems come up. Maybe they made the mistake of being too curious or too helpful in tracking down answers to computer questions online, or they may just have had more technical experience than anyone else in the office. The problem with this approach is that it dilutes the contribution this individual can make by not allowing them to do the job they were hired to do—and it could compromise the security and productivity of your entire operation by not knowing what you don’t know.

If your car has a problem, you take it to a mechanic. If the drain is clogged, you call a plumber. If your computer has a problem, why try to fix it yourself? You, and each of your employees have a job to do that you alone are uniquely qualified to do. You have a company to build, sales to close and clients to serve. Let someone who specializes in computers make sure that all of your data is backed up, that all of your antivirus software is licensed and up to date, and that all of your critical I.T. services are being monitored and maintained properly. And if one of your employees has a computer problem, have her speak directly to the person that will fix the problem, not an office manager or a co-worker. That way, you can rest easy knowing that the problem will be correctly diagnosed and fixed right the first time.

8.     Conduct Regular Disaster Recovery Drills
An estimated 70% of small companies go out of business within one year of a major data loss. Disasters can happen, servers can crash, and data can be forever lost. Here are some interesting statistics reported by the University of North Carolina’s Information Technology Service:

  • A hard drive crashes every 15 seconds
  • 60% of all data is held on PC desktops and laptops
  • 2,000 laptops are stolen or lost every day
  • 32% of data loss is caused by human error
  • 31% of PC users have lost all of their PC files to events beyond their control.
  • 25% of lost data is due to the failure of a portable drive.
  • 44% of data loss is caused by mechanical failures
  • 15% or more of laptops are stolen or suffer hard drive failures
  • 1 in 5 computers suffer a fatal hard drive crash during their lifetime.
  • 40% of small and medium sized businesses don’t back up their data at all.

A disaster recovery plan is only as good as its execution. If you are one of the few companies that have a DR plan, put it to the test by conducting regular disaster recovery drills. Do a test restore of some key data. If possible, do a complete server restore to new hardware at least once a year or have someone do it for you. Imagine what would happen if your server completely died, or your building burned to the ground. Conducting this simple test on a regular basis could save your business.

9.     Lose Some Weight with Thin Clients
Remember the days of the dumb terminal: a computer that consisted of just a monitor and a keyboard? Well dumb terminals are back, only this time, they aren’t so dumb. Now they’re called “thin clients,” and they’re a lot less expensive to buy and maintain than putting a full-blown PC at every desk. The thin client approach allows you to virtualize the desktop and move it to a central server, so all a worker needs on their desk is an inexpensive box that connects them to a keyboard, mouse and monitor. You then store all data and programs on a central server that workers access through the network by way of the thin client, so you’ll have no more desktops to buy operating system licenses for, no more hardware upgrades to coordinate, no more hard drive crashes, and no more data to migrate when a user needs a new machine. Thin clients also create continuity for each user; whether they are working from home or someone else’s desk, they always connect to the same virtual desktop.

10.  Combine Your Phone Lines and Internet Access
Every business needs phone lines and Internet access. An integrated T1, also known as a Flex T1, combines local calling, long distance, and Internet service in one efficient package that could save you money. Ask your I.T. partner to find out what packages are available in your area.