IT Support Blog for Small Business Owners

David S. Mulvey

Recent Posts

Four Strategic Outcomes to Focus on when IT Outsourcing

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Wed, Jun 04, 2014

IT Business OutcomesAre outsourced IT services right for your business? Possibly; I have listed seven business outcomes that you may try to achieve when outsourcing IT managed services. You have probably heard before that the CEO should be working “on,” the business not “in,” the business. The same is true while outsourcing your IT services, the time that is freed up for your staff and yourself should be directed to important work outcomes. IT outsourcing can provide a strategic, cost-effective solution if your management team is focusing “on,” your business outcomes. The business outcomes can be segregated into three areas of business operation, first are the CEO focused business outcomes, and second are the strategic accounting and operational outcomes and finally specific IT business outcomes. In this blog I will discuss the first four of seven potential business outcomes.


Outsource your IT so the CEO can focus on increased revenue and profitability!

By outsourcing your IT you may dedicate 100% of your payroll and employee resources to your core business rather than to IT functions and support. Through IT outsourcing you can begin to view and use IT as a strategic asset within your company. Outsourcing your IT is an effective strategy for gaining efficiencies and reducing costs. A typical IT outsourcer will automate specific recurring tasks during your IT outsourcing agreement, which will increase IT availability and increase network predictability. Through IT outsourcing, you will develop a short and long term IT budget. If you outsourced your IT how much time can be freed up for you and your management team and employees to focus on the core business?


Outsource your IT to insure you successfully transition to a new technology to enable a faster growth rate.

Many CEO’s from our clients share with us their growth targets will require them to implement a new technology; by outsourcing your IT you can be assured the technology will be deployed successfully. Other CEO’s tell us they are growing quickly and don’t want to add headcount, they need to improve employee productivity through IT automation or a Line-of-Business application deployment; outsourcing your IT will insure the application is deployed correctly -- the first time. We have had clients merge or move operations with another company, outsourcing with tight planning can mitigate the risk out of business consolidation. Through IT outsourcing you can also easily expand into new states or countries; an IT Service Provider can typically support client locations in Europe, Asia and Africa 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Outsource your IT to manage risk and ensure business continuity.

There are so many potential risks to manage within your IT department: Do you have a business continuity plan in place in case of a man made or natural disaster? Do you know how long it would take to resume normal IT operations after a data disaster? Does your business need to conform to the HIPPA or PCI standards? Perhaps your documents and files include both internal and client sensitive documents and data; are you required to have secure data, secure transactions and communications? Or perhaps your business has a small IT department and you want to secure the systems from being compromised if an IT employee leaves or if the department is dismantled. Or you simply want to protect your PCs and servers from the latest viruses and malware threats. Outsourcing your IT to a managed service provider will provide answers to all of these questions and deliver the business outcome you need.


Consider Outsourcing your IT to improve your IT infrastructure’s availability and service responsiveness.

The most common reason our clients outsource their IT is because the owner feels his business has outgrown the current IT provider. The vast majority of IT companies are 1 or two possibly three employees; when one of the three is sick or on vacation, it becomes impossible to adequately support all of their clients. The owner calls us exasperated in how long it is taking to get service. The IT requirements of a growing business steadily increase; another common issue is that the current IT provider does not have the knowledge and skills to help the business grow in their IT maturity and IT complexity. If you have a business where you operate 24 hours a day, or you have both national and international offices, you need an IT provider that operates a Network Operations Center 24 hours a day 365 days a year. No matter what time it is in the world, a larger IT Managed Service Provider will be open for business and ready to answer your employee’s questions. Shop for an IT outsourcer that can provide a written Service-Level-Guarantee on response time, and resolution times; insist the Service Level’s provide a money back guarantee if they are not meet. By placing the new IT outsourcers “skin in the game,” you can be assured you will achieve a higher level of responsiveness and availability and thereby achieve the business outcomes you require.

In our next blog we will look at the other 3 business outcomes you can expect from IT outsourcing. If you are ready to speak with ANP fill out our form here. Or download our free white paper on The seven sign its time to call for computer support (found below.)

 

7 Signs Its Time Computer Support

Topics: IT Outsourcing, Service Level Guarantee, IT Strategy, IT Business Outcomes, IT Strategic Outcomes

Developing a Small Business IT Strategy

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, May 15, 2014

IT StrategyBefore the introduction of Information Technology, there were many organizations that have been more successful than others. These companies have had a better product or service offering, a positive customer focus, and very probably close employee involvement in its development. Today, these qualities need to be fused with a complete understanding of the value of IT to maintain or repeat this level of business success.

Small businesses that fail to capitalize on the strategic value of IT, often stemming from the owner’s disengagement, are those that have failed to appreciate the businesses ability to create competitive advantage. This problem is further compounded by the absence of a well communicated and clearly defined IT strategy, and the consequent failure to correctly align a company’s resources - including its IT - with the strategic objectives of the organization. The consequences of a missing IT strategy can be huge and will often result in missed opportunities to use IT to accelerate and achieve critical business performance improvements.

A further consequence, stemming from a lack of owner and management interest in technology, is the creation of an IT department that lacks knowledge of business strategy, resulting in an inability to align IT resources with the business objectives of the organization. Any combination of technically disengaged owner and a technology focused IT department will effectively block any chance of the company leveraging IT for real business gain.

Small business owners have been told by management gurus that ‘having an IT Strategy’ has joined the ever-growing list of items which demand management attention. Despite the dire warnings and the consequences of failing to respond to the challenge, owners have been given no direction on what an IT Strategy might mean, or how you go about creating one. This blog attempts to briefly answer the question what is an IT strategy?

So what exactly is IT strategy? An IT strategy is a plan to guide their organizations on all facets of technology management, including IT cost such as in-sourcing or outsourcing, IT payroll, IT hardware and software, IT vendor management and all other considerations in the IT environment. Developing and executing an IT strategy requires strong business leadership; the small business owner needs to work closely with managers, as well as, with other stakeholders within the organization.

Many small businesses choose to formalize their Information Technology strategy in a written document or balanced scorecard strategy map. The plan and its documentation should be flexible enough to change in response to new organizational circumstances and business priorities, budgetary constraints, available skill sets and core competencies, new technologies and a growing understanding of user needs and business objectives.

I have observed many situations where the business owner was supposed to document an IT Strategy in a short period of time, in order to prepare the following year’s IT budget. Very often, they lack supporting business information in order to achieve this task. The result is a weak or no IT strategy, sometimes ignored by the user’s community, the key stakeholders.
A weak IT strategy can be costly and wasteful, especially for resource-constrained organizations that operate without an IT budget. It also implies that organizations cannot respond to changing business requirements rapidly enough. The absence of strategic thought causes organizations to be inefficiently reactive, forcing them to work in a constant state of catch-up. So how do we avoid becoming reactive, can we convert to a proactive approach to IT? Yes of course, begin by developing an IT strategy and connect the strategy to an annual IT budget.

A small business IT Strategy should answer the following questions:

  • Should we consider outsourcing our IT Strategy development and IT Support?
  • Are we doing the right things with technology to address the organization’s most important business priorities and continuously deliver value to the clients?
  • Are we making the right technology investments?
  • Do we measure what is the real value to the organization derived from that technology?
  • Is our current Information Technology agile enough; flexible to continuously support a successful organization?
  • Is our Information Technology environment properly managed, maintained, secured, able to support the clients, and is it cost effective?
  • Can our strategy support current and future business needs?

We often find that many small business owners do not feel they have the knowledge to answer these IT questions. For many small business owners who feel that their focus should not be detracted from their prime business, the benefits of IT outsourcing should definitely be explored. A professional IT outsourced company will possess the business and technology skills necessary to ensure that the full benefits of IT are realized. It is commonly believed that an IT outsourced contract only benefits costs and, in many cases, this can be the case, however, in the best examples, an outsourced IT contract can have much greater benefits for a small business including offering a guaranteed way of ensuring the full strategic benefits of IT are properly realized.

Topics: IT Outsourcing, Developing a IT Strategy, small business strategy

Migrate off of Windows XP: a new Internet Explorer exploit

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Tue, Apr 29, 2014

Internet Explorer ExploitA new wave of targeted attacks against serious vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer have exposed the increased risk facing organizations still clinging onto Windows XP (the ten year old operating system that Microsoft stopped supporting this month.) To that point, Microsoft issued a security advisory on Sunday, warning that every supported version of Internet Explorer is impacted by the vulnerabilities. One thing is almost a certainty; Windows XP users won't likely receive the critical updates from Microsoft.

Microsoft has said for a few years now why you need to move off of XP, these kinds of vulnerabilities are going to continue to exist and if you're running on an unsupported operating system you are going to be increasingly exposed to more threats over time. Unfortunately businesses continue to cling onto Microsoft Windows XP and despite declining numbers, ANP still have an estimated 10 percent of businesses have systems running the retired operating system. I believe its security events like these that give IT management some additional ammunition to show there is some risky exposure to the business. I often see it’s difficult for IT to get the businesses to spend money on an operating system upgrade unless the owner sees tangible benefits. This should be a red flag for the business owner! It's an example of what is going to happen continually over the next two to three years if businesses don't upgrade and retire Windows XP.

A few months ago ANP suggested a mixture of application white listing, network VLAN segmentation and other measures to restrict Windows XP systems (that are still in production within your company) and isolate them from critical parts of your network such as your server farm. Businesses also need to proactively monitor the networks to ensure that architecture changes don't introduce a way for attackers and viruses to move from one network segment to another.

All users, including those still running Windows XP, need to consider an alternate browser to effectively negate the specific attack; I personally prefer Google Chrome to Internet Explorer and use it on my PCs and Mac’s. But there are other browser alternatives, such as Mozilla Firefox. On Sunday Microsoft was suggesting deploying their Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit; and although it is a good solution, it’s a huge amount of deployment work plus care and feeding of the application to continue to get the benefit it can provide. I keep asking myself, why bother with these expensive, difficult and time consuming work-around solutions? Why not either upgrade your XP machines to Windows 7 or if the machine is really old (greater than 5 years) then simply replace it with a new OEM version of Windows 7 on a new PC?

Please let me know if we can help you in any way in regards to mitigating Windows XP issues.

 

What A Business Owner Should Expect From Outsourcing

Topics: End of support for windows XP, Internet Explorer exploit

Microsoft Vulnerability Could Allow Remote Code Execution

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Mon, Apr 28, 2014

Microsoft VulnerabilityMicrosoft announced on April 27, 2014 a vulnerability has been discovered for all versions of Internet Explorer version 6 through version 11.  As of this afternoon on April 28, 2014 there is still no patch available to remediate the vulnerability. To compound the vulnerability, Microsoft will not be issuing a patch for Windows XP machines running Internet Explorer.  With the dropping of support for XP, I believe this is the first of many attacks that will be targeting the Windows XP Operating System.

The vulnerability is a remote code execution vulnerability. The vulnerability exists in the way that Internet Explorer accesses an object in memory that has been deleted or has not been properly allocated. The vulnerability may corrupt memory in a way that could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code in the context of the current user within Internet Explorer. 

What should you do?

  1. Do  not use Microsoft's IE on any machine you may currently have.
  2. Use an alternative browser such as Firefox (See the link below).
  3. If you are an XP user, use an alternative browser - forever.
  4. Think seriously about upgrading your XP machines.


Here is the Microsoft Security Advisory link for your information: https://technet.microsoft.com/library/security/2963983

Here is a link to download Firefox: http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/ 

 

 

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Laughter or the Unified Communications Multitasking Trap

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

baby laughing resized 600I like to laugh, don’t we all? I find humor in all sorts of places and situations. I’m a bit odd (okay I will admit it) I often laugh in unlikely places. I’ve laughed in the most appropriate of situations and some of the most awkward for instance, I often find myself the only person laughing in a crowded movie theater. 

I think we all need to find places to laugh, especially at work. I can be a bit short and tense at work, I find there is so much to do and I never feel like my company is moving quickly enough, so I become outwardly frustrated and I think many people can sense that frustration in me. A few employees at ANP have the great ability to bring laughter to our meetings, they always make me laugh. Laughter is such a stress reliever!

I found a great blog post in Harvard Business Review about laughing at work. In Why You Should Treat Laughter as a Metric, author Bregman writes about the lack of laughter as a symptom of a problem within organizations. And he suggests that increasing the opportunity for laughter should be a leadership priority.

Laughter in Bregman’s eyes means focus:Bregman emphasizes the fact that laughter requires you to be present and focused. You can’t laugh if you’re distracted or multitasking. As an example, he asks that you consider recent phone conversations – and what you were doing at the same time. (I am so guilty as charged.)

Bregman forces us to think about our own ability to focus at work: I hadn’t thought about it much, but the most productive (and entertaining) conversations and conference calls are the ones when I’ve been focused. When I’m fully engaged, I get the most from the conversation, have the opportunity to provide the most value, and I catch the opportunities to see humor – sometimes expressed out loud, sometimes more quietly via Instant Message to a friend. (Yes, I admit it.)

In just a decade, as business owners we quickly came to believe that multitasking was a sign of dedication and productivity. And we often do it because we’re essentially encouraged to do it in order to meet expectations. Technology like Unified Communications certainly makes it possible.

Unified Communications allows me to meet with people over distance, but I can also have other windows open on my desktop that beg attention at the same time. It’s not impossible to do the same thing in an in-person meeting, but it’s not as easy - or as tempting. And if I let it, that Instant Messaging indicator blipping in the corner can easily drag me away from a conversation that demands focus – it’s just a harmless little click, right?

We’ve reached a point where we sit in meetings preparing for other meetings, going through e-mail, or responding to Instant Messages. It’s hard to focus on one thing at a time. We may be doing many things at once, but how productive is our frenzy? How good is it for morale? Are we more likely to be frustrated and stressed versus amused and laughing?

What should we do with the power of Unified Communications on our desktops? As business owners, we can be more aware and catch ourselves when we’re dividing our attention into bits and pieces. For some people that may mean making a list that clearly prioritizes projects so that we’re not trying to do bits of multiple things at the same time. I find, if I make a list on a tablet every day, I am far more likely to get those things accomplished.  For others it may be as simple as a post-it note or a sign in our work areas that remind us to focus.

As managers, we can listen. Listen for laughter. Watch for signs of humor and amusement. If the laughter isn’t loud enough, consider the expectations and environment you’ve created for your teams. And consider the example we set. Unified Communications is a very powerful tool for communications, but I need to be every vigilant to stop multitasking with Unified Communications. I need to constantly remind myself to be fully engaged in my meetings! 
Do you encourage humor and laughter at work
 Do you laugh out loud? Can you become mindful of the multitasking trap of Unified Communications?

Would you like to learn more about Unified Communications, sign up for the webinar by clicking on the link below!

Register For The VoIP Webinar Today!

Topics: unified communications, Laughter, Multitasking

The Heartbleed Vulnerability and Your Company’s IT Systems

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Mon, Apr 14, 2014

Heartbleed VulnerabilityANP proactively notified our clients twice last week to inform them about a new IT vulnerability that was announced on Monday April 7, 2014 called the “Heartbleed,” vulnerabilty.  For the most part, if you are reading this blog you are likely not a client of ANP’s so I want to take a moment to explain to you (hopefully in a non-technical way) what this vulnerability is all about and offer you some help if you think you might need it!

This vulnerability is coming out of a non-profit software development kit that many IT companies have used to create their secure web interface for their products. The software is from two programmers who created the OpenSSL Project®; they distribute a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) toolkit used in thousands of IT products and hundreds of thousands of web sites and servers.  SSL is the code that allows a web site to encrypt data between the users browser and the web site, you can see SSL in action when your browser URL displays “HTTPS” the “S” stands for secure which means your browser is running SSL data encryption.

Many web developers and commercial companies have used this open-source toolkit to develop their own SSL products, because it is faster and less cumbersome than writing their own SSL code.  As a result, there are many products (that you might own) that now have this vulnerably built into them.

Larger companies like Microsoft and Cisco write their own SSL code and so you don’t see them included in these type of open-source vulnerabilities, although because Cisco does acquire so many companies a year to get access to new products, they have published a small list of products that do have the Heartbleed vulnerability and are releasing the correction as they go through their products.

The "Heartbleed" vulnerability is a flaw in the OpenSSL software that may impact the security of passwords, credit card information and other personal data that is stored on your servers or passed through systems on the Internet. The vulnerability may allow a hacker to view or intercept personal information such as a password that is transmitted from a user’s computer to a server on the Internet during the process of logging in to an account.

Here at ANP, once the Heartbleed vulnerability was announced, we immediately began to analyze our client’s equipment to determine if the Heartbleed SSL vulnerability was an issue and if it was, we notified our client and began looking for a published software remediation to implement.  We also analyzed our own systems and software tools, interestingly, we did have an old web site that had the vulnerability and remediated the software.

I promised that I would help you and your company, hopefully this blog has helped you better understand the Heartbleed vulnerability.  ANP would be happy to do a free quick assessment of your IT environment to look for the Heartbleed vulnerability in your servers, software and IT equipment.  We will look at your IT systems and let you know if you have anything at risk. Call our office and ask for the Heartbleed assessment at (800) 572-3282. You can also do a quick check yourself to see if any applications in your company need a password change: Follow this link

 Request A Free Network Assessment

Topics: network assessment, heartbleed vulnerability

What are the benefits of Unified Communications to a small business?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Sat, Apr 12, 2014

VoIP Unified CommunicationSmall businesses are discovering the appeal of a communications solution that extends the power of their business phone system far beyond their office desktop and conventional dial tone. Unified Communications can be a competitive advantage for businesses that need a single system to manage multiple channels of communication, making their business more productive and helping smaller companies take advantage of features that make them appear larger and more competitive to their clients. Think of Unified Communications as the Swiss Army knife of small business communications.

As might be expected, given its flexibility, interest in Unified Communications strategies continues to rise.  ANP is holding a webinar this month on Unified Communications; you can register by clicking here.  Many small businesses perceive additional value in the deployment of Unified Communications. Large and medium sized companies and those with a higher proportion of telecommuting workers are the most bullish about the benefits of Unified Communications.  I have noticed, as a Managed IT Service Provider that Unified Communications, or communications and collaboration solutions, are getting equal, if not more, dollars from annual IT budgets compared to other technologies. There must be a business return for the investment; many businesses have a clear vision of what they expect to gain from implementing Unified Communications; they expect greater employee productivity, reduced dial tone cost and a means to improve customer engagement.

Having a nimble Unified Communication solution makes integration and ease of use possible for small and medium-sized businesses to manage communication styles that were once considered to only apply to larger organizations.  Why should your business consider upgrading an existing phone system to get Unified Communications? If you have a small and medium-sized business, there are critical advantages that you can, and should, expect when implementing the right Unified Communications solution. These five key business benefits are helping drive the strong adoption rate of Unified Communications by businesses today.

  1. Communicate more effectively with employees, customers and vendors: Particularly important to smaller businesses is the ability to implement any technology that provides enhanced functionality and is simple to take advantage of.  Unified Communications is increasingly recognized as a technology that allows small and medium businesses to take advantage of proven increases in productivity and functionality while realizing significant savings.  Once Unified Communications is implemented every employee will be able to use any computing device from anywhere in the world to connect to your phone system without dial tone and long distance charges. They will be able to Instant Message colleagues, make phone calls, listen to voice mail and perhaps most interesting, send and receive video calls.  They can also tell if another employee is on the phone, in a meeting or away from their computer.  Imagine the level of engagement between your employees and your customers and vendors when using video during your phone calls and not spending a penny extra for the enhanced level of communication!
  2. Connect your growing mobile and remote workforce by incorporating mobility: An office is just about anywhere you need it to be today, and your company’s business is taking place more often outside of your office walls so it is increasingly important for remote and mobile workers to access the same phone system features, whether working from their cubicle in the office or out on the road with their cell phone, or at home on their laptop. By implementing a Unified Communication solution, it makes it easy to stay connected to your employees, from any location, and from any device. It also provides flexibility in managing off-site employees, using features like presence (where you can see if an employee is on the phone or away from their computer or if they are in a meeting.)
  3. Saving money on overall operating costs: One of the greatest benefits of implementing the right Unified Communication solution is taking advantage of the cost savings it provides. This includes both savings on the initial cost of the system, as well as, savings on the long-term costs that leads to a good Return on Investment, such as the removal of a lot of the dial tone delivery costs.  When shopping for a cost-effective Unified Communications solution, make certain you understand the software licensing costs, insure that all of the Unified Communications features, such as, Instant Messaging, video conferencing, and presence updates are all included in the cost of the system and are not extras.
  4. Gaining uplift in customer service capabilities: The right Unified Communications solution should be more than a phone system; it should be a better communications system that helps you improve your customers' telecommunications experience with your business.  A quality Unified Communications solution allows small and medium businesses to serve customers more effectively, using features such as call queues and contact center features to handle every call with care.  Small and medium businesses should be able to use a Unified Communication solution to know more about every incoming call, in order to route each call appropriately, ensuring there are no more missed calls or lack of visibility. You should be able to route each call to the right employee every time no matter where the employee happens to be located when the call comes in.
  5. Moving beyond basic dial tone phone functionality: Too often, small businesses will evaluate new technologies based on whether or not the system can meet the organization’s current needs - in reference to both basic features included with the technology and in reference to the current size and structure of the business.  That type of decision can cost a small business thousands of dollars in future upgrade costs when choosing a business phone system.  When considering “future expansion,” that term may not mean something as extensive as expanding physical locations; it could be as simple as adding or moving an employee. The right Unified Communications solution will allow small and medium sized businesses to opt for a flexible system that provides extended functionality and that will also grow with the business.
Register For The VoIP Webinar Today!

Topics: unified communications, VoIP, small business phone systems

What is Unified Communications and why should a business owner care?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

Unified CommunicationsHave you ever been frustrated by you inability to speak to an employee while in your car, or at home or at a client site? Do you find yourself wondering how you might be able to raise the engagement level between your colleagues and yourself?  I often found myself wondering if my employees were on the phone or in a meeting.  I thought that my ancient PBX was actually beginning to limit my company’s ability to meaningfully communicate. Small business phone systems have made huge strides in the last five years; in fact, small business phone systems don’t resemble their ancient ancestors at all.

A modern small business phone system can correct all of the problems I just described in a ten-year-old PBX.  Using a new technology called Unified Communications an organization just like your company is able to seamlessly integrate, or unify, its typical business communications with both real-time communications (such as instant messaging, presence information (who in on the phone or in a meeting), telephony/VoIP (phone calls), voice mail and video conferencing and non real-time communications (such as e-mail, SMS texting and fax).

Okay I recognize that was a lot to digest, so lets break down Unified Communications into to smaller bite sized pieces so you can follow along and hopefully begin to see how Unified Communications could significantly help your small business improve collaboration between your employees, vendors and your customers!

Unified communications solves many of the legacy PBX shortfalls; lets take a look at just a few:

  • Remember on your ancient PBX how you could only get your phone calls from your desk phone? Unified Communications can program a VoIP phone system to look for you on all of your preferred devices while your office phone is ringing.   If it finds you somewhere out of the office, it will automatically transfer the call from your desk phone to your cell phone or home phone without the calling party realizing how or where you are taking the call from.
  • By loading Unified Communications software on my iPhone, iPad, or Mac Book Air, all of these devices become extensions of my VoIP phone system, I can receive or make phone calls from any device any where in the world as if I am sitting oat my desk in my own office.
  • Sometimes, I don’t really need to talk to someone but I want to text them a short message, with Unified Communications I can Instant Message my employees and we chat back-n-forth. The chats are also recorded as a log file for security’s sake.
  • Remember how you could never tell if your employees are on the phone or in a meeting? By loading the unified communication software of your preferred device, you can see an employee’s status; are they at their desk, are they on the phone, or in a meeting or not signed on. You can even extend this feature out to your customers and vendors who are using VoIP systems and share this information between each phone system. I can instantly see if my vendor is able to speak to me before I call them.
  • Have you ever been on a video conference call? Were you impressed how video can bring an additional dimension to our communications? Well when you deploy Unified Communications software on a device with a camera, you can instantly start video conference calls just by dialing a phone number.  I can use my iPhone to videoconference right back and into my office. And it’s free because the data packets are going over the Internet.

These are just a small sub-set of what you can do with Unified Communications.  Unified Communications software lets you be more productive, anytime, from anywhere on any device. Wherever you are, you can quickly and easily find people, see if and how they are available, and collaborate using instant messaging (IM), voice, high- definition video, voice messaging, desktop sharing, and conferencing. Unified Communication gives you the power to work your way, from any device and within the familiar applications and business processes you use every day.

Communications and collaboration are changing to be inherently more mobile, social, visual and virtual. Unified Communications delivers a collaborative experience from your preferred device (your desk phone, your cell phone, your tablet, or your laptop) that lets you be as productive when mobile as you are at your desk. Unified Communications software takes advantage of intelligence in your VoIP phone system to deliver secure, reliable, and high quality communications. You get a consistent experience across on-premises and cloud-based deployments—and Unified communications software utilizes industry standards to ensure interoperability across Cisco and with third-party solutions.

By combining a broader range of communications and features into a more complete Unified Communication solution and integrating it with your business processes, your small business is able to substantially increase its effectiveness – and cost savings.  If you would like to learn more about Unified Communications ANP is hosting a webinar for small business owners to discuss VoIP phone systems and the business benefits of Unified Communications.

Register For The VoIP Webinar Today!

Topics: unified communications, VoIP, small business phone systems

Considering Replacing Your Ancient PBX with a New VoIP Phone System?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Sun, Apr 06, 2014

VoIP Phone SystemDo you have a phone system that is sitting in your back office that has been bolted to the wall for the last 10 to 15 years? Or are you using a key system that isn’t providing you the functionality your employees need? Most old small business PBX’s are extremely reliable, they are built like tanks, and frankly just keep working. If you are like me (and I am a small business owner), you don’t look around in your office trying to replace business equipment that is still working.  If your PBX is operating just like it did on the first day you turned it on, why replace it? Why invest your valuable cash on a new phone system?

If you are like most small businesses owners, you may not realize the potential benefits of a new business phone system.  Today’s modern phone systems provide features nothing like your old and outdated PBX. Let’s take a look at some of the major differences between your old PBX and a modern small business phone system.

Perhaps the biggest differences lie in how the phone systems work.  The original PBX was a purpose built appliance that as we mentioned gets bolted onto a closet wall.  Dedicated wiring connected the PBX to the manufacturers’ specialized phone appliances.  A new PBX connects all of the phones to your company’s Local Area Network.  The benefit here is that you no longer need two sets of wiring in a building: the phone and the computer network.  There are many advantages beyond the simplification in wiring.  Because the phones are now on the LAN, so too are the voice signals, they have all been converted to a protocol called Voice-Over-IP often abbreviated as VoIP.  Because the voice signals now run on your network as VoIP packets on the LAN, they can also travel over the Internet like any other data packet.

There are enormous benefits to using VoIP instead of dedicated wiring.  To name a few, you no longer need dial tone delivered on dedicated data circuits that are expensive: T1’s, PRI’s or analog dial tone jacks.  Dial tone is now delivered over the Internet as VoIP data packets; you can turn off the T1’s and PRI circuits the VoIP phone system doesn’t need then anymore. This reduction in the traditional dial tone circuits can save a small business owner, hundreds to thousands of dollars in reduced dial tone cost every month.  It’s not unusual for the savings in traditional dial tone costs to pay for the new VoIP phone system in less than three years. After that its just money saved and in the bank.

Your old PBX had a fixed number of dial tone inputs and a fixed number of extension ports.  It cost additional money to connect more phones than the system had in ports. You needed to buy and install more port cards as your company grew.  Using a new VoIP system, there are no physical port connections, just a single LAN connection.  So you can add phones as your company grows, in fact, you often don’t even need to buy new VoIP phones to connect additional users, because your phone system can also load a software application on your desktop that emulates a physical phone. And we can tae that through further, you can load software on your Apple iPhone or Android phone that also emulates a VoIP phone.

There are so amazing implications to that ability to turn your cell phone into an office phone by using software.  So imagine if every employee had a Direct-Inward-Dial (DID) phone number, in my office my number is 267-628-1033, and instead of that number always ringing on a dedicated PBX phone wired into my office, now the DID will ring wherever you I am located when I have my cell phone with me.  So essentially I can answer my DID from home, in the car, on vacation or at work.  Imagine your employees ability to better serve your employees from within the company and also your vendors and clients? No more voice mails, no more waiting for answers, every employee is essentially always available to speak to a business contact.

I can program my VoIP cell phone application to ring me during the day and send calls to voice mail at night.  I can also have the VoIP system announce who the caller is and let me decide if I want to accept the call after hours.  The level of flexibility the VoIP system will bring and your employee’s ability to answer their DID line from outside the office will bring additional productivity improvements to your clients and your business.

I am just scratching the surface of what you can expect from your VoIP phone system.  My next blog will discuss what Unified Communications is and how your VoIP phone system can change the way you communicate within your business today!  Are you interested in learning more about VoIP? I am holding a Free IT webinar; click the link below to register for the VoIP information session to learn how VoIP might be the perfect choice for your small business.

 

Register For The VoIP Webinar Today!

Topics: VoIP Phone, unified communications, VoIP solutions

The Pros and Cons of IT Outsourcing

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, Mar 20, 2014

What does IT Outsourcing mean?

IT Outsourcing is the process of assigning a company’s business IT processes to a Managed IT Service Provider. For larger companies the outsourcer might be offshore to leverage lower labor costs. Smaller businesses with less than 100 PCs can typically gain great advantages by outsourcing to a local IT Service Provider. However, the path to a great IT Outsource engagement does come with some business risk, which can be mitigated if you know what to watch out for. Let’s take a look at IT Outsourcing and discuss how to stay out of trouble.

What are the effects of IT Outsourcing?

IT Outsourcing is the delivery of a defined set of proactive services that are remotely delivered on a fixed-fee basis and prepaid on a recurring basis. Across industries IT Outsourcing is primarily undertaken to enable companies to generate better revenue recognition and to provide them an added competitive differentiator. While always done with the best of intentions, IT Outsourcing has a telling effect on a company’s products and services, either enhancing or lowering their quality. The goal is to have the IT Outsourcing provide you with a competitive edge. And, based on how effectively the IT processes are managed and delivered, IT Outsourcing can also result in easier management and better productivity.

What are the pros and cons of IT Outsourcing?

IT Outsourcing can provide enterprises a competitive advantage by delegating their IT business process to a Managed IT Service Provider who can deliver better quality and improved IT innovation. While this is a fair picture of the desired outcome, managers need to consider the possible shortcomings and negative outcomes of the process and the corresponding impact on the company. To best analyze the opportunities presented it is essential to reflect upon the advantages versus the disadvantages of outsourcing.

The pros of IT Outsourcing

The pros of IT outsourcing often positively reflected by enterprises across industries include the following:

  • Increased operational efficiency.
  • Reduced and controlled operating costs.
  • Cost-effective access to Enterprise-level support.
  • Minimized downtime.
  • Freeing of management time, enabling the company to focus on core competencies while not being concerned about their vendors.
  • Peace-of-mind with the knowledge that the IT environment is being monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The cons of IT Outsourcing

Often weighed with the advantages of IT Outsourcing, the following represent some of the possible questions a business owner should consider and try to mitigate, before engaging in an IT Outsource engagement:

  • How many employees does the Managed IT Service Provider have? (Watch out for just a hand full; employees get sick and go on vacations. You need more than 10 engineers if you want a true Enterprise-level service.)
  • How long has the Managed IT Service Provider been in business? (Look for longevity which demonstrates the IT Service Provider’s business skills.)
  • Does the Managed IT Service Provider have engineers staffed in the office 24 hours a day, 365 days a year? (Does your equipment break only during business hours? Look for staffed weekday nights and weekends, not engineers merely on-call or dispatched after an event is detected.)
  • Does the Managed IT Service Provider have a written repair time performance guarantee? (Look for a written Service Level Agreement that provides a written response-time and repair timeframe with a money back guarantee if the commitments are not met.)
  • Does the Managed IT Service Provider include IT consulting as part of their fixed-fee service? (You will need help budgeting and also need performance reports and risk assessments; make certain they are all included on a periodic basis.)
  • You are not an IT expert so how do you evaluate the abilities of competing Managed IT Service Providers? (Look for the audited Industry standard for IT Service Providers. They should hold an SSAE16 Type II audit, which will insure you the provider has been audited by 3rd party IT experts.)
  • The Managed IT Service Provider will on occasion have their employees at your office, so to protect the security of your employees and of your data, request to see 3rd party background checks of all of the Managed IT Service Provider’s engineers.

 6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies

Topics: IT Outsourcing, IT Service Provider, Managed IT Service Provider, SSAE16, IT Consulting

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