IT Support Blog for Small Business Owners

David S. Mulvey

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The Top 10 Reasons to IT Outsource Versus “Doing IT Yourself.”

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Tue, Mar 18, 2014

Top 10 reasons to IT outsource

Most of ANP’s new clients are “doing IT themselves,” before we meet them. Once we complete an assessment of their IT environment they are surprised to find out how many serious things are not configured correctly or not configured at all. We have been providing IT outsourced services since 1998, and we have learned a few things along the way. Let me share with you what I believe are the top 10 reasons why a small business owner or a non-profit Executive Director should be considering IT outsourcing.

Given below, as reflected by ANP’s clients, are the top 10 reasons to outsource your IT:

  1. Lower operational and capital costs are among the primary reasons why companies choose to outsource their IT. When properly executed, IT outsourcing has a defining impact and can deliver significant savings to a company. In addition, rather than get Time & Materials IT invoices on an unplanned basis, you now get a fixed-fee invoice every month; it is so much easier to plan your IT cash flow.
  2. Perhaps most important, you can gain some peace-of-mind that your IT is being run by using industry best practices. I opened the blog sharing with you that most owners are really surprised how bad their IT situation is. By outsourcing your IT you can become confident in knowing that all of the data security, patching, antivirus updating, disk defragging and daily backups will be monitored, proactively managed and completed.
  3. Many times our new clients recognize the existing IT foundation is in big trouble, and in order to build an organization that can scale and grow, a strong IT foundation must be in place. Once you outsource your IT you will have access to the advice of professional IT experts. They will analyze your basic IT foundation and make recommendations. For example, during a new engagement ANP often finds a Local Area Network (LAN) in which LAN switches are daisy-chained throughout the company. Over time, this common practice will cripple the LAN’s ability to work correctly and everyone will slow down to a crawl. Placing a couple of new LAN switches in a few closets can completely turn that condition around.
  4. If you were to consider how much time you and your staff are spending on IT today, what would you estimate the value of that lost payroll to be? If you outsource your IT to a third party, you immediately re-gain time which you and your staff can use to focus on growing your business.
  5. IT outsourcing can also help a small business build a 3-year and 5-year IT budget. You can actually plan to replace old PCs and laptops in a scheduled and controlled fashion, rather than wait until a salesperson’s PC blows up and you find them screaming in your office to spend an unplanned $1500.
  6. Outsourcing your IT will also free up internal IT resources that were doing mundane support desk and patching tasks, allowing them to be put to more effective use for other strategic IT purposes.
  7. IT Outsourcing can also be used as a strategic planning tool before a business sale. If you are planning to sell your business as a strategic platform, your IT must be performing at a high level. Once an offer for sale has been made, an IT professional will be sent in during a diligence period to evaluate your IT processes and they will assess the overall condition of your IT department. Outsourcing a year before the business sale will insure you get a great bill of health!
  8. Outsourcing also enables companies to realize the benefits of re-engineering their whole IT server farm. My experience has been that many companies have deferred their IT spending so long that the servers running the business are too old and way overtaxed, impeding the ability of each PC on the network to do the simplest of tasks.
  9. By delegating responsibilities to an external IT service provider companies can wash their hands of IT functions that are difficult to manage and control while still realizing their benefits.
  10. Some companies also outsource IT to help them expand and gain access to new market areas, by taking the point of production or service delivery closer to their end users. For instance, do you want to move into South America or the Mid-East? ANP has deployed WAN and LAN networks throughout the world.

To summarize: Companies undertake IT outsourcing for a variety of reasons depending upon their vision and purpose. While this may vary from company to company, all of our clients have found outsourcing their IT to be a fruitful and successful component of their business strategy. You should consider it as a potential strategy for your business!

6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies

Topics: IT Outsourcing, Managed IT Service Provider, IT Peace of Mind, IT infrastructure

What is the Advantage of IT Outsourcing for a Small Business?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, Mar 13, 2014

IT OutsourcingAs a business owner you are always focused on the key activities of growing your company, but you also need to deal with your non-core business functions efficiently, such as your IT operations.  IT outsourcing is a tried-and-tested approach and is recognized as a long-term competitive strategy for business success.  IT outsourcing helps you get your focus back on your core business and control your IT CAPEX and OPEX costs at the same time.

If you find yourself asking the following questions then IT outsourcing might be for you:

  1. Are my Information Technology systems set up correctly?
  2. Are my employees as efficient and as productive as possible?
  3. Is my IT infrastructure ready to support new business and new employees?
  4. Is my company data as secure as possible?
  5. Is my reactive approach to IT service and repair cost effective?
  6. In the event of a fire or flood are my data backups capable of restoring my business systems quickly? 

Key Reasons to outsource your IT; consider the following top reasons cited by companies that have successfully outsourced their IT operations:

Control Your IT costs: ANP’s clients report IT outsourcing can save them as much as 43% over their traditional reactive Time & Materials approach to IT service. Typical PCs can be supported for $50 a month and Servers cost $150 per month.  By converting to a outsourced IT fixed fee all you can consume model, the business owner can realistically set an IT budget and be assured it will not fluctuate during the year.

Lower Your Infrastructure Investments: By outsourcing your IT you can avoid the need to purchase PC and server management toolsets.  You no longer need to renew annual antivirus subscription contracts.  You no longer have to rely upon slow to dispatch T&M service; which can blow your monthly IT budget. 

Focus on Your Business: Focus on your core business.  Redirect your organization’s internal resources toward mission-critical activities. By outsourcing  your IT functions you and your employees never have to worry again about a windows patch, a virus quarantine, or a damaged disk drive.

Accelerate Migration to New IT Technologies: Migrate to new IT technologies with minimum downtime and increased productivity and quality by outsourcing IT projects o an IT outsourcer to jump start your company advancements.

Get Access to Best-Practices Capabilities and Improve your IT Availability and Performance: Imagine the peace of mind you would have knowing that every Microsoft best-practice is set up and being maintained in your own company’s IT infrastructure?  Compliance to Microsoft best-practices insure that your company’s IT will be more reliable and secure.

Enjoy Deep IT Experience & Knowledge: An IT outsourcer will typically have a staff of IT expertise that is aligned by technologies and very deep in experience.  At ANP we have Firewall, Router, Server Virtualization, and VoIP IT engineers.  Each engineer’s salary is shared across thousands of devices so a small company has access to a level of IT engineering talent that would not otherwise have access to.

No more IT Sick Days: Once your outsource your company’s IT to a fixed fee Managed IT Service Provider, you will never worry about another IT hiring, sick day, vacation day or training request.  You will never have to hire another IT employee. 

Enhanced Business Continuity: Get protection from natural calamities, accidents, fires, or technical crises.  Disaster recovery and data back ups and detailed back up plans provided by the Managed IT Service Providers will help you to respond rapidly and get operations back on track quickly.

IT Outsourcing as a business model:

Though there have been a lot of controversies regarding outsourcing, the overwhelming advantages of IT outsourcing speak for themselves.  More companies are drawing up plans to outsource their IT work to Managed IT Service Providers such as ANP.  Many companies now base their entire IT business plan around the delegation of functions to external IT service providers; for example many company’s now don’t see the value in owning an operating an email server.  According to some experts outsourcing is not simply a way of cutting costs; it is now a successful and valid business model.

6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies

Topics: IT Outsourcing, Managed IT Service Provider, IT Peace of Mind, IT infrastructure

What is the Better Business Approach? In-source or IT Outsource?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Tue, Mar 11, 2014

IT Outsourcing BenefitsOutsourcing is a common business buzzword these days, as more and more cost and quality conscious small business owners are turning to Managed IT Service Providers for outsourcing their IT business processes. So, what exactly is IT outsourcing and what are the benefits of having a Managed IT Service Provider operate your IT infrastructure for you? This blog looks at the benefits of outsourcing your IT and the value proposition offered by a Managed IT Service Provider like ANP.

What is IT Outsourcing?

IT Outsourcing refers to the way in which a small business Owners and non-profit Executive Directors entrust their organizations IT processes to a Managed IT Service Provider. Any IT business process that can be done remotely can be outsourced. This includes functions like managing and monitoring your Servers, your firewall, Internet connection, PCs and backups. Plus, your employees have the ability to call and request Help Desk support during business hours as well. Some of the IT processes that can be outsourced to IT providers like ANP are Microsoft patching, Anti Virus updates and scans, malware scans, disk drive de-fragmentation, Active Directory policy creation and enforcement, proactive support such as, UPS battery testing, Backup file recovery testing, and system log reviews to name a few.

Benefits of IT Outsourcing to a Managed IT Service Provider

There are many benefits of outsourcing your small business IT to a Managed IT Service Provider. Some of them are: 

  1. Cost advantages: The most obvious and visible benefit relates to the cost savings that IT outsourcing brings about. 
You can get the job done at a lower cost and at better quality as well. We find that many of our new clients have been using Time & Materials reactive support and when we ask them to consolidate a years worth of T&M invoices they are often surprised how much they are spending and how many times a single IT issue is worked on. There is a cost savings of around 30% by outsourcing your work to Managed IT Service Provider. Plus, the quality of the services provided is high thereby ensuring that low-cost does not mean low quality. 
  2. Increased Uptime Less Downtime: 
When you outsource your IT needs to an outsourcing partner like ANP, they bring years of experience in IT best-practices and expertise in delivering greater reliability and uptime for your IT infrastructure. Thus, they can do the job better with their knowledge and understanding of your IT than doing-IT-yourself. This leads to an increase in your employee productivity and efficiency thereby contributing to the bottom-line of your organization. 
  3. Focus on Growing your Business: Outsourcing your IT processes will free you and your employees energies and enable your company to focus on building your brand, growing your business, and move on to providing higher value added services to your customers.
  4. Unlimited Access to Skilled IT Engineers: When you outsource your IT, you never have to worry about IT employee vacations, or calling in sick, or asking for a raise or an expensive IT training course.  IT Service Providers like ANP take care of the technical staffing needs with their pool of highly skilled engineers. The IT engineers employed by ANP are well educated in the respective IT areas of expertise and have over a 200 combined years of experience in handling small business IT issues of all kinds.
  5. Fixed Fee Predictable IT Budget: Apart from the cost advantage to outsourcing, the other benefit has to do with the ANP’s approach to Fixed Monthly Fees. For a flat all-inclusive monthly fee, you can have your PCs and Servers completely supported 24 hours a day.  Plus receive unlimited Help Desk access during business hours. 
  6. IT Peace of Mind: What is the value to a business owner to rest assured that his IT systems are secure, available and being run by professional IT engineers? Imagine never having to worry about the back up or if your systems are set up correctly.  By outsourcing your IT to professionals, you can enjoy peace of mind!
6 Essential IT Outsourcing Strategies

Topics: IT Outsourcing, Managed IT Service Provider, IT Peace of Mind, IT infrastructure

Ready for the Windows XPocalypse? You have a Reprieve but Beware.

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Tue, Feb 04, 2014

windows XP reprieve resized 600

ANP has been sharing with our clients and friends the need to migrate away from Windows XP. After all, Microsoft has been telling their customers that XP malware updates would stop on April 8th 2014.  Windows XP and Office 2003 are already End-of-life and End-of-support; unfortunately for Microsoft, it is estimated that 28% of PCs in use today are still using Windows XP! So millions of Microsoft customers were going to be without any security patches for their Operating System.

Microsoft has issued a reprieve to XP’s scheduled Death Sentence of April 8th 2014. Microsoft recently announced it would extend anti-virus definition updates for XP antivirus software until July 14th 2015.  On one hand I was surprised they made this announcement, but on the other hand, does Microsoft really want almost one-third of their customers using their operating system with no virus definition updates from the manufacturer?

If you are a corporate User of XP you will need to have System Center Endpoint Protection or Forefront Client security, or Forefront Endpoint protection and Windows Intune in order to deploy and install the virus definition updates.  If you are a consumer, you need to be running Microsoft Security Essentials.

There’s an issue regarding Security Essentials; while Microsoft is going to continue to provide updates for its Security Essentials for at least another year, XP users will not be able to download the software after April 8, 2014, because the applications will be going away and taken offline.  So if you want to get these malware updates, you better first download and install Security Essentials prior to the end date in April.

It is interesting to note that while Microsoft will provide virus definition updates until July 14, 2015, Microsoft’s TechNet blog warns that its research “shows that the effectiveness of antimalware solutions on out-of-support operating systems is limited.” Yikes! In other words, hurry up and complete your Windows 7 upgrades! Microsoft goes on to say, “running a well-protected solution starts with using modern software and hardware designed to help protect against today's threat landscape.”  Okay now they are screaming at us to upgrade to Windows 7!

Did you know that almost all standalone ATM’s are operating with Windows XP? Almost 95 percent of ATM’s (and there are 420,000 of them right here in theUSA) use Windows XP! One would hope that American financial institutions are treating the End-of-life and End-of-support as serious matters.  ANP has a large financial institution customer that is actively migrating 400 XP PCs into Window 7 machines; they do not see the reprieve as a reason to delay! ANP also supports a large car dealership with 75 old XP machines that are currently being migrated to Windows 7; not waiting either!

It would be easy to view this extension in malware support as a gift and delay upgrading XP.  But that would be a potentially costly mistake. The most prudent thing you can do with your Windows XP machines is to create a plan immediately and begin to migrate them to Window 7 PCs.

 

 

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Topics: Windows XP, WIndows XP end of support, Windows XP Reprieve, Windows XPocalypse

End of Support for Windows XP. Time to say NO to XP

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, Jan 09, 2014

End of support for Windows XPOn April 8, 2014, Microsoft is officially retiring Windows XP and Office 2003. As Windows XP comes to the end of its life, desktops and servers all around the world will feel the effects. Microsoft recently estimated that 25% of all Microsoft operating systems in use today are still using Windows XP! Fortunately, there are a couple things you can do if your applications depend on Windows XP.

With Windows XP's retirement party less than 90 days away, after April 8 any zero-day exploit released into the wild will run rampant on Windows XP systems while Microsoft watches on the sidelines; they will not offer any security patches to mitigate the security risk. When companies beg for a security fix, Microsoft will hold one document up: the lifecycle information for Windows XP with a Post-it note that shows we all had four years to move to Windows 7, to avoid a Windows XP exploit.

I am writing this blog to make certain my readers are well aware that you are quickly running out of both time and options when it comes to removing Windows XP from your company. Microsoft isn't the only company ditching XP. Not only can Microsoft wash its hands of Windows XP support, but so can all the custom software and Line-of-Business application companies that once supported Windows XP.

Assuming those companies stopped actively developing for the Operating System years ago, they are likely still supporting the applications that run on it. After Windows XP end of life on April 8, 2014, they'll have no reason to continue to support that version of their software. The implications of this reality run far and wide. Line-of-business software is surely affected, as are any other random software applications you are using.

Honestly, when was the last time you called any support company regarding Windows XP? It’s not that you will no longer be able to call and get technical support from Microsoft that really matters. What really is cause for concern is that Microsoft and security software vendors will likely stop patching, updating and supporting their software.

Why would companies such as McAfee, Symantec, Kaspersky or Trend Micro bother maintaining a product for an Operating System that is, for all intents, dead? Windows XP will still run, and it could be that their definition files will be updated with the latest viruses for a time, but do you think those companies will pay attention to viruses targeted toward XP after its retired? I think it is unlikely!

The bottom line is that running Windows XP in your organization on anything other than a desktop with no network connection, no floppy drive, no USB ports, or CD drive is an outright liability, bordering on irresponsible; you must insure that the machine cannot be attacked by any virus. Yes, there will be some unique software situations that will require it, but if you determine that your organization can't afford to get off Windows XP on the basis of support or cost, I believe you are wrong.

Let me be clear -- I love Windows XP; I distinctly remember running Windows XP on my early IBM AT computer with an AT-style keyboard. Still, it's now past the time to put Windows XP out to pasture.

There is at least one thing you can do, though, to extend the life of systems that depend on Windows XP: use a Windows Server 2003 R2. Windows Server 2003 R2 is essentially Windows XP Server, and while the Windows XP end of life date is April 8, 2014, the end of life for Server 2003 R2 comes 15 months after that: July 14, 2015. Since they are roughly the same OS, based on the same kernel, it's likely that anything you require XP for will work on Server 2003 R2 -- and that will buy you more than a year to figure things out.

The bottom line is that you're running out of both time and options when it comes to removing Windows XP from your company. But, whatever you do, make sure that Windows XP is off your network by April 8 2014. If you would like to learn more about what your next steps as a business owner should be; sign up for my 30 minute educational webinar below.

 

FREE IT Webinar Prepare for the End of XP Its Time to Take Action Click Here to Get Started

Topics: End of support for windows XP, windows 7

Do you have a potential IT Time Bomb in your office?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Sat, Jan 04, 2014


Windows XP IT Time BombIn 90 days, on April 8, 2014 Microsoft will end extended support for Windows XP. This means that no additional security patches, bug fixes, or service packs will be released and that users will no longer have access to free or paid technical support.  Systems running XP won’t suddenly stop working on April 8, but they will become increasingly vulnerable and the source of additional problems to your company.  I doubt you have called Microsoft for XP support for years, so why is this a big deal? 

Well it’s not that Microsoft will no longer take a support call for Windows XP; the real issue is that new security exploits that come along for XP will no longer be corrected by Microsoft.  Microsoft finds and corrects hundreds of security exploits within their operating systems every month; when your PC downloads a new Microsoft Patch; you are receiving the security corrections to harden your system from attack.  On April 8, 2014, Windows XP will be open season for security hacks, data hijacks and other vulnerabilities.  You simply must protect yourself and your company data by removing all of your Windows XP machines from production!

IT Security: The sudden absence of support for XP leaves a void that will likely be filled by a slew of old or soon to be exploited vulnerabilities that will subsequently give rise to a new crop of security exploits that target Windows XP systems.  Without continuing security updates; older operating systems like Windows XP typically have more exploit activity due to the fact that the malicious code will have ample time to mature, circulate and infect your machines.  There are also other reasons for considering removing your XP machines from production.

IT Performance: Todays modern PCs have features that were nonexistent when service pack enhancements for Windows XP were discontinued.  Today’s PCs include WIFI, Bluetooth, faster USB ports, and high resolution video graphics and touchscreen capabilities.  Many of these features are either poorly supported or not supported at all by Windows XP Professional.  Converting your old Windows XP machines over to Windows 7 can bring a huge performance boost.  You will get the benefits of better device drivers, high speed WIFI, faster USB 3.0 ports, and double software speed execution with 64 bit software support. 

Office 2003: Unfortunately, Office 2003 is at the end of support with Microsoft. So, much like Windows XP, you need to determine if your company is still using Office 2003 which includes 2003 Word, 2003 Excel and 2003 Outlook.  With all of this software becoming essential obsolete and worse than that, a liability to have on your network, what should you do? 

Windows 7 or Windows 8? Peter Klein the CFO for Microsoft said, “If enterprises are holding off on Windows 8, they are still embracing Windows 7 as an upgrade solution.”  He continues, “This quarter we saw continued progress from the transition of Windows XP to Windows 7.  Now, two-thirds of all enterprise desktops are running Windows 7.” ANP agrees that Windows 7 is the perfect replacement for Windows XP.  Windows 7 will be supported by Microsoft until October 13, 2020, which is far more time than a new PC bought today will be in service.

Next Steps: Take a careful look at your Windows servers and desktops and determine if you have any Windows XP still running on your company devices.  If so, upgrade the machine and operating system at the same time.  If you are not sure or don’t know how to take inventory of all of your Microsoft software you can reach out to ANP; we would be happy to help you in the assessment and also in the upgrade process.

Attend our IT Webinar: During our free 30 minute IT webinar we will dive deeper into the potential risks of not migrating out your old Windows XP machines and explain three Windows 7 migration strategies and why one might be perfect for your company. Sign up for the 30 minute webinar below: 

FREE IT Webinar Prepare for the End of XP Its Time to Take Action Click Here to Get Started

Topics: Windows XP, End of Windows XP Support, IT Time Bomb, Microsoft Windows 7

The Strategic Value of a CEO Peer Group to the Small Business Owner

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Sat, Dec 07, 2013

CEO Peer GroupIt is lonely at the top and the CEO is expected to have all the answers.  A CEO Peer Group helps the CEO by acting as a sounding board, a brainstorming group, and sometimes as the necessary harsh critic who points out what you can't see for yourself.  We have always heard that many heads are better than one.  Have you considered that a CEO Peer Group might help you become a better leader, make better decisions and get better business results?

Joining a CEO Peer Group may seem like an activity viable only for large corporations that spend thousands on expensive consulting engagements.  But CEO Peer Group benefits extend into the realm of small business as well.  A CEO Peer Group can be the perfect opportunity to share with, learn from, and collaborate with other executives in your region.  The experience can be eye-opening and enlightening and can impart a number of specific benefits; I speak from experience as an eleven-year CEO Peer Group veteran.

First, a broad spectrum of perspectives is one of the most prominent benefits a CEO Peer Group can offer your small business.  A CEO Peer Group will include CEOs in all sorts of industries, with big and small companies.  You might be surprised at how relevant the issues of a CEO in a different industry or region can be to your business.  This fact was counterintuitive to me and was the primary reason why I avoided joining a CEO Peer Group for decades.  How, I thought, could a CEO in the Food industry possibly help me in the IT industry?  A CEO Peer Group will give you the opportunity to present individual challenges or dilemmas to seasoned business individuals who can provide unique and fresh perspectives.  For example, I was encouraged to focus on hiring an Operations Manager from my group as they saw me spending too much time on running the business.  I have also been encouraged to focus on building a stronger management team.

ANP offers a Virtual CIO periodic meeting to our outsourced clients, in many ways it is a peer group of IT professionals providing you and your business with strategic IT advice.  You have a strategic IT professional who can discuss business issues with you and turn those conversations into actionable technology projects.  Or you could elect to sit down and allow ANP to take you through a seven step strategic session to discover your technology gaps.  ANP also offers a free IT audit and network assessment which can report back a snapshot of how your company technology is setup and running, its a free IT report card. The same type of process occurs in a CEO peer group, an issue is brought to the group and "processed," using a best practice methodology providing you with a great amount of value.

Secondly, your CEO Peer Group will give you the opportunity to discuss strategy, vision, and the big picture.  You spend enough time worrying about day-to-day dilemmas while interacting inside your organization, so use this time with your peers to discuss and analyze broader issues.  You have heard the expression that a CEO should work “on” the business not “in” it?  Receiving honest input from multiple sources in your CEO Peer Group can help you form a more accurate picture of your industry and the market as a whole than is possible from the narrow view of your individual business.  Small businesses especially can fall victim to getting too wrapped up in little issues to focus any attention on the big picture.  Don't miss the chance to step out and analyze your company from a broader perspective.

Finally, my CEO Peer Group has created a network of trust and accountability for my professional life.  It would be naive to think that all members of these groups are entirely honest with each other, but when openness is extended by all parties, a unique climate can be established.  Instead of the rivalry and secrecy that often enshroud inter-organizational interactions, you can now engage in encouragement, honesty and accountability with your business peers.  Use your CEO Peer Group to share week-by-week developments.  Explain what things from your last meeting worked and what things flopped.  Encourage others to do the same and you'll find that competitiveness quickly takes a back seat to collaboration.

CEO Peer Groups and forums are an excellent outlet for a small business CEO to share and learn.  With a diverse range of perspectives, a chance to step back and see the big picture, and a climate of honesty and accountability, these groups can help you take your organization and professional career to the next level.  I find that on months when I did not bring up an issue or challenge, I was still able to learn an enormous amount just by listening to the thoughts and ideas of my CEO peers!

CEO Peer Groups often serve as saviors to entrepreneurs who find themselves singing the lonely-at-the-top blues.  As CEOs we are not always going to hear what we need to hear from our employees.  A CEO can join a peer group because other CEOs will tell them what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear.  A CEO Peer Group is really like having an objective sounding board of CEOs whose only agenda is to help you and your business get better.

The power of a CEO group stems from the willingness of its members to share their cumulative experience and expertise.  Collectively, there are no blind spots; some CEOs are great sales people, some excel at product development and some are experts at running global businesses.  Some run local family businesses. What you need is diversity of industry, size and experience; by having that diversity in your peer group, everybody has someone who has been where they are trying to go.

If you would like to know more about a CEO Peer Group company, please fill out the ANP contact form and write “CEO Peer Group” in the notes section. I will personally see that you get a free call from a Vistage Peer Group chair, or simply call me and I would be happy to share my experiences with you.  You can reach me David S. Mulvey at (267) 628-1033. 

Schedule Your Strategic IT Session Now

Topics: CEO Peer Group, Virtual CIO, IT Assessment

Is your IT Service Provider in the Technology or the People Business?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Wed, Dec 04, 2013

describe the imageThere is nothing more exciting than seeing a client achieve their business goals with technology; however, there is nothing better in life than watching your employees move from just doing a job to becoming wildly successful with our clients.  It’s exhilarating for me to see the maturity, excitement and confidence that are the direct result of client success.  As a business owner I bet you are used to hearing over and over the same employees names mentioned when it comes to success… I never hear that Server was amazing, or that Firewall saved me… but I often hear that engineer worked above and beyond what we ever expected of ANP!

So during this season of thanks giving I want to share the three most important people traits an IT company can possess… Does your IT Company lift these up in value?  There are three great characteristics that affirm your IT provider is in the people business, and not in the technology business:

1) Humility – My best employees and engineers are humble; you would never know when you meet them that there are some of the smartest and most talented engineers in Philadelphia.  They just work hard all day long; they roll up their sleeves and jump into our clients problems as if they were their own.  These employees know that our client’s success translates into their own success!  None of these great people rest even for a moment on their previous success stories.  Every day is a new challenge and a new chance to demonstrate how great they truly are!

2) Generosity – Great employees love to give back to their clients and to their own team.  They are great leaders and they rarely see themselves in that light.  They mentor new employees and new clients; they give freely of their time and talents without ever expecting anything in return other than the innate sense that they did the right thing.

3) Business Orientation – My best employees know their clients, and know how our clients get work done.  They are always in close contact with the employee or decision makers, they never hide behind a service request ticket status.  Many in our company, while once technical, have taken on business leadership roles and are willing to rely on the technical employees to make the technical decisions.  As a result our business people can focus on business results and not on the speeds-and-feeds of technology.

I for one am so thankful for the fine employees at ANP that focus everyday on our clients as people and not as a technical service issue.  How is your IT service provider performing did you a hire a technology company or a people company?  This is a great time of year to invest a moment to take stock!

Work With A Trusted IT Services Partner

Topics: IT Service Provider, Technology Business, People Business

Is Your Company Data Ready For An IT Disaster Recovery Test?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Sun, Nov 24, 2013

Silent Data CorruptionUnfortunately, many companies that experience an IT “data loss event” also discover, at this critical time, that their backed-up data is corrupted and not restorable.  The fact is that data can become corrupted during the back-up process.  Therefore, most managed service IT providers offering back-up solutions for clients will perform data integrity checks at the time IT data is sent off site.  Though this is a good practice, and can provide a level of comfort for businesses, the truth is that data can also become corrupted over time while residing on spinning disk drives at an off-site location.  This type of occurrence, known in the industry as “silent data corruption,” is literally caused by the rotting of the storage media where the data is housed.  So even though businesses may feel they are “good” with their data backup, that actually may not be the case.

This is why IT data restorability “dry runs” or “backup plans” are critical.  Businesses need to verify on a periodic and regular basis, that the data they are backing up is actually recoverable.  Though these tests can be hardware intensive and time consuming, they are critical.  Business owners need to know that if they experience an IT “data loss event,” their data will be restored and their applications will resume in a reliable and predictable fashion.  The only way to be sure of this happening is to conduct periodic disaster recovery plan.

There are some sophisticated IT data protection solutions in the marketplace that can automatically verify the viability of data, not only when the data is written for the first time, but also on an ongoing basis.  This approach enables companies not only to detect and protect against data corruption during the initial backup process, but also to guard against this “bit rot” scenario over time. Having a disaster preparedness plan that includes silent data corruption is a key element in a disaster continuity plan!

The IT best practice is to transfer data from any spinning disk drives before the five-year time frame expires.  The probability of “bit rot” occurring goes up dramatically after five years.  Interestingly enough, good old fashion “tape” is the best approach for storing data for longer than five years.

Do an IT data “dry run” restore within your company. Or talk to your managed IT service provider about doing a disaster recovery test with you.  There would be nothing worse than experiencing a flood or fire at your company’s main location, and losing everything, including all of your data, true?  Well maybe there would be. What if, when you went to leverage your IT data backup to get your company back on its feet, you discovered the data was corrupted and unusable?  You could literally be out of business at that point.  Don’t let that happen to your company. Download our guide to preparing your own Disaster Recovery Plan:

 

5 Steps To Prepare Disaster Recovery

Topics: Disaster Recovery, IT Backups, IT Data Disaster, IT Best Practice, backup plan, disaster recovery plan

Advantages of Proactive IT Support vs. Reactive Break/Fix Service

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Sat, Oct 12, 2013

Reactive vs. Proactive IT SupportMaintaining a well-performing, predictably available IT infrastructure for your company is obviously important.  Access to your business applications, customer data, and your financial information are critical for the success of your business.  If the computers and other IT hardware that deliver access to that information for you, your employees, and your customers fail, it will negatively impact your business.  Customers and employees become frustrated, and your bottom line suffers anytime you have IT problems or outages.

The truth is that avoiding IT issues is only possible if you are proactively monitoring your IT hardware.  Staying ahead of potential problems, and correcting issues before they ultimately result in outages, is the key to maintaining availability and performance.  The concept here is truly no different than engaging in regular, proactive, and disciplined checkups…just like we do with other items in our lives.

We go to the doctor for regular checkups with the hope that if a symptom of a medical problem is detected, something can be prescribed to remedy the situation before a major medical issue occurs.  We bring our car in for regular maintenance, changing the oil, checking engine fluids, and checking performance of the vehicle with the hope of avoiding a major breakdown on the road, or a major mechanical problem. 

In both of these cases, a lack of scheduled checkups or maintenance, “reactive management” if you will, could lead to serious problems: a heart attack can result from undetected high-blood pressure, or a clogged artery that could have been easily detected and rectified ahead of time; low oil levels, or dirty transmission fluid which could lead to a vehicle breakdown, could have been easily addressed ahead of time.  And the resulting “cost” of addressing these issues without taking the disciplined proactive steps, could be astronomical: a major heart attack or a blown engine is nothing anyone wants to experience...and though these “real costs may be difficult to quantify, we all know they are significant”.

The same theory applies to IT.  There are “technical” things that can be done, “proactively” in the background, which will identify potential problems….much like regular scheduled checkups or maintenance.  Those technical things can in many instances correct the problem, or at the very least, tell you what needs to be done in order to rectify the issue and avoid an outage.  Things like disk drives that are performing poorly, and if not addressed, will fail.  

Viruses that are detected, can be removed; new viruses that have been identified in the market place, that your infrastructure can be protected from ahead of time so they never become an issue.  Conditions in back-up routines that indicate a future failed back-up; computer processors that are being overburdened or are aging, that will ultimately fail.  Events like these, and many others, can be proactively managed and addressed by an IT support provider, so an end-user or customer has a much higher likelihood of not facing a “hard down” outage.

The difference with IT, however, is that this can only be done effectively if the infrastructure is being monitored and managed twenty-four hours a day.  IT hardware is susceptible and vulnerable around the clock…conditions are just that dynamic.  Someone, or more specifically something, like IT management tools, should be looking at your IT hardware all the time to give you the best opportunity to avoid any downtime for your business.  IT outages are much less likely, and much less painful from a business perspective, if potential problems are addressed ahead of time, rather than when a complete failure occurs. 

We all know that when an outage occurs, it’s too late.  That’s when the fire drill begins, and there is panic to get a vendor out immediately to fix something…often times something you are not even sure what it is…and what if a replacement part is required, and it’s not immediately available.  Employees are aggravated with their inability to do their job.  And most importantly, customers may be impacted negatively…orders may be lost, and your reputation may be put at risk in your specific market place.

Needless to say, when there is an IT outage, the pain is an acute…a heart attack or a blown engine if you will…and though these “real costs may be difficult to quantify, we all know they are significant”.  Taking a proactive approach to your IT support is far less costly than a reactive wait and see approach to IT support.  A first step to becoming proactive with your IT is requesting a free network assessment, its like a health fitness exam for your IT infrastructure.

 Request A Network Assessment

 

Topics: IT Support, Business IT, Break Fix, IT Outsourcing, Time & Materials

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