6 Target Areas to Reduce IT Costs

6 Target Areas to Reduce IT Costs

Your business is always looking to reduce costs. Looking at the information technology budget line items is headache inducing. So much money spent in one area, and there’s so little you can do about it! But is that really true? IT expenses may not be as fixed as you think. Take a look at these target areas where you might reduce costs.

#1 Software

Your business likely pays to license software such as Microsoft Office 365 or Adobe Photoshop. Reviewing these software agreements, you can often find cost savings:

  • You may be able to renegotiate a subscription if the provider wants to move you onto to a new offering.
  • You may find that you are paying for software that your employees are no longer using much. Maybe you can reduce or remove it.
  • Perhaps the pricing has changed, and there are now better plan options available.
  • There may be an open-source software alternative to save acquisition and maintenance costs.

#2 Hardware

Your current hardware may be underused, need refreshing, or have lost productivity. Look for opportunities to run applications on less expensive devices, or link together several computers to replace expensive server equipment. Standardizing platforms can also significantly reduce IT costs while providing consistency.

#3 Cloud Computing

One way to cut IT infrastructure costs is to move to the cloud. You may be able to run software on the cloud for a fraction of the cost. Moving data backup to the cloud to replace an on-premises server can also cut costs, not to mention the utility savings from not having to power the replaced components.

Even if you’re already in the cloud, you can explore whether you are on the best available plan for you and consider:

  • Are you paying for more storage or resources than you need?
  • Are you taking full advantage of mobility and scalability features?
  • Are you duplicating on-premise and cloud-based services?

#4 Internet Services

Your employees need to be online; you’re not going to cut out internet services. However, you may be able to control costs:

Should you buy modems or routers instead of renting them from your provider?

  • Consider the internet speed in your plan. Do you need that level of service?
  • Is slow internet speed costing your company money when, in fact, you’ll be more efficient with an upgrade?
  • Are you able to bundle services to find cost savings?
  • Are you in a position to renegotiate your plan?

 #5 IT Staff and Services

Avoid infrastructure costs and the hiring expenses of onsite IT staff by outsourcing. Often your business can pay a set monthly fee or go on a pay-per-use model to gain services such as:

  • IT help desk support
  • security
  • disaster recovery
  • backup

#6 Utilities

Don’t overlook the costs involved in powering your IT components. Review your utility bills to identify trends. Can you save money by turning off equipment? Is there a better plan available with a competing service? Should you renegotiate the terms of your existing plan?

Time for a Technology Audit

Ultimately, the best way to identify specific areas to cut your IT budget is a technology audit.

Your IT needs are always changing, and the technology evolves, too. Many businesses add expensive components or systems with “room to grow.” New tools get added on as needs arise. Your use of certain technologies may expand or shrink.

An IT expert can provide an overview of all the software and services you use, and of bills related to your IT budget to find areas to streamline or cut altogether. It may seem counterintuitive to pay money in an attempt to save money. However, an outsider’s perspective can provide fresh insight into the “way things have always been done” and help you see new opportunities for consolidation.

We can help you meet your budget goals. Contact us today at 504-323-7111!

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Handle with Care: Sending Data Securely

Handle with Care: Sending Data Securely

In our digital economy, we send and receive information quickly online. The Internet offers immediate communication with colleagues, clients, vendors, and other strategic partners. Yet we shouldn’t prioritize convenience over data security.

What data do you send in a day’s worth of emails? Sensitive data you send might include:

  • personally identifiable information (PII);
  • credit card or payment card information;
  • attorney–client privileged information;
  • IT security information;
  • protected health information;
  • human subject research;
  • loan or job application data;
  • proprietary business knowledge.

The problem is people sending without thinking about the security of the transmission. One way to gauge the need for security is to consider how you might send that same information via the postal service. Would you put that data on a postcard that anyone could read? Or would you send a sealed, certified mailing and require the recipient’s signature?

Transmitting data on the Internet in plain text is like the postcard – anyone can read the information. And before you think that no one can actually see your data in transit, think about where you are sending from. Your office network may be password protected and secure, but what if someone waiting for their coffee at Starbucks opens the message using the free Wi-Fi network?

Anyone can intercept communications on open networks with the right tools. This type of cyberattack is common enough to merit its own name: a “man-in-the-middle” attack.

So, how can you stay safe when sending sensitive data?

Embrace encryption. Encrypting the data is like sending that sensitive information in a locked box. Encryption encodes the information to add a level of security. If encrypted data is intercepted, the scrambled data is unreadable by unauthorized users. Only a user with the correct decryption key can access the text.

Encryption also provides additional confirmation that the information is coming from a reliable source.

Your business should also require Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) for sending and receiving large or numerous digital files. You may have heard of FTP, but this file transfer protocol is not encrypted. SFTP is the secure version of FTP, as it encrypts the files in transit. If a nefarious entity does intercept the files, it won’t be able to read them without the decryption key.

Specifically, encourage your employees to:

  • use encrypted email only (common providers such as Gmail and Outlook support it; others require third-party apps or services);
  • encrypt files before sending to the cloud (in case accounts are breached or services hacked);
  • never open business communications on unsecured Wi-Fi networks;
  • keep good track of laptops and other portable devices and use drive encryption in case – with encryption, a lost laptop or stolen thumb drive is more secure, and criminals will have a difficult time stealing sensitive information, too;
  • control data access – grant permission to view, edit, or send files with sensitive information only to users who need that data for their jobs.

Managed service providers help your business decrypt how to send its sensitive information. Turn to experts in cloud services and IT security to learn how to securely send and receive data.

Contact us today at 504-323-7111!

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Do Macs Get Viruses?

Do Macs Get Viruses?

Many Apple owners believe their Macintosh computers are immune to viruses. Apple itself has run ad campaigns promising its computers “don’t get viruses”. And those who have owned a Mac for years, decades even, are particularly prone to believing. After all, nothing’s happened to them yet. Regrettably, Macs do get viruses, and the threat is growing.

For a long time the argument was that cybercriminals didn’t bother to develop Mac viruses. There weren’t enough users to justify the effort. Instead, they’d focus on the lower hanging fruit – PCs running Windows.

Yet Apple’s market share is on the rise, and it’s increasingly common to see Macs in the workplace, especially in creative industries. Plus, there’s a widespread assumption that Mac users are a smart target as they are likely to be better off. So, while Macs remain harder to infect (installing most software requires a password), there’s often a greater payoff.

The research reflects the reality. In 2017, for instance, the iPhone OS and Mac OS X placed #3 and #6 in CVE Details’ top 50 ranked by total number of distinct vulnerabilities. Apple TV and Safari also made the list at #17 and #18, respectively. In 2017, Malwarebytes also reported it “saw more Mac malware in 2017 than in any previous year”. By the end of 2017, the cybersecurity firm had counted 270% more unique threats on the Mac platform than in 2016.

Finding Apple’s Weak Spots

It’s obvious then that bad actors are no longer steering clear. They are actively looking for ways to exploit Macs.

A common approach is to use Trojans. Named after a gift wooden horse that hid an army, Trojans look like something you would want to install. So, Mac users happily enter their passwords to download that application and open the gates to the cybercriminal.

In 2011, for instance, a Trojan called “Mac Defender” took advantage of people’s desire to protect their computers. The fake program appeared to be anti-virus software. Once the users installed it, they’d get an onslaught of pop-up ads encouraging them to buy more fake software.

Trojans get through the gates because you let your guard down. You are taken in by that supposed note from a long-lost friend. You think you want to see that pic of that famous celebrity. All it takes to stop this type of attack is suspicion of everything you might install or download.

A business would want to educate its employees about the importance of:

  • clicking on emails with care;
  • validating the source of any files they plan to open;
  • checking a website’s URL (being especially wary of those with less common endings such as .cc or .co);
  • questioning any promises of Ray-Ban sunglasses for 90% off or the latest iPhone for $29.99.

A new threat comes from within the Mac App Store, according to Thomas Reed, a Mac security researcher. When a user tries to install an app on a Mac, a Mac OS program called Gatekeeper checks the file’s code signature. The signature helps certify the app is valid. However, Reed found that cybercriminals could buy a legitimate certificate from Apple, or steal one and trick users. Users would install masked malware that could infect legitimate programs and evade detection.

Key Takeaway

Apple is always working to protect its users from malware. It has measures in place, and user caution can make a big difference, too. Still, it’s not true that Macs are completely safe.

Find out what you can do to protect your Macs and guard against threats. Partner with a managed services provider to gauge your security levels.

Call us today at 504-323-7111!

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Are You Sick of Ongoing IT Issues?

Are You Sick of Ongoing IT Issues?

Like a persistent cough or muscle strain that won’t go away, many IT issues prove ongoing. Every time they come back you think about getting an expert’s opinion. Then, the cough fades, you can walk freely again, or your computers are back up and running. You keep on going. Until the next time. If you’re sick of ongoing issues with your IT, look to a Managed Service Provider (MSP) for help.

There are many IT ailments that can negatively impact your ability to do work. Let’s consider some of the particularly common ones, and why an MSP is the right prescription.

#1 Network and Internet issues.

Business is done online these days. Not being able to connect to the network and slow connections are frustrating. Without the Internet, how can you do your job? You can’t even check and send emails! Let alone access team documents or enter data into cloud-based accounting software. A lagging network also slows down application and data loading time. It may only be a few moments of thumb twiddling. But add that up over several times a day and multiple by employees. You’re looking at a decrease in productivity that adds up.

An MSP has the know-how to survey the IT environment for what’s causing these frustrations. When there’s a problem, they’re at the ready to resolve it and help improve reliability.

#2 Repeated malware infections.

This can mean a couple of things. First, you don’t have effective system and application protections in place. These attacks shouldn’t be able to make it through the door in the first place. With the right firewalls, anti-spam, and protections, you should be able to keep your system on lock down. You don’t have to do this yourself. Your internal IT team has a lot to manage and monitor. Gain expert backup with an MSP reviewing your security protocols to keep the bad guys at bay.

Secondly, educate employees about the dangers of social engineering. Don’t let them keep falling for the pretexts and downloading malicious files. Also, ensure passwords are strong enough to avoid adding another point of entry. 

#3 Printing problems.

Many businesses are printing less today, but we’re not done with hard copies entirely. So, when a printer starts whirring, spinning endlessly, or can’t connect, efficiency halts. Know that printers sold at big box stores are consumer grade quality. Avoid printer frustrations with solid business-class printers (which your MSP can identify).

#4 Application overload.

Maybe some of your employees prefer Dropbox. Others rely on their free Gmail accounts. This hodgepodge of options can cause chaos. Staff have difficulty remembering the passwords to all of the accounts they need. So, they simplify, and that makes their accounts more hackable. 

Upgrading to business-grade versions of important applications is easier with an MSP. They’ll help identify the software that best addresses your business needs.

#5 Aging technology.

You’ve had your current computers for ages. They are slower than you’d like, but you don’t have the time to look for something else. Plus, you can’t imagine having to learn something new. You’re too busy. But aging tech is more likely to fail, which could prove catastrophic if you don’t have the right systems backup.

MSPs know IT. Based on your individual business needs, they can suggest a plan of attack to update the IT and keep it secure. They can also provide backup strategies to prepare for the worst and recover quickly.

Basically, a managed service provider has your back when it comes to IT. Work with experts who focus on technology day in and day out. You’ll typically save money and gain time to spend innovating in your field.

Gain a competitive advantage with the support of an MSP. Give us a call at 504-323-7111 today!

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Stop the Inbox Insanity: Tips for Better Email Management

Stop the Inbox Insanity: Tips for Better Email Management

A staggering 269 billion emails are sent every day. Your business is receiving only a small fraction of those emails. Yet your staff likely feel as if at least 269 of those are coming their way daily. In fact, the typical employee in 2018 received 90 emails and sent out 40. 

Email is a powerful tool. But its help with doing business ever faster creates added business pressure. Consider these five strategies for better email management.

  1. Don’t start your day with email. Many people do. It’s how they set up for the day. However, beginning the day with a cup of coffee and clicking through your inbox, can backfire. Many of those emails become items on your to-do list. You put off important tasks from your day responding to other people’s requests. Plan your day around your business needs first. Even knock off some of the more important tasks, before diving into that inbox!

 

  1. Think twice about checking email constantly. It’s tempting to open emails as soon as they arrive. But, you only want to tackle your inbox when you have the time to take action. If you open an email planning to get back to it later, you’ll likely forget. When you have to revisit an email to remind yourself what it’s about, you’re doubling the time you spend on that message. Avoid interrupting your momentum by turning off email alert notifications and phone badges. Instead, set regular times to read and respond to accumulated emails.

 

  1. Write clear, concise emails. Avoid contributing to a colleague’s inbox chaos. Provide as much relevant information as possible. Now, that doesn’t mean writing a War and Peace-length email. Focus your message for your audience, anticipate questions, and answer in that email. Starting the message with an informative subject line can make a big difference too.

 

  1. Save time with reusable messages. You often end up answering the same questions over and again. Create templated emails that you can have at the ready to provide relevant details. Depending on your email software, this capability may be built in or you may need to add a plug-in.

 

  1. Use filters and folders to sort email. Learn how to use automatically filter your messages into the appropriate folders. For example, if the email is from accounting@yourbusiness.com then send it to your “Accounting” folder. This can save hundreds of hours a year. The better your folder system, the less time you’ll spend looking for specific emails the you need them. In Outlook, you can also set up a filter to change the color of email for different senders. Your boss could be red, and you’d know to handle that one first. Also save time by setting up strong filters for junk and spam. Unsubscribe from mailing lists that you don’t need any longer. Cleaning out the clutter can make your inbox much less overwhelming.

Email is an essential tool in business today. Don’t let it become a drain on your energy and attention. Make the most of the time you spend in your inbox with smart strategies for email management. 

Need help selecting the right email or setting up useful mailbox management tools? Give us a call at 504-323-7111.

 

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MSP Facts: Common Managed Service Myths — Busted

MSP Facts: Common Managed Service Myths — Busted

Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are not stuff of legend like minotaur’s and unicorns. Yet there are many common myths around managed services. These can cloud understanding of a MSP’s true value. Consider the facts to decide whether partnering with a third-party IT vendor is right for you.

Myth #1: MSPs don’t understand our business.

Not every MSP will understand your business, that’s correct. But not every MSP is the same. The right MSP examines your existing infrastructure and workflows. They’ll also meet with your people to understand their needs. 

Hiring a MSP adds IT experts who can make specific technology recommendations. Meanwhile, your in-house IT team can focus on driving growth.

Myth #2: Outsourcing to a MSP is too costly.

Take a look at your IT budget today. Internal IT costs are typically high and often unpredictable. Managed services help you stay on top of your IT costs. Your business pays a simple, manageable monthly or quarterly fee. This makes IT operating expenses easier to budget.

MSPs also provide long-term cost savings by:

  • Reducing applications downtime
  • Cutting costs of IT infrastructure
  • Improving IT team productivity
  • Implementing greater security to avoid costly cyber attacks

 

Myth #3: Only enterprise-sized businesses can use MSPs.

One common misconception is that only big corporations hire outsourced managed service professionals. In fact, small- to medium-sized businesses can benefit more from working with a MSP. After all, large businesses tend to have a dedicated IT to secure data and maintain its systems. Smaller companies have more difficulty competing for IT talent. 

Outsourcing gives any business access to skilled IT specialists. They are specialists in securing data, managing networks, and user access. You get top talent and best practices, without having to add employees to your roster.

“Recent market studies show that, when properly executed, managed services for IT can reduce in-house IT costs by upwards of 40 percent while simultaneously facilitating a 50 to 60 percent increase in IT efficiencies.” — Cisco

Myth #4: You lose control of your business.

Only if you hand it over to the MSP or don’t effectively manage your partnership with your provider. You should hire an MSP with an understanding of what level of control you want to retain. Lay out the relationship in a Service Level Agreement. This document should outline expectations, roles and responsibilities, and scope of services.

Before hiring a MSP, look at client testimonials. Have others found the MSP works with businesses to only do what needs done? Ask prospective MSPs how they will keep you up-to-date about the work they do. Also, identify someone on your team to actively manage that MSP relationship. 

Myth #5: You only use an MSP for security backup.

Sure, backup and disaster recovery, are the primary service outsourced to MSPs. But that is not the only reason businesses turn to managed services. Other common managed services include archiving, networking, application management, and support services. 

The MSP does the work your IT team finds tedious and your general employees care little about (but rely upon). Outsource monitoring and maintaining backend technology and routine, recurring tasks. You gain high quality, consistent IT support. And you improve the morale of your overworked, overextended IT team along the way.

Business today relies on its technology to be successful. Big or small, your business can benefit. Free up internal IT teams to focus on more value-adding initiatives. Take advantage of a MSP’s expert help and powerful new technology. 

Ready to outsource IT? Give us a call at 504-323-7111.

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