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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Why Your Small Business Needs VoIP

Why Your Small Business Needs VoIP

Why would a small business need VoIP? Not just another acronym to learn, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) offers many advantages for small business. Especially SMBs that want to run with the enterprise-sized companies.

Basically, VoIP turns voice conversation into data packets sent between the two network points. Don’t worry, the person you’re calling doesn’t need to be on VoIP. The technology turns the data back into analog at the receiving end if needed. 

If you’ve been on Skype, you’ve experienced VoIP. With VoIP you use your broadband Internet connection to make and receive calls. Bypassing traditional or mobile phones, VoIP users avoid long-distance or extra minute charges. 

Beyond long distance savings, VoIP setups often include features such as voicemail and call forwarding, at no extra charge. Other useful features could include call forwarding, voicemail transcription, and call recording.

Plus, there are cost savings from reducing and consolidating communications infrastructure. Streamlining voice, data, and broadband services with one provider can cut costs. With VoIP, you can also reduce your investment in setting up and maintaining traditional communications.  

 

VoIP Enables Flexibility

Mobility is another big reason to move to VoIP. Downloading the business VoIP application turns any Internet-connected device into a VoIP phone. Business users can take their business phone number anywhere — even if they are in another country. 

Calls can be forwarded from office phones to the individual’s device of choice. Really, users don’t even need a phone as they can make and receive calls from laptops or desktop computers too. VoIP definitely supports “bring your own device” workplace flexibility, which employees appreciate. 

Along with flexibility, a VoIP platform is scalable. VoIP is easy to install as there’s little to no physical hardware to set up. As your business grows, your business can quickly expand the number of users. No more waiting for the telephone company to come out and add additional lines.

Plus, seasonal businesses can add or subtract lines as needed with little to no added cost. 

Doing away with telephone hardware frees up space and means fewer maintenance concerns. Working with a VoIP provider, you also gain expert support and confidence your communication tech is up to date.

What About Quality, Security?

A common concern when businesses hear about VoIP is call quality. VoIP needs a good Internet connection to work well, so making sure you have high bandwidth can help. Still, when you don’t have to worry about competing traffic, the quality of a VoIP call can surpass an analog one.

Security is another concern. Keep in mind your landline or cell phone aren’t that secure to begin with. A VoIP business communications solution can be on-premises or cloud-based. When running VoIP over your private network, the data is as secure as any other application running on your business system. Otherwise, most VoIP service providers encrypt calls. 

Analytics Benefit of VoIP

With a VoIP solution, you gain access to more reporting and business analytics. For instance, some VoIP systems integrate with customer relationship management software (CRM) for better data and caller insights.

VoIP call monitoring, recording, and reporting capabilities are also helpful. You can drive better employee training, help identify security threats, and ensure compliance.

VoIP provides cost savings, flexibility, and operations transparency. With this technology as your business backbone, you can focus on revenue and growth.

There are many reasons to implement VoIP. Give us a call at 504-323-7111 on your traditional landline or mobile phone.

Let’s talk about giving your small business an enterprise-level communications system with VoIP.

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Increase Your Productivity with Dual Monitors

Increase Your Productivity with Dual Monitors

Conventional wisdom states that cluttered workspaces lead to a disorganized mind. Mess prevents productivity and begins to hamper professionalism. Shouldn’t that apply to the computer desktop too?

The simplest way to clean and organize your digital desktop is to add more space. Just adding a second screen doubles the available room and makes organization a breeze.

Getting work done with a single-monitor setup is a balance of poor compromises. There never seems to be enough space and the little space available is full of clutter and mess. Switching between windows or tabs wastes time and distracts from work to be done. Stacking windows together, side-by-side, or top and bottom wastes valuable screen real estate. The resulting clutter of windows makes it hard to focus on what is important.

While most tasks can be tackled feasibly with a single monitor; two makes the same tasks faster, simpler, and much more enjoyable.

Two Monitors, Many Uses

Data entry with two monitors is far easier than data entry with one. Having source data on one screen, laid out in large type, and the destination on another makes the job a breeze. By eliminating the need to scroll tiny windows or switch tabs, forget and repeat; the same job can be done in a fraction of the time.

Graphic design, image manipulation, and editing are key areas that make the most of a dual screen setup.

Stacking one image on each screen allows you to make quick comparisons to make sure your work is going in the right direction. Organizing your editing space is made simple too. Stacking your tools, menus, and options on one monitor with your image maximized on the other helps to stay focused and finish the task.

Beyond Just Two

Having more than a single screen helps you to track tasks you need to keep on the back burner. A team chat window to keep on top of collaboration, status updates for business-critical services, or the latest stock price. These windows and dialogues can remain open and serving updates on a secondary screen while you keep your work focused on your first.

It is not uncommon for stock traders or financial analysts to maintain 6 or more screens running from a single computer. Many uses this to track various stocks or indices so they don’t miss a beat.

Setup How You Like It

Multiple monitors can be arranged in almost any practical configuration imaginable. While traditionally positioned in landscape orientation, second, third, or fourth monitors are often rotated 90 degrees to portrait orientation.

This setup is used often by software engineers, editors, and users reviewing large amounts of text. The lengthwise orientation allows multiple pages to be read from the screen at any one time.

Multi-screen setups, no matter how they are arranged, behave the same as if all the monitors were just a single screen. Mouse input moves from one monitor to another as if there was no difference between them. From the user’s perspective, there is no difference to how they interact at all.

A Boost to Productivity

There is a scientific advantage to multi-monitor setups too. A survey by Jon Peddie research found that adding an extra monitor boosted a user’s output by as much as 20 to 30 percent.

A productivity advantage of even 10 percent is prized and very hard to come by in the business world. Receiving a productivity reward of over 20 percent for just the cost of adding a second monitor is something few firms can afford to pass up.

The satisfaction of de-cluttering your digital desktop and keeping your focus in the zone is worth it alone.

Give us a call at 504-323-7111 if you would like us to boost your setup by adding a second monitor.

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The Top 5 IT Security Problems for Businesses

The Top 5 IT Security Problems for Businesses

Companies that suffer security breaches nearly always have one of these IT security problems. Is your company guilty of any of them?

No Backups

A shocking number of businesses are not backing up their data properly. According to market research company Clutch, 60 percent of businesses who suffer a data loss shut down within six months.

Not only should every business be fully backing up their data, but their backups should be regularly tested to work too. It’s a step that businesses miss surprisingly often. Many businesses don’t find out that their backup can’t be used until it’s already too late.

Reactive and not proactive

The world is constantly changing. The IT world doubly so. Attackers are always figuring out new ways to break into businesses, hardware evolves faster than most can keep up, and old systems fail due to wear and tear far quicker than we would like. A huge number of businesses wait until these issues impact them directly before they respond. The result is higher costs, longer downtime, and harder hitting impacts.

By responding to hardware warnings before it fails, fixing security holes before they’re exploited, and upgrading systems before they are out of date: IT can be done the right way. Being proactive about your IT needs means systems don’t have to break or compromised before they are fixed. The result for your business is less downtime, fewer losses, and lower IT costs.

Weak Passwords

A surprising number of people will use the password “password” to secure some of their most important accounts. Even more still will write their own password on a post-it note next to their computer. In some cases, many will even use no password at all. Strong passwords act, not only as a barrier to prevent unwanted entry, but as a vital accountability tool too. When system changes are made it’s often essential that the account that made changes is secured to the right person.

With an insecure password or worse; none at all, tracking the individual responsible for reports or accountability becomes impossible. This can result in both auditing disasters on top of technical ones.

Insufficient Staff Training

Humans in the system are commonly the weakest point in IT security. Great IT security can be a bit like having state-of-the-art locks on a door propped open with a milk crate. If staff aren’t trained to use the lock, it’s worth nothing at all.

Often times businesses can justify spending big on security for the latest and greatest IT defenses. The very same firms may exceed their budget and spend almost zero on training staff to use them. In this instance, a little goes a long way. Security training can help staff to identify a threat where it takes place, avoiding and mitigating damage, often completely.

Weak Data Controls

Some companies can take an ad-hoc, fast and loose approach to storing professional data. Often crucial parts can be spread across many devices, copied needlessly, and sometimes even left unsecured. Client data can be found regularly on employee laptops, mobile phones, and tablet devices. These are famously prone to being misplaced or stolen out in the field along with vital client and security data.

It can be easy for both employees and firms to focus on the costs of devices and hardware purchased for the business. The reality is that the data held on devices is almost always worth many times more than the device that holds it. For many firms, their approach to data hasn’t been changed since the firm was first founded. Critical data is often held on single machines that haven’t been updated precisely because they hold critical data. Such machines are clearly vulnerable, outdated, and prone to failure.

Common problems with simple solutions

Each of these common issues have simple solutions to secure against IT failure. With a professional eye and expertise in the field, every business should be defended against IT issues that risk the firm.

If you need help securing your IT to protect your business, give us a call at 504-323-7111.

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How Losing a Mobile Device Puts Your Entire Business at Risk

How Losing a Mobile Device Puts Your Entire Business at Risk

Losing a mobile phone or laptop is an experience that everyone dreads. The expense and inconvenience of buying a new device is unpleasant, but only represents a fraction of the damage done when a device is misplaced. The cost of data contained within every device can add up to many times more than the total value of the device itself.

Chances are, you already use automatic login on a large variety of online services. Each of these services are vulnerable to an attacker having possession of your device.

Usernames and passwords – An obvious place for an attacker to start is the likely long list of usernames and passwords saved for future use by your browser. This is often done to save time when logging into sites that you visit often. Almost universally, people opt to save login information so that they don’t have to attempt to remember it every time they return.

In only a short amount of time, a browser is trained to log in to your Facebook, cloud storage, and bank details just by visiting the page using your regular device. These details, called up by the browser, are saved in a single list accessible to anyone with access to the device. For an unscrupulous stranger with a found device, this list represents a goldmine of information. Simply by finding a phone misplaced in public they may gain access to a huge array of services.

The problem can be made many times worse where a single password or a combination of similar passwords have been used across several accounts. In some instances, an attacker need only gain access to a single one and reuse the same stolen credentials across many sites and services.

Email – Email accounts are a key target for attackers looking for access to your personal information. It is a service that many take for granted, logging in once the first time they set up the device and using automatic login every time after. It is a service that also unlocks a great deal more than just private messages. Of course, an attacker having free access to read your personal emails is bad news, but with email access a malicious user can gain access to many of the most commonly used web services online.

Using the “forgotten password” button on many sites triggers a response that emails a password reset link to the email address registered on file. An attacker may use this feature to reset account passwords to one of their choosing. Doing this both grants themselves access to your account and denies you access to rescue it.

Contacts – One of the best features of instant messaging is that your contacts know the messages come from you. When a message is sent from your device to someone you know it displays along with your name, details, and likely a photograph too. This can lead to identity theft, one of the biggest concerns of a lost or stolen device.

With contact information already programmed in an attacker has an opportunity to impersonate you when speaking to anyone in your contacts list. Using your identity, an attacker may attempt to steal yet more details about you and your contacts.

Social Media – Your social media accounts are often the face of your brand. They can be a primary way to reach out and contact customers. They are almost always the first point of contact a client has with your business. They are also extremely vulnerable to being hijacked from a stolen device.

Fraudulent social media access can allow attackers to harvest both client and business data. Even without profiting directly, posting privileges can be used to cause irreversible damage to a business.

Protecting your business – Services, accounts, and entire businesses can be put in great danger by something as simple as misplacing an unsecured mobile phone or laptop computer.

We can help you to stay secure and remain in control even in the face of losing a device. Give us a call at 504-323-7111 and let us help secure your business.

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Is Your Business Ready for Business-Grade Wi-Fi?

Is Your Business Ready for Business-Grade Wi-Fi?

In today’s business world, having great Wi-Fi isn’t a luxury -it’s a necessity. Businesses, with their varying needs, have personal requirements for what constitutes great Wi-Fi. For some small businesses, consumer-grade Wi-Fi may be sufficient, but many find that business-grade Wi-Fi is more appropriate. As companies grow, there becomes a tipping point where business-grade is necessary. So how do you know if your business is ready for business-grade Wi-Fi? Ask yourself the following questions to find out.

How many devices use your Wi-Fi?

It used to be that only desktop computers connected to your Wi-Fi, but that is no longer the case. With the rise of portable devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops, each person may be using your Wi-Fi from several devices. Consumer-grade hardware is designed for just a few people (like the amount that live in a single household) but can’t manage larger amounts of users and all of their devices. This is especially true for sustained usage. Remember that your employees aren’t the only people who expect to be able to connect to your Wi-Fi. One of the first things visitors typically do is look for a Wi-Fi network to connect their smartphones to.

What is the size and shape of your workspace?

The number of access points you will need for your Wi-Fi is dependent on the amount of physical space that needs to be covered, the shape of the area, wall material, and the number of users/devices. In smaller spaces, consumer-grade Wi-Fi is good enough. Larger, oddly shaped spaces benefit from business-grade. If your building’s walls are made of brick, cinder blocks, or cement, you likely need more access points than buildings made of other materials. Make sure you have a strong connection from all locations. It’s annoying to only be connected to Wi-Fi in certain areas of a building and find yourself in a deadzone a few steps later.

Access points for business-grade Wi-Fi tend to be more powerful and flexible. For example, some business Wi-Fi systems can transfer Wi-Fi devices from a crowded access point to one that is less busy. By doing this, everybody’s fast speed remains. If you foresee your range needing to increase, such as renting out more space, it’s easier to add more access points to business-grade Wi-Fi than consumer-grade. Businesses that anticipate scaling up soon are better off with business-grade Wi-Fi.

Do you want guests to have the same quality Wi-Fi as workers?

In households, where consumer-grade Wi-Fi is prevalent, all users share the Wi-Fi equally. In a home environment, if children are slowing down the internet with Netflix or video games, it’s not a big problem. However, a choked business Wi-Fi can cause a lot of problems. Business-grade Wi-Fi allows you network management. You can assign a designated amount of bandwidth to different users so they’re unable to clog the entire connection. You can allow visitors internet access without giving them unlimited access to the network.

How much does the internet affect your employees’ productivity?

For some companies, workers only use Wi-Fi for a few quick tasks. With these types of businesses, if the internet is slow, it won’t have a big impact on how much work your employees get done. Consumer-grade Wi-Fi might be a good choice. For other companies, there isn’t much people can accomplish if the Wi-Fi isn’t working well. The slower your employees work, the less money you make. Wi-Fi troubles can also lead to frustrated, unhappy workers. If fast internet is essential for people to complete their daily tasks, business-grade Wi-Fi is important.

Strong Wi-Fi is a necessity for all businesses. This is especially true for larger businesses that connect a lot of devices (from both employees and visitors) and have a big work area. Also for those where employee productivity depends on a strong connection. The goal is to keep your business-critical technology running smoothly. Consider carefully whether consumer-grade Wi-Fi or business-grade Wi-Fi is the best choice for your business. When you ask yourself the questions above, the answer should become clear.

Is your business’s Wi-Fi struggling? Give us a call at 504-323-7111 to discuss a solution.

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