Improving the way your team works together is one of the easiest ways to increase ROI and improve output. The McKinsey Institute found that teams improved productivity up to 25 percent through increased collaboration. That’s why the cloud provides hundreds of tools and applications designed to enhance communications and connections.
Cloud-based collaboration tools are ideal for teams that work on the go or remotely, allowing users to work on the same documents in almost real-time and stay connected through video and other chat forms. Whether you’re looking to improve the way your team communicates or need to eliminate wait times between versions of a project, there is a cloud-based solution that can help.
Not sure where to start? Here are three to consider, based on widespread adoption by businesses like yours.
Microsoft Office 365
Pros: Office 365 gives your team full access to Microsoft’s most powerful collaboration tools from any desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device – making remote teams as productive and connected as their on-premises counterparts. Error-proofing tools even allow you to revert documents to previous versions.
Cons: Because Office 365 can be accessed from any endpoint, your risk of breaches increases. Most team members use personal devices outside of work to access confidential files, and these devices aren’t always protected by the same security as your company-issued laptops or desktops. With a multi-layered solution from a reliable partner, you can ensure your endpoints are protected and eliminate any risk of breaches.
Pros: Slack provides an enriched environment for real-time communications. Set up channels based on teams, departments or projects. Using different Slack channels, you can discuss open tasks, create strategies, get feedback from clients and deliberate more quickly than an email conversation.
Cons: Slack is a great tool when used appropriately, but the platform becomes a security risk when abused. Anyone with admin access can create new channels and take away access from other admins. Usually, this poses no threat, but when a disgruntled employee feels provoked, they could remove admin privileges and start a channel consisting of all your clients. By keeping admin access restricted and putting in fail-safes you can keep your risks at an all-time low.
Pros: Cisco provides crystal-clear quality and uninterrupted streaming with their Webex video chatting service. Converse with teammates and clients around the world and leverage presentation features to keep the entire audience engaged and informed. Eliminate the majority of communication barriers with video feeds that show reactions and nonverbal cues.
Cons: While Webex has a variety of powerful features, those aspects come with a higher price than some competitors. To leverage unlimited cloud recording storage and other benefits, you’ll have to pay more than what comes out-of-the-box. If you’re on a strict budget, you’ll need to pay attention to what features you will and won’t use.
Cloud-based collaboration tools help improve productivity and increase ROI, but you have to find which solution works best for your business. Whether the right solutions for you include Office 365, Webex or something else, we keep your business safe with multi-layered security solutions and proactive support.
For more information on cloud-based collaboration tools and how we can help you improve your productivity and ROI, contact us today.
When shopping for holiday gifts on behalf of your business, keep in mind that tech gifts are always appreciated. Finding tech gifts that recipients will appreciate that are also in your price range can be a challenge, so we’ve put together a menu of hot tech gifts for 2018 in a variety of price ranges for you.
Less than $10
NUBWO Portable Bluetooth Speakers with HD Audio and Enhanced Bass
This handy speaker is not only small (3.8×3.8×3 inches) and light (8 ounces), it also connects with most Bluetooth audio devices in three seconds and provides room-filling sound. It can be used to make hands-free calls from smartphones, tablets and more.
Less than $50
Blue is the hottest name in microphones today. Whether used for recording, streaming, Skype, Twitch, conference calls or any other way a computer microphone can be used, whoever you give a Blue microphone to will be heard loud and clear.
Less than $100
Ring WiFi Smart Video Doorbell
The Ring video doorbell is a tech gift that lets the home resident get up-close-and-personal with whoever rings their doorbell – even if they are on the other side of the country. The doorbell is connected via WiFi, which enables use of the Ring app on iOS and Android.
Less than $150
Beats by Dre Solo2 Luxe Edition Wireless Headphones
Solo2 headphones look like a sports car, feel like they were made for whoever is wearing them and sound totally awesome. Includes HD audio and enhanced bass. Plus, depending on the device you use, the RemoteTalk cable lets the user change songs, adjust volume and make calls without getting up.
Less than $300
4K UHD TV
You can spend $3,000 or more for a Smart 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) TV with High Dynamic Range (HDR), but you can also find a selection for less than $300. 4K UHD TV with HDR is the new standard for Smart TV because the picture has double the pixels in each direction and looks incredible.
Less than $400
Apple Watch Series 4
Perfect for the Apple enthusiast, the Apple Watch Series 4 is bigger, better and more affordable than its predecessor, and one of the hottest gifts available. Displays are 30 percent larger. Sound is 50 percent louder. There’s a built-in GPS as well as potentially life-saving electrical and optical heart sensors. It’s also a true marker of success.
Less than $1,000
HP Spectre X360 Laptop
For the PC user who admires everything about a MacBook Pro (except that it’s a Mac), the HP Spectre X360 is the perfect gift. At 2.78 lb. with a full HD screen (or higher resolution), the Spectre X360 runs Windows 10 and is a business computing powerhouse.
Every item on this list is a business-appropriate gift the recipient will use and enjoy. Holiday gifts let people know they are appreciated and help solidify business relationships. Of course, you’ll want to remember the people who do the work in your organization.
And what about the organization itself? An IT infrastructure that works the way it’s supposed to and drives growth by maximizing productivity is about the best gift you can give your organization. Contact us today to discuss how much more your technology could be doing for your organization.
Taxes can overwhelm the best of us – but if you’re the owner of a small or medium-sized business, Section 179 is well worth the extra effort this tax season. If you’ve put off looking into this bottom-line-boosting provision, let us break it down:
What is the Section 179 tax deduction?
Instead of gradually depreciating technology over several years, Section 179 allows you to deduct the full price of any qualifying equipment or software purchased or leased during the year. It’s meant to encourage businesses to stay competitive by purchasing the equipment they need while benefiting their bottom line. Depreciating assets in the first year also helps reduce overall profit, which is the figure that ultimately determines your tax payment.
Will it benefit me?
No matter your industry or the size of your business, you rely heavily on technology to service your customers, make your job easier and capture your share of the market. Section 179 allows you to upgrade to the newest technologies without the blow of a huge upfront cost. Even businesses with a net loss are qualified to deduct some of the cost of new equipment and carry forward the loss.
- Purchased, financed or leased business equipment
- Computers and “off-the-shelf” software (productive, anti-virus, administrative, etc.)
- Office equipment and machinery (e.g. servers and printers, routers, network switches, network security appliances)
- Commercial use vehicles
- Improvements to nonresidential property
What do I need to do?
- Purchase, finance or lease equipment and put it into use by midnight on Dec. 31, 2018
- Use it for business purposes more than 50% of the time
- Consult with your accountant to determine your eligibility
What are my limits?
- $1M – Maximum total amount you can write off in 2018
- $2.5M – Maximum total amount of equipment purchased in 2018 eligible for full deduction
How can I take advantage of the Section 179 deduction?
- Simply make the purchase and use Form 4562 to claim your deduction
- The full deduction can be claimed until you’ve reached $2.5M in equipment or software purchases
- Past the $2.5M point, the deduction decreases on a dollar for dollar basis and disappears once $3.5M worth of equipment is purchased
Stop making excuses not to invest in yourself and get a powerful edge over your competition by taking advantage of Section 179. Not sure where to start? Contact us today to talk about upgrading your technology infrastructure.
If you have plans to expand your business, your technology needs to scale with you and support your growth. But, your IT team is too busy with day-to-day tasks to perform comprehensive assessments, research the newest tech innovations and create a strategic roadmap for the future. Hiring a costly executive to oversee your IT might be out of the question, but you’re not out of options. Enter a virtual CIO, or vCIO – an expert or team of experts focused on managing your high-level IT needs, for a fraction of the cost of an in-house CIO.
Here are four reasons your business needs a vCIO to succeed:
Creating a Plan for the Future
Your IT might be keeping pace with your needs today – but, without a strategic plan for growth, the technology underpinning your business gives you headaches or fails altogether. A vCIO assesses your current technology infrastructure and consults with you about your business goals to develop a detailed roadmap for the future. This ensures that your hardware, software, applications and other technology solutions align with your needs, and that you’re not wasting time and money on technology that won’t bring you closer to your goals.
Ensuring Business Continuity
Do you have a backup and disaster recovery plan in place? Do you know where your data is stored and how to access it if your primary systems fail due to a natural disaster, cyber attack or employee error? A vCIO designs a disaster recovery strategy tailored to your business, so you’re protected from every angle. They monitor your network 24/7 for potential disruptions and resolve them before they impact your business. Additionally, a vCIO mitigates the risk of downtime and data loss while updating or migrating systems.
Making Smart Investments
New products and services always sound good – but, how do you know if they’ll actually provide a strong return on investment? Virtual CIOs stay up-to-date on tech innovations and understand which ones will support your business now and into the future. Your vCIO can also help you prepare for aspects of the transition that would otherwise cause unexpected hiccups. Make decisions with confidence, knowing that you’re choosing the best investments for your business.
Meeting Industry Requirements
Whether you’re in healthcare, retail, financial services or another industry, you face a long list of regulations – and failing to comply results in crippling fines. Virtual CIOs develop industry-specific experience, so they can help you meet regulations such as HIPAA and PCI, stay current with standards and protect your customers’ data – and your reputation. They can also make recommendations on the best software programs and applications for your specialized business needs.
Virtual CIOs help you achieve success by adding value to your operations – without the full-time salary, benefits and office space of an in-house CIO. Interested in learning how a vCIO can impact your business? Contact us today to find out.
As technology progresses, we’re finding new ways to keep all of our devices connected for a seamless user experience. This idea is called the Internet of Things (IoT), and it works for more than just computing devices – it also includes mechanical and digital objects.
From microwaves, washing machines and lamps to televisions, projectors and security systems, connecting your technologies is a powerful concept. Gartner predicts that IoT will be a $1.9 trillion industry by 2020. So, what do you need to know to take advantage of this trend to grow your business?
The IoT helps you track behavior in real-time and enhances situational awareness, but what does that actually mean for you? Imagine it’s 6 pm, and you’re cooking dinner while listening to music. You connect your mobile device to your surround-sound television. Your technology keeps track of your activity, and IoT uses that information to analyze what you’re doing, viewing or listening to in real-time. Using that data, you’ll gain a customized experience. You skip a slower song, and your devices react by adjusting algorithms to produce fewer slow-tempo songs. Now, imagine how you can use IoT to enhance your customer’s experience. You can use the data you collected to figure out when their technology needs updated or to identify breaches based on location and trends.
It’s important to note that the more devices connected to the Internet, the more vulnerable your information is to unauthorized users. By connecting your mobile device to your home security system, your business’s Wi-Fi, your email and more, you open up a variety of entry points for hackers and other cyber criminals to access and manipulate your systems. But, even the bad isn’t all bad – a reliable IT partner can keep your endpoints protected by multiple layers of security.
When considering an IoT approach, you need to ask yourself a few questions:
- What are the goals of my business?
- What is my realistic budget?
- Which solutions make the most sense for my business?
- Should I integrate technology all at once or in stages?
A managed service provider can help you answer these questions while ensuring IoT devices are properly integrated and secured. Integration begins with identifying your needs, determining which solutions work best for your business needs, then deploying those solutions, testing services post-deployment and protecting your endpoints.
Adopting the IoT approach impacts your business significantly. The vast amount of data and services available can shape your daily workflow. For more information on how IoT can affect your business, or to start implementing IoT, contact us today. We’ll help you work through the good, the bad and the integration.
We can look back on 2017 as the worst of times – when it came to disasters, at least. Severe weather, data breaches and global hacking attempts affected thousands of businesses, costing them an estimated $926 to $17,244 for every minute of unplanned downtime. Instead of letting the unthinkable damage your business, fight back with these five strategies:
- Back Up Your Data to the Cloud
Following Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria, hundreds of businesses found their physical equipment and servers submerged in water. Storing data on-site is convenient, but an unexpected disaster can wipe away years of information in the blink of an eye. Migrating your data to the cloud means your information is protected and readily available – and you’ll never have to start from scratch.
- Prepare for a Remote Workforce
Even after the Thomas wildfire in California was contained, smoke and poor air conditions made it impossible for many employees to return to their offices. Anything from a severe storm to surprise pest control treatments can force employees out of their workspaces, so have a plan in place that will allow your team to access necessary tools from any Internet-enabled location.
- Monitor for Breaches and Respond Quickly
A massive breach of data from Equifax – one of the three largest credit agencies in the US – lasted from May to July and wasn’t reported publicly until September. The Social Security, credit card and driver’s license numbers of more than 145 million consumers were compromised, and victims rushed to protect themselves against potential identity thieves. Avoid losing your customers’ trust by proactively monitoring for breaches, shutting them down promptly and providing a full inventory of the damage to those affected.
- Don’t Underestimate Human Error
People are unpredictable – that’s why 90 percent of cyber security issues stem from human behavior. Employee negligence is the number one cause of data breaches at small to medium-sized businesses. Comprehensive training can close the gap, but it’s not foolproof. Combine your team’s efforts with strong cyber security policies.
- Update Outdated Software Programs
The WannaCry Ransomware Attack, which resulted in hackers taking control of more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries, targeted a weakness in outdated software for which a patch was already available. Hospitals, airlines, police departments and more were brought to a halt, and paying the ransom did not result in the return of data. Update your software regularly to fix vulnerabilities and avoid becoming an easy target for hackers.
Don’t panic. A solid IT disaster recovery plan will protect your business and get you back up and running with minimal – if any – hassle and downtime. Unsure where to start? We learn the ins and outs of your business to develop and implement a customized recovery plan. Contact us today to get started.
We hear a lot about the cloud and cloud computing lately. Some businesses don’t actually know what the cloud is, what it can do for them or where they can even find it – let alone start using it. The cloud isn’t just a passing fad – cloud computing is here to stay and it’s quickly become the best way to future-proof your business.
So what is the cloud, exactly? At its intrinsic level, it’s a collection of computers, servers, and databases that are connected together in a powerful way that users can lease access to share their combined power. Cloud computing is scalable so that buyers can choose to increase or decrease the amount of computing power they need.
Sounds a bit intangible, doesn’t it? Send your company’s precious data up to this “cloud” in the sky, and then what? “Is it worth it?” “Will it help my business grow?” “Is it safe?”
Yes, yes and yes. Major business owners are comfortable enough with cloud computing to future-proof their business, and the impact is global. Media giant Forbes, whose focus is business and IT, has projected that cloud computing will be a $162 billion industry by the year 2020. As it stands now, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is at 19% meaning more and more industries are making the cloud business-critical. Their report also stated that 74% of IT CFOs attribute the most measurable growth to cloud computing.
So what does this mean to you and your company? If you’re looking to ensure your business has longevity in this economy – no matter your niche – then you need to seriously consider making the move to cloud services. Here are five ways that cloud computing will future-proof your business:
- Security for your data – The cloud’s security architecture is multi-layered, and safeguards against the weaknesses that allow cyber attacks to occur. There are different types of security controls employed: deterrent controls, preventative controls, detective controls and corrective controls. All of these things work in tandem to protect your sensitive information and intellectual property, especially where federal compliance regulations are an issue.
- Unlimited mobility – Self-hosting your legacy software and platforms for years places a major stressor on already overworked network servers. The time spent maintaining your hardware and its performance can cost you both productivity and dollars. Application hosting in the cloud gives users the real-time ability to access data from any device, anywhere and at any time. Your staff could be spread across the globe and still collaborate in real-time on projects.
- Scalability – The cloud grows with you. The combined computing power of users in the cloud is scalable so that buyers can dynamically increase – or decrease – the amount of computing power they lease. That flexibility is quite a cost-saver when you consider the impact on your IT budget if you have to upgrade your on-premises servers after you have outgrown your old network.
- Cost reduction – Given the speed of cloud growth and accessibility, it’s been easier, faster and less expensive for software developers to roll out applications as compared to traditional onsite platform development. That cost savings gets passed on to users. You don’t have to buy hardware until you need it, and you don’t have to plan for peak capacity, since most traditional servers are only used at 15% of their capacity. You only pay for what you use.
Lost production hours are a killer when you’re trying to migrate data from one network to another. Firms that handle their own migration on average take 2 months and up to $3,000 to do it. Partnering with a managed IT services provider (MSP) to handle your move to the cloud reduces – and even eliminates – downtime and speeds up deployment by managing your data with new integrated tech solutions, upgrading your performance seamlessly. That’s where we come in.
Moving to the cloud is power. Power to give your company future longevity. And the best way to harness that power is by partnering up with a great MSP, one whose expert team can handle the entire process from start to finish. Give us a call and let us help move you into the future with cloud computing.
If you missed your invitation to the party, here it is. Chances are that your competition is already using the Microsoft Office 365 suite of tools to maximize their productivity and grow their business, so why aren’t you? This is a powerhouse of a platform that will change your business culture and deliver immediate results, and now it’s more affordable than ever.
O365 is more than just another software product – it’s an integrated experience of applications and services with a familiar face. It encompasses Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote and OneDrive – available on ALL of your devices, no matter the operating system. That’s right – O365 is OS-agnostic and works on Windows-based PCs, Android devices, Mac OS and iOS. It also offers the options of these services: Exchange, SharePoint, Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams. Overwhelming, isn’t it? We’ve got a solution for you. (Hang in there, we’re getting to that.)
Microsoft has been providing solutions for some of the biggest companies in the world for decades. Now, with O365, they’ve raised the standard for business growth. Imagine bringing together all of your people, processes and technology and being able to manage all of that productivity seamlessly, all through cloud computing. Office 365 makes that a reality. And if you’re not onboard with it yet, here are five reasons you need to be:
- Ramp Up Your Productivity
Giving your staff the tools to produce their very best work not only raises morale but positively affects your bottom line. The 2018 “Forrester Consulting Report on the ROI of O365” concluded that the group of applications and services that make up O365 cut support time by 50%, saved mobile/field employees at least one hour per day and afforded analysts, managers and sales people the opportunity to make better and faster decisions because they had information in real-time. More productivity means better revenue and happy clients.
- Worry-free IT Performance
O365 integrates seamlessly with your existing system and network. With 24/7 support available, you don’t just add O365 to your productivity tool box, O365 becomes your tool box. To get every last drop out of all the services that make up Microsoft Office 365, you need a great partner to manage it. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
- Cost Reduction
Office 365 is more affordable than ever (subscriptions start at $12.50 per user per month) with all monthly updates and service packs included, and also 1 TB of cloud computing storage per user. Small to medium businesses will love the reliability and security, but even the largest of firms will benefit from this powerful suite of tools. Forrester also concluded in their report on O365 that the delivered 3-month ROI was a whopping 378% (source: 2018 Forrester Research “The Economic Impact of Microsoft Office 365”).
- Increased Data Security
Worried about your data’s safety when it comes to cloud computing? Don’t be. Microsoft Office 365 offers choices, like Hybrid Cloud Computing, and incorporates exclusive, proprietary security features to protect your sensitive data. They have also added in a Compliance Manager to help you meet the standards necessary to keep you in business.
- Real-time Collaboration with Ease
Dream it, design it, create it – then edit and share it in an instant with anyone on any device to any device in real-time. With features like multi-party HD video conferencing, content sharing, team chat and shared calendars, your people can collaborate with the person in the next room, next regional office or across the world seamlessly. Think of all the time and resources wasted in the past trying to get everyone on the same page for a project, using the same processes and technology. With O365 implemented, those days are long gone.
We mentioned before that all of the tools, processes and services encompassed within Microsoft Office 365 can be overwhelming if you don’t where to start. And if you’re not properly managing it – or it’s beyond the scope of your IT department – you’re not getting the full benefits or tapping its complete potential. You need a solid managed IT services provider in your corner.
Don’t worry, we’re here to help. We can offer you seamless integration with your existing servers and network, 24/7/365 assistance, transparent fixed monthly billing (so there aren’t any surprises) and show you and your staff how to wring every last drop out of O365’s platform. You concentrate on running your business, we’ll handle your Office 365.
What are you waiting for? Give us a call today, and let’s discuss how O365 can grow your business!
As Told by Our Experts
Communication is essential to the success of your business. Whether you’re collaborating with team members or meeting with new customers, it’s imperative that you optimize the communication process. But, you knew that. Not because some fancy corporation told you it was crucial, but because 95% of people in the workforce say that face-to-face interactions are essential to building long-term business relationships. But, did you know that unified communication solutions are your best chance of boosting the way you collaborate? We asked our experts and here’s why they said it’s your best option:
- Gives You Call Control | When someone contacts you, whether they’re looking for more information on your products or looking to purchase your services, are they instantly connected with the right person? Maybe… sometimes. But, what about those other times – the times when someone calls and becomes frustrated with the back-and-forth of call transfers and hold time? Unified communications (UC) puts you back in control. When someone calls, you’ll know precisely why they’re calling before you say “hello,” helping them get to the right person the first time.
- Integrates Your Platforms | Deploying a new process and system is difficult if it doesn’t work with your current software solutions. That’s why integrating with existing platforms is an essential part of the decision-making process. UC connects with your instant messenger, fax machine, web applications, video conferencing devices, CRM and more to leverage efficiency and minimizes downtime.
- Enhances the Way You Conference Call | There’s just something about meeting customers and team members face-to-face that helps drive conversations. The majority of communication is nonverbal, between facial expressions and tone of voice. That’s why video conferencing has a ton of benefits for the workplace. UC makes conversing in real-time feasible. By using IP addresses, you can talk with, and see, multiple people from all different locations without skipping a beat.
- Increases the Availability of Your Team | When conversing with your team, you probably find that it’s easier to get your answer quickly when you go see your colleague in person. But, did you know that you’re wasting more time looking around the office than if you were able to contact them directly? With UC, you can instantly message or call your colleague to get the answer you need quickly and efficiently. Whether someone is working from home, in a meeting or gone for lunch, you’ll reach them without stepping away from your workspace.
- Places Accountability Where It’s Due | One of the largest downsides to traditional phone systems is that you never know which employee is talking to which customer (unless you ask). With UC, you trace every call from dial to “end call.” If you’re talking to customers, you’ll know with whom they’ve previously conversed, and if you’re talking internally to your team, you can track and record your conversations with colleagues.
Deploying unified communications is only one way to make communication easier. Are you ready to ramp up the way you conduct conversations?
Contact us today to learn about our other telecom and managed services – let’s optimize your productivity.
Working from Anywhere Has Never Been Easier
In a tech-driven world where digital is king and consumers are demanding transparency and reliability, working from anywhere becomes crucial to the success of your business. But the IT challenges that come with working remotely are intimidating, and you’re not always sure how to get started. Managed services is your answer, and here are five ways managed services can help get you started:
- Mobile/Wireless/Endpoint Protection | Accessing confidential information from personal devices is all well and good as long as they’re kept safe. From theft to phishing emails, personal devices create opportunities for cybercriminals to obtain your customer’s data. With endpoint protection services, you gain a multi-layer security approach to ensure your laptops, tablets and mobile devices are safe.
- Server & Network Management | Protecting your business begins at the core—your network. Working remotely, you need the ability to work on encrypted documents and files from the server, but also, to monitor and maintain a distributed IT infrastructure. With server and network management, you gain a secure connection to your network, so you can access encrypted files and other crucial data while maintaining a multi-location network connection.
- Office 365 | Working with your team is one of the toughest challenges of the remote workforce. With Office 365 services, you gain access to advanced applications including Skype for Business, Word and Excel. You’ll collaborate with team members—from any mobile device—in real-time on a single document and converse using Skype.
- UC & VoIP | Meetings are a large part of your day—you need tools that allow you to continue the conversation away from the office. Unified Communications and VoIP make conversing easier with call conferencing features and reliable call connectivity. By using your IP address instead of a physical phone, you can call into a meeting from any of your devices.
- Cloud Hosting | Connecting with your team is increasingly difficult without a single source for projects and ongoing files. With cloud hosting, your network, servers, applications and critical documents are encrypted and hosted from a single location. This makes it easier for your team to work from multiple locations and a variety of devices.
Whether you’re working from an airplane terminal or from the comfort of your favorite coffee shop, working remotely is easier than ever with a managed service provider. As your partner, we’ll provide managed services designed to make your life easier without raising your operating costs.
Contact us today to learn about our other services, and how we can help you safely work from anywhere.