5 Benefits of Cloud Computing for Small Businesses

5 Benefits of Cloud Computing for Small Businesses

What is Cloud Computing?

Managing a business is not easy. With high risks and fierce competition, it is crucial for business owners to access data whenever and wherever a need arises. Technology has made this possible nowadays through cloud computing.

Presently, cloud computing is used as a collective name for different services such as:

  • Cloud storage lets users store and back up files, share and sync them across various devices, and regularly access them.
  • Cloud backup is mainly used for backup in case of data loss caused by a crash or cyber attack.
  • Software or platform as a service provides online services such as Google Apps and Office 365.
  • Cloud hosting enables different services such as data storage, email, internet phone systems, and application hosting.

Traditionally, data can only be accessed from the same computer where it was initially saved. With cloud computing, users can rent cloud space from a provider and connect to it over the internet. Data can then be easily stored and retrieved anywhere and anytime. People just have to go online on their computers or even their phones to get the job done.

There are 4 cloud computing models to choose from based on access and infrastructure management.

  • A private cloud is managed by an internal or a third party IT company. This option offers exclusive access as well as more flexibility, and control.
  • A public cloud is managed off-site by a third party provider such as Microsoft or Google.
  • A community cloud is a private cloud shared between several organizations or enterprises.
  • A hybrid cloud is a mix of private and public cloud services. For example, users can utilize the public cloud for emails while keeping more sensitive data in a private cloud.

Cost Savings

Cloud computing may cut down the cost of data management and maintenance. Users can choose their preferred deployment model and customize their storage capacity to match their needs and budget.

Companies can also cut back on costs for system hardware and software. Since data will be stored in the cloud, it minimizes the need for physical servers. It also means lower energy consumption and cost. Moreover, using cloud applications is a cheaper alternative to buying and installing different software. Various cloud computing services now offer multi-applications to meet every possible business needs.

Since there is no need for software and server infrastructure, cloud computing also means less start-up expense.
With cloud computing, maintaining the applications and services is the cloud vendor ’s responsibility. This means that businesses no longer has to pay an expert staff to install and update programs and applications as well as run backups on the servers.

Increased Security

When it comes to security, it is easy to see how cloud-based solutions are better than local systems. It’s obvious, for example, that a cloud computing vendor would have better physical security than an in-house computing system. Cloud vendors and IT providers are both equipped to keep data safe in case of power outages or natural disasters.
With hacking and data theft prevalent nowadays, a username and password combination is no longer enough to keep data secure. Cloud vendors employ multi-factor authentication which combines various methods such as passwords, tokens, and fingerprints to verify users. This level of security is something that a small to medium-sized business usually doesn’t have the resources to implement.

With cloud computing, there’s also no need to worry about data loss in the event of a misplaced or lost physical device. Having cloud storage means that there is always a copy of data that can be easily retrieved on the cloud.
Security patches improve and keep systems up to date as well as fix bugs and security vulnerabilities. Managing patches is a tedious task that includes application and testing. It can also consume a lot of time which small to midsize businesses usually cannot afford. Cloud computing, however, allows comprehensive and efficient solutions that not only reduce downtime but also increase security and productivity.

Flexibility & Mobility

Cloud computing gives employees more flexibility and mobility. Since data is stored in the cloud and applications are web-based, users can easily take their jobs on the go. This is a big advantage especially for employees who usually work in the field. Applications are also made compatible with different devices now so they can be easily accessed using any internet connected device.

Moreover, in case the office server is down, cloud data is up 24/7 and can be retrieved anywhere and anytime. It means less downtime and continued productivity.

Increased Collaboration

Cloud computing just made collaborating easier than ever. With various applications to choose from, workers can share data seamlessly and efficiently. Emails, instant messages, and video conferences allow users to interact and collaborate on projects. They can also easily save, retrieve, and share data among one another. Additionally, cloud computing enables several people to work on the same document at the same time.
Specifically, Microsoft Office 365 has many tools that will help your team collaborate seamlessly [link to blog article].

Sustainability & Maintenance

Depending on the provider, updates to your cloud computing service may be part of the contract. Updates usually are done regularly and automatically on the vendor’s side. Users can, therefore, enjoy the benefits of the service without worrying about the technicalities of maintaining a cloud computing service.

Conclusion

The world is fast-paced, and the internet makes it even faster. Businesses need to keep up to survive.
Cloud computing provides an affordable solution for small to midsize companies not just to store data but to increase efficiency and productivity. In addition, it helps companies save cost on hardware, software, and manpower. It also provides better data protection as compared to locally managed servers.

One of the biggest advantages of cloud computing is its ability to let people access information whenever and wherever. The flexibility and mobility that cloud computing offers increases users’ productivity and efficiency as well as improves collaboration.

And possibly most important of all, cloud computing takes the burden of maintenance off of the users’ shoulders. Users can now focus more on what matters – making the business prosper.

5 Things Your Disaster Recovery Plan Should Include

5 Things Your Disaster Recovery Plan Should Include

No one can predict when disaster will strike, so you can’t do anything about it except prepare for the worst. The alternative is too damaging. A FEMA report stated that almost 40 percent of small businesses close their doors after a natural disaster, and a large number never opens again.

While a lot of businesses have a contingency plan in place for flooding and the like, they usually neglect to prepare for situations like cyber attacks, hardware failure, or human error. But in today’s world, this is akin to a major disaster. Not only can this halt business operations, confidential and crucial company data could be compromised or lost.

A solid disaster recovery plan is essential if you want your company to survive a disaster, whether natural or human-made.

If you’re unsure of how to go about it, consider these five things your recovery plan should include:

1- Establish Backup Solutions for Data

A good disaster recovery plan begins with data backups. You can get your business up and running again even when systems are down if you have a copy of your data. So the first and most important step is to ensure that you have comprehensive backup systems in place that record data changes regularly.

How often you backup your files depends on the amount of work you do. A daily backup is ideal for some companies, but other businesses may need to back-up hourly to avoid large data loss.

Companies should also have an alternate backup process. A lot of businesses now consider cloud backup as an essential complement to their recovery plan. There are several benefits to this solution:

  • Affordable
  • Saves time
  • Easy access anytime and anywhere
  • Easy to navigate interface
  • Data secured offsite

2- Train a Disaster Recovery Team

Any disaster recovery plan will be useless if there’s no team backing it. Because no matter how comprehensive your strategy is, your staff will still be blundering their way around problems and support tickets if they don’t know how to work the plan.  

The creation of your data disaster strategy and the selection of your recovery team go hand-in-hand. Select a group comprised of people from various departments when possible. Each member should be trained in the recovery plan and well aware of their designated roles. By involving them in every aspect of the recovery plan, your team will always be ready for any eventuality.

There should also be a good communication plan in place, and all pertinent emergency contact information for all members included.


3- Draft a Third-Party Contact List

Put together a list of all the critical and relevant contact people outside of your company. The list should include every software and hardware vendor you work with, data centers, and internet service providers. Having a contact list of all third-party personnel on hand will make your disaster recovery plan more effective and efficient since you can contact them quickly.

Companies should also take the time to check if their service-level agreements (SLAs) with vendors cover emergencies or disasters. Businesses that have outsourced their technology or are storing their systems in a data center should make sure that they have a binding agreement that clearly states the level of service third-parties will provide in the event of a catastrophic circumstance. You can even include a time frame to getting systems running in your contracts. Taking this step will ensure that the other party will begin working on finding a solution to your problems promptly.

4- Develop Network Diagrams and Emergency Procedures in Advance

Develop standard operating procedures and any explanatory diagrams in advance. You don’t want to start outlining your recovery steps or creating visuals on how to deal with an emergency right when the disaster hits. You should have all the procedures and diagrams prepared so the right people can act immediately.

Your emergency procedures should also include information on where employees will go in disaster situations. Disaster recovery shouldn’t just be about your technology systems. After all, what good would your backed up data do if your staff has no place to work?

Secure an alternate work site if your main office isn’t available. Make sure your employees know where they should go. Provide a map to the location and diagrams on seating assignments. The temporary office should be fully operational, with the proper equipment to conduct business and communicate with the relevant people. Business owners should also be open to alternatives like employees working remotely.

5- Run Tests and Keep Updating Your Plans

Planning is an excellent way of anticipating problems and coming up with solutions. But the only way to check if your plan will work is to run tests. For instance, what if your most recent backup is full of corrupted files? What if one of your legacy systems and your backup software is not compatible? Conducting dry runs and going over hypothetical worst-case scenarios will expose possible problems before they become a reality.

Your company should also consider just how quickly technology changes. Evaluate your disaster plan regularly and take the latest technology into account. By using the newest tech tools alongside your disaster strategy, you can create a culture of innovation and prudence. It will also help make your company resilient to disruptions and unforeseen events.

Remember that designing a disaster recovery plan should not stop just because a catastrophe has been averted. It should be refined, updated, and tested continuously. Schedule reviews so that everything – contacts, recovery team members, and processes – are current and complement your company’s immediate business goals.

Conclusion

No disaster recovery plan is perfect. The only thing companies can do is to come up with the best method of action. But don’t just focus on significant disasters or large-scale hacking. You should also make room for human error or those small scenarios that could happen at any moment. A comprehensive recovery procedure can mitigate disaster and ensure your business is still up and running.

 

5 Ways A Managed IT Service Provider Will Save Your Team Time

5 Ways A Managed IT Service Provider Will Save Your Team Time

Time is one of the most valuable assets to businesses and individuals alike. There’s no doubt that technology is helping us to operate more efficiently, but at the same time, we often fall prey to various issues such as network downtime and hardware failure. And if you are already stressed, dealing with such issues becomes even more difficult. It means that you will have to deal with more than you planned for and often times, pay more than you planned for. Having a managed IT service provider is one of the best things you can do for your business to ensure that you are operating efficiently and effectively at all times. They will help your team stay focused on the tasks that matter most.

Let’s take a look at five ways a managed IT service provider can save your team time.

1- Improve Efficiency

Outsourcing IT management can have so many benefits, starting with improving everyone’s efficiency in the company. Imagine if people in your company spend time dealing with IT problems rather than working on their tasks. This can translate to losses for your company. Work is interrupted and people become frustrated. This not only ruins their day but the overall production processes of your business.

If you have a managed IT service provider, then your employees never have to worry about troubleshooting tech issues. They can focus on their work and produce high-quality output. And you can rest easy knowing that you have support from expert technicians who provide quick and effective solutions around the clock. With proactive monitoring, routine maintenance, and automatic upgrades, your technology will never quit on you again.

2- Assist with Short-Term IT Projects

There are several short-term IT projects that any company will have to plan for. Having a few employees who have little to moderate knowledge in the IT field is not enough. However, with the help of a team of IT experts, you will be able to manage short-term initiatives, transitions, and upgrades with ease. Whether it is the installation of new hardware, transitioning to the cloud, or training your employees to use a new software, the right managed service provider will ensure that your projects are successful.

In addition, a good managed IT service provider has flexible plans that will fit your needs and your budget.

3- Optimize Your Workflow

The requirements of every business organization are different. A managed IT service provider can work with you to identify “time wasters” and then will suggest proven tools, products, or systems that save you and your employees time, improve collaboration, and increase overall productivity.

The right partner will offer innovative solutions that lead to increased revenue, employee engagement, and company growth. In fact, if you’re interested in learning more about this, check out our article on Microsoft Office 365 Collaboration Tools: 5 Microsoft Office 365 Tools That Will Help Your Team Collaborate Seamlessly.

4- 24x7 Support

With a managed IT service provider, you can enjoy the benefits of having an expert team that can provide 24x7 support. Whether your team has a technology issue or simply has a tech related inquiry, you can take comfort in the fact that you have a dedicated team to resolve issues effectively and quickly. You simply have to call customer support and they will resolve the issues as quickly as possible.

To make sure that you will have the support and help that you need when you need it, the managed IT service provider has coordinated shifts where there are dedicated staff to attend to your problems any time. This is very convenient for you and your employees because tech problems can arise at any time and having an IT team on standby is priceless.

5- Identify Ideal Technology and Solutions

Beyond resolving tech problems, a managed IT service provider can help you select optimal tools, technologies, vendors and carriers. The requirements of every business organization are different. So it can be extremely beneficial to rely on IT experts, as they are always up to date with the latest technology and will know which options are most suited for your type of business.

An MSP will conduct a complete audit of your business and help you find the solutions that will meet your needs perfectly. They will approach your needs strategically so that all factors such as quality, service, reliability, and value for your money will be considered.

Having a managed service provider means that you will not have to spend time trying to make complicated IT decisions for your business.

Bottom Line

What will a poor IT solution cost your business in terms of time and resources? It is clear that a quality managed service provider will help your team to run like a well-oiled machine– day in and day out. They will be able to craft services and solutions that are tailored to your company’s individual needs and budget.

Compared to maintaining your own IT team, or worse yet, not having one at all, a managed IT service provider will save your company time and money.  So what are you waiting for?

 

5 Microsoft Office 365 Tools That Will Help Your Team Collaborate Seamlessly

5 Microsoft Office 365 Tools That Will Help Your Team Collaborate Seamlessly

It’s no secret that effective communication is the key to getting the job done. Many businesses operate asynchronously with teams spanning different locations, time zones, or just working on different schedules. The ability to manage workflows effectively and communicate quickly and succinctly without disrupting another’s workflow or unnecessarily wasting time is a vital component of every business’ success.

Microsoft Office 365’s Collaboration Tools

Microsoft Office 365’s Collaboration Tools offers a one-stop shop for troubleshooting these workflow needs.

Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft Outlook is the most widely used business email and information management application in the country. Email is the main function of Outlook, but it has a few other outstanding features, as well. Using the calendar, you can organize meetings and schedule tasks. You can also manage contacts and build to-do lists. This application is a powerhouse when it comes to organizing your business life.

Skype for Business

Skype for Business offers video conferencing where attendees can share their screens and whiteboard their ideas in a virtual setting. With one click, you can join a meeting from any device. You can choose to have a meeting immediately or schedule one for a later time using Outlook.

OneDrive

OneDrive is an accessible, secure place to store files in the cloud, so your team can access them anywhere. You can even access your files without being online, so you never have to worry about missed work opportunities. Additionally, you can easily share files and folders with other coworkers.

Sharepoint

Sharepoint makes OneDrive even better! It makes organization and project management among teams very efficient. It is basically an intranet-style content management system that allows multiple individuals and teams to work on documents at the same time. You can also set up calendars that sync with Outlook and instant message during document editing.

Yammer

Yammer is an instant messenger that can be used for quick and easy conversation and collaboration. You can create groups so that everyone involved in a particular project is clued into important conversations. You can also attach relevant images and files, search conversations, take a poll, or make a quick announcement.

All of these applications integrate well with each other and have many more features and benefits than we mentioned here. The best part is that with Microsoft Office 365, you can avoid using multiple logins and random tools to get work done. It truly is a one-stop shop that can have a huge impact on your organization’s productivity.

Feel free to get in touch with us to find out how you can take your team’s communication and collaboration to the next level.

Microsoft Office 365 Collaboration Tools

Looking for simple ways to improve meetings? Technology can help.

Looking for simple ways to improve meetings? Technology can help.

Looking for simple ways to improve meetings?

Technology can help.

Modern technology can improve so many different facets of your business. But in some cases, these areas might not be so obvious. In other words, you and your team are so accustomed to the status quo that you don’t even think of other possibilities… like your meetings for one.

Incorporate the tiniest amount of technology into your meetings, and you can easily increase productivity, improve engagement, and maximize collaboration. Here are a few quick ideas to help you and your team make the most out of all those meetings.

Apps

Apps aren’t just for building magical kingdoms and swiping to the left for hours. Apps can also be used to pull off more effective meetings. With the right set of meeting apps at your team’s side, you can schedule sessions (Calendly, Appointlet, NeedToMeet), track minutes (Team Meeting Timer, Lucid, Less Meeting), build agendas (Minute), jot down notes (Cisco Spark), share files (Dropbox), and so much more. Apps like these will help you and your team get on the same page and stay there.

Big Screens

Who doesn’t like a big screen? Throw one of these bad boys into your next meeting, and you’ll notice the engagement levels shoot through the roof. But it can’t be just any big screen… it needs to be a touchscreen, write-all-over, connect-to-business-applications kind of big screen. In other words, something like a Mondopad. Use this gadget like you would a whiteboard but also do things like video conference and screen share.

Phones, Laptops, and Tablets

Most people think it’s a terrible, terrible thing to use a phone or other connected device during a meeting… but why? Maybe back in the day this was looked upon as a business Faux Pas, but nowadays, it should be considered something relatively normal. Allow people to bring their devices into a meeting so they can take notes, schedule activities for later, and manage their time more effectively. Otherwise, you’re limiting their abilities simply because someone at some point told you to do it.

Tech terms to know in the modern business world

Tech terms to know in the modern business world

Tech terms to know in the modern business world

Tech terms are everywhere, and it seems like everyone uses them nonstop. But do they actually know what they mean …? Do you…?

If not, here are a few tech terms every modern business professional should be familiar with. Learn what each term means and pick up a few conversation starters in the process.

Cloud Computing

When you store your data within a remote or offsite server, you rely on the cloud to handle business. This usually means you can access your data from any location or with any connected device. It improves your flexibility and makes your business more mobile.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN gives you and your staff the ability to access your private business server using a public network. In other words, you can work and send information using any internet connection, as if your computer was directly connected to the private network. This is highly recommended if you have remote employees.

Keyword

A keyword is what people use to search for something on the internet. It isn’t always one word, and it can be as generic or as a specific as you need it to be. This word or phrase should sum up the gist of your webpage and help people find your site easier.

Vector

A vector can be many things, but here, it’s a graphic. These graphics are made up of “paths” rather than pixels, making them easy to work with. A designer can cut these images out with little hassle and use them within a design. Typically, vectors seem more “cartoonish” in nature.

Hot Spot

At this point, most everyone should know what a hot spot is but just in case… A hot spot is simply an area that provides internet access, typically found in places like a coffee shop, airport, hotel, or college campus. It isn’t always free, and sometimes it’s password-protected.

UX

UX stands for user experience. When you have a good UX, it normally means you have a pretty solid website (or app). In others, people enjoy being on your site (or app). It’s easy to get to, easy to maneuver through, and nice to look at.

I.T.

Information technology is the long-winded version of I.T. This term encompasses your network and all the hardware within it that stores, sends, and receives data.

Managed Services Providers (MSPs)

A Managed Services Provider is basically an I.T. company that proactively maintains and monitors your network, hardware, and technology infrastructure as a whole. Traditional I.T. companies use the Break-Fix model (Your computer breaks, you call the company, and they come and fix it). On the other hand, MSPs regularly update and manage all aspects of your technology to fix issues before they even happen.