IT Consulting: Consulting Services

Ready to migrate your business data and files to the cloud? It’s important to keep your organization’s sensitive data safe and secure. The good news is that safe cloud migration is simple: here are the questions you should be asking to ensure you’re ready for the big move.

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Types of Managed Services / Looking at the Various Services and Security Options We Offer as an MSP

Ready to migrate your business data and files to the cloud? It’s important to keep your organization’s sensitive data safe and secure. The good news is that safe cloud migration is simple: here are the questions you should be asking to ensure you’re ready for the big move.

Business Benefits of Cloud Computing / Key Advantages and Best Practices for Today’s Cloud Products

Ready to migrate your business data and files to the cloud? It’s important to keep your organization’s sensitive data safe and secure. The good news is that safe cloud migration is simple: here are the questions you should be asking to ensure you’re ready for the big move.

Your new CIO: how a great managed service partner (MSP) becomes your virtual CIO

If you’re hoping to successfully implement and leverage technology across your business, then you need the support of a Chief Information Officer (CIO). The good news is that there’s no need to employ an in-house CIO. Here’s what you need to know about partnering with a managed service provider (MSP) for your IT needs and how your MSP can also act as your virtual CIO (vCIO).

Why you need an MSP 

Whether you’re in healthcare, finance, or general commerce, you can benefit from partnering with an MSP in the following ways. 

Increased productivity 

One of the biggest challenges and cost pressures faced by SMBs is downtime. The average company loses over 500 hours of productivity per year due to downtime, and a typical employee spends at least 30 minutes per week on IT-related troubleshooting. 

An MSP provides 24/7 IT support and has the expertise to not only get you up and running again as soon as possible, but also provides proactive support to prevent those downtime-causing problems in the first place.  MSPs reduce downtime and minimize wasted resources. 

Increased cybersecurity 

Cybersecurity is a huge issue for every business. A study, conducted by Michel Cukier, Clark School assistant professor of mechanical engineering profiled the behavior of “brute force” hackers, who use simple software-aided techniques to randomly attack large numbers of computers. It was discovered “There was at least one hacking attempt every 39 seconds, on average, 2,244 times a day”.

With an MSP’s support, you can protect your vulnerable infrastructure and receive the education and training staff requires to help spot and prevent phishing scams. These scams are usually emails or text messages that appear to come from a trusted company. Employees will unknowingly contribute to these scams without proper training. An MSP can help you stay one step ahead before these scams infiltrate your systems. 

Increased value

An MSP adds real strategic value to your company because they help you access and implement cutting-edge IT solutions, such as cloud-based platforms and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). With the right IT, you can get ahead of your competition and generate sustainable growth for your company. 

How your MSP can be your new vCIO

Since a CIO is responsible for overseeing a company’s overall IT strategy and assessing the role that IT plays in the organization, it makes financial and commercial sense to turn your MSP into a virtual CIO. Here’s why. 

Budget and risk tracking

The IT budget is a major concern for all companies, and no one understands this better than the CIO. An MSP can serve as your vCIO by providing IT strategies, products, and training that align with your IT budget. 

What’s more, your vCIO can give you comprehensive advice on the risks associated with failing to upgrade systems or monitor your networks, and they can help you prioritize where to invest your budget according to a risk profile. 

Infrastructure monitoring

For most companies, purchasing, upgrading, and maintaining IT infrastructure can put a major strain on the IT budget. When you partner with an MSP as your vCIO, you can get remote access to the latest servers and IT infrastructure. This means you can reduce costs and free up valuable office space. 

Expertise sharing

With a vCIO, you’ll have access to comprehensive, expert IT advice on demand. Your MSP is dedicated to helping your business succeed, and they’ll offer you IT advice specifically tailored to your own corporate needs and goals. An MSP has the expert knowledge to serve as a partner in any IT-related challenge. 

Find your ideal CIO 

Whatever niche you operate in, you’ll always benefit from introducing a vCIO into your hierarchy. By leveraging the industry knowledge and expertise of an IT consultant who fills that CIO role, you gain access to a staff of people who can guide your IT planning and strategy in a way that’s tailored to your goals. For more information on why an MSP is the ideal vCIO for modern businesses, or to work with us, contact us today. 

How a managed services provider reduces your business downtime

Every business suffers downtime at some point due to servers failing or the internet crashing. However, an experienced IT specialist can substantially reduce your downtime and minimize any undesirable consequences. Here’s why downtime is such a problem for any business and how a managed service provider (MSP) can help you reduce your downtime frequency. 

The impact of downtime on your business 

Downtime has serious and tangible consequences for any growing business. Let’s take a look at some of the most common effects of business downtime. 

Cost 

The most significant cost of downtime on your business is the toll it takes on your bottom line. 

Reports show that downtime can cost your business up to $10,000 an hour in profits. This means that if systems are down for too long, small businesses may struggle to recover from the financial losses. The reality is that no business, whatever size, can afford to ignore the possible financial consequences of prolonged downtime.  

Morale and productivity

Employees who frequently waste time troubleshooting IT problems are unhappy ones. Working on outdated, slow, or inefficient computers can seriously affect staff morale and reduce productivity rates. When your teams are unproductive, your employees are less effective and there is an increase in frustration.

Reputation 

If your business is prone to downtime, this may affect how well you communicate with consumers and how available you are to clients. If, for example, clients find they frequently can’t contact you because your lines are down, they may look elsewhere for their business needs. 

How an MSP can help to reduce downtime 

With the support of an MSP, you can minimize your downtime and keep your business profitable. It all comes down to having the right strategy. Here are the top four reasons that an MSP should be part of your overall IT strategy. 

Cybersecurity 

A staggering 95 percent of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error, often because employees don’t know how to identify security breaches or resolve them when they occur. An MSP provides you with network monitoring to minimize the risk of intrusion and help to detect vulnerabilities should they occur. 

24/7 support

Your MSP shouldn’t just offer an easily accessible ticketing portal. They should be available at any time to troubleshoot your IT problems as they happen. MSPs understand that the business world doesn’t sleep, and they provide you with support when you need it most. 

Auditing

Sometimes, downtime is an inevitable consequence as a result of outdated equipment, unsupported software, and overstretched infrastructure. An MSP can audit your existing IT infrastructure and advise you on what needs upgrading – usually within your existing IT budget. 

What’s more, since you can transfer much of your backup and network monitoring needs to an MSP, it can help leverage existing technology to receive more value from the hardware you’ve already invested in.

Risk management

An MSP can help you identify the main threats and risks affecting your business and devise a strategy for managing these challenges. Whether you’re at an increased risk from a cyberattack or your business is growing at a rapid pace and your infrastructure is struggling to keep up, an MSP will advise you what steps to take to control your unique business risks. 

Minimize impact

The reality is that downtime costs time, money, and resources. Although it’s impossible to prevent every cause of downtime, especially natural disasters, extreme weather, and power outages, it’s absolutely possible to minimize the impact of downtime on your business operations. For more information on reducing the loss of time, contact us today.

The 4 parts of a holistic risk management strategy

Risk management is an essential part of any organization’s existence. As businesses throughout the United States become more dependent on digital technology each day, failing to manage risks can be detrimental to your business. On average, most companies take nearly 6 months to detect a data breach, even major ones. If there is no strategy in place, your business could be in the dark about their data loss for half a year.

Treating risk management and reduction as a tick-box exercise isn’t enough. To make your efforts effective, you need to create a holistic risk management strategy. Here are some of the components such strategies need to feature:

Enthusiasm at board level

Every person who works for you plays a role in reducing risks. Around 90% of cybersecurity breaches arise as a result of human error. Although you won’t be able to eliminate human error entirely, you can significantly reduce the effect that it has.

One way to make your employees more effective at reducing security risks is to generate an enthusiasm for risk management at the board level. When employees can see that board members are driven by the idea of tighter security, they’re more likely to embrace better risk management practices themselves.

Detecting patterns & addressing them

It’s rarely the case that an exposed risk or breach occurs at random. When you continuously analyze events, you’ll start to see a pattern. Being able to identify and address those patterns is important, especially when you want to reduce risks for the future.

One way to detect patterns is to audit breaches. You may also want to try vulnerability detection. Gather your data on a regular basis and look for areas where you’re falling short. By accepting that new risks will always arise and that they’re rarely random, you can build stronger defenses.

Reduce bias and group-think

Naturally, there are some employees and groups who are better at managing risks than others. However, that doesn’t mean they’re completely risk-free. In many respects, those who fall into the trap of thinking that risks don’t apply to them can become the riskiest individuals of all, due to self-bias.

Continue to educate all members of your workforce all potential risks to reduce the chances of self-bias. For example, around 55% of employees believe that letting a friend or family member use a company device isn’t risky. In reality, such actions could pose a significant threat to data security. If you become aware of a particular group failing to apply proper standards of risk aversion, make sure you educate them as a whole to cut out group-think.

Find new risk management opportunities

Although it’s useful to analyze patterns to find areas in which you’re not managing risks well, it isn’t a future-focused approach. In the spirit of becoming more robust on the risk management front, start looking for new opportunities.

Begin by looking at approaches that your organization doesn’t currently use. For example, off-site data storage for disaster recovery purposes. Then, look at the latest trends and technologies. Discuss whether using new technology will benefit your business with your IT team. If they feel as though the new technologies are worth investing in, take the plunge.

A holistic risk management strategy involves thinking outside the box. Always consider the human factor, i.e. addressing how your personnel approach and engage with risk. Make sure your strategy remains flexible, too. As your organization changes, so should your policies of risk management. Reach out today and let us help guide your risk management strategy.

Why your business needs managed cybersecurity

Long gone are the days when your cybersecurity could be an afterthought. Thanks to increasingly sophisticated threats, you need to take every element of your business seriously.

If you’re lacking the resources required to step up your security in-house, now’s the time to start looking at a managed service provider. Before making your final decision, you should learn why your business needs managed cybersecurity and how it could benefit. 

Round the clock care

According to Cynict.com, a hacker attack happens every 39 seconds and this affects one in three Americans every year. With such a high risk, constantly protecting your data should be the top priority. With round the clock care, the risk of your data being stolen is dramatically decreased.

Although you may struggle to continuously monitor your systems around the clock on your own, the right firm will not. With round the clock care, there’s a stronger chance that your business will remain safe against cybercriminals. Criminals don’t limit their operations to office hours alone, so your security systems shouldn’t rest either.

Real-time threat prevention

Not only are cyberattacks occurring around the clock, but they’re also becoming more severe too. One of the most serious threats to business is ransomware. As the name suggests, this malicious software holds your network for ransom. If businesses don’t pay the specifically requested sum within a certain period, the bad actor may delete the stolen data, causing disaster for business owners.

A massive loss of data will cost your company, big time. Globally, this tactic is set to cause $20-billion worth of damage by the year 2021. Real-time threat prevention measures identify vulnerabilities and threats and address them before the damage is done. This is a much more effective strategy than responding to threats after they’ve occurred, as it keeps your systems safe in the here and now. If you’re not able to provide real-time threat prevention, a dedicated MSP can do the job for you.

Security awareness training

Your employees are among your biggest assets when it comes to keeping your systems secure. Unfortunately, they can also be your biggest vulnerability. Employees who aren’t aware of best practices may inadvertently lose your data or introduce a new threat. Because of this, you need to do what you can to train them in safe and responsible operations.

If you don’t feel as though you have the skills required to deliver awareness training yourself, ask an MSP to do the job for you. A great MSP will look at current gaps in your workforce’s knowledge. From there, the MSP’s team will educate your employees in order to fill those gaps. In addition to educating your current employees en-masse, you should provide direct, one-on-one training to those who are new to your company or who are moving into different roles. These can be serious weak points for an organization.

MSPs are experts when it comes to managing cybersecurity risks. They’re capable of delivering round the clock services, which means your security defenses won’t weaken when your offices close, and can detect and respond to threats before any malicious action is made. When you recognize the need to train your employees in excellent security practices, an MSP can do the work for you. All you need to do is find a company that is a great fit for your business.

The 5 Factors That Drive Data Outsourcing

Outsourcing data can be hugely beneficial to small businesses looking to streamline costs, improve their overall efficiency, and comply with their sector-specific data security regulations. Here’s what you need to know about the factors driving small businesses to outsource their data, and why outsourcing may benefit your company

What data outsourcing is

Data outsourcing is the process of hiring an outside organization, such as a managed services provider, to handle your data needs. This means there’s no need for you to buy your own data storage devices, or invest in extra office space to store the infrastructure. 

The global outsourced services market is growing each year and is now worth over $86 million. Small businesses contribute to this growth, with over 37% of SMBs outsourcing at least a part of their services or operations. 

The 5 factors driving small and medium-sized business to data outsourcing 

Factors driving data outsourcing include cost, efficiency, and procedural streamlining – let’s take a look at the 5 most significant drivers. 

Cost Predictability 

Cost is a huge reason why businesses outsource their data centers. It’s expensive to purchase and maintain the appropriate hardware, and companies are under continued pressure to control their IT budget. Data outsourcing keeps costs manageable and predictable.  

Internal Efficiency

Managing data centers can impede your staff from focusing on more productive, profitable tasks. Companies often outsource their data centers because they want to increase internal productivity and streamline day-to-day operations. 

Limited Downtime 

Website downtime costs businesses money. In fact, downtime costs the average US business $100,000 per hour, which a small business may struggle to recover from. Companies often outsource their data because they’ll benefit from reduced downtime and less chance of data loss or corruption. Without worrying about system performance, businesses can focus on staying profitable. 

Risk assessment

A risk assessment of your business may reveal fundamental data security or compliance vulnerabilities that you don’t know how to resolve. Additionally, businesses often find that they don’t know how to comply with their sector-specific data security requirements, which leads them to outsource their needs to a specialist company that understands the evolving demands of regulatory compliance. 

Expert Oversight

It’s becoming more complex, and more expensive, to safely manage energy-efficient data centers. Businesses may find that it’s more practical, and inevitably cheaper, to outsource this responsibility to a dedicated external team.  

How to know when it’s time to outsource your data 

The reality is that every business is unique, and so there’s no single way to tell when it’s time to consider data outsourcing. However, here are some ways to identify that it might be the right time to outsource your data needs. 

  • It’s time to streamline your IT budget and company costs
  • You’re looking to improve your company’s internal organization 
  • You can’t afford the monetary and reputation costs of downtime
  • Your line of business requires regulatory compliance
  • You don’t have the capacity to store the physical data centers your growing business needs

If you identify with these statements, it’s certainly worth considering data outsourcing. 

Conclusion

Although many businesses outsource their data needs to streamline costs, there are a number of factors that influence a company’s decision to outsource to a data center. For more information on data outsourcing and the factors to consider for your business, contact us today.

What Is a Data Center?

In the modern world, the importance of data cannot be underestimated. All businesses – big and small – rely on data one way or another to execute their daily operations.

“Today, every company is a data company. Whether they know it or not.” – Forbes

Therefore, data storage is important, whether you know it or not.

The majority of businesses choose to house their data in an off-site data center. In this article, we’ll breakdown what a data center actually is, what its functions are, and how it can help SMBs thrive in the contemporary business landscape.

What is a data center?

Put simply, a data center is a facility that businesses and organizations use to store their networks, applications, and data.

Modern data centers look quite different from those that dominated the market just a few years ago. Today, traditional on-site infrastructure and physical servers have given way to virtualized, cloud-based infrastructure.

These cutting-edge centers support applications and networks across a whole selection of geographically distinct infrastructure. They stretch through public and private clouds via computers, smartphones, and other mobile devices. They are in a continual state of flux, offering users an unprecedented level of flexibility and scalability.

Why do data centers matter to businesses?

Data centers are essential to businesses of all sizes and scopes, operating across countless industries and sectors. Why? Because they support business-critical operations, applications, and activities, such as:

  • File Sharing and collaboration services for enhanced workplace productivity
  • Email
  • Customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Communication services, such as VoIP
  • Productivity applications
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Big data

Data center components

A whole lot rides on a data center’s ability to deliver its service quickly, efficiently, and reliably. To achieve this, data center design typically includes the following components:

  • Routers
  • Firewalls
  • Storage systems
  • Servers
  • Switches
  • Application delivery controllers

Vitally, these components must be protected with state-of-the-art security defenses. Six out of every ten businesses have experienced a data breach in the last three years – with so much at stake, data storage providers are continually updating their software, technology, and even physical practices (locks, surveillance, and even security guards) to minimize risk.

What supports the components of a data center?

The hardware and software components of a data center demand significant resources and infrastructure. To ensure they continue functioning at peak performance – even during power outages, severe weather events, and other interruptions – data centers usually include:

  • Power subsystems
  • Uninterruptible power supplies (UPS)
  • Fire suppressions systems
  • Advanced cooling systems
  • Ample ventilations
  • Backup generators
  • Connections to external networks and other centers

Are data centers subject to industry standards?

Yes. Businesses, organizations, and even governments rely on data centers in order to undertake their daily operations. What’s more, data centers are often tasked with housing private or sensitive information; information that, if it found its way into malicious hands, could be used for nefarious purposes.

The most common standard for data center design is ANSI/TIA-942. This ensures compliance with one of four categories:

  • Tier 1 – Basic site infrastructure. Tier 1 data centers provide limited protection against physical threats, such as in-person security breaches and natural disasters.
  • Tier 2 – Redundant-capacity component site infrastructure. Tier 2 data centers safeguard data against most physical events.
  • Tier 3 – Concurrently maintainable site infrastructure. Tier 3 data centers protect data against almost all physical events. What’s more, most components used in the center can be replaced without causing downtime.
  • Tier 4 – Fault-tolerant site infrastructure. Tier 4 data centers offer the highest level of protection against physical events. All components used in the center can be removed, replaced, upgraded, or repaired without causing disruption to the end user’s experience.

Considering a data center for your business? GroupOne can answer any questions you might have – reach out today.

5 Qualities That Make a Good IT Consultant

Are you considering hiring an IT consultant for your business? You’re in the right place.

As IT consultants ourselves, this is something we know a lot about. And, in today’s blog, we’re going to be talking about the five key qualities that make a good IT consultant — and why they matter. 

Here they are:

1. The ability to ask the right questions — and then listen to the answers

When an IT consultant begins a new project, they need to figure out several things before they can get started.

Each business is unique. Each has different needs and priorities. What matters to one business might not matter to the next.

It’s important for an IT consultant to avoid making any assumptions. This can affect the success of a project before it’s even begun.

Instead, the consultant needs to know the right questions to ask. They need to be able to extract just the right amount of information from project stakeholders.

But there’s something else too: A good IT consultant will listen to the answers.

An article in the Harvard Business Review highlighted this recently, claiming an inability to focus on the client’s needs is one of the biggest reasons consultants fail:

“It’s the most basic principle of entrepreneurship: you can only successfully sell what your client wants to buy.”

2. Excellent communication skills

Following on from the above, IT consultants need to be skilled communicators. This includes figuring out how much technical information the stakeholders can understand.  They need to be able to deliver the right amount of technicality to each stakeholder.

This isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

The consultant must simplify information to the appropriate level. If they deliver technical information to non-technical stakeholders, it’s likely important things will be lost in translation.

Similarly, delivering simple information to technical stakeholders can result in frustration and a lack of confidence.

3. Expertise and experience

This should go without saying, but with the rise of “IT gurus” online, it’s easy for people with little experience to market themselves as experts.

If you’re considering hiring a consultant for your business, it’s important you to verify their expertise and experience before you commit.

How long have they been working as a consultant? What was their experience before that? Where have they studied? How do they keep up to date with current trends?

These are all questions you should be asking before you engage with an IT consultant.

4. Trustworthiness

A good IT consultant is trustworthy. Not only that, but they should be able to demonstrate their trustworthiness with past results and testimonials from happy clients.

When this information is lacking, it should act like a big, red flag that the IT consultants don’t have the skills and expertise you’re looking for.

5. Flexibility

Finally, a good IT consultant is flexible. They are able to adapt to any business, quickly picking up on the unique aspects and nuances that make the organization different from the rest.

As Jon Younger said in a recent Forbes article: “Naturally, over time skill requirements for independent consultants change as project themes change.”

Good IT consultants keep learning. They adapt as the industry changes and learn new skills as they’re required.

They’re not rigid in their approach. They start by learning more about how your business works. And then they tailor their tried and tested approach to work for your organization.

They prioritize connection — ensuring your needs come above all else.

If you’re looking for an IT consultant that can help you scale your business, these qualities are essential. 

They will ensure the consultant forms a solid understanding — starting from where you are now and taking you to where you need to be (and beyond).
Do you need to know more about this? Get in touch using our contact page — we’d love to hear your thoughts.