How to enable your business IT Systems

Is your business struggling to keep up with technology change?
As a business owner are you swamped with IT issues and user requests?
Do your business’ systems seem old and stuck in the past?

IT for most business has changed significantly in the last 5 years. Traditionally Small and Medium Businesses felt they needed to own their own hardware, software and support infrastructure. To have everything located in your office seemed safe and reassuring that your business was in safe hands. Then along came smartphones, Gen Y, and cloud computing!

So how do you take your business IT systems to the new frontier?

Surprisingly the change isn’t as hard or expensive as you think, you just need to see ownership as an old-fashioned way to view IT, you need to think more about access and scale as the key to better IT systems. By leveraging off broadband and cloud technological advances you can now achieve large business outcomes on a SMB budget.

Microsoft Office 365 is now the default software architecture for Microsoft products in Small & Medium Business, it forms the core of new business IT environments with over 80 million users worldwide and growing fast, it has proven to be reliable & solid.

Office 365 Advantages

Office 365 has been built as a cloud “software as a service” product so it is relatively device agnostic, controlled centrally with security top of mind. This means the Microsoft business office 365 environment is flexible, duplicable, accessible & remotely administered. Beyond the standard Microsoft Office suite benefits we have enjoyed for years it delivers additionally on 4 major areas;

  • Bring your own device – particularly smartphones & iPhones (BYOD).
  • Multi Device with Syncing between devices on multiple operating platforms.
  • Tablets, Smartphone & PC smoothing (same software on different device types).
  • Anywhere access – Security enabled and administered remotely.

This translates into 4 key benefits for users;

  • Same Operation – Outlook 365 looks feels and operates similarly on all device types.
  • Cross Platform – Microsoft, Apple, & Android all just work the same.
  • Simple Downloads – once your Outlook 365 tenant has been professionally setup, data migrated, & deployed – downloading the software on extra devices is easy if you know your admin stuff. Software is updated regularly automatically.
  • Syncing – it just works seamlessly regardless of what device you are using, it stays updated and syncs without any drama, knowing that the Microsoft data centre is doing all this in the background makes the value equation easier to swallow.

Personally, having used the combined office software now for some time, and having downloaded my Office 365 on 4 different devices and types (PC, Smartphone, Laptop, & Android Tablet) I am impressed, particularly with Outlook 365 with corporate grade email access from anywhere across the globe, on any device, and all synced and backed up at the Microsoft data centre. This alone is enough to justify Office 365.

Business Owner Considerations

  • Capital investment – do you prefer to invest to upgrade systems or use a pay as you go subscription model?
  • Space and operating requirements – do you need to run your own infrastructure?
  • Maintenance – would hosting dramatically reduce staff or outsource costs for your IT support?
  • Scalability – will you need to add or reduce users in the future?
  • Operating control – can you trust an external IT expert to remotely manage your systems?
  • Applications – can you use hosted applications or do you need to host locally?
  • Data usage and file sizes – are your business characteristics suitable to use hosted applications?
  • Broadband speed and capacity – can your internet bandwidth handle hosted usage?
  • Statutory data retention – does your business have a requirement to hold and protect data?

End user considerations

  • Access anywhere – do your users need access from PC, tablet and phones?
  • Syncing – do your staff need synced email and data?
  • Information sharing – would accessing business information on the move be helpful to your staff?
  • Seamless networking – would eliminating the need for a VPN reduce access complexity and increase productivity?
  • Backup and central control – would automatic backup and centralized control reduce your risk of user originated data loss?

In assessing these considerations, you may need some additional help to determine if the Office 365 alternative is applicable, feel free give us a call to discuss your situation.

Are you ready to IT enable your business?

So hopefully you can see a clear path to IT enable your business using Office 365 as the core software architecture. Office 365 offers a range of advanced tools that enables your employees to be productive anywhere and at any time across a range of devices. With Office 2016 & Windows 10 now fully proven you can combine to get the very latest software across your business knowing it works and is fully compatible.

If you wish to upgrade your IT Systems it will still requires guidance to get it right, so give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call today and one of our technology professionals will be happy to discuss how Office 365 can benefit your business.

5 Tips to Increase Internet Security in the Workplace

Approximately two-thirds of employers do not monitor their employees’ access to social media sites, according to Media Bistro. As a result, it’s not uncommon for employees to indulge in a little Facebook or Instagram from their work computers. Although many employees use the Internet responsibly at work, a poorly articulated Internet use policy can leave your business vulnerable to hacking, phishing scams and other IT security issues.

Overhaul Your Internet Use Policy

Computer and internet security When was the last time your business revised its Internet use policy and officially updated the employee handbook? If it’s been a few years, it’s worth investing the time and effort into crafting an update. Lay clear guidelines about:

  • Checking personal email
  • Appropriate use of work email
  • Accessing social media accounts
  • Visiting YouTube or other casual entertainment websites

Let your employee know what’s expected. This avoids finger-pointing and arguments after Internet security has been compromised.

Educate Employees About Phishing Risks

Many employees are reasonably savvy about Internet security. Most people nowadays know better than to click on an email link proclaiming they’ve won millions in a foreign lottery. However, today’s phishing attempts are often better disguised. One common version of a scam is a seemingly official email from your company’s IT department or a senior executive. The email contains a link asking employees to reset their passwords by entering their current password.

To keep employees up-to-date about the latest phishing scams, conduct Internet safety training at least once per year. Remind employees that personal information—Social Security numbers, sensitive client information, passwords, etc.—should never be transmitted via email.

Password Security

According to the password management company SplashData, the passwords “password,” “123456,” and “12345678” remained the top options among Americans in 2012. Enhance employees’ password security by mandating more complex passwords. Set a character limit of at least 8, require capital letters or symbols and restrict use of names or birth dates. Even more important is ensuring that employees change their passwords frequently. Every six months, set your email client or other online system to prompt employees for a password change. This limits the potential for security breaches and keeps sensitive information safe.

Never Install Unauthorized Programs

Sure, it’s a hassle to ask an IT representative to install a new program on your machine, but this policy prevents employees from accidentally downloading malicious software. It’s easy to fall prey to hackers, malware and spyware these days—the AV-Test Institute, an Internet security company, registers more than 200,000 new malicious programs each day. To stop identity thieves, routinely scan for identity threats. Communicate these immediately to employees to prevent security breaches.

Police Personal Devices as Necessary

If your company has a bring your own device policy, security is paramount. Before allowing employees to use personal devices for business, reiterate the rules about password complexity, downloading potentially dangerous apps and software and keeping sensitive information secure. If business information resides on a personal mobile device, it must be kept safe.

What is Business Technology Support?

Business technology support can generally be described as a range of services that deliver assistance to users of technology products such as computers, software and mobile devices within an office setting.

  • CloudHelp! Most of us are familiar with the type of technical support that assists users via e-mail, a help desk, online chat or a call center. This type of help covers technical assistance with equipment problems or software issues. Technology support also comes in the form of remote computer repair. This type of support enables a technician to access the user’s desktop via the internet and transfer diagnostic and repair applications. The technician does not come to your location. This can be an effective process for computer optimization or the removal of computer viruses and spyware.  This type of technical support is very popular with business clients with home offices who can’t drop everything to the take their equipment into a shop for repairs.
  • Managed Services Providers can manage all of your businesses technology or just a few specific pieces on an on-going basis. Typically, this is set up as a contracted monthly fixed fee. This service can include monitoring of servers, network security, back-up services, cloud services and vendor management. Some Managed Services Providers also offer dedicated help desk support and on-site visits by technicians. Managed Services Providers have become an increasingly common strategy for small businesses that do not have their own in-house tech support staff. It’s an extremely effective way for small businesses to manage costs with a monthly contract while gaining access to new technology and skilled technicians.
  • IT Consultants and Technical Advisors also offer business technology support at a higher level. The IT professional can work closely with a client to understand the long term plans and goals of the business. This type of working relationship allows the IT professional to make strategic recommendations and develop a technology plan for the business. This involves keeping the client informed about new technology solutions that will enable the business to grow and become more competitive. The advantage of this type of technical support is that the business gains access to an IT professional who keeps an eye on the future and “big picture” thinking when it comes to new technology services, products and solutions.

Yes, business technology support covers a lot of service options. Now you just need to decide what level of technology support your business needs!

7 Reasons why your small business must have a backup solution !

It is 2015, and we all know that every business should have a backup (and a recovery plan) for their most critical data.  The reality is that over 40% of Small and Medium Sized Business do not back up their data at all, and that 60% of backups fail when tested!

It is time for businesses to get serious about backing up their most critical data including client information, accounting files, and company information.  Here are reasons why you need to make sure your data is backed up and you can quickly recover from a data loss disaster.

  1. Backup systemPeople Make Mistakes: Humans account for 30% of all data loss; this includes accidental deletion, disgruntled employees, and spilled beverages.  While human error is going to be difficult to combat, you can at least be sure you are able to revert back to an error-free version.  Many times people unknowingly miss steps in a process or delete files, so having a plan in place to restore the lost information is critical to being able to run your business.
  2. Technology Equipment Fails: The equipment it takes to run your business has come a long way, but nothing is perfect and all equipment is bound to have issues or fail completely. It can be expensive and nearly impossible for your company to eliminate every single point of failure in your IT infrastructure, so the best option is to back up your data regularly and have a plan in place to get the failed equipment replaced or repaired quickly.  This will help to minimize the amount of downtime and revenue loss your business incurs.
  3. Mother Nature is Crazy!: Over the last few years, Mother Nature has wreaked havoc on technology systems all over the world, due to the deep freezes, extreme heats, and mass  flooding that has taken place.  Businesses that do not have a backup and recovery plan in place will have an uphill battle trying to resume operations in the event of a natural disaster.  In fact, an estimated 80% of all companies that experience a business interruption of greater than five days, without recovery plans, go out of business.
  4. Competitive Advantage: It is a weird thought, but having a backup and recovery plan in place can actually give you an edge over your competition.  In the event of a disaster, the first business to become operational again is in a unique situation to acquire all the business of those that are still recovering and not able to meet the needs of demanding customers.
  5. Theft: Theft can impact a data loss in a multitude of way including hackers scraping client information or an employee’s company laptop or mobile device being stolen.  Educating employees on Internet safe practice will help safe guard your business against viruses and hackers, but if a device is physically stolen it becomes more difficult.  Having a backup will help get the employee back to work quickly, and with the growing number of Mobile Device Management solutions you may have the ability to virtual erase all of the most confidential data from the stolen device remotely.
  6. Compliance Regulations: Many Professions and businesses are required by law to have a backup and recovery plan in place, if you are unsure what is required by your industry you need to investigate right aware.  Many times if you are audited and out of compliance it can lead to hefty fines and penalties, that cost much more than just establishing a backup and recovery plan in the first place.
  7. Cold Hard Facts: If none of these above reasons have convinced you to call your local Computer Troubleshooters office to find out how our experts can make sure you have a reliable and tested back up solution in place maybe these eye-brow raising statistics will:

    • 60% of companies that lose their data will shut down within 6 months of the disaster.
    • Every week 140,000 hard drives crash in the United States. (Mozy Online Backup)
    • 93% of companies that lost their data center for 10 days or more due to a disaster filed for bankruptcy within one year of the disaster. 50% of businesses that found themselves without data management for this same time period filed for bankruptcy immediately. (National Archives & Records Administration in Washington)
    • 34% of companies fail to test their tape backups, and of those that do, 77% have found tape backup failures.
    • 2,000 laptops are stolen or lost every day
    • 46% said each hour of downtime would cost their companies up to $50k

We understand that it is human nature to believe that you will never be impacted by one these statistics, unless you have been through a data loss or had your device stolen.  Data loss comes in all shapes and sizes, and without a backup and recovery plan in place your business will face problems at some point!

So we challenge you to think about how much money you are losing every time a server or desktops fails and your employees cannot work, or you clients cannot complete purchases.  Putting a proactive backup and recovery plan in place today will save you time and money later when disaster does strikes!

Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support – DIY vs. Outsource

Microsoft Office 365 continues to dominate the space for a small business suite of office applications. As a cloud hybrid licence it offers the scale benefits of corporate grade email & the Microsoft office suite, without the upfront capital requirements of a Small Business Server environment. According to Microsoft, Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support can be taken on by the technically literate person without the specialist knowledge required for a server implementation.

So can Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support actually be undertaken as a DIY project in a Small Business with limited IT knowledge & experience?

A typical Small Business IT Environment

As someone who is not a technical expert, but who is technically literate I embarked on testing this DIY theory for myself. My partner has a small rapidly growing business with four staff, and they were looking to avail themselves of all the benefits that Office 365 can offer.

The business is run from multiple offices (mostly home offices). Increasingly the business needs access to data and email services on the go from multiple devices such as laptops and iPhones. With a cloud hosted application database system, and Xero as their main financial and CRM system they have been on their way to the cloud for some time. They already use the basic Microsoft Office 365 products such as Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel, & Word on a continual basis and would like to share files between all the staff as they have clients who interact regularly with different staff and orders. Increasingly this has meant sending files to each other, and as the business is growing they have also found they need to cover for each other when staff are away or unavailable.

Their current IT environment has meant they often have trouble letting clients know when they are away or travelling, and often they have trouble identifying the latest version of files to use as the business has become more complicated. The existing laptops were due for upgrading being over 3 years old, and they were increasing worried that if they lost or damaged a laptop that all the information, files, setting and knowledge would also be lost. As the owners of the business they had their own phones but didn’t want to provide iPhones to the employees. Additionally every time they travelled (particularly overseas) or were on holiday they had issues sending emails.

Office 365 is the answer?

In the past the solution would have been to install a Microsoft Small Business Server to the local network. These servers had exchange email, shared calendar and contacts, file sharing and remote access capabilities. Small Business servers were expensive in terms of initial hardware, licensing and implementation costs, and on an ongoing basis, IT support, maintenance and power consumption also weighed heavily. Additionally, considerations needed to be made for physical space and air conditioning, wiring/cabling etc.

Nowadays Microsoft Office 365 is the answer, with all these functions, but without the large capital expenditure expenses or the need to setup locally. Of course, now you pay a monthly subscription to Microsoft to provide the back end hardware, software and infrastructure in their Australian data centre.

Office 365 Setup

Office 365 can be setup through a number of channels in Australia and New Zealand. Options include direct with Microsoft or through authorised Cloud Service Partners like Computer Troubleshooters who are typically used to provide implement and support Microsoft hosted services.

Licences – You need to learn & understand the licencing structure to determine which plan is right for each of the users. Bear in mind that you can have different users on different plans depending on their usage. So you might have one user who users all the Office products, and some who just need email.

Subscriptions –  You need to buy & provision the Office 365 licences, this is generally transacted over the web but you need to be careful if you are buying a by the month or annual plans (general the annual plans have a small discount). You may also be asked to buy an annual licence, but pay monthly.

Administration – Once your domain has been setup with Office 365 it is relatively simple to set up each user in your admin account. The admin account is the central hub of Office 365 that sits over the top of each of your user accounts & allows you to do all the configuration at a domain level. This includes password, collaboration, profile & user management that is the heart of servers.

DNS Management – You need to change your DNS settings with your domain provider. Office 365 provide you with the DNS setting changes that you need to put into your current domain providers portal to direct emails to the Office 365 host. In my case this took a couple of hours before the change was done by the provider.

Download & Profiles – Once each user is setup by the admin & the DNS change is made, the users can then setup their account of their own hardware just by downloading the software direct from the Office 365 hosting site. They can setup a new profile for Office 365 or integrate Office 365 into the existing profile, this is probably one of the most confusing areas that can take some time to resolve. This software can be downloaded by the user to a maximum of 5 of the user’s devices (PC, Macs, smartphones or tablets). Usernames and passwords associated with each user will of course be needed for the download.

Office 365 Migration

The migration of existing data, files and setting will depend on the current IT environment

  • A server to Office 365 migration requires movement of all data & user profiles to Office 365, these need to match correctly with passwords and user profiles for a smooth transition. The data migration will depend on each user’s data size, but typically the migration of a large mailbox may take a few hours. The big difficulty is that in the interim, emails may be lost or not received.
  • A pop email migration is fairly simple, as the data is on the user’s laptop, so that the data can be simply held on the same machine and the office 365 profile directed to the exiting email store.
  • Files will depend on where they are currently stored, but can be moved to OneDrive or SharePoint once the account profiles are setup.

Overall migration is really a factor of how much data is being migrated and where it is currently stored, remembering that with Office 365 you are effectively transferring the data store to a data centre so it needs to transferred via your internet to seed your account. Just be aware that you need to understand your broadband data allowance and the effect on data speeds that you may encounter during the migration.

Office 365 Support

If something goes wrong support is a major issue – understanding the role Microsoft support plays in helping with office 365 deployments should you encounter an issue you don’t understand. SLA Critical & Urgent incidents where they are responsible is fairly prompt, calls are answered within one hour and update provided very 2 and 24 hours respectively. However, issues raised as important or advisory are updated every 72 hours or as decided by Microsoft. So experiencing an issue during migration it will be difficult to get prompt Microsoft support.

Office 365 – My DIY Experience

My experience in getting Office 365 fully functional is fairly positive I managed to get all 4 users setup over 2 days & get all the niggling issues sorted over the following days. Although I later discovered that by default Office 365 was rejecting the forms from their WordPress website for over 2 weeks. The disruption to the business was minimal although getting non-technical users setup with both laptops and mobiles was difficult to the extent they all needed to visit the office to get setup. The time did include formatting 2 new laptops and setting them up. We did lose emails in cutting over for a few hours.

The end result is that I estimate I took me around 6 hours per user to get everything working 100%. When I sent this information out to the Computer Troubleshooters group they laughed. In general, they charge for about 2 hours labour and have tools that automate much of what I did manually. Some tools they use do the migration before the cutover, so that when a user sets up their profile the data and setting have been pre-provisioned, so no business interruption in encountered and they can do the migration at night over weeks so there are no data slowdowns during business hours.

Office 365 – My Recommendation

My experience suggested it takes about 6 hours per user to manually setup, migrate and then tweak Office 365 for a small group. That said I do work in IT Marketing and have used Office 365 in my business for some time so I did start with an advantage. If you are not good with IT, I would definitely get an expert to do it.

The bottom line is most business people earn more in 6 hours than they would paying an IT expert 2 hours in labour, & that is not taking into account the niggling WordPress issue that was solved by the Computer Troubleshooters guys.

So if you are thinking of setting up & migrating to Office 365, at a minimum I would get a quote from an IT expert to see if the trade-off is worthwhile. Most expert Office 365 guys will give you a quote to compare. Even if you try yourself and get stuck you have a good idea for the alternative should you need help in a hurry.

Office 365 – Office 365 Setup, Migration & Support outsourced

Computer Troubleshooters can provide professional IT services to your business to provision and administer Office 365 environments as needed. Office 365 purchased through a Cloud Service Provider like Computer Troubleshooters is at no additional cost to purchasing through Microsoft.

Let the experts at Computer Troubleshooters work with you to assess your IT needs and develop a customized plan for your business. Computer Troubleshooters can manage your IT services and you can manage your business. Give your local Computer Troubleshooters office a call and one of our computer professionals will be happy to help you.