Wednesday, November 24, 2021

What the COVID-19 crisis taught us about the cloud and business continuity

What the COVID-19 crisis taught us about the cloud and business continuity

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life as we know it, in many ways. While its impact on our day-to-day lives has been huge, the impact has been even more severe from a business perspective. The social distancing norms, staggered operating hours so as to limit crowds, the masks, shields, barriers, and what-not! From the business continuity perspective, companies have had to adapt themselves to the new normal very quickly.

During this global crisis, one technology that truly came to the rescue of business big and small was the cloud. The cloud made it possible for businesses to keep their operations running even with staff working remotely. With all critical data stored online, all that was needed was a compatible device with an internet connection and it was business as usual...well, almost.

Here are some core business challenges that were resolved due to the cloud.
  • Access to core business data and software programs that were needed for smoothd day-to-day operations
  • Data security concerns, though not entirely non-existent due to the use of personal devices, were largely taken care of, thanks to multiple layers of security offered by the cloud service providers
  • There were no “hardware hassles”...companies that were already on the cloud didn’t have to worry about the logistics of providing office computers to their employees working from home. With all the data stored online, they could use their home computers or tablets to get the work done.
Earlier what was perceived as an advantage for employees (the permission to work from home) was now mandatory for survival of the business. Even businesses that allowed employees to operate from home before the pandemic had a tough time migrating their entire setup to the work-from-home model.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

What’s your argument against an SLA with an MSP? Part-2

What’s your argument against an SLA with an MSP? (And why it doesn’t hold water) Part-2

In our last blog post, we discussed 3 reasons SMBs usually cite for not signing a service level agreement with an MSP. In this blog post, we suggest how an SLA with an MSP will add value to your business, irrespective of your business size, budget and the presence of an in-house IT team.

Reason#1: Our IT requirements are limited

IT is not a one-time thing where you can follow a set-it-and-forget-it approach. Want this to run smoothly? IT needs regular maintenance-- a service level agreement with an MSP is the answer. Regular data backups, timely security patch application, software updates, etc, are all important and won’t happen unless you have a dedicated resource working on them. Plus, there’s the issue of network latency. Services like periodic network monitoring offered by MSPs ensure that any latency issues are identified and taken care of before they result in a major system failure.

Reason#2: We are tight on budget

Agreed that SMBs may not have the kind of revenue inflow as expected in large organizations, but that’s no reason to skimp on your IT requirements. Skimping on IT needs and diverting the funds elsewhere may sound tempting, especially when your IT infrastructure is running great, but this can cost you a lot more in the event something goes wrong. Let’s take a look at a malware attack scenario, for example. If you don’t have an SLA in place, you are most likely to reach out to an IT expert or MSP on a transactional basis. It will not only result in a sky-high bill, but also, there’s no guarantee that you will be immediately attended to: customers with SLAs get preference over transactional ones in the event of an emergency. Plus, every minute your IT infrastructure is down, you are losing potential revenue--through online or even offline sales. In the event of a data leak or a compromise in customer/vendor data due to the malware attack, you are liable for penalties and may be even sued by your clients. So, saving a few bucks here and there by cutting back on IT expenses can prove much more expensive later.

Reason#3: We have our in-house IT person/team

So, you have in-house IT personnel? Great! But there are ways in which an SLA with a managed service provider can still add value to you. This kind of setup is called the co-managed IT model. By bringing an MSP onboard when you have an in-house IT team, you B
  • Benefit from their expertise and enrich your in-house IT team’s knowledge
  • Enjoy flexibility in terms of meeting your IT needs as you can scale your IT up or down based on your business needs
  • Reduce payroll expenses incurred as result of hiring new IT staff in-house
  • Help your in-house IT team focus on more important tasks by outsourcing the mundane IT processes to the MSP
  • Get an extra hand to assist your in-house IT personnel in the event of a major IT issue
  • Have 24/7 IT support, something that may not be viable with a small in-house IT team
Having a service level agreement with a managed service provider adds value to businesses under all circumstances, and should be considered an essential, not an option.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

What’s your argument against an SLA with an MSP? Part-1

What’s your argument against an SLA with an MSP? (And why it doesn’t hold water) Part-1

Managed IT services are becoming more popular by the day. Businesses, big and small, are bringing managed service providers onboard to handle their IT requirements. The bigger IT players like IBM, Accenture, CISCO act as MSPs to larger organizations, while the typical managed service provider is often hired by SMBs. However, there’s a question that crops up time and again--Do SMBs really need an MSP? SMBs are sometimes in two minds when it comes to bringing an MSP on board and typically use one of the following justifications.

Our IT requirements are limited

A lot of businesses in the small to mid-size range believe that their IT needs don’t warrant a full-time service level agreement with an MSP. They believe the only times they need to invest in IT is at the start of their business or when rolling out new technology. As a result, they don’t see much value in signing a service level agreement with an MSP.

We are tight on budget

SMBs also tend to cut on the IT budget and invest those funds elsewhere--generally in areas where they see tangible results, such as hiring new customer-facing staff or a new advertising campaign. So, when SMBs find themselves a little tight on the budget, the IT department sees the cut.

We have our in-house IT person/team

Businesses with an in-house IT expert or even a small in-house IT team feel that is sufficient for handling any IT needs and an SLA is just an added expenditure.

So, did your reason make it to the list? Stay tuned for our next blog post, where we will discuss how an SLA with a managed service provider can add value to your business.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Equip your business with the IT foundation it needs to compete and win

Equip your business with the IT foundation it needs to compete and win

In a recent industry survey, it was found that one of the biggest factors holding back small and mid-sized firms from achieving their business goals was IT. One may argue that smaller businesses lack the capital that the bigger players have to invest in their business, but even with all other aspects being more or less equal, the difference brought about by their lack of investment in IT was found to be a key differentiating factor--far more than other elements such as marketing, human resources and even industry expertise.

There’s no denying that IT plays an important role in keeping any business running. Ignoring your IT infrastructure can prove disastrous, but maintaining an in-house IT team to take care of it can be expensive--especially for SMBs. By outsourcing IT to a trusted MSP, businesses can benefit from significant cost savings that arise from not having to hire an entire IT team in-house.

The second instance where having an Service level agreement (SLA) with an MSP helps is where you don’t have an in-house IT team. Calling on an IT service provider when there is a crisis or a there is a one-off event may mean significant surcharges

When businesses have SLAs, the MSP will be regularly monitoring their IT infrastructure. A typical service agreement will cover regular backups, periodic network monitoring for latency issues, timely security updates and patch application, etc., This means the chances of severe IT issues will be drastically reduced. Most of the time, the problem can be identified much sooner before it becomes a full-blown issue. And, in the event of an IT emergency, a client having a service agreement will be prioritized by the MSP. One time emergency requests fall to the end of the line.

Irrespective of the size of business, MSPs can add tremendous value by bringing scalability, flexibility and innovation to the standard IT set-up and help build the IT foundation it needs to compete effectively and efficiently in the industry.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Transitioning from average to best-in-class with IT

Transitioning from average to best-in-class with IT

Many small or mid-sized businesses don’t focus much on IT as they should. For a lot of them, the focus is on customers, ensuring they have enough staff to meet their client needs, expanding their business and driving revenue by selling. IT comes into the picture initially when the business is being set up. Once they have their IT infrastructure up and running, it tends to take a backseat. The typical mid-sized or small business owner seems to prefer the firefighting approach to IT--meaning, they reach out to an IT service provider only when they have an IT problem.

Interestingly, this is the key difference between the average SMB and best-in-class SMBs. The best-in-class SMBs tend to adopt a more proactive approach towards IT. They either have an in-house IT team or sign-up with a Managed Services Provider to take care of their IT needs on a regular basis. In contrast to the average SMB, the best-in-class almost always has a Service Level Agreement (SLA) with a reputed MSP.

Businesses that have service contracts with MSPs have access to the latest technology. The IT industry is constantly evolving and managed service providers are well aware of the changes. They know it first when a new technology is gaining widespread adoption across various industry verticals and can advise their clients accordingly. On the other hand, the in-house IT team may be too busy handling the day-to-day IT requirements to be able to focus on new technology and the various ways in which it can be applied to benefit the business. This specialized focus of MSPs also makes them a great asset to have on board when implementing new technologies or deploying new IT projects within the business.

Having a dedicated MSP-partner to take care of all IT needs helps businesses give 100% to other areas that help the business grow. With IT issues off their shoulders, management can focus more on clients, brand and market expansion.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

All Good Things...

 

Collaboration in business is not a new thing



As children we are told by our parents that "All good things must come to an end.." And so it is in the world of technology.

Today we at NetWerks Strategic Services recognize a technology milestone..  25 years ago, we became a Novell partner..  What's a Novell, you might be inclined to ask..  Once upon a time, there was a network operating system vendor named Novell who had the whole world in their hands.  Yes, before Windows Server, there was this operating system called NetWare which was for many years the market leader in connecting systems together. That might not sound like much, but back in the day, it was huge. In fact, you actually had to be very knowledgeable on both product and support, and pass some brutal certifications, just to play in the Novell sandbox..  Today – if you can fog a mirror and write a check, many vendors will consider you an “authorized partner”.

 Why do I bring this up..  Call it nostalgia..  call it a cry out for sympathy..  call it drivel – you decide..

 Today we finished migrating the last of our current clients off of what was then a popular Novell (now Micro Focus) product.. this amazing product called GroupWise. The day has been bittersweet. 

 Back in the days before Microsoft Exchange and its plethora of latent vulnerabilities lived a collaboration (email) system called Novell GroupWise.  It was ahead of it’s time, and had many features that were considered the gold standard among communication systems. In it’s time, it was king.  Easy to use, rock solid stability, and secure.  Veritably impervious to computer virus transmission short of opening an infected attachment directly made it a big hit for security wonks like yours truly. Admins loved it for the fact that once properly configured, it was a set and forget system for the most part.

 One thing Novell failed to execute on (besides marketing), sadly, was work closely with other software vendors to integrate the GroupWise ecosystem with other line of business applications.  When Microsoft Office and Exchange took a dominant position as the de facto standard of office collaboration utilities, a key factor was that Microsoft invited integration with various applications. Through the use of object linking and embedding API’s, integrating with other applications was fairly straight-forward.  Regardless of the fact that OLE is a double edged sword, Microsoft began wolfing down Novell’s lunch.  It truly is a shame, as GroupWise was in all ways superior at that time.  Unfortunately, the lack of integrations and an inability to properly market the product had taken it’s toll.

 Present day.. GroupWise is still a thing.  And it is still, as a rule, impervious to viruses as it does not script anything within the message (which is still a big concern with the Outlook email client). Unfortunately, the inability to directly integrate the platform with many popular line of business applications remains. Without robust support of third party application vendors, GroupWise has been relegated to a less than main-stream existence. It still has a following, and some level of market-share, but nothing like in it's heyday.

 Parting is such sweet sorrow as a rule, but in this case, for my last remaining GroupWise users, the ship has sailed, the need for seamless integration now a priority.  Another factor was the support challenges.  As fewer and fewer mainstream users entered the pool, support resources seem to have dwindled.  Innovation has slowed, and the once proud mover of messages has been pushed to the back end of a dimly lit shelf.

 Will GroupWise ever experience a return to its former glory? I couldn’t tell you.  Time will tell.

 If your organization is still working with GroupWise – more power to you.  If you need assistance and are having trouble getting answers, get in touch with us, we will do what we can.  If you are looking to abandon ship and migrate to either Microsoft (Office) 365 or Google Workplace (G-Suite), we can help. https://getnetwerks.com/connect.html

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Social media at work what could go wrong?

Social media at work...what could go wrong?

As a business, there is no doubt today that you need to make your presence felt on major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. But social media also exposes you to cybercriminals. In this post we talk about the steps you can take to ensure your social media account doesn’t become a gateway for cybercriminals to access your data.

Make someone accountable
The first step to a successful and safe social media experience as a company is to make someone in your organization accountable for it. Designate a social media manager who is responsible for maintaining your company’s social media accounts. This person should oversee everything--from the posts and pictures in your company account to approving/disapproving ‘Friend’/’Follow’ requests.

Train your employees
Of course you should train your employees who handle your official social media accounts about the security threats and how they need to steer clear of them, but you also need to train other employees who are not on your social media team as they could be a weak link that a cybercriminal could exploit to reach your business. Seems far fetched? Not really. A lot of people trust their ‘friends’ on social media and also unwittingly share a lot of information, which can be used to hack their personal accounts and devices, which in turn, may act as a gateway to your business. Teach your employees about general social media best practices in terms of security and also educate them about the privacy settings they can use to ensure there data is shared with trusted individuals only.

Take the necessary security measures
Make sure the devices you use to access your social media accounts are protected with firewalls and anti-malware tools and all security updates and patches are up-to-date.

Password hygiene
Practice good password hygiene and encourage your teams to do the same. That means no password sharing, no sequential letters/numerals, no obvious words or numbers as your social media account password.

Frame a social media policy
You should also frame a social media policy that spells out the dos and don’ts of social media that everyone in your organization should follow. This is important from various perspectives as employee’s statements on social media may be perceived as a reflection of your business’s values, whether you like it or not. This can make your business a target of cybercriminals and lawsuits.

Putting your business out there on the social networking sites gives your brand a lot of exposure, presents paid advertising opportunities and even helps you build and manage customer relationships, but as discussed, it can be tricky to navigate in terms of security. Businesses may find it overwhelming to manage their social media security strategy all by themselves can reach out to a managed services provider. An MSP with experience in social media security can be a valuable asset in helping you build a strong social media security strategy.