ICT – Common Outsourcing Mistakes and How they can be Avoided

The best perk that comes from outsourcing in ICT is that it’s a great way to get professional services for a fraction of the price of a full time staff member.  At some point in your business’s growth cycle, outsourcing may become a possibility and may not only be limited to your ICT function.

The main reason for outsourcing, as discussed in an earlier issue, is because it allows you to focus on the expertise of your business while the ICT professionals you have outsourced focuses on theirs.

In recent years, outsourcing, especially ICT outsourcing has gained popularity, especially amongst small and medium businesses. You can choose from outsourcing your entire function, or just a specific project.  Whatever your reason for outsourcing, you must ensure that your choice of ICT professional was the right one.  Here are some tips to guide you:

1.  Price versus Practice: When you are looking for the right ICT consultant, your first instinct will be to go with the cheapest. However, this is one area where trying to save might cost you a lot more.  Before you hire someone, you should do some research, and not just hire a person but a company.

You need to ensure that your professional will always be there, or have someone available to tend to your company’s needs and that their support is 24/7.  You should want your professional to be just that, professional, complete with all the industry qualifications and experience.  You should demand quality, consistency and delivery and by choosing an ICT support provider including a support staff, you have a better chance of having your needs met in a timely fashion.

Look at the whole IT support package before you commit, ensure that the one you choose has the infrastructure of accountability, certifications, training, experience and personnel even if it costs $20-$40 more per hour to hire them.  Making the wrong decision will be costly and time consuming, distracting you from your core business and ending with you having to find another support provider.

2.  Don’t just hire someone who can speak ‘geek’: When you are experiencing problems with your network and your Support Professional discusses it with you, the finer points of the problem may just sail over your head.  Remember, IT support providers who lack the ability to communicate in a non-technical manner and that don’t have a long term strategic view of your company’s business goals will cost you time and money while frustrating you and your employees.

Remember, there are support providers that can communicate technology so that you understand.  It is important to find someone like this, and that you are comfortable with them, because you and your company will be spending significant time with them. They will also be advising you on future technology directions that your company can take, so ensure that you can communicate well together.

3.  Be Prepared: Once you have hired your IT support provider, do not think that once your existing problems are fixed, that there will be no more.  Remember that computers are machines, and as discussed earlier, will break, as all things inevitably do. Not only that, but they may fall victim to human error, become corrupted and encounter hardware or software failure.

You need to be flexible to these problems and have regular maintenance done so that you can nip any problems as they arise in the bud. You should be involved, get an understanding of what went wrong and the steps that your ICT support provider is taking to correct it.  Once the assessment of your IT network is done, be prepared, and remember that your ICT support provider is there to help you.

Formulate a plan, have a long term vision of your network to save nay disappointments and be prepared to make changes as recommendations made will be to the benefit of your business.

4.  Keep the lines of Communication open: One of the most common mistakes business owners make once they’ve found and hired their ICT support provider, is to become uninvolved in the process for which their provider is employed.  Problems arising out of this unconscious decision include a poor relationship with your support provider, your strategic goals being ignored and future technology budgets being compromised.

You must be involved in every step, stage and part of the process of having and managing a functioning ICT network and department.  Exhibit interest at every turn, schedule meetings to follow up on implementation and delivery of goals.  Share your vision and direction with them so that this is kept at the fore of each decision and recommendation being made.

If you cannot be as involved, designate an employee who will be the contact between your company and that of your support provider.  Ask your provider for a plan, so that you always know where they are in getting the job done.  Ensure that your provider has a centralized process for handling and prioritizing problems as they arise with your employees.  Know that your support provider is not infallible and there will be mistakes, even on your end as well, and be willing to apply the appropriate remedies constructively.

Get a report from your Support Provider after each visit and review.  You can use this to measure their performance based on where they are to where they are supposed to be from the plan that they supplied you.

When looking to outsource your ICT function, have a mindset that they will be an extension of your company and so avoid the mistakes discussed above.  Ensure that they are dedicated to you, with all the necessary qualifications, training, experience and infrastructure to make the process a satisfying and hassle free one.

February Quick Tip: Delete an Address from the Outlook Auto-Complete List

To remove an address from your auto-complete list:

  • Create a new email message in Outlook.
  • Start typing the name or address you want to remove.
  • Use the down arrow key to highlight the desired (undesired) entry.
  • Press Del.

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Small Business & Lower IT Costs

Introduction
Happy New Year Everyone!  In this edition, our first for 2010, we are going to take you through some money saving ventures as we  look at your Business and how you can lower your IT costs.  Also, more handy tips and tricks as well as what you can expect in the next issue.
Small Businesses and Lower IT Costs
IT for small business can be viewed as a costly endeavour, and in these times of recession, small business owners may be even more reluctant to take the plunge.  In the high paced world that is technology, it seems like the latest gadget becomes obsolete within a few months. However true this may be, long term investments are possible, once you find the right hardware and software that looks to the future and can be upgraded as time goes on.
This investment can be done gradually so that the costs are not insurmountable from the start; and with the right advice, your technology will not become obsolete a few months after purchase.
1. Have a Strategy: The first thing that you must have before you purchase an IT setup for your business, is a strategy.  You should know how this technology will be used to start and grow your business as well as how it will be used to achieve the goals of your business.  You must also have an idea of the direction that you want the technology to take – whether you want to exapnd to multiple locations with connection to your initial network or automating sytems currenlty being handlded by personnel.
Costs are substantially lowered once you have a plan, since you will be able to predict your IT investment budget and will not be surprised by big expenditures.  This also means that you will not be wasting money on hardware or software that you do not need.  Also, it means that you wil be prepared if there are changes that are legitmate and warranted and you will have a working knowledge of the technology that you need.
2. Invest money up-front on Equipment that will last: When purchasing a computer, instead of going inexpensive with a clone (custom built), it is recommended that you buy a brand name PC that come with software cds, warranty and service agreements.  Also be mindful of investing in technology hardware and software that will grow with your business.
3. Single package for telephone and internet: This will not only save you money, but time too when it comes to paying bills.  Check your local service provider and explore their bundled packages.
By paying a flat rate, you save money on a monthly basis.
4. Invest in a server: While this may be costly initially, it is a long term investment where you will, again, save on time and money.  The server will centrally locate all your documents, so they can’t fall victim to human error of overwriting, deleting or updating.
The central server will be used for daily system backups, anti-virus updates and operating system patches.  Time is saved by doing all these tasks here, rather than on each individual workstation that you own.  Money is saved by not wasting production hours doing said tasks on individual machines.
While the initial set-up cost of having a server inclusive of compatible hardware and software will be high, the long term benefits and return on investment makes it worthwhile.
5. Perform regular maintenance: By performing regular maintenance on your system, you will essentially have predictable IT expenditures and avoid high repair costs when something does go wrong.
Regular maintenance also means that you will have someone who is familiar with your network and configuration.  This means that when something breaks, as they invariably do, money is saved from having someone who is intimate with your setup who can pinpoint the problem and fix it with the least amount of time, production and cost disruption to your business over an IT professional who is unfamiliar and has to start from the beginning.
It is important to know that choosing an IT support provider who provides these types of planning services is  a good indicator of how they will approach supporting your office, that is, proactively versus reactively.
For further information, you can contact us here.
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New Year Greetings

FROM THE MANAGEMENT AND STAFF OF

new-year-2

SMB SERVICES LIMITED

As 2009 comes to an end, we would like to take a moment to share simple words of gratitude with you.  Your loyalty as a SMB client is deeply appreciated and gives us more reason to celebrate and look forward to the fresh beginnings of a New Year and the promise and potential that 2010 will bring.

From all of us at SMB Services Limited, we wish you and your loved ones a bright and prosperous 2010.  And most of all, we would like to share two more words with you…

THANK YOU!

NOTICE OF OFFICE HOURS

SMB Services Limited will re-open on its normal schedule on Monday January 4th, 2010.  We wish you and your loved ones a Bright and Prosperous New Year.

***Please note that remote support is ongoing and in case of an emergency, please call 223-4SMB

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Six steps to future-proof your telephone system

Introduction

Seasons Greetings Everyone! In our last issue, we introduced you to VoIP technology, the history and protocol today. This month, we are going to take you through how you can Future Proof your telephone systems. For your quick tip this month, changing your New Mail Notification Sound.  Also, don’t forget to check our upcoming section for a preview of whats in store in our next edition.

 

Notice

Please be advised that site visits will be concluded on December 18, 2009 and will resume on January 4, 2010. Support will be conducted remotely, and will be available 24/7.

 

Six steps to future-proof your telephone system

The following article was written by a colleague of one of our partners – Ms. Tristan Degenhardt. We would like to share her thoughts with you as this information can prove to be invaluable to you and your business. Please read on:

In the corporate telephony world, there are choices you can make today that include features and functionality that most companies won’t see or use for years. These same systems are versatile enough to address new technologies that have yet to be developed.

This checklist of 6 ways to future-proof your organization’s phone system investment should help you make a smart decision for your organization today and as it grows.

1. Stay away from VoIP lipstick on a legacy PBX pig

Hardware-based Phone System vendors are losing market share and sales are slumping like never before. Software-based phone solutions are also feeling the pressures of the economy but fared far better than hardware-based solutions over the past quarter.

This trend will likely continue, so hardware-based PBX vendors believe the best way to compete is to start bolting on VoIP capability to their products. What this really does is extend the life of these products for a little while, but they don’t stand a chance against VoIP solutions built from the ground up. Get ahead of the game with a native VoIP system.

2. Consider open source

More and more organizations are running mission-critical parts of their business on open source. What was once thought to be the focus of a small group of uber-geeks has emerged as a viable enterprise option. The open source community boasts many developers, creating the next big breakthroughs. While large organizations may topple (read: Nortel), Open source can live on beyond the corporation. It also delivers cost-savings and avoids vendor lock-in.

3. Alleviate management headaches

Proprietary systems require fancy training and certification. As your organization grows, staff turns over or the company consolidates, you don’t want to be stuck in the constant cycle of costly and time-consuming retraining/certification or having to outsource with a pricey, certification brandishing consultant. Pick a system that offers a simple Web interface, similar to other hardware around the office such as routers, firewalls and other systems in your business.

4. Prepare for success

No one goes into business to fail, but many are not prepared for success. Scalability of your phone system is a critical consideration when making a purchase. You want to select a phone system that doesn’t penalize you for your success; this means one that doesn’t charge you and arm and a leg to add users, or is unable to expand to be as large as you require.

5. Don’t be the only one on the block without the cool technology

Analysts agree that companies are moving towards unified communications, where a single solution can provide access to things like conferencing, faxing, chat, etc. Advanced phone systems can even provide a Google map of the caller’s location, video calling, listen-in functionality (great for training and customer service quality assurance), and integration with your customer relationship management (CRM) and ERP systems, etc. Don’t be left out in the cold as new and powerful tools that can help your employees work more efficiently or communicate more effectively come online. Make sure the system you purchase can seamlessly integrate each of these technologies as well as those not even yet developed by using a widely used integration hooks, like XML.

6. It’s time to get out of here

Mobility is not only a hot buzz word in organizations throughout the world, it’s a reality that companies must face in order to remain competitive. In addition, as a company grows, it’s likely that they will want to open offices in geographically dispersed locations. Whether an employee moves across town or across the country, your organization opens an office in Binghamton or Bangladesh, or your suppliers or tech support are located in China, choose a phone system that doesn’t care where you are. Flexibility is key.

 December Quick Tip – Change the New Mail Notification Sound for Outlook

It’s nice to be informed about new incoming mail acoustically, but the standard sound in Outlook gets boring quickly. Fortunately, you can change the sound Outlook plays.  To change the new mail notification sound for Outlook:

1. Open the Windows Control Panel

2a. In Windows Vista:

        Type “sound” in the Search box.

        Click Change system sounds.

OR

2b. In Windows 98-XP:

       Open Sound

       Select the New Mail Notification sound.

       Specify the file of your choice for it.

       Click OK.

Now you can your new mail message can possibly sound like this… “New mail for you, oh my most intelligent and beautiful person!” :)

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Introduction to VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol)

Hi everyone and welcome back. In this issue, we are taking a look at VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), how it began and where it is today.  Don’t forget to check out our Quick tips as well, with some handy shortcuts using the windows key.  

VoIP is probably something you have heard about if you are keen of new computer technologies.  VoIP allows telephone calls over the internet and due to the constantly improving internet connections; it has started to replace traditional phone networks.  VoIP is mainly used by businesses as they are more likely to have access to fast internet connections, needed by this type of telephony.

History

This idea dates back in 1995 and was started by an Israeli computer enthusiast who managed to establish the first phone call between two computers.  Later that year, a software package called Internet Phone Software was developed and released and it was essential for a VoIP connection.  VoIP users needed this software, a modem, sound card, microphone and speakers to be able to use Voice over Internet Protocol.

The Principles behind VoIP

voipIn order to be able to send your voice over the internet, it has to be transformed into digital data.  The digitalization process is called ‘sampling’ and involves ‘breaking’ the sound into very small pieces that can be characterized by a number value.  After this process has ended, the digital result is compressed and divided into small 1500 bytes packets that will be sent over the internet.  Packets contain not only the voice but also data regarding their order needed for a correct reconstruction and data about their origin.  Once the packets have reached the destination they will be reconstructed and the resulting digital data will be transformed back into analogue sound and played by the speakers.

A broadband connection is required due to the large amount of data that has to be transmitted over the internet in a short time to avoid noticeable delays.

The Protocol today

There are many VoIP services available today, suiting any type of needs.  While some are still computer dependent, phone-to-phone and PC-to-phone services are also available.

Although special USB compatible internet phones were developed, the computer can be completely bypassed by internet phones that link directly to a cable or DSL broadband connection via a modem.

For further information on this system, you can contact us here.

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A New Network Monitoring Service

Welcome back eveyone to another edition of our newsletter.  This month we promised to introduce you to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).  However, there is a New Network Monitoring Service out and we did not want to delay in telling you about this exciting new technology.  Also, more tips and tricks as promised. 

SMB is excited to talk about a new Network Monitoring Service now available. This is an easy-to-use, affordable, managed service, aimed directly for you – the Small and Medium Business Enterprise. It boasts being the best monitoring tool and best reporting tool.
 

The Key Benefits of our Network Monitoring Service are:

networkmonitoring1. Cut Costs – This will happen because the software will detect and identify all problems before they become disasters, and with early detection, there will be early resolution avoiding costly production down time. It will also fix other problems before they occur such as disks filling too quickly, Exchange growing too large, failed anti-virus updates and incomplete backuo jobs. Again, proactive support as well as the affordability of is Service.

2. Boost Service Levels – With this service, your support goes from being reactive, to proactive. Simply put, when something goes wrong, instead of you trying to fix it yourself, and when that fails, you call us, leading into a longer down period; the monitoring service tells us about the problem before any down time happens, so that we can address it before it becomes a disaster.

3. Stay focused on Your Core Business – with the Advanced Network Monitoring capabilities of this service providing managed, external, proactive support, this means that you no longer have to worry about your network issues but remain fully focused on your core business – your customers.

Why you should choose our New Networking Service:

1. 24/7 Monitoring – Because we support much more than our clients’ servers, round the clock checks in a wide range of systems that are critical of client’s operations including:

  • RAID and SNMP checks
  • PING checks
  • Bandwidth and website monitoring
  • Windows service failures
  • Disk space thresholds
  • Performance loads
  • Disk health.

2. Daily Server and Workstation Health Checks – Small issues will be spotted before they become disasters with a Daily Health Check of Client’s systems. This will decrease downtime and resolution efforts to ensure:

  • Anti-virus patterns are up-to-date
  • Tape backup is complete
  • Exchange Information store size is within defined limits
  • Disk health and consumption rates are in order
  • Event logs are not showing any important critical errors

With the addition of Workstation Monitoring, alerts can be recieved on important issues such as:

  • AV
  • Disk space
  • Disk health
  • Windows services
  • Event logs
  • Trouble will be seen and dealt with before disaster can strike.

3. Reporting Tool: The Network Monitoring Service also provides, comprehensive reports about your system so that you will always be informed abou the status of your network. This feature will also allow you to predict your IT budgets and aid in the decision making process of the direction that you want to take your network.

4. Ease of installation and setup – this is a brilliant feature that must be bragged about, because it means that there will be

  • Minimal disruption to your productivity
  • Installation can be done remotely
  • No special hardware required
  • Affordable

What you get:

Rather than just server monitoring, the Network Monitoring Service takes a more rounded approach to IT support. With this system, monitoring will be conducted on your Raid arrays, remote offices, ISP connections, bandwidth usage, your website and your server. In short, this software will allow us to monitor the key parts of your whole system that cause the most grief and alert us, enabling proactive support that allows for greater care of you at less cost.

For further information, you can contact us here.

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