Painless hardware updates and upgrades

Every business needs to update its hardware from time to time to stay current and competitive on the technological front. The problem for many businesses, though, is that hardware updates can be disruptive and difficult to manage without negatively affecting day-to-day operations.

Luckily, if approached correctly, hardware upgrades don’t have to be a hassle.

Here are four tips your business can use to ensure that its next round of hardware updates goes smoothly and results in as little downtime as possible.

Go through a comprehensive planning process

Before executing major hardware updates, it’s critical for your business and the managed IT service provider you’re using to plan the process out thoroughly. You need to know exactly what hardware needs to be replaced or upgraded, then develop a plan to handle the updates with as little disruption to your everyday business operations as possible.

Staging and testing new equipment before bringing it into use can be a good idea, as it will help to eliminate downtime during the upgrade. Your plan should also cover the disposal of your old hardware since you won’t want it taking up space around the office.

Make sure your team is in the loop

Even the best hardware updates and upgrades will cause some disruption in your office. For this reason, making them go smoothly requires that you communicate with your employees about what will be done and when.

This communication stage also gives you an opportunity to ask employees what they would like to see when you buy or lease new hardware for them to use.

Let new technologies make the process easier

One of the beauties of upgrading your hardware is that it presents an opportunity for you to take advantage of new technologies.

Trading in your own servers for cloud-based solutions, for example, is an excellent way to make hardware updates easier, since it involves fewer infrastructure changes on your end. Cloud solutions are also extremely efficient, with Microsoft estimating that they can decrease the workload of small businesses by an average of 42 percent.

To make this change possible, you’ll need to partner with a cloud services provider that can assist you in migrating your existing data into a cloud computing environment.

Be proactive to limit downtime and keep things running smoothly

Many businesses make the mistake of trying to keep using their old hardware long after it has become outdated. Though this approach may seem to save money in the short term, it is a deeply flawed way of looking at necessary hardware updates.

Not only does postponing updates make it more likely that you’ll need to pursue a company-wide update program, but it also incurs more downtime and additional costs.

A Techaisle whitepaper prepared in 2018 found that PCs that were four years old or older cost 1.3 times as much money to repair as newer units and were responsible for 2.1 times as many hours of downtime. The same survey found that 36 percent of small businesses are using such outdated PCs.

This isn’t to say, of course, that hardware repair and maintenance aren’t essential components of a good IT strategy. However, proactively replacing hardware when it has become outdated can help to keep your business up to date and prevent the disruption that will occur if you have to perform all of your hardware updates simultaneously.

Final thoughts on hardware updates

If you use these tips and work closely with a good IT partner, your next set of hardware updates and upgrades should go quite smoothly.

The more preparation, planning and consideration you put into these upgrades, the easier it will be to pull them off without disrupting any of your core business tasks.

4 signs that it’s time to replace business hardware

Hardware has become a crucial aspect of business success. Without the right hardware, you can’t track data, run new software, or help your employees collaborate with each other.

Unfortunately, hardware doesn’t last forever. At a certain point, you’ll need to replace business hardware to keep up with your technological needs. You’ll know it’s time to replace business hardware when you notice the following four signs.

You have performance issues with your computers

The faster your company’s hardware works, the more your employees can accomplish. As hardware ages, you’ll find that performance issues affect productivity. As the computers slow, so will your employees.

You can often improve a computer’s performance by uninstalling unused software, removing malware, and deleting old files. Even with regular maintenance, though, the age of your computers will create performance issues.

Today’s latest technology makes business processes seamless. If you don’t feel like your computers can keep up with your business’s workload, then it’s time for you to consider upgrading to newer models.

You can’t update your software

Software and operating system updates help protect your company from security weaknesses that hackers can exploit. Updating your software is one of the most effective things that you can do to protect yourself from malware.

Updates, however, have hardware requirements. When your hardware doesn’t meet the requirements of your software updates, then you need to replace business hardware. Without new equipment, you leave yourself exposed to attacks that will disrupt your company’s plans and services.

Additionally, you should have a data backup plan so you won’t lose important information when old hardware fails or a hacker uses malware to lock your files.

You spend too much money on maintenance and repairs

Hardware maintenance and repair can extend the lives of your computers, servers, routers, and other equipment. Eventually, though, repairing your hardware will cost more than replacing it. If you find that you’re spending more than you would like on maintenance and repairs, then you should consider purchasing new hardware that doesn’t need as much attention.

If you have hardware warranties, then you should try to replace damaged items before the warranties expire. Doing so could help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Your hardware can’t run the software you want to use

As business software becomes more advanced, you’ll need to replace business hardware to keep up with the software’s requirements. Most companies expect their laptops and desktop computers to last about three years.

After three years, your computer probably won’t have the processing power needed to run software that helps you analyze data, manage customers, and automate everyday tasks. If your IT budget doesn’t have enough flexibility for you to purchase new computers every three years, then consider leasing the hardware that you need. You should also revisit your budget to make sure it matches your company’s technology needs.

When it comes time to replace business hardware, make sure you dispose of your old equipment in a safe, eco-friendly manner. You’ll need to permanently delete sensitive information from your computers, hard drives, and servers. It also makes sense to recycle or donate hardware that still has usefulness for other organizations.

The MCA approach to disaster recovery

You’ve built your business. It started as an idea, then it grew. Somewhere along the way, you grew as well.  You bought that fancy ERP system, you built accounts, analyzed revenue, tracked expenses and optimized your processes.  You’ve even bought those really expensive servers to run it all.

But if you’re honest, did you really give the same amount of attention to your “what if” plans? I mean, it probably was a “what if” that inspired you to start your business. It was most likely a “what if” that grew your business and optimized it.

But “what if your business immediately stopped”, probably didn’t make the list when planning. Yes, we are talking about a business. But it’s kind of more than that, isn’t it?  We’re talking about people, payroll, families, commitments, products and reputation.  It’s kind of a big deal.

At MCA, we focus on the things that matter, so you can focus on the things that matter.  This means asking the “what ifs” to avoid the “what nows?”.

Our approach to disaster recovery and business continuity

There is a big difference between disaster recovery (DR)  and business continuity (BC)—the difference being big in mindset, process and money.  So understand that disaster recovery is the action plan to recover critical systems. Business continuity is the execution of the preventative plan to keep all aspects of your business running despite an interruption.

Understanding the cost of downtime

To effectively plan, we need to know what is at stake.

  1. Develop your RPO and RTO – Recovery Point Objective (RPO) is the point in time which you recover to. For example, if you’ve backed up a file 30 minutes ago, and made a bunch of changes, and lost the file in the middle of the changes, your RPO would be 30 minutes, because that is the most recent version of the file in existence. Recovery Time Objective (RTO) is the amount of time it takes to restore operations based on your RPO.  If using the previous example, the RTO of 30 minutes would mean that a restoration of a 30 minute RPO would make the file 60 minutes old.  This is because it took 30 minutes to restore a file that was 30 minutes old.
  2. Implement production solutions with the DR vs. BC, the cost of downtime, and your RPO & RTO in mind. Our goal is to implement all solutions with resiliency in mind.  If and where possible, implement technology solutions that can withstand RPO failures and can recover within the RTO.
  3. Implement a Backup and Recovery solution to recover from catastrophic disaster, user neglect and data corruption. Stuff is going to happen.  We still need to recover, and fast.   Corruption, deleted files and crashed systems must still be recoverable within the RTO and RPO window.
  4. Evaluate. Repeat. This process constantly evolves based on your business and technology needs.

You may not be able to stop unexpected emergencies on your own, but you can make sure your data is always protected. That’s the assurance data backup gives you.

Working with our disaster recovery & business continuity experts will be essential in the event of catastrophic data loss. When you know your data is safe and secure, you’re free to focus on the things that really matter to you—at work and at home. Now that’s peace of mind.

Contact us today to learn more about our solutions for data backup and recovery.

 

 

Hardware disposal pro tips for small business leaders

In today’s business environment, having the latest tech tools at your disposal is essential to your company’s success. Whenever you buy or lease new business hardware, though, you’ll be left with old hardware you may no longer need.

Here are a few of the steps your company should take to make hardware disposal easier, safer and more efficient.

Before hardware disposal, consider repurposing

Before you actually start the process of hardware disposal, it’s a good idea to consider repurposing some of your old hardware.

Servers and workstations can often be repurposed for new tasks with only minimal upgrades. Laptops, however, are generally not seen as economical candidates for repurposing.

As a rule, repurposed hardware is best put into auxiliary roles, such as providing extra data storage. You could also reassign it to departments that require less specialized hardware. Be aware that your hardware may need some basic maintenance and repair before being repurposed. You should take that cost into consideration when deciding between repurposing and hardware disposal.

Preparing for hardware disposal

Once you’ve repurposed what you can, it’s time to prepare for the actual process of hardware disposal. Securely destroying or otherwise disposing of hardware requires some forethought.

To prepare your hardware, you need to start with data security. We recommend completely wiping the hard drive of any computer, tablet, smartphone or server you plan to retire. Leaving data on your hardware for possible attackers to find can lead to a major network security data breach. Do what you can to defend yourself before you do any hardware disposal.

For workstations and laptops, you can use special functions built into all Windows and Mac operating systems to erase your data. Decommissioning servers is a bit more complicated. The process will vary depending on the software that is running on your servers.

Removing data from your hardware is critical to ensuring you don’t run into cybersecurity problems down the road. You also need to be sure that any important data has been properly saved for future use.

Be sure that all data from laptops and workstations has been backed up. Also, migrate the data from your old servers to the new servers before the old ones are wiped. Many businesses today choose to migrate their server data to the cloud. If you plan to go this route, it’s important to find a good cloud services provider. Pay attention to fast transfer speeds, security and overall customer service.

Consider donating your old hardware

A great way to handle hardware disposal to donate retired equipment it to a nonprofit organization.

There are some nonprofits that take donated computers and give them to low-income families. Other charitable organizations find themselves in need of computer hardware for basic administrative functions.

If you need to dispose of laptops or workstations, giving them to a worthwhile charity is a great option.

The hardware recycling process

Electronic waste from hardware disposal can be extremely harmful to the environment. For this reason, it’s a good idea to have your old hardware recycled.

E-waste recycling and reclamation centers can be found in every state. These are the best places to take old hard drives, computers and other electronic waste products.

Although most people think of hardware recycling only in terms of old computers, some specialty recycling companies can also recycle servers. Before handing your old hardware over to a recycling center, though, do some research to be sure the company is legitimate. In recent years, reports of recycling scams in which e-waste is ultimately deposited in landfills have become increasingly common.

4 reasons SMB owners should use managed IT services

As a small business owner, you wear many hats and have a wide range of skills. Unless you’re an IT guru, however, you probably have someone else take care of your IT needs. For many, that means keeping an IT person on staff or paying for hourly help, two less than perfect solutions.

If you’ve thought about managed IT services but haven’t pulled the trigger yet, here are four things that you should consider.

“. . . establishing a strong, strategic partnership with your MSP is essential.” – CIO

1. Cost

Small business owners worry about the cost of everything. You have to in order to keep your business running. Managed IT services may sound expensive but, in reality, they can offer you significant savings.

Businesses that switched from paying an hourly rate for IT to managed services saw their costs drop by up to 50% or more. 13% saw that level of savings, while 46% saw savings by 25% or more. A quick analysis of your expenditures and a consultation with a managed IT services provider (MSP) will reveal how much you can potentially save.

2. Security

Choosing managed IT services leads to better cybersecurity for your data. As you are painfully aware, hackers are growing more skilled at illegally accessing data. In the first three months of 2017, for instance, 950,000 records, including sensitive data, were accessed by outsiders, putting companies and their clients at risk.

By making the shift to a managed IT service provider, your company data will gain the protection of more sophisticated cybersecurity measures, making it less likely your data will be stolen.

“71% of SMBs are not prepared for cybersecurity risks.” – TechRepublic

3. Fast repairs

When your computers go down, your productivity can slow to a crawl or stop entirely. You can end up paying your employees for a day when they can’t get anything accomplished.

The cost of downtime can be monumental when you combine the lack of production and the harm to your reputation. In some instances, a company can lose approximately $84,000 for every hour their system is down. Even a one-person shop can sustain serious financial losses.

Managed IT services providers can immediately begin working on your IT problems. Because your MSP knows your system, they can quickly diagnose and address problems. An MSP can also identify other potential issues that might cause problems in the future.

4. Recovery

If your small business manages its own IT, you know that adequately backing up your system can be challenging. If your system crashes and burns, recovering your data can be costly. In fact, every year, 140,000 hard drives crash in the United States alone. Paying for a recovery attempt can cost approximately $7,500 for a service that may not be successful.

Any kind of data disasters can seriously harm your business. In fact, in the months immediately after a data disaster, 60% of companies go out of business.

Managed IT service providers make sure your data is backed up and easily recoverable. A disaster on-site at your business doesn’t have to cause long-term damage.

“With an MSP . . . you get to bring in the big guns and benefit from the resources and experience of a company focused solely on IT.” – Forbes

Are managed IT services right for you?

Managed IT services make sense for small business owners on a number of fronts. You can improve your bottom line by utilizing affordable, reliable outsourced IT help.

And really, that’s what it’s all about—equipping you to run your business as effectively as possible. If managed IT services help, then it’s worth your time to talk to a few managed IT services providers and see what options are available.

Customers Talk, We Listen

It is the goal of MCA to listen to our customers and base solutions on their goals and problems. We have the ability to address with creativity complex
and ambiguous problems across most any IT infrastructure including service, networking, security, and leasing. These case studies will give you some
idea of our capabilities and experience.

National Health Care Provider

A national health care provider discovered that remote facilities were experiencing difficulty in getting dependable onsite service on their I.T. hardware.
They needed a solution to help them keep their facilities functioning with minimal downtime.

Challenges

  • Due to the facility locations being in remote areas onsite service was taking in some cases weeks to get end users functioning.
  • The quality of service they would receive would be very inconsistent.
  • The cost of onsite service was not cost effective due to extensive travel time and repeat trips for parts not in stock.

MCA Solution

MCA understands downtime is critical in any business and in their business it was vital to make sure that their hardware had minimal downtime. MCA began
to strategize with their I.T. department to develop a support system that would work for them. In doing so, MCA was able to customize a Depot Service
support system to fit their needs. Now, they are able to focus on their core business of taking care of their patients while MCA ensures that I.T.
Hardware is up and running with minimal downtime and at a price point that saved them a significant amount of money.

A Large Business

A large business with over 2,000 employees realized they were adding hardware every time they needed a new application. This was causing their physical
footprint to grow exponentially to keep up with their rapid growth and expansion. Maintaining the large amount of hardware was beginning to become
inefficient and the costs associated with this was affecting their business.

Challenges

  • The Data Center was using a lot of physical resources that could potentially be used for other functionality.
  • The Hardware costs were quickly multiplying and systems were aging and becoming inefficient.
  • Being environmentally responsible the customer wanted to reduce their carbon footprint.
  • The customer needed redundancy in their server solutions so that downtime could be eliminated.
  • Backups among so many systems were becoming an issue to verify that they were being done properly among so many different systems.

MCA Solution

MCA understood the challenges that the customer faced and architected a solution that was able to address all of their concerns by utilizing new technology
and making it work for their unique scenarios. Partnering with MCA they were able to develop a solution that helped their business develop an I.T.
solution that was as advanced as their business needed it to be. With MCA managing the solution from development to integration they were able to continue
focusing on their core business.

A Small Business

A small business needed to upgrade their I.T. Hardware but the financial resources to pay for all of the equipment they would need was not in the budget.
The upgrade was vital to the growth of their business and essential in their ability to continue to be efficient and competitive.

Challenges

  • Financial budgets were limiting capital necessary to grow their I.T. Hardware needed to support their growing business.
  • The customer needed a partner to help direct them towards the best solution for their I.T. Hardware solution.

MCA Solution

MCA was able to use an in-house leasing solution to help them finance their I.T. Hardware at a payment that their business could afford. In addition, the
business will be able to keep their I.T. Hardware current with a fixed payment and flexibility to upgrade every 3 years.

A Medium Size Business

A medium size business was becoming overloaded in their I.T. department with managing the support calls for their I.T. Hardware equipment. Downtime was
becoming apparent and costs were rising while they were trying to handle their growth. In addition, budgeting for unforeseen repairs was creating cash
flow issues within the organization.

Challenges

  • Increased downtime due to increasing support needs of a growing company with additional I.T. Hardware failure.
  • Unforeseen expenses for I.T. Hardware update causing cash flow issues and budgeting nightmares.

MCA Solution

MCA was able to put together a complete I.T. Support Maintenance Contract solution with a fixed monthly price and with response time that would meet the
needs of the end users. In addition, MCA stocked parts for equipment in order to minimize downtime with a first time fix. With MCA as a new partner
cash flow significantly improved, service levels increased, and the customer was excited to begin to refocus their energy on their business.