7 great tech gifts for the 2018 holiday season

It is never too soon to plan your holiday shopping. Your list is likely full of folk who would appreciate the thoughtfulness of some gadget or useful piece of tech. All the better if that tech gift can contribute to making them more productive or making their downtime more fun.

Consider these suggestions to make it a happy season for your friends, family, and colleagues. Fun and practicality can go hand in hand under the tree this year.

Amazon Kindle Fire 8

When it comes to tablets, the Kindle Fire 8 offers great functionality at a low price. Use it as an e-reader, watch movies, play games, handle email and even run your business. The Fire 8 includes hands-free Alexa capability, an 8-inch screen, and 16 GB of storage. It works seamlessly with your Amazon account, and with Amazon Prime, you can access thousands of movies, TV shows, albums, and books at no extra charge.

JBL Endurance SPRINT headphones

Looking for a something for someone who’s a really big audiophile? It’s hard to do better than the JBL Endurance SPRINT. Boasting 8 hours of wireless playback and a speed charge battery, the JBL Endurance Sprint is built to endure comfort and stability no matter how you work out—even in water. It includes touch controls for both your music and phone and its MagHook design allow for convenient storage options.

Star Wars Millennium Falcon Micro-USB Charging Cable

Have a Star Wars fan in your life? Of course you do.

As a nice, inexpensive gift or stocking stuffer, this USB charger is an absolute delight. The blue line on the wire lights up while charging, as do Falcon’s thrusters. While unsuitable for flying through asteroid fields, it is absolutely perfect for charging your favorite devices.

OMNI 20 USB-C Charger

While laptops can go nearly everywhere, there is no guarantee that there will always be power available. With that in mind, the OMNI 20 USB-C Charger can fully charge laptops, tablets, smartphones, and even gaming devices. What’s more, its multi-port design allows for charging multiple devices. Add to that a functionality as a USB hub for quick, secure file transfers, this device means fewer wires to carry.

Star Trek TNG Bluetooth ComBadge

This gift idea is pretty nerdy, we admit, but for that special someone who is really into Star Trek, you cannot go wrong with a Bluetooth-enabled Star Trek: The Next Generation ComBadge. This is a fully authorized and officially-licensed replica of the Star Trek prop which can connect to your phone or other devices via Bluetooth. It plays the instantly-recognizable chirp at a touch and can be used to answer and end calls, start and stop audio, and access hands-free voice services such as Siri and Cortana.  It’s high-quality micro-speakers mean clear communication with friends, family, and away teams.

Samsung Portable SSD T3 Hard Drive

Sometimes you want portable storage solutions that don’t rely on the Cloud. For those times, you want a powerful, dependable, and secure portable hard drive. That’s where the Samsung Portable SSD T3 comes in. It is up to four times faster than most other portable hard drives, is compact, light, and sturdy. Storage options range from 250 GB to 2 TB.

Logitech Slim Folio with Keyboard for iPad (5th and 6th generation

Turn your iPad into an iMac with the Logitech Slim Folio. The sturdy front and back protect your iPad from a lot of wear and tear, and the fully functioning Bluetooth keyboard allows you to work anywhere with comfort and ease. It has a long battery life, a place to store an Apple Pencil, and can be set up for comfortable viewing whether it be for business or entertainment. A great gift for the iPad fan.

Good gift giving

The key to good gift giving is to think about what they most want or need. For most in our business, tools for efficiency and productivity are most appreciated. But it’s also about having a bit of fun as well.

5 reasons to consider outsourced IT support

Deciding to outsource can be daunting. Perhaps you’re an SMB owner with limited resources. Maybe you’re aware of the benefits and advantages of contracting out to a specialized provider but don’t know where to start. Running an SMB means having to do several jobs at once. When it comes to your IT maintenance, you can maximize the efficiency of your workforce (and wallet) by looking at outsourced IT support.

When you use specialized IT support, you won’t need to worry about data backups, cybersecurity or infrastructure trends. You won’t have to spend time training staff on bug-fixing protocol.

If you’re on the fence and still deciding if outsourced IT support is for you, here are 5 ways it could boost your business:

You can reduce costs

Outsourcing IT to a specialized provider keeps your budget lower than employing an entire IT staff. The costs saving is especially true when you consider the costs of initial and regular training.

It can also get costly when you need to buy the right equipment for maintaining a well-functioning IT department. Not to mention having to all the bits and pieces required for hardware maintenance and repairs.

Paying a fixed cost with an IT company will save you from surprise expenditures and help you manage your annual operating costs.

You’ll enjoy 24/7 support and maintenance

Using the services outsourced IT support means there will always be an expert on the other side of an email or phone call who can help. To prevent loss of revenue and productivity, your IT support will recognize bugs before they’ve had the chance to affect your systems.

Instead of fixing a problem when it’s broken, it’s the IT company’s job to fix problems before you even notice them.

You have access to industry experts

In order to keep data secure, your business needs the newest technology and knowledge of industry experts. You (and your staff) will need stay up to date on relevant industry standards, which you may not have the time or resources for.

The security of your data is crucial. Luckily, it’s the outsourced IT support company’s responsibility to be well versed on cutting-edge technology. This allows you to focus on what’s important – running your business.

You can cut out the recruitment process

Recruiting new staff can be time-consuming, frustrating and challenging. Unless you’re an IT expert, it can also be extra tricky if you don’t know the exact specifications of the skills needed in a potential employee.

You run the risk of hiring people that don’t necessarily possess the right technical skill set and specialized knowledge. You might not have even defined the role according to what is really necessary.

Using the services of outsourced IT support can fix that problem for you.

You can let go of the steering wheel

As an SMB owner, management will always rank top on your list of fundamentals. But that doesn’t mean you have to do it all by yourself.

With outsourced IT support, you can rest easy knowing your IT efficiency, data and network security are in qualified, professional hands. With that peace of mind, you can be assured of better cost control, quality security practice and expertise while you run your business.

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.

Which is better: a solid data recovery process, or a good data backup system?

For companies of all sizes and industries, data has become the new currency of the 21st century. Businesses strive fiercely to collect more information on their customers and unlock new analytical insights, giving them a competitive advantage.

Despite the tremendous value of this information, however, not every organization is taking adequate steps to protect it. According to a 2017 survey, 58% of small businesses say that they aren’t prepared for a data loss catastrophe. Perhaps that’s why data loss can be so devastating: the same survey found that 60% of SMBs who lose their data will go out of business within 6 months.

Organizations that want to safeguard their information in the event of data loss have two major options: data recovery and data backup. In this article, we’ll discuss the definitions of each of these options.

We’ll also cover why any robust data protection strategy must include both approaches.

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What is data recovery?

Data recovery is the act of trying to salvage lost, corrupted, deleted, or damaged data.

In the event of an unexpected outage, you may introduce errors and corruptions in data that was “in transit.” This means that the information was being written, read, transmitted, or processed at the time of the outage.

Other data loss incidents may occur when your employees accidentally delete important files and information, or when you physically lose a hard drive or laptop to a thief.

How does data recovery work?

For one, you’re not actually removing the files and data from your hard drive when you empty the trash.

Instead, the data remains on the drive until you overwrite it with additional data. The sooner you act after deleting a file, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to recover it.

If you encounter a corrupted file, you still may be able to recover it if you ask fast using specialized software. Even if you can only recover part of the data, this might save you hours of wasted effort as your business gets back on its feet.

Data recovery is a reactive strategy for data loss because you implement it after a catastrophe. Remember, you really need to perform data recovery as soon as possible after the catastrophe to ensure that you get back as much data as possible.

This is both to maximize your chances of a successful recovery and to return to normal operations quickly.

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What is data backup?

In contrast to data recovery, data backup is a proactive approach that creates redundant copies or archives of your files and information before disaster strikes.

While not the most frequent cause of data loss, natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, and floods can wreak havoc on your recovery plans. However, your organization is far more likely to encounter disasters such as power outages, cyberattacks, and even user error.

In other words – if the physical drives and machines that contain your backups are destroyed, then you might as well not have made the backup in the first place.

For this reason, you should store your backups off-site in a separate physical location. To be most effective, you should also conduct your backups at regular intervals. You’ll also need to test them to ensure that they’re fully functional and ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

How do data backups work?

Growing organizations have a wide selection of data backup tools at their disposal.

Using cloud software suites such as Office 365 and Google Drive can be helpful because they automatically save your documents in the cloud whenever they are changed. However, remember that you can’t manage and back up all of your files and information automatically using cloud software.

You need a dedicated source of backup that can securely capture and contain your data.

Remember that your backup solution should reflect your business needs. If you prioritize recovery speed, there’s a specific solution out there for you. But if you’re more interested in more methodical, large-scale backups, you might need a different solution.

Regardless, your smartest move is to talk to a data backup expert that can help you determine (and implement) a tailor-made solution.

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Why SMBs need both data recovery and data backup

You need data recovery and data backup for different situations. However, you need both to be truly resilient in the event of a data loss catastrophe.

Businesses with particularly large or complex operations may need to back up their data at daily or even hourly intervals. Nevertheless, even the most powerful data backup solutions can’t preserve all of your information all the time. To fill in the gaps between your scheduled backups, you’ll need a data recovery solution that retrieves the unsaved changes that haven’t yet been backed up.

Getting your operations back on track after data loss is critical – but far too many businesses fail to do so. It doesn’t matter how large your business is or what services you provide. You need a comprehensive strategy to protect your enterprise data that includes both data recovery and data backup.

Working with the right managed IT service provider will be essential in the event of catastrophic data loss. Contact us today to learn more about our solutions for data backup and recovery.

Want to keep reading? Check out Hardware Disposal Pro Tips For Small Business Leaders.