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How your disaster recovery plan can make you more productive

There’s no doubt that a good disaster recovery plan (DRP) can be extremely useful in a crisis. Indeed, it’s one of the things that very often determines whether or not a business will survive a catastrophic event such as a fire, flood, or ransomware attack.

In fact, the difference it can make is huge. One report noted that up to 40% of businesses with no plan in place were unable to recover quickly or fully from a ransomware attack. With a plan in place, just 7% of businesses suffered the same fate.

With both malicious attacks and natural disasters on the rise (2017 was the most expensive year on record in terms of natural disasters), it’s clear that having a robust DRP in place is more important than ever before. But the value of a disaster recovery plan during a catastrophic disaster isn’t the only reason to spend some time creating one. A good DRP can also make your business more productive.

Here are four ways in which a solid Disaster Recovery Plan can help your business, even during non-crisis times.

1. It allows you to retain access to data

Secure, off-site backup of key data is an important part of any solid DRP – but having essential resources backed up in the cloud can be immensely useful in a range of ways. First and foremost it enables your employees to be more flexible. Should a device break, for example, work can still continue on another device, with cloud-based files and software still available. Plus employees are empowered to work as normal even when traveling or working from home.

2. It ensures robust communications

Multiple, robust means of communication should be a part of your DRP, as the ability to communicate will be vital during any disaster that threatens your business. But having several functional, reliable channels of communication can also make your office more productive in general. Sometimes one means of communication is more suited to a particular task than another, and having options allows employees to pick the most appropriate one.

It also helps deal with small disasters. Inclement weather or a network outage can cause chaos. That chaos is significantly reduced if your company still has at least one functioning means of communication.

3. It helps you know your assets

A detailed inventory of key assets should be a part of any DRP. This is extremely useful when it comes to making an insurance claim, or replacing lost or damaged equipment. Consider also, however, that a detailed and up-to-date hardware inventory could have a range of other uses, from ensuring that devices are maintained and kept up-to-date, to repurposing old equipment rather than letting it go to waste.

4. It keeps your prepared

A good DRP isn’t something you can set up and forget. It requires routine testing, maintenance, and regular training of employees. This is an opportunity not only to instill a sense of preparedness, but also to introduce employees to emergency contacts and procedures, and help them learn more about the structure of the company.

Training staff to support the implementation of a disaster recovery plan, for example, may involve familiarizing them with the IT helpdesk options available to them. This will obviously be useful in the event of a disaster but is also pretty handy for helping them resolve more everyday concerns.

Conclusion

A disaster recovery plan might be crucial to your business during a crisis… but it can also make a significant difference when everything is working as normal. Just one more reason to be prepared.

Contact your managed IT services provider today for help creating and implementing a disaster recovery plan to keep your business safe.

Office 365 pro tips to make your life easier

When Microsoft Office 365 debuted in 2011, businesspeople around the world had high hopes for it. They weren’t disappointed. Its software and cloud-based subscription services provide companies with a vast array of features, all of which are accessible via a handy online portal.

Among many others, there are tools for managing contacts, calendars and tasks, for writing and editing documents, and for voice and video conferencing. All of these components are periodically updated, too. Not to mention, Office 365 saves your documents in the cloud.

If there’s any problem with Office 365, it’s that the program is so extensive you might feel like you’re not realizing its full potential.

These tips will help ensure that your Office 365 time is as productive as can be.

1. Choose the most useful package

If you haven’t yet signed up for an Office 365 subscription plan, research your options and compare them carefully. Then select one with the features and apps you need. That way, you won’t overpay, and you’ll have enough hosting space, enough file storage and so on.

Also, you won’t have components that you won’t use, which could overcomplicate your Office 365 experience.

2. Work offline

Maybe the internet isn’t working in your office today. Perhaps you’re stuck in a remote cabin where the internet connection is slow. Should you just twiddle your thumbs? Well, with Office 365, you can still make good use of your time.

After you sign up for this service, Microsoft will supply you with desktop versions of popular apps like PowerPoint and Excel. You can also save your SharePoint and OneDrive documents on your hard drive. That way, you can access them when you’re offline, and all of the changes you make will automatically be saved on the cloud as soon as your internet connection is restored.

3. Make Skype calls and create OneDrive surveys

Office 365 subscribers get to use Skype free of charge for a certain amount of time. Skype is ideal for calls and voice conferences. It’s simple to use and dependable, and it offers a crisp, clear sound. What’s not to love?

In addition, with OneDrive, you can quickly and easily distribute surveys that you compose with Excel, collect responses and analyze trends. It’s a powerful tool for gauging customers’ opinions and making informed decisions.

4. Write with partners

With Office 365, you can write documents in real time with other people via one of three web apps: Excel, Word and PowerPoint.

It’s a great way to brainstorm, share knowledge and ideas for revisions, and divide the workload evenly. With this capability, putting together website articles, white papers and other documents becomes much faster and more fun proposition.

Finally, if you’d like to integrate Office 365 into all of your business processes — or if you’d just like the best, most secure IT infrastructure possible — you should enlist the help of an excellent IT management team. They can answer all of your questions and hook you up with the most beneficial tools. With such guidance, you and your small business will sail into a bright and super efficient future.

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.

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.