Establishing Managed IT Services
Before entering into a managed services agreement, your service provider should take the time to get to know your business. They should assess your equipment and software applications, becoming acquainted with what you have in terms of IT and how you are using your IT to deliver services to your customers. They should also determine what condition your servers and desktops are in, consider the apps you are using, and get a feel for what services you use the most. They should discuss with you what you like the least and the most about your current IT infrastructure.
We’ve been talking about how a managed services plan can help a company operate on a more predictable budget. A remediation project may be necessary prior to entering into such a managed service agreement. Some infrastructures are healthier than others, and if you are using an old server or hardware and software that are no longer under warranty, those pieces may need to be brought up to speed. A managed service plan is not a magic wand that will solve your IT problems without some preliminary efforts, and your service provider should be able to help you develop a plan to bring your infrastructure up to speed.
Better Cost Control through Managed IT
As business owners, you have to deal with a variety of fixed costs that are associated with doing business, including payroll processing costs, building costs, utilities and taxes. And while those costs may fluctuate, they are largely predictable. Your IT costs, on the other hand, are often variable. You cannot predict when a server is going to fail or when software will stop being supported, and you cannot always predict when your network is going to go down. Subsequently, budgeting IT costs can be difficult. Managed services can solve this dilemma.
A managed service plan makes IT support a monthly predictable cost. For the typical small or medium business, managed services turns IT into a utility making the cost as invisible as possible. Since the support costs are fixed, your managed service team will do everything in their power to keep your IT up and running – and you won’t resist the effort over worry about an hourly, unpredictable cost. With agents installed on client computers and robust disaster recovery systems in place, the managed service plan becomes a win-win situation. You want your IT to be up, and your managed service provider wants your IT to be up; otherwise, managing IT can become costly for both parties.
CSC offers a variety of Managed IT plans to suit businesses of any size. Contact us for more information about how we can help you better manage your IT costs and pay for uptime instead of downtime.
Managing IT Costs More Effectively
Do you worry that when you take your car to the mechanic, more things will be wrong with the car after they see it than before? Do you stress over every hour your car is in the shop, knowing that it is racking up an ever-larger bill with each passing minute? If you could, would you pay a flat rate every month trusting that no matter what went wrong with your car, the mechanic would take care of it? And if you had an agreement like that, don’t you think that the mechanic would be certain to change the oil, rotate the tires and do all the other necessary preventative maintenance that would ensure the car remained finely tuned?
We don’t know of any mechanics who make such an offer, but the concept of a flat-rate service leading to better preventative care is transforming the way IT services are being handled.
Paying for Uptime
With a managed service plan, you and your IT provider work closely to ensure that your IT infrastructure and services are meeting your company’s needs. Because there is no hourly cost involved, it’s less likely that important proactive strategies will be ignored simply because of cost. By employing proactive measures to prevent disasters, a partnership-oriented relationship is created in which you are paying for uptime, not downtime. It turns IT support on its head.
Making IT Costs More Predictable
Consider the extraordinary cost of downtime on your organization. Hardware can fail, a server may crash, or data may become corrupted. These issues can impact your ability to provide service to your customers; in some cases, downtime can send them looking elsewhere. Whatever the issue may be, infrastructure failures can impact your business in unexpected ways. You may spend weeks rebuilding systems, reconnecting computers and restoring data. This becomes an enormous, unpredictable cost.
In our next blog, we will discuss how you can make your IT costs more predictable.
Office ‘08 for Mac Loses Microsoft Support
Columbus 2020: Investing in the Future of Columbus
Public and private enterprises in the Columbus region are funding a non-profit economic growth initiative known as Columbus 2020. Columbus 2020 organizers are using the combined strengths of these government & business investors to significantly increase per capita income and employment by attracting major employers to the region while retaining and developing existing companies.
Columbus 2020 investors see the value of 2020's mission and want to help it succeed. The idea is that by bringing more businesses to Columbus, the local economy will grow stronger - everybody wins. The companies involved are putting this investment forward knowing that there is no guarantee that the initiative will succeed, but this is a great symbol of leadership. As a leader, you know what the right thing is to do, you believe in it and you hope it turns out for the best - and the expectations are that it will.
CSC is a proud investor in the 2020 mission, and while Columbus 2020 asks for a five-year commitment, it is not binding. However, an economic development initiative such as this - which is to market Columbus and persuade entrepreneurs of the value of moving or starting their businesses here - it makes sense to invest for the long haul. Such a venture does not happen over night; it takes time.
Columbus has been ranked by Forbes as one of the best places for business and careers. IBM, having closed the deal on the acquisition of Sterling Commerce, is creating approximately 500 high-tech jobs over the next three years. These types of stories are becoming more common, and much of this can be attributed to the efforts of Columbus 2020. New projects are regularly being considered for the Columbus region.
Am I worried that Columbus 2020 will bring in more competition in addition to jobs and prosperity? Of course, I think about remaining competitive. But as a business leader, I know in my heart that if my business and my people are strong, and if our services are relevant, we will realize more in terms of opportunity than we lose with additional competition.
CSC believes in the Columbus 2020 initiative and we appreciate having the opportunity to share our Columbus stories with those businesses considering a move to Columbus. Investing in Columbus 2020 is good for the community and for CSC it is smart business.
Schools, Technology, and Budgeting: Making the Most of the Mandate
There are many state-mandated requirements in order to introduce technology into schools for the 2013-2014 school year. While building their budgets, virtually every district is responding to these mandates differently. BYOD (bring your own device), BYOT (bring your own technology) and 1:1 are the most common methods used. Some of the most important considerations regarding the use of devices in schools, however, are largely geared towards the 1:1 wireless scenario.
Is Your Infrastructure Capable of Handling the Devices You Choose?
As these devices – iPads, tablets or laptops – are given to students, schools must determine infrastructure readiness. The physical structure inside the schools, in regards to Internet connectivity bandwidth, must be capable of sustaining all of the devices. There are many elements that go into that.
For example, an increasing number of mobile tablet devices use a larger amount of Internet bandwidth, versus a traditional laptop that uses a local service typically hosted at the school. The more cloud services that are being used, the greater the demand on Internet infrastructure and on the bandwidth that the school district has. When a school chooses to deploy a large number of devices, the process of ensuring that the network is physically capable of providing a reliable and seamless end-user experience is complicated.
Do You Have Enough Bandwidth to Keep Everyone Connected?
Consider the amount of bandwidth necessary for your network; you want to ensure that you have sufficient internal bandwidth to sustain the number of devices you are deploying, as well as enough bandwidth to support your connectivity to the outside world. Essentially, the amount of bandwidth necessary comes down to the applications that you are using on your devices. If students are using iPads or Chromebooks, these cloud-based devices demand a substantially higher external bandwidth, as opposed to those devices that are using a local resource hosted by the school.
Addressing Security and MDM
Some schools provide the devices and let students take them home. By doing so, they then have to determine how they will continue to manage content that comes through the device. Is there still content filtering taking place outside of the school? Mobile device management – or MDM – is another infrastructure readiness issue. Once you have all of the devices, you want to have the capability to easily maintain them.
If you have to deploy application software, you want to be able to do so for a group of devices at a time or all of the devices simultaneously. If you need to filter content, change security preferences or block certain applications because of content, you want to be able to do that quickly, as opposed to one device at a time. If you have MDM in place, that significantly reduces the amount of time it takes for you to deploy, maintain and monitor your devices, at the same time ensuring that the devices are secure.
Saving Money on Device Investment, Warranty and Repair Services
In addition to infrastructure concerns related to bandwidth and connectivity of technology in schools, the cost of purchasing devices and warranties must be considered. School districts often purchase the manufacturer’s warranty and offer additional accidental damage insurance to the students – passing the cost onto the parents – on top of the manufacturer’s warranty. CSC purchases from the same supplier as CDWG, so we can offer highly competitive rates for devices. As well, our warranty is less expensive, and we provide convenient device pick-up, repair and drop-off, thereby saving you time as well as money. In many cases, we can complete repairs on site.
Many district IT departments are capable of deploying technology devices themselves, but CSC can help, either with a particular portion or with the entire process. Our experience with both small and large school districts helps us steer you away from what doesn’t work and focus on what does. CSC looks at the big picture, ensuring device deployments go as smoothly as possible. If you would like more information about our school technology and warranty services, please contact us.
Join us for our Executive Lunch & LearnDisaster Recovery Lunch and Learn Wednesday, June 12, 2013 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Lunch will be provided. Please join us for lunch, to discuss and learn about protecting your data. Our Disaster Recovery experts will share industry best practices and discuss the ROI of a business continuity plan compared to the economic impact of traditional data backup routines. Space is limited, so please RSVP
Physical Security in Education
Bottom line, from digital physical security cameras, which can allow the school property to be monitored from anywhere, to mobile device management, to more comprehensive technology solutions, there are many best practices for meeting growing demand for better technology and physical security. But the first thing you need to ask is whether your technological and internal process infrastructure is ready. An iT service provider can help you set up the ideal IT infrastructure that will achieve increased physical security while doing so in the most cost-effective way possible.
Managed VoIP vs. Owned VoIP
VoIP and PBX alike (along with almost everything else in a business) require power to work. If power goes out, so does your phone service. With VoIP, you also need a reliable Internet connection, which you will lose if you suffer a power loss. Also, if the Internet connection goes down, you lose phone service. For a business, this is a huge risk. Losing power must not result in losing contact with clients. If you want to host your own VoIP system, back-up generators and redundant Internet connections are your best protection from these kinds of service disruptions.
Being your own VoIP supplier can also require an investment in IT services to keep the software updated and secure. The open-source software used with VoIP is constantly changing and susceptible to security breaches. Not only could someone potentially hack into your system to place phone calls, but they could listen to live or recorded conversations and steal sensitive information like customer credit card data. Having the right security precautions in place is vital for protecting your business and your customers.
With all of these concerns, from power outages to security, VoIP may not seem quite as attractive to smaller companies, but there is an option for businesses that want the capabilities of VoIP without the capital expense of increasing infrastructure and IT: Managed VoIP service providers have already made the necessary investments. Managed VoIP service providers supply the back-up power, redundant Internet connections and reliable fiber optic cables. If power goes out at your office, calls can still be answered by voicemail or they can be re-directed to mobile phones for a seamless customer experience. To the outside world, it will appear to be business as usual.
Managed VoIP service also provides you with access to their team of engineers and IT professionals responsible for keeping your service running smoothly and securely. Managed services have invested in the personnel, multiple firewalls and extra security features that the average business would not necessarily have.
There is little debate in the business world that VoIP has become the communication service of choice, but that doesn’t mean that it is an easy service to implement. A managed VoIP service provider can make converting your phone systems more affordable and offer you peace of mind, allowing you to concentrate on your business.
Cool Tools: Features of Voice over IP and PBX Follow Me
Web-managed voicemail enables any company with a customer service department to create a customer response line that goes to voicemail. This allows you to store messages for support, feedback and questions so you know that each request will be handled. Employees can use their inbox as a to-do list, filing messages once a request is complete, and you’d always have the message there for reference if needed. This same line will also record customer feedback that you can sort into accolades and complaints.
At CSC, we use the 24/7 contact settings to add enhanced service for our clients. You do this by simply adjusting your PBX Follow Me settings. We give these 24/7 clients a specific code to punch in, which dials them to a virtual extension. PBX Follow Me directs this virtual extension directly to the cell phone of that week’s on-call engineer. Any company can set PBX Follow Me to give customers access to an on-call person, if they need support after regular business hours.
Another big advantage of web-managed Voice mail IP is that it allows you to manage personal and business voicemails, organizing them into folders; you can also forward phone calls via email. With PBX Follow Me, the extensions you create don’t even have to be actual phones. They can be virtual extensions that only have mailboxes.
Automatic call distribution, better known as phone call queuing, acts as a service or sales queue. At CSC, we use the queue for our help desk. The way it works is simple: a customer dials in and presses “1” for service. That call is then dropped in the same sort of queue used by AT&T, Dell or Microsoft. The calls are tagged and organized in the order they’re received. Callers can stay on hold or drop out of the queue and leave a voicemail in our service desk, which is another virtual extension. We also use an email distribution list that’s forwarded to managers, so anyone in the service desk room receives these voicemails through the automatic distribution queue. Nothing falls through the cracks.
Voice over IP and PBX Follow Me enable you to record every call, which includes conference calls. Yes, there’s even a conference call system that allows you to set up and host your own conference calls, also allowing you to personalize the prompts and record the entire conversation. All of these tools are at your disposal. If you have any questions, you can reach us 24/7. We guarantee a timely response.
Is Your School Ready for the Technology It Needs?
Because we work quite often with people in the education sector, budget constraints are always at the forefront. The struggle for administrators is that while budgets are shrinking, the tech requirements school administrators are being asked to implement keep increasing. And sometimes these devices are being deployed before the infrastructure is ready to handle them. In helping one school prepare for the purchase and deployment of 1700 iPads, we asked the following questions:
- Do you have enough bandwidth and enough wireless access points?
- What is the management policy you are implementing?
- How will you use these devices to deliver curriculum? How will you filter content?
Sometimes the people tasked with deciding whether to adopt these devices may not fully understand the underlying technological requirements for a successful implementation. And since most schools have limited IT staff (if they have any IT staff at all), a Columbus IT service provider can help facilitate the introduction of the technology in a way that is the most cost effective without sacrificing security. From networking to ensuring you have enough bandwidth to handle the connection of that many devices, CSC partners with education providers to overcome challenges like content filtering. Have you considered the complications of filtering content on an iPad? It’s almost impossible to manage if it’s being taken off school grounds. We help schools create workable solutions to these and other infrastructure issues.
Stop by and visit CSC at Ohio’s annual e-Tech Conference
At the eTech conference this year, CSC is partnering with StorageCraft to host a break out education session on disaster recovery, one of the most critical services any school or business should have in place for protecting client data, improving efficiency, and reducing downtime. Mark Crall, Sr. Channel Account Manager at StorageCraft, will be on hand to assist our CSC team in demonstrating how our disaster recovery solution does more than just back up data; it ensures a backup systems availability. Technology has advanced to the point where the IDR (Intelligent Data Recovery) solutions we offer can ensure an almost seamless recovery when servers go down, and we’ll show you how our IDR solution can keep your systems up and running with image level backups, reducing downtime from two days or more to less than 30 minutes.
The Ohio Educational Technology conference takes place February 11-13 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The 45-minute CSC/Storage Craft disaster recovery breakout session is on February 12. Be sure to stop by our breakout session and visit us at booth 1115; we’ll be giving away a variety of prizes, including a few laptops. We’d love to see you!
CSC and the Columbus Chamber of Commerce: Building Business and Community
Whether you are a new business owner just starting out, or you have built a successful business in Central Ohio, you must know the many reasons that make Columbus a great place to call home for your business. Geographically, Columbus is considered a hub of the Midwest; Columbus is within a day's drive of 50% of the U.S. population.
In addition to being home to one of the finest universities in the nation, Columbus has some of the most extraordinary minds and talents in the US. So it’s no surprise to me that Forbes recognized Columbus as one of thebest cities for tech jobs and also one of the best cities for working mothers. I believe part of the reason Columbus receives these kinds of accolades is because of the support business leaders receive from the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.
Columbus is a great place to live and work, and as one of the largest business organizations in Central Ohio, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce has provided support for businesses in Central Ohio for more than a century. The evidence of their results-driven purpose is clear. As a member of the Chamber, I can say first-hand that the Chamber’s many services and helpful staff has helped CSC grow and thrive. By delivering the resources, services and information businesses need, the Chamber enables companies to overcome obstacles, increase opportunities and partner together to create a better Columbus.
Creating connections to people and information is essential for finding solutions to business issues. The Columbus Chamber of Commerce plays multiple roles, acting as business coach and advocate as well as providing a strong voice to elected officials.
Here at CSC, our emphasis is on technology. I believe that the initiatives taken by the Columbus Chamber of Commerce over the last several years have directly contributed to Columbus receiving recognition as a city known for its tech jobs.
When most people think of the Chamber of Commerce, they think of a traditional institution, a civic staple, something that one’s involvement with is considered an admirable civic responsibility. And it is. But the Chamber is also a pro-active, evolving organization of community development. When you pull back the bureaucratic curtain, you can gain first-hand experience of the passion the Chamber embodies. This drive is the kind of attitude that is behind real community-based involvement and in-depth holistic activism.
The Chamber prioritizes the needs of our local economy, employing the experience and expertise of its members, to implement a road map guiding Columbus businesses to success. CSC is pleased to be involved with helping The Columbus Chamber achieve its goals.
Merry Christmas from CSC!
As we reflect back over the year, we are grateful to all those who have touched our lives. This year has brought about many changes for CSC- a new 12,000sf facility,new service offerings including telephone (VoIP) and physical security and additional faces have joined our CSC Family to better support you!
The one thing that has remained constant is our commitment to being a good partner to our clients and to the Columbus community. It’s about more than just doing business; it’s about making a difference in everything we do. Thanks for being a part of it.
From our CSC family to yours – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Physical Security Goes Digital
When you’re talking about physical security, the first thing that might come to mind is the “rent-a-cop” who drives around in his jeep, flashing a light on your building to make sure there are no hooligans hanging around. Of course, we’re not living in an 80s movie, and hooligans have been replaced by high-tech digital criminals. In this technological age, even physical security has become a digital endeavor – and one most businesses should consider, especially if they store valuable or sensitive data. What is digital physical security? Digital physical security covers everything from video surveillance to security systems, key card access systems to IP cameras - and it is the IP camera that is really revolutionizing the physical security industry. There are several advantages to choosing IP cameras over analog.
No Cables Required
Analog video provides composite outputs and requires you to run video cable through the walls between the camera locations and back to either a closed-captioned TV system or a digital video recorder. IP cameras, however, function more like IP phones, where the device uses network traffic instead of an analog signal in order to deliver feed to a network video recorder (NVR). In other words, with an IP camera, you can send the video to a monitor without running a bunch of cable to do it.
Offsite Monitoring Capability
IP camera security offers companies a much more robust system with the power to capture and save data. An IP camera security system allows you to capture the data in order to keep a history of your surveillance. It offers you the the capability of playing back the recorded data, and you can search for specific data if you need to. It can be delivered to an offsite monitor because you can deliver the video over your network and not have it hardwired to a closed-caption system.
One of the biggest advantages of the IP camera is the quality of video. You can think of the difference between analog and IP cameras as you would think of the difference between standard definition TV and HDTV. The resolution of an analog camera is D-1. The IP camera has a new H.264 video codec (the video encoder scheme). Commonly seen codecs are mpeg and QuickTime, but the codec for an IP security camera allows the video feed to be compressed in such a way that it does not affect the quality of the video but substantially affects the size. This ability to compress the video without losing quality makes it possible to send that video stream over the internet and over your network without having to use too much of your bandwidth to do it. It is a major evolution in physical security.
The main reason to choose IP camera security instead of analog is flexibility. An analog camera uses a DVR, and DVRs are fixed appliances. It’s no different than the cable service you have at home for your television, which, until recently, required you to have a DVR for each TV – what you stored on the DVR in your living room could not be watched in your bedroom, and vice versa. When it comes to network security, an analog DVR is just like your old cable-box DVR, where you were locked to that one device for recording. There is no way to access one camera system from another device. There might be remote viewing software, but it still is locked to a DVR.
Every analog camera physically has to have a cable run to the back to the DVR system. You might have 30 - 40 cables running to the DVR from all of the analog cameras, and each building would have to have a separate system. Because IP cameras are network devices, instead of running hundreds of feet of cable, we can use switches to plug in the IP camera cables. The camera grabs an IP address just like your computer or VoIP phone would, and you are able to access the network and use NVR software on a server or a virtual server and – and here’s the critical point – access that feed from wherever you are. It makes adding additional IP cameras incredibly easy, and you can add cameras (just like VoIP phones) in a variety of different locations but have them feed back to the same NVR system. Corporate offices can monitor the physical security of their regional branches. The ability to funnel your physical security monitoring from your IP camera over the internet and utilize that network to access your video streams from a remote location is a real game-changer in physical security.
CSC offers a cloud-managed hosted IP camera security service to safely archive and access your video from anywhere. For more information on IP camera security and how CSC can help you, please contact us.
Run Windows on Macs with Virtualization
Virtualization got its start on the PC side, but did you know the same functionality works with Macs? Running a Windows application on your Mac allows you to access features on a number of products not available to Macs. Parallels Desktop is just one of several solutions available for running Windows on Macintosh hardware. Depending on your business needs, virtualization can open up the best of both Mac and PC worlds in a simple, efficient way.
Setting up virtualization isn’t complicated, but you’ll still need to install Windows with a disk. With this method, you install it in an application – a kind of shell inside of your computer. People with virtualization sometimes have the false impression that they are protected from viruses or that viruses are less prevalent. Virtualized Windows can still get attacked. From the moment you put Windows on your computer, your Windows environment can become infected just as easily as if you were using a PC. You also have to do maintenance and software updates on both sides separately.
At CSC, we use Parallels or Fusion to run Windows-only business applications, so we have to keep them open all day. The same goes for Act! contact databases and any number of products that don’t have a Mac client. Another reason to use virtualization on a Mac is that sometimes the Windows version is better. For instance, QuickBooks for Mac has yet to receive feature parity with QuickBooks for PC. Many people prefer to go ahead and run QuickBooks inside their virtual machine (VM), so they get all the features and functionality that the Windows version has.
Boot Camp is another viable, but imperfect, option for running Windows on Mac hardware. Essentially, it entails holding the alt key down to boot off of a Windows CD, installing it directly onto the hard drive. Macs even allow you to partition your drive, so half can be allocated for Mac and the other half can be for PC. To do this, you hold down the alt key and hit ‘Okay’ to boot into either Windows or Mac. The problem with doing this is that Apple doesn’t optimize their Windows driver. The battery in a MacBook would last two hours using Boot Camp, whereas it lasts up to five hours when running virtualization with Windows inside of it.
Companies today don’t operate in cookie-cutter environments; every business needs customization. So,the more versatility available, the better. While the technology for PCs and Macs often runs parallel, performance is not always equal. Virtualization makes it fast and easy to run a Windows application on your Mac whenever you want to.
If you’re wondering whether or not Mac is right for your business, contact CSC today for a free consultation.