Webinar Recap: IT That Makes Dollars & Sense

Did you miss our ‘IT that Makes Dollars & Sense: The CFO’s Guide to IT’ webinar? No problem!

This webinar training session is now available anytime in our resource library. Stream this session or share it with a co-worker. Simply complete the form below to access this content anytime, on-demand.

Today’s CFO is asked to do some of the most difficult work in any business. Forecasting business for the coming year, helping departments maintain their budgets, and maintaining clear lines of fiduciary responsibility across the business. But that’s not all.

More and more, CFOs are being asked to help manage the company’s IT in one capacity or another. Yet they’re being asked to without any training or resources. It doesn’t need to be that way, though. There are a wealth of tools and resources to make the CFO’s role in technology easier and more successful. Access the resources that Joe mentions during this session on our ‘Technical CFO‘ page.

Stream this webinar for: 

  • Insight into better and strategic IT management
  • Key resources and guides for leading a successful IT team
  • Best practices for choosing the correct software and hardware, the first time
  • How to translate technology jargon into a business case

Get Access to this webinar.

3 Reasons To Migrate Your Phone System

Migrating To The Cloud?

3 Reasons To Start With Your Phone System

As more businesses adopt cloud-based solutions, their IT managers face the practical challenge of how to execute the transition. If you’re an IT manager looking to save time, simplify maintenance and get the most from your cloud investments, it makes sense to focus on migrating one service at a time…and your business phone system is a great place to start.

Below are three reasons why migrating to a cloud phone system first is a smart strategy:

1. IT BUILDS INTERNAL SUPPORT FOR CLOUD

One key advantage of a cloud phone system is that you can deploy it in a controlled rollout, which will help you build internal support for future cloud-based solutions. A cloud phone system offers the flexibility to deploy the service to as many, or as few, employees or groups as you want. By focusing on just one or two workgroups, you can design, deploy and test incrementally before staging a wider rollout. This enables the IT team to work out any potential kinks early, ensuring that your full deployment will be met with positive feedback. Plus, when employees have a good experience with the cloud phone system, they’ll be much more eager to embrace future cloud applications in other aspects of their daily operations.

2. IT MAXIMIZES BUDGETS

Expenses are a challenge for most IT departments, so it’s not surprising that IT managers are always on the lookout for technologies that can deliver increased value by boosting efficiency. As a subscription service, a cloud phone system lowers capital expenditures by reducing the need for new hardware or equipment. In addition, there’s no need to install and maintain applications. Over time, your business will recognize savings because the cost of operation is lower. Before choosing a cloud phone solution, be sure to carefully evaluate and compare options. Look for vendors that provide comprehensive management and can offer you the lowest total cost of operations.

3. IT FREES UP YOUR TIME

Deploying a cloud phone system allows you to hand off its day-to-day management to the vendor. This frees you from the vast majority of routine operational and maintenance responsibilities, giving you more time to focus on high value projects related to your company’s core solutions or business drivers. It will also allow you to devote more time to getting other cloud-based initiatives off the ground.

As your organization’s most ubiquitous technology, your phone system affects every employee in your workplace on a daily basis. As a result, the benefits of moving your communications to the cloud first will reverberate throughout your business. Along with delivering lower costs and greater efficiency, it will lay the groundwork for future cloud adoption, positioning your business to embrace the future.

Learn more about ShoreTel’s cloud phone solutions here. This blog originally appeared on the ShoreTel blog.

Playing the SLA Game

 

SLA (Service Level Agreements):

A service level agreement (SLA) is a contract between a service provider (either internal or external) and the end user that defines the level of service expected from the service provider. SLAs are output-based in that their purpose is specifically to define what the customer will receive.

SLAs have been around forever and are prevalent in most technical service contracts. Basically, the SLA is a promise from the provider to the consumer, giving the consumer a guarantee of performance for the service. For example, you buy Internet service from Company X. Company X promises that your service will be available to you 99.99% of the time. Seems pretty simple, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t.

Here’s how most SLAs work:

Company X promises to provide a certain level of service. If they don’t, they are held accountable in a manner that doesn’t come close to compensating you for the costs or difficulties you incurred as a result of the service failure. Furthermore, it’s possible you will have to prove to the provider that the SLA wasn’t met and by how much…and then wait 60 to 90 days for the check.

If you think this sounds like a relatively insignificant promise, you’re right. Yet, it’s the single most common tool for reducing buyer fear. After all, it’s perfectly reasonable to have some kind of guarantee before trusting a company to provide us an important service, right?

And the answer is yes, absolutely – but just go into it knowing that if the provider falls short of their promise, your compensation won’t come close easing the pain of your lost productivity, revenue, or the impact to your customers. SLAs aren’t insurance.

Ultimately, SLAs do provide some incentive for the provider to stay true to their promise… However, the more interesting part is that the real incentive tends to be no different than what good business would already dictate – the need to keep customers happy. As such, the SLA generally does more to assuage the customer’s fears than it does to incentivize most providers to alter their business practices.

Still, there’s no harm in taking the provider’s promise – it’s just important to know that an SLA doesn’t change much. If you’re working with a good company, your SLA won’t be relevant very often. If you’re working with a bad one, your SLA won’t help you much.

This blog originally appeared on ‘The Business Technology Place‘ – a website and blog run by our very own, Joe Ulm. Joe is a Senior Business Development Manager at Information Technology Professionals. You can read this article, and more on his website.

News from ITP: February Edition

On your marks… get set… Go Office 365!

Microsoft’s FastTrack program will help you get to the cloud faster. 
Move to Office 365 smoothly and with confidence. Take advantage of cost breaks and strategic planning resources through Microsoft’s FastTrack program. Cross the cloud finish line in 2017 with this limited offer. 

Upcoming ITP Events

Each month we curate the emerging tech news and trends that you need to know. Join us for some fun, networking, and knowledge. Check out two of our upcoming events:

After Work Network: Top Shelf Tech with a Twist! – Feb 22, Neenah
Get hands on with HP’s latest server technology. We’ll be doing a side-by-side comparison and discussing what makes their hardware worthy of a ‘top shelf’ status.

Webinar: CFO’s Guide to Technology – Feb 24, Virtual Event
Technology management tips for individuals in non-IT leadership roles. We’ll discuss why CFOs are often involved in IT, and how they are uniquely positioned to guide strategic decisions.

Who do I contact at ITP?

When you have an issue: Something’s just not quite working right, but you don’t really know what’s wrong. Submit a ticket by emailing support@itprosusa.com. Your issue will be delegated to a Help Desk Engineer. Tickets are monitored during business hours Monday – Friday 8:30 AM to 5 PM (excluding holidays).

When you want to something new: You’ve decided to finally take the leap, and you want to get started on that big project. Contact your sales representative directly, or email sales@itprosusa.com.

When you have an emergency: If you have an emergency that requires immediate assistance, please call us at 608.251.6755.

Azure Workshops!

Ready to move to the cloud? We’ll provide you with a dedicated engineer for a one-on-one workshop that’s absolutely FREE (a $4,000 value). This workshop is a ‘white-glove’ Azure adoption and build-out experience from a top Microsoft Partner.

You’ll have a working cloud knowledge and a solid proof of concept plan by the time you leave. This is a limited offering for cloud-ready clients. 

Request an Azure Workshop >>>


R.I.P. Conference Room Projection Cable

We’ve all been there.

You walk into a conference room, and you have a simple task – project your laptop screen onto the screen at the end of the conference room. Yet, until now, this simple task has been really hard.

The first step is the hunt for the cable. Sometimes it’s right there on the table. Sometimes it’s buried in one of these hidden nooks in fancy conference rooms and you have to flip open all of them to find the cable. Often it’s on the floor, underneath the conference room table or hidden behind the TV or screen. Sometimes, you find more than one of these cables in the room. Then you have to play guessing games about which one connects to the projector and which one connects to the video conferencing unit.

If you do manage to find the stupid cable, your next dilemma is dealing with the fact that it probably doesn’t reach to your seat at the conference table. So, you have to move seats and eject someone just to sit next to the cable. Some rooms have the opposite problem – the cable is so long that you feel like a cowboy, unrolling a lasso to make it reach across the table, knocking over coffee cups and displacing papers.

But the problems don’t end there! The next trick is the dongle game. The cable is VGA but your laptop only has HDMI; or the cable is HDMI and you only have display port. Maybe if you’re lucky, the cable has a keyring with dongles attached. So, you flip through them until you find the right one. Now, just as you reach the moment of truth – you plug in and – nothing! What now? You need to find the source selector for the projector or screen to manage to tell it to actually show the output of your laptop.

spark conf-room shareIt’s time for this cable to meet its end.

I’m pleased to announce that today, we’ve shipped an update to Cisco Spark that will once and for all end the evil tyranny of the conference-room projection cable.

How does it work? Easy. With Cisco Spark on your laptop (now supported on our Mac and Windows clients), just walk into any Cisco Spark enabled conference room. Your laptop will automatically pair with the video system, and the Spark app will show an icon with the name of the video unit and a button to share your screen. Press the button. That’s it! Your laptop will go into presentation mode and the contents will show up on the screen.

This one-click-magic is enabled by no less than four innovations we’ve built into the solution.

  • It works with your laptop on any network – even cellular. There are other solutions in-market for wireless sharing, but they typically require the laptop to be on the same LAN as the video system. In an era of BYO devices, guest wifi, and network segmentation, this is less and less the case. With Cisco Spark, your laptop doesn’t need to be on the same LAN as the Cisco Spark room system. It only needs to be able to reach the Internet.
  • It works in any Cisco Spark conference room – not just those in your own company. Think about it: If you visit someone else’s office, you can plug in your HDMI cable into their projectors. With Cisco Spark, the same is true. Walk into any conference room with a Cisco Spark room system, and the wireless-sharing feature works.
  • The projector app and meeting app are the same. Many modern projectors in conference rooms offer downloadable apps you can use to project your screen without plugging in. However, if you want to share your screen into an online meeting, you also need a meeting app. With Cisco Spark, they’re one and the same. The Cisco Spark Room OS endpoint serves as both a wireless projector and video-conferencing system, and the associated Cisco Spark app also accomplishes both goals. You use the same app to project your laptop onto the screen as you would to join an online meeting.
  • Go there to show there. A common concern with wireless projection technologies is whether someone can project content onto the screen without being in the conference room. An HDMI cable does have the benefit that only someone in the room can project content onto the screen. Competitors that offer wireless presentation apps for their projectors often use cumbersome codes to ensure your presence in the room. Again, Cisco Spark makes it easy. Cisco Spark’s wireless presentation-sharing feature uses our unique ultrasonic proximity technology. With it, users can project their screens only if they are physically within the conference room – no codes required.

Oh, did I mention that this feature is available for both free users and paid users? Of course, someone needs to have purchased the room system, but once it’s there, any Cisco Spark user can share wirelessly.

I’m really excited that we’re finally able to bring this feature to the world. I’ve been using it internally for many months now and it’s a game changer.

To our old friend the projector cable, may you rest in peace.

This blog originally appeared on the Cisco Blog

Reason #2 Why Technology Can Fail SMBs

 

There’technology visions no technology vision.

Ask any CEO or business owner and they’ll be happy to tell you all about their vision for the company. They’ll tell you why their vision is valuable, unique, and how it is all very ahead of the curve. The CEO will then base business decisions on this vision; resources, investments, R&D, etc. It all makes perfect sense, right? After all, business decisions should be consistent with the company’s vision. Yet vision and strategy is rarely considered when it comes to the company’s technology.

A technology vision provides a basis for making strategic decisions about the company’s technology.

Regardless of the specific technology initiative or problem, there has to be answer the question why this particular solution? And this answer isn’t to justify the business reasons behind the initiative, but rather, to answer why, out of the many different possible technical solutions that would address the business issue at hand…why is this the best one?  Often the answer is because it is best aligned with the company’s technology vision.

Your vision is like an anchor. It’s the foundation of how your company’s technology is designed, implemented, and managed.  It’s the focus that is considered before strategic technology decisions are made.

Writing your technology vision statement

Your vision doesn’t need to be long. Many times shorter and more succinct visions are better. Your technology vision statement should include at least 2 things:

  1. What value technology will provide the company and
  2. How it will provide that value

There are so many ways to implement and manage technology within a business today. If there isn’t a foundation for your technology decisions, you’ll often find your technology will lack consistency, direction, and results.

Take the time to think through and build your technology vision. It will create an important dialog with everyone on your team and help you make better decisions. Most importantly a technology vision statement will position you better for the results you expect from your company’s technology.

Education 2017 major ransomware target

Lock down student data for good this year

Everyone in IT for the education sector is most likely aware of the plague of ransomware that has visited their colleagues in healthcare this year. Healthcare offers hackers rich pickings of personal and financial information—but so does the education sector, where there is the added bonus of valuable research and other types of information unique to the sector.

Recently, security firm BitSight reported that education, not healthcare, is in fact the most attacked industry. It found that 13% of educational organizations had been hacked—three times more than the rate of ransomware in healthcare and more than 10 times the rate in the financial sector.

This is contrary to the findings earlier in the year from Osterman Research. Osterman’s survey found far higher ransomware penetration in healthcare. (It found that 53% of healthcare organizations had been targeted and that the penetration rate was 39%.)

While first place might be in dispute, no one is arguing that ransomware is now a growing and expensive problem. Being in third place or even ninth place will be no consolation when the hackers strike. That’s especially true if you could have taken some simple precautions to stop the attack or limit the damage.

The education sector’s special problems with ransomware

It’s difficult for K–12 schools to fend off attacks with small budgets and IT teams. And universities are environments where file sharing is an extreme sport, making ransomware a huge challenge for IT departments.

The hackers are after medical records, information they can use for identity theft, financial information, and research data. And many institutions are paying the ransoms, which won’t help the problem go away.

The first line of defense

There are some simple things that you can do to shore up the defenses without incurring significant cost.

  1. Establish email security protocols—Email is where the attackers are most likely to get into your system, so take the chance to kill off as many prospective attacks as possible by just not letting the infected files through.
  2. Avoid file sharing—Ditto.
  3. Keep software up to date—Unpatched software is another way in so shut it down.
  4. Improve network hygiene by upgrading aging infrastructure to reduce your vulnerabilities.
  5. Have a diversified backup strategy—Use physical and cloud backups
  6. Segment the Wi-Fi—If possible, segment your Wi-Fi to keep staff, students, and guests on different networks.
  7. Educate employees—because they are your weakest link. They need to know what good security looks like and where the dangers are coming from, such as phishing attacks.
  8. Show file extensions—It’s harder to hide an exe file as a jpg when the user can see the full extension, and you’ve trained them to know the difference

We share our insight into protecting student data in our most recent webinar ‘Cybersecurity for School Districts’. Stream this session anytime >>> 

Unlock Your Office 365 Super Powers: Productivity

What’s holding you back from the cloud?

We know that going to the cloud is a big undertaking. The time, planning and resources necessary is enough to make even the most experienced IT practitioner’s head spin. We hear the same cloud barriers again and again. I’m just too busy. I don’t have the right skills. It’s not in my budget. Do any of these sentiments sound like you?

Your Cloud Experts

Whatever your cloud barrier, we can help you. Meet Information Technology Professionals, or ITP for short. We specialize in helping small and medium-sized businesses make the transition to the cloud. By outsourcing migration, internal teams are able to more effectively make the transition without having to scale up their team. And the cloud allows you to automate day-to-day tasks like password reset (see more details about this below).

Our team has performed over 100 cloud migrations of all shapes and sizes this year. We’ll help you map out an efficient cloud strategy, plan for a successful migration, and even buy Microsoft licenses with Fast Track Dollars. Whether you want to outsource part or all of your cloud initiative, we have the flexibility to serve your team.

Here’s the best part

Take back your productivity with a move to the cloud. You’ll break open your week by removing system management tasks from your schedule. Move to the cloud to automate simple and time-consuming IT tasks, like password resets and software updates. Flex your cloud muscles and free up your resources for more important undertakings.

Break cloud barriers with the help of an experienced and dedicated IT team. Outsource part or all of your projects. We’ll help you achieve your IT goals on time and on budget.

Learn more about overcoming objections and breaking cloud barriers >>>