Managed Services vs. In-House IT Specialists: The Pros & Cons

Managed Services vs. In-House IT Specialists: The Pros & Cons

Whether you’re a start-up or a small but fast-growing company, the question of how to manage your business’s IT infrastructure will need to be answered sooner than later. Would you prefer to have your own in-house IT specialist? Or does it make more sense to partner with a managed services provider (MSP) to handle all of your IT needs?

Determining which solution is best for your business is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly – but we can help. We’ll break down the roles of both in-house specialists and MSPs, examine what each can offer your business, and discover what their limitations might be. After identifying the pros and cons of both, you will be able to make a better-informed decision about the direction that will best suit your company.

IN-HOUSE IT STAFF

Pros of Having an In-House IT Staff:

• Onsite Availability:  Arguably the biggest benefit of keeping your IT management in-house is the ability to have immediate support whenever you need it. From routine issues to major crisis management, an in-house IT team will always deliver the shortest response time. There’s a certain degree of security in knowing that if there’s a technical issue of any magnitude, you can speak with an onsite IT professional within seconds.

• Business-Specific Expertise:  Over time, an in-house IT specialist will develop a deep knowledge of the company’s internal infrastructure and systems, which better equips them to be able to troubleshoot issues.

• More Control Over Assets:  Some businesses might find it more preferable to maintain greater control over their IT infrastructure. Keeping your IT services in-house allows you to oversee everyday IT operations easily.

Cons Of Having an In-House IT Staff:

• Higher Personnel Costs:  Hiring internal IT staff can become very expensive. In addition to the employee’s salary, you’ll likely be on the hook for their health benefits (at least in part), paid time off, 401k, payroll taxes, and costs/resources associated with training.

• Off-The-Clock Issues:  Let’s assume that your IT personnel works an average of 8 hours a day from Monday through Friday. What about nights, weekends, and holidays? If an unexpected issue should arise when members of your IT team are unavailable to respond, it can lead to a serious loss of productivity due to operational downtime.

• Limited Experience and/or Knowledge of Technological Advances:  In many cases, an in-house IT specialist – while skilled in many areas – may not have access to the best and latest technologies. In the IT support world, ongoing training is absolutely critical. Unfortunately, most small-to-medium-sized businesses aren’t able to support the cost of continual training for their in-house IT team. Occasionally, an internal IT employee may encounter a problem with which they’re unfamiliar. In this case, an outside IT professional may need to be consulted to resolve the issue, which will incur additional costs for the company.

• Lack of Redundancy:  Businesses all too often become overly reliant on a single in-house IT specialist who holds the “keys to the kingdom,” so to speak. All that knowledge residing with one person who can leave whenever they want is potentially catastrophic. Not only is the company risking loss of valuable data should the in-house IT specialist “go rogue,” it’s also setting itself up for an unnecessarily challenging training process for the employee’s replacement in the event of their departure.

• Inability to Implement Best Practices:  Businesses that choose to manage their own IT integration have to bear the costs, maintenance, and support of the software and hardware they will use. Limited budgets for these expenses may prevent the company from using the latest and best technologies, which may in turn hamper overall performance.

MANAGED IT SERVICES

Pros of Managed IT Services:

• Round-The-Clock Network Monitoring and Remote Support:  One of the greatest benefits of partnering with a managed services provider is that you get network monitoring and remote support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

• Calculable Costs:  For a flat-rate monthly fee – often less than the salary of a single in-house IT specialist – you gain an entire team of dedicated engineers with the know-how to manage all your IT needs. Apart from paying for the services you’ve agreed upon, you won’t have to be concerned about incurring additional expenses due to training staff, certifications, ticket systems, or remote monitoring and management. MSPs have already invested in the latest enterprise management software, virus protection software, management servers and workstations, and redundant backup solutions – so you don’t have to!

• Service Level Agreement (SLA):  This legally binding document lays out exactly which services the MSP will provide for you and what your business’s responsibilities in the partnership will be. The SLA assures you that the MSP will deliver maximum uptime, minimum response time, and consistent quality of service.

• Broader Skill Base:  Since they often work with a wide variety of clients spanning many different industries, MSPs are better equipped to recognize and solve more complex and unusual issues than your typical in-house IT specialist. Most problems can be quickly and efficiently resolved remotely. Managed services technicians are continually learning, training, and expanding their knowledge and capabilities, in order to be able to provide you with the most effective and up-to-date IT solutions.

• Vast Array of Services:  MSPs offer a wide range of IT services to meet your business’s specific needs, including (but not limited to) monthly server maintenance, daily server backups, offsite replication, and antivirus licensing/management.

• Shared Access to Modern Technologies and Resources:  Managed services providers often partner with IT vendors to get better pricing and deals. Memberships in IT organizations allow MSPs easy access to resources that might not be available to the general public (including your in-house IT specialists). MSPs typically utilize highly advanced software for monitoring and maintenance – software that would likely be too expensive for a smaller business to afford for their IT functions alone.

• Free Network Consultation and Business Analysis:  The initial consultation – offered at no cost or obligation to you — helps the MSP identify which network solutions could best address your business’s specific needs, based on your current infrastructure and future IT objectives. A reliable provider will strive, even prior to the on-boarding process, to understand your business and determine exactly what your users need to help achieve the company’s goals.

• Scalability:  Managed services providers allow you to scale up to higher levels of service to handle peak demands as your business grows.

• Greater Accountability:  When your IT infrastructure is being managed outside the company, the risk of internal sabotage is greatly reduced, if not eliminated.

Cons of Managed IT Services:

• Up-Front Costs:  Your company’s network applications, internal networking, and software products will need to support cloud integration in order for an MSP to provide their services remotely. Upgrading your current IT infrastructure to cloud-readiness may incur significant up-front costs. While this may be tough on your budget at first, the overall cost savings in the long run more than make up for the initial investment.

• Limited On-Site Availability:  Not having an IT professional onsite may translate into longer response times, which could prove problematic in the event of an emergency. Minimum response time, as defined in the SLA, can assure you that your concerns will be addressed as soon as possible based on the immediacy of the need.

• Minimized Control of Assets:  Compared to keeping your IT management in-house, outsourcing services to an MSP will, by necessity, prevent your company from having total control over your infrastructure. This may be more important to some businesses than others. Ultimately, most companies simply want reliable and secure IT services at a price that fits their budget.

Conclusion

Like any other business strategy, the decision about whether to employ an in-house IT team or outsource IT services to a managed services provider is crucial. Managed IT services may not the be the best option for every organization. If your business has only a few endpoints or computer users, it may make more sense to keep everything in-house. If your company has a much higher number of users, a managed services provider may better be able to offer your business the technology and tools it needs to enhance the company’s network, productivity, and overall success.
If you decide to partner with an MSP, the role of an in-house IT team does not necessarily need to be eliminated. Combining the knowledge of internal IT staff with the expertise of outsourced IT professionals can create a collaborative relationship that ultimately ends up benefiting the business – and isn’t that the point? As a result of increasing cybersecurity concerns, some companies are choosing to outsource the entire security function of their IT, including archiving, data storage, and mobile device management. This hybrid approach allows businesses managing their IT in-house to free up staff to focus on IT projects that will help their company generate revenue.

Whether your business is looking to minimize expenses, boost earnings, streamline processes, or all of the above, your company should consider partnering with a managed IT services provider.

DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI) offers IT services and solutions to businesses of all sizes and industries. We strive to provide significant value and outstanding service to all of our clients by acting as your business’s IT group. If your company or organization could benefit from managed IT services, please give us a call at 252.329.1382

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10 Ways Law Firms Can Benefit From Managed IT Services

10 Ways Law Firms Can Benefit From Managed IT Services

Lawyers and legal firms manage highly sensitive, personal data on a routine basis. As legal cases become more complex and increasingly reliant on functions such as digital case management, customer relationship management, and e-Discovery, it’s more important than ever that legal organizations do everything they can to ensure their data is protected, their network infrastructure is secure, and compliance requirements are met.

In addition to security concerns, the ability to work while on the move and immediate access to case data are key to keeping up in the fast-paced legal environment. Between paperwork, time tracking, filings, and deadlines, law offices don’t have time to waste on computer systems that crash unexpectedly or otherwise drag down productivity.

Many smaller law firms are facing a harsh reality: they simply don’t have the resources to invest at the scale necessary to keep pace with their increasing technology needs and to narrow the gap opened up by larger firms with deep pockets.

Most law firms spend roughly 70% of their annual IT budget on system maintenance. Only the 30% that remains ends up being invested in acquiring new technology. Ultimately, the bulk of their resources are spent “spinning their wheels,” instead of embracing new technologies that could help propel their business.

It doesn’t have to be this way! By partnering with a reputable managed services provider (MSP), law firms can entrust the day-to-day management of their IT infrastructure to a team of highly skilled IT professionals who specialize in working with legal organizations. This frees up attorneys and other staff to focus on the business of practicing law, without having to worry about their network failing them.

10 Benefits of Managed IT Services for Law Firms:

1) Lower Operating Costs

Smaller and larger firms alike have to keep a close eye on their budgets. The cost to employ in-house IT support can easily surpass $100,000 annually. Unfortunately, this support staff is not available 24/7 and is unlikely to possess the depth of knowledge necessary to support different technologies. MSPs give law offices round-the-clock access to an entire team of certified IT experts for a fraction of the cost of internal IT staff.

2) Maximized Productivity & Billable Hours

Whether it’s a forgotten password, server failure, or an app that’s not responding as it should, attorneys and their teams simply can’t afford to experience significant downtime. System breakdowns can be particularly costly, in terms of lost productivity and business disruption. MSPs specialize in Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR), which is crucial for minimizing downtime and maintaining business continuity. Updating and modernizing a practice’s IT infrastructure can help maximize billing hours by reducing the risk of underperforming applications.

3) Predictable Budgeting

With fixed-fee monthly payment options, law firms can know ahead of time exactly what an MSP is going to charge them. This allows organizations to plan for IT expenses rather than being surprised by unexpected ones.

4) Compliance

The protocols and processes required for law firms to stay compliant can be quite complicated. Legal practices that handle credit cards must comply with PCI-DSS security standards. Attorneys dealing with clients’ medical records are subject to stringent HIPAA regulations. Failure to comply can result in stiff fines and penalties for law firms, as well as an increased likelihood of data breach. Reputable MSPs work diligently to keep all hardware and software up-to-date and in compliance with ever-changing government regulations.

5) Client Confidentiality & Data Security

Since legal practices are routinely entrusted with highly sensitive information about their clients, they know better than anyone else that keeping this data secure is absolutely critical. Undetected malware infiltrations and system hacks put the relationship between attorneys and clients at constant risk. If a security breach should occur, confidential data may be held hostage or distributed in a manner that harms the reputation of law firms or their clients. In the legal community, where reputation is king, this is a worst-case scenario. Managed services providers work around the clock to protect their law firm clients against viruses, alerting them to suspicious activity, and taking immediate action to contain breaches when they occur.

6) 24/7/365 Monitoring & Support

In larger firms, an in-house IT team may be tasked with monitoring environments for threats, handling day-to-day technical operations, and working on achieving the practice’s strategic IT goals. If any of these is overlooked, the firm could end up compromising on security, productivity, or growth. Small-to-medium-sized law firms often cannot afford to employ round-the-clock IT staff, nor do they have the budget to invest in the sophisticated hardware and software necessary to combat dedicated cyberattacks. In either case, it makes sense to enlist the services of a managed services provider. Their dedicated team of IT experts will take full responsibility of monitoring for and controlling any data breaches as soon as they occur. Many trusted MSPs also offer 24/7/365 help desk support for their law firm clients, an added value for an industry in which extended downtime equals lost revenue.

7) Improved Accessibility & Mobility

Since legal professionals perform a large portion of their work outside of the office, they need to be able to access data easily and securely anytime and from anywhere. Important paperwork, documents, and a variety of discovery materials are constantly being added to the existing files. The ability to obtain this information on the fly is crucial for attorneys and their staff. By storing all of the firm’s data in a secure cloud environment, MSPs can give legal professionals fast and easy accessibility to files anywhere they have an internet connection. With a trusted MSP managing their staff’s mobile devices, law firms can also gain integrated efficiency and collaboration while keeping confidential data secure – even if devices are lost or stolen.

8) Level Playing Field

Most smaller law firms aren’t able to afford the in-house IT support services that many larger legal practices maintain. In addition, small practices are unlikely to budget for major system updates or upgrades. As a result, these smaller-scale firms end up lagging on the technology curve. Partnering with a managed services provider gives smaller law firms a competitive advantage, with access to similar technology and often even greater expertise than the large firms enjoy.

 

9) Scalability

Law practices, like any business, are apt to grow and change. With this expansion comes an increased need for upgraded software packages, servers, and desktops, as well as the support system to manage them effectively. Working with a managed services provider gives law firms of all sizes access to the latest technologies and the security measures necessary to operate a growing practice.

10) Legal Application Expertise

Line-of-business (LOB) applications, such as document management systems and cost-recovery systems, are critical to the ongoing success of any legal practice. As the number of LOBs grows, so do the integration challenges tied to these tools. A trusted MSP can engineer these applications to play nicely with standard horizontal applications such as Microsoft Office Suite and Adobe Creative Cloud, helping eliminate a significant amount of frustration and inefficiency. A managed services provider that’s experienced in working with law firms is better able to anticipate potential issues specific to the profession, as well as understand each practice’s operational needs. Outsourcing IT to MSPs allows attorneys to focus on their clients and cases without interruptions or delays due to connectivity issues or backup concerns.

Outsourcing a legal practice’s IT infrastructure to a managed services provider allows attorneys and support staff to devote their time to what truly matters – giving their clients the attention that they deserve. A more focused IT organization can help emerging practices build their client base, assist lawyers with better engaging their clients, and empower firms of any size to compete in the marketplace.

A reputable MSP will take the time to understand a law firm’s business, personnel, systems, and processes and identify its short-term and long-term goals. The service provider will then develop and implement an IT strategy tailored to the practice’s specific needs.

In addition to protecting the firm’s network against cyberthreats, security breaches, and data loss, an MSP provides a variety of other valuable services that an in-house IT team simply can’t match. Legal organizations that choose to work with a managed services provider will gain access to the most up-to-date hardware and software, along with the accessibility and mobility that come with a solid cloud infrastructure. Real-time IT monitoring and support for all network applications and devices, data backup, system upgrades, layered security solutions, and disaster recovery are all key components in an MSP’s repertoire.

DataGroup Technologies has been partnering with legal organizations to provide managed IT services for over 15 years. We understand the unique challenges attorneys and their teams face on a daily basis. Our certified network engineers work with law practices to streamline operations, improve workflow, maximize overall efficiency, and ensure consistent uptime. Our technicians are available to answer your calls for service or support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

If your legal organization has outgrown the capabilities of your in-house IT staff or you’re not 100% satisfied with your current service provider, give us a call today at 252.329.1382 to schedule your free IT assessment!

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10 Ways Commercial Construction Companies Can Benefit from Managed IT Services

10 Ways Commercial Construction Companies Can Benefit from Managed IT Services

From conception to completion, many commercial construction projects involve hundreds, if not thousands, of people working from various locations. Each step in the process, including the design and management of each project, is aided by technology.

The commercial construction industry is unique in its technology needs, with CAD programs, construction project planning, procurement of materials, and estimating software among the essential tools that supervisors, estimators, and sales teams alike rely on each day.

The Past, Present, and Future of Technology in the Construction Industry

Historically, the two-dimensional approach of pencil-and-paper building plans made it very difficult to visualize dimensions and requirements. On top of that, the difficulty of physically handling and managing large quantities of rolled bond copier paper made executing a job from start to finish tedious, hard to communicate, and susceptible to error and loss.

With the arrival of Computer Aided Design (CAD) in the 1960s, the construction industry was able to digitize their key processes to great success. The world of construction in manufacturing and printing became an entirely new challenge when CAD went 3-D. Architects, engineers, and general contractors all benefited from the enhanced efficiency and scalability of design with these newer programs.

Today, many contractors, architects, and developers rely heavily on Building Information Modeling (BIM). This revolutionary technology ensures that the processes of planning, designing, and constructing are more efficient and collaborative than ever before.

With less than 1% of annual revenue budgeted for IT needs, the construction industry as a whole has historically spent the least on technology. However, commercial contractors are realizing that if they wish to stay competitive in the industry today, they have no choice but to integrate leading technologies into their everyday business practices. With an increased focus on security and network infrastructure management, commercial construction has begun to turn to managed services providers to handle their IT needs.

How a Managed Services Provider Can Help

Commercial construction companies routinely subcontract certain aspects of their projects because it’s more efficient. In the same way, commercial contractors are better served to outsource the daily management of their IT infrastructure to a skilled, industry-specific managed services provider (MSP).

Managed IT services gives construction firms an entire team of IT professionals capable of dealing with a variety of complex and unusual issues as needed, at a fraction of the cost of a single in-house IT technician. MSPs handle troubleshooting, system updates and upgrades, and new tech implementation, freeing up in-house IT staff to focus on more pressing business needs.

By partnering with an MSP, commercial construction companies benefit from remote monitoring and management of their on-premises IT infrastructure at flexible levels of support. Advanced systems warn of any issues that must be immediately resolved, while ensuring that the network stays up and running at all times.

Whether a construction firm is looking to set up its network infrastructure from scratch or update its systems to minimize the threat of security breaches and data loss, a reputable managed services provider is fully equipped to handle it all.

Here are a few specific ways that MSPs can be particularly beneficial to the commercial construction industry:

1) Lower Operational Costs

Outsourcing IT needs to a managed services provider eliminates the need to pay salaries, benefits, or 401k to an in-house IT team. Furthermore, since most of the MSP’s operations are conducted offsite, commercial contractors can reduce the amount of physical space and equipment needed for IT purposes.

With the state-of-the-art technology offered by a managed services provider, there will be no need for constant tech upgrades, further reducing operational costs. A savvy construction firm can redirect the funds saved by outsourcing to managed IT services towards other areas of the company where the need is greater.

2) Reduced Downtime = Increased Productivity

In the commercial construction industry, time is money. When critical technology fails to operate efficiently or is subject to regular disruption, production schedules are interrupted, leading to costly delays and lost working hours.

Working with a team of IT specialists can greatly reduce downtime related to network issues. Because software and hardware are operating at maximum efficiency, staff can work more effectively and collaborate more easily.

3) Cybersecurity

From cyberthreats to system crashes to natural disasters, any number of technology-related events could lead to data loss and extended downtime. Cyberattacks, in particular, can cripple a company in a number of ways: financially, legally, and in the eyes of the public.

Many construction companies are living dangerously, with improperly configured and unmanaged firewalls and extremely basic antivirus systems. Fully managed and layered cybersecurity systems and services can help protect users and data from cyberattacks. A reliable managed services provider with extensive knowledge of even the most sophisticated viruses, malware, and other cyberthreats will ensure that threats are detected and prevented before they strike.

4) Mobile Data Management (MDM)

Since commercial construction companies have people working from trucks, construction sites, the road, and the main office, they need their workers to be able to keep in contact and collaborate – at any time, from anywhere, and on whatever devices they are already using.

MDM allows owners, foremen, and other construction personnel access to important information on the go, as well as remote management of various devices. Wireless connectivity options and the broad availability of Wi-Fi help reduce the amount of time spent waiting for management decisions and information sharing across various teams. With the services and software offered by managed services providers, construction companies can optimize the functionality of mobile devices while still protecting the data in their network.

Enterprise file sync and share (EFSS) allows authorized users to securely share and sync files among multiple devices. Since the construction industry often involves file-sharing outside of the company to clients or professionals in different fields, EFSS is an ideal choice. A reputable MSP can help a firm decide whether Dropbox, OneDrive, or some other EFSS best suits their specific needs and business goals.

A reliable voice-over-IP (VoIP) allows management teams to dial an onsite construction engineer via extension without having to fumble around for a cell phone number. When used properly, VoIP can be a significant time-saving tool that greatly increases communication while keeping it under the corporate umbrella.

5) Cloud Services

With the extensive amount of information that’s generated with each project, it’s important that commercial contractors have solutions in place for long-term data management and storage. Cloud-based services help support the technologies that run a company’s critical core applications, such as estimating, accounting, project management, document management, and scale management.

 

In addition to providing easier access to info on the go, cloud technology allows secure file-sharing and access across the network, reduces the risk of cybersecurity threats and costs, ensures the speed and quality of technology, and offers disaster-proof storage for the company’s most sensitive data.

Migrating to the cloud also makes it easier for executives and manages to order materials, oversee subcontractors, and manage cashflow. A construction company will inevitably grow, but it will also experience seasons where business is slow. Cloud-based solutions allow construction firms to scale up or down as needed.

6) Regular Maintenance and 24/7/365 Support

Partnering with a managed services provider means construction companies can count on regularly maintained systems and around-the-clock support, cutting down on the probability of technology failure at critical times and allowing businesses to run smoothly without suffering from significant downtime.

Hardware needs ongoing maintenance and updates, and software requires regular patches and upgrades. MSPs perform monthly updates and preventative maintenance, ensuring that hardware and software remain running at peak efficiency to minimize the risk of reoccurring problems.

Many managed services providers offer 24/7/365 support via a remote help desk staffed by a team of IT experts. This “always-on” approach guarantees that whenever and wherever technology-related issues happen, immediate support is available. Commercial contractors that partner with MSPs can expect quick responses to service calls, increasing project efficiency and collaborative communication.

7) Automation of Processes

Commercial contractors have a number of technology tools at their disposal which can automate tedious manual processes, enhance efficiency and productivity, and trim costs to increase profit margins. Still, over half of all contractors rely on pen and paper for everything from bids and estimates to project management.

A knowledgeable IT team can help a construction company identify which of its processes can be automated, recommend the technology tools that will be most effective for the business, and help integrate solutions into the existing IT infrastructure.

8) Data Backup & Disaster Recovery

Two things that construction companies absolutely cannot afford are the loss of valuable data and missed deadlines. Fully managed backup and disaster recovery services ensure that data is safe no matter what while giving contractors the confidence that they can and will meet all important deadlines.

A trusted MSP establishes backup systems that provide for both the security of sensitive information as well as the ability to continue to access that information. A robust disaster recovery plan helps minimize downtime and data loss in the event of a natural or cyber disaster, so businesses can continue almost instantaneously.

9) Collaboration

In order for a construction company to function successfully, real-time seamless collaboration among architects, engineers, contractors, onsite project managers, and office staff is essential. With frequently changing staff and the number of users onsite, construction teams need support and collaborative tools that make teamwork easy.

Adopting specialized construction planning software and a comprehensive IT strategy are quickly becoming necessities for commercial contractors. A professional IT team specializing in construction industry software and mobile technology can help integrate the proper tools into the company’s infrastructure to facilitate and streamline collaboration.

10) Project Management Software Support

Construction work requires companies to deliver projects on time and on budget. Project management software enables firms to execute projects more efficiently while still delivering top-quality results and improving the overall profitability of the business. Having an experienced IT team supporting this software ensures that it runs smoothly and efficiently at all times.

Managed services providers that specialize in working with construction companies have extensive experience with supporting software such as Sage, JD Edwards, QuickBooks, and AutoCAD programs. Vendor management services allow an MSP to work with a company’s software vendors to prevent excessive downtime should unforeseen issues occur.

Final Thoughts

Partnering with a managed services provider can help commercial contractors enable a mobile workforce while maintaining control of sensitive data and securing the network. MSPs can maximize the performance of a company’s in-house systems to ensure uptime; transition the business to cloud-based operations and services; provide support for third-party applications by liaising with vendors; and address ongoing technology issues to bring them to a permanent resolution. has been partnering with commercial contractors to provide managed IT services for over 15 years. Our expertise in working with commercial contractor clients makes us the preferred choice for construction firms of all sizes throughout the region.

When you partner with DTI, we take the time to understand your specific business needs and tailor a solution that will enhance productivity and enable you to get the job done faster. Our team of certified IT professionals will assess the current state of your network infrastructure, identify potential risks, validate alignment with your business goals, and suggest opportunities for technical and organizational improvements.

Our industry experience allows us to better manage remote network access solutions, construction management software, design applications such as AutoCAD, and mobile security solutions. We can work with your firm to fully support your internal IT staff or – for a fixed monthly fee – offer comprehensive IT services. Our technicians are available to answer your calls for service or support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

If your commercial construction company is ready to take the next step toward advancing its technological capabilities or you’re not 100% satisfied with your current service provider, give us a call today at 252.329.1382 for your initial IT consultation!

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How Can Manufacturing Companies Benefit from Managed IT Services?

How Can Manufacturing Companies Benefit from Managed IT Services?

Manufacturing is central to a strong, vibrant economy. But in order for manufacturing companies to succeed and prosper, it’s essential that their technology be properly equipped, secured, and optimized.

In today’s world, manufacturing operations like yours rely on information technology for practically every aspect of the business. Manufacturers can communicate with anyone, anywhere in an instant. Advances in technology allow you to better formulate plans, fine-tune production processes, and adapt to market demands with remarkable agility and speed. Orders can be submitted more accurately to vendors, and with greater ease. In short, IT continues to provide better, more efficient ways to work.

Selecting the right technology that your manufacturing business needs in order to thrive is a challenge in and of itself. Maximizing the power of that tech on your own is a far-greater challenge.

Manufacturing is a Complicated Business

 Today’s manufacturing environment is progressing more quickly than it did during the Industrial Revolution. With information technology changing just as rapidly, it can feel like an uphill battle for manufacturing companies to fight.

Whether you’re managing production, supply chain, logistics, consumer safety, or regulatory compliance, manufacturing processes can be hard to execute when your operations and businesses aren’t properly aligned. Effectively constructing a network of technology and solutions, along with managing ongoing IT efforts, can put a significant strain on your resources.

Manufacturing IT departments often grapple with the task of supporting a global organization with multiple locations – one that requires data and applications to be shared from a centralized location, no less – while having a fixed budget and limited staff at their disposal. At the same time, the in-house IT team is expected to build competitive advantage and profitability for the business by creatively making use of both IT tools and their own technical prowess.

There’s Got to Be a Better Way (And There Is!)

 In the highly competitive manufacturing industry, companies want IT that makes their work easier, more productive, drives efficiency, increases profits, and frees them to focus on growing the business. While that may sound like a tall order, it’s easier than you might think.

With customized IT solutions, your manufacturing company can see significantly accelerated productivity, streamlined production, and the type of uptime and efficiency needed to propel the business to succeed for years to come.

A reliable managed services provider (MSP) with experience supporting manufacturing companies understands the unique IT challenges of your industry, and knows how to build systems that will effectively keep your operations up and running.

By leveraging the talent of a skilled MSP, manufacturers can take the burden of day-to-day network monitoring and incident remediation off the IT team’s plate, freeing them to focus on more important tasks.

Managed service providers are capable of integrating a variety of technologies across production, administrative departments, and management, in ways that are both secure and streamlined.

What Is Managed IT Services for Manufacturing?

 Managed IT services is a cost-effective alternative to retaining onsite IT support. For a fraction of the cost of a single in-house specialist, your company gains access to a specialized team of highly trained IT professionals. Backed by a clearly defined service level agreement, a skilled MSP provides proactive management, remote monitoring, and maintenance of your entire IT infrastructure.

The Benefits of Managed IT Services for Manufacturing Companies

1) Reduce Operational Costs

If you choose to go with a managed services provider instead of in-house IT techs, the money you save on salary, sick leave, health insurance, and social security can be used to fund other key aspects of the business.

A managed services provider already possesses all the tools needed to monitor, secure, and manage your IT infrastructure, so you don’t have to invest in these technologies yourself.

With a flat monthly fee, you can confidently budget for all your IT support costs and avoid unexpected expenses.

 

2) Save Time

The average IT staffer spends most of their time working on network issues, routine system maintenance, and troubleshooting everyday problems – often related to printers or operator errors.

By partnering with a reliable managed services provider, the manufacturer’s in-house IT team is able to redirect their efforts towards more strategic, business-building IT initiatives that will generate revenue for the company.

An MSP has a whole team of trained IT professionals available to help, enabling them to respond faster when problems arise and resolve the issues proactively.

3) Increase Productivity

Manufacturing is a very fast-paced industry. Downtime from a network crash can shatter productivity, costing your company time and money. When downtime starts to affect your clients as well, your reputation is at risk. While some instances of downtime – such as employee error and regular machine maintenance – are unavoidable, you can control the management of your IT infrastructure. With a managed services provider actively monitoring the state of your IT, you greatly reduce the risk of extended downtime, which can save your business money and prevent catastrophic production delays.

4) Streamline IT Processes

As a manufacturer, your primary focus is on streamlining operations and maintaining high levels of production. It may not have even occurred to you that your day-to-day IT processes could also be streamlined for greater efficiency.

Standardization allows for greater consistency in all manufacturing processes, particularly when it comes to rapid recovery when issues arise. Some manufacturers don’t deploy and utilize the same technology across multiple locations. Managing operations with a variety of CRM, ERP, and other software creates a needlessly complicated tangle of communications that hampers employees and the business in general.

A good technology partner will help identify and assess all your IT assets and ensure that these systems are working together well. A skilled MSP can help you design efficient networks that provide seamless collaboration among your staff, outside vendors, sister plants, and other business locations.

A managed services provider can help transition internal office productivity processes to cloud-based services, enabling your administrative employees to work more productively throughout the day.

Technology integration allows you to speed up production on the manufacturing floor, as well as gather and make use of analytics to aid in real-time decisions.

5) Proactively Manage Your Network

Far too many manufacturing companies depend on outdated technology with unreliable systems for both their front-office and production functions. When these assets are not carefully managed, the entire operation becomes subject to chronic inefficiency and productivity lapses caused by ERP system crashes, server issues, email outages, data loss, and even network malfunctions affecting CNC and robotics systems. As a result, your organization’s collaboration will suffer, accessibility will be compromised, and valuable time will be wasted. Instead of staying ahead of IT problems, you find yourself constantly reacting to them.

With a reputable MSP proactively managing, monitoring, and maintaining your network, you can devote your time to overseeing your production line, without having to be concerned with the IT involved in it. A team of dedicated IT technicians works to identify and address minor problems before they lead to critical failures; update software, hardware, and security capabilities consistently to extend the life of your equipment; apply necessary patches and upgrades; and periodically audit your IT systems to detect potential issues.

6) Around-the-Clock IT Support

If your network runs all day, every day, nonstop (and it likely does) – so must your network monitoring. Having a managed service provider remotely monitoring and managing your servers, desktops, and mobile devices 24/7 gives you peace of mind that the network won’t let you down and production can keep moving forward.

When an IT problem arises that you don’t understand, you need help right away. Most MSPs provide 24/7/365 help desk support, ensuring that a highly trained professional will be available to take your call, answer your questions, solve your problems, and get you back up and running quickly. Many issues can be resolved remotely, but IT technicians are also available to work on premises as needed.

7) Protect Against Cyberattacks

Operational procedures and network configurations unique to manufacturing networks make them more vulnerable to certain kinds of malware threats. Many manufacturing companies tend to rely on older software and machines on the production line, and these tools may lack the sophisticated security protections needed to prevent most cyberattacks. A data breach of any magnitude could have a disastrous effect on productivity and cost millions in lost revenue.

With that much liability and money on the line, it’s crucial that you protect your users, systems, network, data, and intellectual property from increasing security threats which could derail your business. Cybersecurity services help defend against harmful viruses, malware, and hackers by using firewalls, intrusion detection systems, virus and spam protection, and responsive incident management.

A reputable managed services provider can reconfigure older technology so that it works securely and safely with newer tools; help detect suspicious activity and respond quickly to minimize the impact of cybersecurity events; and conduct ongoing risk assessments to identify network susceptibility.

8) Scalability

When it comes to managing manufacturers’ IT needs, scalability is extremely important. Manufacturing companies often work on large projects requiring a small “burst” of employees and resources. Once the job is completed, the need for these resources decreases and the company can no longer afford to retain the additional employees.

Ramping up your technology with the help of an IT solutions provider is the ideal solution, as increased workloads can easily scale to the cloud with no upfront costs or time delays for you. When the project is complete, your company can easily scale back down to adjust to your current needs.

New service offerings often come with significant upgrades or new software. A trusted MSP can provide the flexibility you need to alter your products and services and add new ones as needed. Having a network that’s easily scalable makes your manufacturing company more agile when it comes to meeting constantly changing demands.

9) Data Backup & Disaster Recovery

In a manufacturing environment, any number of unexpected things can occur – whether it’s a large-scale disaster like a fire, flood, earthquake, storm, or widespread power outage, or a seemingly harmless disruption such as an overheated server room, leak, hardware and software failure, or employee error.

Extended downtime due to a disaster – natural or otherwise – is not only incredibly frustrating, but can significantly affect your bottom line as well. If you struggle to return to “business as usual,” the cost is even greater. Having solid preparedness plans in place for ensuring business continuity and disaster recovery can help you move past the pain of a disaster and get back to full operations more quickly.

When you work with a managed services provider, you have a dedicated team of IT professionals working to keep your systems up and running and your valuable data backed up and stored properly.

10) Cloud-Based Services

Cloud computing has been an extraordinary boost to the manufacturing companies that have embraced it. With a cloud-based system, you can build a connection among all your technologies, from the back office to the factory floor. This provides greater insight into problems and inefficiencies.

By decentralizing your IT functions and making them universally available in the cloud, all users can enjoy the same experience regardless of their location.

However, shifting your data and applications to the cloud can be tedious and complicated. A reputable MSP can ensure that your cloud migration is effective while minimizing the likelihood of downtime during the transition.

11) Mobile Device Management

Manufacturing, like most work these days, has increasingly gone mobile. But if your mobile devices aren’t being properly managed, they can be a major point of concern.

A managed services provider can set up all your employees to use your smartphones, tablets, and laptops safely and securely. This ensures that all your data – both that of the company and your customers – remains protected, even if a device is lost or stolen.

12) Access to the Latest Technologies

Many businesses, but especially manufacturers, have a difficult time keeping up with the latest technological advancements. By outsourcing your IT to a trusted MSP, you gain easy access to the most up-to-date technologies so you can better compete in a tech-driven world.

Moreover, with an outside service provider, these IT solutions are often less expensive than if you purchased them outright. Most IT companies have partnerships with vendors who provide them with new technologies at a reduced cost.

13) Maintain Regulatory Compliance

Depending on what your company manufactures, you may be expected to meet certain compliance and regulatory standards. Compliance issues can cost you profoundly in legal liabilities and regulatory penalties, not to mention your good reputation.

A trustworthy MSP will work with you to ensure that your systems meet these legal requirements and provide supporting documentation to help you avoid fines and penalties for noncompliance

Final Thoughts

Manufacturing companies have unique technology needs that are best served by working with a qualified managed services provider. With an optimized IT environment as well as cloud, web, and mobile solutions in place, you can greatly enhance the efficiency of your production line. Manufacturers can also benefit from the latest, most sophisticated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software which allows for top-to-bottom cooperation and collaboration.

When you partner with a reliable MSP, you can expect lower cost of ownership, business scalability, streamlined processes, greater continuity, improved security, and increased productivity for your manufacturing company. A team of IT professionals, with its broad range of technical expertise, is able to review your existing technology, help determine where improvements or restructuring are needed, and leverage the tools and processes needed to keep your systems secure, reliable, and protected.

At DataGroup Technologies, we make it our business to help you build yours. We understand the types of challenges that manufacturers face, and we have the proper expertise to design and implement a technology strategy that will improve your productivity as well as your bottom line. We can customize IT infrastructure that’s perfectly suited for every aspect of your operations, from the front office to the manufacturing floor.

With our depth of experience and extensive knowledge base, we are able to troubleshoot and quickly resolve routine network issues, develop processes to disaster-proof your business, identify areas where infrastructure could be improved, and execute these technology upgrades. We provide complete and continuous care of your onsite and cloud assets within an easily budgeted, predictable subscription payment.

When you partner with DataGroup Technologies, our technical services engineers will become an extension of your existing IT department, working side-by-side with your in-house professionals to handle a variety of tasks, from large-scale installations to providing support to staff, customers, and vendors. We can also operate as your entire IT department, if you don’t already have one.

If your manufacturing company could benefit from the numerous advantages of managed IT services, give us a call today at 252.329.1382!

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Why Your Business Must Take a Proactive Approach to IT

Why Your Business Must Take a Proactive Approach to IT

 

If you’re like most businesses today, you rely heavily on technology to support your daily operations. When your systems stop working properly, productivity grinds to a halt, employees and customers become frustrated, and your bottom line suffers.

A singular IT disaster can set your company back months, decimate your budget, leave staff struggling to pick up the pieces, and seriously risk damaging your reputation. From data loss to network malfunctions, downtime due to IT issues costs businesses in excess of $1.5 million each year in terms of lost productivity and sales.

There are two primary ways of addressing IT support for any business: the reactive approach and the proactive approach.

Some might argue that a reactive approach has its benefits. Common wisdom says that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” If your business is tight on cash, you may be seeking ways to cut expenses — and in general, you don’t see the point in paying for something you might not need.

With a reactive approach to IT support, when something goes wrong you try to get in touch with a technician to come and check your systems, then wait for them to resolve the issue. The problem with this working model is that it can lead to significant downtime. The technician will first need to analyze the problem before they can get to work on it. If updates or replacement hardware are necessary, business operations could be disrupted even further until the upload or order is completed.

Reactive IT support staff often don’t have the right tools in place to keep tabs on the end-user’s experience, instead relying on issues being reported as they crop up. According to a recent study by Forrester Research, 35% of the time IT support first learns about issues when end-users contact the service desk and open a ticket. This is because their support is reactive rather than proactive.

In order for your business to be able to foresee the challenges that may lie ahead, you need to take a more proactive approach to your IT needs. Proactive IT support allows you to better manage your IT budget, secure your data, and avoid some of the major technology risks that your business faces today. 

Through continuous monitoring and real-time analytics, proactive IT support provides excellent insight into your IT infrastructure and endpoints from the end-user perspective. Potential problems are spotted early and resolved before they can jeopardize your business.

Businesses that opt to outsource their IT needs to a managed services provider (MSP) can expect to save time, money, and stress in the long run. MSPs continuously monitor a company’s infrastructure in search of would-be problems and work to remedy those issues before a major catastrophe occurs.

 

WHAT IS REACTIVE IT SUPPORT?

Let’s dive into this one a little bit deeper.

Reactive IT support involves taking measures to correct problems only when they materialize. It’s often referred to as the “break-fix” model. Under this model, a business contacts IT support (whether in-house or an external company) when something goes wrong and makes arrangements to have the problem repaired as quickly as possible. The business is then forced to wait for the IT team to address and resolve the issue, all too often resulting in a great deal of downtime.

The cost of a provider agreement for reactive IT support tends to be lower than a fully managed plan, primarily because this support is implemented on an as-needed basis. If your business already employs in-house staff to provide general IT maintenance, partnering with a reactive support team gives your company access to highly skilled, reliable resources at a budget-friendly price tag. 

Having a variable service agreement means you’ll only be billed for the time that’s spent fixing problems, and this can be a very attractive option for companies with limited financial resources. But there’s a catch.

The time that elapses between detecting a problem and getting it resolved can be hours or days, depending on the specific situation. In that time, significant damage could be done to your system. Since a typical IT project often surpasses its original budget by 45%, fixing an existing problem can be both cumbersome and costly for your business.

 

WHAT IS PROACTIVE IT SUPPORT?

Now, for the good news!

With proactive IT support, you can stay ahead of your technology problems. You don’t have to worry about losing productivity, damaging your company’s reputation, or tanking employee morale. Plus, it’s much friendlier to your budget in the long run!

Proactive support is all about prevention — mending potential problems before they can snowball into much more severe issues. By proactively managing your IT support needs, you can empower your business to do more with its technology. You’ll get more out of your existing systems, establish new solutions in a strategic fashion, and develop long-term plans for business growth.

Key components of proactive IT support involve automating certain processes and monitoring technology assets to further streamline operations and make analyzing and identifying issues in advance considerably easier.

12 Advantages of Proactive IT Support Businesses

Proactive IT support offers a number of decided advantages which can make a considerable difference for businesses. Here are 12 benefits to taking a more proactive approach to your IT needs:

Early Detection of Problems

Through continuous monitoring, your IT support partner is able to identify potential issues before they even occur. Resolving problems quickly prevents them from extending to other parts of your system. More often than not, a problem can be eliminated and maintenance carried out before it’s even detected by end-users.

Increased Productivity

Employees and clients depend on your technology to help them achieve their goals. Software and hardware failures and other IT-related issues cause disruptions that can hamper productivity and foster frustration for all parties involved. Solving issues proactively means less time sitting around waiting for repairs to be completed. Reducing the risk of downtime empowers your workforce to be as productive as possible. Productivity and happiness go hand in hand; giving your staff the right tools for the job creates a more harmonious, happier workplace.

Upgraded Cybersecurity

A proactive IT support team is able to cover every aspect of cybersecurity, from software updates to employee training. They’ll create security plans, protect your network against basic threats, and outline steps to be taken if systems are breached. Managed antivirus and anti-malware programs help keep viruses and malware at bay, while strategic backup procedures ensure that data loss doesn’t occur.

Predictable Costs

Most managed services providers offer their services for a fixed monthly fee which covers ongoing monitoring, maintenance, and updates, making it easier to budget your IT expenditures accurately and strategically. You may pay more in a given month than your would in a variable fee arrangement, but you’ll also incur fewer costs as a result of downtime. When tech problems inevitably arise, you won’t have to worry about an unexpectedly high bill for repairs. Having your systems continuously monitored keeps your infrastructure in good working order at all times. It’s always cheaper to prevent technology failure than it is to clean up the mess afterwards.

Team of IT Professionals

When you partner with a managed services provider for proactive IT support, you have an entire team of certified IT experts at your service, instead of just one or two individuals whose daily grind consists of putting out fires or solving routine problems. These IT specialists recognize how each device on your network plays an essential role in the operations of your company. Having a team in place to keep an eye out for problems and handle them in a timely manner gives even smaller companies the IT support strength of much larger institutions.

Better Decision Making

Before the onboarding process even begins, an MSP will perform a strategic analysis of your IT infrastructure to identify any areas of weakness that could impede optimal performance. Based on automated tools provided by the MSP, you will be able to make informed decisions about your specific IT needs. Having all the information presented clearly in front of you puts you in the driver’s seat, making it easier to see when you need to scale up.

Strategic Planning

From carrying out thorough risk assessments to inventorying your IT assets to updating your software and hardware to align with your business goals, MSPs are fully equipped to handle all strategic aspects of your IT. A proactive strategy allows you to adapt to a changing business environment and meet future challenges head-on. MSPs will work to head off issues that can not only crop up again but worsen over time.

Regular Updates & Patches

Many successful cyberattacks rely on unpatched hardware and software. A proactive update schedule minimizes opportunities for hackers to intrude on your systems. The most recent patch may also add new features that could improve overall performance. Proactive upgrades are particularly beneficial for maintaining older technology that may be more vulnerable to attacks. MSPs can schedule these updates for ideal times, ensuring that servers don’t go offline at inappropriate times.

Regulatory Compliance

Understanding how your company performs in regard to regulatory compliance is a fundamental facet of proactively protecting your company and its data. Regulatory compliance can safeguard your company from unwanted fees and preserve your customers and employees from impending data breaches.

24/7/365 Monitoring

Remote monitoring of your workstations, servers, routers, printers, and other network devices keeps your IT network in good shape at all times. Knowing that a team of skilled computer experts is regularly testing your systems and thoroughly evaluating them for a wide range of potential problems give you and your employees peace of mind. When the team is alerted of an issue, they start working on a fix immediately, often without you ever noticing it. Software problems can generally be fixed remotely, while hardware issues typically require a technician who is physically present on the premises.

Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity

Major events such as fires, floods, hurricanes, and cyberattacks are a hazard to all businesses. A reliable MSP will set up a robust disaster recovery plan for your business and implement software solutions that will keep your business up and running. All data is backed up regularly so that, in the event of an emergency, your most crucial information is completely safe and easily accessible.

Around-the-Clock Help Desk Support

Most managed services providers offer 24/7/365 help desk support as well. Not only does this come in handy whenever there’s an after-hours incident, it also allows your internal IT staff (if applicable) to focus on projects that add value to the business rather than running around troubleshooting everyday problems.

Final Thoughts

Managing the health of your IT systems in a merely reactive way is like managing your own physical health reactively. Like many health issues, most IT issues can be detected by early warning signs that could be picked up through proactive monitoring. By analyzing your business and identifying the gaps, weak points, and strengths, a managed services provider can better determine how to protect your company from emergency expenditures, last-minute crises, unexpected downtime, cyberthreats, data loss, and compliance issues.

When partnering with an MSP, you can count on effective monitoring and maintained functionality of your network, enhanced overall performance of your IT infrastructure, reduce downtime and increased productivity, ongoing support whenever you need it, and more time to devote to your core business.

Taking a proactive approach to IT doesn’t make your problems go away. But it will make them easier to plan for and simpler to manage.

DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI) is the premier managed IT services provider in our area, delivering ideal IT solutions to businesses of all sizes. We strive to provide significant value and outstanding service to all of our clients by acting as an extension of your business’s IT team. If your organization could benefit from the many advantages of managed services, including proactive IT support, give us a call at 252.329.1382 today!

Shadow IT: How Your Company’s Data Is Silently Being Leaked Online

Shadow IT: How Your Company’s Data Is Silently Being Leaked Online

There’s a growing trend creeping into organizations of all industries and sizes: shadow IT. This relatively new term is used to describe any unauthorized cloud applications that employees are using and downloading to perform work-related activities with company data. This can be file-sharing services like Dropbox or survey software such as Zoomerang. The list goes on and on.

Why Do People Use Shadow IT?

When employees are able to find new technologies and solutions that help them do their jobs faster and achieve better results, why wouldn’t they make use of them? Others simply have a set of software and services that they feel more comfortable working with, even if these resources are not company-provided or approved.

The accelerated growth of cloud-based consumer applications has also hastened the adoption of shadow IT. Common applications such as Slack and Dropbox are now available at the click of a button. Companies that embrace a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture — allowing employees to use their personal devices such as smartphones or laptops to perform their jobs — face a greater threat of the unauthorized use of certain applications or software. 

Security Risks of Shadow IT

Three primary types of cybersecurity risks of using shadow IT include:

Data Loss

When employees are able to find new technologies and solutions that help them do their jobs faster and achieve better results, why wouldn’t they make use of them? Others simply have a set of software and services that they feel more comfortable working with, even if these resources are not company-provided or approved.

The accelerated growth of cloud-based consumer applications has also hastened the adoption of shadow IT. Common applications such as Slack and Dropbox are now available at the click of a button. Companies that embrace a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) culture — allowing employees to use their personal devices such as smartphones or laptops to perform their jobs — face a greater threat of the unauthorized use of certain applications or software. 

Unpatched Vulnerabilities and Errors

Software vendors are constantly releasing new patches to resolve vulnerabilities and address errors found in their products. Typically, it’s up to the company’s IT team to keep an eye on such updates and apply them in a timely fashion. But when it comes to shadow IT, administrators can’t keep all these products and devices up-to-date simply because they’re unaware of their existence and active use.

Compliance Issues

Regulatory compliance is critical for many organizations. There are many standards that businesses have to comply with, from PCI for financial services to HIPAA for healthcare providers. In the event of an audit, your organization could end up facing huge fines, not to mention legal fees and bad PR.

Business Risks of Shadow IT

Outside of security issues, there are also significant risks to your business involved with the use of shadow IT. These include:

Inefficiencies

Even though boosting efficiency is one of the common reasons that many people start using shadow IT in the first place, chances are high that the end result will be the total opposite. Every new technology should be checked and tested by your IT team prior to being implemented in the corporate infrastructure. This is essential to ensuring that new software functions properly and that no software or hardware conflicts exist.

Financial Risks

In a number of cases, shadow IT solutions mirror the functionality of standard products approved by the IT department. Consequently, the company squanders money.

Low Entry Barrier

Anyone with a browser and a credit card can purchase or enroll themselves into applications that integrate with your organization’s critical applications and/or store company data such as client lists, emails, files, etc.

So, What’s The Solution?

There are a number of things your technical staff can do to address the issue of shadow IT use:

  1. Continuously monitor your network for new and unknown software or devices. This can — and should — be incorporated into routine vulnerability testing.
  2. Conduct an audit, encouraging employees to come forward about any shadow IT usage they’re engaged in, promising that there will be no repercussions for their admission.
  3. Once you know what applications are being used, you can set your company firewall to block applications that you don’t want employees to access with company data and devices.
  4. If circumstances exist where an otherwise-unapproved application or software is deemed necessary for use by certain individuals, require these employees to seek approval prior to downloading. Catalogue these sites by user with their login information for each individual. This way, if an employee leaves your organization or is terminated, you will have a record of their access. This could prevent a malicious attack on the user’s part which could ultimately harm your organization, particularly if company data is stolen and sold or given to a competitor.
  5. Create a system for ranking and prioritizing risk. Not all applications outside of IT’s control are equally threatening, but you need to at least be aware of what’s being used in order to determine if they’re a threat to security or a violation of data privacy laws.
  6. Develop a list of approved devices for BYOD use. Make sure that employees understand that only company-approved applications and software can be used in conjunction with their work on these devices.
  7. Create an internal app “store” for all applications that have been evaluated and authorized for use within the corporate infrastructure. If this isn’t possible, make sure your policies concerning approved device, application, and software usage are clearly denoted in a prominent place that’s accessible to all users.

If your organization could benefit from outsourced management of your IT infrastructure, 24/7/365 monitoring of your network, superior cybersecurity services, cloud computing, and onsite support as needed, give DataGroup Technologies a call at 252.329.1382! We’d be more than happy to partner with you!

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Why “Break-Fix” Works Entirely In The Consultant’s Favor, NOT Yours

Why "Break-Fix" Works Entirely In the Consultant's Favor, NOT Yours

A question that IT companies often hear is, “Why do I need to be on a managed IT plan? Can’t I just pay you to come out and fix things when they’re broken?”

While that’s a legitimate question if you’re talking about your washing machine or your car, that’s definitely not the right approach to a critical and dynamic IT system that your company depends on. You definitely don’t want to wait until something “breaks” before you try to fix a problem.

One “little” virus, cyberattack, or employee slip-up can cause permanent data loss, extended downtime, a violation of data-breach laws, bad PR, loss of customers and sales, and a host of other expensive problems.

Doesn’t sound so good, huh?

Additionally, under a “break-fix” model, there’s a fundamental conflict of interest between you and your IT firm of choice. The IT services company has no incentive to stabilize your computer network or to resolve problems quickly because they are getting paid by the hour

Therefore, the risk of unforeseen circumstances, scope creep, learning-curve inefficiencies, and outright incompetence all are shifted to you, the customer.

Essentially, the more problems you have, the more they profit, which is precisely what you don’t want.

Under this model, the IT consultant can take the liberty of assigning a junior (probably lower-paid) technician to work on your problem who may end up taking two or three times longer to resolve an issue than a more senior (and more expensive) technician may have taken to resolve it.

There’s no incentive to properly manage the time of that technician or their inefficiency, and there is every reason for them to prolong the project in order to find more problems than solutions.

Of course, if they’re ethical and want to keep you as a client, they should be doing everything possible to resolve your problems quickly and efficiently. However, that’s akin to putting a German shepherd in charge of watching over the ham sandwiches. Not a good idea.

Second, it creates a management problem for you, the customer, as you now have to keep track of the hours the consultant has worked to make sure you aren’t getting overbilled. And since you often have no way of really knowing if they’ve worked the hours they say they have, it creates a situation where you really, truly need to be able to trust that they’re being 100% ethical and honest and tracking their hours properly (unfortunately, not all do).

Finally, it makes budgeting for IT projects and expenses a nightmare, since your IT bill may be zero one month and thousands the next.

Plus, IT systems need regular monitoring and maintenance to protect against the 80,000+ brand-new malware attacks that are released every day not to mention accidental hiccups in data backup, employee error, hardware failure, sabotage from disgruntled employees, etc. The list goes on.

So, if keeping your IT systems up and running is important to you as is keeping your network secure from data loss and cybercriminals then the only option you should choose is a managed services plan from a competent, trustworthy, and reliable IT services firm.

It just so happens that we are very familiar with such a firm!

If your business is overburdened with service interruptions, inconsistent system performance, slow responses to crucial issues, or an unproductive tech staff, managed IT services could be the answer. Outsourcing your IT needs to DataGroup Technologies can relieve the day-to-day stress of trying to do it all.

Managed IT services allows businesses like yours to entrust their IT operations to third-party experts, known as managed service providers (MSPs). The level of service is agreed up in a Service Level Agreement. A reputable MSP like DataGroup Technologies is capable of handling your entire IT infrastructure or portions of it, depending on your business needs.

Give us a call today at 252.329.1382 to find out how we can help keep your business up and running!

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Everything You Always Wanted To Know About VPNs (But Were Afraid To Ask)

What You Need to Know About VPNs

What Is a VPN?

A virtual private network, or VPN for short, is best defined as “an encrypted connection over the internet from a device to a network.” Think of this connection as a protected “tunnel” through which you can access everything online while appearing to be in the location of the VPN server you’re connected to. This provides you with a high level of online anonymity, offers an added layer of security, and allows you to access the entire internet without restrictions.

VPN technology is a must for anyone who’s concerned about protecting not just their data, but their identity and location as well. A reputable VPN will secure your internet connection, safeguard your privacy, and keep you protected from hackers or anyone else who might be trying to spy on your online activity.

Initially, VPNs were developed to give businesses a way to connect employees who aren’t physically at the workplace to the company’s network. Connecting remote employees to a central work server allows them to access files and other resources, as well as any confidential information that they may need in a safe, secure environment.

In response to widespread data breaches and other cyber-threats, individuals are increasingly using VPNs to create a secure path as they browse the internet.

How Does a VPN Work?

Before we delve into how VPNs function, it’s important to explain what the term “internet traffic” means. Internet traffic is the flow of data between your computer and the internet this applies whether you’re using a desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet.

When you access the internet without a VPN, all of your internet activity including browsing history, downloaded files, online banking details, and passwords can easily be intercepted by other people. This could include your internet service provider (ISP), government agencies, your employer, or even cybercriminals.

When you connect through a VPN, your data is safely encrypted as it travels wherever it needs to go. This means that the data is protected when it goes from your computer to the VPN server, and then to your final destination (whether that’s a website or the server of any app you’re serving). As a result, websites only “see” the VPN’s IP address and not yours. Additionally, your ISP only recognizes that you’re using a VPN but doesn’t get to tag along and keep tabs on where you go or what you do.

The Future of VPN's

As the world adapts to the “new normal” prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations worldwide have been scrambling to safeguard their remote employees. Not surprisingly, VPN software usage has escalated dramatically as the need for remote working rises.

Mass surveillance, corporate tracking, and internet censorship are three other driving forces that will continue to push VPN software usage even higher. ISPs are increasingly restricting access to various websites from adult content to torrenting sites. As people are enlightened to the growing risks regarding data collection and security threats, VPN usage will continue to expand.

Why Should You Use a VPN?

We’ve touched on most of these points already, but a deeper dive will be beneficial to truly demonstrate the benefits of VPNs:

Bypass Online Censorship and Geo-Restrictions

Many countries worldwide censor the internet (or specific websites) because certain content doesn’t align with their government’s political or religious beliefs. If you’re living in or traveling to a country with internet restrictions, you’ll need a VPN to be able to freely and securely browse online. In some areas of the world, basic tasks like Googling or updating your Facebook status are impossible without a VPN. Because your actual location is being “spoofed” when you connect to the internet with a VPN, you can bypass geographical restrictions and gain access to online content that’s otherwise unavailable in your region.

Increased Privacy and Greater Anonymity

Nearly every website you visit tracks your online activity and harvests your data. Advertising networks such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter constantly collect information about you through your internet traffic in order to show you targeted ads. However, it’s important to know that these entities are also free to sell your info to interested third parties. By encrypting your data, these networks will be unable to collect info on you, which gives them less influence over what kind of content you see online.

Your internet protocol (IP) address is a personal identification code that’s unique to your internet connection. It reveals your physical location and is tied to the individual who pays your internet service provider. With your IP address, you’re both recognizable and traceable online, no matter what you’re doing.

The instant you connect with the VPN server, your personal IP address and location are hidden from view. Websites and other parties will only be able to trace your online activities back to the VPN server, not to you personally and not to your actual location. This allows you to surf the web with greater anonymity.

Improved Security Against Cyberattacks and Data Breaches

Hackers and other cybercriminals use a variety of techniques to detect web traffic. They’re even able to hijack users’ accounts on websites that don’t use the HTTPS security protocol.

Public Wi-Fi networks can pose a particular threat to internet users. Individuals connected to the same network can easily tap into your devices, access your data, and steal your personal information while you browse the web obliviously.

When you use a VPN to connect to a public Wi-Fi network, any data you send, receive, or access online is automatically encrypted, rendering it much more difficult to intercept and view.

Knowing that your confidential data such as email logins, bank passwords, credit card info, and images or other files is potentially exposed to hackers and other malicious denizens of the internet should certainly give you pause. A VPN provides an added line of defense against cyberattacks of all kinds so why wouldn’t you take advantage of its capabilities?

Facilitates Remote Work

By necessity, practicality, or some combination of the two, more and more businesses these days are enabling their employees to work from home or abroad. VPNs are often used to securely connect remote workers and vendors, as necessary to the requisite resources, files, and networks that they need. Encrypted connections allow users to interact on the network while ensuring that the company’s data remains private.

A natural byproduct of remote accessibility is an increase in overall productivity for the business. When employees have access to your network 24/7, they’re able to work outside the typical 9 to 5 business hours, from wherever they choose

What a VPN Can’t Do

Prevent Cookies

Ad companies can still use browser cookies to track your path across the internet, even after you’ve left their sites. If this is a concern for you, there are ways to block third-party cookies in every web browser.

Keep You Out of Jail

VPN services are obligated to abide by the laws of the country in which they are officially based. As such, they’re legally bound to respond to subpoenas and warrants from law enforcement when requested.

Dedicated Cyberattacks

If someone targets you specifically and is willing to put forth the effort, they’ll eventually get what they’re after. Having a solid cybersecurity plan in place can help.

Stop Malware or Ransomware

A VPN is designed to secure your online connections and data. It’s not engineered to protect your system from malicious software. Using antivirus and antimalware programs is always a smart move.

Provide 100% Anonymity

Given all the different ways someone can be identified online, a VPN alone won’t render you completely anonymous. With the vast resources of surveillance agencies such as the NSA, it’s likely quite difficult to ever achieve 100% online anonymity. Other methods could result in uncovering your online identity, but a VPN will protect your privacy very well, in most cases.

Speed Up Your Connection

When you’re using a VPN, a lot is going on in the background. Your computer is encrypting and decrypting packets of data, which are being routed through a remote server. All of this takes more time and processing power, which will ultimately affect your internet speed. Because your latency (or “ping”) is increasing, the speed at which you upload or download data will decrease. With higher-quality VPNs, the lag is barely noticeable, whereas others can cause a considerable slowdown. VPN speeds may also be limited by the type of device you’re using, your network, or due to your internet provider “throttling” VPN connections.

Final Thoughts

When the internet was first constructed, not a lot of thought was given to security or privacy. At first, it was merely a cluster of shared computers at research institutions. Computing power was so limited that any encryption could have made functionality extremely difficult, if not impossible. On the contrary, the primary focus was on openness, not on defense.

Today, most of us have a number of devices that connect to the web which are vastly more powerful than the top computers of the early days. But the internet hasn’t implemented many fundamental improvements. Only in the past few years has HTTPS become widespread, for example.

By and large, the responsibility lies on individuals to protect themselves. Antivirus apps and password managers can go a long way toward keeping you safer, but a VPN is a uniquely powerful tool that you should absolutely have in your personal security toolkit, especially in today’s connected world.

While a VPN isn’t an absolute necessity for using the web, it will provide you with better overall security, improved performance, remote access, and greater anonymity.

Cybersecurity has never been more important. We live in an increasingly connected world, which enables cyberattackers to constantly find new ways to carry out digital attacks. Even the most vigilant business owners and IT managers can become overwhelmed with the stress of maintaining network security and protecting their data.

DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI) offers a wide variety of cybersecurity services to help protect your business from cyber-threats, including security risk assessments, email security solutions, web & DNS filtering, and next-generation firewalls. Call us today at 252.329.1382 to find out more about how we can help you #SimplifyIT!

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How To Minimize The Risk Of A Social Media Data Breach

How To Minimize The Risk Of A Social Media Data Breach

Virtually every organization – businesses, educational institutions, and associations – has employees, students, and members who make use of social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram in their personal lives.

More often than not, businesses themselves have a considerable online presence and draw on social media networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, in particular, for marketing functions, sales, and client relations.

Organizations that lack a significant online presence but have employees that use social networks have an obligation to ensure that their users and staff members’ identities are safeguarded online.

Many organizations supply their employees with basic information on safe internet practices, with the hope that they will implement these practices at home as well as at work. This offers an ideal opportunity for corporate security teams to lay the groundwork for what actions can be taken in case of a large-scale social network cyberattack.

The goal is to lessen the impact of a breach that’s otherwise out of your control, or to limit its adverse effects.

In this article, we’ll explore five ways to help minimize the risk of a breach on social media networks and other applications.

Don’t Reuse Passwords – But Do Change Them Often

We’re going to presume that you and your team are already aware of how to come up with a strong password, using a succession of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols – and not including telltale tidbits like the name of your pet.

Great password? Check! But wait, there’s more!

Whenever a major social media breach does occur, it may take some time between when the breach first surfaces, when an organization detects it, and when you’re alerted to the fact that your information has been compromised.

If you’re changing your password consistently, you narrow the window of damage opportunity between those monumental events. Even if you’ve fashioned what you believe to be the perfect password, don’t recycle it across multiple accounts. 

Based on surveys conducted by Terranova Security, nearly 80% of users are still utilizing the same passwords on numerous systems. That number increases even more for the younger generation – either they aren’t aware of the risk or it’s possible that they don’t want to have to recall a slew of different passwords.

Regardless, if you’re using the same account-password combination on several channels and one channel is breached, cyberattackers are more likely to be able to infiltrate your other accounts.

Consider Utilizing a Password Management Tool to Preserve Your Passwords

If you don’t want to – or can’t – remember all of those complicated passwords you’ve created, consider making use of a secure password management tool. From a functionality standpoint, a password manager is simply that – a program you login to with one password that stores all of your other passwords.

Think of it, more or less, as a digital wallet.

When taking into consideration which password management tool to use, try to find one that’s well-encrypted and allows for management between a number of platforms and devices. A few of the more prominent password management tools on the market include 1Password, KeePass, and Dashlane.

Implement Two-Factor Authentication

Suppose someone does come into possession of your password – what then? In all likelihood, they’ll appropriate your username in order to gain access to your social network accounts – at the very least – unless you’ve initiated two-factor authentication.

Two-factor authentication is a security method that provides a computer user access only after they have supplied multiple forms of evidence verifying that they are legitimately the user they claim to be. 

For example, let’s say you’re connecting from a computer or location that you haven’t used before – if you have two-factor authentication set up, the application will send a PIN to your phone which you must then reproduce. If someone has pilfered your password and is trying to connect to one of your accounts, you’ll receive a notification of an unauthorized access attempt.

If it obviously isn’t you who’s attempting to log in from a new source or location, you’ll know that a hacker has moved past the first stage – that is, accessing your password. If that is the case, deny the access, change your password right away, and be grateful you set up two-factor authentication.

Through the use of social engineering or malware, cybercriminals will masquerade as one of the individuals involved in these money transfers to trick the victim into sending money to a bank account owned by the cybercriminal. Once the fraud is exposed, it’s often too late to recoup the money. Scammers are quick to relocate the money to other accounts and withdraw the cash or use it to buy cryptocurrencies.

However, the scam is not always associated with an unauthorized transfer of funds. One BEC variation involves compromising legitimate business email accounts and requesting personally identifiable information (PII), wage and tax settlement (W-2) forms, or even cryptocurrency wallets from recipients.

Steer Clear of Online Applications That Enable You to Log In Automatically Using Your Facebook Credentials

More and more apps are connecting back and forth and enabling users to access multiple channels with a single sign-on (SSO). You’ve likely encountered apps where you can create an account or sign in automatically simply by using your Facebook credentials. Convenient? Smart? Not exactly.

While it might seem like a timesaving method, should your Facebook credentials become exposed, hackers could take advantage of them to access other accounts under your name. Whenever possible, refrain from taking advantage of these opportunities.

The supposed convenience of social media-based SSO is appealing, but bear in mind that if you are compromised on one platform, you could be compromised on another. The more interconnected systems you have, the more you are at risk.

Take Heed When Your Friends’ Social Network Accounts Are Compromised

“Don’t accept any new friend requests from me. My account has been hacked.”

“Don’t click on the link in the message it looks like I sent you on Facebook. It isn’t me.”

You see these kinds of posts in your newsfeed all the time. But those are just the ones we’re aware of for certain. You might have friends or online acquaintances who don’t yet realize they’ve been compromised, and hackers may already be using their accounts to make phishing attempts.

Other times, hackers are merely paying attention to and gathering information that people post voluntarily on social media.

What’s the solution? It’s simple.

Don’t post confidential information on social media! Don’t make mention of your dog’s name on social media then use “What is your pet’s name?” as the security question on your online banking account.

And if your account is breached, let your friends know…immediately! Particularly on social media.

It’s all about creating a culture of information security. By presenting this information to users, organizations can demonstrate that they’re not just preoccupied with their own pursuits, but they’re concerned about the well-being of their employees as well.

DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI) offers a wide variety of cybersecurity services to help protect your business from cyberthreats, including security risk assessments, web and DNS filtering, next-generation firewalls, network security monitoring, operating systems and application security patches, antivirus software, and security awareness training. Give us a call today at 252.329.1382 to learn more about how we can help you #SimplifyIT!

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Smishing & Vishing: What Are They, And How Can You Protect Against Them?

Smishing & Vishing: What Are They, And How Can You Protect Against Them?

A text message claiming to be from Microsoft Support, alerting you about an issue with your computer. An unfamiliar caller requesting that you verify your mailing address and credit card number so you can claim your free prize. An SMS message seeking your confirmation of an Amazon shipment. An urgent voicemail message from the IRS. These are all prime examples of smishing and vishing cyberattacks

Smartphones have become one of the most prevalent methods of contact for cybercriminals. Hackers know how attached we are to our phones and how difficult it can be to ignore the ping of a text message or the buzz of an incoming phone call.

Both smishing and vishing depend on social engineering to dupe victims into surrendering  personal information. Using persuasive and often urgent language, cybercriminals manipulate victims into revealing confidential data such as their bank account and credit card details, passwords, social security number, date of birth, and mailing address.

Victims are confident they’re doing the right thing by supplying this information. After all, the caller is warning them that they could face criminal prosecution from the IRS if they can’t validate their bank account details. And the text message guaranteeing delivery of a free prize states that the offer will expire in one hour unless the necessary bank account details are provided.

It’s important to be aware that cybercriminals set their sights on both individuals and organizations with these strategic smishing and vishing attacks. In many cases, cybercriminals will initially send spear-phishing emails in order to gather information that they will then use to deliver customized text messages and phone calls.

What Is Smishing?

Smishing, a shortened version of the term “SMS phishing,” is a type of cyberattack that utilizes misleading text messages – purported to be from reputable companies – to pilfer confidential and corporate information from users.

With compelling and alarming vocabulary, the text message may seek to threaten the victim with dire consequences if they don’t take action or try to persuade the victim that they would be helping the sender by providing the sought-after information.

Text messages are a particularly attractive technique for cybercriminals, as the evidence bears out the efficacy of the medium. Take into consideration these recent statistics concerning SMS marketing:

  • 98% of all text messages are read and opened
  • 90% of all text messages are read within 3 minutes
  • Text messages have a 209% higher response rate than phone calls, emails, and Facebook messages

To further simplify matters for cybercriminals, people generally have a very low awareness of smishing attacks. This unfamiliarity gives rise to a perilous environment where victims don’t think twice about clicking on embedded links, providing personal information, or directly responding to the hacker who’s texting them.

What Is Vishing?

Vishing, derived from the phrase “voice phishing,” is a form of  cyberattack that involves using the telephone to steal sensitive data from a person. Cybercriminals employ slick social engineering tactics to persuade victims to relinquish private information as well as access to bank accounts.

Hackers will frequently adapt the messaging of their vishing calls to the time of the year or try to establish a connection by leveraging trending news stories. For example, during tax season, cybercriminals might leave messages passing themselves off as representatives from the IRS. Additionally, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hackers have been calling people touting false promises of vaccinations or testing kits, if the victims would merely supply their bank account information and mailing address.

Like smishing, vishing attacks are used to appropriate data from both individuals and organizations. For example, a cybercriminal may check out an organization on LinkedIn and on the company website, gathering details about its leadership and employees, taking note of individuals who might be traveling or attending a conference. With this intelligence in hand, the cybercriminal then makes a string of strategic phone calls and voicemails attempting to prevail upon an employee to transfer funds on behalf of their manager who is traveling and is unable to access the network.

How to Safeguard Your Organization and Employees from Smishing and Vishing Attacks

With such a prominent focus on phishing, spear-phishing, malware, and even CEO fraud, it’s easy to disregard the threat of smishing and vishing. However, these types of approaches are standard methods of attack for cybercriminals who zero in on organizations and their employees.

To safeguard your organization and employees from smishing and vishing attacks, take heed of the following recommendations:

  • Reap the benefits of security awareness training programs that apply real-world examples of smishing and vishing attacks to illustrate how cybercriminals use text messaging and phone calls to perpetrate cyber-fraud.
  • Enable employees to easily report smishing and vishing attacks to you and your team.
  • If your company has a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, it’s crucial to establish rigorous procedures with respect to application updates, password protection, Wi-Fi connectivity, and observing recommended remote and mobile device cybersecurity best practices.
  • Conduct phishing simulations to evaluate and track employee awareness of the dangers of cyber-fraud. Harness this data to tailor your security awareness training and strive to concentrate on areas where your employees require further instruction.
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Bear in mind, your employees are your first line of defense against smishing and vishing attacks. Direct your efforts toward providing employees with security awareness training that’s pertinent, progressive, and practical. When your employees recognize how easily smishing and vishing occur and can comprehend the implications of an effective attack, they’re more likely to keep a closer eye out for potential threats.

Final Thoughts

While no form of cyberattack can completely be prevented, being mindful of the signs can help mitigate the chances of its success. Having solid cybersecurity solutions in place for your organization can further protect against the ever-evolving techniques of cybercriminals.

To schedule a free IT assessment with DataGroup Technologies, please visit our website or call 252.329.1382 today!