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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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!

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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Why Increased Connectivity Means More Cyber Risks

Why Increased Connectivity Means More Cyber Risks

We are living in an increasingly connected world. With each day that passes, we get more and more reliant on social media and messaging platforms for both social and professional functions. And our smartphones are not the only smart devices that are taking over our lives. Today, an estimated 10.07 billion connected or smart devices are in use across the planet. And by the end of the decade, Statista expects this to rise to 25.44 billion devices. And while this will greatly improve how people across the world communicate with each other, there is also the increased risk of cyberthreats.

The Connected Planet

Today, platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn have become part and parcel of life and business. The 2020 lockdown orders which forced people to stay at home across the country further increased our reliance not just on social media, but other connected technologies. For modern and digitizing enterprises, it’s become crucial to have an IT support staff that can facilitate the creation and development of safe, connected, and streamlined platforms for online work.

This rapid rise in connectivity is even more apparent in the latest industrial smart tech applications. Today, connected technologies are revolutionizing operations across the global supply chain. Verizon Connect details how modern cargo fleets are increasingly utilizing vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and other smart technologies to address pain points and streamline productivity. Through wireless protocols similar to Wi-Fi, the wealth of data from V2V technologies is now being leveraged to improve a host of smart logistics tech. This includes semi-autonomous fleets, smart fuel optimization systems, and vehicle-to-network (V2N) technology, which expands V2V applications to include traffic systems and other transport infrastructure.

The Risks of Global Connectivity

All of these advances in connectivity have two things in common: they make our lives easier – but they also exponentially increase cyber risk. In a nutshell, every new digital connection that’s enabled by any of the above-mentioned technologies is a potential gateway for a hacker. And that hacker can either take money from your bank account, compromise your organization’s network, or use stolen data to take down the systems of large government or corporate entities.

So, while V2N technologies are enabling the creation of efficient and intelligent transport systems (ITS), they’re also exposing global logistics to potential distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. DDoS is a strategy in which hackers overwhelm a system with more actions than it can process. And it can be a particularly effective way of not just shutting down but controlling the world’s emerging ITS. Today, cybersecurity firm Trend Micro Incorporated estimates that over 125 million vehicles with V2N connectivity will ship across the world from 2018 to 2022. The firm explains that this is creating an increasingly complex ecosystem of connected devices – each of which is a potential vulnerability for hackers to exploit.

Moreover, with the arrival and continued evolution of 5G, there will be exponential increases to both connectivity and cyber risk. And these developments can already be observed in the cargo fleets and logistics systems that run the global supply chain – on which food, health, retail, and other major global industries depend.

The Modern Hacker

This underscores a crucial aspect of examining and responding to cyber risk today. Literally every smart object or device has the potential to become the perfect tool for persistent hackers. In fact, even basic cybersecurity protocols designed to reduce connectivity risks can be leveraged for attacks.

Business software integration company SolarWinds learned this the hard way when their network, which was built to create and protect the networks of other enterprises, was used to hack its clients. The attack happened on the tail end of 2020. The malicious code was disguised as a regular software update from SolarWinds. And as any IT support staff can attest to, making sure that your software is constantly updated significantly decreases cyber risk. However, in this case, what happened was the exact opposite. Before the attack was discovered and ended, large amounts of sensitive data had already been stolen from every company that was diligent enough to quickly update their SolarWinds software. Following the combined and months-long investigations of private and government entities, Deputy National Security Advisor Anne Neuberger said that “9 federal agencies and about 100 private sector companies were compromised.”

This includes several national U.S. departments such as the Treasury, Commerce, Energy, State, and even Homeland Security. Alarmingly, it also pierced the defenses of several tech giants and Fortune 500 companies, including Intel, Cisco, Nvidia, and VMWare. And most importantly, this threat isn’t over yet.

Final Thoughts

The attack on SolarWinds was traced back to a criminal group originating in Russia, according to the FBI. And according to Microsoft, they may have struck again. The software giant identifies the attacker as an entity called “Nobelium.” After examining patterns of attack and entryways which again were traced back to connected technology, Microsoft says that Nobelium’s more recent attacks were focused on gathering intelligence from 3,000 individuals and 150 companies. Alongside malicious updates, the attacks now include customized emails and diplomatic invitations for each target – all of which are involved in a variety of international development, human rights, and humanitarian work in 24 different countries. Microsoft explains that “when coupled with the attack on SolarWinds, it’s clear that part of Nobelium’s playbook is to gain access to trusted technology providers and infect their customers.”

With stellar connectivity comes greater risk. In the increasingly connected world, there is an even more pressing need to focus on reducing cyber risk and strengthening IT security. This is as true for technology providers and enterprises as it is for individuals who go online on a daily basis. While defending networks is a task that’s best left to the experts, in the age of exponentially increasing connectivity, managing the cyber risk is everyone’s job.

At DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI), we offer a wide variety of cybersecurity services to help protect your business from cyberthreats, including: security risk assessments, email security solutions, web and DNS filtering, next-generation firewalls, network security monitoring, operating system and application security patches, antivirus software, and security awareness training. If you’re interested in learning more about your cybersecurity services, please call 252.329.1382 today or contact us here.

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Article written exclusively for dtinetworks.com by Alicia Rupert

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How To Secure Your Business Website In 2022

How To Secure Your Business Website In 2022

If you have a booming business website that’s raking in profits and helping you establish your brand, that’s great! However, you still need to make sure your site is protected from hackers and trolls who might want to tarnish your image. To ensure continued success and prevent bad actors from appropriating your intellectual property, follow these tips to help better secure your business website.

What Is Business Email Compromise?

According to TechRepublic, business email compromise (BEC) is “a sophisticated scam that targets companies and individuals who perform legitimate transfer-of-funds requests.”

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.

How to Protect Your Business Against BEC Attacks

In the public service announcement, the FBI offers several suggestions for businesses to adopt to better protect against business email compromise attacks.

  • Use secondary channels (such as phone calls) or multi-factor authentication to validate requests for any changes in account information.
  • Ensure that URLs in emails are associated with the businesses or individuals from which they claim to be originating.
  • Keep an eye out for hyperlinks that contain misspellings of the actual domain name.
  • Steer clear of providing login credentials or PII of any sort via email. Bear in mind that many emails requesting your personal information may appear to be legitimate.
  • Verify the email address used to send emails – especially when using a mobile or handheld device – by making sure the address appears to match that of the purported sender.
  • Enable settings on employees’ computers to allow full email extensions to be viewed.
  • Monitor your personal financial accounts routinely for irregularities, such as missing deposits.

What to Do If You or Your Company Should Fall Victim to a BEC Attack

According to TechRepublic, business email compromise (BEC) is “a sophisticated scam that targets companies and individuals who perform legitimate transfer-of-funds requests.”

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.

What to Do If You or Your Company Should Fall Victim to a BEC Attack

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.

These increasingly advanced cyberattacks create unprecedented situations of data breach and money extortion. The tools that hackers use are getting smarter and stronger every day. If you’re not proactive about protecting your network, your business will become a target of cybersecurity attacks.

DataGroup Technologies, Inc. (DTI) offers a wide variety of cybersecurity services to help protect your business from cyberthreats, including security risk assessments, email security solutions, web/DNS filtering, next-generation firewalls, network security monitoring, operating systems/application security patches, antivirus software, and security awareness training. If you’re not 100% certain that your business is protected from cybercriminals, contact us today at 252.329.1382 or message us to find out more about how we can help #SimplifyIT!

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