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The Benefits of a Managed Service Provider

The Benefits of a Managed Service Provider

Managed Service Providers – or MSPs – are often recommended as a cost effective IT solution for small businesses. For a minimal monthly fee, MSPs provide a reasonably priced solution to the complex technology pains of small businesses. Here’s a look at the various benefits an MSP can offer your business…

  • Freed-Up Resources and a Renewed Emphasis on Core Business – Both business owners and internal IT staff would much rather focus on revenue enhancing tasks like product development or the creation of cutting-edge applications/services. This is one reason routine monitoring and maintenance tasks are often neglected by an internal IT person or team, which always proves to be detrimental much later.

    Often misportrayed as a “threat” to an internal IT person or staff, MSPs can instead relieve internal staff of mundane network operations maintenance, repetitious monitoring of server and storage infrastructure, and day-to-day operations and help desk duties.

  • A True Partner Sharing Risks And Responsibilities –The goal of an MSP is to deliver on contracted services, measure, report, analyze and optimize IT service operations, and truly become an irreplaceable catalyst for business growth. Managed Service Providers not only assume leadership roles, they enable risk reduction, enhance efficiency and change the culture by introducing internal IT operations to new technologies and processes.
  • Access to Expertise, Best Practices and World-Class Tools and Technologies – MSPs have experience with a variety of businesses and organizations. Managed Service Providers can keep your business relevant and on track with continually evolving technology, support, and productivity demands. Let’s face it, no small or medium sized business can afford to fall behind with technology trends in today’s business world.
  • The Benefit of a Full-Time Fully Staffed IT Department at a Fraction of the Cost – Most small business owners live and die by proactive management. They just haven’t had the budget, resources or access to on-demand expertise to be proactive with information technology management. A Managed Service Provider gives business owners and overwhelmed internal IT staff affordable computer and server support, remote monitoring of critical network components like servers and firewalls, data backup and disaster recovery, network security, custom software solutions, and technology evaluation and planning.

Managed Service Providers can decrease the overall IT support costs by as much as 30% to 50%. Rather than being stressed about technology, business owners can instead get back to focusing on growing their business. All while enjoying the benefits of highly-trained IT experts boosting their network’s reliability and performance.

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Should You Hire Or Outsource to an External IT Service Provider?

Most small business owners handle all aspects of their businesses, including acting as the Information Technology department. This will work for as long as you remain a small business without employees. When you grow and start hiring staff, will it make more sense to use your business-building time on handling IT issues or outsource to an external IT Service Provider?

Unless you are an Information Technology Service Provider yourself, chances are your time will be much better spent marketing your products and/or services, establishing relationships with your clients, providing exceptional customer service and just otherwise growing your business – so why not outsource to an external IT Service Provider?

How do you know when it’s time to get IT help? If the information technology demands are affecting your day and negatively impacting your actual business related activities – it’s definitely time to consider finding an IT resource. If you start adding new employees and computers, it’s probably a good time to look into adding IT help, as well.

Should You Hire Internal IT Staff or Outsource to an External IT Service Provider?

When you make the decision to find an IT resource, your first decision will be whether you need to hire one or more staff to fulfill the role, or if you’re going to outsource IT services. Having dedicated IT staff means they are 100% committed to your business. They’re not splitting their time among numerous clients the way a contracted company might. One of the benefits of having an IT department is that the staff develops a strong understanding of your unique business needs and should be in a good position to manage your short and long term IT requirements. With your own IT staff on payroll, you know you’ve always got someone available (unless they’re out sick or on vacation!) should an emergency or urgent situation present itself.

The primary disadvantage of hiring IT staff is that you’ll be paying for their benefits, their training, and a variety of other costs associated with hiring a new employee. Not to mention, you have to pay them the agreed upon salary regardless of how much IT work you end up having, which means you may be overpaying based on workload!

There are a variety of advantages of outsourcing to an external IT service provider over hiring staff. You can choose to outsource your information technology needs to a flat rate IT service provider and reduce your monthly and overall costs. Having a virtual IT department lets you focus more on running your business rather than the technology that supports it. You aren’t stuck paying employee benefits or other employee costs, and you aren’t responsible for making sure the IT team remains up to date with their training and knowledge.

The Bottom Line

Finding the right information technology help for a growing business needs is challenging. When you think strategically about your business’ unique IT requirements, you can make sound decisions that further promote its growth and profitability.

Click here to learn how Paradigm Network Solutions Inc. can help you with your IT outsourcing needs. The first step is to schedule a meeting to go over our Technology Consulting Services for your business in Toronto, Ontario and surrounding cities with you.

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How to Create a Basic Businesses Disaster Recovery Plan in 4 Steps

Loss of data is a common problem for businesses. Fortunately, it’s a problem that can easily be avoided with the correct preparation. While devastating amounts of data can be lost during catastrophes like hurricanes, terrorist attacks, fires and floods – it doesn’t take such large events to cause a business to lose important data. It can be as simple as dropping a laptop to the floor, or a power surge that results in burning out a storage device. If you don’t have your crucial data backed up, even a small situation can turn into a disaster. That’s when having a business disaster recovery plan can help.

If you still think natural disasters are the leading causes of data loss – and that the chances of it happening to you are pretty slim, take a look at the results from a study by Strategic Research Corporation of the leading causes of business continuity and disaster recovery incidents:

  • Hardware Failures (servers, switches, disk drives, etc) – 44%.
  • Human Error (mistakes in configurations, wrong commands issued, etc) 32%
  • Software Errors (operating systems, driver incompatibility, etc)14%
  • Viruses and Security Breach (unprotected systems are always at risk) 7%
  • Natural Disasters 3%

Establishing a disaster recovery plan can be done in the following four steps:

1) Take a potential risk inventory. Make a list of every potential cause of data loss and the solutions to each. Your list should include losses that won’t affect the business very much, and those that would shut the business down temporarily or permanently. Information Technology experts can assist you with creating the potential risk inventory – as they will have the knowledge and experience to identify possibilities that you are not likely to think of but need to plan for all the same. These IT experts will also be able discuss preventative solutions to guard against each type of potential data loss.

2) Rate each of your potential data loss situations. How likely is it for each of the items on your risk inventory to occur? Rating them in order of importance and likeliness to occur will help you determine where to focus your disaster recovery plan efforts.

3) Develop your disaster recovery plan. Go through each of your potential risks and their solutions, and determine how long it would take you to recover from the loss of data for each risk. Could your business be offline for 24 hours? A week? Depending on the nature of your business, being offline for even just 24 hours could result in your losing customers to your competition. Look at ways to reduce the length of time it would take you to recover from each type of data loss risk.

4) Put your disaster recovery plan to the test. Once you’ve created your plan of action for recovering lost data, you should test your solutions. A disaster recovery plan is just a plan until it can be tested and proven.

Click here to learn how Paradigm Network Solutions Inc. can create a business disaster recovery plan for you with our Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Services for your business in Toronto, Ontario and surrounding cities.

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Mitigate Costly New Technology Risks for Continued Stability and Profitability

Mitigate Costly New Technology Risks for Continued Stability and Profitability

Partnering with a managed service provider (MSP) is one new approach being used by many companies like yours. Experienced MSPs have access to newer tools that reduce costs by automating many routine in-house labor intensive processes. Break-fix is labor intensive, and labor is one of the most expensive operating costs within your IT infrastructure. The new innovative tools that can be provided by MSPs generate real productivity increases and mitigate the risk of network failure, downtime and data loss from human error.

MSPs deliver a trusted foundation for your team and your customers. Some of the services and tasks offered include:

  • Remote Desktop Management and Support
  • Predictable Management of Critical Patches and Software Updates
  • Fractional Resource Availability of Best-In-Class Expertise – scaled to your needs
  • Implementing and Testing Backup and Disaster Recovery Processes
  • Performance of Inventory and Audits of Computer/Network/Software
  • Enforcement of Network/Security Policy
  • Monitoring of Network/Operating System and Alerts
  • Updating Anti-Virus Software and Detecting Spyware

Erase any misconception that managed service providers are nothing more than “outsourced” tech help priced to displace your in-house IT technician or team. The new MSP has defined new methodologies and technology partnerships to offer valuable preventative services that proactively locate and eliminate threats before a bigger problem arises.

MSPs today put considerable effort into understanding the operational and business needs of SMBs to develop and deliver a set of specific services that align technology with the SMB’s business objectives. This is the reason you hear managed services often referred to as “partners.” A present day MSP offers quantifiable economic value, greater ROI and decreased total cost of operation by streamlining costs and eliminating unnecessary lost productivity, revenue, and avoidable on-site IT consultant fees, in addition to eliminating the need for costly hardware/software repairs or replacement.

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Small Businesses Benefit From Managed IT Services

From start-ups to multi-billion dollar businesses, everyone is looking for ways to cut costs while turning a profit. In fact, many companies are just trying to keep things in the black, however that does not eliminate the need for practices that will improve and grow these businesses. Since few people have the expertise to manage much of today’s technology, a certain percentage of their budgets should be allocated to IT and software applications maintenance. Here are ways that Managed IT Services benefit small and medium businesses.

Benefits of Managed IT Services for Small Businesses

  • Increased productivity- Businesses are established to fill the need for a product or service while providing a livelihood for the business owners and their employees. In order to do this, businesses have to ensure they are working at full capacity at all times. Downtime or work performed at reduced levels is time and money wasted. Managed IT Services can help businesses not only quickly repair problems when they occur but also act as a proactive measure to spot and treat potential problems before they have an impact on productivity.
  • Supports in-house IT- Many businesses do not want to relinquish all IT maintenance control to an outside party, and small businesses do not always have the resources to support the type of IT department needed to keep their business running at full speed. A majority of businesses can benefit from adding the expertise, tools and availability of a Managed IT Services Provider to help support in-house IT departments.
  • Remote services- Managed IT Services Providers work from a remote location, providing desktop, email and back-up and recovery support services without adding to the actual number of “employees” on site. The services provided are unobtrusive and in the majority of cases, have no impact in the day-to-day activities of current in-house employees.
  • Affordable- Generally when you bring on a Managed IT Services Provider, a consultant will perform an onsite assessment of the company, its workflows and processes and the current state of its supporting technology to determine what services are needed to meet organizational goals. Business owners often have a choice between several different levels of service, making it possible for a company with a limited budget to choose a package that best suits their needs.

Security is a big concern for business owners and individuals alike. In the past, business owners have been reluctant to entrust secure or private information to a third party, offsite vendor. As Managed IT Services Providers continue to prove their value, more companies are realizing the benefits and value of their services. Managed IT Services Providers continue to improve technology to provide secure, quality services for businesses of all sizes. As a result, smaller businesses which operate with leaner budgets find themselves in a position to reap the benefits of these services. Business owners often have to make difficult decisions regarding how they will improve their business while sticking to the budget. As the market for Managed IT Services experiences continual growth in the next few years, this method of IT maintenance and service delivery will likely become the “norm” for small to mid size businesses looking to reduce costs and improve uptime and business continuity. Companies that recognize the benefits of Managed IT Services will have a jump on their competition.

Click here to learn how Paradigm Network Solutions Inc. can help you save reap these benefits and more with our Managed IT Services program for your business in Toronto, Ontario and surrounding cities.

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Is your Business Safe from Virtual Threats?

Is Your Business Safe from Online Threats?

Did you know that 50% of small business owners think their businesses are too small to be targeted by the thieves of the virtual world? Contrary to popular belief, 72% of hacker attacks often happen to smaller firms – firms with less than 100 employees! So how prepared is your SMB? Here’s a checklist to help you find out how vulnerable you are to these attacks.

1. Do you have Antivirus protection? – An antivirus software program can protect you from threats that originate from emails such as phishing and virus attacks. However, the most striking fact is that 61% of small businesses don’t install any antivirus software! If you are one of them, then it’s time to change!

2. How sturdy is your Firewall? – A good firewall system protects your computers from the variety of threats that exist in the virtual world. Examples include harmful cookies, viruses, worms and other such malicious programs used by hackers.

3. Do you use a Spam filter? – Using a simple spam filter for your emails keeps junk out of your inbox. The bonus to having a good spam filter is that your employees save time, as they are not distracted by irrelevant emails, but the major perk here is that the potential virus and phishing threats are lessened as spam emails are unlikely to be opened.

4. Do you do backup your data regularly? – Agreed – backups don’t really protect your data, but they are the only way to recover it if data loss does happen. So, be sure you have a regular and reliable backup plan in place – and it is actually being deployed.

Data loss can prove very costly—especially to SMBs, sometimes even resulting in them having to close down. Prevention is certainly better than a cure in such cases.

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Is That Email a Phishing Scheme?

Is That Email a Phishing Scheme?

Research has revealed that over half of all users end up opening fraudulent emails and often even fall for them. Phishing is done with the aim of gathering personal information about you, generally related to your finances. The most common reason for the large number of people falling for fraudulent emails is that the phishing attempts are often so well-disguised that they escape the eyes of a busy email reader. Here are a few tips that help you identify whether that email really came from your bank or is another attempt at defrauding you…

1. They are asking for personal information – Remember, no bank or financial institution asks you to share your key personal information via email, or even phone. So, if you get an email where they ask for your ATM PIN or your e-banking password, something’s amiss.

2. The links seem to be fake – Phishing emails always contain links that you are asked to click on. You should verify if the links are genuine. Here are a few things to look for when doing that:

  • Spelling – Check for the misspellings in the URL. For example, if your bank’s web address is www.bankofamerica.com, a phishing scheme email could misspell it as www.bankofamarica.com or www.bankofamerica-verification.com
  • Disguised URLs – Sometimes, URLs can be disguised…meaning, while they look genuine, they ultimately redirect you to some fraudulent site. You can recognize the actual URL upon a mouseover, or by right clicking on the URL, and selecting the ‘copy hyperlink’ option and pasting the hyperlink on a notepad file. But, NEVER ever, paste the hyperlink directly into your web browser.
  • URLs with ‘@’ signs – If you find a URL that has an ‘@’ sign, steer clear of it even if it seems genuine. Browsers ignore URL information that precedes @ sign. That means, the URL www.bankofamerica.com@mysite.net will take you to mysite.net and not to any Bank of America page.

3. Other tell-tale signs – Apart from identifying fake URLs, there are other tell-tale signs that help you identify fraudulent emails. Some of these include:

  • Emails where the main message is in the form of an image, which, upon opening, takes you to the malicious URL.
  • Another sign is an attachment. Never open attachments from unknown sources as they may contain viruses that can harm your computer and network.
  • The message seems to urge you to do something immediately. Scammers often induce a sense of urgency in their emails and threaten you with consequences if you don’t respond. For example, threat of bank account closure if you don’t verify your ATM PIN or e-banking password.

Finally, get a good anti virus/email protection program installed. It can help you by automatically directing spam and junk mail into spam folders and deactivating malicious attachments.

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How Much Does Downtime Really Cost Your Business?

Downtime Costs SMBs a Lot More Than They Actually Realize….

Many SMB owners think IT downtime only costs them a few productive hours, but there’s a lot more at stake when your systems go down. Customer satisfaction and loss of brand integrity are just two of the key losses apart from the more evident costs such as lost productivity and a temporary dip in sales.

Here’s a few other ways downtime can hurt your business:

1. Customer Loss – Today’s buyer lacks patience; They are used to getting everything at the click of a mouse, at the tap of a finger. Suppose they are looking for the kind of products/services that you offer and your site doesn’t load or is unavailable—even if temporarily– you are likely to lose them to a competitor—permanently.

2. Damage to Brand Reputation – Customers are now using Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and blogs to vent their bad brand experiences. Imagine an irate customer who doesn’t know if their card was charged on your site, or not, due to a server error. If it’s your bad day, they could probably be using Facebook or Twitter to share their bad experience, and it could be viewed by hundreds of people, causing irreparable harm to your brand image.

3. Loss of Productivity – When your systems don’t work, this can have a direct impact on your employees’ productivity. Consider a research firm of 200 employees where they primarily rely on internet connectivity to access the knowledge base. If the server hosting the knowledge base is down, there’s a total loss of at least 1600 work hours for one day.

4. Overtime, Repair and Recovery, Compensatory costs – In the above case, imagine the overtime wages the business would have to incur if they were to make up for the work loss they faced owing to downtime. In addition, there’s always the cost of repair—the money the business would have to shell out to fix the issue that caused the downtime and get the server up and running again.

In some cases, businesses would have to incur additional costs to make customers happy. These could include giving away the product for free or at a discount, or using priority shipping to make up for a delayed order.

5. Possible Lawsuits – Businesses could also be at the receiving end of lawsuits. For example, a downtime that has an impact on production, delivery or finances of the customer could invite litigation.

6. Marketing Efforts Rendered Useless – Consider a pay-per-click advertisement that shows up for the right keywords on Google, or an extensive e-mail campaign that your business engages in. However, when the prospect clicks on the link, all they see is an error message – Isn’t that a waste of your marketing budget?

The bottom line—one natural disaster, one technical snag or just one power outage has the power to put you out of business – both virtually and in reality. It’s probably time to think about how you can mitigate the threat of a possible downtime and whether your MSP can act as an effective and efficient ally in this battle for you.

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Five Things You Should Do Right Now to Preserve Your Network and Systems

5 Things SMBs Can Do Right Now to Preserve Their Network and Systems

1. Backup Files Every Day – As catastrophic as data loss is, the number of businesses that still are not backing up their network is unbelievable. According to the Symantec Small to Medium Size Businesses (SMB) data, only 23% of SMBs are backing up their data on a daily basis and fewer than 50% are backing up data weekly. Any number of events can result in data loss, so the importance of frequently backing up your network cannot be overstated.

2. Ensure Backup Procedures Are Checked Regularly – Many times business owners think that they have a backup system in place only to find out after it’s too late that it hasn’t been working properly. It may seem like your files are being backed up daily, however, the backup could have become corrupt or it is not backing up huge chunks of critical data. Check your backup procedures regularly to ensure they are working properly in order to be sure that ALL of your data can be recovered. In the age of BYOD (Bring-Your-Own-Devices) it is also important to frequently backup data on your employee’s personal laptops, iPads or Blackberrys, so make sure you have a procedure in place to check those backups as well.

3. Make Sure Updated Virus Protection and Firewalls Are Always Enabled – Far too many companies either have no virus protection, expired virus software licenses, or disabled virus programs that aren’t running at all. This makes their business technology vulnerable to virus attacks from emails, spam, data downloads, and unreputable websites. Further, because of inadequate firewall protection about 40% of small to medium businesses will have their network accessed by a hacker. Chances are, when these businesses are attacked they will be entirely unaware it is happening. In order to protect your valuable data and assets, ensure your virus protection is adequate, up-to-date and functioning properly and that your firewall is intact. Finally, don’t forget to update security patches and change passwords when an employee leaves in order to deter hacking attempts.

4. Monitor Server Drives – Dangerously full server drives can bring their own set of problems – ranging from program and server crashes to sluggish email delivery. Proactive monitoring and maintenance of your server can spare your business a lot of problems down the road.

5. Regularly Check Critical Built-In Logs – Very few problems with technology emerge suddenly. These problems typically progress over time and evolve into more serious problems. Frequently review your critical built-in log files to help identify the problem before it has gotten out of control and wreaks havoc on your business infrastructure.

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Data Loss Can Cause You to Shut Down

Data Loss Can Cause You To Shut Down — Research by National Archives & Records Administration

Small and medium sized businesses today are relying more than ever on IT systems to efficiently run their business, support customers and optimize productivity. These systems house sensitive digital data ranging from employee and customer information, to internal emails, documents and financial records, sales orders and transaction histories. This is in addition to applications and programs critical to daily business functions and customer service.

While corporate-level data losses and insider theft are well publicized, many smaller businesses have also become casualties of data loss and theft. Following a significant data loss, it is estimated that a small-to-medium sized business can lose up to 25% in daily revenue by the end of the first week. Projected lost daily revenue increases to 40% one month into a major data loss.

According to The National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, 93% of companies that have experienced data loss, coupled with prolonged downtime for ten or more days, have filed for bankruptcy within twelve months of the incident while 50% wasted no time and filed for bankruptcy immediately. Finally, 43% of companies with no data recovery and business continuity plan actually go out of business following a major data loss.

Still, a survey conducted by Symantec SMB revealed that fewer than half of SMBs surveyed backup their data each week. Only 23% of those surveyed said they backup data every day and have a business continuity plan in place.

Businesses play on a much bigger playing field than they did two decades ago. Any disruptive technological event – even the smallest of incidents – can have an amplified impact on day-to-day business and profitability. Being proactive with data recovery solutions, and having emergency response procedures in place prior to a disruption or data disaster, is the only way to minimize downtime and soften the impact of such events.

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