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How to Develop a Strategic Technology Plan that Cuts Costs and Increases Profitability

Written technology plans are one of those things we rarely see when we visit clients for the first time. It is far more common for companies to simply incorporate a handful of technology needs into their business plan (if they have one) and have a single line item for IT inside their budget, to be spent as needed throughout the year.

Here’s the problem. Technology pervades everything we do. How we communicate, conduct research, create and archive mission critical documents, order supplies, and so much more is all made easier with the right technology (and infinitely harder when technology fails us).

That is why to remain successful and competitive in today’s environment, every type of company benefits from having a written strategic technology plan. When developed and implemented properly, the plan supports growth goals, streamlines operations, maximizes budgets, and increases profitability.

What to Include in Your Strategic Technology Plan

  • Written short- and long-term goals, along with a strategic plan to support those goals in a cost-efficient manner;
  • A budget that supports strategic investing — not reactive spending — to patch problems throughout the year;
  • Ongoing systems monitoring to proactively ensure everything is running smoothly, not an IT team that shows up only after a failure has occurred and disrupted your life;
  • An IT team that is well-versed in your industry and understands how you operate, including the ability to support your specialized software; and
  • A summary of all software needs, including a budget for training and support (where applicable). It should also reflect of the availability of niche discounts (often unadvertised – but they’re out there!)

Inside of the technology plan, we highly recommend you include a budget that covers your ongoing technology costs. Hardware, software and accessories are obvious inclusions. You should also allow for general maintenance, troubleshooting of servers, network and desktop issues, emergency fixes, vendor management, and consultations each year to review your environment and future needs. Managed Services packages are an ideal solution to help you do this in a cost-efficient manner. For one set fee, your IT company should guarantee you proactive support and guidance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. In addition, this support should be available both on-site and remotely.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you have a strategic plan that will support your goals over the next 1, 3 and 5 years?
  • Does the plan specifically outline how goals will be achieved?
  • Does your budget include someone to proactively monitor and repair your network to minimize interruptions?
  • Are you confident the budget you’ve been given will be enough to cover everything that comes up during the year?

Developing a written strategic technology plan can be overwhelming, but in our experience, the time spent pays for itself in the long-run.

To learn how you can develop a realistic technology plan and budget for your business, contact our specialists today.


Technology is Changing Fast. How Can Your Organization Keep Up?

Technology changes fast. Software upgrades are made available each year, often requiring companies to repurchase and reinstall each license. Plus, with the ever-growing amount of applications and data you need to access and archive, computers and servers frequently need to be added or upgraded, resulting in rising technology costs each year.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you tired of repurchasing and reinstalling new software every time an upgrade is required?
  • Are you using old computers and running older versions of software to minimize your costs?
  • Are you experiencing compatibility issues with applications, other computers, or outside companies?
  • Are you increasing your risk by allowing people to share logins and passwords because you are short on licenses?
  • Are you 100% confident that your operating system and every device connected to your network is secured?

The problems above can be resolved with two distinct services: Hardware-as-a-Service (HaaS) and Cloud Computing. They offer businesses flexibility, reliability, security, accessibility, and scalability.

Hardware-as-a-Service

Hardware-as-a-Service is similar to leasing or licensing. The hardware (e.g., computers, servers and networking devices) is installed in your office but belongs to the managed service provider. You pay a flat monthly fee, allowing you to set a reliable budget that can include your hardware, software, maintenance, and installation.

Let’s face it: hardware is a depreciating asset. Therefore, investing in HaaS provides certain advantages, such as:

  • Minimal upfront costs;
  • When hardware reaches the end of its useful life, it is refreshed by the managed service provider at no cost to you; and
  • Should the hardware fail or become outdated, it is the managed service provider’s responsibility to repair or replace it.

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing is another service that is tailored to the specific needs of your business and can be budgeted as a fixed monthly expense, rather than incurring a large upfront cost. Below are some of the many advantages to cloud computing solutions:

  • 24/7/365 anywhere, anytime access
  • Increased employee productivity
  • Immediate remote IT support
  • Highly secure and reliable
  • Data centralization
  • Automated data backup and archiving
  • Hosted email, providing uninterrupted access
  • Efficiently roll-out new software, with minimal interruption to your staff
  • Expandable file storage and sharing
  • Unlimited capacity
  • Minimal space needed to house equipment. Ditch that server room and use it for something more profitable.
  • Significantly lower IT expenditures annually

Many companies offer cloud computing services, so it’s important to understand what you need and what you are getting before you sign a contract. Here are some key questions to ask your provider before committing:

  • Can I pay for only the resources that I need, adding space when necessary?
    Your contract should provide some flexibility, allowing you to add – and even reduce – your commitment as your needs change.
  • How do I know my data backups are working?
    Don’t wait until you need the backups to discover a failed implementation. Someone should periodically test the backups to ensure everything is working.
  • Can you describe your redundant server architecture?
    A redundant server environment must protect your data. Then, if the server housing your data were to fail or become compromised, the redundant server can be brought online immediately, minimizing and even eliminating your downtime. The best environments will include multiple power sources, multiple generators, and redundant internet providers.
  • Do I need any on-site equipment?
    There are different options available, ranging from maintaining a local server in your office to operating completely remotely. Understand the pros and cons before you choose.

As a final note, to help your company not only keep up with technology but also leverage it most advantageously, assess the IT resources you have in place. Whether you have an entire technology department, a single professional managing your needs, or outsource everything, it is critical that you have the right professionals watching over you. Their ability to maintain your network, secure your infrastructure and troubleshoot daily needs can mean all the difference in the world.


Which Type of IT Support is Right for You?

Ensuring the right mix of IT support is important for every business, regardless of industry or size. For some, it means a full-time professional or even an entire department. For others, it may mean a part-time professional or tech-savvy staff member who provides support in addition to their other duties. Then there are the businesses that have no internal support; choosing to outsource the entire IT function or simply call on a provider when problems arise.

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of each scenario.

Large companies with full-time IT professionals on staff

Internal IT departments are often expected to provide full IT services, ranging from helpdesk support to developing strategic plans and budgets. However, the skillsets of the professionals on staff need to be considered carefully, along with how much time they have to fulfill their duties.

Some IT professionals find themselves immersed in daily troubleshooting, handling individual requests for desktop support and trying to maintain and update computers and devices as they go. This may leave them limited time to proactively monitor, patch and test operating systems, backups and disaster recovery solutions.

In other cases, the full-time professional is responsible for higher level work, creating strategic plans and budgets, and researching new and innovative ways of doing things. Here, they may find themselves falling behind on supporting individual support requests.

Outsourcing a portion of your IT needs may be a good solution to provide your company with more consistent and thorough support. A strong managed service provider can supplement your existing internal resources. They can handle a piece of infrastructure such as managing networking equipment and servers and overseeing security services, leaving ample time for your internal resources to support your daily needs. Or, if your IT executive prefers to remain focused on the higher level needs of the company, a managed service provider can be responsible for providing on-site and remote helpdesk support.

The bottom line is that the right managed service provider should be able to devise a solution that will compliment and supplement your existing resources, providing you with comprehensive coverage.

Companies with a part-time support person

Many small and medium size businesses have an internal IT person, ranging from a part-time desktop support person to a tech-savvy employee who works on the network in their spare time.

The latter scenario can be problematic because the IT responsibilities take time away from the individuals and programs the organization exists to support. And while desktop support professionals can be valuable for daily on-site troubleshooting, they are often not well-trained on the intricacies of running a secure and speedy environment that can support dozens, or even hundreds, of devices. In addition, part-time support professionals often find themselves reactive, rather than proactive, racing to patch holes and clean computers after they become infected, spending valuable time troubleshooting network performance issues and working with end-users to troubleshoot individual problems.

In this case, outsourcing a portion of your IT needs can be tremendously beneficial. Speak with a managed service provider to learn how they can supplement the skillset of your internal resource. Options will range from providing helpdesk support as needed to providing proactive managed service solutions that will keep your network and all connected devices secure and up-to-date. There are also specialized services to consider, such as managing your backup and disaster recovery solutions, running security assessments, and developing strategic technology plans to support growth goals.

Companies with no internal support who outsource some (or all) of their IT needs

Those with no internal support and no managed service contract in place are often forced to spend reactively, paying a consultant or freelancer by the hour to fix problems that have occurred. The obvious problem here is that you are now suffering from disruption, possibly lost data, unable to control your budget, and have no plan for the next day, let alone the rest of the year.

Partnering with an IT consulting firm that offers managed services is critical in this scenario. Any business that employs multiple computers and devices, relies on the internet for research or communication, or is responsible for securing data, needs to have a technology support system in place. There are two distinct options to consider, based on needs and budget: Pay-As-You-Go and Managed Services.

Defining Pay-As-You-Go vs. Managed Services

Pay-As-You-Go. Some IT firms charge hourly and fix problems as they occur. Special projects can be completed upon request and are billed based on time.

This scenario sometimes works for companies with an internal person who is very capable of handling the majority of daily troubleshooting and also has the time and skillset to handle the proactive and sometimes complex issues associated with managing and securing an entire network and the many devices that connect to it.

For those with no internal support it could become cost- prohibitive and leave dangerous gaps in their infrastructure support.

Managed Services. Another option is called Managed Services. An IT team is placed on retainer for a fixed monthly fee, and functions as your outsourced technology department.

Where appropriate, a managed service provider can augment an existing IT professional based on your individual needs. This is particularly useful when a reliable backup option is needed because the employed professional is unavailable, whether it’s due to illness, vacation, holidays or after-hours.

Where no internal team exists, this is the best option for providing a full technology solution in a cost-effective manner.

Managed service contracts are typically comprehensive, providing services such as:

  • 24/7/365 proactive monitoring to detect issues before they impact you
  • Immediate remote support, as well as on-site support for big and small issues
  • Proactive updates and upgrades for all software and operating systems for every device that is part of your company’s network
  • Enhanced firewall and security management
  • Automated data backup
  • And much more

Ask yourself:

  • Are you confident your IT professional understands the intricacies of maintaining a fast, secure and scalable system that can support every device that connects to your network?
  • Can they respond to an emergency immediately?
  • Have they helped you develop a long-term plan to support your growth goals?

If not, contact one of our specialists at info@act-tek.com or (973) 758-0500 to learn how managed service solutions can have a positive impact on your business.