What to Consider When Hiring a Small Business IT Support Provider

As technology grows more complex the small business owner is struggling to manage these complex systems.  Many are starting to outsource their technology support needs and are looking for an expert Small Business IT Support Provider.

Here are a few items small business owners need to consider when looking for IT Support Provider:

Listens & Understands:  When you are “interviewing” a small business IT support provider (and it may be wise to meet with more than one) you should be doing the majority of the talking.  They should be gathering information about your business, your current technology infrastructure, and your long term business goals.  They will also describe the services and technology they can bring to your business, but by developing an understanding for your business first, they are able to provide details about the technology that suits your business best.

Fixes the Issue: You are likely searching for an IT support provider because you have an immediate technology need or you can no longer manage the complex technology system within your business.  Any IT support provider should diagnosis your immediate issues, explain the issue and resolution in a way you understand, and quickly implement a solution so your business experiences as minimal downtime as possible.  Only after any technology issues you have are resolved, should they begin  offering you preventative measures and additional services that will benefit your business.

Stabilization & Recommendations:  Once the Small Business IT Support provider comprehends your business, the current technology infrastructure, and has fixed any immediate items that are preventing daily operations they should begin to move into the role of a trusted IT advisor.  In this role, they should be maintaining and proactively managing all technology within your business to minimize downtime, looking for ways to increase productivity, bringing new technology that will enhance the business, and offering a customized Managed IT Business Solution that encompasses all technology management under one monthly bill.

The Final Countdown to Microsoft’s April 8th Deadline

Posting Date: 02/20/2014  |   Filed Under: Security, Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
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In 2002, Microsoft presented its official Support Lifecycle Policy that was based on detailed customer feedback. The predictability of support services was cited as a very important issue for Microsoft’s customers. Microsoft responded accordingly by alerting customers years in advance that the XP operating system and Windows 2003 have an “end of life” date scheduled for April 8, 2014. Although XP and Windows 2003 have been very popular, Microsoft will no longer support these products after the April 8th deadline. This information has been well-publicized by Microsoft for many years. There are still over 600 million worldwide XP users and it seems that many have chosen to simply ignore these repeated notifications. We can assume that users who have not upgraded by now fall into one of two categories. The first group includes those who are willing to take their chances and plan to continue using Microsoft legacy products that are no longer supported. The second group is XP users who are truly unaware of the deadline. Do you fall into one of these two groups?

The Final Countdown is Now!

The Final Countdown is Now!

After years of these “end of life” warnings, XP and Windows 2003 are now in the final days of the deadline countdown. Surprisingly, one of Microsoft’s latest strategies has been to ask for help. Geeks On Call recently posted a story on our Facebook page about how Microsoft had begun taking a grassroots approach to spreading the word. Microsoft resorted to asking for help by seeking volunteers to remind business owners, friends, family and colleagues about the upcoming XP deadline. Via their blog, Microsoft asked experienced and technically savvy users to help others understand why it is important to make the switch to Windows 8 and to make the upgrade now!

Ignoring this Deadline is Not an Option

Some users claim a variety of reasons for resisting this XP upgrade, but don’t forget that there are a few key reasons you cannot ignore this deadline. The issues for residential users can be serious, but the consequences for businesses hold additional threats and even possible legal ramifications.

Here’s How You and Your Business Can Be Impacted by Not Upgrading

Here’s How You and Your Business Can Be Impacted by Not Upgrading
  • Security Risks: Without the security provided by an updated operating system, all of your business data and personal information are vulnerable to harmful viruses and spyware. Malicious viruses will very likely be unleashed on XP’s “zero day.” Undefended computers can be completely immobilized with viruses quickly spreading over the net to PCs still operating on XP. No business owner wants to think about a virus spreading through all of their computers. All of the data that keeps your business functioning will be placed at risk.
  • Compliance Issues: Businesses that continue to operate on XP can actually face compliance issues. Resulting compliance issues can lead to suspension of certifications, and/or public notification of the organization’s inability to securely maintain its systems and customer information. Compliance problems can place your business in legal peril and seriously damage your business’ reputation in the process.
  • Upgrade Expenses: If you think a system upgrade is just too expensive, Geeks On Call urges you to reconsider this viewpoint. Many technical experts consider using an unsupported product such XP, as an act of irresponsibility on the part of the business. Remember that the problems that are likely to arise can cost your business significantly more than the upgrade. Don’t be penny-wise and pound foolish when it comes to investing in an upgrade.
  • Custom Support Available for a Price: In fact, there will still be some support available to XP users after the deadline, but at the annual cost of $200 per device. Depending on the number of computers your business is using, it’s not much of a bargain. In reality, this is only a temporary, contingency plan.

Upgrade Today!

Playing “chicken” with this deadline is tempting fate and there can be serious consequences. You can find yourself in the cross-hairs of cybercriminals on April 8th and potentially face business compliance problems. If you are still using XP, take action today. Call Geeks On Call and one of our experts can help you understand your XP migration options and work with you to develop an upgrade strategy. Call Geeks On Call before it’s too late. The final countdown is now! Are you prepared?

Why you should upgrade from XP today!

Posting Date: 02/17/2014  |   Filed Under: Consoles, Internet, Security, Technology  |   No Comments
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Business Technology Solutions: Planning Before Implementing

Posting Date: 01/30/2014  |   Filed Under: Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
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Before you jump head first into implementing the newest and greatest in business technology solutions, make sure the decision and the technology align with the larger goals of your business.

Many times people go for the flash and status of having the newest technology, and never actually consider how it will work in their physical space, with the business, and with their employees.

In companies of any size, it is not uncommon to see technology departments with their own goals and budget, in addition to company larger goals and budgets.  When technology departments are making decisions independently, that are not aligned with company goals a gap in adoption and implementation can occur.  You may think that this issue only happens in large companies, but that is not true.   Misaligned decisions about technology can occur in a company of any size.

 

When it comes to choosing business technology solutions, here are a few things to consider that will ensure everyone is informed and aligned with technology direction of the company.

•The Horse Comes Before the Cart

Technology should not dictate your work process; technology should enhance your work process making it more productive and efficient.  In many cases you need to revamp your work processes before selecting and investing in new business technology solutions.  Applying new technology to an antiquated work process will be counterproductive and may not work in many cases.  Your business technology solutions should enhance your business not weaken your business.

 

•Avoid Hasty Decisions

In today’s fast paced world people tend to make decisions on a whim, and that is never how you should make decisions about business technology solutions.  These decisions need to be thoughtfully made as they impact the future success of your business.  You should also take time to seek input from a technology professional that is not associated with selling the product and professionals that are using the product.

 

•Ability to Scale

As you choose  new business technology solutions, make sure that it is able to grow and evolve with your business.  Avoid situations where an entire system will need to be replaced or have pieces/parts tacked on to an older system.   These scenarios can cause unnecessary headaches and expenses.  Selecting a system that offers investment protection and flexibility will benefit your business in the long term.

Small Business Owners have to Face Technology Issues Head On!

Posting Date: 01/10/2014  |   Filed Under: Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
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Small business owners have to deal with frequent issues that arise within their business each and every day.  Many of these issues stem from technology that is not working correctly or as expected.

Below are some of the most common business technology issues that small business owners face and potential solutions:

Insufficient Backup Solutions: Everyone knows they need for a backup system in place.  And, may even have system in place that they believe is working appropriately and being tested regularly. But is it?  As a business owner you need to be certain your back up system is working properly, because if you are impacted by a data loss it can be detrimental to your business.

Solution: Implement a backup system that fits the needs of your business; additionally creating a testing strategy of your backup system that occurs at least one a month to guarantee you are able to recover from a data loss.  We suggest a managed backup system that also has the ability to expand with your business.

Lost, Stolen, & Unsecure Mobile Devices: Employees are accessing and saving your business data on their mobile device, whether it be a personal device or a device issued by the company.   What happens to your business data if the mobile device is stolen or lost?

Solution: All mobile devices need to be integrated into your IT infrastructure and required to have the same level of protection as your servers, network, and computers.  Integrating solutions for encryption and remote wipes, should a mobile devices be lost or stolen will help protect your company information.

Lost Productivity: Have you ever attempted to measure the time your employees spend online or on their individual cell phones?

Solution: Many small businesses are cracking down on the use of personal devices and online usage by putting Internet and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies in place.  These policies state what workers can and can’t access on company equipment and on their personal mobile devices while they are in the workplace.  Some businesses are taking it one step further and placing access blocks up within the office that disable mobile device features and restrict website access from within the office.

Unsecure Networks: Are they also placing your business network in harm’s way by accessing suspicious websites or opening unsafe email attachments?

Solution: As a business owner it is your obligation to ensure your confidential business information, as well as your client’s information is protected. Each desktop, cell phone and server needs to have sufficient and current security measures installed.  There are noxious bugs and infections developing day by day, and with a single click your whole office might be put at danger.

Increased Efficiencies with Technology: Do your employees continue to manage accounting, payroll, and client information the same way they always have?  If the answer is yes, then your business is not allowing technology to streamline the daily functions of your employees.

Result: Implementing updated technology through cloud based solutions gives businesses the ability to adapt to new technology that can streamline and automate daily tasks.  Taking advantage of cloud based technology also gives your employees access to information from anywhere providing them flexibility in their job and clients a better experience.

The best solution to many common technology questions is for small business owner is to build an relationship with an IT service provider that has experience providing business technology solutions.  Allowing them to manage your technology, while you remain focused on growing your business!

Business IT Support: Are you prepared for 2014?

Posting Date: 12/27/2013  |   Filed Under: Data Back-up, Internet, Security, Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
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As 2013 comes to a close, many will spend this time reviewing the what they achieved this past year and begin making plans of the things they hope to achieve in 2014. For the majority of people this will include both personal and professional plans. When developing new business goals, it often includes increased efficiency while saving time and money and learning to work smarter not harder.

As you begin to establish and outline your goals and resolutions for 2014, we would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to consider establishing an IT support plan for your business.

 

How a Business IT support Plan can Benefit your Business

Moving into a Business IT Support Plan (also known as a Managed Service Contract) provides you the opportunity to find someone who can assess your current technology systems and understand the needs of your business.  After the initial assessment and understanding of future needs, a service plan can be developed that will move the IT responsibility into the hands of an expert IT professional, freeing you up to run the business.

Advantages of Establishing a Business IT Support Plan in 2014: 

•You have the ability to control costs, and have less “surprise” technology costs, when you outsource this to a true IT professional.  With this model you are only paying for services that your business needs, you are not responsible for many of the costs associated with a traditional employee, and you have someone monitoring your equipment that will be able to inform you of issues on the horizon that you can proactively address.

•When you move to this model you gain an immediate increased level of efficiency and expertise.  The IT professional that you have chosen to hire should provide an extremely high level of technology knowledge and have the ability to stay ahead of product trends for you and your business.

•New viruses and technology threats are emerging every day.  Are you convinced that your business is properly protected?  Your IT professional should make your business needs regarding security a number one priority, establish a plan if something were to go awry, and maintain updated knowledge on how to protect you against new threats.

•Save time and money by running and managing your business not your technology.  A Business IT Support Plan will allow you to rely on the suggestions and guidance of highly skilled IT professional so you can make informed decision on how to move and maintain your business technology at a managed cost.

3 Features get an Upgrade with the Windows 8.1 Release

Posting Date: 12/18/2013  |   Filed Under: Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
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There has been much scrutiny and opinions about Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system, and with the launch of the 8.1 upgrade there is no end in sight.

We have looked at three improvements that are part of the 8.1 upgrade, so if you are in the market for a new computer or have Windows 8 and are thinking about the upgrade you will be better informed about these 3 improvements that Microsoft has put in place.  These are not the only improvements they have made, but in trying to keep this blog post to a reasonable length so we choose to look at three.

 

Return of the Start Button (sort of): Users reacted swiftly and loudly when they realized Microsoft removed the Start Button from the new Windows 8 operating system. Microsoft listened to the users, and brought back the Start Button with the 8.1 upgrade.  The new Start Button won’t work as it did in past operating systems, but it will give you a shortcut to the tile menu and when right clicked it will display a contextual menu with additional options.

Snap is Overhauled: If you have not utilized the Snap feature on Windows 8, or are running an previous operating system it can be extremely useful.  Snap allows you to have multiple app screens open at the same time. This is an extremely useful feature, but they missed the mark with execution in Windows 8. In the 8.1 upgrade they fixed the issues and you are now able to resize smaller winders to just about any size with a simple swipe.

Optimized Search: Windows 8 unveiled a new search feature, but like many other new features within Windows 8 it did not meet user expectations.  The search function allowed you to begin typing on the Start screen and search for settings, apps, and information on the web.   With the 8.1 update, Microsoft’s Smart Search powered by Bing, provide search results that are more organized in a visually results driven page.

 

Is the upgraded Windows 8.1 flawless?  No, but a number of the user requested fixes and features upgrades has improved user experience between a tablet and a desktop.  Most felt as if Microsoft had launched Windows 8 to just the tablet market overlooking its place in the desktop market and angering users.

Microsoft is listening to the users, and created solutions to many of the issues that caused complaints and frustration, so hopefully it will be a little easier to take the plunge to Windows 8.    Consumers looking to purchase a new computer will have little choice when it comes to an operating system since all pc computers are coming standard with the Windows 8 operating system.  And, with the Windows XP deadline quickly approaching in April, 2014 many people will soon be in the market for a new computer and will be forced to take on Windows 8.

Viruses of 2013

Posting Date: 12/16/2013  |   Filed Under: Internet, Security, Tips  |   No Comments
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As 2013 comes to a close, everyone produces lists for the year in review. I love these, and look forward to reading them every year.   As we jump into 2014, we wanted to review the computer viruses, scams, and issues that made their appearance in 2013 and will probably continue into 2014, so you can make sure you and your technology continue to be informed and protected.  When you log on remember to STOP. THINK. CONNECT.

CryptoLocker – Emerging into the computer world in the fall, hackers were hitting computer systems and holding personal information and files for ransom.  The concept of holding something for ransom has been around for ages, but this is the first time it has taken a 21st century twist holding your computer hostage and demanding money to get it back.

This virus was developed by organized criminals overseas, and is spread through phony attachments in emails.  The best way to protect yourself is to avoid opening email attachments from unfamiliar senders or that you are not expecting to receive.

You should also invest in good anti-virus protection software, and if you are hit they suggest unplugging your computer immediately before the program as had a change to run completely.  The hope is that the virus stalled when you unplugged your equipment and an expert technician will be able to salvage your data.


Microsoft Phone Scam – This was making its rounds during the summer months, and even happened to one of our franchise owners.  Its goal is to catch people off guard, lull them into a false sense of trust by saying they are from Microsoft and there is an issue with your computer, and you give them remote access to your computer.
Once the representative, claiming to be from Microsoft, has access to your computer they install a virus.  Then charging you money to remove and repair your computer.

FBI Virus – This global Internet scam gets into your computer and preys on your fear of being contacted by the FBI and threatened with jail time.  A fake message with the FBI logo will appear on your screen claiming, virtually locking your computer, that you illegally downloaded some type of material.  Then like a ransom notice, the attacker forces a payment for access to the computer.

Computers become infected, most of the time undetected by the user, when a unfamiliar email attachment or an untrustworthy website is accessed.

Facebook Virus – The Facebook Virus is transmitted through Facebook by clicking a link, then find its way to your bank account and drain all of the available money.  This virus, commonly called Zeus, will remain inactive on your computer until someone log into a banking website.  It then swiftly moves into action, stealing username and passwords so the funds can be accessed by thieves.

The best line of defense is to only click on links from people you know that do not look suspicious or contain strange patterns or characters.  Also, because this virus targets bank accounts, making sure your banking establishment’s website is secure and has a 2-step verification process will help protect your money.

Search Conduit – Our final virus is not a traditional virus, it is actually a browser hijack.  It is a menace that exhibits malicious traits. It is most commonly bundled and installed  through something you downloaded, it will add the Conduit Toolbar and change your browser homepage and default search engine to search.conduit.com.

The Conduit search engine will display advertising and sponsored links in your search results and will act very much like Google and Bing.  It will also collect search terms from your queries in an effort to boost their advertising revenue, which is a black hat SEO tactic. It is pretty difficult to remove since it takes hold of some many pieces of your computer including your browser and operating system.

Protecting Your Business from Cyber Security Threats

Cyber Security is a concern for all business and residential computer users.

We are delighted to present Protecting Your Business from CyberSecurity Threats conducted by Michael Kaiser, Executive Director of the National Cyber Security Alliance.

Geeks On Call was proud to have been a 2013 Champion of National Cyber Security Awareness Month. During October we presented information about Cyber Security safety through our monthly newsletter, blog posts and a social media campaign. We felt that this webinar would continue to help educate and make everyone understand how to be safe and protect their business online.

Leave us a comment and  let us know how you are protecting yourself from Cyber Security Threats!

 

Creating a Technology Plan for the New Year

Posting Date: 11/22/2013  |   Filed Under: Data Back-up, Security, Technology, Tips  |   No Comments
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We all make personal New Year’s resolutions on January 1st. This year, why not commit to a few professional resolutions for your business, too? Geeks On Call strongly encourages you to put a new technology plan at the top of that list for 2014. We are offering some technology planning guidelines that can help you form a strategy as you think about your business resolutions and professional goals for 2014.

Technology Solutions That Can Benefit Your Business in the New Year

Backup Services: Cloud services include data storage and backup systems plus access to software programs. Information stored on the cloud can be shared with other users anywhere and at any time. Data shows that 61% of surveyed small businesses are currently using some form of cloud-based service with another 5% planning to add cloud services by 2014. If your business is not currently using the cloud for backup service, it’s time to make a plan for switching over. The cloud can provide data storage plus a variety of services and benefits. Put the cloud at the top of your list.

Security Measures: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) research shows that over two-thirds of surveyed companies already have employees using their own computers on the job. The advantage is that BYOD makes it easier for employees to stay in constant contact and also work from home more productively. The efficiency of BYOD comes with the responsibility on the part of the business for training employees on security policies and standards. Safeguarding your network and ensuring the confidentiality of your data is critical to the security of your business.

Disaster Recovery: Within the past year unexpected weather-related disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy, have raised the business community’s concerns over data recovery solutions. As you consider your disaster recovery plan, try to consider the consequences of losing all of your business’ data. Think of the lost revenue if your business is off-line for several days. This will remind you of how important it is to have a solid disaster recovery plan in place. There are a variety of disaster recovery plans available. After the disaster occurs, it’s too late to wish you had kept that New Year’s resolution for a disaster recovery plan! Commit to a disaster recovery plan now.

Managed Services: Technology is a key component tied to the success of your business. It enables your business to stay efficient, productive and competitive in today’s marketplace. That is as long as your technology systems are up to date and functioning properly. Have you considered a managed service plan? A managed service provider develops a customized IT service plan that will suit the budget and the needs of the client’s business. A service plan can help your business reduce IT operational costs while actually providing a higher level of IT service. The need for a managed service provider has become increasingly important as business owners need to make informed and increasingly complex choices about technology solutions.

Please visit our blog  for additional information about technology planning in the New Year.

Prepare for 2014 – TODAY!

Geeks On Call can work with you to assess your IT needs and develop a customized plan for your business. If your business needs to develop a backup system, move to cloud services or develop a Mobile App – we can help. Geeks On Call is here to help your business stay productive, efficient and competitive in 2014. Give your local Geeks On Call office a call and one of our computer professionals will be happy to help you.