Every year, a breakthrough role is introduced which is supposed to make all the difference for your business. And this year, that role seems to be the rise of the “Fractional CIO”. But what is a Fractional CIO, and how does this role differ from an in-house or Virtual CIO? Is there any difference at all? And what are the benefits of having a CIO for a growing small business?
In this blog, we’ll highlight the history of CIOs, the advent of the VCIO/Fractional CIO, the difference between VCIOs and Fractional CIOs, and how you can get a VCIO for your Barrie business at a fraction of the investment of hiring a CIO in-house.
The Value of CIOs to An Organization
Before we delve into what a fractional or virtual CIO is, it’s probably useful to dig into what a CIO is. You probably already know a little bit about CIOs but if you don’t, CIO stands for Chief Information Officer.
The CIO’s job – really, the job of any IT leader in a growing organization – is multi-fold.
A good CIO:
The CIO is, or should be, the one person in the company whose job it is to own the technology and the network. This executive is usually full-time, is highly experienced, and serves on the board or reports to the board.
And if you’re thinking, “Wait, we don’t have anyone at our company doing anything beyond keeping the IT lights on,” then rest assured that the very reason fractional CIOs exist is to serve the needs of small companies like yours.
Enter the CIO Alternative
To meet the need for an experienced Chief Information Officer without the full-time salary requirement, many organizations are turning to “Virtual” or “Fractional” CIOs, sometimes abbreviated as simply vCIO or VCIO.
The Virtual/Fractional CIO’s job is to fill the technology leadership gap in a growing organization, whether that gap is due to never having a CIO or because that organization finds themselves with an empty seat at the table. As an objective third party, a vCIO can provide a crucial outside eye that can help an organization identify weak spots in technology, planning, or execution.
When you hire a Virtual CIO, you’re getting “fractional” services which are, literally, a fraction of the cost of hiring for a full-time CIO.
For a fraction of the investment, you’re getting the important bits, like:
These tasks are too important to leave to a junior IT guy right out of high school, which is why the VCIO role is something we include in every IT MSP partnership. (Click to learn more about ACT360’s VCIO + IT MSP Partnership Program for Ontario Businesses.)
Get Your Company's VCIO From Act 360
At ACT360, we include a Virtual CIO with every IT Managed Services Provider partnership, because we know that technology without strategy simply isn’t good enough. Your VCIO is a member of our executive leadership team and has been working in and running IT for over a decade.
Our VCIO service is wrapped into the same base investment, giving you fractional CIO services that are deeply integrated into the IT management, IT support, license management, and hardware procurement you’re already getting as a result of working with ACT360.
In addition to IT Helpdesk Support, Backup/Recovery, & Microsoft O365 License Management, you’ll also get:
Malicious Software, commonly known as Malware is software that negatively impacts your PC. Malware has been around as long as computers have, while the majority of programs you download or install on your PC are safe, some softwares were created to cause harm to you and your PC. One may ask how can a program cause me harm? Well the malware of itself cannot physically harm you but the design can cause you a lot more harm than just physical.
For instance, there is malware that was designed to steal your information, destroy your files or even worst extract payment from your bank account. Whatever the intent of the Malware’s creator that’s what the effect will be on your or your PC. Persons place malware on people’s PC for many reasons, some do it for fame, others to act as a ransom, and others just to simply cause damage to their target. Much like someone who does vandalism or arson.
Malware comes in many forms, like viruses, spyware, rootkits, ransomware, etc. It is common practice to use viruses and malware interchangeably but a virus is a type of malware. In this article, we will be talking about, how does your PC get malware, what happens when your PC is infected with malicious software, ways not to get it, and how to eliminate it.
Unfortunately, Malware is often identified when your PC has already gotten infected. Most times with malicious software, a good question to ask is “What has changed on your PC”. Is there a software you have downloaded or a particular site you have been to that asked you to accept a pop-up?
One might say that they haven’t been on any strange website, and most of the websites that they’ve been to is safe. Whereas that might be the case on the face of it. There are many websites that you click on, maybe just to check out some quick information from Google. But that site you go to just for a few seconds might have malware embedded in it. Your computer might not change in any way but the malware is being installed and running all in the background.
Another one that scammers love to use is a fake warning that comes up on your screen saying ”WARNING - Your Computer is Infected With a Virus, click here, install our software to help you clean it.” What you’re doing at this point is installing the malware on your PC. The scammers are tricking you to install malware, that type of manipulation is called social engineering. Where criminals exploit your natural inclination to trust.
Yet another way one PC can get infected with malware is by opening a file that is infected. It could occur by placing that malware on a USB drive and by using this USB drive you get malware on your PC. This could also be transferred through Emails email is the number one way of getting infected by malicious software. You open up a file sent to you via email and by just accessing that file your PC gets infected by malware. This situation is even more tricky because what if your job requires you to open up files sent to you by strangers? Like an HR department. Where individuals send you their resumes daily. Your responsibility would be to open these files to read their information. All these are ways that one can get infected by malicious software.
There are several effects that your PC will experience when you are infected. Some malware is so minor and so barely noticeable that you could be infected for years and not even realize it’s there. There are some variants of malware that are an extra advertisement that shows up at the bottom of your computer screen. You simply close the advert and it stops that program until a later time. That type of malware may not be intrusive but it is consuming ram on your PC it may pop up an advertisement that does not work appropriately or might simply just be bothersome to be closing that advert every once and a while.
Other Malware can delete your documents. For instance, you might have photos you have stored on your PC and then malware get’s installed and deletes all your photos. So you are going on your PC where you normally store photos and when you check there are no photos in that file. So much so that when you do upload photos, after a day or two they simply disappear. That is the sign of malicious software on your PC.
Some malware will start doing what is called ”thrashing the hard drive”. This is done by the program reading your hard drive as hard and fast as it can over and over and over again, reading the same sector over and over again trying to cause a failure on your hard drive. This attack can cause your hard drive to fail or your CPU to burn up. These are the software that was designed to burn up components on your computer, a very aggressive malware.
There is yet another type of malware called “Keyloggers” these are the silent type of malware. They run in the background and record every keystroke, record every key you press on the keyboard, and sends it to a server. Whoever has access to that info can now see when you log in to a particular site and sues that record username and password to enter into your various accounts. Malware can make it seem like you are seeing a fake web page instead of the real one manipulate you to put some information there.
One of the main things that happen when your PC is infected with malware is that your Pc becomes a transmitter. So if you are on a corporate network and that network host 500 PC, it only takes one PC to get corrupted and then every PC on that network can potentially get corrupted because of that one PC.
A popular type of malware these days is called ransomware. When this type of malware affects your PC it takes the form of a ransom. So the program does not delete your files, instead, it encrypts all your data. Now once encrypted you can no longer get access to your data, your data is still there however but to decrypt your data the attacker says to pay them a certain amount to decrypt your files. The reason why this type of Malware is so popular is that attackers can now monetize their malware. All of the other malware and its effects on your PC doesn’t necessarily bring a direct monetary value to them but this one does.
To eliminate malware revolve around utilizing software with the capability to identify, quarantine, and delete malware. Most times it revolves around an antivirus tool.
Antivirus Software - There are a lot of antivirus softwares out there that do an amazing job in eliminating malware on your PC. According to USNEWS, the best Antivirus software for 2021:
Antivirus software protects against these types of threats by performing key tasks like:
A good antivirus is truly your go-to tool for eliminating malware.
In conclusion, malware has been there for a long time and will continue to be present as long as computers exist. So let’s do all we can to be mindful of what malware is, how we get infected by them, and how to eliminate them.
In a previous article, we spoke about having your password safe and what makes up a good password. We discussed what makes up an Ugly Password, Bad Password, and a Good Password. In this article, we will be looking at the holistic approach to password protection, not just the specific characters that should be utilized when protecting your password but the mindset and philosophy behind creating a secure password. By the end of this article, you should have a better appreciation for keeping all your systems secure where a password is required.
In our previous article, we spoke about how a 10 character password can be cracked in 31.17 days. Having a password that is 12 characters or more ensures that password crackers cannot brute force into your system. Those characters should have at least 1 capitalized letter, 2 digits, and 1 special character like an exclamation mark or an “at” symbol. Special characters are the keys that you have to press shift for access.
If a website has a maximum password length of 12 characters, then that is definitely something for you to be cautious of. You should contact that website and query why that is the case. If they are telling you something along the lines of, a password less than 12 characters is enough security then you should be very cautious about the information you place on such a website.
It is very tempting, once you have attained a strong enough password, that you simply use that password throughout your log-ins. This is a mistake that should be avoided by the end-user. When a password breach occurs and your password is compromised, the hacker now has full access to what could potentially be the master key to all your website log-ins and more.
According to CRN.com in their article “The 10 Biggest Data Breaches Of 2021 (So Far)” stated that More than 98.2 million individuals were impacted by the 10 biggest data breaches in the first half of 2021, with three of the 10 largest breaches occurring at technology companies. One of those companies, for instance, had a data breach where 15.7 million people were affected. The unauthorized user posted the database online which consisted of personal contact information, passwords, and responses to questions users answered about health conditions, political affiliation, and ethnicity.
Now imagine that your password was one of those passwords made available to the World Wide Web. And that same password is what you used for ALL your other accounts. Can you imagine the devastation that can happen with just one data breach on a website that you are signed up to?
Let’s not find ourselves as one of these persons. Don’t use one password for all your log-ins, mix it up a bit so that if one password is compromised then there isn’t access to all your information.
Writing down passwords is a habitual practice done by office workers the world over. Persons would write down passwords and stick them on their laptop screen or place it on a page right in front of them. Though it may seem convenient to you as the user, it is a very dangerous practice that could potentially get your system compromised.
If you write your password on your screen, for instance, any passerby can look at your screen and see your system. Putting them in your drawer or under your keyboard is also not safe. There are many times when hackers and persons with malicious intent go through the trash and get passwords, known as dumpster diving, these stories are very real.
Instead of writing down your passwords on paper, you can utilize password managers. Password managers are softwares that stores your username and passwords in an encrypted format. This information is then generated when you are on the URL associated with that username and password and fills these fields on your behalf. When you are signing up to any new website these password managers also generate passwords so you don’t have to guess them.
This one may seem obvious, but too many times stories of individuals sharing their passwords to a colleague or close friend to get access to some file were the downfall of multi-million dollar organizations.
The methodology used to gain those passwords might not be as simple as sharing them with a friend or family member, but these hackers use social engineering techniques to make one freely give their password credentials to them.
One occasion speaks of a hacker that called an organization and pozed as their Internet Service Provider. The hacker spoke very confidently to the person on the line and said that they wanted to do a security check on their system. The hacker, posing as the ISP, then went on the ask for the password of the individual’s account to prove that they are said person. Unknowingly the person shared their password and now that hacker had full access to the person’s system.
Cases like this happen all the time and in the most unsuspected places, but the important principle here is to not share your password with anyone.
Most often than not, when you log in to a website for the first time, the website or browser asks to save the password for future use, so that the next time you log in the sign-in process will be easier.
On your personal laptop that feature is all when and good, but on public computers or devices that you do not personally control this is an absolute no-no. It may seem tempting to click on “remember me” especially if it is a device that you are using often, But once you do not have control of said service then it is safer to enter your password manually at every log-in.
The same can be said for the networks that you log in to. If you are on a public network, avoid accessing websites that require you to log in. Hackers could intercept your communication and hijack the data you are inputting on that website. When browsing on public networks it is best to use a VPN, to secure your connection and encrypt any data that might be hijacked on a public network.
As stated earlier, a password with 10 characters can be hacked in 30 days. Most banks and websites that have very sensitive information require that you change your passwords ever so often. The purpose of this is to give no room to any potential hacker to gain access to a user’s information.
The same can be said for your personal website log-ins. Keep changing your password frequently. How frequent? Well, it depends really. Some services like Google Mail give you an alert when they think your password is being compromised and should be changed. It really boils down to personal preference really. Some persons change their passwords twice a year, others once every 4 months but in either case, the important thing is to keep your data secure in case of a security breach.
Multi-factor authentication(MFA) is becoming more common when signing up for websites. The most common MFA comes in the form of a code that is sent to your email, phone number, or through a direct call to your mobile phone, along with the password that you’ve entered.
MFA comes in other forms as well like biometrics and security questions but essentially it supplements your password with another method of confirmation before you can access your data.
We discussed 7 tips for keeping your password secure in 2021. We learned to Keep the length no less than 12 characters. Don’t use one password for all your log-ins and Don’t write them down but use password managers instead. We discussed why you should not share your passwords and not save passwords on devices you do not control, finally, we looked at why you should change your passwords frequently and utilize multi-factor authentication
Cyberwarfare, cyber-attacks, and cybercriminals are all buzz words in our media. Nations are attacking nations in what could potentially be a cyber “world war III” as stated in a CNN article. With Cyber Security on a rise, all end users have to be mindful of keeping their data safe and secure from potential cybercriminals.
The most immediate medium of attacks comes from getting their hands on your passwords. Password security is an absolute necessity. Not just for organizations and company secrets but for the end-users own personal devices. Yes, I know, most persons don’t like having to input a password every time they have to get access to some files. It’s even worst for companies, especially when there are policies that say to change your password once every 30 days.
It becomes even more troublesome when we have to consider that there are passwords for just about everything nowadays. Passwords for subscriptions, emails, website access, reading articles, and the like. Just about everything on the web requires some login to gain full access, which interns require a password. Now having to create a password for each of those resources can seem a bit overwhelming. So most end-users use something that they can easily remember, like the high school they went to or the town they live in, or even their favorite sports team. But what consists of a good password? In this article, we will talk about what makes up a good password.
When a hacker hacks a server, the 2 primary ways this is done are by security holes through a web application like an addon/plugin or the hacker has guessed a password of a user on the server. Hence gaining access to that server and performing their malicious deed. When I say that the hacker has “guessed” the password, I do not mean that the hacker seats behind their computer and try to figure out what your password might be on a whim.
Most often they use softwares and tools that generate 100s of passwords per minute, what is knows as “Brute Force” hacking. If your system has a locking mechanism after a certain amount of passwords, there are systems that generate a list of most likely passwords based on some pre-determined criteria, like where the person lives, their date of birth, and the like. All of which are the prime starting point to hack your password.
Before we look into a good password, let’s look into what you should never use as a password(The Ugly) and what is typically used as a password(The Bad). Then we will get into what should be used as a good password (The Good).
So let’s start with the Ugly, what you should NEVER use as a password are:
So what are Default passwords? These are the passwords that come readily available on a package or a manufacturer password pre-determined. These kinds of passwords can be easily shared and made available on the web or by the company providing that service. For instance, most routers have a default log-in, that default log-in credential can be placed on a forum for troubleshooting purposes or by simply calling that company and asking for the default. Sometimes the default password is in the manual, readily available for use.
These sorts of passwords should never remain on your device in fact most devices with default passwords would ask you to change the password as soon as you boot up the device. Do NOT leave the default and think your device is safe and do not add a letter or number to the default password either. For instance, some default log-ins are username: admin, password: admin. Do not leave the username and then just change the password to admin1 or admins. These are not secure passwords and should be avoided at all costs.
WORDS ASSOCIATED WITH YOUR PERSON AND/OR ORGANIZATION
As mentioned earlier, when a hacker uses tools that generate passwords, they are typically based on preassumed notions, like where the person lives, the name of the individual, and the name of the individual organization. These passwords are typical in users because they are easy to remember and require little effort to generate on the fly. But these types of passwords are trivial to a hacker and should be avoided at all costs.
Most hackers gain information from unsuspected users by means of social engineering. Social engineering is a term used for a broad range of malicious activities accomplished through human interaction. Imperva.com states that it “uses psychological manipulation to trick users into making security mistakes or giving away sensitive information.” A common social engineering tactic is that of using emails.
An example of such an email might be one that describes a person that needs to send you some money and they are asking you for your address, your bank account number, your spouse’s name, and your date of birth verify that it is you when the money arrives. All of this information at the forefront may seem harmless, especially when the malicious person is offering to send a large sum of money. One might even ask how could it hurt to give them that information.
The fact is it does hurt, and it will hurt you if you do provide such information. What the hacker now has is a list of words associated with you as a person that they can use to try to hack into your system and your organization’s system. It could be your favorite sports team, your favorite show, your mother’s maiden name, or the date your graduated from high school or got married. Do not add any one of those words in your password because if a hacker gets access to that information then they can use it against you.
Most security questions used to recover passwords actually use questions like What is your mother’s maiden name? or What year you graduated from high school? All this information should also not be shared, because a potential hacker could use that information to initiate a password recovery and hijack your account.
Usually, most websites have password difficulty bars that show how difficult your password is and usually require some upper-case, digit, and special character. A special character is an exclamation point, a hast tag, or something like that. But these passwords, though they have varying characters, can be easily cracked by softwares. Here is a list of passwords and the amount of time they can be cracked by an average password cracker.
|Password Difficulty||Time to Crack|
|7 characters password with 1 upper-case, 2 digits, and 1 special character.||00.24 Min|
|8 characters password with 1 upper-case, 2 digits, and 1 special character.||01.11 Hrs|
|10 characters password with 1 upper-case, 2 digits, and 1 special character.||31.17 Days|
The first kind of password with 7 characters can be cracked at 0.24 minutes, which is not very long. When password checkers ask you to enter passwords that is 7 characters in length, it is really the most basic kind of password one can have. The longer your password is, however, with the same 1 upper-case, 2 digits and 1 special character is much harder to crack.
By just adding one more character to your password you are increasing the time to crack to 1.11 Hours, that is a whole lot better than the previous password by just 1 character. But that time is still not that long. By adding 2 more characters making the password length 10 characters with the same criteria you bring the time to crack your password to 31.17 days. Now that’s a strong password!
With a password like that you are well on your way to having a secure environment. Now that might just be good enough for your needs. Depending on your environment, the organization/company would give your system administrators more than enough time to find out who or what is trying to get into your computer.
That’s why some companies have policies that require you to change your password every 30 days. It would give a potential hacker a very hard time to get into your system and make it nearly impossible if your password is changed every 30 days with that 10 character password difficulty using the same password scheme.
So if 10 characters make it difficult for your password to be crackers well over 30 days, then adding more characters would bring up that time even more. So let’s look at a good password.
A good password is one that is not easily guessed or cracked. And by simply adding 1 more character to the mix we increase the time it would take to crack the password significantly.
|Password Difficulty||Time to Crack|
|11 characters password with 1 upper-case, 2 digits, and 1 special character.||810.36 Days|
So as we can see, with 11 characters and the same password scheme, the chance of your password being crackers becomes nearly impossible. The first step in a good password is the password length. At least 11 characters long, with 1 upper chase, 2 digits, and 1 special character should be your go-to standard for all your passwords.
But how am I going to remember 11 characters? That’s a very good question. Most people don’t remember words with so many characters, let alone their passwords. So the 2nd step in creating a good password is to use passphrases instead of passwords to create sufficient length.
The passphrase could be a quote that you’ve memorized, or a nursery rhyme, or a phrase from a song you enjoy. Any phrase that you know well can be used for your passphrase, along with the before mention password criteria and you will have a full proof password. An example of this passphrase would be something simple like:
This phrase consists of 19 characters, 1 uppercase, 2 digits, and 1 special character and is fairly easy to remember. It simply reads “Daily events and facts!” But instead of an E, it is replaced with a 3, and an S it is replaced with a 5, along with a ! in the end. A password like that would be virtually impossible to crack. And to add even more security, one could simply exchange another letter with a number or add another special character.
By using phrases you can easily create passwords that are 11 characters and meet all the necessary requirements.
Password Security is of utmost importance in this digital age. We must remember to not leave any of our passwords at default. To not use personal information that is publicly available for our passwords. We should have at least 11 characters, 1 upper care, 2 digits, and 1 special character in our passwords. By following these steps your passwords will always be safe.
As a business owner, while navigating through the world of Information Technology(I.T), the concept of an IT Strategy may seem strange to you. More often than not, business owners leave their IT solutions at a “break-fix” IT approach.
When something is broken you go to fix it, or since you are missing a piece of equipment or device to do a particular task, you go out and purchase it. Without considering some very key factors, like the maintenance cost of the equipment? Is it newly manufactured or is the product end of life? What kind of license would best suit my business needs?
All these answers and more are answered in an IT Strategic Plan. In this article, we will look at why this plan is an essential piece of your business planning, then we will explain each aspect of this plan so you can perform one within your company or be able to ask a service provider proper questions when they are presenting one to your business.
According to SearchCIO, an IT strategy is a “document that details the comprehensive technology-enabled business management processes an organization uses to guide operations.” In short, it serves as a guide to IT-related decision-making. An IT strategy is sometimes referred to as a technology strategy or an IT Strategic plan. It gives an idea of where IT should be over the next 3 to 5 years.
Typically, your IT strategic plan should cover the budget, your IT Projects, existing infrastructure, IT S.W.O.T Analysis, and human resource management. This list will be further explained shortly.
Organizations in this decade realize that digital transformation is happening all around them and to be competitive in their respective market they must utilize IT to the fullest. Digital transformation is the incorporation of computer-based technologies into an organization's products, processes, and strategies.
Digitization has been affecting society for the past 2 decades and it is only getting more and more important, hence to be better able to reach more customers and see growth in your business you need to plan out the IT-related aspect of your business to make sure it is in line with your companies plans to grow.
Now that we have discussed why you need an It strategy let’s now look at the various elements of an IT strategy. Some elements may differ from one organization to another, but the following is the basic outline that your IT Strategy should have.
The above elements are essential for your IT strategic plan. It is important that the plan is clear and easy to understand so that key stakeholders can take part in making that plan possible.
Your IT strategy is an essential part of your business success by understanding what an IT strategy is and knowing the elements required to create one then you are well on your way to digital transformation and certain growth of your organization.
Tech News, Tech Industries, and Technology, all buzz words in our era and as they should be. I’m sure you are reading this article on one of the many technologies that are available today. These self-same technologies are being ingrained in our day-to-day life as society embraces the technological revolution until every aspect of our life, one way or the other revolves around a form of technology.
As a manager, entrepreneur, or employee, technology plays a major part in your business operation. It will be for our betterment if we recognize and appreciate the benefits that this technology brings to the table. But it is also of paramount importance that we do not neglect the possible drawbacks or disadvantages that it may pose to our business operations.
In this article, we will explore 3 benefits and 3 disadvantages that technology can bring to your business, and by the end of this article, you will have a better appreciation for all aspects of technology.
It was Nat Turner that said, “Good communication is the bridge between confusion and clarity”. In any business endeavor, proper communication is very important. Technologies like emails, instant messaging, voice calls, and video calls make communication with coworkers, teammates, and clients better.
Many companies are taking advantage of this opportunity and allowing their employees to work remotely, since communicating with them in real-time is so reliable via the latest technologies. The communication benefit is not only for the employers but for the employees as well. Being able to work in another location or out of the office and still being able to know exactly what is happening in your company is quickly becoming a basic necessity of employees.
If you are a field worker, utilizing these technologies is a definite must. Instead of waiting to go back to the office to get new assignments. Using an instant message or voice call you can get your assignments while on the field and continue performing your task.
Many companies desire to work more efficiently, as the saying goes, “Work smarter not harder”.Using technology is one of the ways to increase efficiency in your business. When you, as a business owner, invest in software and hardware to help speed up a process in your business, then you will benefit from the additional time and the high-value output from that invested technology.
Instead of logging in data manually, for instance, with pen and paper which can take you hours, use software instead. This in turn would minimize the number of errors that may occur from someone entering that information manually. Not only would it minimize errors but it would also save time on performing that task. And as an employer, you would save financially since your employees would not need to log in overtime for performing these manual tasks.
Your ability to bill/invoice a client can also be drastically improved by utilizing technology. Instead of having to create invoices by hand and sending them out to your clients, having to remember to send them periodical reminders and follow up on any outstanding payments some software, like QuickBooks, do this for you in the most effective ways.
Technology is in every area of society and touches every group within society. The goal of any marketing endeavor is to reach the most people as possible. With technology, the ability to reach people is limitless. Technology is fast and can reach many people, across diverse geographical locations at any one time. No need to go out of the comfort of your office to advertise and the cost of such advertising is many times cheaper than the traditional paper printing method.
With technologies like social media, email marketing, websites, blogs, and the like your ability to reach the most persons is realized. The more persons you can reach the better your chances of landing that new customer and the better your ability to create brand exposure to secure your future clients. By creating a marketing plan you are positioning yourself to be future-proof in this technology-driven world.
What Disadvantages can Technology bring to your business?
Now that we have described the benefits of technology, we must identify some disadvantages that technology brings to the business environment. One of those disadvantages is that of the initial cost or capital investment that upgrading to new technology bears.
There is no doubt the technology saves cost, in the sense of saving you time and increasing productivity hence bringing in an instant monetary value to your company. However, the cost of upgrading computer systems and purchasing effective software can certainly be expensive.
Not only the initial cost, but the cost of maintaining the equipment can also dampen your bottom line. It may be the case that you have to hire an expert or train a staff to maintain said technology. Even if you don’t have an in-house staff to maintain the technology but an external company, or outsourced company it is still a cost that has to be met.
One of the ways you can mitigate that drawback is by getting professional consultation in regards to your technology upgrades and partnering with skilled professionals that can provide these services at more than reasonable prices. ACT360 is here to help make your technology advancement as affordable as possible.
As stated above, technology does enhance the communication between employees, however, the reality of remote working may be different. When an employee has to meet with a coworker face-to-face and speak to them on an almost daily basis that does enhance mutual trust and allows the employees to grow closer hence enhancing the work environment in the office.
However, when employees are away from that face-to-face interaction, though they may be more productive, you can find employees not being as friendly or supportive of each other since their main focus is the work at hand. Communication may be easier and faster with technology but can’t replace meaningful and heartfelt face-to-face interactions.
As a business owner, the mandate of creating an environment even in a remote atmosphere that fosters healthy employee relations is paramount. Have group calls and encourage all persons to show their face or present something new they have been doing, apart from work. Activities like this can mitigate this disadvantage.
This drawback needs to be taken into serious consideration before introducing any new technology. You should never assume that your employees are able to use some new technology without adequate training.
The cost is definitely going to be a factor, but even if you don’t actually spend to train your staff there will be a significant time taken to learn that technology. After the initial training, there will be a learning curve where the employees have to get used to utilizing the new technology. This process may take a few days to a few weeks, of which time the productivity of your staff will decrease slightly.
To mitigate this disadvantage one should have proper planning in place of who will be trained and when exactly is this technology going to be implemented. For instance, if you are implementing a new cash register system then it won’t be efficient to launch it in a busy time of year where you will be receiving many sales.
Technology is only getting more ingrained in our culture and if you are not on this train then it’s time you jump on. It’s apparent how many benefits technology brings to your business and it’s clear that though there are drawbacks, with well-placed decisions you can mitigate those drawbacks and take full advantage of what technology can bring.
An optimized IT infrastructure brings about huge benefits to a business, but a poor IT infrastructure can lead to huge financial loss or worse. Many people think that the only costs to take into consideration for an IT infrastructure are the tangible costs of the infrastructure itself, like the servers, storage, support, power, maintenance, and the like. One of the costs that are hardly considered is that of opportunity cost. The fact that there is proper IT infrastructure then there is a reduction of cost in other places however when there is poor IT infrastructure there is an increase of cost in another place within the business.
For this blog post, we will define Poor IT as the lack of proper IT security, the lack of proper PC maintenance, a “Break, Fix” IT approach, and outdated technology. But all of these stem from simply not being aware of the various IT-related threats and how they truly affect your companies security, productivity, and profitability.
While putting your IT budget together, it might be daunting to think of bearing that extra monthly/yearly or equipment cost for an extra boost in your security. But the fact is, organizations that cut corners in data security will be paying a lot more than that cost of keeping their data secure.
For instance, if there is a security incident where data needs to be recovered that was stolen or deleted by a malicious attacker then your internal IT staff would need to work long hours to recover said data. That cost would include paying the staff for the overtime needed to recover the data and if they are not able to resolve those issues then you would have to hire a cybersecurity specialist which would be an even greater cost.
Moreover, workers that work for long hours to resolve data security issues may suffer from burnout and fatigue which in turn will cause a lack of productivity and higher staff turnover. Adding the cost of training new staff.
As a small business owner, it is common to take up much of the task of your business on your own. One of those tasks is that of upkeeping your organization’s computers. At first glance, this task may appear to be very “doable”, a few updates here and there, you download a PC Cleaner and run it once in a while but basically the work of maintaining your PCs is all on you.
Now, this may seem more cost-effective for you since you don’t have to pay for additional staff, and there are a number of free tools out there that one can use to keep your PC clean. But the lack of professional servicing on any equipment, though more costly, would cause long-term losses that would oftentimes exceed that of the initial cost.
It is common for a PC to get slower over time despite the free cleaning tools. A slow PC will cause frustration for you and your employees as they try to do there day to day tasks. Not only would it affect your employees but your customers as well. Your customers would expect quick service from you, the worst situation to happen would be to have them waiting for a receipt because your computer is still processing a command. So without proper PC maintenance, you will encounter issues that will affect your bottom line.
A “break/fix IT” approach constitutes the monitoring of your IT operations, and when something is broken, it is then fixed, typically this is done by an outsourced company that works on a need by need basis, bringing you back to your original state before the issue.
The Break, Fix IT approach appears to be cost-effective at first. You only pay for the work done when the need arises and can hold back on certain expenses once it doesn’t appear to meet your needs. As a small business, this may seem to be attractive but there is a cost associated with this approach that you don’t see at the moment.
For instance, there are many unexpected cost that can occur with your IT Infrastructure and to bear the cost for every fault that occur would increase your bill significantly. Since one is trying to save cost then there might be issues that one does not bother to fix since it’s not mission-critical or not appear threatening. But these issues may spiral into much bigger ones that can cause your entire IT infrastructure to crash.
The cost of repairing or building back your infrastructure will cost you a lot more and will be very time-consuming as well. Your best option, in this case, would be to utilize a fully managed IT plan for your business needs.
Many organizations use legacy systems, with hardware that was purchased since the early 2000s. The reality is the cost of upgrading your systems is a big one. It’s one that will take a huge chunk of your capital along with training your staff and the time it would take to implement and transition from the old system to the new one. The very thought of those above items may be daunting for you.
What’s even more daunting, however, is the risk of not having up-to-date technology. A study by Microsoft stated that more than 90% of consumers would rather take their business elsewhere than work with a company that uses outdated technology. Moreover, outdated technology reduces staff morale, a report done by PWC states that 73% of staff surveyed know of systems that would help them produce higher quality work at their workplace. Business owners not embracing these new technologies or considering their staff’s advice on those new technologies would further reduce productivity.
Another hidden cost of outdated technology is that of cost of support. It may seem affordable to keep the system you have had for years but when that system starts malfunctioning the cost of bringing in individuals with the know-how of those systems can be really costly.
The cost of IT is not just the capital expenditure for equipment and upkeep but the opportunity cost realized from making proper IT-based decisions for the furtherance of your company. Because Poor It can be detrimental to your staff productivity and profitability.
We all know programming is as popular as ever, no matter what your profession is, programming can be useful to make difficult and tedious tasks easier and automate processes that would take a very long time to do manually. There are countless languages that you can learn depending on what you want to work with, and many different fields that you can specialize in, and the job market for programming jobs is growing rapidly with no sign of stopping any time soon.
This is why programming has been introduced and taught to kids so they can benefit from all those opportunities and become the new generation of programmers. But there's another field that is also growing without stopping that isn't talked as much as programming, but that we consider as equally as important, which is CAD.
CAD stands for Computer-Aided Design and it's an easier way of creating 2D designs or 3D models of products and objects in a precise way and allowing the visualization of the design before they can be created and produced in real life. CAD is used for creating things such as buildings, highways, cars, planes, phones, and much more.
We consider CAD as important as coding because it allows people to be creative and create objects and designs that can be printed or built to solve real-life problems. Another reason why CAD is as important as programming is that it is used in most engineering fields, and the demand for engineers has never stopped growing, especially in the United States.
After the product or object has been designed through CAD, it must be created to be used and applied in the real world, this is possible thanks to 3D printing, which allows making the object precisely as it was designed in the CAD software, using one of the many durable and resistant materials available for this process, such as plastic, resins, carbon fiber, metals, wax, and many more.
3D printing has become increasingly popular in the manufacturing industry, manufacturing companies all over the world use 3D printing to create their prototypes as well as their finished products. Most of the 3D printing processes they use rely on CAD, as they have to design the product digitally using a computer and CAD software.
3D Printing relies on CAD because it is through the CAD software where the design file that contains the specific instructions for the building of the product are made, which include the measurements, location, and where and how much material should be put in place to create an exact copy. Without the CAD file, the 3D printer wouldn't have the instructions and wouldn't be able to build the product by itself.
For these reasons, we believe that 3D printing is a great way to introduce CAD to kids and making them interested in studying and pursuing a career in this field. There are many CAD tools specially designed for kids like Tinkercad that can be used in the classroom or in the home that allows kids to easily design their ideas into 3D models which can be printed using a 3D printer, giving them a way to see their creations in real life and how they can solve real problems by thinking creatively and imagining objects that could fix them.
3D Printing has seen a huge rise in popularity and more and more people nowadays have access to 3D printers and can build things easily by themselves. For example, the sales for 3D printers have risen 80% in the last few years and this trend doesn't seem to be changing, also the availability of 3D files and websites where you can download models instead of creating them from scratch is bigger than before.
Introducing kids to both programming and CAD is a wonderful way of unlocking their potential and giving them tools that can help them stand out and be successful in their adult life.
File management is the act of naming, storing, sorting and handling documents in a systematic way. With cloud file management this storing and sorting is done online instead of on your local computer, freeing up your local hard disk space and giving you the ability to access this data from wherever there is an internet connection. From documents, images, spreadsheets, audio files and more can all be stored in the cloud, also providing access from any device.
So one might ask, “If my data is stored in the cloud, is it safe?” That's a natural question that arises when bringing up the cloud. And the answer is yes, it is very safe. The reason for that safety is that all data uploaded on the cloud servers are encrypted the moment it is uploaded to the application. Employees of said company have logical access to the data, which means they can move it from one server to another and upgrade your services when called to but not having access or able to see what you have stored.
There are a number of file storage management applications out there all with different requirements, features, file storing capacity and accessibility. Below are 5 free cloud file management applications.
This list is in no particular order but they all have features and benefits that can be used for your needs.
There are 5 main reasons why you should move to cloud file management for your daily operations. The five reasons are Cost-saving, Real-time information sharing, Easier to scale and improved customer service, Better security and improved productivity. If you want to learn more about why business are moving to cloud file management, check our article on the topic.
Now let’s look at the five(5) free cloud file management applications.
Microsoft OneDrive is a file hosting service and synchronization service brought to you by Microsoft. It is available for free once the person has a Microsoft account and offers support for Windows PC, Mac, and mobile phones.
OneDrive’s online cloud storage includes 5 GB for free and comes with capabilities like being able to access anywhere, easy file sharing, seamless collaboration and backup and protection. They also offer a personal Vault where more sensitive information is protected with an extra layer of security.
Other features include:
iCloud securely stores your photos, videos, documents, music, apps, and more—and keeps them updated across all your devices. iCloud offers 5GB of free storage. On Apple devices, the iCloud service is built into the device and can be used at any time.
iCloud features include:
MediaFire is a file hosting, cloud storage, and synchronization service. It provides an easy-to-use solution for managing digital information online as well as on the go.MediaFire provides 10GB free file storage and up to 4GB per file. It is compatible with Windows, apple and android devices. Also offering an Ad-free experience to employees.
MediaFire features include:
IDrive is considered the next generation of cloud storage and offers a 10GB free storage. IceDrive provides a native operating system environment as if it was another harddrive on your machine. This gives you all of the features and feel of your native operating system - Edit, upload, delete, open - can all be achieved with ease.
They also offer intelligent cache control operations which also mean you do not need to wait for your cloud to sync, you can access your files as soon as you have installed the app.
IceDrive also offers a full featured web app to manage files. State of the art, clean and easy to use interface, advanced browser upload and document conversion.
IceDrive features include:
Google Drive is a free online data storage service provided by Google. The service syncs stored files, photos, and more across all the user's PCs, tablets, and mobile devices. It offers 15 GB of free space.
Google Drive also offers Cloud-native collaboration apps like Docs, sheets and slides, where a team can collaborate on a document in real-time.
Drive also integrates with and existing technologies like Microsoft office files
Google Drive features include:
Storing files online is becoming even easier and before committing financially to any one of those applications you can try them out for free and see what they have to offer.
Outsourcing has been a tried and tested business strategy for decades. Since the 1950s, businesses have been engaging external suppliers to perform responsibilities on their behalf.
From the early 1980s, ‘traditional outsourcing’ was introduced where an operation previously done internally was moved to an external supplier. The goal of this strategy would be to reduce costs and maximize profit. Though the main goal of any outsourcing venture would be to reduce cost, there are so many other benefits to outsourcing key business operations. IT Services are one of those operations that should be outsourced.
In this article, we will be identifying 4 reasons why SMBs outsource IT services, but first.
IT outsourcing is defined as contracting vendors outside your company to perform IT task and functions. An IT vendor could be a consulting firm, managed service providers, or just individual IT professionals. Some of the functions that an IT vendor perform include, but not limited to:
IT service providers can take full responsibility for all IT-related functionality like the maintenance of your IT infrastructure, this type of service is called fully managed services. They can also provide support to an internal IT team, simply providing IT support.
Four benefits from outsourcing IT services.
Outsourcing providers have specialized knowledge of their IT field. Bringing years of experience to your company. These experts know business technology like no other, giving you instant access to very high-level specialists. Their expertise will range in many of the functions listed above.
One of those functions, for instance, that would see an instant enhancement is that of cybersecurity and compliance. Every day data is being breached, at no time should your data be in a vulnerable position, especially as an SMB. Cyberwarfare is real and these criminals enjoy targeting unsuspected businesses that cannot afford to have adequate cybersecurity, moreover, it is essential to know and comply with industry-based regulations in the cybersecurity sphere.
This is where an IT vendor would come in, once contracted he will be able to bring his top-rated expertise in that field, bringing your business in a much better position in a fraction of the time.
Most of the time, with an SMB, their internal IT team would not solely be working on one particular task, i.e. they won’t just be focusing on networking, or cybersecurity or application development and the like. Most of the time an internal IT team would be multi-faceted, handling many functions all at once and learning/implementing new functionality as they arise.
There is an immediate problem with this method of IT work dominant in SMBs. As the saying goes ‘Jack of all trades, but master of none”. The problem which arises is that the task in question would be performed subpar. This is due to several reasons;
With an outsource IT, provider, they have the right/trained expert for the task. They have spent many hours mastering that craft and only focuses on that task/function in question. Therefore, there will be improved quality of delivery from a task performed by an outsourced IT service provider than an internal IT team.
Steve Jobs is famously quoted as stating, “Do not try to do everything. Do one thing well.” No greater advice has been given, especially in the realm of SMBs. As an SMB, one has to be laser focus on one or a set of expertise that would drive the business in the direction that it has to go.
If IT services are not one of that expertise then why invest so many hours and valuable resources on a part of your business that is draining you from focusing on other more important parts? The reality is managing IT services will utilize a huge amount of resources and attention from any business. By outsourcing your IT services, you allow that responsibility to pass on to someone else while focusing on what is truly important.
The stress of having internet crashes or a server going down is simply too much of a headache to be juggling while there are a lot more pertinent issues at hand. By outsourcing, you gain better peace of mind and less anxiety. Hence increasing your focus on core competencies.
By far, one of the most compelling benefits of outsourcing IT services is that of cost reduction. According to fespa.com “Organizations claim that they achieve, on average, a 15 % cost reduction through outsourcing.” Let’s consider it for a moment.
An internal IT team would appear inexpensive at first but taking into account salaries, hardware expenses, software licenses, cloud service subscriptions, maintenance cost, and a whole bunch of intermittent cost that may pop up for repairs of equipment and the like, then the price of having an internal IT team increases steadily.
When you outsource IT services not only do you save on the operation cost but on the capital funds as well. Since you would not have to invest capital into those functions to get them up and running. Thereby making capital funds available for use in core areas.
Ultimately, outsourcing allows the opportunity to change fixed IT costs into variable IT costs, where you only pay for what you use when the need arises.
In conclusion, outsourcing your IT services may be the best decision your company makes this year. By gaining vendor expertise and sophistication, you will be able to level the playing field with other companies, adapting to new technology, and having your IT operations and the highest standard.
You will have improved quality of service; by gaining access to these experts, your IT-related functions would be delivered at a much higher standard. There will be an increased focus on your core competencies, now you do not have the stress of dealing with the IT operations. Finally, you will be able to enjoy the cost reductions associated with your IT operations being managed by an outsourced company