How To Resolve The Most Common Tech Issues For Small Businesses

Ron Cochran is Help Desk supervisor for Tech Experts.

With the ever-growing need to be connected to your clients and business information, you have to arrange your access to be quick and secure. But would you know how to set that up to keep your data safe? Relying on that one guy or employee that can set up your computer and connect it to the Internet just might not cut it.

There comes a time in the life of a business when the higher powers within need to evaluate the complexity of their technology and decide how they want to handle their tech needs.

However, hiring an internal IT employee involves paying competitively, providing benefits and vacation time, possibly extra training, and more. Do you have enough work to bring someone on full-time?

The other option is to hire a managed service provider (MSP) that can manage all technology aspects of your business.

Managed devices and software include workstations, laptops, printers, scanners, multi-function devices, fax machines, VoIP systems, and more.

Full network management includes wired and wireless networking, installation of new lines and devices, firewalls, checkpoints, switches, and servers. Basically: everything a business would use to keep things running smoothly.

A managed service provider will even manage the quality of service on your Internet or network connection or block out access to certain webpages and content as the business owner sees fit.

If the users need to restart their machines several times a day because of reliability issues or because the devices are crashing with error codes pointing toward hardware failures, it’s time to look at upgrading or replacing your machines.

Your MSP can look at your current situation, determine what should be upgraded or replaced, provide direction, and minimize the impact on your budget.

An MSP will manage all aspects of your technology department from hardware to software. They will interface with your vendors to ensure that all bundles are up-to-date, upgraded when needed.

This will not only keep your data safe, but your clients’ or patients’ data as well.

If you are working in the health care industry, you’ll need to remain HIPPA compliant. If you are in the financial industry, then you’ll need to comply with all security restrictions to be compliant there as well. MSPs can bring you up to standards and perform necessary audits.

Additionally, an MSP can give you the ability to defend and protect against viruses, malware, and intrusions. The last thing you want to have happen is for a software bug or virus to copy all of your data and send it off to some nefarious individuals who will sell or use the data for illicit activities.

By managing your anti-virus software, changing firewall settings, and monitoring machines for odd behaviors, an MSP can keep data disasters at bay by keeping it from happening, catching it early, or taking preventive measures.

Owning and running a small business isn’t just about bringing in customers and clients to further your business: it’s about operating efficiently and securely so that your business and its reputation will be around for many years to come.

If you are considering a managed service provider or considering a switch from the provider you currently have, don’t hesitate to reach out to us, Tech Experts, at (734) 457-5000.

We would be glad to sit down with you and review how you can leave the technological aspects of your business to someone else, giving you back the freedom to focus on what you do best.

Eleven Benefits Of Having Managed IT Support

Chris Myers is a field service technician for Tech Experts.

There are many perks to enlisting a managed service provider to handle all of your technology needs. Here are just a few:

Knowledge Base
You get access to a whole team of experienced professionals who spend all day every day fixing the same problems you are running into. When an issue pops up, chances are we have seen it before and know how to quickly resolve it.

Proactive Support
With our advanced monitoring software, we are immediately alerted to a variety of issues. Often, by the time you notice a problem, we’re already working to resolve it. Detecting and fixing issues early prevents them from escalating into major outages with long down times and expensive repairs. [Read more…]

Why Is A Server Important For Your Business?

Anthony Glover is Tech Expert’s network engineer.

A server is a very important asset to any small business as it provides many features that can help your business run safely and efficiently.

For instance, when lending out a new or existing computer to employees, you can prevent unnecessary access, change passwords, or unlock accounts in one location. This allows management of the computers, enabling full control at all times.

It also allows you to have a centralized location for many of your functions: the server. You can share files and applications and reduce redundancy for all files. Since servers primarily run in a RAID configuration of some sort, you will have extra protection for your most important files.

Another great thing about a server is you can set up a domain for your business, enabling automation features like backups in one place.

This also allows for profiles, including files and applications, to be accessible from any workstation connected to the server. Not to mention, a server will keep you organized and running more efficiently in general by keeping your email, contacts, calendars, and files safe.

Data transferring to and from a server is much faster than transferring from a computer due the overall design of a server. Servers are built for speed, reliability, and security purposes.

This means you are going to get through the day with your time and resources spent more wisely, allowing you to continue with what matters in your business.

This efficiency and organization will increase customer relationships and help build retention with new and potential customers.

Best of all, you can set up a server to curve toward your needs. You can use a server for hosting your own websites, as a backup server, fileserver, or even run your database. You can also upgrade (to an extent) if your needs grow.

Keep in mind, these are only some of the many server configurations available for your server.

File or Backup Server
This server is for file-sharing, active directory, and domain services. It’s primarily used for backups and storage of user files.

This is the best option if you are going to need safe storage services for your business since a server is going to have redundancy storage to keep data safe.

Database Server
This server configuration is for database storage and management of SQL, Oracle, etc. This is a necessary option if you are utilizing a database for your business.

Again, utilizing a server is going to allow safe keeping of your files – this includes your critical files such as your database files.

Web Server
This configuration is for webhosting services and will allow hosting and management of a website from your office.

This is a great option for running web-based applications through your server. This option can also be done off-site by a website host if you prefer to go that route for faster access or security.

Utilizing a server is important for your business and choosing a server can be tough, let alone installing one yourself. Let Tech Experts help you decide and make sure you get the best option possible for your small business.

Why Rebooting Your Computer Solves Many Issues

Luke Gruden is a help desk technician for Tech Experts.

If you have ever had IT help you with a computer issue, you may have noticed that one of the first things we usually recommend is rebooting the computer. That means shutting down the computer completely and turning it back on. This usually resolves most issues the computer could be having, but why is rebooting so effective?

In our day-to-day life, we are accustomed to our computers working all the time, consistently running programs with little to no faults. It comes as a big surprise when our computer does have an issue – especially when it seems like it should never have an issue in the first place. It may not seem like it, but computers are indeed machines and can have an occasional hiccup, like a car making a strange sound for a brief time. There are many hardware reasons why a computer may act up. Sometimes, the computer receives too much voltage for brief second.

Sometimes, the CPU – while operating under a heavy load – may mess up a bit or two, causing a program to not function normally. Or the hard-drive could have been directed to the wrong sector.

More common than a hardware hiccup is a software hiccup, where a program uses too many resources (or not enough resources) and can cause some processes to freeze or be unusable. The data with the program information is unreadable to the computer, but the program does not know this. When these sort of hiccups occur, it seems there is nothing that can be done to have the program run normally.

This is where a reboot can solve an issue. Turning off the computer forces all of the stuck and misread data to be flushed out. When the computer starts up again, the data that was being mismanaged has another chance to be read properly by the program and hardware.

Programs are usually very good at starting up and making sure that everything is running as it should after a fresh boot-up. If the reboot does not resolve the issue, then the issue is typically not a hiccup on the computer’s or software’s end, but another issue that needs to be investigated more closely, usually by a technician.

This is why IT techs are very likely to have you reboot your computer before continuing looking into the issue further: we want to make sure the computer didn’t just have a hiccup. This saves time on both ends, as well as prevents any unnecessary purchases or vendor calls.

In short, computers are prone to little glitches. While annoying, the plus side is that these minor bumps in the road are often pretty easy and quick to resolve.

When it doubt, reboot. You would be surprised by how many problems this can fix, such as a program not opening, and you can return to your work as soon as possible.

When a reboot doesn’t work, then it’s time to call your techs to investigate and get the problem under control.

The Purpose Of Routine Maintenance On Your PC Or Server

Anthony Glover is Tech Expert’s network engineer.

Workstations and servers are valuable assets for any small business. This is why it’s very important that we take proper care of these vital attributes.

Computers can be great, long-lasting tools if taken care of correctly and routinely. This ensures that your PCs and servers will continue to run as they should, as long as possible. There are several steps to maintain your PC or server.

Monthly Hardware Cleaning
This will keep your fans running efficiently and keep your PC or server clear of dust and debris that can potentially cause a few issues (such as heating problems, fan malfunctions, or damage to devices like your power supply).

Heat also can cause computers to run slow or sluggish. This is extremely important and should be monitored and managed by an IT professional such as Tech Experts.

Monthly Software Management
This is to ensure you provide a safe operating environment for your business. It helps to keep the functionality of all your programs and keep your computer running smoothly. By clearing caches, you eliminate temp files that could potentially cause problems for some programs and will also free up space on your hard drive. This is another key process to keep your PCs and servers running at their full potential.

Registry Cleaning
Throughout use of your PC or server, you will accumulate registry errors from programs being installed, updates, etc.

This should be cleaned and corrected on a monthly basis to ensure proper operation of your PC. When it comes to speed when booting and operating your PC or server, this is an especially big factor.

Monthly Hardware Monitoring and Recording
When you are operating a business that needs your equipment to work efficiently (which is the case for most businesses), you’ll want to check your PC and servers on a monthly basis.

Having your vital components like hard drives scanned, checked, and recorded will let you know if anything needs replaced before it fails and leaves you in a bind.

Thermal Monitoring
Heat is a vital threat that should never be overlooked as it’s essential to speed and safe operation of your PC or server.

Heat can destroy components and cause Blue Screens Of Death due to heating issues, causing the PC or server to not function at all unless it’s corrected.

You want to make sure the environment of the equipment is clean, clear, and cool to avoid overheating.

Process Monitoring
This can catch potential threats like malicious software, of course, but it can also help you and your IT department find more subtle unwanted issues such as backdoors or even rootkits that allow onboarding of your PC or server without the end-user knowing at all.

Here at Tech Experts, we provide a preventative maintenance service that can be utilized on both PCs and servers at your business. So why hassle at all if you don’t have to?

You could have an IT professional manage your computers, saving your business money and saving you time. It could even save your computers or server.

Why Technology Is Important For Your Small Business

Anthony Glover is Tech Expert’s network engineer.

In modern computing, it is very important that you have a technological solution in place to allow smooth function at your small business. Here are 5 reasons why it’s important to do so.

Business Growth
As your business grows, you’re going to need a plan for expansion if you expect to grow. Technology changes every day and it’s important to stay up to speed with the latest and greatest tech in order to move forward in the growth direction. In today’s tech, there are even data growth solutions that will grow with your business automatically.

This not only saves time with expansion, but allows your business to save money in the long run. Technology is very important and should not be taken for granted in order for your business to thrive effectively.

On-The-Move Tech
As your business grows and you begin to move forward, you will need to be able to run your business from several locations. Technology allows you to do this from one central location. Utilizing tech makes certain that you’re not only monitoring your business at all locations, but that it’s more secure than ever.

From mobile devices to laptops to networking equipment, an IT professional will provide you with the best care needed to keep your business with you at all times.

Fewer Headaches With A Managed Plan
With a managed plan (such as the ones Tech Experts offer), your computer problems are monitored and are taken care of by a tech professional.

This cleans your hands of computer problems and allows you to run your business more effectively — minus the technology headache — and keeps your business running much more efficiently.

All workstations will be managed and up-to-date, along with programs that normally would fall behind due to user awareness.

Our tech team can and will make sure that your workstations servers and network equipment will have the latest firmware and software updates available.

Automate Computation
In today’s tech there are many ways to automate normally manual tasks. Such as automated password or online form completion.

Technology is designed to complete tasks for you while you sit back and save time and save money. Take advantage of a solution that is going to improve your everyday small business life on a colossal scale. Automation is domination in the computer world and should not be taken lightly.

Reduce Redundancy
Your data is a vital component to your business and it is very important that your data does not get overlooked.

When functioning in a business environment, the best practice is to not only have a backup of your data but prevent your data from being lost to begin with. This is when redundancy comes in.

Your server for your business should be monitored, verified, and managed by an IT professional. This will allow you to function throughout the day without worrying about your data being safe and secure, keep an increased outlook on productivity, and allow for a guaranteed solution for data retrieval.

Replacement Equipment And Workstation Data Storage

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a huge project or in the height of your busy season, then suddenly, a key piece of equipment breaks? You have orders that need processed. Deadlines to meet. Stress starts to roll in. You start to wonder how long the downtime is going to last or what this is going to cost your business.

One way to reduce the stress levels and temporarily resolve the situation is to maintain a stock of replacement workstations and essential equipment.

Being able to switch out a workstation or any other critical piece of equipment and be back up and running sooner not only reduces stress levels, but also saves your business countless dollars in lost revenue.

Example: your company designs and prints graphics for billboards. An employee says their workstation has crashed while they were working on a project for your largest client that’s due in two days. What do you do?

You try to contact the manufacturer of the workstation, only to find out your warranty does not cover on-site service and the soonest they could be on location is in two to four days. That’s not the answer you wanted to hear.

If you had a replacement workstation on hand, you could reduce your downtime dramatically. But let’s say you do have one. So you switch out the workstations and your employees is back to work…

Until they realize all of their work is stored on the crashed workstation. Stress levels start to climb once again.

One easy way to avoid losing data would be to migrate the user’s data to a storage device located on your network. Network attached storage is much more reliable than the storage within your workstation. They can also be configured for redundancy.

This entire migration will be transparent to the user as the workstations libraries will still remain intact, just relocated to a different device. As far as the user is concerned, all of their data is saved to the workstation.

The general rule of thumb is to maintain a 10% replacement stock level of workstations or essential pieces of equipment (and always have at least 1). Replacement switches, as well as firewalls, should always be on hand or able to be purchased locally. Being able to replace a switch or firewall to bring your VOIP phone system back online or restore network connectivity to your entire business in minutes is critical.

If your business is unable to maintain replacement inventory, make sure you have (and fully understand) support contracts either from equipment manufacturers or from a local network support company.

Depending on the manufacturer or support company, support contracts can range from 24×7 to 8×5 to “whenever we can get there.” That’s why it’s very important to understand your support agreements. Never get taken by surprise.

Manufactures, depending on the piece of equipment, will offer warranties or support contracts. Be warned the contract may not include next day equipment replacement, data recovery, or installation of the equipment.

They may be able to offer remote assistance, but in most cases, you end up in a long call that does nothing to resolve your issue.

The best option, if available to your business, is to have a managed service plan with a local network support company. Most local support companies will offer same day service including weekends.

Local service companies can act as your business IT support department and/or work with your existing IT department to maintain your business equipment and resolve any issues that arise.

Most local service companies will have replacement equipment and repair parts on hand, thus reducing downtime.

A local service company will also be able to assist your business in less stressful times by offering remote support services and preventive maintenance visits to spot any potential issues before they become larger problems.

They will also work to ensure your business’ network is safe and secure and offer suggestions for upgrades to your infrastructure.

While no one can predict when a workstation may go down or a firewall will fail, the best thing you can do is be prepared.

The Benefits Of Managed IT

Michael Menor is Vice President of Support Services for Tech Experts.

It can’t be denied that cost drives business. When the technology your business relies on fails, you have to get it repaired or replaced quickly in order to keep the resulting downtime from damaging your business.

The traditional method of computer repair is much like when your car is in disrepair: when your technology isn’t working properly, your organization reacts to the problem by calling your friendly, neighborhood computer repair guy.

The technician will come to your office and try to fix the technology that is broken. When they figure out they can’t fix the problem on the spot, they will give you a quote.

The time and materials of summoning these technicians to the office will cost you money, so will the replacement technology, and most notably, the downtime you accrue.

Add that to the variable cost of fixing the malfunctioning technology… and your business has a real problem.

At Tech Experts, we offer a proactive IT support platform that utilizes remote monitoring and management software to ensure that the technology that’s attached to your network – and your network itself – is up and working properly. Additionally, our whole IT services platform is billed in one monthly payment.

If you add it up, you are saving money in every aspect of your business.

You not only remove the variable costs of keeping your IT running smoothly, but you also get proactive support that, in many cases, gives you the time to replace hardware before it fails, saving you from the doldrums of companywide downtime.

The fact is that small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) need to cut their technology support costs if they want to compete with larger organizations.

There are a myriad of benefits that come from a managed services provider like Tech Experts handling the administration and support of your technology. Besides the obvious cost savings, four other huge benefits include:

Comprehensive Support
A major speedbump SMBs have when shopping for any service that claims to help their business is the quality of that service.

For those that worry that our managed services are too good to be true, we employ certified and trustworthy technicians that are proficient in finding solutions for today’s most challenging business technology problems.

Single Point of Contact
As an alternative from having to manage several vendors, our IT service provides you with a single point of contact for all of your technology needs. Since we understand the intricacies of your network, we can get issues resolved faster.

Faster Support
Through the use of remote support that we offer to all managed clients, we can more quickly address issues you might be having.

Many problems can be solved without an on-site visit. Additionally, annoying obstacles like forgotten passwords and account lock-outs can be resolved in a few minutes when we already have account configurations on file.

HIPAA Compliance
While it may not apply to all businesses, doctors’ offices and other related medical facilities can maintain HIPAA compliance when using our services. By collaborating with us on your organization’s policies, you can avoid costly government fines in the event of a medical breach or network inspection.

Managed IT services can provide you with many other benefits. For more information about how our managed IT services can benefit your organization, call us at (734) 457-5000 today.

IT Consultations: Trust In Those That Know

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

It seems that these days anyone can read an article or watch a video online and consider themselves an expert in one way or another, but when it comes to upgrading or making changes to your business infrastructure, is it wise to take and follow the advice of someone that has no hands-on or working knowledge of the IT industry or your business?

Ask yourself this: if your car needed repairs, would you take it to a lawyer or a mechanic?

Instantly, you answer “the mechanic” because the mechanic works on cars.

So in comparison, should you follow the advice of a visiting client, sales rep, or friend of an employee?

No, because none of these people know the intricacies of your business IT needs and functionality.

Will they know to check with your software vendors to verify compatibility with a new operating system?

If the plan calls for upgrading workstations and/or servers that are running outdated, unsupported operating systems, you need to check and make sure your existing software is supported on the new operating system.

Usually, accounting and office productivity software are the types most affected by changes in operating system platforms.

In some cases, a business may have spent large amounts of money to have specialized software written years ago, but unfortunately, it may not install or run on a modern operating system.

Will they know how to check and see if your internal network wiring needs to be upgraded?

If the plan calls to move your business phone system to a VOIP system, you need to make sure your existing network cabling will support it.

Cabling has categories and certain categories are more applicable to your needs than others.

Whoever is handling your IT needs to recognize what would be best and what wouldn’t work in your situation.

Keep in mind that when upgrading, you’re also future-proofing. It’s best to spend a little more on higher-quality equipment to extend the life of your upgrade.

Will they know how to calculate the amount of disk and cloud storage your business will require?

Electronic storage for your business is key. Knowing what needs to stay local and what needs to be stored in the cloud is paramount to your business’ success (and recovery, should there be a disaster).

The cost of secure cloud storage needs to be weighed against the cost of maintaining on-site local data storage. Localized storage will allow for faster access while in the building.

However, if your business has remote employees, cloud storage would be the optimal way to allow access to documents, applications, and software without having to support RDP or VPN connections into your network. This reduces the risk of outside intrusion.

Are they able to suggest the correct security devices and software for your business?

The security needs for every business are different. What works for Bob’s Golf Land may not be the best solution for your business.

A proper evaluation of your business network needs to be performed. Certain questions need to be asked and answered, such as “is a software-based firewall best for your business?” or “will you need dual WAN routers to allow for multiple ISP connections?”

If you have any doubt after considering these questions, you’ve got the wrong person for the job.

Seek out an experience and established IT professional and before making any changes, consult with them. Trust their advice. They will evaluate your business infrastructure and build a plan of action for successfully upgrading your business network and equipment.

Interested in a network evaluation or an infrastructure upgrade consultation? We can do those too… and we do it right! Contact us at Tech Experts — (734) 457-5000, or info@mytechexperts.com.

Why Third-Party Monitoring And Managed Services?

As technology advance and organizations face increasing demands for efficiency in their business, their IT infrastructures have become increasingly complex. Applications are far more interdependent than ever before, and their business tools, whether hardware or software, are making up a diverse web of systems from a wide range of vendors.

The challenges of dealing with this complexity are something that businesses have to deal with on a daily basis. In a recent study, nearly 50% of global business leaders have called “increased reliance on technology” the No. 1 risk to their organizations. Another 37% said the “business complexity of the organization” is their top risk.

All the same, businesses need to deliver high performance and high availability, typically without accompanying increase in budgets
to accomplish these goals.

So how can companies cope with the dual challenges of managing an increasingly complex infrastructure, while remaining focused on achieving business goals and delivering high quality products and services to their clients?

Organizations are increasingly turning to third party providers that delivers advanced monitoring and resolution services for your IT assets.

If you work with a knowledgeable vendor —one that is familiar with your infrastructure — there are big advantages to taking this approach, including:

  • Lower total cost of ownership
  • Higher availability of applications
  • Reduced downtime, (planned or unplanned)
  • Reduced workload on your own people to deal with IT issues
  • Improved application performance
  • Ability to proactively monitor and thereby mitigating issues as they arise, as opposed to after it’s too late

An advanced monitoring and resolution service should consist of 24/7 secure remote monitoring and resolution delivered by skilled engineers using proven practices.

The service should offer rigorous security certifications to ensure remote experts safely deliver proactive monitoring and administration of internal applications and hardware systems.

Don’t think of it simply as an outsourcing solution. Rather, think of it as a team of experts supplementing your own team, providing a number of products and solutions that it would be next to impossible to maintain in-house.

Because of the complexity of today’s systems, it is often difficult to identify exactly where and why systems fail. This can result in dissatisfied customers and less productive workers.

These problems can be severe enough to put the organization at risk. With proactive monitoring and advanced support, however, the organization will be made aware when (and why) vulnerabilities occur.

An advanced monitoring service means looking after performance or availability of all your critical systems and applications. This monitoring can extend through your entire infrastructure — applications, databases, servers, storage, networks and backup. Problems, can be addressed using best practices for incident, change and problem management.

As a client, you can choose to deploy the services according to your own needs, from full remote services to full onsite solutions or some combination.

The process of monitoring and remediating problems within your IT, you will learn a lot about your risks and vulnerabilities. Are there peak usage times that are impacting application slowing down the performance of mission-critical applications? The key is to continuously improve performance and availability.

You should meet regularly with your professional services team to review processes and set strategies for continual performance improvement. You should also have a plan that includes regular hardware and software health checks.

Your company gets the revenue as well as interacts with your customers through your applications. When performance slows down, the entire business suffers and is put at risk for lost revenues, lost profits, lost customers and general damage to your brand.

Advanced monitoring and resolution services lets you keep track of application performance at all times. Monitoring agents create alerts when systems or applications are under-performing, so you can fix issues before they impact the company further.

End-user monitoring takes the service a step further, whereby you can collect, process and present details — even going so far as to track user requests and follow them through to resolutions.

You can collect information on the length of time it takes to complete a business transaction and the length of time it takes to search, select and pay for a specific product. You can easily see how you can improve revenue and profits.

Predictive incident management diagnostics lets your vendor partner identify issues with configurations and performance before they become full-scale problems.

For example, advanced monitoring lets a service provider leverage complex algorithmic models and thereby identify potential issues with individual transactions within the database.

Advanced monitoring and resolution delivers significant improvements in IT support. You can measure the performance in meeting service requests, including trends on how long it takes for repairs to be performed, response by incident type, and reporting and measure performance against standards on all systems, including backup, emergency storage and system uptime.

A third-party supplier will have access to tools, methodologies and best practices your organization may not even be aware of.

Advanced monitoring and resolution is what they do every day, so your organization is always taking advantage of the experience the vendor has gained from working with other businesses, as well as the latest in diagnostic and recovery tools.

They often employ thorough diagnostic tool sets that cover all your systems. By using these tools, they are able to identify and qualify new incidents, automatically compare new incidents with a knowledge base of past incidents, and use the past experiences as the basis to quickly and effectively resolve issues.

Clearly you will want advanced monitoring and resolution to deliver 24/7 support for all your systems, databases and mission-critical applications. But some vendors can also offer more specialized services, such as end-user monitoring; firewall and VPN management; continuous risk assessment application management; and intrusion detection systems to mention but a few.

Because IT has grown in complexity, it is difficult and costly to hire and retain all the in-house expertise required to manage everything.

The other problem comes with internal politics, often resulting in finger-pointing than actual problem solving. An outside vendor gives you not only access to a team of service professionals with deep expertise. They are focused on fixing your problems, and not assigning blame.