Backups: Don’t Wait Until It Breaks

Accidents happen. Eventually, something will go wrong and when it does, you are going to want to be protected. Having a backup means more than just having an extra file on hand. It means being able to rest easy knowing that, if the worst should happen, it would not be the end of your business. It means that in the event of a total collapse of your systems, you have a fallback plan. It means knowing that you have already taken care of the largest problem in the event of a crash: recovering files and getting back up to date.

The most common way data is lost is due to a workstation failing due to user error or the occasional spilled drink. If the workstation is not backed up, the files may all be lost. A growing way to lose data is due to viruses and infections that spread throughout the computer and delete, steal, or corrupt the data.

The question people begin to become puzzled with is, “What can/should I backup?” The easy answer is everything. With technology being what it is today, space is cheap. You can sometimes back up an entire business for a few hundred dollars. On the other hand, you can wait for everything to go wrong, replace a dozen devices then try to start recovering all the data lost in the tragedy.

If space does become tight, start to look at things your business cannot function without, such as client information (phone numbers, email addresses, notes about the client), sales and product receipts, Internet bookmarks, anything that cannot be replaced, and anything that takes time to replace.

Backing up the data can be as simple as storing a copy of your important files on an external hard drive that you bring up to date every week. If the worst should happen after a backup is kept, you need only to plug in the backup drive to the repaired or replacement computer, copy the contents over, and continue on with your work. Instead of losing years of data, you only lose a few days.

What should you use to back up your data? In the example above, using a small flash drive or external hard drive, they can usually be damaged or lost quite easily. If the memory device is lost, it poses a problem in that it is unsecured data and can be accessed by anyone that plugs it into their computer. While these devices can be a cheap solution to backing up data, they are far from perfect.

One of the most popular solutions for any business – smaller businesses especially – is online backup. The perk of online backup is there is no hardware or software on site that can be damaged, lost, or stolen. A monthly fee based on how much storage you require is all it takes. Choose the data you want to backup and it will be securely sent to a data center where it is stored. Generally, this can be done automatically which can remove accidental user error from the equation.

In a perfect world, we would all have a backup for our data and a backup for our backup, but even having one backup can sometimes be enough to keep a problematic crash or error from becoming a monumental crisis. If you do not already have a backup in place, you have to ask yourself one thing: if all your systems crashed tomorrow, would you recover?

Technology Considerations When Moving To A New Office

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

Moving your office is never an easy task. You have to move furniture, personal objects, and above all else, your technology infrastructure. There’s nothing simple about moving your office’s technology, but it’s still nothing to get worried about. That’s why we’re here to help – from suggesting the optimal network cabling, to the proper deployment of new and improved technology solutions.

For example, let’s take a look at your office. You have a certain number of workstations, one for each of your employees. These workstations need to be connected via cable to your business’s network. Otherwise, your team could go without required software, data, and other important resources. Your cabling infrastructure could quickly grow to be uncontrollable, especially if you don’t approach your cabling procedures correctly.

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How Cloud Computing Can Benefit You

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

Is your business using the cloud in 2016? If not, you should know that it’s a great tool that’s designed to help your business better manage its data and application deployment.

However, the cloud can be used for so much more and it’s quickly becoming an indispensable tool for SMBs.

Here are four ways that cloud computing is changing the way that small businesses handle their technology:

Data Storage
The cloud is a great way to share data among your entire organization and deploy it on a per user basis.

Businesses can store their information in a secure, off-site location, which the cloud allows them to access it through an Internet connection.

This eliminates the need to host your data internally and allows your employees to access information from any approved device through a secure connection, effectively allowing for enhanced productivity when out of the office.

Microsoft Office365
Access Office from anywhere; all you need is your computer – desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone – and an Internet connection.

Since the software is running in a data center, you just connect to the Internet to access the software.

Another benefit to this is that you have a central location for all your data. If you need to make a change to an Excel spreadsheet from your tablet and you share the file with your colleague, they will be able to view the changes that you just made.
Gone are the days of emailing files between members of your team and losing track of the most up to date file version.

Virtualization
The cloud can be an effective tool for virtualization, which is a great method for cutting costs for your business. By virtualizing physical IT components, you’re abstracting them for use in the cloud. This means that you’re storing them in the cloud.

Businesses can virtualize servers, desktop infrastructures, and even entire networks for use in the cloud. Doing so eliminates the physical costs associated with operating equipment, allowing you to dodge unnecessary costs and limit the risk of hardware failure. For example, you can deploy all of your users’ desktops virtually from the cloud so you don’t need to rely heavily on more expensive workstation technology and can instead use thin clients. Simply log into your company cloud and access all of your applications and data on virtually any Internet connected device.

Backup and Disaster Recovery (BDR)
A BDR device relies on the cloud to ensure quick and speedy recovery deployment. The BDR takes snapshots of your data, which are sent to both a secure, off-site data center and the cloud.

From there, you can access your data or set a recovery into motion. If you experience hardware failure, the BDR can temporarily take the place of your server, allowing you ample time to find a more permanent solution.

The cloud is crucial to the success of a BDR device, simply because the cloud is where the BDR stores an archive of its data.

Storm Season Is Just Around The Corner… Are You Protected?

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

We’ve just celebrated the first day of Spring, and before you know it, the weather will warm up and tulips will bloom. Of course, we’re also headed into Spring storm season.

If you haven’t already, it is time to prepare for those pop-up storms that occur randomly at this time of year. These unexpected storms often result in everything from ice damage to lightning fires.

During this time of year the threat of fire, flood, severe storms, water damage from office sprinklers, and even theft is very real.

One of the most valuable assets for any company is its data. Hardware and software can easily be replaced, but a company’s data cannot! As a reminder to all of our clients, here are some simple things you should do to make sure your company is ready for any natural disaster. [Read more…]

Should Your Business Get A Backup Internet Connection?

With most business operations tied to the Internet, it is important to consider a backup plan in the event that your Internet connection goes down.

A host of things can cause issues with Internet service from natural disasters to provider caused issues, and unfortunately, those are beyond your control.

Choosing whether or not your business should have a backup Internet connection, however, is within your power.

You should first identify how much your business depends on the Internet for its operations when making this decision. In other words, could your business operate, if the Internet was to go down for a few hours without suffering a significant monetary loss? What about for a few days?

Chances are that your business would at least operate at a disadvantage without another way to access the Internet. If that is not the case, deliberating about backup connections may not be your best use of time.

For the rest of the business world, however, the real question lies in what kind of backup Internet connection you should seek.

Most experts will agree that it is wise to have your backup connection one notch lower than your primary one.

For instance, if your primary Internet connection is fiber, your secondary connection could be a T1 line. If your primary is a T1 line, try DSL or cable for your secondary.

That way, you’re not making a huge downward leap such as from fiber to dial-up, and your employees wouldn’t be at too much of a disadvantage.

This approach also takes into account your business’ budget. Your secondary connection will be a little less expensive than your primary while still being somewhat close in capability.

You’ll also need to make sure that your firewall has the capability to support more than one Internet connection. Most of the firewalls we recommend to clients include this as an option; however, the consumer grade routers sold at big box stores rarely offer this as an option.

Another important feature is to make sure your firewall can automatically detect outages, and switch Internet connections to keep you up and running without manually having to switch connections.

Four Tips For Next Year’s IT Budget

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

As the year winds down, you’re undoubtedly working out plans for 2016, and preparing your IT budget is top on that list. Every year presents unique network, server, and technology challenges that need to be addressed.

The increasing ubiquity of cloud services is something small business owners need to consider, but working out the basic budget items should take priority. Here are four tips to give your business a little bit of breathing room when it comes to planning next year’s IT expenses.

Think in the long term
When planning your IT budget, it’s important to consider both short-term and long-term investments that you’ll be making for the sake of your business.

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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.

Strategically Upgrading Your Computer Systems

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

With technology growing faster than most businesses can keep up with, organizations have to continuously upgrade their solutions in order to maintain a semblance of modernity. The only issue with this is that many businesses can’t keep up, simply because they don’t have a team that’s dedicated to this important task.

What technology upgrades should be made a top priority and why?

Naturally, the first thing you need to know about workstation and technology updates is that you need to integrate them periodically in order to ensure optimal security for your organization.

Most viruses and malware will attempt to take advantage of weaknesses in your infrastructure in order to infiltrate it.

These weaknesses in your software and operating systems’ source code will ultimately allow these threats to force their way into your network, putting any contained information at risk.

These flaws are often addressed in software patches and system updates issued by the software developer, but tackling the updates in a timely fashion is a whole other monster.

Managing all software updates is easier said than done, especially without a dedicated IT department watching over your technology. Regular maintenance is often pushed to the back burner and dangerously close to being forgotten about.

Therefore, the best way to make sure that your systems are prepared to handle the threats that are found in today’s computing environment is to make upgrading your technology a priority for your organization.

Software Updates
There are several programs that your organization needs in order to stay functional, so your software updates aren’t limited to just your workstations’ operating systems.

The fewer unnecessary security flaws that can be found in your IT infrastructure, the safer your information will be.

Furthermore, users who are working with top-notch, optimized technology will be far more productive than they would be if they were using sluggish, bogged down computers.

It doesn’t make any sense to let your employees use machines that hold them back from achieving their maximum productivity.

In fact, sometimes you might encounter a situation where using a different software will be better for your business strategy.

It’s always recommended that you consult with a professional technician before making drastic changes to your business’s software infrastructure.

Antivirus Updates
Your antivirus solution is often a software solution, but virus and malware definitions are continuously being updated.

If your antivirus and other security software solutions aren’t properly maintained, it’s like you’re “leaving your keys in the front door,” so to speak.

Your antivirus solution needs to be managed on all workstations – or, better yet, centrally controlled from the server to ensure that all users are protected and up to date at all times.

Hardware Updates
Older hardware that’s been around the block a time or two might have proven reliable, but it will eventually start to show signs of its old age. Hardware failure becomes more likely and you run the risk of losing information due to the degradation of your technology.

This is why monitoring your systems for faulty tech and periodically upgrading to more recent models is preferable, if not necessary.

Granted, all of these software and hardware upgrades may feel overwhelming. This is why Tech Experts offers a remote monitoring and maintenance solution that’s designed to administer patches to your mission-critical systems remotely.

This helps your organization ensure that your systems are always up-to-date. We can also monitor your infrastructure for any irregularities that might be caused by hardware malfunctions, hackers, and much more. Call us at (734) 457-5000, or email info@mytechexperts.com to learn more.

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.

Buying A New Printer? Here’s What To Look For

Printers are essential in day-to-day office use. Whether one is needed to create fillable forms or prepare handouts for a presentation, a printer is a valuable tool in general productivity and collaborative projects.

As such, the investment in a new printer is a big deal, and here are some of the most important things to consider when choosing one.

Black vs. Color
Monochrome printers that just use black ink or toner are usually cheaper and may be sufficient for office needs. Full color printers, however, can be used in creating eye-catching booklets, brochures, or flyers, but these are often more expensive for the initial purchase and upkeep.

Functions
Printing isn’t the only thing a printer can do. There are a host of other functions available from copying to faxing to scanning. Review what other office equipment is on hand, and that may narrow the functions needed. For instance, if the office already has a copier, then that function really isn’t necessary in a new printer.

Paper Handling Characteristics
A printer’s paper handling encompasses more than one thing. It refers to how much paper it can hold, which can be crucial for busy office settings, and also the sizes of paper it can handle. The ability to do double-sided printing or presence of an automatic document feeder are other things to consider.

Type of Connectivity
There are three primary modes of connectivity for printers – USB, Ethernet, and wireless – and a printer could have just one or all three. Nowadays, nearly all printers have USB connectivity, but Ethernet connectivity is important for wired office networks. If you want to reduce cords and use it on your wireless network, wireless connectivity is a must.

Replacement Toner/Ink Cost
The total cost of a new printer does not end with the initial purchase; the toner or ink will need periodic replacement. Often, toner and ink are far more expensive than the printer itself, so getting a good deal on the device doesn’t necessarily translate into a good deal for the long run.

It only takes a few moments to check the price of replacement toner and ink, and this can save the company a lot of money in the future.