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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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.

The Importance Of Centralized Storage

Scott Blake is a Senior Network Engineer with Tech Experts.

Do you know where all of your data is? Is the file you’re looking for saved to workstation-01 or workstation-12? What happens when a user deletes a file you need from their workstation? What happens if your workstation dies?

If you’re a business owner or manager and have trouble answering those questions, centralized storage of your data may be your answer.

You can remove the stress of accidental deletions, have direct mapped access to your files, secure your data from intrusion and, most importantly, make it easy and simple to back up your data.

Centralized storage can include an external hard drive, USB flash drive, NAS (Network Attached Storage) device, cloud environment, or storage on a server. The best method is determined by your business structure.

Smaller businesses may opt for simple external devices attached to a workstation or a NAS device to save and back up their data. Simple external devices such as larger-sized USB flash drives and external hard drives are a low-cost solution.

NAS devices cost more, but they are useful additions to business networks. Most mid-ranged NAS devices offer raid levels 0, 1, and 5, so they can be customized for speed or data protection.

Some NAS devices are running a server-style operating system that will integrate into your existing AD. This will offer additional security features over a simple external hard drive or USB flash drive.

Businesses and home users that opt for the simple and least expensive method need to be very diligent about their data. Smaller devices are more susceptible to theft and damage.
They also tend to have shorter lives than other more costly methods. Should you go this route, make sure you maintain backups of your data and immediately replace your device at the first sign of possible hardware failure.

Data recovery from a simple solution device may not always be possible and it can become very costly to try.

Closeup of open hard driveLarger businesses will want to opt for on-site storage with network drives and backup solutions in place. Or they may want to invest in the cloud for a storage. Most medium-to-large scale businesses already have some form of a network server and backup in place, so all that may be needed is additional hard drive space or the creation of folders to house data.

You may also want to install a dedicated server for just data storage and possibly to handle your printing management. Cloud-based storage can be costly depending on the amount of data that needs to be stored, the security level, and the number of simultaneous connections to your data.

Cloud-based methods tend to be best as a secure backup option, but can be used for raw storage. With web-based access, all your employees need is an Internet connection to access their data.

Both on-site server storage and cloud storage offer strong backup options, the ability to restore deleted files, ease of access from off-site locations, and the sharing of files and folders across a wide area.

Whether you choose to go with a low-cost simple solution or a more robust solution, centralized storage brings peace of mind that your data is accessible and secure.

Your business will become more efficient and streamlined just by maintaining your data in one easy-but-secure location for your employees to access.

For more information about implementing centralized storage in your business, call the experts at Tech Experts: (734) 457-5000.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)