Five Ways Cloud Computing Can Improve Your Business

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

Regardless of the size of your business, you can harness the power of the same high-tech tools used by Fortune 500 companies, thanks to cloud-based technology.

According to recent studies of small- to medium-sized businesses, those using cloud computing greatly outperformed those that didn’t. One study showed an average of 26% more growth and 21% more profitability for small- to medium-sized businesses using cloud computing over those that only had their heads in the clouds.

Here are five concrete ways the cloud can help your business:

Reduced costs
Cloud computing eliminates the need for a large IT department. With the data centers located off-site, your business is not responsible for the electricity to run, maintain, or periodically upgrade those servers. The money saved by using cloud computing can then be redirected into growing your business or marketing to new clients. [Read more…]

Why Virtualization Is A Good Idea For Your Small Business

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

Server virtualization is the partitioning of a physical server into smaller virtual servers to help maximize your server resources.

In server virtualization, software is used to divide the physical server into multiple virtual environments, called virtual or private servers. This is in contrast to dedicating one server to a single application or task.

Server virtualization provides a small business with almost unlimited storage space. Let’s look at some of the ways that server virtualization could benefit your small business.

Virtualization maximizes server space, which reduces the number of servers needed to store important company data.

Since multiple virtual servers reside on a single physical server, your infrastructure will require less space, saving occupancy costs.

Virtualization will cut down on your energy consumption, which will lower your monthly bill. Because you’ll need fewer servers, you’ll save on hardware costs, as well.

For a small-business owner, these savings can mean a lot in the long run, especially if energy costs are high.

Disaster Recovery
Fires, theft and natural disasters happen, often without warning.

What would happen to your business if all of your important files were stored on in-house servers that got destroyed in a tornado or fire?

With virtualization, that becomes less of a worry, especially if you conduct regular checks to ensure that your data is being properly backed up.

It is equally important that you take steps to ensure the data can be recovered if necessary and that when recovered, the data is usable.

Virtualization cuts down on the risk that an employee or thief could walk off with important company files, something that can happen if you back up company files on external hard drives.

Business Continuity
Unlike disaster recovery, business continuity is about quickly recovering from things like power outages and server crashes.

These two common occurrences could cost a small-business owner a lot of money depending on how long employees remained idle waiting for power to be restored or a server to be repaired.

With a virtualized server environment, server images are often backed up to the cloud – where they can be enabled in real time and act as a replacement server until resources are restored.

Virtual Desktop
This is a growing trend in the business world. Also known as client virtualization, desktop virtualization separates the PC desktop environment from the physical machine and operates in the cloud.

With virtual desktop infrastructure, employees can access the company network from their laptops, tablets or smart devices.

Virtualization has worked well for large enterprises for a number of years, and now the technology is affordable for smaller businesses.

Choosing virtualization for your company is no small matter. You’ll want to make sure you use an experienced, trusted IT partner to make sure your project goes smoothly.

It’s Time To Get Your Business Ready For 2013!

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

Thankfully, black Friday and cyber Monday are over. As we settle in for the rest of the holiday rush and start looking toward 2013, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and miss out on some important, year-end activities.

Here are a few reminders to help you stay on top of your IT needs and systems in the new year.

Set Goals
Now is the time to get your team together and set achievable goals for 2013. Discuss issues and successes that happened in the last year and how you are going to use this information to make things run smoother in the coming year.

It makes sense to have your IT consultant participate in these meetings – we have insight into what’s coming up in the networking, cloud and server spaces, as well as practical expertise on getting the most from your IT investment.

Promote open communication so your team members can voice their ideas, concerns, suggestions, and feedback. This way, everyone will be part of the goal-setting process and know their responsibilities for the year ahead.

Update your website
Is your site ready for the New Year? This means that you need to update the copyright dates to 2013 on the appropriate content, install current updates to your software applications, check terms and privacy conditions, and more.

These are little things that are easy to forget, but they can mean a huge difference in the message you send to customers and advertisers. Plus, they can help protect your legal rights too.

As the business owner, it’s important to keep your entire organization aware of upcoming plans and changes.

Inform all staff members what is going on with technology, your plans for the upcoming year and what they can do to help.

Keeping everyone in the loop avoids unnecessary issues from escalating into major problems. Share information to improve processes and increase working relationships throughout the entire organization.

Are you ready for 2013?
It’s a busy time of year for everyone, but don’t let that get in the way of your IT and business planning for 2013.

Set achievable goals with your team, and review all of the key issues from the past year. Make updates to your Website so that you protect your information legally and present current messaging to your customers.

And be sure to communicate your plans with everyone in your organization. This way, you’ll save time and money, as well as avoid confusion. Starting the year with a firm plan will put your business on the road to success in 2013.

How Strategic Business Continuity Planning Can Prevent Losing Money And Customers

The concept of business continuity planning is nothing new to conscientious business owners.

Without a doubt, the ability of an enterprise, large or small, to recover from catastrophic events and continue to provide an acceptable level of service to its customers  while maintaining a satisfactory level of profits is a basic requirement of good business practice.

Although such awareness has always been a feature of good management, the startling events of September 11 2001 has brought the world into a heightened state of preparedness for disaster.

Why the need for continuity and disaster planning?

Increasingly, natural disasters continue to surface in one place after another.

Consider recent major floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, corporate crimes and malicious attacks upon computer systems in nation after nation and you will sense the pressing need for sound business continuity planning to avoid disruptions due to technology and other failure.

Another factor which contributes to this need is the changing business climate in view of the expansion and increasing accessibility of the Internet over the past decade.

So organizations which formerly rendered services to their customers during fixed hours of business, now find themselves offering their services on an extended schedule, even 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This means that customers have grown accustomed to this ready access to their suppliers and vendors. And now the reality is that consumers have become less and less tolerant of interruptions in a company’s service and availability.

Business continuity planning – is it just for big business?

Business continuity planning now takes on an increasingly important role, not just for larger enterprises, but for small businesses alike.

In fact for small businesses it is even more critical to be ready to respond to the needs of its customers.

Customers expect this and have no problem locating alternate suppliers who stand ready to take your place in the market!

This is true whether you are in the manufacturing or service business, marketing and sales or any other facet of business.

Your network – a key  component in business continuity 

Nowadays a company’s IT System with its network of computers has become the backbone of many businesses.

Vital functions such as Data Processing, inventory and  payroll management, Internet based operations including online sales, human resource and training systems, project management and an almost endless variety of other business functions are critically dependent on the efficacy of your computer system.

Clearly then, any technology disruption can have disastrous consequences.

Therefore business continuity planning often deals  extensively with maintaining a dependable IT system.

This brings into focus not only the hardware components of the system and its application programs, but also the data contained in the system.

Ways to ensure continuity

Some of the key components that determine system reliability include Data Storage Devices, UPS systems, power generator systems and so on.

And nowadays, Cloud Computing is being relied upon to extend the reliability of Computer Systems and ensure business  continuity in the event of major failure.

There seems to be a tendency to use the expressions ‘business disaster recovery’, and ‘business continuity’ interchangeably.

However upon closer examination it becomes clear that the two concepts are quite distinct.

Continuity of service is the desired state we want to maintain while recovering from any unexpected calamity whether an extended power outage, Computer System failure or other problem.

Such continued operation calls for a comprehensive plan that covers the most probable occurrences.

From this information it can be seen that ensuring business continuity calls for a strategy regardless of the size of the business.

As disasters continue to increase in frequency and magnitude, more and more careful thought must be given to your company’s preparedness to respond in the event of any business threat.

The increasingly prominent role of computers in business calls for highly reliable data backups, hardware redundancy, and keen, effective planning as a way to ensure business continuity in the event of any catastrophe.

It’s Severe Weather Season… Do You Have A Disaster Plan?

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

Perhaps it’s just me, but this spring has been one of the worst I can remember in terms of severe weather. The flooding and tornadoes we’re seeing around the country should serve as a wake-up call for small business owners to review their business continuity plan.

A disaster recovery plan prepares a business to deal with disaster scenarios such as fi res or tornadoes that disrupt the business’s operations.

Although larger companies create such plans as a standard operating procedure, small businesses tend not to do this type of planning.

In fact, according to Symantec’s 2011 SMB Disaster Preparedness Survey, only 50% of small businesses have a plan in place for a disaster or data loss.

Your disaster plan serves two purposes. First, the plan should limit the financial impact a manmade or natural disaster has on your company.

Second, the plan should establish the steps you will take to begin operating again quickly following a disaster. Developing the plan and making employees aware of it helps protect your business and mitigate risk.

Plans should name specific employees that will play key roles in the event of a disaster, and identify critical assignments that each employee must complete in a disaster scenario.

Finally, the plan should focus on keeping your company’s irreplaceable data safe. That data includes customer information, email correspondence, sales information and accounting and financial records.

Most businesses our size don’t have the resources to implement redundant office locations, but the plan should include a strategy operating at an alternate location.

The resources needed to resume operations within 24 hours of a disaster may differ from those needed to resume operations within three to four days. The plan should call for the minimum set of resources possible to meet the established targets.

We’ve put together in a free report that will help guide you through the planning process – from assessing the risks to setting up in a new location. The report is free – simply call the office at (734) 457-5000, or email for your copy.

Looking Ahead: What’s In Store For Your Company?

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

Our clients are typically small and medium sized companies, and while some of them are putting the brakes on and slowing down, most are still going strong.

We’re feverishly working with many clients to plan out their IT projects for 2009. Several clients are looking to upgrade their infrastructure with new servers, workstations and higher speed networking equipment. Even more will be enhancing their Internet speed and security and upgrading their websites (look for an incredible web and e-mail service promotion from us next month!).

These clients understand the importance of keeping their network and critical business systems update to date and in great operating condition.

What Is Your 2009 Plan?
By now, you’ve undoubtedly got the framework of your 2009 plan put together. What’s on the agenda?

From our corner of the world, as your computer guys, we’re seeing many companies looking for ways to decrease expenses and increase sales. We think some of the key technologies you’ll see helping with that include virtualization, unified communications, and cloud computing.

Virtualization technologies go back all the way to the 1960s and IBM’s M44 mainframe systems. In essence, virtualization lets you create and run more than one server “system” on a single piece of server “hardware.” The obvious benefit is that you’re able to run distinct servers on one piece of hardware.

An example application for small business would be a company that uses a specialized piece of software that requires a dedicated server. If the company is smaller, chances are a lot of that server’s horsepower is going to sit idle – because not a lot of people are using it. With virtualization, we would simply create another virtual server and install the special business software on that virtual server, saving the cost of an additional server.

Unified Communications
During the next few years, you’ll see the number of different communications vendors you work with reduced considerably. The technology already exists to check your e-mail from your cell phone, and to receive voice mails in your e-mail.

Cloud Computing
“The cloud” is a metaphor for the Internet. In general terms, cloud computing is the concept that your computing resources are no longer located in your office, or on your server, but rather, purchased as a service and delivered via the Internet. More and more, the services your company relies on every day will move to cloud computing applications, eliminating the need for hardware at your office.

The initial cost savings of cloud computing are obvious; the longer term cost savings will come from reduced operating expenses (employees can work from home, or anywhere, lowering the need for expensive office space) and access to higher quality services that are traditionally too expensive for small companies to implement. is the perfect example of an enterprise-class application made available to small companies through the use of cloud computing.

Thank You!
As we wind down 2008, I’d like to thank the clients and friends that support Tech Experts. The trust and confidence you place in us as your IT company is invaluable, and everyone here is very thankful for your business. Happy new year!

A Great Book To Read
Panic: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity (edited by Michael Lewis) is a brilliant book and a good start to our new “Recommended Reading” list.

Panic covers five modern financial crashes: The Crash of 1987, The Russian Default / Collapse of Long Term Capital Management, The Asian Currency Crisis of 1999, The Internet Bubble and The Subprime Mortgage Disaster.

Each section has a perfect setup – a few articles preceding the actual crash followed by articles that are written as the crash is happening. Lewis finishes off each section with at least one post crash article.

There are some interesting characters throughout the book, but my favorite example is from The Internet Bubble section: Bernard Madoff – yes, the one that’s been in the news lately.



Eight Steps To Prepare For Business Disruptions

Summer Storms, Crazy Weather Highlight Need To Be Prepared

With the crazy weather we’ve been experiencing the past few weeks, now is the perfect time for your business to put together a basic disaster planning and recovery plan.

Here are some key points to consider:

1. Prevention costs less than recovery, and it’s faster.

When a disaster occurs, one of the first questions asked after the smoke clears (or the debris is cleared) is how it could have been avoided. That’s the prevention component – and the issue for most businesses is when they want to answer that question, and how much they are willing to spend to avoid a major disruption to their business.

2. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Our professional recommendation is to spread “vital” operations across more than one location if at all possible. Full backups should be performed every business day, and stored off site. The key thing here is, backups must be tested – this means you need to frequently pick random backup sets and attempt to restore from them.  In far too many cases, data that was thought to be securely backed up couldn’t be accessed when the chips were down.

3. When disaster strikes, the first thing to go haywire is the plan.

Your business should review the disaster plan for adequacy (are you covering all the bases) and currency (has the plan been updated to match your new technology?). Special attention should be paid to new systems and processes that weren’t in place in the business when the initial plan was developed.

4. When disaster strikes, your competitors will notice.

If your company doesn’t maintain market presence and reputation after a disaster, the absence can create a vacuum in the market place. This being the case, competitors will step up to fill that void.

5. Remember the four “P”s of disaster planning – People, property, priorities and planning!

Your company’s security plans should be up to date, including how to contact local fire, police and rescue departments. Some examples of questions to answer in your disaster document: Do you have a written crisis management plan? Has it been tested recently? Do you know when to call in authorities, and who has the authority to make the decision? How are visitors and vendors controlled in your building? Do your security procedures reflect what you really expect employees will do?

6. Tailor your business continuity spending to real threats and key priorities.

Recent events have made us think of terrorism as a major threat, but for small businesses like ours, there are more pressing and diverse threats. Things such as employee or non-employee workplace violence, cyber threats (including computer viruses and denial of service attacks), electrical disruptions, tornadoes or other storm related damages are, for most businesses, much more appropriate threats to invest in remediation efforts against.

7. Successful recovery is like a recipe – everything has to come together at the right time.

Your business should also consider asking critical vendors about their plans and capabilities to deal with emergencies. Relying on one or more critical vendors to keep your business going could be dangerous because a crisis that affects them could spill over to your company if they’re unable to provide goods or services.

8. Regional disasters have a way of mandating priorities you weren’t even aware of.

It is a good idea for your business to look at the immediate area surrounding your facility and perform a risk assessment. Are you near a river, stream, dam or lake?

Focusing on employee safety will pay off during a disaster, since knowledgeable employees are an important key to your company’s recovery plans.