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Posts from June, 2015

Time To Think About Your Company’s Next Tech Refresh?

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015


As the Bay Area moves into the warmest months of the year, you can enjoy the summer knowing your annual home spring cleaning is behind you—when you tackled all those chores in (literally) one clean sweep over a weekend. With that taken care of, now’s a good time to review your company’s tech refresh strategy—if you have one.

Many employees of small IT companies still think of every desktop workstation the way they view that trusty old Honda Civic they drive to work: Squeeze every last drop of mileage out of it until the wheels fall off. The reality is that the prime “use life” of desktop hardware—computers, monitors, and printers—averages only about three years before costly maintenance issues begin creeping in. A 2013 study commissioned by Intel surveying 736 small businesses around the world revealed that while over one-third retain their computer systems for at least four years, their employees lose an average of 42 working hours per year due to computer downtime—extended maintenance, repairs, and security fixes.

The average repair cost of an older PC is $427, about 1.3 times more than fixing a newer machine.

Quick Fixes vs. Long-Term Preparation

A comprehensive tech refresh goes beyond the desktop. As we’ve talked about, a company firewall and anti-virus protection are the first lines of defense against the relentless onslaught of malicious hacking and cyber-crime. If you don’t remember when you installed your current network firewall system or anti-virus program, you’re quite likely relying on yesterday’s technology to guard against thousands of new threats which increase by the day. You can rely on vendors’ updates and security patches to try to keep pace, or you can set a firm timetable for upgrading to leading-edge tools—such as firewalls with advanced Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) to scan data for viruses—which offer the best defense against that next cyber-attack.

Before reviewing—or establishing—your company’s tech refresh timeline, take a closer look at the current overall condition of your IT system.

Age. How old is your desktop hardware (PCs, monitors, printers, networking equipment, etc.)? Are these assets still under warranty? If not, how long ago did the warranty expire?

Performance. Can you identify any equipment that’s inconsistent or just plain unreliable? Does the resulting downtime mandate an upgrade?

Support or Security Protection. If you have a Microsoft 2003 operating system running on your server, it’s time right now for a tech refresh. Microsoft will stop important security protection patch updates for this server this year. That means that if you still have any 2003 servers, they must be replaced—or they will become sitting ducks for hackers and viruses. Consider whether you should replace the server(s) or migrate your infrastructure to a private Cloud data center.

Capacity. From obsolete microprocessors to maxed-out hard drives, are your older computers bottlenecking your productivity? Can your existing IT infrastructure support upgraded applications?

Risk. What are the potential consequences of a network crash or a malicious cyber-attack? What are your security needs—today and tomorrow?

Update Before It’s Too Late

A tech refresh can take a “big bang” approach—replacing almost everything after three or four years have gone by—or a phased refresh, targeting mission-critical assets ahead of secondary equipment. For a complimentary assessment of your IT infrastructure and recommendations for an effective tech refresh strategy for your company, click here.

The Cloud: An Eco-Friendly Alternative?

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

IT SF Bay Area discussion on how the Cloud hosting is more energy efficient and green for information technology.

April 22 marked the annual worldwide observance of Earth Day. This made us think about the role small businesses play in the “Go Green” movement. Many companies have a genuine concern for preserving our planet’s natural resources—even if many hotels use going green as a convenient excuse not to provide fresh bed sheets every morning.

Of course, here in California, we know conservation is no joke. As we endure a severe, multi-year drought—with no end in sight—we’re just now realizing the potential long-term effects on our region’s entire eco-system. The longer our resources continue to dwindle, the more all of us—households and businesses alike—will be expected to make cutbacks to help sustain our environment.

Thinking Beyond the Bottom Line

When small businesses weigh the benefits of migrating their IT functions to the Cloud, they tend to frame their decision around only one context of “green”—the saving of dollars. Yet they usually overlook another viable justification of the Cloud: reducing the company’s energy consumption and carbon footprint.

An onsite data center typically consists of multiple servers dedicated to general tasks, such as one server for email, one for database, one file server, and so on. Yet, like the human brain, a single server only uses a small fraction of its full capacity at any given moment—typically as low as six percent—while drawing continuous full power 24 hours a day, every day.

While that higher “firepower” is necessary for occasional spikes of peak usage, the rest of the time it simply gobbles up far more electricity than necessary.

By contrast, a shared, Cloud-based facility utilizing virtualization gains a much higher performance ratio from its offsite infrastructure, averaging 60 to 70 percent of capacity. Fewer machines are required to handle the same amount of work.

Cloud-hosting facilities also save energy when it comes to the massive cooling requirements of larger computer equipment. Most onsite data centers simply rely on the “chaos” method of cooling—virtually turning their existing computer room into a large refrigerator. Cloud colocation facilities consolidate climate-control costs, often engineering rack-first cooling systems to optimize efficiency—saving both electricity and money.

Also, larger Cloud colocation facilities have the flexibility to regularly upgrade their equipment to the latest energy-efficient solutions, while small businesses often rely on outdated, less efficient IT systems.

Benefits for Small Businesses

The bottom line is that Cloud computing generally requires less energy consumption than an traditional onsite data center, which directly translates into fewer carbon emissions—and a smaller impact on our environment. An Accenture study commissioned by Microsoft suggests small businesses (100 employees or less) have the most to gain from the Cloud, reducing their overall CO2 emissions by up to 90 percent.

Might Cloud migration be an eco-friendly IT solution for your company? Learn more here.

It’s Nice to Be Important, But It’s More Important to Be Nice

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

IT SF Bay Area discussion on hiring the right IT staff in today's information technology environment.

Let’s face it—the humor on Saturday Night Live is pretty much hit-or-miss these days. But one classic SNL sketch from the late ’90s remains our favorite: Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy.

Why are Nick’s condescending remarks toward his fellow employees so darned funny? Because so many of us can relate. Think back to the day you started your first office job. You settled into a vacant cubicle but couldn’t really do anything until your computer was fully installed. You were granted access to the company network. Your email account was established. But did your company’s IT rep patiently guide you through the entire setup process, or were you stuck with a Nick Burns, who—if they weren’t too busy to help you right away—gave you just a little too much “attitude”?

This isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of excellent IT professionals out there—but they’re definitely getting harder to find. If your business is expanding, how experienced is your HR recruiter at screening and selecting IT people? Do they know the right questions to ask in an interview? How many job candidates exaggerate on their resume, or remain on “best behavior” until after they’re hired? Correcting what HR departments commonly refer to as a “bad hiring decision” is never pleasant—or cheap.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Servers, networks, and desktop workstations, whether in a Cloud datacenter or in your office, are at the core of any successful modern business. But it still comes down to human know-how to make everything work smoothly. A top-notch in-house IT specialist may be worth their proverbial weight in gold, but with the Bay Area economy on the rebound—and housing prices soaring—who’s to say when they’ll suddenly give their two weeks’ notice, leaving you back at square one?

An IT managed service partner eliminates the frequent guesswork and disappointment of your internal hiring processes. With an iron-clad Service Level Agreement (SLA) in place, you know your entire IT system will function 24/7, staffed by knowledgeable, reliable professionals.

Top Service Requires Top People

Our 30-year reputation was built largely around our ability to choose and keep great employees.

That means more than just evaluating past experience or industry certifications—it means seeking people skills. Those include endless patience (well, mostly…), the ability to explain technology in plain English, actually enjoying training others, and never forgetting that your success reflects upon our success. Just look at our lengthy list of client testimonials.

We’re willing to share a trade secret with you, as long as you don’t tell anyone else. It’s the major reason we are the oldest IT service firm in the Bay Area and have outlasted thousands of competitors. What is it? Drumroll please…

We hire friendly, competent professionals.

As Nick Burns would probably say, “Uh… YOU’RE WELCOME!” Just kidding.