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12 ways to adopt Google Apps for Education

eSchool News has posted a resource from Gaggle and Amplified IT that offers 12 tips to help ensure that Google Apps for Education is safe for teachers and students alike. We especially like the tip on providing proper training, and might add a tip that we’ve seen to be effective: Find (and encourage) a champion on your staff to help drive the adoption!

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When Is Your Business Ready For Managed IT Services?

If you are a small business owner and considering whether or not Managed IT Services will benefit your company, the answer is almost always- yes. There is little doubt that most small businesses can benefit from Managed IT Services, yet that in itself does not always justify the cost of bringing on a third party provider. Accepting that Managed IT Services Providers can offer solutions to common problems found in small business operation, the real question is: when does it make sense to switch from in house IT solutions to the next level which includes Managed IT Services?

There is a good chance if you are already considering Managed IT Services the time might be near when you are ready to make the switch. Small business owners do not have the luxury of a never ending IT budget, therefore it is very important to recognize when your current IT management is no longer cost effective. For most small businesses this occurs when the business grows to the point of needing either a contract with a local service provider who is “on call” for IT needs or hiring a full time IT person to remain on staff. There is of course another option for small business owners to consider and that is hiring a Managed IT Services Provider to oversee their IT needs.

If you are still unsure that your business is ready for the switch, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you find IT costs are continually increasing?
  • Is it difficult to find and retain quality IT staff?
  • Is your network and workstation performance and speed decreasing?
  • Are your employees spending more time dealing with IT issues than focusing on job they have been hired to perform?
  • Do you have problems with viruses, spyware and other security issues that could threaten the confidentiality of proprietary information?
  • In the event of a natural or man-made disaster, would your network be at risk? Would recovery be a concern?
  • Do you find network downtime is increasing?

If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, then your business is ready for Managed IT Services.

Now that you have determined Managed IT Services are right for your business, the next challenge is finding the right provider of these services. This is a decision that should not be made lightly or rushed as the wrong provider can end up costing your company more money than your current situation. Before you begin the search for a Managed IT Services Provider you should first consider your IT budget as well as issues or problems you want to be addressed. It is important to remember that Managed IT Services are not a one-size-fits-all type of solution to business problems. Each business and industry has their own issues to contend with and a qualified Managed IT Services Provider will work with you to find the solutions that will benefit your company the most. If a potential provider is more intent on selling you services and not listening to the needs of your business, move on to another provider who is willing to listen to your concerns and offer customized solutions that address these needs. The point of outsourcing your IT management is to save money while freeing up time to focus on other business operations. For this reason it pays to put forth the effort to find the best Managed IT Services Provider to oversee your technology needs.

Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can help you benefit from Managed IT Services for your business in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities.

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The High Cost of Recovery from a Security Breach

Small to medium size businesses are what keep this country moving. Unfortunately, for many of these business owners, budgetary needs force them to make cuts that the mammoth corporations do not have to consider. These budget cuts can often result in reduced security and sub par IT services that in the long run can end up costing the company even more money. Reacting to; and the recovery from, a security breach or attack always costs more after it has happened than what it would have cost to prevent it.

This fact has been supported by recent surveys, and may come as a surprise to many small and mid-size companies who are under the false impression that hackers and other security threats target larger corporations. It has been discovered that companies that have less than 500 employees are actually more likely to be at risk of an attack or security breach than a larger corporation. Of course, this becomes a problem when the larger corporation has the resources to maintain higher levels of security at a time when smaller companies are dealing with restricted or; in some cases, frozen IT budgets.

The benefits of hiring a Managed IT Services Provider in preventing attacks and security breaches

With a security breach a real concern for small business owners, many are making the decision to bring on outside providers to address their IT needs. Managed services providers can offer an affordable solution to small business owners who are struggling to manage an internal IT staff. In some cases there isn’t even an IT person on staff, which can be just as costly for the small business when they have to bring in a professional on an as needed basis. Considering the money and time spend recovering from a security attack or breech, more business owners are realizing the cost of not having this level of protection is too high to pay. Here we look at how managed services providers can help business owners level the playing field against those who would infiltrate their security systems.

  • Increased knowledge- Managed services providers are in the business of technology. They have trained staff who are able to prevent security breeches and spot any activity that could be perceived as a threat. Moreover, they have the expertise to stop threats and prevent the loss of sensitive and private information that can lead to costly recovery measures.
  • Less expensive than in-house IT- Other IT professionals can provide the same security but it will cost much more to the business owner. What many owners are realizing is paying a flat monthly fee for security and other services provided by msp’s is actually much more cost effective than paying an internal IT staff or outsourcing based on incident.
  • Proactive is better than reactive- The biggest benefit of having a quality managed services provider in your corner is the fact that you are acting in a proactive manner to ensure all of your systems are managed properly. This is less expensive and less time consuming than waiting for something bad to happen and then reacting.

Any small business can benefit from the security provided by a Managed IT Services provider. They can do so at a fraction of the cost, therefore eliminating the fear and unnecessary cost of trying to recover from a breech in security or attack.

Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can help you prevent attacks and security breaches with our Network Security Services for your business in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities.

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How to Create a Basic Businesses Disaster Recovery Plan in 4 Steps

Loss of data is a common problem for businesses. Fortunately, it’s a problem that can easily be avoided with the correct preparation. While devastating amounts of data can be lost during catastrophes like hurricanes, terrorist attacks, fires and floods – it doesn’t take such large events to cause a business to lose important data. It can be as simple as dropping a laptop to the floor, or a power surge that results in burning out a storage device. If you don’t have your crucial data backed up, even a small situation can turn into a disaster. That’s when having a business disaster recovery plan can help.

If you still think natural disasters are the leading causes of data loss – and that the chances of it happening to you are pretty slim, take a look at the results from a study by Strategic Research Corporation of the leading causes of business continuity and disaster recovery incidents:

  • Hardware Failures (servers, switches, disk drives, etc) – 44%.
  • Human Error (mistakes in configurations, wrong commands issued, etc) 32%
  • Software Errors (operating systems, driver incompatibility, etc)14%
  • Viruses and Security Breach (unprotected systems are always at risk) 7%
  • Natural Disasters 3%

Establishing a disaster recovery plan can be done in the following four steps:

1) Take a potential risk inventory. Make a list of every potential cause of data loss and the solutions to each. Your list should include losses that won’t affect the business very much, and those that would shut the business down temporarily or permanently. Information Technology experts can assist you with creating the potential risk inventory – as they will have the knowledge and experience to identify possibilities that you are not likely to think of but need to plan for all the same. These IT experts will also be able discuss preventative solutions to guard against each type of potential data loss.

2) Rate each of your potential data loss situations. How likely is it for each of the items on your risk inventory to occur? Rating them in order of importance and likeliness to occur will help you determine where to focus your disaster recovery plan efforts.

3) Develop your disaster recovery plan. Go through each of your potential risks and their solutions, and determine how long it would take you to recover from the loss of data for each risk. Could your business be offline for 24 hours? A week? Depending on the nature of your business, being offline for even just 24 hours could result in your losing customers to your competition. Look at ways to reduce the length of time it would take you to recover from each type of data loss risk.

4) Put your disaster recovery plan to the test. Once you’ve created your plan of action for recovering lost data, you should test your solutions. A disaster recovery plan is just a plan until it can be tested and proven.

Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can create a business disaster recovery plan for you with our Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Services for your business in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities.

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Making The Switch To Managed IT Services

When the time comes to make the switch to Managed IT Services, it is important to know what you are looking for from a provider. As most business owners have or are beginning to realize, there are plenty of benefits that can be realized by bringing on a managed services provider to address IT and other needs. In order to get the most from your managed services contract you must carefully compare all potential providers to ensure they are willing and able to provide the services you need to keep your business moving forward in the future. If your managed services provider cannot supply the following three things (at minimum) keep looking until you find a company that addresses these issues.

  • Security – The managed services provider that you choose should work with vendors that guarantee security. This is imperative when trusting an outside party to handle and maintain private and confidential data that is crucial to the running of your business. Service providers should provide detailed proof of security procedures as well as how they intend to keep abreast of changes in the industry.
  • Recovery – Managed IT Services providers are not only contracted to help keep the day-to-day running of your business going smoothly. They are also an important part of any recovery situation that follows a natural or man made disaster. It is important to discuss with potential providers what procedures they have in place to guarantee your downtown will be minimal and that you will be up and running as soon as possible after an emergency. These precious minutes and hours can make or break the recovery of your business.
  • Customer Service – As with any other business, if there is no customer support backing up the products or services, there isn’t much of a commitment from the provider.

Why are these three things important? To understand you must consider the Managed IT Services model. Managed IT Services providers are hired by a company to provide any or all of the following services:

  • Website hosting
  • Network monitoring
  • Network security
  • Remote data backup
  • Recovery services

Originally these services were provided to large corporations while small to medium size companies struggled to maintain an IT budget that was often more expensive then beneficial. Managed services providers charge a flat, or monthly fee, making it possible for smaller businesses to reap the benefits offered at a much lower price than in-house IT staff or outsourcing on an as needed basis.

The Managed IT Services platform continues to grow as many businesses look for ways to reduce costs in this tough economy. By offering technological services that might otherwise be beyond the reach of a small business budget, managed services make it possible for smaller businesses to remain competitive with others in their industry. Small business owners must take the time to carefully review and research each provider before signing on the bottom line. A good managed services provider can change the way you do business- in a positive direction, whereas the wrong choice could be a costly mistake that does more harm than good to your business.

Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can help you improve business productivity while reducing technology costs with our Managed IT Services for your business in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities.

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Why Your Company Needs An Internet Use Policy

email-stampWith computers and Internet access such an integral part of every business, and the Internet filled with everything from gambling to x-rated websites, it is critical that every business has an Internet Use Policy in place. This policy can help prevent your employees from accidentally or intentionally causing harm to your company or your company’s reputation. While you don’t want to give your employees the idea that they are living in George Orwell’s 1984, you want them to have a clear understanding of practices that are and are not appropriate during work hours. It is necessary for companies to create an Internet policy that everyone can live with.

Why Have An Internet Use Policy?

The purpose of a business is to make money. In order to accomplish this, the company has to have productive employees. The Internet can be a time drain and often prevent employees from being as productive as they should be. With such a wide range of information available on the Internet, it is necessary to clarify the company’s expectations of its employees regarding Internet access. With a strong policy in place, the employee, as well as the employer, will find Internet use less confusing and frustrating.

Another important reason to have a strong Internet Use Policy is to save your company from unnecessary lawsuits. Unless you have a clear policy on what is and is not acceptable on the Internet in your company, you can risk having an unfair dismissal lawsuit on your hands when an employee is abusing the company’s Internet.

What Elements Should Your Internet Usage Policy Contain?

When planning your Internet Use Policy, it should contain certain key elements such as:

  • The company Internet is for company business only and to be used only during company business hours
  • All work done on company computers during business hours, including all emails, is company property and can be accessed by the employer at any time.
  • Establish what type of computer use is unacceptable such as accessing personal social media accounts, personal email, pornographic websites, etc.
  • Employees must refrain from accessing websites, creating, or forwarding email that promotes any type of discrimination such as racial or sexual discrimination, or that is defamatory or harmful towards another person or group.
  • Employees are not allowed to gain access to or attempt to access other employee’s computers, employee stored information, or any information unauthorized by the company.

In addition to the guidelines above, inform your employees that whatever is done by the company, for the company, and on the company computers should remain confidential and within the confines of the company. In addition, let employees know that when they access unapproved sites, they risk infecting the company computer system with viruses that could possibly shut down the entire company network.

Having an Internet use policy in place helps to eliminate any confusion and possible abuse that could prevent a company from functioning productively. A solid Internet use policy help to make the work environment more pleasant and more conducive to getting the necessary work done in order to have a successful business. Creating a safe and productive environment is important for any business, and one way to ensure that is to implement an Internet use policy.

Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can help you benefit from an Internet Use Policy with our Technology Consulting Services in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities.

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Is the iPad Useful as a Mobile Computing Device for Businesses?

Some businesses have jumped on the iPad wagon and are finding creative ways to use the iPad as a mobile computing device. For example, the Global Mundo Tapas restaurant in Sydney, Australia uses the iPad as an interactive menu. There’s a budget airline, Jetstar Airways, using the iPad for in-flight entertainment, rented for $10 a flight. A luxury sedan by Hyundai comes with an iPad instead of a user manual. Other than these extreme cases, how can an iPad be used to increase productivity or convenience by the average business owner?

Conventions and Workshops

Do you travel to conventions and workshops for your business? Many people bring their laptop to these events. While laptops are of course very convenient compared to a desktop pc for traveling, the iPad weighs less and could be even more convenient if you’re traveling from room to room at a convention or workshop. These events are also often designed for networking – so you’re not just sitting at the table all day, glued to your laptop. The smaller, 2 pound iPad could be slipped into your purse or a small bag while you walk around the room, or even carried in your hand for easy access as needed, but without being cumbersome.

Flights and Traveling

It’s true a laptop can go on a flight with you, but even the smaller netbooks and laptops add to the weight of your carry on bags and can be frustrating when in the small seats of the plane. If you’re sitting in coach, you know every time the person next to you has to get up to use the bathroom you’re trying to balance the laptop and whatever else you happened to have out in your hands with turbulence knocking you around the aisle. The iPad could be slid into the pocket of the seat in front of you if you have to get out of the way for the passenger next to you – it’s about the size of a magazine.

The same holds true on trains, in taxi cabs, or as a passenger in someone else’s car. Just don’t try to use your iPad while driving, yourself.

Presentations & Sales

Do you travel to client offices to give presentations? How sleek would it be to whip out your iPad and give a sales presentation or demonstration? Apple reports that iPads can connect to the majority of projectors, so you could even broadcast that presentation over a large screen for a larger audience if necessary.

Replace Your Briefcase

Sure, the iPad has a word processor and spreadsheet. Those are always useful for business people. It would be much more convenient to read and edit documents on an iPad over your iPhone while on the road.

But what about the stack of magazines and newspapers you lug around with you in your briefcase? You could have all of your reading materials ready for you on the iPad and skip the briefcase. Use it as an ebook reader, newspaper subscription, and file storage and you’ve literally got everything at your fingertips. With the use of third party Apps, there’s little you can’t do with the iPad for as a mobile computing device for your business.

Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can help you get the most out of your iPads, Smartphones and other mobile devices with our Mobile Computing Services for your business in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities.

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Save Time and Money with Managed IT Services

If there is one thing most small businesses can agree on is that time equals money. Small business owners are in a position where they have to be a jack-of-all-trades, often spending most of their day wearing different hats. This is the nature of the small business and while expected is not always the best use of time. In order for a small business to be successful and remain competitive in an industry, there must be designated time for the owner to focus on growing and building the business. In many cases small businesses fail as a result of being unable to handle emergencies or other situations that are simply beyond the control and expertise of the owner. Leveraging Managed IT Services can help.

Any business that relies on technology, which covers almost every business operating today, can benefit from managed services. Managed services providers understand that not every business has the ability to pay for an internal IT department which can be very expensive yet necessary to ensure all aspects of technology are supported. Without this backup, many small businesses find themselves in a position where they have to foot a very expensive bill to recover from a disaster or emergency. In other situations, using out-of-date or ineffective technology is simply a waste of both time and money on the part of the small business.

Here we look at how small businesses can make the most of their time and money by hiring a managed services provider.

  • Focus on running the business- One of the major benefits of outsourcing your technology needs is that the owner and employees of the company can focus 100% on their individual duties to keep the business moving in the right direction. This is the most valuable use of time for all parties involved, instead of hours or even days lost when trying to deal with technological issues that in house employees are not trained to handle.
  • Offer expert advise – There are many small businesses that simply do not know what they need to improve the functionality of their business. The old adage, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” does not apply in all cases. By consulting with a managed services provider you may discover areas of your business which can be improved that you previously thought were working “just fine”. Expert advice may be able to help you improve the efficiency of your business while positioning you better within the industry.
  • Support when you need it – Managed IT Services Providers are not only there in the event of an emergency or recovery, but also provide monitoring which can invaluable in preventing problems before they can impact the business.

It is important for every small business to carefully examine their technical needs in order to see what services will be most beneficial to the company. Managed IT Services Providers can offer services that not only reduce technology costs over time but also improves functionality which in turn saves time. When this balance is achieved a small business is in the perfect position to thrive and grow.

Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can help you save time and money with our Managed IT Services for your business in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities.

 

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Can Small Businesses Afford Managed IT Services Providers?

When determining the affordability and ROI of engaging with Managed IT Services Providers, small business owners often find themselves in a position of trying to balance a limited budget while making sure they have the proper tools to grow their business. It is a challenge many business owners face, in that they recognize the need for additional products or services that will allow their business to continue to thrive. However. funds may be in short supply to achieve these goals. This is especially true today, when small business owners find financial institutions less willing to extend credit in the current economy.

Faced with this challenge, many small business owners are forced to make difficult decisions as to where they can afford to spend money to improve their business. One of the areas in which business owners are on the fence is whether or not hiring a managed services provider is something they can afford. In some cases the cost is not worth the benefits, however there are many situations where cutting costs will end up costing you more money in the long run. Here are a few reasons why managed service providers may be more affordable than the alternative.

Technology – In order to be competitive in this day, small businesses must remain up-to-speed with current technology. The amount of money invested in this area can be quite large, making it necessary to ensure you have someone in your corner who can help manage and support the technology used in your business. While the average person is becoming increasingly well versed in the use of basic technology, there remains a need for experts in the industry to ensure your business can stay up and running on a daily basis as well as in the event of a natural or man made emergency.

Internal IT – Larger corporations have the budget necessary to support an internal IT department that provides expertise and support of the technology used by the company. Small businesses do not have the same resources and often find themselves either without backup or paying a high price when they have to bring in an outside expert.

Services provided by MSP’s- When a small business enlists the help of a managed service provider, they will agree to a contract which covers specific services at a specific price. This allows the the small business owner to see upfront what they are paying for and how it will work in the budget. Some of the services provided by msp’s include; computer and server support, data backup and disaster recovery, network security, custom software solutions, remote network monitoring and technology evaluation and planning. Depending on the business these services can be customized to meet the specific needs of the client, making it possible to reduce costs in certain areas.

There are many reasons why a small business owner might feel managed services providers are not something they can afford. Unfortunately the services provided are often not realized until there is an emergency, where small business owners quickly discover the amount of money spent to “fix” a problem or recover from a disaster is much more expensive than planning for it in the first place. In this case it is not a matter of if you can afford manages services, rather if you can afford NOT to have them.

Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can help you save on IT costs with our Managed IT Services for your business in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities.

 

 

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Network Connectivity Troubleshooting – Part Two

This is part two in this series for network connectivity troubleshooting.  Confirming the connectivity with the Internet was the focus of the first three steps in our process. We now continue with the remaining steps to help you discover what the problem with your Internet connection might be.

1. Check functionality. Once the network cable has been confirmed to be working correctly, we need to see if the router is working correctly. Since you have already unplugged and re-plugged the router in and rebooted both it and your PC, that should have taken care of any automatic configuration issues that might have become hung up. High speed Internet providers can change the network address (also called the IP address) of your router at any time. This usually requires a re-boot of your router (and sometimes of your PC) in order to pick up that new address and begin communicating. Also, there are other network addresses that are used to get outside to the Internet that are automatically configured as well, but we will deal with those in a later step.

2. Test functionality. If after you have rebooted the router and PC and performed all of the steps above, but it appears that you are still having problems, make sure that you try other ways to get outside to the Internet by launching your email program (if you use one). If it works, but your Internet browser still does not, then something is preventing your Internet browser from resolving website addresses on the Internet.

3. Check virus software. When was the last time your PC performed an automatic update or a scan for viruses? Can you try to force an update now? Is it successful? If it has been a week since the last check for viruses, run a full system scan. If this does not work and no viruses are detected, move on to the next steps.

4. Try another system. Do you have another PC or laptop that you can plug in to your router to try and get out to the Internet, or do you know anyone else with a laptop PC who would be willing to bring it over to see if they can plug into your router and get out to the Internet? If so, that will confirm if you have a good working router and cabling. If you or they are able to get out to the Internet, then the problem lies with the original PC you were troubleshooting.

5. Contact your Broadband Service Provider. If you cannot get out to the Internet with another PC or Laptop, work with their support staff to troubleshoot the connectivity issue.

6. Final options. If all else fails, take your PC to another location like a friend’s house or a relative who has high speed Internet access. Plug into their system and see if the PC will access the Internet. Another option is to take your PC to a local shop to have it examined for any virus or spyware software that is not being detected but is preventing you from accessing the Internet. Usually, these local PC repair companies have the software tools to help detect and eradicate these problems.

Troubleshooting a connection for your PC can be a frustrating thing to do because there are so many variables to address. Be patient, and follow the above steps and hopefully you will find the source of your problem sooner rather than later.

Click here to learn how Fossie Consulting can help you alleviate your network connectivity troubleshooting problems with our Reactive Response and PC Repair Services for your business in Guelph, Ontario and surrounding cities.

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