When your system is down or emails can’t be sent, who do you call? And no, the answer isn’t Ghost Busters. But, really: what do you do when something goes wrong?
Take a moment and think about how you do your job. How your employees do their jobs. How the company runs... Most of what you depend on is technology-based, right? At Accent Computer Solutions, Inc., our Chief Information Officers (CIOs) spend hours with clients, strategizing and implementing the right technology for them to succeed. Who does that for you? Some businesses handle IT internally, some outsource IT, and some rely on a combination of both.
Regardless of who does it, here are the 5 IT services businesses today can’t live without.
1. Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity
Stuff happens. There are a million and one antidotes, quotes, and “words-to-live-by” that say so. Stuff gets lost, deleted, and damaged – it’s bound to happen, so what’s your plan?
Can you answer these questions?
- What is your backup solution?
- Do you have more than one backup solution, in case something happens to the first one?
- Do you have a local backup and off-site backup as well?
- What is the protocol for accessing your backups?
- How long will it take to get back up and running?
- Who do you call when a backup is needed?
- Is action automatic in case of failure, or does someone have to take steps to start recovery?
These questions apply to all potential points of failure that affect operations. Think:Internet, phones, power, etc. Also include the different types of failures: power outage,building flood, natural disasters, security breaches, etc. Each one may have a different disaster recovery plan and business continuity plan.
In Southern California, we don’t see many natural disasters – only the occasional fire, flood, or earthquake. The “disasters” that affect our businesses most commonly are Internet outages and ransomware.
When an Internet Service Provider (ISP) goes down, they can take down your operations too. A continuity plan for a case like that would be to have at least 2 different sources of Internet for your office. And make sure that they aren’t provided by the same ISP. Many times, the terrestrial Internet connections are provided by the same ISP – a different provider doesn’t necessarily mean a different connection. We recommend having at least one satellite or cellular Internet connection. That way you’re still in business if something happens to the physical Internet line.
If these topics and questions aren’t being addressed with your current IT provider, it's time to step up your game with a professional. An IT service company brings two important factors to the table: experience and man power.
First, they'll work with you to create a backup plan based on your needs. This differs for every company. You could work in a natural disaster zone or have potential power problem, etc. Let your IT professional guide you through it. They’ll also have a great handle on time frames, including downtime and setting expectations for “if this, then that” scenarios. Plus, they will set your expectations for how long it will take to get back up, and they’ll be there if/when the plan needs to be put in effect.
2. Help Desk
The above was all about massive disasters, but we can’t ignore the day-to-day as well. Back to the tired, yet still effective, "Ghost Busters" joke when your employees have issues with daily things: "Who you gonna call?" - Help Desk Engineers!
Here's how it works. Help Desk's job is two-fold. First and foremost, they provide quick assistance for your IT problems. Think of them as your first line of defense. Email’s down, phones aren't working, etc., get in touch with help desk. They’ll troubleshoot and solve your issues.
The next part is tracking and reporting. Almost all company issues go through these “first responders,” and with the right tracking, they can quickly spot patterns. Once they see a trend, they can either hand it off to the Proactive team if it needs more investigation, or get to the root of the issue right then. They proactively fix the major underlying issue that’s been causing the other issues before it halts production.
Keep in mind, you should be able to reach your Help Desk in more than one way. Think: email, phone, online, etc. Services that only take tickets via one source could leave you in a pinch.
Example: Your help desk service only takes tickets via email and email is down, so now what?'
3. Proactive Maintenance
Who handles setting up and maintaining your server(s), computers, laptops, etc.? I’m sure they’re all configured and working fine but they aren’t "set it and forget" kind of devices. There are daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly maintenance tasks that need to occur to keep your technology in good health.
IT maintenance includes things like: keeping backups that run regularly without errors, making sure every device is up to date with the latest patches and security updates, checking disk space, and keeping the pulse of the network to prevent problems down the road.
This keeps employees productive and keeps the company’s operations running along smoothly.
4. Strategic IT Planning Process
A strategic IT planning process makes sure that technology helps advance your company, instead of holds it back.
In this process, your Chief Information Officer (CIO) should have a deep understanding of how your business runs and how technology impacts it. They also understand where you’re trying to go and what you want to accomplish. With that information, they work with technical folks to design and implement systems that will help get you there.
But they’re not all about “shiny and new.” In fact, business IT should be more about stabilizing the environment rather than putting in the latest-and-greatest. Sometimes that requires new equipment or cloud services – sometimes what you have works just fine. They’re just managing the process to make sure your operations have what they need.
With major security breaches hitting the news every week, it should be clear that we’re living in scary times. Today’s businesses can’t survive without good security processes.
Whether you use the Cloud or local in-house server(s), your system must be analyzed and monitored daily. Especially with all the Internet of Things (IoT) devices that are out there today. Almost everything is online, and well, if the Internet is full of stuff to infect your system…your defense better be strong.
If no one is monitoring potential breaches or testing for system weaknesses, how can you keep your company safe? Nowadays, taking a layered approach to security is the only way to keep your business out of harm's way.
Your security team will oversee your company’s cyber security as a whole – antivirus, antimalware, patches, security updates, firewalls, web filters, etc. – and make sure every angle is guarded.
And just like other areas of your business, this too should have a process. There should be a schedule of when and how things are monitored and updated. You might have more security layers than listed above, and the more, the better. Each IT service provider will help you understand and select the layered approach that is best for your company and work environment. Keep in mind that as security gets stronger, criminals get smarter. This will be a battle forever.
As you can see, IT is more than just “is it working or not?” There are so many processes and plans happening behind the scenes that from the surface, it can seem like it’s all just helping with problems. Prevention and planning goes a long way to avoiding downtime, preventing security breaches, and keeping your clients happy.
Things change rapidly in the world of tech. We'll keep your business up-to-date on the latest information technology news so you can stay in the know