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Complete IT Blog                              

IT Support: Contract It Out, Or Keep It In-House?

James David - Friday, August 19, 2011

How to handle IT infrastructure and support is one of the core considerations of any small to medium business (SMB). So how do you handle it? Should you manage your own IT support internally, or contract it out?

The answer, as always, is going to be different for every business, and in the modern IT environment, it will almost certainly involve a mix of the two. There are some recent technology developments, however, that make taking advantage of some degree of managed services and outsourcing beneficial to a small to medium business.

Cloud computing, managed services, and mobile devices are bringing huge productivity and feature gains to SMBs. Previously, the technology that these services provide was only available to large businesses that could afford to run, manage and support the servers, networks and components in-house with a specialised IT team. Cloud computing and managed services bring these technologies to the little guys affordably, reliably, and with the flexibility and support an SMB demands.

These days the humble corner store can afford to have all the benefits of a Microsoft Exchange server; like email, contacts and calendars synced across multiple devices with powerful collaboration and sharing tools, and advanced networking, without building, managing and supporting either. Managed services and cloud computing help SMBs punch above their weight.

So what do you need to consider when assessing your tech support situation?

Be innovative and entrepreneurial! You know your business; the little details that no-one else knows. How can you use technology to create competitive advantages and efficiencies, or solve problems? Speak to an expert who is plugged-in and will help you understand emergent technologies, their benefits, potential pitfalls, implementation, and support.

Some basics:

  • How many people is your business employing, how much internal IT knowledge do you have, and of what quality is that knowledge? Google Apps, a simple maintenance agreement, and contracted IT support may be all you need.
  • What does your business do? Innovative technology use can create competitive advantage, solve problems and make doing what you do faster, more reliable, and more efficient in almost any business, but some industries will benefit more than others.
  • What is your existing IT situation? What needs to be supported, developed, upgraded, or made redundant?
  • What technologies do you plan to use? How are you going to find out about your options, make a technology plan, implement it, and support it?

Finding the right IT support mix for your business is always a challenge, and is something that must be assessed continually, especially in the fast-paced modern IT environment.

How are you handling your IT support, and what have you learned from doing it?

 

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Is it time to update your inbox?

James David - Thursday, June 30, 2011

The power of email systems has increased exponentially over recent years - gone are the times of 250 megabyte Exchange mailboxes - and yet our email systems often languish as relics of times gone by. So why aren't businesses taking advantage of the plethora of new tools and potentials modern email systems have to offer?

Microsoft Exchange is an industry staple, and Exchange 2003 was a great system, but technology evolves at a blistering rate, and the developments our communication tools have seen since its release in 2003 are incredible. When Exchange 2003 was released, for example, we didn't know that we were getting ready to leave behind our Blackberries for Apples, and that we wouldn't need special back-end mobile services to give us email and internet on the go and without the woe. Clouds were, primarily, mischievous and carefree entities that roamed the skies and watered our plants. And having all the advantages of an Exchange server meant... having an exchange server.

These days the (then necessary) limitations of an established staple like Exchange 2003 can seem archaic - especially when you consider how our use of email, internet, and connected devices has changed and grown. Happily, the upgrade options available to every level of business, and even households, are a varied, friendly, and powerful bunch.

Cloud-based solutions, such as Office 365 and Google Apps, provide Exchange-level functionality, reliability and redundancy, without the cost and management of running an in-house Exchange server. If you're a small business and want collaboration, shared contact lists and calendars, and simple and sensible syncing and integration between multiple devices, these services are amazing.

If you need more, or if you need the absolute slickest of integration with Microsoft Office, Exchange 2010 is everything you're used to, only with ten years of technological advancement considered, developed and integrated.

Upgrading your IT systems can be a costly and time-consuming consideration, but there comes a time when the cost of stagnation far outweighs that of change. It could be time to look into your email systems, and see what an upgrade will bring to your business.

 

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Online backup services and making your technology work for you

Seth Reinhardt - Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Online backup services keep your important data safe and secure in case of emergencies and are a vitally important service for small businesses. But protecting your data is not all they will do for you.

Do all the things you’ve always done, when, where and how you want to.

By the release of their 2010 second quarter results, Apple had sold just over 51 million iPhones. This equates to a considerable number of people walking around with much of the productivity capacity of their office computer, in their pocket. And that’s not counting people who prefer Android smartphones or the legions of businesspeople who swear by their blackberries.

What I’m saying is that, these days, we don’t work with a single centralised device. The desktop PC is no longer the focus of our work environment. Laptops, tablets and smartphones allow us to break free of the office and work wherever we want, whether that is in a client’s boardroom or under the warming touch of a pleasant sunbeam. And it’s fantastic - I don’t want to be couped up in an office all day if I don’t have to be and I want to add value to my interactions with clients by increasing my capacity to work productively and collaboratively outside of the office. I also want my important documents to go with me when I leave my desktop and I want them to be back there once I walk out of that client’s boardroom.

That’s something an online backup service can provide. Not only will they ensure that your important data is backed up automatically, conveniently and securely, but once it is, it will be online waiting for you, wherever you may need it. Some services can even provide online syncing, so that you can set your backup up as you like it and then all but forget about it. It will, quietly and transparently, make sure that the most recent versions of all your files are synced automatically on all the platforms you use, ready for you when you need them.

I changed to an online backup service, and I can never look back. I do a day’s work on my desktop, get home to my laptop and everything is there just as it was in the office. On a recent trip I was sitting in a taxi on the way to the airport and needed to share a file with a collaborator. All I had to do was open the browser on my smartphone and head to my backup website. Two minutes (and a kilometre of Sydney traffic) later it was done.

Technology doesn’t just let us do new things, more advanced things or better things. It enables us to do all the things we’ve always done, when, where and how we want to. It gives us flexibility and convenience and takes care of important tasks in more efficient, effective and secure ways than we could do them manually.

It gives us time, our most precious resource, to be the best we can be.

Give Complete IT a call on 1300 732 850, or head to our contact page here, to talk about what you want your technology to do for you.

 

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Online backup services - just as powerful in the home as the office

James David - Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Online backup services are fantastic for businesses who want to move to a more flexible, secure and redundant system of backing up their important data. And they are just as useful for home users!

Your data will be backed up when you want it to be and it will be there waiting for you when you need it.

We all have important data on our computers, whether it is a few emails, contacts and photos or important and confidential work documents. However, up until recently, keeping this information backed up was either very expensive, or an arduous and complex process. These days online backup services are affordable and user-friendly enough for even the most ardent of luddites to take advantage of. They are also transparent, fast, secure and reliable.

How is an online backup service transparent? Well, you set it up, or have it set up for you, and let it do its thing. The data you need will be backed up when you want it to be, without you having to reach for a single DVD. And it will be there waiting for you when you need it.

Online backup services use powerful servers and fast internet connections to do their thing. So the backup process, even though you don’t need to run it yourself, will be fast. Accessing your data is quick as well. And it isn’t tied to consumables like DVDs, external drives or tapes, so you can get to it anywhere that you have an internet connection.

This makes it fantastic for home users who run multiple devices, like smartphones, laptops and desktops. It is great for working from multiple locations as well. Do some work in your office and then come home and have that data waiting for you on your home PC. In this way an online backup service not only protects your important data, it makes working with your devices both simpler and more powerful.

The servers that power online backup services are protected with levels of redundancy and security that a home user wouldn’t normally be able to access. They are built to share the load and can be hosted in multiple physical locations, so if one goes down your services keep running. And when you access them, you do so through an encrypted connection. This makes them secure and reliable.

So the next time you are out with your digital camera, working from home, enjoying your media collection or reading through your emails, think about what you are doing to protect that data and give us a call to see how we can help.

James David

Your IT Implementation, Planning and Support Specialist

Complete IT

 

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Work with your head in the clouds: Windows Small Business Server – Aurora

Seth Reinhardt - Friday, August 20, 2010

Microsoft’s Windows Small Business Server Codename “Aurora” is now available for preview through a Microsoft Connect download.

Clouds are very exciting things, especially when they adorn the skies of the internet. They keep track of the tabs I have open in Firefox, so that I can access them from my work PC, as well as my home PC. They sync my mail, contacts and calendar across my desktop, laptop and iPhone. They even take care of my backups for me.

And now, they will make powerful new technologies, once only available to larger enterprises, available to small business at a cost-effective rate, without additional strain on infrastructure and its management.

Aurora is Microsoft’s codename for the new Windows Small Business Server platform that they are designing specifically for small businesses of up to 25 users. They believe that every business needs a server and want to make one available that will suit the needs and capabilities of small business. Aurora will take care of backup and file restoration, down to individual files and workstations; provide online, browser-based access to those files and workstations and provide a reliable platform on which to run critical business applications. And it can be upgraded or downgraded as needs change, without costly infrastructure management and maintenance.

What’s great about working with cloud services as a small business is that, because all of the hardware work is taken care of off-site and piped through the cloud, all of these powerful technologies are made available without the associated costs of purchasing, managing and maintaining the requisite infrastructure. This makes them more affordable, more powerful and more flexible.

It provides access to much more powerful hardware than would usually be feasible in a small business situation. Then, if your needs change all of a sudden, there is no need to research, purchase, install and set up expensive new hardware - just change your level of service to fit and you’re done. Fast, clean, simple and effective.

Problem with the server? They’ll fix it. And while they are, you’ll be running on another part of the grid – so you probably won’t even notice! Not in the office? Your work is no longer tied to your hardware: access your documents, apps and even your computer online through any modern browser.

Aurora looks like a fantastic evolution of Windows Small Business Server and I’m looking forward to seeing it in action!

Have a look at the preview build on Microsoft’s Connect site.

 

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Why use an online backup service?

James David - Thursday, August 19, 2010

Security. Convenience. Redundancy.

An online backup service will ensure that your important information is taken care of and made available to you wherever you are and whenever you need it, without time consuming and inconvenient backup processes.

Decide what you want to back up and how often and it just works.

Deciding whether or not to back up your data is a very simple exercise: if you use a computer, back your data up. Even the most casual of users has a good reason to back up their data and the importance of proper backup procedures only increases from there.

If you are a business, or do any sort of work on your computer, you need to protect your information. A casual computer user may only use a computer to browse the internet, send a few emails, consume digital media or pull some photos off their digital camera, but it would still hurt to lose those contacts, folders, inboxes, media files and photos. If all you do is game, an online backup service is a cheap, secure way to keep saves and configs backed up and ready to go, wherever you are and whenever you need them.

What online backup services do is turn a process that can be complicated, time consuming and inconvenient into something that is simple and affordable to do properly.

Why worry about constantly updating files on external storage like DVDs, tape or external hard drives? Online backup services take the stress and work out of backing up your files by moving the process off-site and automating many complex and resource intensive functions. They also remove the cost of purchasing and maintaining backup-specific hardware and consumables.

An online backup service will give you consistency, redundancy and transparency. Decide what you want to back up and how often and it just works. You can even retrieve different versions of files, so if you decide that you would like to go back to a previous version of something you were working on – it is there for you. Email and online reports keep you up to date and in the loop.

An online backup service will give you the security and redundancy you need, without the stress and work you don’t.

One of the biggest benefits of an online backup service is increased security. External hard drives, USB keys and DVDs can be lost, damaged and even stolen. They also need to be stored properly, maintained and physically found when needed – they can only exist in one place. An online backup service provides a secure connection to off-site servers on which your data is then encrypted and securely hosted. This connection makes managing and accessing your backups a breeze whether you are in the office, sitting in a café, playing with your iPhone on the bus or visiting a client. Off-site servers provide further redundancy by separating your data from the devices that use it and ensuring that it is protected should a hard disk or server fail.

Why consider an online backup service? An online backup service will give you the security and redundancy you need, without the stress and work you don’t. Think security, convenience and peace of mind.

Give us a call on 1300 732 850, or hit this link to our contact page to talk about how we can help you protect your business.

James David

Your IT Implementation, Planning and Support Specialist

Complete IT

 

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Small business should consider virtualisation

James David - Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A small business can punch above its weight because it is nimble and responsive enough to duck and weave when it needs to. If you are looking at IT infrastructure to support your business and need it to be able to duck and weave along with you, virtualisation could be just what you are looking for.

Think of everything you want to achieve with your business. What kind of IT infrastructure will you need to accomplish your goals? How will it grow alongside your business? What influence will a sudden spike in business have on your IT infrastructure needs and how will your current system cope? Virtualisation helps your IT infrastructure grow and operate without the capital expenses associated with physical machines.

In virtualisation, hardware and software are detached from one another and allowed to operate independently. There are five key types of virtualisation to consider; server, desktop, application, storage and network. Server virtualisation is probably the most commonly associated application of virtualisation. It involves running multiple virtual machines, each with its own operating system and applications, on a single physical machine. These virtual machines share resources, so your available computing power is used efficiently across multiple virtual machines, rather than running multiple physical machines at a fraction of their capacity and paying for the wasted potential. If a virtual machine crashes, it won't affect the other virtual machines, meaning that you can run multiple applications on one physical machine with less risk to your system uptime.

Desktop virtualisation creates a virtual desktop, taking efficient resource use to a desktop level and meaning that a user’s working environment is not tied to a physical machine at a desk and can therefore be accessed and managed in a decentralised manner. Application virtualisation makes applications independent from hardware, meaning that they can be moved around or changed quickly and easily and without affecting the overall system. Virtualised storage works similarly to networking virtualisation, merging many physical resources into one virtual resource that can then be managed and allocated simply and efficiently.

Virtualisation's greatest strength is its ability to work dynamically and efficiently. It manages scarcity by efficiently allocating resources where they are needed and creates scalability by allowing new virtual machines to be added independently of physical hardware.

It can be extremely beneficial to IT management, allowing IT staff to move from managing hardware to improving the service and potential of your IT infrastructure. An efficient and fully-utilized virtualised infrastructure will require fewer physical machines and therefore less maintenance and management.

Fewer machines running more efficiently means that you aren't wasting energy powering unused resources and will have simpler and more efficient IT infrastructure management and lower costs.

Give Complete IT a call to discuss your IT infrastructure needs and how virtualisation can help your business grow.

James David

Your IT Implementation, Planning and Support Specialist

Complete IT

 

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