Password Manager | Your Must-Have Application for 2021

You might know this, but password strength and best practices are one of the most important aspects of your cybersecurity. Here’s a scary statistic for you: in 2019, 80% of data breaches were caused by a compromised password. Password best practices are that important. But it’s getting increasingly difficult to follow the best advice simply because there are so many passwords.

You have passwords for your personal accounts, like your bank, utilities, and even your email. Then you have passwords for your professional accounts. Many of you may be using your personal email accounts to conduct business. So your password usage crosses between personal and professional.

Providers know that passwords are important so they’ve stepped up their security protocols. Adding things like secondary and multi-level authentication. These are great features that help protect your data, but it also makes things far more complicated.

Password Managers Are a Necessity for Better Security

Did you know that the average employee has 191 different passwords? Consider that. And then you need to recognize that many of these platforms also need secondary authentication of some method. It’s a lot to remember. Most of your employees will forget passwords.

More dangerous, a high percentage of them will reuse the same passwords or similar passwords with slight variations. Those are terrible practices. If you use the same password across multiple accounts, only one needs to be compromised. The bad actor will have access to all the accounts that share that password. And, if they get your email, they can easily change passwords on any account linked to it.

Scary stuff. Especially when you’re dealing with a lot of high-end data or even compromising your own personal financial information. So what’s the best way to keep all of your passwords unique without forgetting them? By employing a password manager.

A password manager can store all of your passwords, create long, complicated passwords for you and store them, so that you don’t have to remember any of the information. All you need to remember is the main password for the manager itself.

Your password manager does the rest. And it’s actually more secure because the password manager is making up passwords that have nothing to do with the user personally. One of the top ways hackers access passwords is by using social engineering to “guess” at possible scenarios. It’s not possible when the passwords are auto generated.

Choosing Your Password Manager in 2021

There are some great password mangers on the market. Some are free and others have paid services. You should do your own research on the offerings to make sure they have the plans that work for you. Here are a few of the popular ones on the market:

  • LastPass.  LastPass has a freemium basic plan and the single or family plans are only a few dollars every month.
  • DashLane. DashLane has password management for individual users and for businesses.
  • Keeper. This password manger has plans for individuals and businesses and is highly rated.
  • 1Password. This password manager comes with a range of services for businesses, teams, families, and individuals.

There are a lot of password managers to choose from and any of them would be better than reusing passwords or using faulty, easily guessed passwords.

A password manger can help bolster your cybersecurity and make your life a lot simpler. It’s definitely easier than having to reset your password, every time you forget one. Which, let’s be honest, your probably do at least a few times every week.

Have a Question? Reach out anytime at 863-709-0709 ext 2.

You might know this, but password strength and best practices are one of the most important aspects of your cybersecurity. Here’s a scary statistic for you: in 2019, 80% of data breaches were caused by a compromised password. Password best practices are that important. But it’s getting increasingly difficult to follow the best advice simply

Microsoft 365 Business Standard vs Business Premium

In recent years, Microsoft has overhauled its office suite and business apps more than once. In Office 365, the company moved virtually all users to a subscription model but added all sorts of new functionality to justify the change.

But thanks to multiple service tiers, not all business users got the same sets of functionality. This led to a decent amount of confusion among customers.

Then Microsoft went and changed the name again, from Office 365 to simply Microsoft 365. When they did so, once again they added new features and functions, and once again they shuffled around their various business plans.

This all leads us to today. Microsoft 365 is a truly impressive and powerful business suite. But too many business leaders are confused about what exactly it is— not to mention what is and isn’t offered in each package or pricing tier.

Here at Alltek Services, we have been helping small businesses of all sizes with their IT needs since 2003. It’s our mission to educate and empower businesses throughout the changing landscape of business IT. With that goal in mind, here’s our comprehensive guide to Microsoft 365 in 2021— with a focus on what makes Microsoft 365 Business Premium the compelling choice for most businesses.

What Is Microsoft 365 for Business?

Microsoft describes its Microsoft 365 offering as “your productivity cloud across work and life.” It’s a unique blend of the Office apps you know and love, plus robust and powerful cloud and security services. Depending on the level or package you choose, Microsoft 365 can also contain device management and other company-wide IT and access controls.

Microsoft 365 is the successor to Microsoft Office 365, which itself offered a great deal more than just the Office suite Microsoft is well-known for. Over the years, Microsoft continued packing more and more functionality into its Office 365 platform. Productivity and collaboration tools like Teams joined cloud tools like OneDrive and SharePoint in fleshing out the platform.

Microsoft continued to add more and more functionality, including security and deployment tools. Office 365 grew to the point that calling it an office suite no longer made a ton of sense. Yes, the office suite was (and still is) a central component, but the product contains so much more than that now—hence the name change. Now known as Microsoft 365, it’s an all-in-one solution for an incredibly wide range of business IT needs and functions.

Unfortunately, many business leaders still think of Microsoft 365 (or Office 365) as essentially a bundle of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook. There’s so much more to it now, and we want to help business leaders like you learn about everything Microsoft 365 has to offer in 2021.

Understanding the Four Levels of Microsoft 365 for Business

Not every company needs the same features or levels of support. And if you’re only using half the features in a business suite, you probably don’t want to pay full price.

Microsoft recognizes this reality. In an effort to meet the needs of the most businesses, the company offers four levels of business service within Microsoft 365. We’ll cover the basics of each of these service tiers below. Then we’ll focus on some of the biggest value-adds within Microsoft 365 Business Premium and show you how those features can improve your IT operations.

Microsoft 365 Business Basic

As the name implies, Microsoft 365 Business Basic is the most barebones offering available. On the plus side, it’s cheap, at just $5 per user per month on an annual commitment. However, we can’t recommend it for most businesses as it contains only the web and mobile versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

The Business Basic plan does include cloud services like Teams, Exchange, OneDrive and SharePoint. It also has the same security and compliance tools as the other bundles. But most conventional businesses with any office staff are going to chafe without access to the desktop versions of the Office suite.

There’s no PC and mobile device management or advanced threat protection in this bundle as you might expect. It’s also missing Microsoft Bookings.

If your business is highly mobile and your users won’t need desktop-class Office apps, the Business Basic plan can save you money. But for most companies in 2021, it’s not the right plan.

Microsoft 365 Apps

Microsoft’s other budget plan is called Microsoft 365 Apps. This plan costs $8.25 per user per month on an annual commitment and gets you the full suite of premium desktop applications, including these:

  • Outlook
  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Publisher (PC only)
  • Access (PC only)

OneDrive cloud services are also included, as are web and mobile versions of the Office suite.

However, there’s a lot missing here. You don’t get Teams, business email, exchange support, or a host of other advanced features.

This is the bundle for companies lacking in digital transformation, essentially. If all you need is the Office suite and little else, Microsoft 365 Apps could be the bundle for you.

Microsoft 365 Business Standard

Businesses looking for a more robust plan should start by considering Microsoft 365 Business Standard. Of the two full-featured business plans, Business Standard leaves off some advanced features in exchange for a lower cost ($12.50 per user per month on an annual commitment).

Business Standard customers enjoy access to web, mobile and desktop Office applications, plus the standard suite of cloud services (that’s Teams, Exchange, OneDrive and SharePoint). They get Exchange-powered business email and calendaring, robust collaboration tools including guest links and syncing across devices, and the latest in Microsoft’s security and compliance offerings.

Business Standard users also gain access to Microsoft Forms, Lists, and Bookings—three apps that can transform external and internal communication.

The Microsoft 365 Business Standard plan is a potential choice for many businesses. That said, the few things that the plan leaves out have the potential to be truly transformative. Below, we’ll outline the features and functions that are reserved for Business Premium customers. You can then determine whether these powerful additions are the right call for your business.

Microsoft 365 Business Premium

Microsoft 365 Business Premium is the most expensive and most robust of the four plans, at $20 per user per month on an annual commitment. That additional expense gives your business some impressively deep features that the other plans lack.

The Microsoft 365 Business Premium Plan contains everything that’s included in Business Standard, plus the following transformative features and functions.

On the cloud services front, Business Premium users enjoy Intune and Azure Information Protection (AIP). Intune is a cloud-based tool for both mobile device management and mobile application management, while AIP allows for document discovery, classification and protection.

Another massive addition to Business Premium is Microsoft’s advanced threat protection package, which includes access control tools, the ability to remotely wipe devices, Microsoft Defender and more.

Most crucially, Business Premium gives you tools for both PC and mobile device management. As your business grows, it becomes crucial to control your employees’ devices, both for employee experience and security purposes.

For companies that need advanced features like MDM, advanced threat protection, conditional access, and the ability to remotely set up, update, or even wipe machines, Microsoft 365 Business Premium is the best solution.

The same goes for companies that are partnering with a Managed IT services firm for their IT needs. Managed services firms will almost always offer implementation and support for device and app management, so they will operate most efficiently when that advanced framework is available to them.

Three Crucial Features Exclusive to Microsoft 365 Business Premium

We want to home in on three specific features that are exclusive to Microsoft 365 Business Premium and that are crucial for businesses who want to manage their digital assets well.

These features aren’t necessarily the easiest to understand or to implement. In fact, the complexity may be more than you want to handle yourself. If you haven’t implemented these features yet, you may well want to partner with a managed IT services firm like Alltek to do so.

But one way or another, you certainly want to take advantage of tools like these. They give businesses so much more power and flexibility in their control of devices and files, increasing both productivity and security in the process.

Conditional Access

Conditional access is the term for managing who has access to what, when, and from where. Companies of any complexity are sure to have some files that are too sensitive for all users to access (and, worse, modify).

For example, most of your employees have no business looking at your company’s financial documents or data. But if those files are stored on a network without conditional access, anyone can access them (or, worse, steal the data or share it outside the company).

Conditional access is what allows you to limit files and folders to the appropriate audience, time, and even location. Your employees need access to the right files at the right time, but leaving access wide open is a recipe for disaster.

All packages of Microsoft 365 Business offer limited access control, such as guest links to files and permissions-managed sharing within OneDrive. But only Business Premium gives you additional Advanced Threat Protection and Information Rights Management. If you want full control of conditional access, you need Business Premium.

Intune

If you aren’t a tech professional, Intune is the sort of feature that’s easy to gloss over. But the power and productivity of this service are deeply impressive when it’s used to its fullest potential.

In a nutshell, Intune is Microsoft’s solution for mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM). Using this service, you can control what can and can’t be done (and installed) on company devices. Crucially, this control isn’t limited to Windows PCs. It extends to mobile devices and tablets as well.

You can even use Intune to control how people’s personal devices interact with your network. Microsoft Intune can identify organizational data and keep it separate from a user’s personal data.

Mobile Device Management (MDM)

There are more mobile devices (laptops, tablets and smartphones) connecting to your corporate network than ever before. Whether company-issued or BYOD, these devices pose a security risk and create a device management headache.

Microsoft’s mobile device management (MDM) tools greatly simplify the process of managing these devices. You can decide what services employees can and can’t access from personal devices, and Microsoft’s excellent Advanced Threat Protection package keeps corporate data safe when accessed through apps like Teams and Outlook.

Additionally, you can set organization-wide IT policies and then enforce them on company-owned devices. For example, most organizations lock down company-owned devices so that users cannot install software without IT’s approval. Many also take the step of enabling remote wipe on company machines so that a lost laptop doesn’t turn into a security nightmare.

You can also require enrollment of personal devices for users who want full access on their device, or limit access to specific applications (such as Teams and email, which are both protected using Exchange Online Protection and other tools).

Mobile device management and associated tools are incredibly robust and powerful, and we’ve only scratched the surface of what they can do here.

Questions about Microsoft 365 Business Premium? Alltek Can Help!

The powerful tools in Microsoft 365 Business Premium have the potential to transform how you get work done. However, they can be a handful to implement if you don’t have a highly technical background.

Since 2003, Alltek Services has been handling IT needs for small businesses across a wide range of industries. We’re deeply versed in the tools provided with Microsoft 365 Business Premium.

If you have questions about Microsoft 365 or aren’t sure about how to roll out certain components of Microsoft 365 Business Premium, our team can meet your needs. We can oversee the setup and implementation of advanced features like conditional access, Intune, and mobile device management, among others. Whatever your organization needs, we can identify and implement it.

Ready to get started? Reach out today!

In recent years, Microsoft has overhauled its office suite and business apps more than once. In Office 365, the company moved virtually all users to a subscription model but added all sorts of new functionality to justify the change. But thanks to multiple service tiers, not all business users got the same sets of functionality.

Employee Monitoring | Best Practices in 2021

Employee monitoring has become a more common question as so many companies move to remote work environments. How do you make sure that your employees are being as productive as they could be? How important is employee monitoring? Does my company need to invest in solutions?

When you consider employee monitoring for productivity, there are other ways to manage employees that might be more beneficial. There are downsides to monitoring. You don’t want to invest in technology that logs your employees to the point that you’re micromanaging them or making them feel negatively toward the company. If you’re concerned about productivity when employees are working remotely, the statistics seem to indicate the opposite is true. 77% of remote workers indicate that they are more productive and 80% experience less stress.

Productivity is not the only reason to monitor your employees. Data breaches are also a concern, and it’s important for companies to realize that most cybersecurity risks are associated with employee use and misuse. This is not usually intentional. However, having protocols in place to be able to log and control employee access to your sensitive data provides a way for you to track issues and guard against threats.

Should You Invest in Employee Monitoring?

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all question. Some companies do well with different types of monitoring. For larger enterprises, a data environment that allows your team to grant authority, or access, based on the employee’s needs for certain data can be an excellent benefit. It’s unobtrusive but serves to log all access and changes to documentation, which provides exactly what you need to delineate responsibility.

For smaller companies, there are many types of software that are developed specifically to monitor employee use. Some of these options take screenshots and even use the webcam to take images. As you might imagine, some of these options can seem fairly off-putting to employees. For most companies, it can be an excellent idea to discuss these monitoring options internally and to get a good understanding of how staff members feel about them. You don’t want to increase employee turnover rates in your quest to improve productivity. A staff that’s happy often works much harder and is more productive, so there is a balance in this decision-making process.

The danger in using very invasive monitoring is that your employees may not feel comfortable with that level of oversight in their homes. It’s also often unnecessary. If managers are screenshotting every time an employee is away from their desk, the employee may feel over-monitored, and it can damage performance. A Harvard Business Review article on the topic indicated that heavy surveillance can damage trust between the company and employees and went on to explain that only 30% of executives believed the data would be used responsibly.

However, with that caveat in place, there are many monitoring options that are unobtrusive and excellent to help with productivity and cybersecurity.

Types of Employee Monitoring

Many of the software and tools you currently use do allow some level of oversight. If your employee is in your company’s database, you should be able to log who they are and what they’re accessing. There are also many tools available. Here, we’ll discuss a few options.

  • Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams is an excellent organizational tool. It wasn’t developed to monitor activity, but you can use the features to do just that. The Microsoft usage reports and teams reports can help you form a good picture of productivity and use within the Teams environment.
  • Monitoring Software. There are many types of monitoring software available, and we’re not going to do any specific reviews here. However, we can make recommendations for the best options, if this is something you’d like to add. Employers are not the only ones using monitoring software. As schools and Universities went online for the pandemic, many made monitoring software mandatory for students, as well. Each of the offerings is slightly different, but most of these applications are installed on the device, and they record information. This might include recording what tabs are open, what pages the user is looking at, monitoring keystrokes, and even turning on the camera to take video and still-frame images. Many of these options also allow you to retrieve screenshots.
  • Phone Monitoring. Phone monitoring can be an excellent addition because it allows you to collect and use data that would otherwise be lost if the employee didn’t note it anywhere in the customer’s files. Many VoIP systems have extensive reporting options to help you collect data through this communication method.
  • Microsoft 365 Reporting. There are many reports that could be helpful for the employee and employer including:
  1. Email Activity by User
  2. Contacts Activity
  3. Calendar Log Events and many others

Are You Looking for Managed IT Services in the Tampa Area

At Alltek in Lakeland, we provide robust managed IT services to help our clients make the best decisions when it comes to their technology solutions. If you’re currently interested in learning more about employee monitoring, give us a call. We’re happy to assess your current processes and make recommendations that work for your specific business model.

Every company is different. With new hybrid and remote work models becoming more popular, it’s important to make sure that your cybersecurity is strong and that your staff is well-trained for this new environment. Contact us today to discuss your business needs.

Employee monitoring has become a more common question as so many companies move to remote work environments. How do you make sure that your employees are being as productive as they could be? How important is employee monitoring? Does my company need to invest in solutions?

15 Critical Cybersecurity Layers Your Business Needs in 2021

Cybersecurity Layers in 2021

Cybersecurity is evolving at a rapid pace. When most business owners think about Cybersecurity (if they’re thinking about it at all) they usually think of something that is overly complex. They either ignore it completely, or they may overpay for some cybersecurity firm to give them a sheet of paper once a year so they can check a box on a compliance report.

The reality is that cybersecurity is pretty simple. Most breaches in the small and medium size business space happen because common sense security measures were not in place.

Cybersecurity is all about layers. If you have enough of the important layers in place, you’ll be fine.

To visualize just how simple Cybersecurity can be, we created this 15 point checklist. Feel free to take this checklist and ask your IT team if they have each of these items covered.

A checklist showing the 15 important cybersecurity layers a business should implement

If you prefer PDF, here is a link to download the checklist: 15 Cybersecurity Layers in 2021

How much does Cybersecurity Cost in 2021?

Many of the layers in this checklist, such as Multi-Factor Authentication, computer updates, and strong passwords should be very little to no cost. Nearly every other item on this checklist does have a monthly cost associated. Some are dependent on number of users, others are per server, or amount of data. However, you can implement all of these layers at a very reasonable investment in 2021.

For instance, we have an advanced email threat protection that checks the spam filtering box (and a few others) that starts at just $4 per user. Our security awareness training is only $2 per user…. With the free items and an extra $6 we’re already a third the way down the checklist.

The reality is the price is going to vary greatly depending on the IT provider you use and the vendors they set up and manage. However, Cybersecurity is a buzz word that is getting a lot of attention and some inflated prices. So be wary of very large per number quotes for cybersecurity. Have the provider check each of these boxes and outline the cost of each of these line items. That will prevent them from “bundling” everything into an overly expensive security package.

$50 per month per user should be more than enough time get the premium version of all of the items on this checklist. Use this as a guide rather a direct quote. If the provider is way below or above this, something is off. Of course, there will also be a support cause for computers and servers that is usually separate from the security layers quote.

How to Get Started with Cybersecurity

There are a few options to get started right away:

  1. Give your IT provider this checklist and make sure they are checking all the boxes.
  2. If you do not have a provider, reach out to Alltek Services. We will provide transparent guidance to get you where you need to be in securing your business data.
  3. Get a Free Network Security Assessment. This is not just some sales tools. Our free assessment gives you tons of actionable data to get you started on your cybersecurity journey!

Have a question? Reach out anytime:

Taher Hamid

Info@alltekservices.com

863-709-0709 ext 1127

 

Cybersecurity Layers in 2021 Cybersecurity is evolving at a rapid pace. When most business owners think about Cybersecurity (if they’re thinking about it at all) they usually think of something that is overly complex. They either ignore it completely, or they may overpay for some cybersecurity firm to give them a sheet of paper once

10 Questions To Ask A Potential Co-Managed IT Firm [2021]

Download the Full E-Book Below:

E-Book: 10 Questions to Ask a Potential Co-Managed IT Firm

When you go to hire a new employee, do you show up without questions prepared? Probably not. The same goes for interviewing a potential Co-Managed IT Firm. The more you treat it like a defined recruitment process, the better off you’ll be.

I’ve been in 200+ sales meetings with IT and other organization leaders. In this short E-book, I have compiled some of the best questions that I have been asked over the years. The criteria is not “these are the questions that I like to be asked.” In fact, some of these questions really put me on the spot. Which is exactly what you want. The person you are speaking to has refined their pitch and knows how to get to the root of your problem, especially as you move to more mature IT firms. So, you need to come equipped with questions that will hopefully uncover any red flags before it’s too late.

Let’s get started:

1. Do you provide a per computer or user discount since I have in-house IT Support?

The fact is, having an internal IT person is going to lighten the load of the Managed Service Provider. The organization either already has rates that compensate for the fact that your organization has internal IT or they are willing to provide a credit on the per user or per computer fee. I don’t think it should be a deal breaker if they do not come down on the per user price. In fact, that’s probably a good sign. Either way, this is a question that needs to be asked.

2. Why should we partner with you as our IT firm?

This is the “alley-oop.” The rep has been waiting for this question. They have their Unique Selling Proposition ready. They have their metrics ready. Customer satisfaction. You name it; they’ve got it. The reality of this question? It’s the primer for the next question which is much more meaningful.

3. Why shouldn’t we partner with you as our IT firm?

I have only been asked this question ONE time in all the meetings that I’ve been in. I loved it. It made me really think. It’s the epitome of “what is your greatest weakness?” I started writing this E-book specifically because of this question. So, please ask this question. If they say “we are perfect” then they are either lying or not human. Let’s start the partnership off with transparency.

By the way, the individual that asked me that question did end up hiring us despite our very honest answer. If you want to know my answer to this question, feel free to set up a sales meeting and ask me!

4. What is your process for keeping up with the rapidly changing IT environment?

I recently deleted or updated all blogs on our website that were over 2 years old. The reason? They were almost all obsolete. That is how quickly IT is changing in this new world. New vendors, best practices, tools, etc. It takes a team of people constantly evaluating and updating best practices to stay up to date. Period. This reason alone is why I do not recommend working with a smaller Managed Service Provider. I am all about supporting small business. We are a small business. However, if the organization is sub 5 employees, there is no way they are putting the needed hours in to staying up to date. Ask this question and write down the answer. See how it compares depending on the maturity of the organization.

5. How many customers do you currently support that have internal IT support?

This is very important. It took us some time to develop the right process in a Co-Managed IT environment. I hate to say our first Co-Managed client was the Guinea pig…. But the first Co-Managed client was the Guinea pig. Fortunately, we must have done a good job because we have since added many Co-Managed customers. So, consider asking this question, but it does not have to be a deal breaker. If you are the first, that may be fine with you. Just set your expectations accordingly.

6. What role do you typically take on as the outsourced IT help?

In our infographic on successfully transitioning to Co-Managed IT we discuss the importance of defining roles. It’s important to identify what aspects of the computer network the MSP will be managing. Is it the Help Desk? Servers? Backup? Everything? Clearly define these roles with the provider and it will start the partnerships off on the right track.

7. Are you willing to provide 5 customer references that we can reach out to?

This one does not need much of an explanation. If the provider cannot provide 5 references, it’s on to the next one.

8. Do you have a customer portal? What does it include?

This is another good way to gauge the maturity of the MSP. Do they have a defined portal for their customers? Does this vary for Co-Managed IT customers? If they say yes, then ask them how you would go about logging in. If they say no, this is a red flag and shows that they do not have their processes as defined as they should be.

9. In your eyes, what is an ideal partnership with an in-house IT team?

I don’t have much guidance on this one, I just really like the question. Are they sincere with their answer or do they continue in “sell” mode?

10. What makes a partnership/client relationship less than ideal?

An honest answer is great here. The outsourced team should be an extension of the internal IT department. You need to ask yourself whether you are ready to change your processes to accommodate the MSP or if you are going to require them to change their processes for you. This question will help bring some of that to light. It’s also a good opportunity to follow up with the bigger discussion of process changes that will need to be made (from both parties potentially).

These questions will set you up for success with your upcoming conversations with potential IT firms. Make sure to write their answers down and compare answers from all providers.

Most likely, you will work with the chosen provider for many years, so it’s important to do your due diligence prior to signing up.

I hope this is a helpful guide for you! If you have any questions or would like to consider Alltek Services as one of the potential IT firms, please contact me at:

Taher Hamid

Taher@alltekservices.com

863-709-0709 ext 1127

Download the Full E-Book Below: E-Book: 10 Questions to Ask a Potential Co-Managed IT Firm When you go to hire a new employee, do you show up without questions prepared? Probably not. The same goes for interviewing a potential Co-Managed IT Firm. The more you treat it like a defined recruitment process, the better off

How to Transition to Co-Managed IT in 2021

Why are business leaders choosing Co-Managed IT in 2021?

There is a shift happening in the marketplace where businesses are increasingly choosing to outsource specific roles to Managed Service Providers. There is a realization that it is not effective for larger entities to outsource all IT roles. After 100+ endpoints, it’s important to have an internal IT manager or team. However, the IT budget does not always grow as fast as the IT department needs to. Therefore, IT leaders are choosing to outsource certain tasks to ensure the organization can have the proper technical support while sticking to their allocated budget. Here is a great example of an IT leader that partners with Alltek Services to assist with the IT operation at their organization:

Shifting to Co-Managed IT can seem like a daunting task. Our goal with this guide is to give you the tools you need to be successful in this transition.

Step 1: Evaluate multiple providers

This is without a doubt the most important aspect of transitioning. See our E-Book on 10 Questions to Ask a Potential Co-Managed IT Firm in 2021 for some ideas on the interview process. In addition to these questions, consider the below points:

  1. Evaluate at least 3 providers – You want to make sure there are a wide variety of plans and proposals presented. It’s also recommended to have at least 2 meetings per group that you are considering. Anyone can fake the first meeting. Ask them the direct questions found in the E-book. Spending enough time with the individuals at each organization and uncover the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  2. Go visit their office – Go look around. Is the office a mad house? Is it organized and efficient? How is the physical security? This tip can reveal a lot about the management and employees at a potential provider.
  3. Ask to speak with an engineer – The level 3 engineers are going to be the most honest individuals you may ever meet. They usually don’t care about the sales process and will tell it how it is; a great way to get some honest expectations around working with this provider.
  4. Always get references – This is a must! Get at least 3 references (ideally more) and actually call those individuals. This should be nonnegotiable.

Step 2: Clearly define Outsourced/Augmented IT role before agreement begins

When you fully outsource your IT operations to a Managed Service Provider (MSP), they assume all responsibility of an organization’s IT infrastructure and network security. However, as a business gets larger, it will not make sense to outsource ALL roles. However, it also won’t make financial sense to bring everything in-house (usually). So, a mixture is not only common, but growing in popularity. This mixture will require the company leadership, in-house IT, and outsourced IT to set clear expectations of roles.

Here are some examples of clearly outlining outsourced roles:

  • Server management: Changes made to the server, security audits, updates, and migrations are done by the MSP.
  • Backup and Disaster Recovery: The MSP manages the data backups onsite and offsite. They monitor, test restore, and all the other plethora of items associated with data redundancy.
  • Level 1, 2, or 3 help desk: Outsource lower level or higher-level help desk tickets to the MSP.

I’m sure you can see why internal IT departments outsource. Imagine the backup scenario, for instance. In-house, you may need a dedicated individual for that one role. That is a big expense for just one role. The other option is to have them take on additional roles. That’s great, but that spreads them thinner which will inevitably lead to a ball being dropped. Unfortunately, the ball cannot be dropped even once when it comes to data backup or network security. Too much at stake.

Step 3: Onboarding with a new IT company 

This is a critical part in the process. You may have been blown away by the sales process/person, but now it’s time to see if the organization can back it up. On the flip side, the sales process may have completely sucked but you decided to give the provider a try anyway. Just because an organization puts a lot of time and effort in sales does not necessarily mean they will put the same level into their service, and vice versa. This phase will flip the rocks to see what’s under the nice haircut and polished presentation.

Factors to consider:

  1. Is there a clear timeline and expectation for onboarding?
  2. Did they meet or exceed this expectation?
  3. Were you informed and comfortable with every step in the process?
  4. How was communication? If communication and response is not quick in the “new client” phase, you better believe it will not get any better.
  5. Did the provider provide excellent recommendations to improve your workflow, or did they just provide recommendations that will make them more money and do very little for your productivity?

Here is the unfortunate truth: If anything is dropped, delayed, or unsatisfactory during onboarding you need to understand that’s probably not an anomaly and may be present for the remainder of your partnership. If multiple items went wrong, then you have a critical question to ask yourself: Do you halt the transition and restart the process at Step 1? Or are you going to be okay with the level of response and attention to detail that you received during onboarding?

If the onboarding is smooth, communication is on point, recommendations are helpful, and the timeline is met, then congratulations! You probably found the right Co-Managed IT Firm.

Bonus Tips for a successful transition to a Co-Managed IT Firm:

  1. Speaking from experience again, Managed Service Providers usually love Co-Managed IT partnerships. It frees them up to handle very specific roles for the client which makes them more efficient, and profitable, overall. Because of this, they are often willing to come down slightly on their typical managed service price. Whether this is the per workstation, user, or server price. See the full article on Managed Service Pricing HERE. Granted, you don’t want to push them too hard on the price. If you think they are the right fit, it’s not worth starting the partnership on a bad foot by requesting drastic adjustments or ultimatums.
  2. Tool kit! A good MSP has a ridiculous number of security, network mapping, and other productivity tools they utilize to support their customers. Oftentimes, it’s cost prohibitive for an-house IT to purchase some of these tools. Since MSPs support so many endpoints, their per device price goes down quite a bit. Usually, they will have little to no problem providing access to some or all these tools. This can provide a significant value proposition for your internal IT. So, make sure to ask the provider what tools they will utilize to support your organization and see if your team will be able to leverage any of them.

 

 

Transitioning to a Co-Managed IT Provider

If you have any questions about transitioning to a Co-Managed IT Firm, please send us an email at Info@alltekservices.com.

Thank you!

Taher

Why are business leaders choosing Co-Managed IT in 2021? There is a shift happening in the marketplace where businesses are increasingly choosing to outsource specific roles to Managed Service Providers. There is a realization that it is not effective for larger entities to outsource all IT roles. After 100+ endpoints, it’s important to have an

How Do Large Organizations Leverage Microsoft SharePoint?

How Do Large Organizations Leverage Microsoft SharePoint?

SharePoint, which is part of the Microsoft Office 365 platform, is particularly beneficial to enterprises because it’s a powerful, out-of-the-box application. Ultimately, this app provides an excellent way to collaborate with people from all over the globe, and best of all, it’s accessible through today’s most popular web browsers. For small and large businesses alike, SharePoint brings many advantages to the table. For now, though, let’s take a look at how large organizations leverage the app to achieve better collaboration and easier project completion.

Reduce Paperwork with Electronic Forms

SharePoint makes it possible for you to switch over from being a paper-based enterprise to one that operates via an electronic workflow. Think about it. When you operate as a paper-based company, you’ll have workers fill out an expense claim or purchase order. It’s then their responsibility to get the paperwork to the right person, and then that person has to process the paperwork. Sometimes, though, the paper never even makes it to the person who can process it. With SharePoint, it becomes possible to have purchase orders and expense claims automated through electronic means. This ensures not only a permanent paper trail for audits and holding people accountable, but it also speeds up operational processes and achieves greater efficiency.

Store Contact Details

Another benefit of SharePoint is its use of an electronic book for customer and employee contact details. Your workers likely need a centralized storage area for customer and worker contact information, and that’s exactly what SharePoint provides. It’s a one-stop-shop for contact information, and best of all, users can look up details according to categories. Want to see which customers have an upcoming birthday so you can send out a special birthday coupon? This becomes possible with SharePoint. Want to see which customers have been in your contact list the longest? SharePoint allows you to filter customer information according to oldest and newest contacts added, making it simple to send out customer anniversary coupons to those who’ve been with you the longest.

See Who Is Available and Who Is Not

SharePoint can connect with your Microsoft email system, making it easy to draw data from the system to see who is available for work and who is not. In fact, when using workflows set up through SharePoint, it becomes easier to manage to leave requests and to have the SharePoint app automatically create a dashboard that shows “who is in and who is out.”

Control and Manage Documents

It’s also with SharePoint that large companies can achieve better document control and management. This is particularly of benefit to companies that operate via remote workforces and those working out of remote offices. With SharePoint, you and other workers can simultaneously work on the same documents, easily allowing you to collaborate in real-time seamlessly. To top it off, you can integrate the app with your other Office 365 applications, giving you absolute control over document management.

Enhanced Business Intelligence and Reporting

With SharePoint being a web-based application, you can leverage it as a centralized location for all business intelligence and reporting. This means you can limit reporting out of silos and instead ensure company insights are shared on a business-wide basis. This helps keep everyone on the same page, reduces duplicated efforts, and minimizes disruptions that normally occur because of context switching between one application and another.

Want to learn more about the advantages of SharePoint for businesses in and near the Lakeland, Florida, area? If so, contact Alltek Services, an FL-based information technology consulting company.

SharePoint, which is part of the Microsoft Office 365 platform, is particularly beneficial to enterprises because it’s a powerful, out-of-the-box application.

Alltek Services Updates This Plant City Construction Firm’s IT Infrastructure

Alltek Services Updates This Plant City Construction Firm’s Infrastructure To Support Their Software And Protect Their Data

This construction firm needed to update their IT environment, or else their software would stop working, and they’d be more and more vulnerable to cybercrime attacks. That’s why they came to Alltek Services.

Is your IT infrastructure getting old?

If you’re not sure, there are a few obvious signs that you’re in need of an update:

It’s Costing You Time

If your old tech is working so poorly that it stops you and your staff from working, then it’s time to replace it. The downtime caused by old hardware isn’t worth the money you’re saving by hanging on to it. Whether you agree or not, it’s a fact – Ponemon Institute estimates that every minute of even partial downtime can cost as much as $5,600.

The main cost of downtime is not the fix itself, it’s the halt in your business’ productivity. If an IT-related or natural disaster occurs and takes critical systems offline, employees will be unable to complete their tasks, yet your normal business expenses will carry on.

It’s Costing You Money

Anyone can understand this math – the older technology gets the more time you’ll spend getting it fixed, and the more money you’ll spend on those fixes. After whatever amount of time, you’ll reach a tipping point where the sum of the repair costs will exceed the cost of replacing the hardware altogether.

It Doesn’t Support Your Software

The older your hardware is, the less likely it will be capable of running modern versions of your software. This becomes a big problem when you consider your line of business software that you rely on as a core part of your work. What happens when your hardware can no longer support it?

It’s Not Secure

A Ponemon study found that nearly 70 percent of workers believe some of their organization’s existing security solutions are outdated and inadequate. Cybercriminals are constantly updating and evolving their methods of attack. The more out of date your infrastructure is, the less prepared it will be to defend against cutting edge cybercrime tactics.

Now, if you do recognize some of these issues, then your hardware could likely do with a refresh — what’s the best way to manage the process?

Do what this construction firm did, and have Alltek Services take care of it for you.

Alltek Managed This Plant City Construction Firm’s Infrastructure Update

In partnering with Alltek Services, this construction firm knew they had a prime opportunity to refresh and upgrade their IT. As a growing institution that relied heavily on their IT for their core processes, they knew they needed to scale up their IT resources and develop a technical foundation that they and their operations could rely on.

Alltek Services evaluated this construction firm’s IT environment and determined how and where it could be improved. Once we had a plan, we brought it to this construction firm’s leadership:

  • Server Migration: We moved their apps and data to a brand new server, which would more effectively and reliably host their IT environment.
  • Box Of Best Practices: We implemented our carefully developed “box of best practices” for this firm’s infrastructure, ensuring it would be reliable, responsive and well-supported.
  • Microsoft 365: We moved their operations to the robust Microsoft 365 ecosystem, giving them access to the full suite of Microsoft apps for improved productivity and collaboration.
  • Enhanced Cybersecurity: We implemented a range of cybersecurity solutions and best practices to keep them protected against modern cybercrime attack vectors, including remote monitoring, firewall, antivirus, backup, spam and content filtering, MFA, and more.

What Did This Infrastructure Refresh Achieve For This Plant City Construction Firm?

  • Better Support For Their Applications: This Plant City construction firm used line of business applications like Quickbooks and Sage Accounting every single day to manage their operations and finances. On their old infrastructure, they regularly encountered performance issues, and had concerns about their data backup. With their new infrastructure, matching our box of best practices, their software all runs as expected, and is reliably backed up.
  • Cybersecurity They Can Rely On: Prior to their hardware refresh, this construction firm was hit by ransomware. In the course of this project, we made sure they would be better prepared for the next attack, thanks to a multi-faceted layer of defensive solutions and best practices.

Alltek Services Will Update Your IT

Are you still putting up with old technology? You may think it’s cost-effective, but the truth is that it really isn’t.

If your old tech is working so poorly that it stops you and your staff from working, then it’s time to replace it. The downtime caused by old hardware isn’t worth the money you’re saving by hanging on to it.

Start the process of updating your IT:

  1. Contact our team and arrange a consultation at a time that works for you.
  2. Let us evaluate the state of your IT and explain how it should be updated.
  3. Have us manage the project from end to end, so you can get back to focusing on your work.

This construction firm needed to update their IT environment, or else their software would stop working, and they’d be more and more vulnerable to cybercrime attacks. That’s why they came to Alltek Services. 

Is Your Network Held Together With Band-Aids?

Is Your Network Held Together With Band-Aids?

Temporary fixes to your IT problems shouldn’t be the norm for your IT support. It’s time to rip the band-aid off — get expert IT help that fixes problems for good with real solutions.

Are you worried your network is about to fall apart?

You’re not alone — I talk to so many business owners that believe their IT is barely functioning. They get the impression that when they call their IT support for help, the easiest, most temporary solution is slapped on the problem, and left until it becomes an issue again.

Ineffective IT support often means applying a “band-aid” solution that doesn’t really get to the root of the problem.

The problem is that while the hardware may work when you get it back from them, there’s no guarantee it’ll last for long. That means there’s no way of knowing how quickly you’ll have to call them again to come back and do the same thing.

You Don’t Have To Put Up With “Band-Aid” IT Support

Often, when it comes to IT companies, the assumption is that if you’ve worked with one company, you’ve worked with them all.

If you’re not satisfied with the one you currently have, it’s probably not worth you’re the time and effort it’ll take to find a new one. You’ll just encounter the same problems.

But really, this is a rather baffling assumption – as with any market, how could you expect the many, many options available to you to be the same?

The fact is that they’re not – and not all IT companies are created equal. You just have to find one that offers the right type of support.

Your IT Support Should Be Proactive

Proactive IT support monitors and maintains your IT on an ongoing basis – that’s what Alltek Services does for our clients.

Operationally, proactive monitoring provides a view into the health and status of IT assets. Like air traffic controllers, we use monitoring tools to see network traffic and plan actions to avoid potential problems. We can act proactively while using the tools to benchmark performance.

From active monitoring and patch management to responsive on-site and Help Desk support services, fully managed support takes care of everything you need.

Advantages include:

  • Freedom Of Focus: You can finally focus on running your firm and not on IT worries. Your IT support provider will minimize or eliminate downtime that could hit your bottom line.
  • Easy Budgeting: You’ll benefit from a flat-rate payment model, allowing you to budget your tech more effectively. You’ll be able to plan for growth far more easily and with greater peace of mind.
  • Cost-Effect: Tech maintenance from a third party is more cost-effective than relying on reactive solutions, especially when you consider the lost revenue from downtime.

Alltek Services Will Help You Rip Off The Band-Aid

Why bother putting up with ineffective, short-term IT support? Truly effective IT support is out there – all you have to do is find a local IT support company that can deliver, like Alltek Services.

Our team is proud to offer truly effective IT support services that identify, understand and solve problems — for good. Ripping the band-aids off your IT once and for all is up to you:

  1. Book a meeting with our team at a time that works for you.
  2. Find out how simple your work life will become when you don’t have to deal with the same IT problems over and over.
  3. Enjoy the extra free time and resources you get by offloading IT management to our expert team.

Temporary fixes to your IT problems shouldn’t be the norm for your IT support. It’s time to rip the band-aid off — get expert IT help that fixes problems for good with real solutions.

All You Need To Know About QuickBooks Ceasing Support for WIndows 7

All You Need To Know About QuickBooks Ceasing Support for Windows 7

When Microsoft stops rolling out updates and any support for an operating system, it creates a chain of events. This is because when an operating system reaches its end of life, it becomes an easy target for people who are out for your data and information.

That is why as soon as Microsoft announced that it would end its support for Windows 7, Intuit also followed suit. Intuit is behind applications such as TurboTax and Quickbooks Desktop. This software handles sensitive information, including Social Security numbers and bank account details. That is why as of January 14, 2020, Intuit products can no longer be installed on machines running Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008.

So what does this mean for users? Well, we’ve prepared a bunch of questions you might have and provided answers for all of them.

I am using Quickbooks on Windows 7. What should I do?

If you want to continue using Intuit products on your machine, the best thing to do is upgrade your computer’s operating system. The recommended operating system is Windows 10 as it is the latest one out of Microsoft. It is also the most secure system in the Windows ecosystem to date.

Do I need to buy another copy of Quickbooks or Turbotax when I upgrade?

No, if you already own a copy of Quickbooks or TurboTax, you can use the one you are currently using after you upgrade.

I use the online version of Quickbooks and Turbotax on Windows 7. Should I go and upgrade as well?

This news is for users of the desktop versions of Quickbooks and TurboTax. If you use the online version, you can still gain access to it as long as you pass the minimum system requirements. However, if you value your security, then upgrading to Windows 10 is a must.

How can I upgrade my Windows 7 machine?

You can visit the official Windows Support Page for help regarding installations and upgrades into Windows 10.

I use a hosted version of Quickbooks. What should I do?

If you are using a hosted version of Quickbooks, you should contact your hosting provider regarding the operating system’s version.

Do I need to uninstall Quickbooks before I do the operating system upgrade?

When you do pursue the operating system upgrade, you don’t need to uninstall Quickbooks. However, you are advised to back up all your data to an external storage device or through a backup service.

Navigating through end-of-life situations and operating system upgrades can be quite confusing. One small mistake and you can lose years upon years of data.

That is why if you are looking for a team who can help you with all your IT needs, then AllTek services is a name you can count on. AllTek is a trusted name in providing managed IT support in Hillsborough and Polk County, Florida. Give us a call today and tell us all about your IT problems and we’ll give you the solution you need.

When Microsoft stops rolling out updates and any support for an operating system, it creates a chain of events.