In the ever-evolving world of technology, there is the potential to innovate and develop opportunities beyond our wildest dreams. Unfortunately, with every positive comes a negative. That rapidly changing technology can place small businesses at a disadvantage if they cannot manage their services and protect their businesses from hackers. Rather than attempting to manage one’s IT services alone or taking on the cost of hiring an in-house IT team, small businesses can benefit significantly from outsourcing to an IT services provider. How does one find the right provider who will meet their unique needs? Today, we share the five steps to choosing the ideal IT services provider for your business.
5 Steps to Choose the Right IT Services Provider for Your Business
#1: Research IT Services Provider Companies Who Work with Similar Businesses
As with hiring anyone to be a part of your team, it is vital to thoroughly research a potential company before initiating communication. We suggest looking for an IT services provider who serves companies similar to your own. Aspects we recommend considering include the basics of industry type and company size, but you will also want to consider the working environment, such as remote, hybrid, or traditional office spaces.
After you have compiled a list of potential options, it is time to check their credentials. We suggest reviewing their experience, certifications, licenses, and ongoing education practices to ensure they are up-to-date with industry standards and are continually learning to keep up with the ever-changing digital landscape.
#3: Meet with Potential IT Services Provider Companies
After you have identified a variety of IT services provider options, we recommend meeting, virtually or in person, with each one for an in-depth interview. If you have minimal technical experience, we suggest bringing your company’s current IT specialist to sit in on the meeting to act as a “translator” if need be. During the meeting, we recommend speaking with your potential hire about the following topics:
How Do They Formulate the Right Strategy for a Business
Everyone company is unique, which requires a customizable approach to an IT services provider plan. In addition to asking questions about their disaster recovery plan and back-up procedures, we recommend investigating how they develop their IT strategy, adapt to business changes, and communicate with department leaders to ensure quality service.
A critical aspect to note during a meeting is how they approach you. You want your potential IT services provider to be asking lots of questions as well: about your business, your future plans, your current procedures and systems, your IT needs, and more. You want them to be just as curious and invested in your business as you are in theirs.
Identify Companies Who Offer Packages
While billing by the hour may seem like a reasonable request, we suggest avoiding companies that use this billing method. Why? When hiring an IT services provider, you want them to get the job done right the first time without needing to go back in to add things or “fix” things, as that is them racking up more hours. When you have a package approach, they get a flat fee no matter what, so they typically provide the highest-quality service the first time.
Inquire about Alternative Services They Provide OR If They Outsource
Another warning sign is when an IT services provider offers alternative services. While jack-of-all-trade companies have their place, you don’t want this from this industry. If their attention is split among different task types, they are not fully invested in being a top-tier IT services provider.
A final tip when meeting with potential hires is to investigate whether they hire contractors or outsource their services. Again, you want your hire to be fully invested in you, not piecing out services to other random individuals whose qualifications you cannot verify. An IT services provider should be 100% in-house.
#4: Request a Variety of References & Follow Up
After you have had a good chat with your potential IT services provider applicants and they have passed all the topics above, it is time to do some additional investigation. First, you will want to request and follow up on a selection of references, at least three! While some spokespeople can spin pretty words, the proof is in the pudding. We recommend calling these references and verifying that the IT services provider’s work is worthwhile and effective.
#5: Carefully Read Through Service Agreements
Before making that final hire decision, we recommend carefully reviewing your service agreement. Again, if you do not have a ton of technical experience, you may want to bring in a specialist to go over the jargon with you in layman’s terms. The service agreement should have clear expectations and services listed, as well as the consequences to hold the provider accountable should they fail to provide the performance they promised.
IT Haven – An IT Services Provider You Can Trust
At the end of the day, you want to rest assured that your technology is safe and serving you well. At IT Haven in Tri-Cities, our tailored, customized technology solutions, along with our IT support, will enhance the success of your business or organization! IT Haven provides Complete Network Infrastructure Solutions, including anti-virus and anti-malware, DNS filtering, encrypted email, dark web monitoring, HIPAA compliance, and even more.
Productivity tools are supposed to make you more, well… productive.
But if they’re not embedded properly within your business, tasks can actually end up taking longer than they should. That’s frustrating for employees and you. It wastes time, and it costs money – which is the opposite of being productive.
So how can this happen?
Often a lack of consistent training means everyone is using tools differently, or finding their own workarounds. Maybe the tools haven’t been properly integrated with other apps, creating additional work. Or perhaps employees simply don’t find some tools useful and give up on them.
Bringing new technology into your business can be a big step – so big that lots of owners try to avoid it completely. That might be because of understandable risk aversion, or because they simply don’t have enough information to choose the right solution from the thousands of available options. It doesn’t help that nearly all tools work differently and offer different advantages.
What most business owners need is expert help. It’s easy to say you plan to introduce new productivity tools to keep employees happy and to gain a competitive advantage, but in practice it’s a lot more involved.
One thing’s for sure. As AI solutions become more and more integrated into new solutions – and others in your industry start to benefit from the new tech landscape – businesses that don’t keep up, risk being left behind.
Working with professionals can not only help to identify the most suitable tools for your business…
But also to help get the most from them by ensuring all your people are fully trained.
That means you’ll not only be getting all the productivity benefits you hoped for from your investment, you’ll also have a more engaged, better skilled and more productive workforce.
This is something we help businesses with all the time. Get in touch if you’d like us to do the same for you.
If we talk about ‘bots’ you’d be forgiven for thinking of the amazing AI chatbots that have been all over the news lately.
But this isn’t a good news story. Bots are just automated programs, and bot malware is a worrying new security risk you need to defend your business against.
Malware bots are particularly dangerous because they steal whole user profiles – that’s a complete snapshot of your ID and settings. This potentially allows cyber crooks to bypass strong security measures like Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).
Usually, if a criminal steals your username and password, they still can’t access your account because they don’t have access to your MFA authentication method. But with your whole profile available to them, using your cookies and device configurations, they can trick security systems and effectively switch off MFA.
Once profile information is stolen, it’s sold on the dark web for as little as $5.
And it’s not even super-sophisticated cyber criminals deploying this technique. Just about anyone can obtain your details and use them for phishing emails, scams, and other criminal activity.
Since 2018, 5 million people have had 26.6 million usernames and passwords stolen, giving access to accounts including Microsoft, Google, and Facebook.
All this means there are things you need to do – right now – to keep your profiles and your business protected from bot malware.
Update your antivirus software and keep it on at all times.
Use a password manager and Multi-Factor Authentication to keep your login credentials safer
And encrypt all your files so that, if anyone does access your profile, there’s very little to steal.
These are the things we help our clients with every day. If we can help you, just get in touch.
Our phones are a goldmine of private information. Just think of all the financial details, personal messages, banking apps, photos and contact information that live behind that little glass screen.
And if your team use phones for work, they’ll often have access straight into company systems – email, contact lists, network access, file systems. So if they’re not kept as secure as any other device in your workplace, they can become a gaping hole in your cyber security.
Criminals know this, of course, which is why they target us through our phones just as much as they do through our networks and servers.
But cyber crime isn’t the only concern. Just losing your phone, or having it stolen, can put your data at huge risk.
So, whether you issue company smartphones, or your employees use their own, you should make sure everyone implements some simple security steps to protect your data and avoid disaster.
Start with making sure your people set up a PIN and a biometric login (like a fingerprint or face scan) to open the device.
Only install apps from trusted sources to make sure you’re using genuine software.
And enable Multi-Factor Authentication on all apps that store even a small amount of sensitive data.
Be careful about where you connect to Wi-Fi. If you work remotely or often connect to public networks, consider using a VPN – a Virtual Private Network – to add another layer of security. You never know who’s monitoring traffic on a public network.
Finally, ALWAYS make sure your phone is running the latest version of its operating software, and keep all apps up to date.
Smartphones have changed so much about the way we live – at home, and at work – but it’s too easy to take them for granted. And that could be a costly mistake.
If you need help to keep your smartphones safe, just get in touch.
The whole world is suddenly talking about Artificial Intelligence.
From Alexa in your kitchen, to Siri on your phone, AI is already all around us, but new names like ChatGPT, Dall-E, Jasper and more feel like they’ve blown up the internet.
These new concepts take things WAY further, helping us to write articles, search the web with natural conversation, generate images, create code, and introduce new ways to make our daily lives even easier.
But emerging technology nearly always launches in a blizzard of geek-speak before it settles into everyday life. Early PC users might remember the ‘DOS prompt’. And when did you ever have to ‘defrag’ your phone?
Experts believe that these new AI tools will become the building blocks of a whole new world of tech, redefining the way we interact with computers and machines.
So let’s help you decode some of the terms you’ll hear this year.
Chatbot Starting with the basics, a chatbot is an app that mimics human-to-human contact. Just type or speak normally, and the chatbot will respond the same way. ChatGPT is a chatbot. If you haven’t tried it out yet, give it a go.
Deep learning This is the technique that’s used to imitate the human brain, by learning from data. Current search tools and systems use pre-programmed algorithms to respond to requests. AI tools are trained on concepts and conversations in the real-world, and learn as they go to provide human-like responses.
Machine intelligence The umbrella term for machine learning, deep learning, and conventional algorithms. “Will machine intelligence surpass human ingenuity?”
Natural Language Understanding (NLU) helps machines understand the meaning of what we say, even if we make grammatical errors or speak with different regional accents.
Weak AI is the most common form of AI in use right now. Weak AI is non-sentient and typically focuses on a single or small range of activities – for instance writing, or repurposing video content. Strong AI, on the other hand has the goal of producing systems that are as intelligent and skilled as the human mind. Just not yet.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but trust us – you’re going to be hearing a lot more about AI in the months and years to come.
If you’d like more help to understand how AI might form part of your business, just get in touch.